|THE DAILY SAGE CALENDAR:|
|< Tishrei 5782||September 2021 >|
...even the more so, if it is known that the person had a reason for which he or she sought to kill themselves and swallowed poison, that the deed may have been caused by unbearable anguish, financial distress or numerous debts. Or if it was caused by excessive hardship and he or she chose death over life. In all such cases the person is not to be judged as a suicide, having being forced to the deed by emotion and the unbearable burden of curses, nor as a renegade. The reader who pursues the matter in the RO"SH's Responsa, in the book Shamaim Rosh, Section 345, will discover that all access to the designation "suicide" has been sealed. If it was done for any reason at all, with the exception of degrading humanity, as if kicking everybody out of hate, as a very few philosophers have done out of defiance towards Heaven… But when it is done out of anguish and caused by pain, suffering and tribulation that make a person lose their mind, it is not prohibited, as can be seen by Shaul son of Kish…and in this case, this deceased person merits his place.
In the days of Minister Shalom (Rabbi Shalom Rokeach, 1781 – 1855) some sages of that generation felt that the entire public should pray according to the custom maintained in the Land of Israel and use the Sepharad version of the siddur prayer book. They advised that those who were still accustomed to the Tachlal (Yemenite custom) version should be given Sepharad siddurim by the Nassi (president) of the community, so that they would all become accustomed to a unified version of prayers; the Nassi agreed to this. The rabbis accustomed to praying according to the Tachlal version then arose… and wrote announcements in the form of decrees stating that changing forefathers' customs is forbidden, based on ancient texts and on subsequent writings by Maimonides. When the wise people of both parties realized that the fire of debate had been ignited for no good reason – since one was as valid and desirable as the other, as long as God is worshipped with proper and pure intent - they convened and agreed to quell the quarrel with amendments that calmed the spirits of both factions, amendments that reconciled the opinions in peace, love and brotherhood.
People should be generous with all guests they host and welcome them into their home, even if they are not perfectly God-fearing or have some deficiencies. Let us look at the difference between our Father Abraham, may he rest in peace, and Lot. When Abraham's guests arrived, they came in the guise of people. In the case of Lot, however, they came in their true forms, as angels, as is written in the Torah, "The two angels arrived in Sodom". The reason for this is that Abraham, of blessed memory, was not stringent about whom he hosted, and received everyone lovingly and with open arms. Lot, however, was somewhat lacking in his fear of God and had he not seen actual angels would not have hosted and honored them! Such people, who host only those of supreme sanctity, are like Lot…
It is permissible to receive remuneration on festivals to fill any permissible requirement for a mitzvah…all the more so for a laborer who hasn't what to eat unless he earns income…making benches for the synagogue to avoid arguments is a public need, and permitted, for they are physically necessary for people so that they may sit. They did so in Jerusalem, following Rabbi Mahadari Binyamin, to accommodate the guests who had no place to sit.
The Sages of Yavneh would often say, "I am a creature and my comrade is a creature. My craft is in the city and his in the fields. I rise early to work and he rises early to work. Just as he does not dwell on my work so do I not dwell on his." It is common knowledge that there was a great yeshiva of sages and authors in Yavneh. They nevertheless did not hold themselves in high esteem with prideful or coarse attitudes for having chosen Torah as their craft. They did not scorn simpler folk, as we unfortunately may see in our day, when children's teachers act as though they are above others, and as though they were halakhic adjudicators or presided over the rabbinic courts of our predecessors. On this matter, they said: We consider that our craft of Torah is more important than that of those who work the land in the fields and vineyards; nevertheless, we praise their work and toil as we do our own, for they rise early to their task, as we do. We are not to dwell upon their craft as sages, just as they cannot dwell upon ours. Should you say that they are at a disadvantage for not having time to study Torah, this is not to their detriment, for if they study only a little Torah because they do not known how to study or have little time, they are useful to others through the fruit of their labor. If no seeds are sown and there is no bread for food, the sages among us will die of hunger; those who toil in the fields, therefore, is fundamental to Torah and to those who study it.
The tobacco tin dropped from my hands and all the tobacco in it fell and scattered. I reached out to return it to the box and…lo and behold! Those leaves that were bound one to another I was able to pick up with two fingers. They were returned to the tin just as they were, while the remaining leaves – those not bound on to the other – dropped and scattered. They cannot be returned to their place. They will be crushed by all those passing by, and amount to nothing. So it is with unity – its value and virtue.
