Hamaayan / The Torah Spring
Edited by Shlomo Katz
Vayera : Prayer
Volume XVII, No. 4
20 Marcheshvan 5763
October 26, 2002
Dr. and Mrs. David Maslow, in memory of their fathers
Archie Maslow a”h (18 Marcheshvan)
and Samuel Holstein (25 Marcheshvan)
Mrs. Rochelle Dimont and family, in memory of
mother-in-law and grandmother, Chana Dimont a”h
father and grandfather, Rabbi Louis Tarshish a”h
and grandmother and great-grandmother, Chaya Sarah Tarshish a”h
Daf Yomi (Bavli): Sanhedrin 45
Daf Yomi (Yerushalmi): Eruvin 2
One of the events described in this week’s parashah is Avraham’s prayer for the inhabitants of Sodom. From one of the verses in this incident, our Sages derive the law that a person should have a set location for prayer. R’ Tzaddok Hakohen z”l (1823-1900) notes that there is some irony in learning a halachah about davening from Avraham’s prayer for Sodom. After all, Avraham’s prayer on that occasion seemingly was unsuccessful. However, there is a lesson here: no prayer goes entirely unanswered. In this case, Avraham’s tefilah saved Lot, an ancestor of mashiach. (Pri Tzadik)
R’ Meshulam Yissachar Horowitz z”l (page 4) once explained the role of prayer with a parable. On one occasion, in the middle of Selichot during the Ten Days of Repentance, R’ Horowitz stopped the shaliach tzibbur / leader of the prayers, opened up the aron kodesh, and said, with tears pouring from his eyes:
“Master of the Universe! There was once a king who had an only son. This son was very naughty, and he would accept no rebuke. Eventually, he adopted a crooked lifestyle and began associating with women who were unfit for a prince. Left with no choice, the king banished his son to a faraway province.
“The prince wandered from town to town, and his situation went from bad to worse. He had nothing but the clothes on his back, and these soon turned to rags. As a result of his suffering, his entire physical appearance changed and he could not even be recognized for who he was.
“Unable to cope, the prince returned to his father heartbroken and contrite. But his father, too, did not recognize the pauper in rags who stood before him. The prince pleaded, `Father, if you do not recognize my appearance, for it has changed so, at least recognize my voice, which has not changed!’
“We are that prince,” said R’ Horowitz. “We have strayed and have been exiled, and our appearance has changed in our exile until we can no longer be recognized. But we still have our voice, our prayers! May G-d recognize us through them.” (Quoted in Melizei Aish)
“Hashem appeared to him [Avraham] . . . while he was sitting at the entrance of his tent in the heat of the day.” (18:1)
The midrash states: “Hashem came to visit the sick. Rabbi Chama bar Chanina said, `It was the third day after his circumcision’.”
What is Rabbi Chama bar Chanina teaching us in the midrash? Why is it important that it was the third day?
R’ Bezalel ben R’ Shlomo z”l (Poland; early 1600’s) explains: The Gemara states that a person who is ill should keep that fact secret at first. Only if he is sick for more than one day should he publicize his illness and ask others to pray for him. In light of this Gemara, Rabbi Chama bar Chaninah was bothered: Why was Avraham sitting near the door of his tent, thereby publicizing his condition? The answer is that it was already the third day of his illness and he no longer had to keep his illness secret.
Another question: Our Sages state that Avraham wore a jewel around his neck, and any sick person who looked at it was cured of whatever ailed him. After Avraham died, our Sages continue, Hashem hung that stone from the sun. If so, asks R’ Bezalel, how is it possible that Avraham was sick for three days? Why didn’t he look at the stone that hung around his neck and thereby be cured?
The answer is that our Sages’ statement about the stone [like many midrashim] is actually a metaphor. Avraham did not really have a stone around his neck that cured physical ailments. Rather, Avraham’s throat, i.e., his voice — in particular, his teachings about G-d’s Providence and His active involvement in man’s affairs — cured his contemporaries’ spiritual ills. After Avraham died, Hashem hung that stone from the sun. In other words, man can learn the same lessons about G-d’s Providence from observing nature — for example, by noting the reliable rising and setting of the sun.
Yet another midrash comments on our verse: “`While he was sitting at the entrance of his tent’ – Avraham opened up good openings for passers-by and he opened up good openings for converts. Therefore, `in the heat of the day.’ If not for Avraham, says Hashem, I would not have created the sun, as it is written (Tehilim 19:5), `He has set up a tent for the sun’.” What does this midrash mean?
R’ Bezalel explains that the lesson of this midrash is related to the midrash quoted above. Through his teachings, Avraham opened up the horizons of his contemporaries and caused them to recognize Hashem and His control over nature. It was to support Avraham’s arguments that Hashem created the sun as we know it.
