Featured Purim Guest – Rabbi Reuven Chaim Klein – Author of Third Edition Of Lashon HaKodesh: History, Holiness, & Hebrew (Mosaica Press) – A Mishteh

Each of the three meals that we eat on Shabbat (Tractate Shabbat 117b) is called a seudah. On Purim we also have a festive meal, but that meal is called a mishteh. What is the difference between the word seudah and the word mishteh if both mean “meal”? Moreover, there is a third word which also means “meal” — mesibah. In what way does the word mesibah differ from the other two words? In order to illustrate the differences between these three words and their connotations we will focus on the lexical roots of each word and draw from them deeper insights into their meanings.

What is the root of the word seudah? The truth is that the word seudah never appears in the Bible, but Radak in Sefer HaShorashim explains the etymology of seudah by noting that the Rabbis modified the Biblical word saad to become seudah. What does saad mean? The word saad means “support” or “sustenance”, both in a rhetorical way (proof that supports an argument) and in a physical way (food that sustains a person’s body). In a handful of places the Bible uses the verb saad in conjunction with bread (see Psalms 104:15, Judges 19:5, and Genesis 18:5). The name Saadia, most famously borne by Rabbeinu Saadia Gaon (882-942), means “support (from) G-d”. Thus, the word seudah refers to the benefits of a festive feast for sustaining one’s physical body.

The word mishteh or derivatives thereof appear close to fifty times in the entire Bible. Its root is the verb shoteh, “drink”. The type of meal, or party, denoted by the word mishteh, focuses on drinking. In differentiating between the words seudah and mishteh, Rabbi Tzaddok HaKohen of Lublin (1823-1900) writes that while they both refer to festive meals, the former focusing on eating and the latter focusing on drinking. Thus, seudah is generally associated with bread — the focus of the Shabbat meal — because one eats bread (which fills one’s stomach and physically supports him). On the other hand, the word mishteh denotes a meal whose focus is on wine — like the festive Purim meal which commemorates/mimics the banquets of wine in the Book of Esther — because one drinks wine. (See, however, Rashi to Song of Songs 1:2, to Ecclesiastes 2:3, and to Esther 5:4, who writes that the defining element of an enjoyable, joyous meal (seudah) is the wine.)

The word mesibah arguably appears once in the Bible (see Rashbam to Song of Songs 1:12). Rashi (to Amos 2:8) writes that the word mesibah refers to the fact that the participants in the meal would customarily recline (a practice known as haseibah). Case in point: At the Passover Seder we customarily ask four questions about why “this” night is different from all other nights. The last of those questions asks why “all other nights we eat either sitting or reclining (mesubin), but tonight we eat only while reclining”. Thus, the root of the word mesibah is related to the Hebrew word for reclining, and refers to the type of meal where people would sit slouched about, as opposed to sitting erect. It has since been borrowed to refer in general to any type of “party”.

One contemporary linguist argues that the word mesibah is related to the word sovev/sevivah (“around”), and refers to the fact that everyone “gathers around” for a party. However, this claim remains unsubstantiated.

In short, seudah, mishteh, and mesibah are all words for “meal”, but are not quite synonymous. Seudah focuses on the bread eaten at the meal, while mishteh refers to a meal which focuses on drinking wine. The word mesibah focuses neither on the food nor the drink, but on the posture of the participants, because mesibah refers to a meal or party in which the party-goers are seated in couches or lazy-chairs, allowing them to lounge about.

Rabbi Levi Yitzchok of Berditchiv (1740-1810) in Kedushat Levi (Parshat Vayera) writes that the word mishteh denotes a “happy meal”. Based on that he explains that the party to which Esther invited Haman and Achashverosh is called a mishteh in the Bible because that party brought happiness to the Jews. Through that party Esther persuaded Achashverosh to execute Haman and rescind the horrible decree looming over the Jews. The resulting victory for the Jewish People brought happiness for generations to come and is celebrated yearly on Purim.

Rabbi Reuven Chaim Klein is a prolific author and the Founding Editor of the Veromemanu Foundation which is a think-tank for scholars delving into the intricacies of the Hebrew Language.

Aleeza Ben Shalom – Dating And Texting

Dear Marriage Minded Mentor,

I’ve gone out with a woman several times and it seems we are both interested. We are dating long distance and my emotional connection seems to come and go. In person I’m connected, but when we’re apart I don’t feel the bond. One thing that especially frustrates me when we’re apart is that she texts all the time and I feel obligated to respond. I see texting more as a useful tool to set up dates and maybe say hi here and there. She uses text as a form of conversation. I would much prefer to have a meaningful conversation over the phone, even if I have to wait until that evening. So I guess my question is, to text or not to text?


