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Parshas Emor

The Parashah That Has Everything

Volume 20, No. 28
15 Iyar 5766
May 13, 2006

Today's Learning:
Beitzah 3:2-3
O.C. 551:17-552:1
Daf Yomi (Bavli): Pesachim 116
Daf Yomi (Yerushalmi): Terumot 8


In this week's parashah we find the laws of each of the holidays: Pesach, including the Omer-offering and Sefirat Ha'omer; Shavuot; Rosh Hashanah; Yom Kippur; and Sukkot, including the taking of the Four Species and the mitzvah of Sukkah. Following those passages, we find the laws of the Temple menorah, an allusion to the holiday of Chanukah (which is of rabbinic origin).

Kabbalistic works teach that reading the Torah verses connected with an event reawakens the spiritual awakening that occurred at the time of the event itself. Thus, R' Chaim Meir Hager z"l (the Vizhnitzer Rebbe; died 1973) would often comment when this parashah came around: "This parashah is very special! It includes all the holidays." One year he said, "An intelligent person can accomplish so much on this Shabbat." Another year he said, "From this Shabbat, one can acquire the spiritual benefits of all the holidays."

On this Shabbat in 5726 / 1966, he said, "This Shabbat deserves to be called `Shabbat Ha'gadol' / The Great Shabbat. Imagine! [Just by paying attention to the Torah reading,] one can do everything--eat matzah, sit in the sukkah, shake the lulav and etrog, etc. Is there any greater pleasure in the world than that?!" (Quoted in Otzrotaihem Shel Tzadikim p.407)


"When you slaughter a feast thanksgiving-offering to Hashem, you shall slaughter it willingly." (22:29)

R' Eliezer Dovid Gruenwald z"l (leading Hungarian rabbi; died 1928) observes: A person is required to bring a korban todah / thanksgiving-offering if he was in danger and was saved. We read in Tehilim (107:1-2), "Give thanks to Hashem, for He is good; His kindness endures forever. Those redeemed by Hashem will say it, those whom He redeemed from the hand of distress." This verse reflects man's tendency to thank G-d after man has been saved. However, one rarely remembers to thank G-d for not placing him in danger in the first place. Thus our verse teaches, "When you slaughter a feast thanksgiving-offering to Hashem, you shall slaughter it *willingly*." Don't wait until you are required to thank Hashem. Rather, thank Him voluntarily.

(Haggadah Shel Pesach Chasdei David)


"You shall take for yourselves on the first day the fruit of a citron tree, the branches of date palms, twigs of a plaited tree, and brook willows; and you shall rejoice before Hashem, your G-d, for a seven-day period." (23:40)

R' Joseph B. Soloveitchik z"l (1903-1993; rosh yeshiva at Yeshivat Rabbeinu Yitzchak Elchanan of Yeshiva University) comments: It is for good reason that the berachah that we recite over the Four Species refers specifically to the lulav. The lulav stands tallest among the Four Species, and it teaches us that unless we stand tall, we can gain nothing from G-d's gifts. Standing tall means recognizing one's own worth and, in particular, recognizing what makes us different from our neighbors. When the State of Israel stood tall, the nations of the world stood in awe of it, R' Soloveitchik observes. By the same token, R' Soloveitchik says, American Jews are unable to preserve their spiritual standing because they take no pride in their Jewishness. The Jewish people have unique perspectives and accomplishments, but rather than teach our children to take pride in this uniqueness, we are more concerned with imitating our neighbors and "fitting in." If we only had the courage to instill in our children a strong Jewish identity, our lot would be a happier one.

(Yemei Zikaron p.134-135)


"You shall dwell in sukkot for a seven-day period; every native in Yisrael shall dwell in sukkot." (23:42)

We read in the book of Nechemiah about the first Sukkot holiday that was observed after the Jews' return from the Babylonian exile (at the beginning of the Second Temple period). Verse 8:17 there states: "The entire congregation that had returned from the captivity made sukkot and dwelt in sukkot, for Bnei Yisrael had not done so from the days of Yehoshua bin Nun until that day, and there was great joy." Yehoshua bin Nun lived almost 1,000 years before this event, at the time when Bnei Yisrael first entered Eretz Yisrael. The Gemara therefore asks: Is it possible that King David, who lived in the intervening period, did not observe Sukkot? The Gemara offers several answers to this question.

R' Shlomo Goren z"l (former Ashkenazic Chief Rabbi of Israel) notes that the Zohar offers another explanation of this verse. The Zohar states: "One who has a portion in the People and in the Holy Land sits in the "shadow of emunah" (the kabbalistic term for the sukkah) to receive the ushpizin, to rejoice in this world and the next." The Zohar also states, "One who leaves the shadow of emunah inherits exile for himself and his children." It thus appears, writes R' Goren, that the mitzvah of sukkah is connected to the holiness of Eretz Yisrael. In the Diaspora, the mitzvah of sukkah is incomplete.

