Pesach

Parasha Thoughts

By Rabbi Yosef Shemtov

Passover! Jews call it Hag Ha’Pesach, but in the Torah G-d calls it Hag Ha’Matza. Why does Passover have two names? The Chag has two names because in a relationship we should emphasize the positive qualities of the other. Jews call it Hag Ha’Pesach (literally Passover) to emphasize the fact that G-d saved us from calamity by passing over houses. G-d calls it Hag Ha’Matzah (literally unleavened bread) to emphasize the Jews’ complete trust in him as we followed his command and rushed out of Egypt to the desert, not even allowing the dough time to rise. Therefore, Passover is the time to renew our faith and trust in G-d and to rely on his help in every situation in life.

This principle applies to our relationship with G-d as well as our relationships with our spouses, children, coworkers, etc… We should always see the good in others. We shouldn’t focus on what we have contributed. Instead, we should focus on being appreciative for what we have received. This outlook helps us create healthy and everlasting relationships.

On behalf of everyone at Yachad Kollel, I would like to wish you a happy and meaningful Passover.

 

Parashat Metzora

Parasha Thoughts

By Rabbi Avraham Moeinzadeh

“This shall be the law of the Metzora on the day of his purification: he shall be brought to the Kohen. The Kohen shall go forth to the outside of the camp…”

Last week in Parashat Tazria we learned the symptoms of a metzora and how one is required to act while he has these symptoms. This week’s parasha discusses the process of purification of a metzora. There is a seeming contradiction in the beginning of the parasha between the pesukim above. At first, the Torah tells us that the metzora shall be brought to the kohen while in the very next pasuk it is written that the kohen shall go forth to the metzora.

In response, “Shem Mishemuel” suggests that although the metzora is forbidden from entering the camp and must remain outside until his leprosy heals, the Torah wants to hint to him a remedy for expediting the process. In order him to get ready for purification, the metzora has to yearn for being tahor and be able to come to the camp of kohanim. Once he truly has such a desire he will receive heavenly aid for his teshuva to be accepted and for his tzaraat to heal.

Sometimes one might feel there is no way for him to actively change his spiritual status and to elevate himself in certain areas. This week’s parasha is telling us that although there may be some truth to this, if there is a real urge to achieve something there will be Siata Dishmaya to make it possible.

Shabbat Shalom.

 

Parashat Tazria

Parasha Thoughts

By Rabbi Shemuel Akhamzadeh

וְטִהַ֖ר אֶת־הַנָּ֑גַע כֻּלּ֛וֹ הָפַ֥ךְ לָבָ֖ן טָה֥וֹר הֽוּא׃

He is clean, for he has turned all white. (ויקרא יג, יג)

When Saraat is partiality white it’s a sign of impurity. However, the above verse teaches us if the whole saraat turns white it’s not impure. In Massechet Sanhedrin 97a Rav Yitzhak states that Mashiach will not come until the entire kingdom turns to heresy and our verse is used as the proof of this idea.

Harav Shimon Schwab explains the idea as follows: tumaa, impurity, has no life of its own and it only thrives by sucking energy from the side of kedusha, purity. Therefore, when everything has turned impure, there will be no source of energy for impurity to sustain itself and it will collapse. So too is Saraat; when it’s fully white it is pure. Another example given by Rav Schwab is from the story of the meraglim (spies) that Moshe sent. The meraglim started on a positive and true note saying that the land is a land of milk and honey and then they began spewing the lies about the land because no lie can stand unless some truth is mixed in to it.

 

Parashat Shemini

Parasha Thoughts

By Rabbi Shlomo Zargari

Shalom, our parasha is one of the main sources for the laws of kashrut.

דַּבְּר֛וּ אֶל־בְּנֵ֥י יִשְׂרָאֵ֖ל לֵאמֹ֑ר זֹ֤את הַֽחַיָּה֙ אֲשֶׁ֣ר תֹּאכְל֔וּ מִכָּל־הַבְּהֵמָ֖ה אֲשֶׁ֥ר
עַל־הָאָֽרֶץ׃

Speak to the Bene Yisrael thus: These are the creatures that you may eat from among all the land animals:(Vayikra 11,2)

Rabeinu Ovadia Seforno asked what is the connection between the laws of kashrut and the inauguration of the Mishkan and the services?
It is so to teach us that as we know, the Mishkan is the place where the Shechina of HaShem rests, but the goal is to have it rest in the hearts of every Jew, as the well-known verse says:

וְעָ֥שׂוּ לִ֖י מִקְדָּ֑שׁ וְשָׁכַנְתִּ֖י בְּתוֹכָֽם׃

And let them make Me a sanctuary that I may dwell among them.(Shemot 25,8)

