Dovid Weinberg – A Direct Descendant Of The Rama – Miketz And Chanuka

In this week’s parsha the Torah tells about a third famine that happened in the time of Yaakov Avinu.  The type of famine that occurred was a regional famine that threatened the lives of the patriarchal family. Yaakov was besieged with even further troubles. In addition to Yosef’s disappearance, another one of his sons Shimon was imprisoned in Mitzrayim. In response to the crisis, it says in the Midrash Tanchuma that Yaakov prayed: “May He Who said to the universe at the time of creation, ‘Enough!’ to my troubles.  I have had no rest since my youth –  troubles with Lavan, troubles with my brother Esav, the troubles of Rochel, Dina, Yosef, Shimon and now Binyamin.”  

Yet previously, when Yaakov requested tranquility, Hashem responded to Yaakov’s request according to how Rashi explains, Bereishis 37:2: “Is the reward that the Tzaddikim receive in Gan Eden insufficient that they even ask for reward in this world?  Since Yaakov asked for undue measure of tranquility, Hashem brought the troubles of Yosef upon Yaakov.” 

If Yaakov’s initial request for a peaceful existence resulted in bitter consequences, why does Yaakov again in this week’s parsha beseech Hashem for serenity?  The Patriarchs attained an aspect of Gan Eden even while living in this world.  However, they did not experience the higher level of absence of all sorrow and hardship.

Yaakov’s first prayer was striving for an existence that surpassed the conditions of Avraham and Yitzchak.  This was denied to him.  However, now this time Yaakov was not demanding that type of tranquility.  He realized that the kindness of Hashem would ultimately bring him a measure of good fortune that would bring him comfort for the turbulent episodes that happened during his lifetime.  

Therefore, Yaakov asked to balance out the tragedies of his life with blessing and goodness.  Indeed, this happened during his final years in Mitzrayim which were a time of peace, fulfillment and joy.  May we also gain enjoyment in our own lives by considering and applying Yaakov’s profound insight to our prayers and life experience.  Although life in this world cannot be totally free of all our troubles, we can daven to request to Hashem to balance out the hard times with good times.  

During the time of Chanukah, it is an important time to strive to grow in our Torah as well as Yiras and Ahavas Hashem. It is also an important lesson that we should learn from Yosef in how he survived such an immoral place like Mitzrayim for Yaakov taught Yosef how to survive in Galus. If we want to bring the Ketz (End) to this Galus we must strive to better ourselves and learn from one another. With this it can bring about a higher level of Achdus which in turn could bring about the Final Geulah. In the end, we should all witness the Lighting of the Menorah in the Third Beis HaMikdash in our time.  

This Dvar Torah is based on Toras Chaim of the Chasam Sofer.

 

Dovid Weinberg – A Direct Descendant Of The Rema – Parsha Vayishlach – The Name Of Avraham Versus The Name Of Yaakov

In this week’s parsha, the Torah tells us about the confrontation between Yaakov and Esav’s spiritual counterpart. Yaakov clung tenaciously to Hashem and prevailed. However, in the midst of the struggle, the Malach of Esav injured Yaakov in the hip. Subsequently, the Malach of Esav blessed Yaakov as it says in Bereishis 32:29; “No longer will it be said that your name is Yaakov, but Yisroel [will be your name], for you have striven with the divine … and you have overcome.”  Even though the Malach of Esav changed Yaakov’s name to Yisroel, the Torah in many places still refers to him as Yaakov.  In contradistinction, the Gemara in Berachos 13a states that Hashem was the one that changed Avram’s name to Avraham, and his name remained forever changed to Avraham and it is forbidden to call him by the name of Avram.  

Why by Yaakov when his name was changed it was not permanent? In the Gemara Nedarim 32b the Chochamim say tha Avram’s name has a numerical value of 243, signifying that Hashem initially gave Avraham mastery over 243 limbs of the body.  After his circumcision, he was given mastery over all 248 limbs of the body. The name of Avraham has a numerical value of 248, meaning that he was the total master of himself. Hashem blessed him so that the negative impulses would be powerless against him forever. On the other hand, the incident of Yaakov’s battle with the Malach of Esav foreshadows that the descendants of Esav will desire to destroy Klal Yisroel throughout the ages.  

The injury that Yaakov sustained signifies that all the righteous descendants of Yaakov will be endangered in each generation. Therefore, although Yaakov did prevail over the Malach of Esav, his victory did not mark a decisive defeat of Esav’s destructive force. Hence, Yaakov’s name change to Yisroel was not permanent, just as his victory was temporary.  

This incident that happened between the Malach of Esav and Yaakov conveys the message that no matter how many times we are endangered, we can triumph, just as Yaakov Avinu did. Moreover the Bracha and healing that Yaakov ultimately received signifies that the great light that will shine on us at the time of our redemption – when the dominance of Klal Yisroel will finally endure forever.

