Rabbi Baruch Bodenheim – Associate Rosh Yeshiva – PTI – Passaic Torah Institute – Parsha Emor / Pesach Sheini – Seeking Spiritual Food

Sir Moses and Lady Judith Montefiore went on their first long journey to Eretz Yisrael in 1827. On the way from Malta to Alexandria, Egypt, there was a major storm that threatened to capsize the boat. They said tehillim fervently. The captain told everyone to prepare for the end! Finally, the Montefiores had a thought. By Italian Sephardic custom, they had held on to a piece of afikomen — for safe journeys. They retrieved it from their trunk, made their way to the deck and threw it into the stormy sea. Within minutes, the storm calmed, clouds dissipated, and their journey returned to its calm beginning. The Montefiores gave thanks to Hashem for saving them, continued onto Eretz Yisrael, and there rekindled their link to Torah.

Nowadays after Pesach people often ask, “What do I do with all my leftover Matzah?” Based on the Sephardic custom, some still keep a piece of afikomen matzah for protection. More commonly, the practice is to save it for Pesach Sheini, on the 14th of Iyar (this coming Sunday). For the Torah tells us during the time of the Beis Hamikdash that anyone who wasn’t able to bring the Korban Pesach on 14th of Nisan, for reasons out of their control, could bring a Korban Pesach the following month on the 14th of Iyar and eat it on the night of the fifteenth, together with matzah.

Last year I was puzzled with a question. The custom of eating matzah and not saying Tachanun occurs on the fourteenth. Yet, the Torah says they ate the Pesach Sheini on the fifteenth.  Shouldn’t we honor these customs on the fifteenth?

Rav Avrohom Schorr quotes the Ramah Mipanau, who praises one who also eats matzah on the fifteenth of Iyar because of this question! The Siddur Yavetz and Ramah Mipanau explain that the matzah that had baked on their backs as they left Mitzrayim lasted until the fifteenth of Iyar and on that day, the mon (manna) started to fall. (Rashi Beshalach 16:1) Rav Avrohom Schorr explains that when they finished eating the last piece of matzah, they complained they had no food left to eat. So why is this a cause for celebration today??

The Sfas Emes notes that when they complained about the lack of food, the Torah does not tell us there was in fact no food. The only indication of the lack of food was their complaint they were going to “die in the desert from hunger” (Beshalach 16:1-3) Unlike other commentators who saw the complaining as a negative, the Sfas Emes says the hunger here was not physical hunger, but rather a spiritual hunger. Even though they ran out of matzah, they were not worried – they believed Hashem was going to give them food. The “food” for which they yearned was a deep connection to Hashem. Just as the matzah they ate was a constant reminder of the miracle Hashem did to take them out of Mitzrayim, they wanted “food” that would connect them to Hashem in a similar way.

As a response to this request, Hashem granted the Bnei Yisroel the gift of Mon – heavenly bread – for forty years.

The following year, on their first Pesach in the desert, the people who were tamei (ritually impure) and couldn’t bring the Korban Pesach on time, said they didn’t want to lose out on the mitzvah. Therefore, Hashem caused the new Yom Tov of Pesach Sheini to come into being.

It’s important to note that Parshas Emor lists all the Yom Tovim, without mentioning the possibility of a makeup date for a Yom Tov. So why did Hashem grant a makeup date for those who were unable to bring the Korban Pesach? Rav Gedalia Schorr explains that precisely because the people verbalized their feeling of loss of the mitzvah, Hashem told Moses He was going to create an ability for them to still perform it – because they asked!

Pesach Sheini is a game-changer in our avodas Hashem (serving Hashem.) It demonstrates that the desire to connect to Hashem can actually afford us another chance! Our interest creates new opportunities.

People tell me sometimes they don’t want to eat a sandwich for a meal since they would need to recite Birkas Hamazon. Perhaps we should look at it in the reverse — by looking for opportunities to eat bread, we can fulfill a mitzvah from the Torah to recite Birkas Hamazon!

Pesach Sheini marks a time period which signifies our yearning to do more mitzvos. It reminds us to look for opportunities. Who can I help? My wife, parents, children, neighbors, friends? What new learning or Torah initiative can I start? Or what existing mitzvah can I reinvigorate?

If we but ask, Hashem will open up the door.

 

Rabbi Baruch Bodenheim – Associate Rosh Yeshiva – PTI – Passaic Torah institute – Parsha Kedoshim – Bringing Ourselves Into Hashem’s Presence

Pesach ended with a heavy heart for Jews around the world, as we were met with the horrific news of the attack on those davening in the Chabad of Poway in California, and the death of Lori Kaye a”h, along with the others who were wounded in that attack. On a personal level, I experienced the painful loss of my beloved grandmother, Mrs. Hansi Bodenheim a”h, who passed away the week after Pesach.

How does Hashem want us to act when informed of such tragic news?