Meaning, by observing the services being performed in the Mishkan and the Bet HaMikdash, the fear of HaShem will be instilled in our hearts.
But there’s a prerequisite for this: to keep the sanctity of the foods and not to contaminate our soul with food that is not allowed by the Torah. One who consumes these foods damages his Neshama and distances the Shechina from himself:
Like it says at the end of the parasha:

אַל־תְּשַׁקְּצוּ֙ אֶת־נַפְשֹׁ֣תֵיכֶ֔ם בְּכָל־הַשֶּׁ֖רֶץ הַשֹּׁרֵ֑ץ וְלֹ֤א תִֽטַּמְּאוּ֙ בָּהֶ֔ם וְנִטְמֵתֶ֖ם בָּֽם׃

You shall not draw abomination upon yourselves through anything that swarms; you shall not make yourselves unclean therewith and thus become unclean.

 

Parashat Tzav

Parasha Thoughts

By Rabbi David Cohen

This is the law of the sin-offering; in the place where the Olah (Elevation/Burnt-Offering) is slaughtered, shall the sin-offering be slaughtered. (6:17)

The Torah details the various laws applicable to the korbanot, ritual offerings. One intriguing halachah that demands elucidation is that of the Korban Chatat, Sin-offering, which was slaughtered in the same place in the Courtyard of the Mishkan, already used for the Korban Olah, Burnt-offering. The Olah was slaughtered b’tzafon, to the north, of the Mizbayach, Altar. Why is the primary halachah that of the Olah being slaughtered in the north, with the “follow-up” being the Chatat? This implies that the need to have the Olah slaughtered in the north is of greater significance to the Olah than to the Chatat. Second, why does the Chatas merely “follow” the Olah? They are two distinct korbanot, with apparently no connection to one another.

The Shem MiShmuel quotes his father, the Avnei Nezer, who makes a profound observation concerning the Korban Olah. An Olah is brought to atone for sinful thoughts which did not conclude with any action. The Olah was slaughtered in the north. The Hebrew word for north is tzafon, which has the same root as the word matzpun, which means conscience or intellect. The Olah is, thus, slaughtered in the north, because the north represents man’s intellect, the place where the sin requiring the Olah had occurred: the intellect/mind/conscience.

While this addresses why the Korban Olah was brought in the north, it creates a new difficulty. Since the Olah was brought to atone for sins emanating from the intellect or “intellectual sins,” those which involved no physical action – only evil thoughts – it was suited for the north. This was, so to speak, the intellectual corner of the Courtyard. If so, why was the Chatat brought in the same place? The Sin-offering was a korban brought to atone for an accidental sin – a sin which was carried out – without thought. Had any of these sins been performed with deliberation, they would have incurred a punishment of karet, Heavenly excision. The Chatat represents sinful behavior without intellect, [a sinful act without sinful aforethought]. The mind was not engaged when the body carried out the sinful act, diametrically contrasting the Olah, which is a sinful thought without an act. Why, then, should they be so closely intertwined to the point that both offerings have to be slaughtered in the same place?

The Shem MiShmuel feels that we must first delve into the nature of inadvertent sin, the precipitator of the Korban Chatat. Why does one sin inadvertently? On a simple level, one either forgets that it is Shabbat and acts the way he would during the week – precipitating a number of transgressions; or, he is aware that it is Shabbat, but has forgotten that a particular activity is prohibited on Shabbat. In either event, he acted without malice and aforethought. Indeed, he acted without thinking – period. He is obliged to bring a Korban Chatat to atone for his action.

Why does this happen? Should we view inadvertent sin as a mere accident, totally unpreventable? The Shem MiShmuel does not seem to think so. In fact, he feels that when a person sins, his action reflects more than mere chance. We all have our desires, our likes and dislikes. When the Torah prohibits a certain activity, a specific food, it does not mean that we no longer have any interest in it or that the activity no longer is something we enjoy doing. In reality, our desire still exists, but it is harnessed. We refrain from actually doing the prohibited act because the Torah forbids it. Our consciousness of Hashem’s will prevails over our physical desire to act, to eat.

Thus, despite the fact that one is controlling himself, his desire for the act creates a connection to the psyche, which controls him from carrying out the forbidden deed. The consequence of this interplay between psyche and deed is that, while he would never consciously perform the transgression, when his guard is down – for whatever reason – if he is not thinking rationally, his reflex will be to transgress. This is the true act of aveirah b’shogeg, inadvertent sin: one in which were he to be mindful and in control, he would never act sinfully; but when he is not mindful, it just “slips” out – not on purpose – not with malice – just “slipping.”

