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Posted on September 6, 2022 (5782) By Rabbi Pinchas Winston | Series: | Level:

Friday Night

WE HAVE BEEN saying Tehillah 27, L’Dovid since Rosh Chodesh Elul. In it is a very famous line that was also made into a song:

One [thing] I ask of God, that I seek, that I may dwell in the house of God all the days of my life, to see the pleasantness of God and to visit His Temple every morning. (Tehillim 27:4)

What was Dovid HaMelech asking of God? To permanently move into the Temple? To run his kingdom from there without ever having to step outside? Unlikely. That was the life of the Kohen Gadol, not the king of the Jewish people.

It says:

Rebi Elazar also said, What is meant by the verse, “And many people will go and say:‘Come and let us go up to the mountain of God, to the house of the God of Ya’akov’” (Yeshayah 2:3), [which says] the God of Ya’akov, but not the God of Avraham and Yitzchak? [It means that we will] not [be] like Avraham, regarding whom mountain is written, as it says, “As it is said until this day, ‘In the mountain where God is seen’” (Bereishis 22:14), nor like Yitzchak, regarding whom field is written, as it says, “And Yitzchak when out to meditate in the field at evening” (Bereishis 24:63), but like Ya’akov, who called Him (God) house, as it says, “And he called the name of that place Bais-El—House of God.” (Pesachim 88a)

Don’t you just love it when the Gemora does that? Is the only real difference between the three avos the verses used with respect to each? Obviously, there is more than just a technical difference.

One obvious difference is that a mountain and field are places a person may visit on occasion, but a house is where a person resides permanently. On the other hand, a mountain and field are permanent locations, whereas a house can be temporary, even moved.

And why these three verses specifically? Many verses are used in reference to each of the Avos, so why did Chazal focus and compare these three? These three verses must represent defining moments in the lives of each of the Avos.

Avraham’s verse was his concluding thought after passing the test of the Akeidah. Everything he had built himself up to be came down to this moment, after which the focus of the narrative shifts to Yitzchak. Avraham’s job had been to raise the Divine Presence up from the dust and cause it to tower over mankind, like a mountain, which he did by the time of the Akeidah was over.

Avraham Avinu bashed idol worship as a child, actively engaged in kiruv rechokim by the age of 52, and made his monumental statement after the Akeidah at the age of 137. It’s also when he passed the torch on to his son, Yitzchak Avinu.

Shabbos Day

THE LIFE OF Yitzchak was very different than that of his father. Whereas Avraham spent his days out in public and engaging people, Yitzchak stayed at home and very much to himself. His interactions are few and the Torah does not spend many verses telling his story.

However, though the mention of Yitzchak’s going to pray in the field seems parenthetical to the meeting of his future wife, Rivkah, it is really the main point. The following story explains why and what was unique about Yitzchak Avinu.

It occurred to the Chazon Ish one day that the perfect shidduch for his sister would be a young illuy, Rabbi Yaakov Yisrael Kanievsky, later to be known as the Steipler Gaon. The shidduch was made. After the Chazon Ish’s sister later returned home, he asked her how it went. She said that she was unimpressed. First of all, she told her brother, the young man did not know how to dress properly. Second, she complained, he was hard of hearing (his loss of hearing had resulted from his trying to avoid listening to loshon hara years earlier). Her third complaint was that, in the middle of the shidduch, he all of a sudden excitedly exclaimed, “The Rambam!” and began working on some answer to a question he had. It was if she had temporarily ceased to exist, and that had not impressed her.

The Chazon Ish, certain that the shidduch was perfect, addressed his sister’s concerns. “First,” he told her, “we can teach him how to dress properly. Secondly,” he continued, “though he may not hear well, I assure you that one day everyone will hear of him.” As for her third complaint, the Chazon Ish told his sister, “And any bochur that can think of the Rambam while on a shidduch is someone you should specifically marry!”

And so she did, and everything the Chazon Ish had said about his future brother-in-law came true.

