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Pearls of Rashi – Parshas Shoftim

In this week’s Torah portion, we are commanded to establish judges and officers in all of the cities of the land which we are about to enter (Israel). The Torah tells us that[1] “You shall set up judges and law enforcement officials for yourself in all your cities that the Hashem is giving you for your tribes. They shall judge the people with righteous judgment.” What is the difference between Judges (שופטים) and officers (שוטרים)? Rashi explains that judges are those “who decide the verdict.” Officers are those “who chastise the people in compliance with their order. They strike and bind with rods and straps until the guilty party accepts the verdict.” In modern parlance “officers” would be police.

The prophet Yeshayahu (Isaiah) tells of a prophecy which will take place in the days of Moshiach. He writes that[2] “I will restore your judges as at first and your counsellors as in the beginning. Afterwards you will be called the City of Righteousness, the Faithful City.” In other words, just as Hashem commands us to establish judges at all of the gates of the Holy Land, so too will we have judges at the time of the future redemption. However, something seems to be missing. We were commanded to have “police” to enforce the judge’s verdicts. This is missing from Yeshayahu’s prophecy. His prophecy only added “counsellors” to the judges. Why will officers be missing from the future redemption?

The explanation is quite simple based on Rashi’s explanation of our verse. The judges will decide the verdict. However, there will be instances that the people will not wish to accept the judges’ ruling. That is why we will still need officers. Even after entering Israel we will still have a “Yetzer Hora – an Evil Inclination.”

However, at the time of the future Redemption the Yetzer Hora will be gone. The prophet Zechariah tells us that[3] “… also the (false) prophets and the spirit of contamination I will remove from the earth.” With no Evil Inclination, we will have no need for one to enforce Hashem’s law. All that we will need is an advisor to teach us how important it to follow the proper path. We can certainly bring the redemption closer by behaving now as if we are already living in the time of redemption!

Wishing one and all inscribed and sealed for a good year in all respects. May we all have a good Shabbos!

Rabbi Shmuel Mendelsohn

Adapted from Sefer Hasichos 5751 Volume 2, 780-795

IN LOVING MEMORY OF OUR MOTHER
Mrs. Brocha bas Reb Tzvi Nechemiah Hacohen O.B.M. Cohen
Passed away on 8 Shevat, 5778
May Her Soul be bound in the Eternal Bond of Life
*
DEDICATED BY HER FAMILY
* * *
לעילוי נשמת
מרת ברכה בת ר’ צבי נחמי’ הכהן ע”ה כהן
נפטרה ביום ח ‘שבט, ה’תשע”ח
ת. נ. צ. ב. ה.
*
נדפס ע”י בני משפחתה שיחיו

[1]. Our Parshah, Devorim 16:18.

[2]. Yeshayahu 1:26.

[3]. Zechariah 13:2.

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Pearls of Rashi – II

This week’s Torah portion, Re’eh, tells us that[1] “When Hashem expands your boundary, as He told you (that He will), and you say, ‘I will eat meat.’ (Why will you say this?) Because you desire to eat meat. (Then,) according to the desire of your heart may you eat meat.”

Just what does the Torah mean by this? Moshe Rabbeinu was telling the Jews some of the laws which would apply when they would finally reach their promised land. Rashi cites the words from this verse, “according to what your heart desires,” and explains the following. “In the desert, however, the meat of a non-consecrated animal was forbidden to them, unless it was first consecrated and offered as a peace offering.” During the 40 years in the wilderness, they could not eat meat simply because they wished to. It was prohibited to have hamburgers for dinner simply because that was what they wanted to eat. Rather they could only eat meat which they first consecrated and brought as a sacrifice.

This, like everything the Torah says, serves to teach us a great lesson for us in our service of Hashem. Throughout the forty years of wandering in the desert, the Jewish nation was not occupied with any physical activities. Hashem miraculously took care of all of their material needs. They ate Mon (Manna) from heaven and drank from “Miriam’s Well,” which followed them throughout their sojourn in the wilderness. Their clothing, which grew with them, were kept clean and pressed by the “Clouds of Glory.” Their sole occupation was to study Torah directly from Moshe Rabbeinu. When they did eat meat, it had to first be sanctified.

Once they entered Israel, they began working with the physical world. This was in order to elevate everything around them to G-dliness.

That is the reason that the Torah warns shortly after this to[2] “be strong not to eat the blood, for the blood is the soul. You shall not eat the soul with the flesh.” Upon entering the Holy Land, they were permitted to eat even unconsecrated meat. Eating meat, which had previously been a Mitzvah, had become a mundane activity. Nevertheless, they had to take care not to eat the blood. The “boiling blood,” the excitement of this world should not be their focus. Rather their excitement should come from the opportunity to elevate the world to the Divine.