We now understand the connection between the Olah and the Chatat. The commonality between them is that they are both sins of the mind. Inappropriate, sinful thoughts are the springboards for sins which obligate each individual offering. As such, both sacrifices are slaughtered in the north, the place which emblemizes the power of the intellect.

 

Purim

Parasha Thoughts

By Rabbi Yosef Shemtov

The Shabbat before Purim is called Shabbat Zachor because we read about the nation of Amalek who attacked Beni Israel when they came out of Egypt. The reason that we read it on this particular Shabbat is because Haman, who wanted to destroy Beni Israel, was a descendant of Amalek.

Every year we have an obligation to remind ourselves to erase the name of Amalek wherever they are. But what exactly does this mitzvah mean? How do we erase Amalek’s name today when we don’t know exactly who they are? How can we do this mitzvah practically?
Maybe we can accomplish this mitzvah if we understand what Amalek stands for and we destroy that ideology from ourselves.

Amalek believes there is no higher supervision from the Almighty. Everything is chance and coincidence. You can see this attitude when Haman casts a lotto to determine when to destroy Beni Israel. Hashem wants us to eradicate these kinds of thoughts from our minds and to know and believe that whatever happens to us individually or globally is a part of a master plan from Hashem.

On behalf of the kollel rabbis, I would like to wish you a very Happy Purim!

Rabbi Yosef Shemtov

 

Parashat Pekudei

Parasha Thoughts

By Rabbi Avraham Moeinzadeh

We learned in last week’s parasha that Moshe Rabenu a”h made the kior (washing basin) of the Mishkan from the copper mirrors that the ladies had dedicated. This week’s parasha discusses the requirement for the Kohanim to wash their hands and feet from the kior prior to performing their services in the Bet Hamikdash.

Different explanations have been given to explain why the Torah specifically mentions and emphasizes the origins of the kior and what it was made of.
One of the explanations given is that since the Kohanim are representatives of Klal Yisrael for offering the korbanot, on a daily basis they would come across people who were bringing korbanot for the atonement of different sins. After a while a person tends to develop an attitude of forgetting his own shortcomings and he can become more judgmental of other people’s flaws. The kior was therefore made specifically from those mirrors to convey the point to every kohen that he should evaluate himself and his own flaws before engaging in the service.

Once he realizes that although he may have some shortcomings, it doesn’t mean he does not posses any good qualities with which to serve Hashem. With this outlook the Kohen would enable himself to look for and see other people’s good qualities. This is a mussar haskel for all​ of us to train ourselves to find the good potential in anybody who we come in contact with (including ourselves) and help develop them.

Shabbat Shalom.

 

Parashat Vayakhel

Parasha Thoughts

By Rabbi Shemuel Akhamzadeh

And Moshe gathered the community…  וַיַּקְהֵ֣ל מֹשֶׁ֗ה אֶֽת־כָּל־עֲדַ֛ת בְּנֵ֥י יִשְׂרָאֵ֖ל

Rashi notes that this gathering happened the day after Yom Kippur. In Parashat Yitro, Rashi comments that on the day after Yom Kippur, Moshe sat to judge the community. Kli Yakar explains that the purpose of this gathering was for Moshe to inform the community of the Mitzvah of Mishkan and the need for donations for the vessels of the Mishkan. However, as Moshe realized the purpose of the Mishkan was to reconnect us with Hashem, he was concerned that people might donate items with disputable ownership. Consequently, the Mishkan would not serve its ultimate purpose. Moshe set up the courts right before acquiring contributions to clear any concerns and to make sure that all items used in the Mishkan were free from any conflict. Although in our time we do not have the physical Mishkan, we know the purpose of building the Mishkan is to bring the Shechina amongst us.

וְעָשׂוּ לִי מִקְדָּשׁ וְשָׁכַנְתִּי בְּתוֹכָם׃ )
And let them make Me a sanctuary that I may dwell among them. Exodus 25:8 ) So too we can accomplish this purpose by making sure to clear our souls from defects ( sins ). May we merit to see the rebuilding of the Bet Hamikdash in our days.

Shabbat Shalom

 

Parashat Ki Tisa

Parasha Thoughts

By Rabbi David Shasho

וַיֹּ֤אמֶר יְהוָה֙ אֶל־מֹשֶׁ֔ה כְּתָב־לְךָ֖ אֶת־הַדְּבָרִ֣ים הָאֵ֑לֶּה כִּ֞י עַל־פִּ֣י ׀ הַדְּבָרִ֣ים הָאֵ֗לֶּה כָּרַ֧תִּי אִתְּךָ֛ בְּרִ֖ית וְאֶת־יִשְׂרָאֵֽל׃

And Hashem said to Moshe, “Write down these commandments, for in accordance with these commandments I make a covenant with you and with Israel.” The Ben Ish Chai explains that from this Pasuk we learn the source for the Oral Torah (תורה שבעל פה). Chazal have learned in many places that the words ״כִּי עַל פִּי״ specifically refer to the Oral Torah. From these words the Gemara (Gittin 60b) teaches that Hashem only made a covenant with the Jewish people because of the Oral Torah.