This was Yitzchak Avinu. He lived an entrenched existence, avodas Hashem—service of God being his top priority. He was the one who asked his father to bind him at the Akeidah lest he involuntarily move and invalidate himself as a sacrifice. And though he walked away from the Akeidah unscathed, his willingness to go through with it left an impression on history and on the Jewish people that remains until this very day. When we blow shofar on Rosh Hashanah, it is to connect us back in time to the Akeidah, and the ram that took Yitzchak’s place.

There is another aspect of a field as well: hisbatlus. This is the obliteration of self-worth, but not in a way that makes life seem worthless. It is the kind that comes from recognizing that meaning in life comes from being part of something much bigger and far more meaningful. It doesn’t say that a person is worthless. It says that the true worth of a person is, when they are contributing their own unique ability to the greater cause of history.

If anything, such hisbatlus makes a person heroic. And though both Avraham and Ya’akov subscribed to the same approach to life, this approach was Yitzchak’s life, and so he is associated with the hisbatlus of a field.

Seudas Shlishis

YA’AKOV AVINU’S LIFE started off quiet and peaceful, but it made a dramatic turn around age 63. That’s when he received Eisav’s brochos and so enraged his brother that he had to flee for his life, and leave his beloved Eretz Yisroel.

Though this led to his marrying of Rachel, Leah, Bilhah and Zilpah, and the 12 sons they bore for him, it also meant living with their treacherous father, Lavan HaArami. For 20 years he had to put up with Lavan’s shenanigans, and constantly keep an eye open to avoid being hurt or even killed by him.

Though his inevitable confrontation with Eisav on his way home ended peacefully, that was only after fighting the angel of Eisav the entire night before. He limped away from that one, with effects that we still cope with to this very day.

As if that wasn’t enough, he had strife from within as well. His daughter Dinah was raped by Shechem, and the town was wiped out by his sons. Then after returning home, they sold their own brother, Yosef, into slavery. Even Pharaoh, upon meeting Ya’akov Avinu for the first time in Parashas Vayigash, asked about his age. As Ya’akov confessed, his difficult life had taken a heavy toll on him.

Nevertheless, though Ya’akov was battle weary, he still emerged the victor. That was what his struggle with the angel of Eisav foretold, that he would battle all through exile, and even sustain damage along the way, but eventually, he would stand up strong in his belief and loyalty to God…no matter where he went and whatever he had to undergo.

On his way out of Eretz Yisroel, after his dream of the ladder, Ya’akov made the following declaration:

Ya’akov took a vow, saying, “If God will be with me, and He will guard me on this way, upon which I am going, and He will give me bread to eat and a garment to wear, and if I return in peace to my father’s house, and God will be my God, then this stone, which I have placed as a monument, shall be a house of God, and everything that You give me, I will certainly tithe to You.” (Bereishis 29:22-24)

In other words, Ya’akov Avinu was saying, “If God will surround me everywhere I go and protect me like a house, then God is my house no matter where I am. Wherever I go, God will accompany me and be my home.

This is what Dovid HaMelech was asking for as well. He had to be king. He had to deal with politicians. He had to go to war. He had to be involved in all kinds of things that could distract him away from feeling connected to God. So he asked God to help with that, by being his home wherever he went and regardless of what he was involved with.

It sounds only metaphorical, and for many it might be. But it doesn’t have to be only a metaphor. It can become reality if a person works on making it happen. How do you do that? That’s what this week’s parsha helps to understand.

Thursday night link and notifications: [email protected]

Ain Od Milvado, Part 17

THE YAFAS TOAR is one of the most difficult halachos to understand since it runs so contrary to everything a Jew is supposed to aspire to be. Granted wartime is a difficult time to maintain self-control. Granted war brings out the worst in many of us. Granted this type of behavior occurs in just about every other army. But the Jewish people are supposed to be different, holier, more devoted to doing the right thing instead of the instinctual thing. How can the Torah accommodate such behavior?