It all happened in the week of Parshas Acharei Mos. It’s quite puzzling that Aharon was taught the laws of Yom Kippur, our holiest day, right after learning of the death of his two sons. Why that moment? Rav Gedalia Schorr quotes the verse, “And it was after the death of Nadav and Avihu, when they came close in front of Hashem and died.” Nadav and Avihu had an extreme desire to be close to Hashem and were “in front of Hashem,” but unfortunately took their attempt at closeness beyond prescribed boundaries. The lesson Aharon taught was that all Jews have the capacity to achieve this level of Lifnei Hashem – being in front of Hashem – on Yom Kippur, as the Kohen Gadol (High Priest) enters the Holy of Holies in the prescribed manner, as the representative of the Jewish people.

This Shabbos, we read Parshas Kedoshim. Often, Acharei Mos is read together with Kedoshim. They are connected. We use the term “kedoshim” (holy ones) for those who died for being a Jew. Yet, Parshas Kedoshim tells us that kedoshim also describes those who live their lives like a Jew.

The parsha begins with the order, “Kedoshim tihyu” – all Jews should be kadosh (holy). What does that mean? Rashi defines it as “perushim” – separate or unique. Why? Because “ki kadosh ani” – because Hashem is holy. Indeed, every Jew is special and unique, possessing an extra element of godliness in themselves. Every Jew lives “in front of Hashem.” The tragic loss of Aharon’s two sons and the tragic loss we read about in Poway tell us that those who die al kiddush hashem (to sanctify the name of G-d by being holy) effect an ability for us to come closer to Hashem. They give us the ability to become kadosh and appreciate the gift of being a Jew.

My Grandmother was a Holocaust survivor and lived her life feeling she was always with Hashem. Six million kedoshim perished in the war, but Hashem granted her life. She had many near-death experiences — strafing from German fighter planes, being captured by the Gestapo, living through Mengele’s section lines. Indeed, she was an extremely thin girl, but in the selection line, she stared him down and after a long pause, he sent her to the right, to a life as a concentration inmate with back-breaking labor. She told me she survived the horrors only due to her reliance on Hashem which she acquired from her parents. She saw so many die around her, but her connection to Hashem kept her going.

My grandmother lost her parents, grandparents, and many other family members. She suffered personal deprivation and torture throughout the war. She could have been bitter, angry, and depressed as a result of her devastating experiences, but she chose to live her life in a positive manner, as a believer in Hashem. She dedicated her life to living as a Jew. Instead of pain and hate, she exuded love and care. For close to fifty years, she served as a kindergarten teacher and librarian, and led the students in davening at the Torah Academy of Philadelphia. She was a true role model for the children she loved. Students from decades earlier would still stay in touch. On Fridays, her phone would ring constantly, with students, neighbors, and friends calling to wish her a good Shabbos. Each day, she would pack extra lunches in case children forgot their lunch — they knew to come to her. She lived with Godliness inside of her and saw the Godliness in all Jews, no matter their background or situation.

Kedusha is an approach to life. The more we are in touch with the uniqueness of our relationship with Hashem, the more we reflect that in our actions. Let us learn from those that passed away as kedoshim, by carrying on their legacy and living like kedoshim ourselves. Let the way we act, talk, walk and do business, always be “Lifnei Hashem.”

 

Rabbi Baruch Bodenheim – Associate Rosh Yeshiva – PTI – Passaic Torah Institute – Sefiras Haomer/Acharei Mot – Building Our Character

I took my children to an indoor video game arcade on a rainy day of Chol Hamoed. Most of the people there were children and teenagers, but two people really caught my attention. One was an elderly man playing video games all alone in a motorized wheelchair with an oxygen tank. The second was an elderly lady in a wheelchair, accompanying her daughter, son-in-law, and grandchildren. Clearly, this was not an easy trip for either one. The elderly grandmother seemed to have various aches and pains, but I saw the visible pleasure on her face as she watched her grandchildren play and choose prizes, while she encouraged and congratulated them. The elderly man was laboring to breathe, exerting himself to play game after game. The similarity — and the contrast — between the two was striking.

I pondered: What makes a person exert himself – his own pleasure or that of others? In parshas Acharei Mos, Hashem instructs Moshe about the Yom Kippur service: Take two identical goats in the Beis Hamikdash and cast a lottery. One will be slaughtered, with its blood sprinkled inside the kodesh hakodashim – the Holy of Holies. The other will be pushed off a steep cliff. Although both goats will be killed, on first glance it seems the slaughtered one represents a greater atonement. Yet, the pasuk (verse) says the goat pushed off the cliff “will stand in front of Hashem alive to achieve an atonement” (16:10). Clearly, they were both an integral part of the service to Hashem, to effect forgiveness for Klal Yisroel – they each had an important role.

In a similar way, our “lot,” i.e., our current condition, is determined by Hashem, but what we do with it is up to us. We can choose to serve Hashem with our current resources. Both of these elderly individuals were handicapped. Both were challenged. Both were entitled to enjoyment, but the grandmother elevated her challenged “lot” by focusing on the joy of others.

