Dedicated to the Smagley Family, Nachman, Miriam, Yitzhak and Leah. Thank
you for inspiring this week's parshah sheet, and may Hashem grant you the
clarity and strength to go from level to higher level in Torah and mitzvos.
By the sweat of your brow will you eat bread . . . (Bereishis 3:19)
Wrong parshah you say? What does this concept from the early chapters of
Bereishis have to do with the early chapters of Bamidbar? Well, to begin
with, while listening to a tape by Rabbi Shimshon Pincus, zt"l, on Lag
B'Omer, I heard a very nice idea (actually many). The Talmud teaches that
it is as difficult to make a zivug as it was to split the Red Sea (Sotah
2a). G-d does both, and nothing is difficult for Him, so there are many
interpretations as to what the Talmud means.
One such interpretation is that, just as the sea was forced to act against
its nature by standing up and making walls of water, so too is it against
the nature of two strangers to marry one another and have peace. There are
so many differences, and so many things that don't show up in the marriage
until after the wedding, and yet they should act toward each other with
familiarity and complete trust?
Logically, not necessarily, but in actuality, most marriages still seem to
work out and many even excel. It doesn't happen overnight, but it happens,
and when it does, it is something of a miracle. However, Rav Pincus
provides a new insight into what the Talmud means here.
To begin with, as the Shem M'Shmuel explains, we were created to sing
shirah to G-d. As the Talmud states, if you sing shirah in this world,
then you will have the merit to sing shirah in the next world. Indeed, the
only thing that stopped Chizkiah HaMelech from bringing Moshiach after the
miraculous victory over Sancheriv's million-soldier plus army was his
failure to sing shirah after it! (Sanhedrin 94a)
One of the most famous shiros ever sung, one which we repeat every day of
the week as part of Pesukei d'Zimra, is the Shir Shel Yumm. It was the
special praise of G-d that Moshe led the Jewish people to sing after they
saw the Egyptians drowned in the very sea that had parted for them. So
overwhelming was the miracle and the relief of salvation that the Jewish
people were compelled to praise G-d. It was easy to sing shirah to G-d by
But how many people sing shirah to G-d about their spouses? Who could hear
it anyhow over the bickering, or the criticizing, or the complaining? A
miracle? What miracle? That we didn't kill each other last week?
A little cynical, perhaps. But the divorce rate is quite high these days,
even in the religious community, and the psychologists are booked solid
solving marital difficulties.
And, when was the last time you opened the fridge and then opened your
mouth in praise of G-d for what was inside? We've all heard the stories of
life in the "Old Country," and how meat was an impossible dream, even for
Shabbos. "Please," many children say today, "must I hear that story
again?" as they roll their eyes in disbelief.
How many open the fridge or the pantry, which is stocked quite well, only
to close it again and say in frustration, "There is nothing to eat in this
house!" They don't even realize that in a food shortage, every item on the
shelf would be worth plenty to them, and they would eat it with care and
Thus, the Talmud concludes:
A person's food is as difficult as the splitting of the sea. (Pesachim
That is, the simple miracle of food to eat goes largely unappreciated by
the average person, unless a miracle happens with it on the scale of the
splitting of the sea. Especially in a generation in which food is
plentiful for many, and so accessible, the ease of gashmiut (materialism)
has increased the difficulty of ruchniut (spirituality).
G-d told Moshe to say, "Tell the Children of Israel, 'If a man's wife
goes astray and acts deceitfully against him . . .' " (Bamidbar 5:11-12)
Which brings us to this week's parshah and the situation of the Sotah.
Ironically, the Torah equates one's wife with one's bread:
He left all that he had in Yosef's hands, [and] paid no attention to
anything except for the bread that he ate. (Bereishis 39:6)
EXCEPT FOR THE BREAD: This means his wife, but the Torah has used a
Is there a reason for this?
And what makes this really interesting is that the punishment for eating
from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil was bread with difficulty:
By the sweat of your brow will you eat bread . . . (Bereishis 3:19)
And we think this is for having eaten from the forbidden fruit of the Tree
of Knowledge of Good and Evil. But, if you recall, when Adam defended his
actions by complaining to G-d:
"The woman You gave to be with me, she gave to me, and I ate."(Bereishis
Here he denied the good. (Rashi)
That is, when G-d created Chava and gave her to Adam as a wife, He meant
it as not only a good thing, but a great thing. Not only did Adam not
acknowledge this, he even rejected it by implicating G-d in the woman's
involvement in the sin. Something is wrong here - VERY wrong, and
apparently it has to do with the heart, something that apparently, Sefiros
HaOmer was meant to correct.