Generation teXt

Aleeza Responds

Dear Generation teXt,

Texting can both help and hinder your connection. Because you are dating long distance, you can use texting to bridge the gap between visits. However, if you haven’t yet developed a really solid connection, texting can interfere with the normal development of your relationship.

But what I hear you asking is, “If we want to connect, why can’t we just wait until we can speak rather than texting all day?” Great question, and I applaud you for making the effort to make a real connection rather than substitute a quick, “how r u” text. Both phone conversations and text messages will keep you in touch while you are physically apart. But some people don’t just enjoy constant contact, they need it. Our society has bred us to be dependent on instant replies.

Did you know that 30-40% of daters use a mobile device to schedule a date? And more and more people prefer texting to talking. Why? Texting is often a safe and non-threatening form of communication. The question is, are you sharing a real connection, something which brings two people together, or is texting creating unemotional connections? For many, texting has become a habitual and compulsive means of communication – and therefore often leaves us less connected than we think. In addition, I imagine you are probably spending more time thinking about your obligation to respond than daydreaming about her. It would be better for both of you if you were the other way around. Absence does make the heart grow fonder.

Let’s for a moment assume we agree that fewer texts and more personal attention is more beneficial for your potential relationship. How are you going to communicate your need for less texting and more real time, without offending your date? Communication is key. You aren’t saying, “I want to text less.” You are saying, “I am enjoying getting to know you. I want to give our relationship a good opportunity for growth. Would you mind if we developed our relationship over the phone and in person and hold off on texting?”

This message clearly shows your interest. In addition, you’ve articulated what does work for you. This may not be an easy conversation for you to have (and it definitely isn’t one you can send in a text message!). Speaking over the phone, or even better, in person, about technology and etiquette will tell you if you and your potential partner are on the same page. If you two can’t agree about texting while dating, I wonder what else you may not agree on.

Jewish wisdom teaches us that with the effort comes the reward. Make the effort to first figure out your own boundaries and comfort levels in regard to texting. Next, speak with your date about their preferences. See where your preferences and values align and differ. Then, set a standard for your relationship. Your investment in setting healthy boundaries now will set the tone and pace of the relationship. Empowering yourself to know and do what you’re comfortable with will benefit you. Whether in this relationship or another, you’ll be one step closer to chuppah.

May the right person blossom into a beautiful relationship and may you feel connected always and in all ways.

Originally Published on Aish.com

Moshe Stempel – Purim – True Simcha

Tonight’s vaad was based on the sefer Pachad Yitzchak by R’ Yitzchak Hutner.

In his sefer Aznayim LaTorah, R’ Yerucham quotes the words of the Alter of Kelm to every new talmid in his yeshivah. Whenever the Alter would admit a new talmid into the yeshivah, he would make the following disclaimer: “There is no guarantee that you will merit entrance into the World to Come by coming to this yeshivah. However, I can guarantee that you will never experience pleasure in This World after you leave this yeshivah.”

Through these words, the Alter of Kelm intimated that a Ben Torah is unable to indulge in his physical desires with complete enthusiasm. Instead, his conscience will always remind him that he shouldn’t be using his time like that. Therefore, any physical excitement that he will experience will not really appeal to him. Rather, only simchah of a spiritual nature will truly provide him with pleasure.

Our Baalei Mussar emphasize that fulfilling our physical desires merely whets our appetites for more physical pleasures. A person can never be satisfied with material wealth. All the Hollywood stars can attest to the idea that wealth and power often lead to divorce, involvement in drugs, and even suicide. It can’t be overemphasized that the simchah of Purim should never take the form of a secular celebration.

In sefer Bereishis (Genesis) we read that Yaakov Avinu switched his hands when he blessed Yosef’s sons Ephraim and Menashe. The Pachad Yitzchak explains that this unusual behavior was very symbolic in nature. When the Angel of Esau dislocated Yaakov’s right thigh, Yaakov demonstrated that his lower section was vulnerable to attack. This vulnerability was bound to be passed on to Ephraim. Being that Ephraim was the forebear of Yehoshua who would battle Amalek, Yaakov wanted to fortify him by placing his right hand on Ephraim’s head.

When we dance on Purim, we demonstrate that even our legs are elevated to G-d’s service. Like Yehoshua, we completely vanquish the Amalek that resides in our hearts.