This vignette also adds perspective to the days of Sefiras Haomer (counting of the Omer.) We started counting from the second day of Pesach towards Shavuos. Many ask: Why do we count UP and not count DOWN towards our goal of Shavuos? At races, at rocket launches—we always count down!

Rav Shimshon Pincus says that typically, when there’s a gap of time between two events, we count down because time is a barrier and we want to rid ourselves of it. However, the time between Pesach and Shavuos is different: it’s a build-up, where each day is crucial, and each day can mean another accomplishment!

This is illustrated in the wording of the pasuk, “Usefartem Lachem” – you should count for yourselves. (Emor 23:16) What does it mean for yourselves? The Chasam Sofer explains that the counting is to build ourselves up! With each day, we should try to develop ourselves further, so we can be ready to acquire the Torah on Shavuos.

Parents feel this all the time with small milestones: a baby’s first rolling over, first time sitting, crawling, speaking…Each stage is an achievement. No one wants the child to be stuck. It is exciting for a baby to start crawling, but very concerning if they are three years old and can only crawl. Crawling, walking, talking- each stage is crucial in developing the individual.

Each day of Sefira is available to build us up to approach Shavuos. Each week as well. We count both the days and the weeks of the Omer. This is why if we forget to count one day, we can no longer count with a blessing, because each day is crucial to the counting! But the Torah doesn’t guide us much regarding our focus. That’s because every person is different. It’s a personal counting where we need to determine and work on the areas in which we need development. We need to make our own plan of action. We can help ourselves with the custom of learning Pirkei Avos each Shabbos of Sefira. As Rav Chaim Vital tells us, working on our character traits is the key pathway to instilling Torah in ourselves.

We all have our own personal challenges and difficulties. During these days of sefira, we need to choose to make each day count —to do something greater than achieving our own personal pleasure. Pick one area. Do something very small and work on it. It’s our choice: are we like the elderly man laboring to play and enjoy another video game, or like the wheelchair-bound grandmother exerting herself to give enjoyment to her family? Let’s exert ourselves to make others happy. This will make us much happier as well and help lead us to a state of readiness to receive the Torah on Shavuos.

 

Rabbi Baruch Bodenheim – Associate Rosh Yeshiva – PTI – Passaic Torah Institute – Parsha Metzora And Shabbos HaGadol – Making The Most Of Your Soul

The Shabbos before Pesach is called Shabbos Hagadol, the great or large Shabbos. How is this Shabbos different from every other Shabbos?

At a bris, we give the newborn baby the blessing of “zeh hakatan gadol yihyeh, this baby shall be a gadol.” Simply put, we are referring to becoming a bar mitzvah at age 13. The Shulchan Aruch refers to a girl of 12 or boy of 13 as a gadol, since they no longer are minors.

Are we then just blessing the newborn baby to become an adult? What does it really mean to be a gadol?

The Sfas Emes explains that a bar/bat mitzvah is called a gadol because they receive a new neshama (soul) at that time. Although the yetzer hara/evil inclination enters a person when they are born, the yetzer tov/good inclination only enters when they become 13/12. This is why they are now considered a gadol—because they now have a yetzer tov! The new neshama makes them great. Similarly, the Shabbos before Pesach is called Shabbos Hagadol because on the eve of leaving Egypt klal Yisrael received their new neshama, and each year at this time we receive this extra dimension of self.

The Gemara Beitza tells us that every Shabbos we receive a neshama yeseira, an extra neshama. What does that mean? Are we more alive on Shabbos? The Sfas Emes explains the extra neshama gives us the ability to sense and experience both Hashem’s existence and our purpose in life. That’s when we become a gadol: when we experience a more expansive neshama. On Shabbos Hagadol we receive an extremely expansive and powerful ability to experience the miraculous ways Hashem dealt with us in Yetzias Mitzrayim (leaving Egypt).

We learn this idea of a Shabbos neshama from the words in Mishpatim (13:17), where it states that in six days Hashem created the heaven and earth, and “b’yom hashevi’i shavas (on the seventh day He rested) vayinafash.” The word vayinafash is a hybrid of three words, vay avdah nefesh, woe, we have lost our soul. This teaches us that at the end of Shabbos we lose a soul. Hence, we infer that at the beginning of Shabbos we receive an extra neshama. (Gemara Beitza)

The wording here is a little troubling. We start observing Shabbos with the expectation of losing a soul when Shabbos is over? Why the sobering tone? Why not just say that when Shabbos begins, we get an extra soul for the day? It sounds much more positive…

I heard a remarkable answer from Rabbi Dr. Akiva Tatz in the name of the Baal Shem Tov. Getting a message that we’re getting an extra neshama for the next 25 hours is uplifting. But it must be tempered with a warning to use it properly

My rosh yeshiva, Rabbi Nosson Tzvi Finkel, zt”l, was stricken with Parkinson’s. He had a chavrusa with a young man each Shabbos afternoon right after lunch. After a short while, the young man would often start to feel drowsy and fight to keep himself awake. He always marveled how the rosh yeshiva, despite the Parkinson’s, would not even put his head down. One Shabbos, he mustered the courage to inquire, “Rebbe, how is it that you learn Torah the entire afternoon and never seem to tire?” Rabbi Finkel replied, “Every Shabbos I receive an extra neshama. After Shabbos, it will return to Hashem to report. Hashem will ask, ‘What did you do for the 25 hours with the extra neshama I placed in you, Nosson Tzvi?’ I do not want the answer to just be that I ate chicken soup, kugel, cholent and slept. I want to take advantage of every moment I have with it, to return the neshama back to Hashem with accomplishment!”