People must be attentive, if they bear any hatred towards a person who may have said something to anger them or injured them physically in any way. One should beg for forgiveness, and insist three times, and if the person does not agree to reconciliation, even more may be necessary. It is because there are those who have transgressed the commandment "You shall not hate your kinsfolk in your heart" and have forgotten, that during the moment the Torah scrolls are taken out from the ark on Yom Kippur Eve the entire congregation recites, "We have completely forgiven".
"Speak to the people of Israel, and say to them, when a person from among you presents an offering". "A person" indicates that the sacrifice is not willingly accepted unless those involved in the sacrifice are as one person, in complete unity and love. People should not comport themselves saying one thing and believing another; what they say and feel should be identical, free of gratuitous hatred - as was the case in the First Temple, where they were not punished, despite idol worship, for their heart was united in love and brotherhood. Not as in the case of the Second Temple which, despite Torah learning and the total absence of idol worship, was destroyed because of gratuitous hatred and idle talk, for their hearts were not united in love and brotherhood, and they could not be termed "a person".
"Thus shall you say to the house of Jacob and declare to the children of Israel." It is a known fact that the word "house" is used to refer to assembly and unity, as we interpret "It shall be eaten in one house" to mean 'in one group'. Our sages, of blessed memory, said that the name Jacob is used when they (the People of Israel) do not do the will of the LORD, and the name Israel is used when they do His will. This is the sense in which "Thus shall you say" is said – in gentle words to those called the house of Jacob, meaning that despite their being called the house of Jacob for not having yet repented, unified and become one house, speak to them in gentle words. But "And declare", means harsh words, and is used to refer to the children of Israel when they are being called "the children Israel", for despite that they do His will and are called by the name Israel, since they are not unified and are being named children of Israel in the plural, speak to them in harsh words.
"Thus shall you bless the people of Israel. Say to them: The LORD bless you and protect you". The blessings were all said in the singular (you), to indicate that it is when they (the nation of Israel) are unified that they merit the blessing, but not when they are separate from each other in their hearts. The merit of the blessing "Thus shall you bless" originates in Abraham, about whom it is written, "So shall your offspring be". It (the Priests' Benediction) says, "will grant you peace", meaning that the blessings are of no use unless there is peace among them. End quote. Abraham represents the attribute of charity, as the text says, "charity to Abraham" and it is the place of love, as the text says, "love of charity". It also says, "The offspring of Abraham are those who love Me", so that the blessing will come about by means of the love and unity between them, in keeping with what the Benediction says, "and He will love you and bless you". They also said that "The Holy One, blessed be He, found no vessel to hold Israel other than peace", which is why the Priests' Benediction ends with "peace", and the cantor, after the word "peace" is recited by the priests, begins Sim Shalom ("Bring peace"), and ends with peace (Oseh shalom).
"Those who love Your teaching enjoy wellbeing; they encounter no adversity". It is known that the attribute of pride leads to many conflicts, for one is despised for being prideful. This is not the case when there is peace between Torah scholars, certainly when they have the attribute of humility - "those who love Your teaching enjoy wellbeing", for as Torah scholars they are not in conflict with one another. This leads to "they encounter no adversity": they do not rule in ways that contradict Halakha or law, since they, holding the attribute of peace, have necessarily achieved the attribute of humility, and being humble – their learning serves them and they do not forget it.
All Israel have a portion in the World-to-Come. This can be interpreted to mean that since we share the understanding that "All of Israel are responsible for one another", they are to be considered partners in fulfilling the commandments, and in upholding and studying the Torah. And just as partners share benefits, the People of Israel share each other's merit in one another's Torah and good deeds… The Bible does bring evidence: "And your people, all of them are righteous" – and each has her or his own. Should you ever find totally empty people among Israel, they nevertheless "Shall possess the land for all time". "For all time" means that this includes even those who have nothing of their own.