Yacov Nordlicht – Parsha Yitro – The First Tow Dibros

In this week’s parsha we recount receiving the Torah directly from HaShem at Har Sinai. There’s an interesting Medrash which tells us that every morning and night when we proclaim “Shema Yisrael HaShem Elokeinu HaShem Echad”, we’re alluding to the first two dibros which we read in this week’s parsha.

If we were to look closer at the first two Parshios of Kriyas Shema, we come upon some peculiar discrepancies. In the first parsha of “V’ohavta”, the pasuk says,”v’hayu hadevarim haeleh asher anochi mitzavcha hayom al levavecha”, “And these matters that I command you today will be on your heart”. In contrast, the pasuk in the second parsha of “v’haya” reads, “v’samtem es divorai eileh al lvavchem”, “and place these words of mine on your heart”. The obvious implied difference is that the first parsha seems to speak of a situation where the words of Torah will automatically be on a person’s heart, while in the second parsha it implies that placing the words of Torah on our hearts will require an action of actually putting them on our heart. The question becomes, why did the pesukim change its wording? What’s the difference between the first parsha and the second parsha of Kriyas Shema which warrants a change in the implication of its precise wording?

There’s another Medrash which says that when Klal Yisrael heard the first two dibros, the words of Torah stuck to their hearts. The message of “I am HaShem your G-d”, and “You shall not have any other gods” instantly become a defining trait intrinsic to the essence of the Jewish people. It wasn’t simply a commandment on us to act. It didn’t exist outside of us, rather HaShem made these two commandments become embedded in our core, deep down in the recesses of our Jewish consciousness. These commandments changed us from who we were; and effectively made us Klal Yisrael.

Love by itself isn’t sustainable. It’s like a building without a strong basis and foundation, it’s bound to be wobbly and unstable. Eventually, if the wind blows strong enough, it’s bound to fall. In every aspect of life where we try so hard to love, the love itself needs to have a strong base. It’s no wonder that in certain societies which socially call infatuation and lust “love”, the divorce rate is bound to be higher. Love isn’t simply attraction. It needs a core and foundation. This is something that every chassan teacher teaches a chassan, and every kallah teacher teaches a kallah. The beginning of marriage is supposed to be used to build foundations. It’s the reason why there’s a specific Mitzvah during the first year of marriage to spend more time with your spouse.

But how are we supposed to build? What point is trying to be stressed during that first year of marriage?

The answer can be found in the first parsha of Kriyas Shema. The first parsha begins with the commandment to love HaShem. But we know that love by itself isn’t really sustainable. It needs a foundation. So, what’s that foundation? The foundation is in the immediately preceding proclamation of “Shema Yisrael haShem elokenu HaShem Echad”. The foundation is in recounting the first two dibros. To recognize that there is only One G-d. Recognizing and proclaiming oneness is the precursor and foundation to loving HaShem.

The same is true with the love between husband and wife. The entire first year of marriage is dedicated to realizing that your spouse is the only one. It’s to recognize your oneness together. Only with that essential and tantamount building block can a love truly manifest. Only when one realizes that there truly is no other can he begin to really cherish the one for him.

This is also the difference between the first two parshiyos of Kriyas Shema. The first parsha speaks about the love between us and HaShem. The second parsha deals with the Mitzvos themselves. The first parsha therefore says “v’hayu”, that the words of Torah will automatically be placed on his heart. The reason being that if a person establishes a true love of HaShem, he won’t need to do any action of putting the words of Torah on his heart. It will happen automatically. He’ll become one with His Creator, and as a result become One with the Torah as well. The second prasha deals with the reality that not all of us have achieved such a lofty level of true love for HaShem. As a result, we need to act. If we still love other things in this world and haven’t directed our love solely towards HaShem, then we’re not truly one with the Torah. But there still is hope. The pasuk tells us that even if the words of Torah aren’t automatically placed on our hearts, we can still put them there. By learning and reviewing we place those words of Torah on our hearts.

This is the real lesson we learn from the first two dibros- a lesson in how to love. Love isn’t something which just happens, created out of nowhere. True love doesn’t mean “love at first sight” when sparks fly. It needs a foundation. It needs to have a deep base, so that even when a strong wind pushes the building itself will never go down.

My rebbe told me a story years ago when I had just become a chassan. He told me that Rav Yaakov Yosef Herman was once sitting with his wife when his daughter had just gotten married. The way they were sitting at the table struck his daughter as somewhat peculiar. The daughter and her husband sat together while Rav Herman sat at the opposite end of the table vis-à-vis his wife. His daughter remarked playfully, “Tatteh, you see you’ve been married so long and are so far apart, yet me and my husband just got married and are so close together”. Rav Yaakov Yosef Herman looked at her and smiled. He replied, “You who just got married need to be sitting next to each other to feel together. But my wife could be on the opposite side of the world and I’ll still feel as if she’s right here by my side.”