On Shabbos Hagadol we receive and should feel a super-charged sense of purpose to connect to Pesach. This feeling will leave after Pesach. We need to absorb the lesson of vayinafash, to properly utilize every moment we have with our extra neshama. Use it to understand and relay the miracles of Yetzias Mitzrayim to our families. Use it to daven and study more Torah. We can then return that neshama to Hashem with a “mission accomplished.”

A Torah leader is referred to with the title “gadol.” In truth, we all have areas where we excel and can be a gadol. Let’s use our greatness and the extra sense of mission we receive from this Shabbos and from Pesach and apply it to our lives forever. When we find and use that which is gadol in ourselves, we will become true gedolim, true giants.

 

Rabbi Baruch Bodenheim – Associate Rosh Yeshiva – PTI – Passaic Torah Institute – Parsha Tazria – Words Count

Last year, I had the privilege of hosting Rabbi Noach Orlowek, a prominent mashgiach and noted lecturer. I offered him the use of my study, lined wall-to-wall with seforim. When I came down in the morning, I saw only one sefer pulled out — the sefer Chofetz Chaim – the laws regarding lashon harah (evil speech.) Rav Orlowek later asked me, “Would it be alright to bring this sefer to my room?” Rav Orlowek has no doubt learned the sefer many times, but of all the choices at his disposal, he put this at the top of his list. This encounter taught me how important it is to constantly review these laws, especially when we counsel and teach others.

Parshas Tazria deals with the affliction of tzora’as, a skin affliction usually caused by lashon harah. However, the Gemara (Eruchin) lists a few other sins which cause this spiritual affliction. One of the other causes is tzora’as eyin – being stingy. I believe this sin can also be included under the category of negative speech, as we can sometimes be guilty of being stingy with our words. Sometimes, we have nice words we could say and we hold back. This is a form of miserliness — withholding complimentary words.

There is a lot of press on the damage caused by lashon harah and negative words. But if we really want to use our speech properly, we need to focus on the power of positive speech. In Mishlei (18:21) it says, “Mavess v’chaim b’yad haloshon” — death and life is determined by the tongue. Everyone recognizes the appropriateness of the word “death,” but what about “life?”  The answer is, we must certainly prevent our speech from doing harm, but we must also strive to do good! Proper speech can be both healing and life-giving.

Hal Urban, an expert on sales and marketing, wrote a book about using positive words to sell products. Based on his research, he concluded a person speaks an average of 40,000 words a day! Just imagine if we were able to use all forty-thousand words to compliment and encourage! Wouldn’t the recipients of these words be truly transformed?

An environmental group in Indiana wanted to make a point. They made a chain of pennies on the road as far as they could. The chain extended for 40 miles! It consisted of 3.3 million pennies, amounting to $33,000 dollars. Just as one penny added to another can total an enormous sum, so too, our words can build towers of goodness.

I am close to a noted Rabbi who is sought out by many for his counsel. Alas, his doctor found a growth in him that required surgery. It was a life-or-death procedure. He told me that when he was diagnosed, he decided to do something as a zechus (merit.) Together with his wife, they took upon themselves not to say another negative word about anyone…ever. Period! He counsels thousands of people, so this is no easy task. Baruch Hashem, the surgery was successful and he’s back in full force! This was a real fulfilment of the verse Mavess v’chaim byad haloshon –death and life is determined by the tongue.

We can do it. We just need to train ourselves.

This Shabbos, we will also read the section for Parshas Hachodesh. Here, the Torah discusses the mitzvah of establishing the lunar calendar and declaring the new month based on the sighting of the new moon. This mitzvah was the precursor to the miracle of Hashem taking the Jews out of Mitzrayim. The Sfas Emes notes the word “chodesh” – month – has the same letters as chadash – new. We thus learn that Bnei Yisrael always have the ability to become something new, creating lifelong changes.

The Zohar says that when the Jews were in Egypt, they had a “speech deficiency”- they were not able to express themselves properly. This is illustrated by the name of our holiday where we leave Egypt — “Pesach.” The name is a combination of two words:peh sach – mouth speaks. At that time, we acquired the freedom to express ourselves properly, both to Hashem and to man.

Let’s do it! Choose one person a day to give compliments and endearing words. It can be anyone you choose – a spouse, child, parent, friend or coworker. It’s a total win-win! Make a checklist of people and don’t go to sleep until one is checked off. In a pinch, send an email or text if it’s late, since most people would not appreciate being woken up, even if we have the nicest things to say!