The same is true of each and every one of us. We must certainly be involved with the physical world in which G-d placed us. However, our excitement should come from transforming this world into a dwelling place for Hashem.

Wishing one and all a good Shabbos and a healthy summer.

Rabbi Shmuel Mendelsohn

Adapted from Likkutei Sichos Volume 4, Pages 1108 – 1114

 IN LOVING MEMORY OF OUR MOTHER

Mrs. Brocha bas Reb Tzvi Nechemiah Hacohen O.B.M. Cohen

Passed away on 8 Shevat, 5778

May Her Soul be bound in the Eternal Bond of Life

DEDICATED BY HER FAMILY

* * *

לעילוי נשמת

מרת ברכה בת ר’ צבי נחמי’ הכהן ע”ה כהן

נפטרה ביום ח ‘שבט, ה’תשע”ח

ת. נ. צ. ב. ה.

*

נדפס ע”י בני משפחתה שיחיו

[1]. Our Parshah, Devorim 12:20.

[2]. Ibid., 12:23.

Pearls of Rashi – Re’eh

This week we read the Torah portion of Re’eh. This portion tells us to[1] “Keep the month of spring, and make the Pesach offering to Hashem. For in the month of spring G-d brought you out of Egypt at night.” Rashi cites the words “keep the month of spring” and explains the meaning of these words. “Before (the month of) Nissan arrives, watch that it should be fit for spring, capable of producing ripe ears of barley by the sixteenth of the month. These would be needed to offer as the Omer meal offering. And if not, (if it is not yet spring,) proclaim it a leap year[2].”

Everything in Torah can be understood on many different levels. There is the simple meaning of each verse. However, each of these verses can also be understood according to an infinite amount of levels, each higher and deeper than that which preceded it. We would like to explain the above verse with Rashi’s comments in a manner which will provide us with a lesson in the service of Hashem.

During the winter all growth is hidden; it is asleep. It seems to us as if there is no growth whatsoever. During the spring the beauty and greenery suddenly awakes. We become aware that nature was temporarily gathering its strength. Now, in the spring, it appears in all of its glory.

The same was true during our exile in Egypt. It was a bitter time, both for the physical body and the soul. We started out the 49th level of impurity. We were able to lift ourselves up in a mere 50 days to a level which allowed us to receive the Torah directly from the Almighty Himself.

This provides each of us with a lesson. At times we may (G-d forbid) undergo a period during which there appears to be no growth. Everything around us appears to be frigid and lifeless. We must realize that this is just a temporary state. We are merely gathering the strength needed to “spring” into life. We must certainly never become despondent. We need to be constantly aware that we are now able to step up, to rise to the complete and true redemption with our righteous Moshiach immediately, now.

Wishing one and all a good Shabbos and a healthy summer.

Rabbi Shmuel Mendelsohn

Adapted from Igros Kodesh Volume 4, Letter 994

IN LOVING MEMORY OF OUR MOTHER
Mrs. Brocha bas Reb Tzvi Nechemiah Hacohen O.B.M. Cohen
Passed away on 8 Shevat, 5778
May Her Soul be bound in the Eternal Bond of Life
*
DEDICATED BY HER FAMILY
* * *
לעילוי נשמת
מרת ברכה בת ר’ צבי נחמי’ הכהן ע”ה כהן
נפטרה ביום ח ‘שבט, ה’תשע”ח
ת. נ. צ. ב. ה.
*
נדפס ע”י בני משפחתה שיחיו

[1]  Our Parshah, Devorim 16:1.

[2]. In the Jewish calendar, a leap year refers to a year in which one month is added. This allows enough time for the barley to ripen.

 

Pearls of Rashi – Eikev II

In this week’s Torah portion, Eikev, the Torah says[1] “For if you keep all these commandments which I command you to do them, to love the Lord your God, to walk in all of His ways, and to cleave to Him …” Rashi cites the words “to walk in all of His ways,” and gives the following explanation. “Hashem is merciful, so too must you be merciful. He performs acts of kindness, so too you must bestow loving-kindness.” In other words, the Torah is telling us to follow all of Hashem’s ways.

We find that Divine speech can actually perform an action. For example, we find that[2] “the world was created with ten utterances.” This means that G-d created the world with His speech. Since we are commanded “to walk in all of His ways,” it would seem that our speech can also accomplish actions. How is this possible?

This can be done under two conditions. We are taught that[3] “words which come from the heart, will enter the heart of the person to whom they have been spoken.” This means that the Torah assures us if we speak words of Torah and Mitzvos which we sincerely believe and feel, they will definitely have their desired effect. Under these circumstances our words are capable of performing an action.