What should a person do to ensure pardon and exoneration on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur? One should be with the community, and join with the entire nation, for through unity one benefits from the exoneration of the general public by the Thirteen Principles mentioned in the Torah. As Hosea said, "Ephraim is addicted to images— Let him be", meaning that when the nation of Israel were united, the Holy One, blessed be He, forgives them for everything. This corresponds with what we find in Tractate Yoma: The First Temple was destroyed because of three things it contained – foreign worship, incest and bloodshed. And why was the Second Temple, in which they dealt in Torah, mitzvoth and charity, destroyed? Because of gratuitous hatred. In the first case, the transgressions were exposed, and their end was revealed; the end of the latter, whose transgressions were not exposed, was not revealed. That is, all could see and know of the transgressions during the First Temple and knew why they had been punished. But in the Second Temple, where there was gratuitous hatred – something that remains hidden in the heart and cannot be revealed except to those who with hidden knowledge and to He who sees through the heart and entrails – their end, measure for measure, was not revealed. The remedy for this, therefore, is the reconciliation of hearts, to all be united as one. Even when the commandment to rebuke is called for, one should not do this out of hatred but do so according to "overt rebuke is preferable to hidden love".
"Take a census of the Gershonites also, by their ancestral house and by their clans." This can be interpreted in keeping with what our Sages, of blessed memory, said: Flattering the wicked can be a good deed, for it makes them repent; otherwise they add crime to their sinning. Do as Hillel did, "Love people and bring them close to Torah". This is what is meant by "take a census of the Gershonites". They, who are wicked and excluded themselves from the Torah and its commandments, must be counted, for in this way they may return to their ancestral roots, and comport themselves as Jews and with fear of God, as did their fathers of origin, Abraham Isaac and Jacob.
"A person should always be patient like Hillel and not stringent like Shammai." Does this not depend on what a person is like? If the person is from the merciful source then the person will be patient like Hillel, or is from the valiant source and will be like Shammai. The answer on this matter is that, in truth, a person is responsible for leaning towards mercy when the person is from a valiant source, having been granted the ability to overcome his (or her) nature and direct it. The negative side in the valiant person can be remedied by dealing in a mitzvah or something that does not harm the person or others, as they, of blessed memory said: either a butcher or a circumciser or a blood-letter…
Our Sages, of blessed memory, said: The People of Israel can be credited for having fulfilled all the commandments through unity. Since all are as one – what is fulfilled by one is considered as having been fulfilled by the other, and the benefit bestowed by Torah and the observance mitzvoth thus increases. Through unity, one may rejoice when others benefit, or share in their sorrow. It is the equivalent of fulfilling the entire Torah, since to love one's neighbor as oneself is the greatest principle of Torah, as our Sages, of blessed memory, said, as is fulfilling the commandment to “let him (your kinsperson) live by your side” and sustain them. This way there will be no gratuitous hatred, which was the cause behind the exile, and love will replace enmity, for this is what brings the presence of the Shechina.
Unity also helps pursue the truth, for just as we do not want others to be dishonest with us, so will we avoid being dishonest with others, and just as we are willing to share an privilege or a good thing, so do we wish that others share their privilege and good things with us, and vice versa. Unity also protects us from being one of those who profit from the community for the wrong reasons and take only their personal benefit into account. It helps us consider all the People of Israel as though they children of angels – and to appreciate them as we do ourselves.
Love of one person for another should be a natural love, "Love thy neighbor as thyself", and not a conditional love. That is, to love a person for being a human being, or for his or her qualities, such as wisdom or emotional qualities. But one should not show love because one needs assistance, or to obtain benefit, to soften somebody up to obtain what one wants. Such love is termed conditional love, and is unstable.
"And He said, "Put your hand back into your bosom. He put his hand back into his bosom; and when he took it out of his bosom, there it was again like the rest of his body." The Holy One, blessed be He, teaches a great lesson to our Teacher Moses, may he rest in peace. For Moses, after seeing what Dotan and Aviram had done and how they had become informants, thought it would be impossible for the People of Israel to repent - having been tainted in Egypt and become a single nation, with no differences between them - and that none of the good attributes of their forefathers remained within them. How, then, would the Almighty differentiate between them? The Holy One, blessed be He, therefore said to him: Your way of thinking is incorrect. They are the children of the holy fathers, and even if they have strayed from the way, there is still hope. What then, is to be recommended? Take an interest in bringing them to your bosom, bring them close with great compassion, as a compassionate mother might hug her children to her bosom to save them, protect them and warm them under her wing. In this way you will not reject My People because they have distanced themselves from Me, for their source is pure, and everything follows its source. Make the effort to bring them to you with a little compassion, and you will see that they will return to their original pure state, and will begin to resemble their source. And so it was.