My own thought is that the lesson to remember is that the Yetzer Hara is the Malach of Esav. That the Yetzer Hara strikes when we least expect it and he tries to defeat us and to completely destroy us spiritually. It is it up to you to look for your inner “Yisroel” to prevail against him. The biggest thing that I see throughout Klal Yisroel and it is still a big problem is our own prejudice against one another. We should learn to more tolerant and accepting to help Klal Yisroel unite under one banner and this will be the ultimate defeat against the power of Esav and can bring the Final Geulah.  

This Dvar Torah is based on Etz Pri of the Steipler Gaon.

Dovid Weinberg – A Direct Descendant Of The Rama – Parsha Ki Teitzei – Building Your Home To Serve Hashem

It says in this week’s parsha, Devarim 22:8, “If you build a house, you shall make a fence for your roof, so that you will not place blood in your house if a fallen one falls from it.”  The Me’am Loez comments: That when a person is ready to build a new house, at the second the builders begin the construction, he should say, “I am having this house built so as to have a place to live in, and I will thus be able to serve Hashem.”  He will then have help from Heaven, and holiness will rest upon the house.  

When a person builds a house for the sake of Hashem, it is certain that Hashem will assist him, as it happened during the building of the first Beis HaMikdash in the time of Shlomo HaMelech.  Our Chochamim say that the stones for the first Beis HaMikdash miraculously placed themselves in their proper places.  Why did Shlomo HaMelech merit this very great miracle?  The answer is that Shlomo HaMelech built the first Beis HaMikdash for the sake of Hashem as the pasuk states in Melachim 5:19, “Therefore I have decided to build a House for the Name of Hashem, my G-d.”  

So too, if a person says at the time that he commences to build, “I am building this house in order to serve Hashem,” the holy influences will help in a concrete way.  Actually, before a person does anything, he should say “I am doing this with Hashem’s help,” and Hashem Himself will then help him.  This is what the pasuk means in Mishlei 3:6 “In all your ways know Him, and He will smooth your paths.”  This means that one should know Hashem with each and every action he does, because He is the one Who gives you the strength.  

When a person merits that the Shechinah rests in his house and on his actions, the powers of impurity will run from him.  Whenever there is help from Hashem, the powers of impurity have no permission to effect change.  Everything in this house will be protected from any negative influences, in fulfillment of the pasuk as it says in Tehillim 91:10 “No evil will befall you, nor will any plague come near your tent.”  

Therefore, if one constantly learns Torah in one’s home, the proximity of the Shechinah keeps things that are unholy from the house.  This is also true by a person who learns Torah constantly preventing him from falling into the Yetzer Hara’s trap thus keeping him pure.  The lesson is to strengthen learning Torah at home and to keep oneself occupied by having Torah thoughts throughout the day.

Dovid Weinberg – A Direct Descendant Of The Rama – Parsha Eikev – The Heart Of The Matter

In this week’s parsha the Torah speaks on how the heart is our spiritual center.  The Torah is instructing us to cut away the barrier to the heart (Deuteronomy 10:16). The Ramban comments: “Your should know the truth…and you should not err to think that there is any benefit in serving intermediate forces, such as Melachim, Avoda Zara, or the planets.”

After Klal Yisroel experienced the miracle of Yetzias Mitzrayim why would Klal Yisroel give credence to any power other than Hashem, the King of Kings and the Master of the Universe?

In this material world we know that Hashem’s radiance is hidden. Regardless of how clearly Hashem reveals Himself, once the revelation has passed, the Neshema is cast into darkness.  The nature of this “blackout” makes it impossible for humans not to err. You see that a person’s heart is vulnerable to all types of temptations and grasps at any force that seems attractive or powerful enough to benefit him.  

By Klal Yisroel, because of the special favor that we found in the eyes of Hashem, we have been endowed with the clarity to recognize the worthlessness of the un-Godly forces, despite the deceptive comfort of placing one’s Emunah in planets, Melachim, and the superstars. It is known that Hashem instilled a consciousness within every Jewish Neshema. Each person in Klal Yisroel knows that all these deceptive powers are unconditionally and totally subject to the divine will. Hence, Klal Yisroel has an inner light, a sensitivity that enables everyone in Klal Yisroel to distinguish between the truth and falsehood.  

We acknowledge this gift everyday in our morning Davening “Blessed is Hashem…Who separated us from those who stray from the truth.”  You see deep inside of each and everyone in Klal Yisroel’s Neshema we know the truth. However, we must open our hearts to connect with this inner awareness.  

Therefore, the pasuk instructs to “Cut away the barrier to your heart.” The people of Klal Yisroel must see beyond the smokescreen and reject the false persuasions. Then and only then we will be free to fully embrace the eternal Torah and it everlasting truth. This Dvar Torah is based on Da’as Torah of Yerucham Levovitz.  