Because of questions like this, the rabbis teach that this is really a lesson in psychological warfare, not against the external enemy, but against the internal one, the yetzer hara. The yetzer hara is a like a thief who stakes out a home waiting for the owners to leave so he can burglarize it. As the Gemora says, the yetzer hara gets up every day to kill the person, and would succeed if not for God’s help (Kiddushin 30b). When a person goes to war, it’s as if the “owner” “leaves” and the “thief” breaks in and takes what he wants.

“Know before Whom you stand.” These are the words you’ll often find engraved on the place that a person who leads the congregation in prayer stands. But you would think that in such a place and at such a time, that is the only thing a person thinks about. Do we need such a reminder then and there?

Yes, because a person forgets themself. It’s not like having the rabbi of the shul sitting off to your side hearing every word you pray. For most, God is some theoretical reality that they have a difficult time relating to even during prayer, and that makes it hard to remain focused on Him. Hence, the reminder.

The same thing is true of the person who goes to war. It is hard to sense God in the battlefield. If anything, it seems as if God is off somewhere else, because killing others seem so contrary to what we’re here to do. This is why Dovid HaMelech was not allowed to build the Temple. He had blood on his hands, and even though it was justified, it was still blood.

But that is exactly the point. It is easy to be real with God in places that God seems more real, like at the Kosel, or in shul, etc. But the person who can be real with God in those places where it seems He is not, is a person who is always “home” and not vulnerable to such attacks by the yetzer hara. A person can maintain their holiness in the unholy places just as they do in the holy ones, and that is what Dovid HaMelech was asking for.

That is the ultimate expression of one’s grasp of ain od Milvado. In the end, it wasn’t just Pharaoh talking to Moshe Rabbeinu. It was God talking to Moshe Rabbeinu through Pharaoh. It wasn’t only Haman who tried to eliminate the Jewish people. It was God working through Haman, etc.

This may be difficult to accept and hard to fathom, but it is the next level up of Ain od Milvado. The “soldier” who reaches this level will never be tempted by a yafas toar of any kind.

Friday Night

WE HAVE BEEN saying Tehillah 27, L’Dovid since Rosh Chodesh Elul. In it is a very famous line that was also made into a song:

One [thing] I ask of God, that I seek, that I may dwell in the house of God all the days of my life, to see the pleasantness of God and to visit His Temple every morning. (Tehillim 27:4)

What was Dovid HaMelech asking of God? To permanently move into the Temple? To run his kingdom from there without ever having to step outside? Unlikely. That was the life of the Kohen Gadol, not the king of the Jewish people.

It says:

Rebi Elazar also said, What is meant by the verse, “And many people will go and say:‘Come and let us go up to the mountain of God, to the house of the God of Ya’akov’” (Yeshayah 2:3), [which says] the God of Ya’akov, but not the God of Avraham and Yitzchak? [It means that we will] not [be] like Avraham, regarding whom mountain is written, as it says, “As it is said until this day, ‘In the mountain where God is seen’” (Bereishis 22:14), nor like Yitzchak, regarding whom field is written, as it says, “And Yitzchak when out to meditate in the field at evening” (Bereishis 24:63), but like Ya’akov, who called Him (God) house, as it says, “And he called the name of that place Bais-El—House of God.” (Pesachim 88a)

Don’t you just love it when the Gemora does that? Is the only real difference between the three avos the verses used with respect to each? Obviously, there is more than just a technical difference.

One obvious difference is that a mountain and field are places a person may visit on occasion, but a house is where a person resides permanently. On the other hand, a mountain and field are permanent locations, whereas a house can be temporary, even moved.

And why these three verses specifically? Many verses are used in reference to each of the Avos, so why did Chazal focus and compare these three? These three verses must represent defining moments in the lives of each of the Avos.

Avraham’s verse was his concluding thought after passing the test of the Akeidah. Everything he had built himself up to be came down to this moment, after which the focus of the narrative shifts to Yitzchak. Avraham’s job had been to raise the Divine Presence up from the dust and cause it to tower over mankind, like a mountain, which he did by the time of the Akeidah was over.