Indeed, last week, a student directed me towards an article titled, "The
Heart of the Matter," written by Rabbi Noson Weisz
In his article, Rabbi Weisz points out an interesting fact, namely that
there are THIRTY-TWO words in advance of the first appearance of the word
tov - good, in the Torah. In Hebrew, the number 32 is written Lamed-Bais,
which spells the word heart. Thus, Rabbi Weisz concluded:
"The 33rd word in the Torah is the Hebrew word tov, meaning 'good.' It
refers to the light that was G-d's first creation: G-d saw that the light
was good (Genesis 1:4). The 32 previous words of creation, equaling the
numerical value of lev - heart, serve to generate this good light. G-d's
light to the world is his Torah, which points the way to man's purpose and
renders him a creature worthy of respect. Between the 33rd day of the Omer
and the 50th day, Shavuot - the day the Torah enters the world, there are
17 days, equal to the numerical value of the word tov. If we divide the
days we count between the first 32 and the last17, we get lev tov,
the 'good heart' - the heart that knows what to value and that distributes
its kavod, (worth 32) with its entire essence (also 32) to the proper
recipient, the Torah scholar."
Thus, Rabbi Akiva's students, who acted towards one another with bad
hearts, ceased dying on Lag B'Omer. And thus, Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai
revealed the Zohar to the Jewish people, an act of a good heart and made
possible because of a good heart. For, it is only through a good heart
that the light of Torah, especially that which G-d made Creation and gave
Torah, can flow to the world.
Thus, the Name of G-d - Elokim. appears 32 times in the Creation story, an
allusion to the "32 Paths of Wisdom" with which the world was made, the
spiritual conduits through which the light of G-d traveled on its way down
from the sefirah of Chochmah which corresponds to man, -and to the sefirah
of Binah which corresponds to woman. And it is certainly no coincidence
that the base of the Temple altar was 32 amos square, or that the Tefillin
Shel Yad, which is shaped like the altar, sits on the left arm opposite
the heart. Or, that we have 32 teeth. (We break some of the Evil Son's
teeth at the Seder.)
In fact, listen to what the Nefesh HaChaim has written about the heart:
There is also another notion that the heart of every man belonging to the
holy nation should tremble: included in him are all of the countless
forces and worlds . . . These powers and worlds comprise the Heavenly
Temple. The heart of man, found in the middle of the body and which
incorporates everything, corresponds to the Holy of Holies, which is
considered to be in the center of the world . . . It includes all the
sources and roots of holiness, just like the Holy of Holies. This idea is
alluded to in the chapter [in Tractate Brochos], "The Morning Prayers,"
where it teaches, "Direct your heart toward the Holy of Holies." In the
Zohar it says: Come and see how The Holy One, Blessed is He, when He made
man and perfected him according to the Supernal plan, and imbued him with
power and strength in the center of his body, because that is where his
heart is situated. The Holy One, Blessed is He, set up the world in a
similar fashion, as a single body. For, just as the heart is in the middle
of the body and controls everything, and everything is dependent upon
it . . . so too did the Courtyard envelope the Holy of Holies where the
Divine Presence dwelled, as well as the ark cover (Kappores), the
cherubim, and the Ark. It is considered the heart of the entire land and
world, and from here the entire world is nourished (Shlach 161:1) . . . If
so, then, when a person pursues impure thoughts of his heart, (we should
be protected from such things), it is comparable to . . . [committing a
terrible profanity] . . . in the awesome Holy of Holies in the Heavenly
Temple; he strengthens the forces of impurity and the Sitra Achra . . .
Every sin a Jew considers in his heart is a "strange fire," whether it is
a feeling of anger or an evil longing. It is to this that the verse
literally refers, "Our holy house and our glory which . . . was burned in
fire. . . (Yeshayahu 64:10) - the Merciful One should save us. (Nefesh
That is, the fire is a reference to the passions of the heart of each Jew
of the generations of the Temple. It was their illicit passions that led
to the actual fire that burned down the Temple, and thus it was the fires
of the heart that caused the destruction of the Temple. All of
spirituality comes down to the heart, which is why the Final Redemption is
defined in terms of the circumcision of the hearts of the Jewish people.
I heard Him addressing Himself to me from the Temple; and there was a
man standing next to me. (Yechezkel 43:6)
And this is what G-d told Yechezkel, which was a prophecy concerning the
"Son of Man, [this is] the place of My throne and the place of My
footstool, where I will dwell amid the Children of Israel forever. The
House of Israel will no longer defile My holy Name, they and their kings
with their promiscuous idolatry, and with the corpses of their kings, and
with their high places, by their placing their threshold near My threshold
and their door post next to My door post, with but a wall between Me and
them, whereby they defiled My holy Name with the abominations they
committed, so that I consumed them in My anger. Now they will distance
their promiscuous idolatry and the corpses of their kings from Me, that I
may dwell among them forever." (Yechezkel 43:7-9)
In other words, and as Rashi explains, several kings had been buried on
the grounds of the royal residence, adjacent to the Temple. For the Divine
Presence to return to the Temple, that situated had to first be remedied.
However, that was a technical problem that had a technical solution. The
more difficult part to be solved will be that of the heart of the people
at the time of the redemption: the removal of the promiscuous idolatry
that will have infiltrated the hearts of the Jewish people.