A person should always strive to pray in synagogue with the congregation, for the prayer of a congregation is always accepted. Even if it may include transgressors, the Holy One, blessed be He, does not tire of public praying. One should therefore participate in the congregation, and not pray in private when it is possible to pray with the congregation. Left without a choice, when one cannot go to the synagogue, one should aim to pray at the time the congregation is reciting the Eighteen Blessings.
In a large group of individuals one finds people, some of whom are wise, knowledgeable and understand science, some who are naïve and lacking in knowledge, and some who are average. You can see that the Torah spoke of four sons. Should a speaker address the public with profound words, appropriate for the wise, the person will discover that the rest of the group is wasting its time. And this cannot be. And should the person choose the other option, and speak in the simple terms appropriate for most people, the group of wise people will be wasting its time. On this matter, King Solomon, may he rest in peace, said "The lips of the righteous sustain many." It is known that the definition of a righteous person is one who gives to each his due, as the master instructs, and this is how it is possible for a person to lead many: by knowing to give each and every faction what it requires. Those, indeed, whose sight is limited and do not distinguish whom they are addressing will at times tire the public with their words, causing useless damage and loss, and at times will speak simple words before the wise, and be mocked.
"The Sages taught: When Rabbi Eliezer fell ill, his students entered to visit him. They said to him: Teach us paths of life and we will thereby merit the life of the World-to-Come. He said: Be vigilant of the honor of your fellow persons…" He had the city's leadership and Torah scholars before him, and said, "Be vigilant in the honor of your fellow persons", for this is a foundation upon which everything depends – to always care for others, and maintain their honor, and fend off whatever may harm them… whether by protecting them from shame and scorn, or by leading them to charity and saving them from destitution. And when rebuking someone, one is to take care not to embarrass them; there are many similar issues to consider in maintaining the respect of our fellow persons.
"When you see the ass of your enemy lying under its burden and would refrain from raising it, you must nevertheless raise it with him". This would be, it seems to me, a covert reference: "the ass of your enemy" means the individual who follows the counsel of their evil inclination, which is termed "enemy", as our sages of blessed memory said, concerning "The wicked watches for the righteous". In other words, one who pursues the world's impure matter and follows the evil inclination's passions. Should you see such a person, sinking and collapsing under the burden of the evil inclination, and would refrain from raising him up – do not say to them 'what do I care? I leave you in peace'. "You must nevertheless raise it with him". Try to help that person and draw him closer to the Shechina's canopy.
The Midrash says, "This is the line of Noah, Noah for the upper (worlds) and Noah for the lower (worlds). What does this mean? It can be understood in keeping with what our Sages, of blessed memory, said: A good righteous person. How so? Can there be a righteous person who is not good? Rather, (one who is) good towards heaven and not good towards people is a righteous person who is not good, while one who is good towards heaven and towards people as well is a good righteous person. This means that there may be a righteous person who is righteous with his Creator and fulfills His commandments but is not charitable and compassionate with people…This is what was meant by "Noah was righteous and whole-hearted" – that he was perfect in his worship, and good towards both heaven and people.
"Do not rebuke a scoffer, for he will hate you". At first glance, this seems unclear, and one wonders at its literal sense. Did the Torah not say we must rebuke, and King Solomon, may he rest in peace, says here "Do not rebuke a scoffer"? Whom, then should one rebuke? A sage? The commentators explain that "Do not rebuke a scoffer" means not to rebuke with humiliating language, as though the person were a scoffer and worthy of contempt, for then they will hate you. Do so respectfully, as though you are a sage, a child of prominent parents and of saintly lineage, as though it were not seemly for you to have to have to do such deeds, lest you be mistaken for a sinner, heaven forbid. Then you will be loved and your rebuke will be accepted with love.
"Yet, when they were ill, my dress was sackcloth, I kept a fast— may what I prayed for happen to me!" Question: If the prayer is returned to the person, it would appear to not have been accepted. Why, then, should the person pray? But according to the introduction of Rabbi Yehuda the Righteous, of blessed memory, this can be clarified. If a person's friend becomes ill, Heaven forbid, the person must pray for the friend. If the prayers are answered, that is best. But if it is not, when that person encounters similar troubles, the person's compassion in praying for a friend is remembered, and the person is healed. This corresponds with the text, "Yet, when they were ill, my dress was sackcloth, I kept a fast". If you say, 'What if it is a decree that will not be annulled, how can prayer help?' the reply follows, "May what I prayed for happen to me". When I need Heaven's compassion, my prayer for a friend will be remembered, and I will be treated with compassion.