With this new commitment, may we merit that this Pesach should be the Final Redemption.

 

Rabbi Baruch Bodenheim – Associate Rosh Yeshiva – PTI – Passaic Torah Institute – Parsha Shemini And Para – To Err Is Human; To Accept Responsibility Is Divine

When I was in high school, my rebbe, Rabbi Farber, z”l, took our class to a restaurant to celebrate our completing a Gemara, a siyum. One boy ordered shish kebab on big skewers. As young teenage boys, we thought these long metal skewers were quite cool. Some of us took on a dare: to take one of the skewers from the restaurant. I accepted the challenge and hid the long skewer under my coat. When we came back to class, everyone was playing with it and Rabbi Farber saw the commotion, with one boy wielding the long skewer like a sword. He was very upset to discover I had taken something that didn’t belong to me.

With sensitivity but firmness he motioned me to go with him outside the classroom to speak privately. He explained how businesses lose money with such pranks and that I needed to return it with a full apology. “But the restaurant is in downtown Manhattan and I have no way of getting it back there,” I said. “No problem,” he replied. “Tomorrow after school I will drive you there and you will go inside and tell the owner what happened and apologize.”

I was very embarrassed by what I did and asked if the rebbe could return it for me and I would call the owner to apologize. But Rabbi Farber insisted I return it personally. As we were driving, I was nervous and very ashamed. I apologized and the owner was forgiving and told me that this should be a lesson to never take something that is not mine, even as a joke or for fun. It was a memorable life lesson that it’s important to own up to a mistake.

Parshas Shemini opens with the korbanos (sacrifices). Moshe instructs Aharon and his sons to bring on the eighth and final day of the inauguration of the Mishkan, a young calf as a korban chatas (sin offering) for his involvement in the sin of the Golden Calf and to demonstrate that Hashem is forgiving him.

Aharon hesitated and, still embarrassed, he approached the mizbei’ach to offer the calf. In fact, the Midrash Tanchuma tells us that when Aharon approached the mizbei’ach, he saw an image of a cow! To Aharon, the corners of the mizbei’ach looked like cow horns and he felt shame for his involvement in the sin of the Golden Calf. The Baal Haturim says this is alluded to in the word krav (approach), where the letter “reish” has two crowns on it, which resemble two horns of a cow. Rashi explains this is why Moshe told Aharon the following words of encouragement: “Why are you ashamed? This is precisely why you were chosen.”

Moshe’s words are curious: How was Aharon’s involvement in the Golden Calf debacle a reason for him to be chosen as the kohen gadol? The Sfas Emes answers brilliantly that Aharon’s profound embarrassment for doing any misdeed was precisely why he was chosen for greatness. He had internalized his lesson. Indeed, the quality of being ashamed of a misdeed is a gift Hashem granted Bnei Yisrael at Har Sinai.

At times we might slip up and do something we regret. This feeling can paralyze us! We need to recognize that a deep feeling of remorse for our mistakes is the first step back to potential greatness. Our job is then to convert our feelings into action by apologizing and asking for forgiveness, or doing whatever it takes to rectify the situation.

This week we also read Parshas Parah, where Bnei Yisrael are instructed to take a red cow and use its ashes in the purification process of those who are defiled from coming in contact with a deceased person. Rashi tells us that the Parah Aduma (red heifer) is our means to attain forgiveness for the sin of the Golden Calf. In effect, we let the mother cow come and clean up the mess caused by the baby (golden) calf.

When I was newly married, my parents hosted a Shabbos meal for me and my young married friends with their small children. In the middle of the meal, a curious 2-year-old walked into the living room and thought the planter was a sandbox, as was evident from the dirt that was all over him and the floor. The mother washed the child, but the dirt on the floor was muktzah so it stayed there. After Shabbos, my friend came back to clean up the mess.

Embarrassment is well…embarrassing!! But the more clearly we recognize and deeply feel embarrassment for a misdeed, and take any necessary steps to remedy what we’ve done, the more potential we have, like Aharon Hakohen, to achieve personal greatness.

 

Rabbi Baruch Bodenheim – Associate Rosh Yeshiva – PTI – Passaic Torah institute – Tzav – The Best Investment

As we delight in the warmer weather that is finally arriving, we’re also feeling a lot of pressure this time of year. Pressure on our pocketbook! It’s registration time for all the yeshivos. It’s time to pay hefty deposits for our girls going away to seminary in Eretz Yisrael. It’s only a month away from the pricey holiday of Pesach and the budget keeps getting tighter. Oh yes, April 15th (Tax Day!!!) is coming close too…

Believe it or not, money was also a topic of concern back in the days when korbanos (sacrifices) were brought. In our parsha, Moshe is instructed to teach Aharon and his sons (the kohanim) the various laws of the bringing of the korbanos. The opening Rashi of Parshas Tzav notes that the word tzav – command – is used in the context where there is a need to encourage a person and his future generations to be diligent with a particular task. Rebbe Shimon explains that the concern about a slackened attitude with regard to the korban Olah – burnt offering – is because there is a chisaron kis – a loss of money.