(Amudehah Shivah: Amud Ha’rishon, No. 4)
“For I [Hashem] have loved him [Avraham], because he commands his children and his household after him that they keep the way of Hashem, doing charity and justice . . .” (18:19)
R’ Aharon Roth z”l (the Toldos Aharon Rebbe) notes that G-d did not say, “For I have loved him because he went into the burning furnace,” or “I loved him because he is destined to offer his son as a sacrifice.” Even greater than those accomplishments was the fact that he taught his children and household to go in the way of Hashem. This should impress upon us the importance of educating our own children to follow the Torah.
(Quoted in Imrei Aharon Al Ha’Torah)
“A psalm, a song for the Sabbath day. It is good to thank Hashem and to sing praise to Your Name, O Exalted One, to relate Your kindness in the dawn and Your emunah / faith in the nights.”
R’ Yechezkel Sarna z”l (Rosh Yeshiva of the Chevron Yeshiva in Yerushalayim) observes: Given this psalm’s introduction, “A psalm, a song for the Sabbath day,” one would not expect such a seemingly mundane message as what follows. Where is the song of the Sabbath day?
He answers: This question originates from our misunderstanding about the nature of the songs that appear in the Torah. We are used to thinking, for example, that the song that Bnei Yisrael sang at the Red Sea was a song about the miracles that occurred there. Similarly, we think that each of the other songs in the Torah was a song that commemorated a certain event. This is not so! Rather, all of the songs that our ancestors sang were expressions of their innate emunah / faith in G-d. The miracles that inspired those songs were simply tools for helping our ancestors recognize that buried feeling of emunah.
The Midrash Mechilta comments on the opening verse of the Song at the Sea (Shmot 15:1): `Then Moshe and Bnei Yisrael chose to sing this song’ – Did they sing only this song? No, they sang ten songs!” The midrash then proceeds to list songs that were sung by the Jewish people or their leaders at various times in history. [How can it be said that Bnei Yisrael sang all of these songs at the Red Sea?] This midrash is teaching that all the songs mentioned in Tanach really are one song.
The connection between song and emunah is alluded to in Shir Ha’shirim / “The Song of Songs” (4:8): “Tashuri mai’rosh Amanah.” Literally, this means, “Observe from the peak of Amanah [the name of a mountain].” However, the midrash says that “Mai’rosh Amanah” refers to Avraham, the “head” or “forerunner” of those who have emunah. In addition, notes R’ Sarna, the word “Tashuri” is related (at least by its sound) to the word “Tashiri” / “You shall sing.” Thus, the verse may be read: “You shall sing because of the faith you inherited from Avraham” – the inborn faith mentioned above.
When song is understood in this way, the song of the Sabbath is more readily understood. Shabbat is the most basic expression of faith, and it is fitting that its song should express the most basic statement of faith.
(Daliyot Yechezkel III p.6)
R’ Meshulam Yissachar Horowitz was born in 1805 or 1808 in Stanislau, Galicia (now Ivano-Frankovsk, Ukraine), where his father was rabbi. It is recorded that he was a mischievous child who was not interested in learning. As a teenager, however, he began to learn avidly, often studying for 16 hours without an interruption. After his marriage, he continued to study while his wife attempted to support their family. Although he received semichah at age 18 from R’ Yaakov Lorberbaum of Lissa and other leading sages, R’ Meshulam claimed that he was unqualified to seek a rabbinic post. Eventually, though, his poverty became so great that R’ Meshulam’s father secretly arranged his son’s appointed to the rabbinate. Presented with a signed contract back-up by his father’s command that he accept it, R’ Meshulam became rabbi of Zelozitz in 1827.
In approximately 1840, R’ Meshulam was called to Stanislau to serve as Assistant Rabbi under his aging father. Soon after, he was elected rabbi of Tismanitz. During his time there, his fame spread until even R’ Shlomo Kluger, one of the leading halachic authorities of mid-19th century Galicia sought his opinion. In 1844, R’ Meshulam returned to Stanislau to succeed his father, who had passed away. R’ Meshulam was succeeded in Tismanitz by his young son, R’ Shaul, who would hold the rabbinate in that town for 43 years.
R’ Meshulam was beloved by his congregants, who told stories of miracles that he brought about. He was opposed to chassidut and he prevented the movement’s spread into Stanislau. Nevertheless, he had cordial relations with a number of chassidic rebbes. Although his primary occupation was Torah study, he was also known for the beauty of his prayers. At times, people would eavesdrop under his windows just to hear him daven.
When the Machzikei Ha’das organization (considered by some to be a forerunner of Agudath Israel) was founded, R’ Meshulam participated in its deliberations, but he later withdrew over political differences. At the convention of 1880, he proposed that the organization’s charter be written in Hebrew (rather than Yiddish), but his proposal was defeated. He died in 1888, leaving distinguished children and several written works. (Sources: Encyclopedia Le’Chachmei Galicia; Melizei Aish).
Copyright © 2002 by Shlomo Katz and Project Genesis, Inc.
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 Project Genesis start with 5758 (1997) and may be retrieved from the Hamaayan page. Text archives from 1990 through the present may be retrieved from http://www.acoast.com/~sehc/hamaayan/. Donations to HaMaayan are tax-deductible.