"For their feet run to evil; They hurry to shed blood". This can be interpreted as praise. Fully righteous people are accustomed to pursuing tikun in their towns. When they encounter a problematic person who commits wicked deeds they go, on their own, to the person's home and speak to them in words of reprimand and morals, until they lead the person's heart to change their ways and convince them to end their evil-doing. And should these righteous people need to spend money for this matter, they do so from their own pockets and not from the community's funds. This is what is meant by "their feet run" – those of the righteous – "to evil" people – to have them repent. And if funds are required, "they hurry to shed blood" – the word blood (dam) in this case means monies (damim). "They are clever at wrongdoing" can also be interpreted to mean that the wise go to great lengths with wrongdoers to straighten them out, and "but know not to do right" as their having no issue with those who do right.
Concerning the moment when the Torah was given, it says "facing the mountain". Which means that we face a difficult mountain, a harsh situation, and we must unite. I bless this committee with the uniting and unification of all factions. The nation of Israel must strive for total unity. Therefore, on this occasion, I turn to all parties with the request that discrimination between groups of different ethnic origins be abolished, that we may no longer have Ashkenazim, Sephardim, or Yemenites. We all belong to the nation of Israel and live in the Land of Israel. The nation of Israel was in exile, and it is this exile that divides us and that made us become Moroccan Jews, or Russian Jews. But now that we have returned to the land promised to us by the Holy One, blessed be He, we are to end discrimination between ethnic communities and become one nation.
“Moses then convoked the whole Israelite community and said to them: These are the things that the LORD has commanded you to do”. The 613 commandments correspond to the body’s 248 organs (evarim – the number of positive commandment) and 365 sinews and ligaments (giddim – the number of negative commandments). Commentators ask how it is possible to fulfill them all… and explain that through unity, each person benefits from those fulfilled by their fellow person, so that together they are considered as having fulfilled them all. The written text, “Moses then convoked the whole Israelite community and said to them”, was meant to suggest that should we be convoked as a whole and become united, with no divisive conflict, so that “These are the things that the LORD has commanded you to do”, meaning that it is possible for you to fulfill them, and that each one of you will be considered as having fulfilled them all. This may be what Scripture refers to by (having the verse) “Moses commanded Torah to us, the inheritance of the congregation of Jacob” (followed by) “when the heads of the people and the tribes of Israel were gathered together”.
"Hillel says: Do not separate yourself from the community. Do not believe in yourself until the day of your death." As for the connection between these two sayings, one might consider that a righteous person's credit protects that generation. Meaning that when the People of Israel are united and can be considered as a single body, they share in each other's credit. But if their hearts are separate and there is no unity between them, then each one is considered on their own and the credit of one is of no benefit to the other… This is what is meant by Hillel's saying "Do not separate yourself from the community". It means that one should not be in conflict with the community or be detached from it, the reason being "Do not believe in yourself until the day of your death" – as if to say that you will have no transgressions for which to be punished. For even if at this moment you have no transgressions, you may have transgressions at some other time, and if you are in unity with the community, you will benefit from the credit of righteous people.
First, I offer my deep thanks to the Beit HaMidrash L'Darshanim committee for their great honor in electing me as Chairperson of the Annual Meeting. I have been told that since the founding of this institution, it has been unheard of that a woman be honored as Chairperson. This is perhaps because it says "I have found no woman among all these", or because you recite "Who hath not made me a woman" in your daily prayers. If so, I find it puzzling that you have honored me as Chairperson. Perhaps this is according to what it says in Tractate Kritot, page 6b, that "Once in sixty or seventy years the surplus would reach half the amount" (a reference to the Incense Offering). For, to your mind, men are the basis and principle of the human species, and woman are only the surplus, something extra and inessential. Just as the incense made of the surplus once in sixty or seventy years was legitimate, so you must have said: This Beit Midrash was founded seventy years ago, and was always chaired by men – they are the essence, and now, once in seventy years, the time has come to give the honor to a woman, one of the gender that is considered as surplus and not essential. I harbor no grudge toward you for the honor you have bestowed upon me, far from it; I rejoice that you have, once in seventy years, also honored a woman. Nevertheless, I will have you note that this fact is not a good sign… Hear me, o teachers and pupils, I hereby reveal to you that you have not entirely erred. I am for the LORD, I love the Torah with all my soul and labor at it, and I lead my children, as well, in the way of Torah.