This Rashi is very difficult to understand. What is the loss of money? The instruction is for the kohanim to bring the korban Olah, which is entirely consumed by burning on the mizbeach (altar). Although the kohanim do not get to eat any of the meat, since it is fully burned, it’s not a loss to the kohanim personally –they didn’t buy it! They are just doing their job by bringing it on the mizbeach.

The Baal Haturim explains that the command to Aharon and his sons is really directed at being diligent in studying of the laws of the korbanos and the korban Olah. Additionally, the Gemara Menachos (110a) notes on this pasuk, “Zos toras ha’Olah” — this is the Torah of the korban Olah. Why does the pasuk add the word “toras” — the Torah of the Olah? Simply, it is to teach us that when someone toils and studies the laws and concepts of thekorban Olah in the Torah, it is as if he brought a korban Olah as a sacrifice.

I believe we can now explain the chisaron kis – the loss of money – with regard to a korban Olah. Studying the Torah of the korban Olah needs encouragement, particularly because we want it to be passed on to our children. Look around and you’ll see that your children are copying your actions, not your words. If you do something with enthusiasm, your children will embrace it enthusiastically!

Dedicating oneself and one’s children to Torah study … costs a lot of money! Sending a child to yeshiva, and a good healthy Torah summer camp, comes with a price. Our bank accounts can deplete quickly. This is exactly what Hashem was telling Moshe. Aharon and his sons needed specific reminding to never see dedication to Torah study as a financial burden. This would communicate to the next generation that Torah study is just costly, rather than a prized and treasured privilege.

Our perspective on the cost must be a positive one. The wording our sages use is very specific. The simple translation of the words chisaron kis is a loss of money, but the exact translation of these words is – chisaron — lack, kis– pocket /wallet- purse. Our money is not being lost, it’s just a chisaron kis in our wallet. In truth, the money has been deposited in a different account! It’s like a 401k plan, where an employer deducts a certain percentage of their employees’ monthly salary and deposits it directly into a 401k account. The employee brings home less money each month, but the money is not lost. It’s saved for him when he needs it later.

The Gemara Beitzah 15a tells us there are two expenses which are not deducted from one’s income. Money spent for children to learn Torah and Shabbos / Yom Tov expenses. For these, Hashem will repay us in some way.

Investment companies never guarantee financial security with regard to the principal. However, money spent on Torah study is the surest investment, as the principal is always guaranteed by Hashem. The profits are sure to happen if we follow the formula of Tzav. We need to be excited and enthusiastic about Torah study and feel it is the ultimate investment. If our approach shows enthusiasm, then it will carry over to our children!

 

Rabbi Baruch Bodenheim – Associate Rosh Yeshiva – PTI – Passaic Torah Institute – Parsha Zachor – A Lesson In Values

Rav Elchonon Wasserman visited a wealthy supporter of his yeshiva, and since his shoes were muddy from the road, he knocked on the side door where workers entered instead of at the grand front entrance. When the wealthy man heard Rav Wasserman had entered through the side, he was aghast! “You are ruining my daughters by entering through the side door! How can you do this to me?” he exclaimed.

Rav Wasserman was bewildered and replied, “I am so sorry, but I didn’t want to dirty your carpets with mud.”

The rich man replied, “I am a wealthy businessman, but I love Torah and love to support Torah study. How will my daughters know how valuable Torah is when they see the great Rosh Yeshiva enter my house through the side door?” So Rav Wasserman walked back outside, knocked on the front door, and walked across the expensive carpet with muddy shoes in front of the smiling rich man and his daughters. This demonstrated to the girls the value their father placed on honoring great talmidei chachamim (Torah scholars) above any material wealth and possessions.

And his daughters ended up marrying great talmidei chachamim.

This Shabbos we read Parshas Zachor—to remember that Amalek’s existence in this world attempts to obscure the presence of Hashem. Bilaam prophesized about Amelek, “Reishis goyim Amalek v’achriso adei oved.” (Bamidbar 24:20) “Amalek was the first of the nations, and his fate shall be everlasting destruction.” Amalek is called the first nation since it was the first nation to attack Klal Yisroel after they left Egypt.

Shlomo Hamelech defines Amalek as a leitz—a mocker (Mishlei 19:25) Where do we see this quality in Amalek, and why is this quality one which must be destroyed?

Rav Hutner gives a penetrating insight into the essence of Amalek. To scoff or to mock is to attempt to remove importance from something of value. A scoffer searches for a flaw in something important in order to tear it down and lower its importance in the eyes of the public. Amalek is the ultimate scoffer. Klal Yisroel had just been clearly led by the Hand of Hashem out of Egypt, through the desert and across the parted Red Sea. Hashem thereby demonstrated His choosing the Jewish nation and according them the status of Ambassadors of Hashem. The entire world was terrified of Klal Yisroel! Yet Amalek attacked Klal Yisroel precisely at this time, knowing Amalek would be harmed and lose the war, but they didn’t care. Lowering the “untouchable” status of Klal Yisroel was more important.