Love takes work. Like a precious plant it needs to be cared for to germinate. The first step is to realize the oneness and exclusion. The first two dibros are the most important because they establish this connection. They proclaim HaShem’s oneness at the exclusion of all others. This is the platform for “v’ohavta”. This is the platform for true love.

Rabbi Baruch Bodenheim – Associate Rosh Yeshiva – PTI – Passaic Torah Institute – Parsha Beshalach – Miracles And Otherwise

Two years ago on Friday, Parshas Beshalach, I was traveling to Long Beach with my wife and father-in law, Rabbi Singer, for the Shabbos sheva brachos of our cousins Pinny and Hadassah Fried. We were fifteen minutes away when the transmission of my relatively new car died, in the middle of a busy four – lane road, with no shoulder to pull onto. My car was on the side of the road, sticking out like a sore [broken] thumb into a busy lane. No tow truck was available for hours, and Shabbos was fast approaching. We needed to solve this – move the car somewhere and get to our hotel right away!

A repair shop across the street kindly offered to let us leave the car there for the weekend. Getting the car across those four lanes was our challenge! I had a broken foot and could only hop! Neither my wife nor my father-in-law were able to push the car.

Just then, a police car stopped and told us we had to move the car! We explained the problem. He turned on his lights and parked his car in the middle of the road, blocking all lanes and stopping traffic on both sides. Yes, on Parshas Beshalach, the path across the four-lane road split! A few men from the repair shop helped push the car across the street, while I hopped across alongside my wife and Rabbi Singer. It was a sight to see. And we made it to the hotel with just a few minutes to spare before Shabbos.

I’ve heard many people say, “If I would witness miracles like the Ten Plagues or the splitting of the sea, then I would believe in Hashem. How come Hashem doesn’t perform miracles anymore?” In truth, even obvious miracles aren’t enough. Let me share a shocking midrash in Yalkut Shoftim. The Midrash explains the verse at the end of the long tachanun prayer, “To you, Hashem, is tzedakah and we are ashamed.” This is referring to Klal Yisrael at the splitting of the sea. Why the shame? A man named Micha had taken an idol with him when he left Mitzrayim and carried it in his pocket as he walked through the split sea. What an embarrassment that a Jew should carry an idol while Hashem is saving our lives! Yet, Hashem did an act of charity and with His infinite kindness, split the sea despite this rebellious act.

But how is it possible for Micha to carry an idol when he is witnessing such awesome open miracles?

Rabbi Chaim Shmulevitz explains that any level in clarity regarding Hashem that is attained without effort, simply won’t last. It was true with Micha and with many others. Chazal tell us everyone present at the splitting of the sea had a vision of Hashem superior to that of the great prophet, Yechezkel, yet many were not changed by the experience. The key to change is the effort we make to work on ourselves, not a wondrous experience itself.

When I was in yeshiva in Eretz Yisrael, a group of boys told me they miraculously escaped a terrorist attack unharmed. A terrorist with a machine gun opened fire at people sitting outside the many restaurants on the street. People ran, hid and cried. One boy told me that when the coast was clear, he quickly ran to a beis medrash to say tehillim and thank Hashem for saving his life. However, another person had a very different reaction. After the coast cleared, he went back to the restaurant to order another beer!

We all experience things that can inspire us to make a positive change. But do we act on it? We can hear an inspiring lecture, shiur, or attend an uplifting Shabbaton, but if we don’t make an effort to change as a result of these experiences, we will remain the same.

One can walk out of Egypt and into the sea and stand at Har Sinai with an idol in his pocket!

We experience Krias Yam Suf (splitting of the sea) daily in our lives in different ways. True, it’s not everyday we have a major road split for us, but things like getting a raise, a new job offer, a shidduch for a child, a refuah sheleima or even just experiencing less traffic on a commute to work one day, — these are all the Almighty reaching out to us. It’s up to us to recognize His ongoing assistance…and act on it.

We all have a metaphorical idol in our pocket—an area in our lives we need to work on, such as attaching too much importance to monetary matters or worrying too much about our self – image. Let’s try to toss bad influences and bad traits out of our lives. Opportunities to get closer to our Heavenly Father are abundantly there for the taking—if we just make the effort to reach out and grab them.