Avraham Avinu bashed idol worship as a child, actively engaged in kiruv rechokim by the age of 52, and made his monumental statement after the Akeidah at the age of 137. It’s also when he passed the torch on to his son, Yitzchak Avinu.

Shabbos Day

THE LIFE OF Yitzchak was very different than that of his father. Whereas Avraham spent his days out in public and engaging people, Yitzchak stayed at home and very much to himself. His interactions are few and the Torah does not spend many verses telling his story.

However, though the mention of Yitzchak’s going to pray in the field seems parenthetical to the meeting of his future wife, Rivkah, it is really the main point. The following story explains why and what was unique about Yitzchak Avinu.

It occurred to the Chazon Ish one day that the perfect shidduch for his sister would be a young illuy, Rabbi Yaakov Yisrael Kanievsky, later to be known as the Steipler Gaon. The shidduch was made. After the Chazon Ish’s sister later returned home, he asked her how it went. She said that she was unimpressed. First of all, she told her brother, the young man did not know how to dress properly. Second, she complained, he was hard of hearing (his loss of hearing had resulted from his trying to avoid listening to loshon hara years earlier). Her third complaint was that, in the middle of the shidduch, he all of a sudden excitedly exclaimed, “The Rambam!” and began working on some answer to a question he had. It was if she had temporarily ceased to exist, and that had not impressed her.

The Chazon Ish, certain that the shidduch was perfect, addressed his sister’s concerns. “First,” he told her, “we can teach him how to dress properly. Secondly,” he continued, “though he may not hear well, I assure you that one day everyone will hear of him.” As for her third complaint, the Chazon Ish told his sister, “And any bochur that can think of the Rambam while on a shidduch is someone you should specifically marry!”

And so she did, and everything the Chazon Ish had said about his future brother-in-law came true.

This was Yitzchak Avinu. He lived an entrenched existence, avodas Hashem—service of God being his top priority. He was the one who asked his father to bind him at the Akeidah lest he involuntarily move and invalidate himself as a sacrifice. And though he walked away from the Akeidah unscathed, his willingness to go through with it left an impression on history and on the Jewish people that remains until this very day. When we blow shofar on Rosh Hashanah, it is to connect us back in time to the Akeidah, and the ram that took Yitzchak’s place.

There is another aspect of a field as well: hisbatlus. This is the obliteration of self-worth, but not in a way that makes life seem worthless. It is the kind that comes from recognizing that meaning in life comes from being part of something much bigger and far more meaningful. It doesn’t say that a person is worthless. It says that the true worth of a person is, when they are contributing their own unique ability to the greater cause of history.

If anything, such hisbatlus makes a person heroic. And though both Avraham and Ya’akov subscribed to the same approach to life, this approach was Yitzchak’s life, and so he is associated with the hisbatlus of a field.

Seudas Shlishis

YA’AKOV AVINU’S LIFE started off quiet and peaceful, but it made a dramatic turn around age 63. That’s when he received Eisav’s brochos and so enraged his brother that he had to flee for his life, and leave his beloved Eretz Yisroel.

Though this led to his marrying of Rachel, Leah, Bilhah and Zilpah, and the 12 sons they bore for him, it also meant living with their treacherous father, Lavan HaArami. For 20 years he had to put up with Lavan’s shenanigans, and constantly keep an eye open to avoid being hurt or even killed by him.

Though his inevitable confrontation with Eisav on his way home ended peacefully, that was only after fighting the angel of Eisav the entire night before. He limped away from that one, with effects that we still cope with to this very day.

As if that wasn’t enough, he had strife from within as well. His daughter Dinah was raped by Shechem, and the town was wiped out by his sons. Then after returning home, they sold their own brother, Yosef, into slavery. Even Pharaoh, upon meeting Ya’akov Avinu for the first time in Parashas Vayigash, asked about his age. As Ya’akov confessed, his difficult life had taken a heavy toll on him.