But what lowered Klal Yisroel’s connection to Hashem to make them vulnerable to attack?

Amalek fought Klal Yisrael in Refidim, which is a hybrid word for rafu yedeihem—their hands slackened. When something is precious, such as Torah, you hold on very tight. A looser grip indicates it’s not so important. That was the opening for Amalek.

The opposite of a scoffer is a person who praises things that have true value. Rabbeinu Yonah quotes Shlomo Hamelech, “Ish l’fi m’halelo,” (Mishlei 27:21) “Each man according to what he praises.” That is, whatever is important to a person defines who he is.

The Sfas Emes tells us Amalek is not just a nation but also an attitude toward life. Amalek is the approach of derision and scorn, labeling anything good that happens a coincidence, rather than the hand of Hashem. The urge to deride anything good is the Ameleki attitude. There is no room for that in this world.

During the Purim story, Haman was defeated at precisely the time Klal Yisroel re-accepted the Torah willingly, out of love. This willing acceptance defined who we are and what is important to us. Similarly, how much a person values Torah is not necessarily seen in how much time he spends studying but rather in how much he inwardly values Torah. Is Torah uppermost in his value system, or does he more admire successful businessmen or celebrities?

On Purim, the Rema says, one should drink more wine than he is accustomed to. This loosens a person’s tongue, allowing him to articulate what he really feels and thinks. But we must be very concerned about what we might say! Only if we have a pure attitude, an attitude centered on Torah values, can we be certain the right words will emanate.

Whether we drink on Purim or not, we always want to channel our energies to Torah values, which can be accomplished by learning and acting in ways that are befitting for children of Hashem. Just as Klal Yisroel lovingly recommitted itself to Torah on Purim, we have the ability to recommit ourselves to Torah every day.

 

Rabbi Baruch Bodenheim – Associate Rosh Yeshiva – PTI – Passaic Torah Institure – Parsha Tetzaveh – Bringing Hashem’s Presence Through A Peaceful Home



At every moment of each day, we are making decisions about what is most important to us. What gets to the top of the list can be very telling about where our priorities lie. Last week, I was the focus of a story published in one of the weekly magazines by my famous cousin, Rabbi Nachman Seltzer. About a year ago, I was organizing a big Shabbaton for teens at a large mansion. It took a lot of work, and I had to raise some real dollars to make it happen. By Thursday night, close to Shabbos, I was still $1,500 short and I needed to make more calls to raise the balance. It was 10:40pm, I had just finished giving my late evening parsha shiur, and my wife called to ask me to get some missing items for Shabbos from the grocery store.

The timing was not the best! But I made the call – my wife takes priority. I got all she asked for and right at the checkout line, I met a person I had wanted to ask to contribute to the Shabbaton. He gave me a check for the whole balance on the spot!

As I told this story later on, someone else offered to help pay for the next Shabbaton. Amazing dividends resulted from my helping my wife with the shopping! And now, after this story was published in the magazine a week ago, I expected more of the same. It didn’t quite happen…yet. But I did get a call asking me about the mansion for a family vacation! And much more importantly, a lady called me saying that now, when she asks her husband for help, he jumps up and says, “I’ll take care of it! Rabbi Bodenheim taught me what to do!”

The ability to create harmony in a couple, Shalom Bayis, is a fantastic accomplishment – even better than obtaining sponsors for a Shabbaton! And similarly, building the Mishkan (Tabernacle) was all about bringing the presence of Hashem into this world — to create a closeness and intimacy between Him and His people. While we unfortunately don’t have a Mishkan or Beis Hamikdash today, we nevertheless have the ability to bring down Hashem’s presence through Shalom Bayis.

The Gemara Sotah (17a) highlights the words for Man and Woman – Ish and Isha. There are two different letters in these similar words: “Yud” in ish and “Heh” in isha. These two letters together spell out Hashem’s name, and Rebbi Akiva concludes, “When there is peace and harmony between a man and his wife, then the presence of Hashem rests between them.”

That is such a powerful statement! Rebbi Akiva is teaching that a harmonious home is literally the resting place of Hashem. A peaceful house is a current-day Mishkan!

Further, the presence of Hashem is especially felt on Shabbos. Three major vessels in the Mishkan were the Menorah, the Shulchan and the Mizbeach. Our lighting Shabbos candles corresponds to the lit candles of the Menorah. The tasty challah we serve on Shabbos corresponds to the Shulchan with its 12 fresh loaves of challah. The delicious food we serve to our families and guests on Shabbos corresponds to the offering of korbonos (sacrifices) on the Mizbeach. In addition, The Nesivos Shalom says that we wear our nicest clothing on Shabbos to emulate the kohanim, who wore their special clothing in the Beis HaMikdash. And of course, the need for continuous Torah study corresponds to the Aron (ark) inside the Kodesh Hakodashim (Holy of Holies), which contained the luchos (tablets).

