In this week's parashah we find the laws of each of the holidays:
Pesach, including the Omer-offering and Sefirat Ha'omer; Shavuot; Rosh
Hashanah; Yom Kippur; and Sukkot, including the taking of the Four
Species and the mitzvah of Sukkah. Following those passages, we find
the laws of the Temple menorah, an allusion to the holiday of Chanukah
(which is of rabbinic origin).
Kabbalistic works teach that reading the Torah verses connected
with an event reawakens the spiritual awakening that occurred at the
time of the event itself. Thus, R' Chaim Meir Hager z"l (the
Vizhnitzer Rebbe; died 1973) would often comment when this parashah
came around: "This parashah is very special! It includes all the
holidays." One year he said, "An intelligent person can accomplish so
much on this Shabbat." Another year he said, "From this Shabbat, one
can acquire the spiritual benefits of all the holidays."
On this Shabbat in 5726 / 1966, he said, "This Shabbat deserves
to be called `Shabbat Ha'gadol' / The Great Shabbat. Imagine! [Just
by paying attention to the Torah reading,] one can do everything--eat
matzah, sit in the sukkah, shake the lulav and etrog, etc. Is there
any greater pleasure in the world than that?!" (Quoted in Otzrotaihem
Shel Tzadikim p.407)
"When you slaughter a feast thanksgiving-offering to Hashem,
you shall slaughter it willingly." (22:29)
R' Eliezer Dovid Gruenwald z"l (leading Hungarian rabbi; died
1928) observes: A person is required to bring a korban todah /
thanksgiving-offering if he was in danger and was saved. We read in
Tehilim (107:1-2), "Give thanks to Hashem, for He is good; His
kindness endures forever. Those redeemed by Hashem will say it, those
whom He redeemed from the hand of distress." This verse reflects
man's tendency to thank G-d after man has been saved. However, one
rarely remembers to thank G-d for not placing him in danger in the
first place. Thus our verse teaches, "When you slaughter a feast
thanksgiving-offering to Hashem, you shall slaughter it *willingly*."
Don't wait until you are required to thank Hashem. Rather, thank Him
(Haggadah Shel Pesach Chasdei David)
"You shall take for yourselves on the first day the fruit of
a citron tree, the branches of date palms, twigs of a plaited
tree, and brook willows; and you shall rejoice before Hashem,
your G-d, for a seven-day period." (23:40)
R' Joseph B. Soloveitchik z"l (1903-1993; rosh yeshiva at
Yeshivat Rabbeinu Yitzchak Elchanan of Yeshiva University) comments:
It is for good reason that the berachah that we recite over the Four
Species refers specifically to the lulav. The lulav stands tallest
among the Four Species, and it teaches us that unless we stand tall,
we can gain nothing from G-d's gifts. Standing tall means recognizing
one's own worth and, in particular, recognizing what makes us
different from our neighbors. When the State of Israel stood tall,
the nations of the world stood in awe of it, R' Soloveitchik observes.
By the same token, R' Soloveitchik says, American Jews are unable to
preserve their spiritual standing because they take no pride in their
Jewishness. The Jewish people have unique perspectives and
accomplishments, but rather than teach our children to take pride in
this uniqueness, we are more concerned with imitating our neighbors
and "fitting in." If we only had the courage to instill in our
children a strong Jewish identity, our lot would be a happier one.
(Yemei Zikaron p.134-135)
"You shall dwell in sukkot for a seven-day period; every
native in Yisrael shall dwell in sukkot." (23:42)
We read in the book of Nechemiah about the first Sukkot holiday
that was observed after the Jews' return from the Babylonian exile (at
the beginning of the Second Temple period). Verse 8:17 there states:
"The entire congregation that had returned from the captivity made
sukkot and dwelt in sukkot, for Bnei Yisrael had not done so from the
days of Yehoshua bin Nun until that day, and there was great joy."
Yehoshua bin Nun lived almost 1,000 years before this event, at the
time when Bnei Yisrael first entered Eretz Yisrael. The Gemara
therefore asks: Is it possible that King David, who lived in the
intervening period, did not observe Sukkot? The Gemara offers several
answers to this question.
R' Shlomo Goren z"l (former Ashkenazic Chief Rabbi of Israel)
notes that the Zohar offers another explanation of this verse. The
Zohar states: "One who has a portion in the People and in the Holy
Land sits in the "shadow of emunah" (the kabbalistic term for the
sukkah) to receive the ushpizin, to rejoice in this world and the
next." The Zohar also states, "One who leaves the shadow of emunah
inherits exile for himself and his children." It thus appears, writes
R' Goren, that the mitzvah of sukkah is connected to the holiness of
Eretz Yisrael. In the Diaspora, the mitzvah of sukkah is incomplete.