The second condition is to fear Hashem, i.e. to constantly feel His presence and stand in awe of Him. As stated in the Gemorah[4], “the words of one who has fear of heaven are heeded.”

There is an important message which we must take from the above. Each of us can accomplish great things through our speech alone. We can all change the world by speaking to our fellows, and drawing them closer to Torah and Mitzvos. This is true provided that we make the proper decisions. Firstly, we must sincerely mean what we are saying. In addition to this, we must feel Hashem in our lives, to the extent that we stand in awe of Him. It is up to us. By conducting ourselves in the proper manner, we can transform this world into a dwelling place for Hashem with our speech.

Wishing one and all a good Shabbos and a healthy summer. May we all merit the complete and true redemption now!

Rabbi Shmuel Mendelsohn

 Adapted from Igros Kodesh Volume 15, Letter Number 5,429.

 IN LOVING MEMORY OF OUR MOTHER

Mrs. Brocha bas Reb Tzvi Nechemiah Hacohen O.B.M. Cohen

Passed away on 8 Shevat, 5778

May Her Soul be bound in the Eternal Bond of Life

DEDICATED BY HER FAMILY

* * *

לעילוי נשמת

מרת ברכה בת ר’ צבי נחמי’ הכהן ע”ה כהן

נפטרה ביום ח ‘שבט, ה’תשע”ח

ת. נ. צ. ב. ה.

*

נדפס ע”י בני משפחתה שיחיו

[1]. Our Parshah, Devorim 11:22.

[2]. Pirkei Avos, Chapter 5, Mishnah 1.

[3]. See the Sefer Hayashar of Rabbeinu Tam, Gate 13.

[4]. Talmud Berachos, Page 6, b.

Pearls of Rashi – Eikev

This week we read the Torah portion of Eikev. Here we are told the second paragraph of Shema which begins[1] “And it will be, if you obey My commandments that I command you this day … and to serve Him with all your heart and with all your soul.” Rashi cites the words “and to serve Him with all of your heart” and explains as follows. “This means with a service of the heart, namely prayer. Prayer is called service, as it says[2] “your G-d, Whom you serve regularly.”

The Mishnah at the beginning of Chapter Five of Berochos says[3] “One must not stand up to say the Amidah without deep earnestness (literally a heavy head).” Rabbi Dov Ber, the Maggid of Mezritch, explains this as follows. One may not pray for his own needs. Rather one must pray on behalf of the Shechinah, the G-dly presence. This is the head of everything which exists.

Thee Maggid’s explanation, however, is not so simple. The Rambam explains that the Halachic definition of prayer (Laws of Prayer, Chapters 2 – 4) is requesting all of one’s needs from Hashem[4]. Only in this manner will he realize that Hashem alone takes care of all of our needs. How can we reconcile the two?

This can be explained as follows. Each of us must be totally subservient to Hashem. I must consider myself nothing besides for Him; He is my entire being. Therefore, all of my needs are encapsulated in the needs of the Shechinah. My only prayer is for Hashem, our collective head and being, to be drawn down throughout all worlds.

We must all feel this realization. Hashem is the life of each and every one of us, and the life of all worlds, both high and low.

Wishing one and all a good Shabbos and a healthy summer. May we all merit the complete and true redemption now!

 

Rabbi Shmuel Mendelsohn

Adapted from Likkutei Sichos Volume 34, Page 73

[1]. Our Parshah, Devorim 11:13.

[2]. Daniel 6:17.

[3]. Mishnah Berochos, Chapter 5, Mishnah 1.

[4]. Rambam, Laws of Prayer, Chapters 2 – 4.

The Rebbe Teaches Rashi – Vo’eschanan II

In this week’s Torah portion, Vo’eschanan, the Torah describes (for the second time[1]) the giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai. It tells us all of the Ten Commandments which Hashem gave us. Following this, we are told that[2] “Hashem spoke these words to your entire assembly at the mountain out of the midst of the fire, the cloud and the opaque darkness. (He said) them with a great voice, which did not cease.” Rashi cites the words from the verse “which did not cease,” and gives two explanations. The first is that “Targum Onkelus[3] explains the words to mean ‘and it did not cease,’ for His voice is strong and exists continuously.”

In other words, Rashi is telling us that this voice had no limitations whatsoever. The spiritual and the material are opposites. Physical objects are not inherently capable of “absorbing” spirituality, G-dliness. Likewise, G-dliness cannot “penetrate” the physical. However, this was a “great voice,” a Divine voice. It transcends both the physical and the spiritual. Before this mighty voice, the physical and the spiritual are equal. Only such a G-dly force can be absorbed by the physical world itself.