Every Friday afternoon, the Satan knows Shabbos is coming and Hashem’s presence will be deeply felt when there is harmony between husband and wife. That’s why the Satan instills moments of tension on Fridays, hoping to create discord and friction. Our job is to anticipate this mischief by planning ahead, getting the cleaning done earlier, and having everything ready in plenty of time to ensure the sparks of tension can’t even light.

Indeed, my wife’s grandmother would have the table set for Shabbos by Thursday night, and by noon on Friday, the challah, chicken, soup etc. were all done! The house was clean and the smell of Shabbos delicacies wafted across the home Shabbos entered in sweet harmony.

It takes work. It takes planning. But the payoff of a harmonious home is truly priceless. It’s akin to having the Mishkan here with us. Wishing

Rabbi Baruch Bodenheim – Associate Rosh Yeshiva – PTI – Passaic Torah Institute – Conquering Jealousy With Two Adars

Rosh Chodesh this week was extra exciting. We started Adar Rishon—the beginning of two months of Adar required for a leap year. A curious thing happens in the Musaf Shemoneh Esreh for Rosh Chodesh during a leap year: we add the words “ulchaparas pesha” – (and for atonement of willful sin.) Why specifically is this added during a leap year? The Pri Megadim says it’s added only until the end of Adar. Why not continue until Rosh Hashanah?

Our answer begins with knowing why we have a Jewish leap year. Quite simply, it’s to realign the lunar calendar with the solar calendar. This ensures Pesach will always be in the spring.

And why are the calendars different? The Gemara (Chullin 60b) explains that Hashem initially created two great luminaries, the sun and the moon, to be equal- both giving the same amount of light. The moon approached Hashem and complained, saying, “Two kings can’t share one crown. ”Hashem responded to this by shrinking the moon. From this point on, the moon became a reflection of the sun, with no light of its own.

Rav Matisyahu Salomon explains that the initial plan—both luminaries being equal—indicated total harmony in the world. But the moon didn’t want to share the spotlight. Hashem reduced the moon’s size to demonstrate the bitter consequence of jealousy. But the moon’s “complaining to Hashem” was just an indication that jealousy would be a powerful force in the world, that needed to be reckoned with. To return to the original plan of equality, humanity must eradicate jealousy. Doing so would allow both great luminaries to be equal once again, after the coming of Moshiach!

 The Shelah haKadosh indicates that the solar and lunar calendar were originally identical. This changed when the moon was shrunk after its jealous outburst. Thus, the extra month makes us remember what happened to the moon and be cognizant that Creation was made imperfect by jealousy.

I believe this is why kapparos pesha – atonement – is only inserted until the end of Adar, because after the second month of Adar, the lunar and solar calendars are synchronized and symbolize the perfection of the world. In times of persecution, this is what gave the Jews so much encouragement. As they saw the waxing and waning of the moon, they realized the forces of evil only had power temporarily. They realized the time will come when evil will fade away and the forces of good will reign forever.

The choicest month for this synchronization is the month of Adar. Why? The Tur (Orach Chaim 417) says each month relates to ashevet (tribe.) Rav Schorr says Adar corresponds to Yosef Hatzadik, who was given a double portion in the land of Israel by virtue of his two children, Ephraim and Menashe, who became shevatim (Bereishis 48: 5 and 22). Similarly, Adar can also be doubled!

Further, Rav Avrohom Schorr points out that Yosef is the ideal person and Adar the ideal time to combat the sin of jealousy. He quotes Ovadia (1:18) “Vahaya Beis Yaakov aish, beis Yosef lehava, beis Eisav lekash…” (The House of Yaakov will be fire and the House of Yosef a flame, and the House of Eisav will be straw…) In the Hebrew word “aish” (fire), the letters aleph and shin stand for “ahavas shalom” (love of peace), while “kash” (straw) spelledkaf and shin is an acronym of “kinah and sinah” (jealousy and hatred). Yosef is the focal point of Yaakov’s love of peace, which will “burn away” jealousy and strife as fire burns straw. Indeed, everything Yosef did to his brothers when they came to Egypt for food during the famine, was only done to help them atone for their actions of jealousy towards him Therefore, Yoseph represents the ultimate “son of Yaakov,” who strives for peace and brotherhood.

That’s why Adar (Yosef!) is the month to be doubled. Ephraim and Menashe embody the concept of brotherly harmony – the antithesis of Eisav – as we see that Menashe never bore any jealousy toward his younger brother Ephraim, whom Yaakov blessed above him. So, too, we bless our children to be like Ephraim and Menashe.

The month of Adar is a time for peace and harmony for Klal Yisroel. Let us think of one person with whom we lack harmony and go to that person to foster love and reduce conflict between each other. May we merit to see harmony and peace amongst all Klal Yisroel, which will surely bring the Redemption and hasten the Tikkun Olam, bringing a state of perfection to the world and returning us, and the glorious lights in the sky, to their original pristine state of harmonious Creation.