The era of Yehoshua and the era of Nechemiah had something in
common. They both were periods in history when large scale Jewish
settlements were established in Eretz Yisrael, and the Land was
"sanctified" in the legal sense. Before Yehoshua's conquest, the Land
was not "sanctified"; thus, the agricultural laws unique to Eretz
Yisrael did not apply. Likewise, during the Babylonian exile, the
Land lost its legal sanctity until Nechemiah and his contemporaries
re-sanctified it. Of course Sukkot was observed by all generations,
but the generations of Yehoshua and Nechemiah both experienced a
special joy on Sukkot--the holiday connected with the sanctity of the
Land. This is what the verse in Nechemiah is teaching.
(Torat Ha'Shabbat Ve'ha'moed p.224)
"Yesod Ve'shoresh Ha'avodah"
("The Foundation and Root of Divine Service")
This year, we are presenting excerpts from the work Yesod
Ve'shoresh Ha'avodah by R' Alexander Ziskind z"l (died 1794).
The primary theme of this work is improving one's
concentration in prayer. In Sha'ar Ha'ashmoret, chapter 7,
the author writes:
When the time for prayer arrives, one should prepare himself to
go to the House of G-d--i.e., a bet knesset or bet ha'midrash. One
should not pray at home, even with a minyan, for the Gemara warns that
a person who has a shul in his city and does not use it is called a
"bad neighbor." [At this point, the author quotes a lengthy passage
from the Zohar which describes G-d's "disappointment" when He comes to
shul and finds poor attendance. The author continues:] It is clear
from the quoted passage that even the prayer of a congregation makes
its proper "tikkun" only when it is recited in a shul. Additionally,
a person who prays in shul with the congregation merits to be called a
"servant of Hashem."
It goes without saying that one should not pray at home alone.
The importance of prayer with a congregation is discussed in the
Gemara. There, Rabbi Yochanan comments on the verse (Tehilim 69:14),
"As for me, may my prayer to You be at an opportune time." When is it
an opportune time? When the congregation prays! Another sage taught,
"The prayer of the congregation is never despised by G-d." Other
sages in the Gemara also list the benefits of prayer with a
In addition, one should push himself to be among the first ten to
arrive. The great merit of this act is discussed in the Gemara and
R' Eliyahu Kletzkin z"l
Upon seeing a short Torah work that R' Eliyahu Kletzkin authored
when he was 20 years old, the author of the classic Tanach commentary
known as "Malbim" said, "As far as both breadth of knowledge and sharp
understanding, he is almost unique in this generation. He knows the
entire Talmud and its commentaries like one of the Geonim, and his
diligence in study is wondrous."
His diligence truly was a wonder. As a youth, the future R'
Kletzkin, who was born in Poland in 1852, studied 18 hours a day.
When he was older, he "slowed down" to only 15 hours a day. At age
14, he was an expert in the entire Talmud. As mentioned above, he
published his first work at age 20. The goal of that work was to
demonstrate the Talmudic principle known as "azda le'taamei"--i.e.,
that a given sage's opinion on one question in the Talmud may be
understood in light of his position vis-a-vis other, sometimes
apparently unrelated, issues.
R' Kletkin served in the rabbinate of several Polish towns for a
total of fifty years. His last position was in Lublin, where he
served from 1910 to 1925. In that year, he moved to Eretz Yisrael.
Because he was afraid that the people of Lublin would prevent his
aliyah, R' Kletzkin slipped out of town in the middle of the night
without a warning or farewell. He settled in Yerushalayim, where he
taught in Yeshiva Ohel Moshe.
R' Kletzkin was known for several outstanding characteristics.
It is said that he fled from honor as one flees from a fire. His
devotion to truth was uncompromising. Also, he carefully weighed
every word that he spoke.
In addition to his Torah scholarship, R' Kletzkin was
knowledgeable in the natural sciences, mathematics, geography, history
and other subjects. In order to be able to advise his congregants, he
also studied medicine, to the point that even physicians sometimes
consulted with him. He was fluent in Greek, Latin, German, French,
English, Russian and Polish. On a regular basis, before going to
sleep, he would open a dictionary in one of those languages and read
it, page after page, to improve his vocabulary.
In all, R' Kletzkin published ten Torah works, including one in
Russian and one in Polish. He died on 16 Iyar 5692 / 1932 and was
buried on Har Ha'zeitim. (Source: Kedoshim Asher Ba'aretz p. 102)
The editors hope these brief 'snippets' will engender further study
and discussion of Torah topics ('lehagdil Torah u'leha'adirah'), and
your letters are appreciated. Web archives at Torah.org start with 5758 (1997) and
may be retrieved from the Hamaayan page.
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