The same is true of a person’s service of Hashem. There are two aspects of Torah. One is its intellectual aspect. Understanding Torah, to the extent that a person can grasp it, requires the use of one’s intellectual faculties. However, there is a second aspect of Torah; it is Hashem’s will and wisdom. He is a perfect unity. Hence, His will and wisdom are one with Him[4]. This is the “great voice” of Torah. It totally transcends this physical world.

Torah which is learned for its intellectual perspective cannot penetrate the physical, human body. However, when one learns “the great voice” of Torah, it is absorbed by his entire being. It can even penetrate his heels, the lowest part of his body.

The Torah which he learns affects him even after he finishes learning. When one is busy conducting his worldly activities, it is obvious that he is a Jew who learns Torah.

By hearing the “great voice which does not cease” when learning Torah and fulfilling Mitzvos, we can transform this world into a dwelling place for the Holy One, blessed be He, and bring about the coming of Moshiach.

Wishing one and all a good Shabbos! May we merit the time of the complete and true redemption now!

Rabbi Shmuel Mendelsohn

Adapted from Likkutei Sichos Volume 4, Page 1095

[1]. The first time was in Parshas Yisro, beginning with Shemos 20:1.

[2]. Our Parshah, Devorim 5:19.

[3]. There are a number of Aramaic translations of the Torah. That of Onkelus is the closest to the simple explanation of each verse. It is often quoted by Rashi.

[4]. See Tanya, Chapters 4 – 5.

Pearls of Rashi – Vo’eschanan

The Torah Portion of

Vo’eschanan

This week’s Torah portion, Vo’eschanan, begins with Moshe saying that[1] “I entreated Hashem at that time saying.”  Moshe was begging Hashem to change His decree and allow him to enter Eretz Yisroel. Rashi offers two explanations for the Torah’s use of the word “Vo’eschanan – and I entreated.” He cites the words from the verse “and I entreated,” and explains as follows. “The word חִנּוּן (and all words which are related to it, such as “Vo’eschanan”) signifies (requesting) a free gift … Another explanation is, that this (חִנּוּן) is one of ten terms which denote prayer.” We need to understand why Rashi needs to offer two explanations for the word “Vo’eschanan.”

Rashi writes in the very next verse that Moshe Rabbeinu knew that “it had already been decreed (by Hashem)” that he would not be permitted to enter Israel. Nevertheless, Rashi writes[2] that Moshe prayed that Hashem grant him entrance. In Rashi’s words, he thought that “perhaps G-d’s vow had been annulled.”

The Sages of the Talmud discuss whether prayer can change a decree which was already issued by Hashem[3]. The Gemorah arrives at the conclusion that prayer will not help to change a decree which was issued against an individual. However, prayer does have the ability to change a decree issued against the community.

Based on this we can understand the two opinions in Rashi regarding Moshe’s prayer to G-d. There are those that say that a decree against Moshe is the equivalent of a decree against the Jewish Nation. This is in keeping with what Rashi taught us earlier[4]; “Moshe is Israel and Israel is Moshe. This teaches us that the leader of the generation is equal to the entire generation, for the leader is everything.” Based on this, Rashi’s explanation that “Vo’eschanan” means prayer is quite clear. Since Moshe is the community, even after the decree against him had been issued, prayer can still help.

However, according to those who say that a decree against Moshe is considered as if it’s against one individual, prayer would not help. Praying could have no effect. Therefore, we could not say that “Vo’eschanan” means prayer. According to this opinion we must say that “Vo’eschanan” means that Moshe was requesting a free gift, i.e. something which he did not earn.

We can see from this how precise Rashi is. The fact that he explains one word in two different ways reflects a major difference in the Sage’s opinion.

Wishing one and all a good Shabbos! May we merit the time of the complete and true redemption now!

Rabbi Shmuel Mendelsohn

Adapted from Likkutei Sichos Volume 24, Pages 28-35

IN LOVING MEMORY OF OUR MOTHER
Mrs. Brocha bas Reb Tzvi Nechemiah Hacohen O.B.M. Cohen
Passed away on 8 Shevat, 5778
May Her Soul be bound in the Eternal Bond of Life
DEDICATED BY HER FAMILY
* * *
לעילוי נשמת
מרת ברכה בת ר’ צבי נחמי’ הכהן ע”ה כהן
נפטרה ביום ח ‘שבט, ה’תשע”ח
ת. נ. צ. ב. ה.
*
נדפס ע”י בני משפחתה שי

[1]. Our Parshah, Devorim 3:23.