Nevertheless, though Ya’akov was battle weary, he still emerged the victor. That was what his struggle with the angel of Eisav foretold, that he would battle all through exile, and even sustain damage along the way, but eventually, he would stand up strong in his belief and loyalty to God…no matter where he went and whatever he had to undergo.

On his way out of Eretz Yisroel, after his dream of the ladder, Ya’akov made the following declaration:

Ya’akov took a vow, saying, “If God will be with me, and He will guard me on this way, upon which I am going, and He will give me bread to eat and a garment to wear, and if I return in peace to my father’s house, and God will be my God, then this stone, which I have placed as a monument, shall be a house of God, and everything that You give me, I will certainly tithe to You.” (Bereishis 29:22-24)

In other words, Ya’akov Avinu was saying, “If God will surround me everywhere I go and protect me like a house, then God is my house no matter where I am. Wherever I go, God will accompany me and be my home.

This is what Dovid HaMelech was asking for as well. He had to be king. He had to deal with politicians. He had to go to war. He had to be involved in all kinds of things that could distract him away from feeling connected to God. So he asked God to help with that, by being his home wherever he went and regardless of what he was involved with.

It sounds only metaphorical, and for many it might be. But it doesn’t have to be only a metaphor. It can become reality if a person works on making it happen. How do you do that? That’s what this week’s parsha helps to understand.

Thursday night link and notifications: [email protected]

Ain Od Milvado, Part 17

THE YAFAS TOAR is one of the most difficult halachos to understand since it runs so contrary to everything a Jew is supposed to aspire to be. Granted wartime is a difficult time to maintain self-control. Granted war brings out the worst in many of us. Granted this type of behavior occurs in just about every other army. But the Jewish people are supposed to be different, holier, more devoted to doing the right thing instead of the instinctual thing. How can the Torah accommodate such behavior?

Because of questions like this, the rabbis teach that this is really a lesson in psychological warfare, not against the external enemy, but against the internal one, the yetzer hara. The yetzer hara is a like a thief who stakes out a home waiting for the owners to leave so he can burglarize it. As the Gemora says, the yetzer hara gets up every day to kill the person, and would succeed if not for God’s help (Kiddushin 30b). When a person goes to war, it’s as if the “owner” “leaves” and the “thief” breaks in and takes what he wants.

“Know before Whom you stand.” These are the words you’ll often find engraved on the place that a person who leads the congregation in prayer stands. But you would think that in such a place and at such a time, that is the only thing a person thinks about. Do we need such a reminder then and there?

Yes, because a person forgets themself. It’s not like having the rabbi of the shul sitting off to your side hearing every word you pray. For most, God is some theoretical reality that they have a difficult time relating to even during prayer, and that makes it hard to remain focused on Him. Hence, the reminder.

The same thing is true of the person who goes to war. It is hard to sense God in the battlefield. If anything, it seems as if God is off somewhere else, because killing others seem so contrary to what we’re here to do. This is why Dovid HaMelech was not allowed to build the Temple. He had blood on his hands, and even though it was justified, it was still blood.

But that is exactly the point. It is easy to be real with God in places that God seems more real, like at the Kosel, or in shul, etc. But the person who can be real with God in those places where it seems He is not, is a person who is always “home” and not vulnerable to such attacks by the yetzer hara. A person can maintain their holiness in the unholy places just as they do in the holy ones, and that is what Dovid HaMelech was asking for.

That is the ultimate expression of one’s grasp of ain od Milvado. In the end, it wasn’t just Pharaoh talking to Moshe Rabbeinu. It was God talking to Moshe Rabbeinu through Pharaoh. It wasn’t only Haman who tried to eliminate the Jewish people. It was God working through Haman, etc.

This may be difficult to accept and hard to fathom, but it is the next level up of Ain od Milvado. The “soldier” who reaches this level will never be tempted by a yafas toar of any kind.