Interesting how, in this week's parshah, the Torah juxtaposes the law of
giving sacred offerings to the kohanim and the law of the Sotah, the
suspected adulteress. In fact, Rashi finds a direct connection between the
IF A MAN'S WIFE GOES ASTRAY: What is stated before this section? "If you
retain the gifts due to the priest" [as if to say,] by your life, you will
have to come to him in order to bring him your faithless wife. (Rashi)
In other words, if you do not act with a good heart toward the kohanim by
giving their due "bread," then your wife, G-d forbid, symbolized by bread
will not act with a good heart toward you. If a kohen and a wife have
anything in common, it is that both work behind the scenes to increase the
blessing of one's house. For, as the Talmud states, the blessing of the
house comes through the wife (Bava Metzia 59a), and on the same page the
Talmud talks about one's sustenance.
For, a good heart means seeing everything in a life as a gift and not as a
given. This, in turn, generates a sense of gratitude and appreciation that
results in the kind of generosity that leads one to graciously share his
bounty with those who have not, such as the kohen. And, it leads one to
the type of spousal appreciation that results in a peaceful marriage, even
if the workload is not split 50-50. Not all marriages have what it takes
to survive and promote mutual growth, but many that end in divorce or
emotional stalemate often do once a leiv tov is developed.
And this, of course, is all just representative of one's relationship with
G-d. Appreciation of one's livelihood, be it with one's food or one's
spouse, is to appreciate G-d and all that He does for us. The more we are
able to feel and express that gratitude, ESPECIALLY for the small things
in life that most of us take for granted, the greater our love of G-d
appears before him. In a generation immersed in affluence, this is no
small feat, and this type of shirah Rav Pincus, zt"l, referred to as
Shirah Shel Moshiach - the Shirah of Moshiach.
The kohen shall present the woman before G-d and put in disorder the
woman's hair . . . (Bamidbar 5:18)
Two weeks ago (last week as of the writing of this article), another very
interesting and bizarre related issue happened out of the blue in the
Torah world, and even made the front page of the New York Times. Applying
the well-known principle of:
This is from G-d, that which is wondrous in our eyes. (Tehillim 118:23)
We have to assume it happened for a special reason, and therefore worth
mentioning. The following sums up the problem:
A recent investigation has found that women in India whose hair is used
for sheitels (wigs) are donating them as a religous sacrifice - a form of
Avodah Zara (idol worship).
Jews are not allowed to benefit from idol worship or things donated to it.
The e-mail went on to convey the status of the situation at the time, and
how to deal with it. And, there are many opinions flying around, some
serious and some humorous as to why this crisis sprung up at this time.
However, side-stepping all of that, I just wanted to point out that it is
from the Sotah that we learn that a married woman must cover her hair
(Kesuvos 72a). For, as an act of reprimand for becoming suspected of
adultery, her hair was uncovered by the officiating priest. Thus, the
timing of the issue is rather uncanny.
You can be sure that the women of Temple times did not wear wigs, and you
can be sure that the ones worn by women at the turn of the previous
century did not look anything like the ones worn by women at the turn of
this century, or cost nearly as much. However, hair was not a multi-
billion dollar industry back then either and made into such an item of
beauty. The halachah of a married woman covering her hair never changed,
but the emotional difficulty in doing so has certainly increased.
I'm sure many are now addressing and re-addressing the pros and cons of
wearing sheitels. I just want to point out that according to tradition,
the unfaithful woman is also a symbol of the unfaithful nation that has
gone astray after other ways of life, other than that of Torah. Megillas
Eichah, which we read on Tisha B'Av, is filled with such allusions of the
Jewish people who devoted their hearts to false ideas, imbuing them with
value and strength they did not have, only to fail because of them.
The Hebrew word for hair is sa'ar - Sin-Ayin-Raish, which has the same
letters as gate - sha'ar, spelled Shin-Ayin-Raish, because hair is like a
gateway to the siechel, a person's mind. It is also the root of se'ir -
Sin-Ayin-Yud-Raish, the goat through which atonement on Yom Kippur was
also achieved. The word barley - se'orah, which was the offering the Sotah
brought for atonement, is a similar word.
According to Kabbalah, these letters are associated with din - judgment.
Maybe the sheitel issue is a message to the entire nation in a more
general sense, for we know that at the End of Days, it will be a time of
judgment and therefore a time to use judgment. Life is a process of
birrur - separation, and all the crisis Jews undergo are to force us to
decide where we stand with the issues of Torah.
As I write there are many kosher sheitels available, and you can be sure
that within a short time many more will be, and the entire issue will
quickly become a distant memory. But it has happened for a reason and at
this time to catch our attention, to urge us to contemplate where our
loyalties lie, each in his or her own way, each on his or her own level.
The gematria of lev tov is 49, after which comes 50, the symbol of the
supernatural existence of the Jewish people. A lev tov is the prerequisite
to unite with G-d, to become one with Him, so that He can share His Torah
with us. NOT to achieve this is to remain in the realm of 49, the realm of
the mundane and physical, and to be burdened by all the issues that weigh
down the person who builds his or her abode there.
The cites, dates and details of Rabbi Winston's upcoming speaking trip are
posted at www.thirtysix.org.