There is another name given to the Oral Torah. It is known as Emunah (faith) because it is our duty to believe and trust in our Rabbis who learned out things from the Written Torah which were not specified otherwise. We therefore find that whoever studies the Oral Torah (Gemara) is delving into Emunah.

Tosafot in the Gemara Sanhedrin (7a) asks a question on two sources which seem to contradict each other. In one place it says when someone dies he will be judged firstly on his Torah studies. Whereas in another place it says he will be first asked, “Did you deal in business with Emunah? Did you set time to study Torah?” Which question was asked first?

With this understanding we can answer this question. When he is asked if he conducted business with Emunah, the Emunah referred to here is the Oral Torah. Only after being asked about that, is he asked if he also set time for studying the Written Torah. Those are the first two questions which need to be answered when someone passes away. Did you set time for studying both Torahs?

In the Oral Torah there are six orders ((זרעים,מועד,נשים,נזיקין,קדשים,טהרות
Each one individually is called Emunah (אמונה). If you take the numerical value of the word it equals 102 – times six (for the six orders) equals 612. This is also the numerical value of the word בּרית (covenant). כִּ֞י עַל־פִּ֣י ׀ הַדְּבָרִ֣ים הָאֵ֗לֶּה כָּרַ֧תִּי אִתְּךָ֛ בְּרִ֖ית וְאֶת־יִשְׂרָאֵֽל׃ Only for these words, the Oral Torah, did God make a covenant with us.

Let us all strive to grow in our Torah learning which will also build our Emunah and trust in Hashem. This will help us live a more productive and meaningful life.

Shabbat Shalom!!

 

Parashat Tetzaveh

Parasha Thoughts

By Rabbi Shlomo Zargari

Shalom,

In parashat תצוה (כח, לג) the pasuk talks about the glorious garments that the Kohen Gadol must wear. Among them is the מעיל which is a garment similar to a long Talit Katan. It has embroidered pomegranates and bells on the bottom:

וְעָשִׂ֣יתָ עַל־שׁוּלָ֗יו רִמֹּנֵי֙ תְּכֵ֤לֶת וְאַרְגָּמָן֙ וְתוֹלַ֣עַת שָׁנִ֔י עַל־שׁוּלָ֖יו סָבִ֑יב וּפַעֲמֹנֵ֥י זָהָ֛ב בְּתוֹכָ֖ם סָבִֽיב׃

On its hem make pomegranates of blue, purple, and crimson yarns, all around the hem, with bells of gold between them all around:

The Talmud in Hulin 89b teaches us the following:

אמר רבי יצחק מאי דכתיב (תהלים נח, ב) האמנם אלם צדק תדברון מישרים תשפטו בני אדם מה אומנותו של אדם בעולם הזה ישים עצמו כאלם יכול אף לדברי תורה תלמוד לומר צדק תדברון יכול יגיס דעתו ת”ל מישרים תשפטו בני אדם

Rabbi Yitzḥak says: What is the meaning of that which is written: “Do you indeed [ha’umnam] speak as a righteous company [elem]? Do you judge with equity [meisharim] the sons of men” (Tehilim 58:2)? The verse is interpreted as follows: What should be a person’s occupation [umanut] be in this world? He should render himself silent as a mute [ilem]. If so, one might have thought that he should render himself as a mute even with regard to words of Torah. Therefore, the verse states: “Speak as a righteous company,” indicating that one should speak the righteous words of Torah…

We learn from here, says the holy חפץ חיים, that anytime one has a moment, he should not sit idle but study the Torah. If for any reason he cannot study, he should make himself like a mute that can’t open his mouth. That’s why on the bottom of this garment there were pomegranates and the bells. The bells make sounds, alluding to Torah study. The pomegranate is silent and that’s a hint for us to keep silent when we aren’t learning Torah. When one behaves in such manner, the Torah promises us:

וְנִשְׁמַ֣ע ק֠וֹלוֹ בְּבֹא֨וֹ אֶל־הַקֹּ֜דֶשׁ לִפְנֵ֧י ה…

…so that the sound of it is heard when he comes into the sanctuary before HaShem …

His prayers and Torah will be heard by The Almighty. Amen