[2]. See his comments further in this same verse.

[3]. See Talmud Rosh Hashanah beginning with page 37, b.

[4]. See Rashi’s comments to the words “and Israel sent,” Parshas Chukas, Bamidbar 21:21.

Pearls of Rashi – Re’eh

This week we read the Torah portion of Re’eh. This portion tells us to (Devorim 16:1) “Keep the month of spring, and make the Pesach offering to Hashem. For in the month of spring G-d brought you out of Egypt at night.” Rashi cites the words “keep the month of spring” and explains the meaning of these words. “Before Nissan arrives, watch that it should be fit for spring, capable of producing ripe ears of barley by the sixteenth of the month. These would be needed to offer as the Omer meal offering. And if not (if it is not yet spring), proclaim it a leap year. (This will enable you to wait another month until the barley ripens).”

We need to explain this in a manner which will help us in our service of Hashem. During the winter all growth is hidden; it is asleep. It appears to us as if there is no growth. During the spring the beauty and greenery suddenly awakes. We become aware that it was temporarily gathering its strength. Now, in the spring, it can appear in all of its glory.

The same was true during our exile in Egypt. It was bitter both for the physical body and the soul. However ultimately we were able to traverse in a mere 50 days from the 49th level of impurity to the ability to receive the Torah directly from the Almighty Himself.

This is the lesson for each of us. At times we may (G-d forbid) undergo a period during which there appears to be no growth. Everything around us appears to be frigid and lifeless. We must realize that this is just a temporary state. We are merely gathering the strength needed to “spring” into life. All that it means is that we are about to step into the complete and true redemption with our righteous Moshiach.

 

Wishing one and all a good Shabbos!

 

Rabbi Shmuel Mendelsohn

Pearls of Rashi – Eikev

This week we read the Torah portion of Eikev. Here we are told the second paragraph of Shema which begins (Devorim 11:13) “And it will be, if you obey My commandments that I command you this day … and to serve Him with all your heart and with all your soul.” Rashi cites the words “and to serve Him with all of your heart” and explains as follows. “This means with a service of the heart, namely prayer. Prayer is called service, as it says (Daniel 6:17) “your G-d, Whom you serve regularly.”

The Mishnah at the beginning of Chapter Five of Berochos says “One must not stand up to say the Amidah without deep earnestness (literally a heavy head).” The Maggid of Mezritch explains this as follows. One may not pray for his own needs. Rather one must pray on behalf of the Shechinah, the G-dly presence. This is the head of everything within the world.

Thee Maggid’s explanation, however, is not so simple. The Rambam explains that the Halachic definition of prayer (Laws of Prayer, Chapters 2 – 4) is requesting all of one’s needs from Hashem. Only in this manner will he realize that Hashem alone takes care of all of our needs. How can we reconcile the two?

The explanation is that each of us must be totally subservient to Hashem. I am nothing besides for Him. Therefore all of my needs are encapsulated in the needs of the Shechinah. My only prayer is for Hashem, our collective head and being, to be drawn down throughout all worlds.

Wishing one and all a good Shabbos!

Rabbi Shmuel Mendelsohn

Pearls of Rashi – Vo’eschanan

This week we read the Torah portion of Vo’eschanan. This marks the second time that we read how Hashem gave us the Torah. Moshe spoke to us saying that (Devorim 5:19) “Hashem spoke these words to your entire assembly at the mountain from out of the midst of the fire, the cloud, and the opaque darkness with a great voice. His voice did not cease. He inscribed them on two stone tablets and gave them to me.” Rashi cites the words “His voice did not cease” and offers two interpretations. One is that from the moment he gave us the Torah, His voice never paused. The second is that He never again spoke publically in the same manner.

We are discussing Hashem’s holy, infinite voice; He is totally above both spiritual and physical. Obviously He can speak in a manner which never ceases. The question is however, why is is necessary for him to do so. We know that Hashem does not perform miracles for no reason. He created the world through the laws of nature. Unless there is a specific reason not to follow those laws, He does so. What need was there for a miracle here?

The explanation is that as we mentioned earlier, G-d transcends both nature and that which is above nature. G-d is not “above nature” as many mistakenly think. He is above everything which is within this world, both that which is natural and that which is transcendent. The entire point of giving us the Torah was in order to make the world into a vessel within G-dliness can be contained. That is the reason for the miracle.

Most of the Mitzvos which we perform are done with physical objects. Beginning when Hashem gave us the Torah the physical absorbs the spiritual. It is transformed into spiritual, a dwelling below for the Almighty with the coming of Moshiach!

Wishing one and all a good Shabbos!

Rabbi Shmuel Mendelsohn