 

Dovid Weinberg – A Direct Descendant Of The Rama – Parsha Va’etchanan

In this week’s parsha the Midrash states: “The one who merits wealth merits everything.  Under what circumstances is this so?  When the wealth he holds has been conferred by Heaven and is in the accordance with the Torah, then [the person who possesses the wealth is considered as if he has everything].  Conversely, if his wealth was sanctioned by Hashem, then it is considered as if the wealth was taken undeservedly.”

What the Midrash is teaching us is that there are two kinds of wealth: (1) divinely authorized and (2) wealth that is unauthorized by Hashem.  The question is how do we understand this distinction? The answer is that there are two types of divine reward that pertain to Tzaddikim: (1) reward bestowed in This World and (2) reward that is bestowed in Olam Haba.  Some Tzaddikim merit both types of reward.  When that is the case, the wealth they enjoy in this world is sanctioned by the Torah. This is the individual that the Midrash refers to – “the one who merits wealth merits everything.”  On the other hand, other Tzaddikim merit a share in Olam Haba, but do not attain wealth in this world.  If they hold wealth in this world, it has to come to their hands against accepted Torah principles.

The Midrash provides an illustration of wealth that was inappropriately attained.  The Shevatim of Gad and Reuven requested a portion of land across the Jordan River.  When Moshe heard this from them he felt disturbed by their willingness to separate themselves from their brothers. He also perceived that they assigned more importance to their material concerns than their spiritual endeavors.  Moshe therefore insightfully concluded that their yearning for material possessions indicated that their wealth was not divinely sanctioned.  Therefore, the Midrash reveals the importance of evaluating our relationship to materialism.  

Essentially, we must be certain that all our financial affairs are in accordance with Torah practice and thought.  If Klal Yisroel does so, then we can be assured that the wealth that we receive in this world is sanctioned by Hashem. This is based on Ohr Rashbaz of the Alter of Kelm.

 

Dovid Weinberg – A Direct Descendant Of The Rama – Tisha B’Av And Emunah

In this week’s parsha the Torah states in Devarim 1:22, “And all of you approached me and said, ‘Let us send men in front of us and they will search out the land.’”  This is the reference to the incident of the twelve spies whom Moshe Rabbenu sent to scout out Eretz Yisroel.  They ended up returning to Moshe and Klal Yisroel with a negative report showing a lack of faith in Hashem.  

According to Rashi, their lack of faith about Klal Yisroel’s ability to conquer Eretz Yisroel cast Bnei Yisroel into a state of confusion.  Usually the normal protocol was for Moshe to command Klal Yisroel to send out the spies to determine the best strategy and course of action of how and when to wage battle.  The fact that they did not wait for Moshe Rabbenu to give the command to send out spies reveals Klal Yisroel’s anxiety.  The Torah is showing that their hurried and confused behavior was engendered by their very own fears.

Moshe Rabbenu realized that Klal Yisroel’s insecurity about the outcome of the battle would subject them to the principle, “A person is led on the path that he so desires to go.” This negative emotion of fear was an opening for the Yetzer Hara to enter their hearts. Thus, Moshe Rabbenu knew that they would ultimately speak Lashon Hara about Eretz Yisroel. Even worse, is that Moshe realized that the influence of the Yetzer Hara might corrupt Yehoshua, one the twelve spies and Moshe’s closest disciple.  Indeed the pasuk says: “And all you approached me….” This implies that the entire group was suffering from improper fear.  Moshe Rabbenu also knew that once Klal Yisroel were in the gravitational field of the Yetzer Hara, disaster was going to be unavoidable.  The best thing that Moshe could do was Daven that his disciple, Yehoshua, not fall prey to the pessimistic attitude of the rest of Klal Yisroel.  

Emunah is the very fundamental foundation of the Torah. Hashem openly revealed his omnipotence and love for Klal Yisroel when he redeemed us from Mitzrayim.  Therefore, despair is totally inappropriate for the Jewish people.  Even more, if we maintain our Emunah in Hashem, the Yetzer Hara will be unable to gain access to our hearts and deeds.  Therefore, through this knowledge that is based on Ohr Rashaz of the Alter of Kelm, let us strengthen our Emunah in Hashem – totally and absolutely – and based on that merit may we see that on this Tishah B’Av we see the immediate Geulah for all of Klal Yisroel.

Dovid Weinberg – Direct Descendant Of The Rama – Shabbos Chazon And Devarim

Chazon is symbolic of a vision – a vision of clarity. Devarim contains the words of Bnei Yisroel that were conjured up without a clear vision. If they had greater clarity and a stronger vision, they would have unlikely engaged in such rebellious words.