The era of Yehoshua and the era of Nechemiah had something in common. They both were periods in history when large scale Jewish settlements were established in Eretz Yisrael, and the Land was "sanctified" in the legal sense. Before Yehoshua's conquest, the Land was not "sanctified"; thus, the agricultural laws unique to Eretz Yisrael did not apply. Likewise, during the Babylonian exile, the Land lost its legal sanctity until Nechemiah and his contemporaries re-sanctified it. Of course Sukkot was observed by all generations, but the generations of Yehoshua and Nechemiah both experienced a special joy on Sukkot--the holiday connected with the sanctity of the Land. This is what the verse in Nechemiah is teaching.

(Torat Ha'Shabbat Ve'ha'moed p.224)


"Yesod Ve'shoresh Ha'avodah" ("The Foundation and Root of Divine Service")

This year, we are presenting excerpts from the work Yesod Ve'shoresh Ha'avodah by R' Alexander Ziskind z"l (died 1794). The primary theme of this work is improving one's concentration in prayer. In Sha'ar Ha'ashmoret, chapter 7, the author writes:

When the time for prayer arrives, one should prepare himself to go to the House of G-d--i.e., a bet knesset or bet ha'midrash. One should not pray at home, even with a minyan, for the Gemara warns that a person who has a shul in his city and does not use it is called a "bad neighbor." [At this point, the author quotes a lengthy passage from the Zohar which describes G-d's "disappointment" when He comes to shul and finds poor attendance. The author continues:] It is clear from the quoted passage that even the prayer of a congregation makes its proper "tikkun" only when it is recited in a shul. Additionally, a person who prays in shul with the congregation merits to be called a "servant of Hashem."

It goes without saying that one should not pray at home alone. The importance of prayer with a congregation is discussed in the Gemara. There, Rabbi Yochanan comments on the verse (Tehilim 69:14), "As for me, may my prayer to You be at an opportune time." When is it an opportune time? When the congregation prays! Another sage taught, "The prayer of the congregation is never despised by G-d." Other sages in the Gemara also list the benefits of prayer with a congregation.

In addition, one should push himself to be among the first ten to arrive. The great merit of this act is discussed in the Gemara and Zohar.


R' Eliyahu Kletzkin z"l

Upon seeing a short Torah work that R' Eliyahu Kletzkin authored when he was 20 years old, the author of the classic Tanach commentary known as "Malbim" said, "As far as both breadth of knowledge and sharp understanding, he is almost unique in this generation. He knows the entire Talmud and its commentaries like one of the Geonim, and his diligence in study is wondrous."

His diligence truly was a wonder. As a youth, the future R' Kletzkin, who was born in Poland in 1852, studied 18 hours a day. When he was older, he "slowed down" to only 15 hours a day. At age 14, he was an expert in the entire Talmud. As mentioned above, he published his first work at age 20. The goal of that work was to demonstrate the Talmudic principle known as "azda le'taamei"--i.e., that a given sage's opinion on one question in the Talmud may be understood in light of his position vis-a-vis other, sometimes apparently unrelated, issues.

R' Kletkin served in the rabbinate of several Polish towns for a total of fifty years. His last position was in Lublin, where he served from 1910 to 1925. In that year, he moved to Eretz Yisrael. Because he was afraid that the people of Lublin would prevent his aliyah, R' Kletzkin slipped out of town in the middle of the night without a warning or farewell. He settled in Yerushalayim, where he taught in Yeshiva Ohel Moshe.

R' Kletzkin was known for several outstanding characteristics. It is said that he fled from honor as one flees from a fire. His devotion to truth was uncompromising. Also, he carefully weighed every word that he spoke.

In addition to his Torah scholarship, R' Kletzkin was knowledgeable in the natural sciences, mathematics, geography, history and other subjects. In order to be able to advise his congregants, he also studied medicine, to the point that even physicians sometimes consulted with him. He was fluent in Greek, Latin, German, French, English, Russian and Polish. On a regular basis, before going to sleep, he would open a dictionary in one of those languages and read it, page after page, to improve his vocabulary.

In all, R' Kletzkin published ten Torah works, including one in Russian and one in Polish. He died on 16 Iyar 5692 / 1932 and was buried on Har Ha'zeitim. (Source: Kedoshim Asher Ba'aretz p. 102)


Copyright 2006 by Shlomo Katz and Torah.org.

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