Thursday, March 22, 2018



Rabbi Elimelech Biderman relates:
A person wakes up in the morning and makes himself a cup of coffee. He pours the bitter coffee into a mug, adds some sweet sugar, pours in the boiling water, and then adds some cold milk.
He lifts the cup of contrasts – bitter, sweet, hot, and cold, and utters the beracha, “Shehakol nihyeh b’dvaro – that all came into being based on His word.” The underlying message he is saying is “Hashem, I have no idea what today has in store for me. Perhaps it will be bitter, perhaps sweet, perhaps hot, and perhaps cold, and perhaps a little bit of each. But the one thing I know for certain is that everything that happens to me is based upon Your word.
That is how a Jew begins his morning. Life is a sea of contrasts, but we are always in the Hands of Hashem.

In Parshas Vayikra, the Torah introduces the concept of korbanos, and explains many of the laws associated with each individual korban from the vantage point of “the owner” offering the Korban. Parshas Tzav reviews the korabnos from the vantage point of the Kohain who is offering the animal (or bird, or flour/oil) on behalf of the owner upon the Mizbeiach. 
There are two categories of korbanos: kodshei kodshim (lit. holy of holies) and kodshim kalim (lit. lighter holiness). Kodshei kodshim can only be eaten by kohanim in the Temple courtyard, for the remainder of the day and the following evening after they are offered. Kodshim kalim on the other hand, were be eaten by the owner and his family throughout Yerushalayim, for an added day.
The notable exception is the Korbon Todah – the thanksgiving offering.[2] The Torah states “And the flesh of his feast thanksgiving-peace offering must be eaten on the day of its offering; he shall not leave any of it until morning.”[3]Even though the Korban Todah is in the category of kodshim kalim, it was only allowed to be eaten for one day and one night. 
The Netziv in Ha’amek Davar explains that the Korban Todah was brought as an expression of gratitude and thanksgiving to Hashem for His protection during a perilous juncture in one’s life. Because there was such a large amount of meat that had to be consumed in such a small amount of time, in addition to the forty loaves of bread that the Kohanim had to eat, the owner offering the korban would be compelled to invite many friends and guests, as well as many Kohanim, to partake in his meal. He would surely explain to them the reason for the time-limited invitation and recount to them his heartfelt gratitude to Hashem, thus publicizing the chesed that Hashem did for him.
The Netziv is conveying that any time one merits special favor and blessing from Hashem it is a mitzvah to publicly thank Hashem for what transpired, and to invite many people to join the celebration. This is part of the idea of making a Kiddush. As the invitees eat and enjoy, they invariably discuss the reason for the Kiddush, and thereby join in the ba’al simcha’s gratitude to Hashem.

Rav Shimshon Pincus zt’l[4] notes that if a man goes to the supermarket to buy bread and other food, he must pay for it. But if the same man is invited to the storeowner’s home for a meal and is served the same food, he doesn’t pay a penny.
The same idea applies to the recitation of berachos. Anything one wants/needs belongs to Hashem and must be ‘paid for’. However, if he develops a loving relationship with G-d, then he can eat from the Heavenly table, and when one eats at the storeowner’s table he doesn’t receive a bill.
A Bracha is not a “payment” for one’s food. Rather, it is a means of developing a relationship with Hashem, which circumvents the need to “pay.”
Rav Pincus explains[5] that one of our greatest challenges is that we are always harried and busy. We simply have no time to stop and focus on what we are doing, and that includes reciting berachos. We swallow the beracha with the food because we aren’t careful to recite the words properly, never mind focusing on their meaning.
Without thinking about what we are doing, what ours goals are, and what the meaning of it all is, we are like animals who live based on instinct.
One should take a moment to contemplate that he is eating to give himself strength. Then he should ponder what he ultimately needs strength for. If he reminds himself that he isn’t merely eating to quell his hunger pains, but so that he can be productive and live a life of meaning in serving Hashem, then he will recite the beracha with greater focus and appreciation.
One who trains himself to live life that way, will be able to connect with Hashem throughout his day.
Prior to Makkas Barad (the plague of hail), Moshe warned Pharaoh of what was to come. However, he also added that there was a way that the Egyptians could save themselves and their livestock.Whoever among the servants of Pharaoh feared the word of Hashem chased his servants and his livestock to the houses. And whoever did not take the word of Hashem to heart – he left his servants and livestock in the field.”[6]
What does it mean to fear Hashem?
The Torah contrasts those who feared G-d and hearkened to the message of Moshe, with those who “did not take the Word of G-d to heart” and did not hearken to his message. The essence of yiras Hashem is to pay attention, and to be ‘tuned in’. One who has yiras Hashem lives with the feeling that He is always in the presence of G-d and therefore must act the part to the best of his ability. It’s not a feeling of paranoia, but a feeling of regal responsibility.
Consider the following:
“How many times a day do you glance at your wristwatch? Let’s say you look at the time twice an hour, maybe three times. Let’s assume that you get up at seven and go to bed at twelve midnight. So, on average, you look at your watch some 50 times a day - 50 times a day, seven days a week. Let’s say your watch is two years old. So you’ve looked at your watch approximately 35,000 times.
“Now, without looking, write down what’s written on the face of your watch? The chances are that you left something out or got something wrong.
“You can look at the same thing, day in, day out, but if you don’t pay attention, you’ll never really see it.”[7]
That’s the idea of yiras Hashem. One can know there’s a G-d, believe the Torah’s true, and perform all the mitzvos, yet never achieve awareness of G-d.
One of our generations’ greatest religious defects is apathy and indifference. Not “putting your heart into it” is a lack of yiras Hashem, and yiras Hashem is the foundation for bringing Hashem into our lives.
Rav Pinkus teaches us that reciting berachos more patiently and with more fervor is a great starting point.
 The essence of Pesach is to develop that feeling of connection with Hashem. We begin by recounting the incredible things Hashem did for us at the time of the exodus and express our unbridled gratitude for it. Hopefully, not only the taste of the matzah, but also its timeless message, will linger in our souls long after the holiday has ended.

Thanksgiving offering must be eaten on the day of its offering”
Whoever feared the word of Hashem”

Rabbi Dani Staum, LMSW
Rabbi, Kehillat New Hempstead
Rebbe/Guidance Counselor – Heichal HaTorah
Principal – Ohr Naftoli- New Windsor

[1] Based on the lecture given at Kehillat New Hempstead, Shabbos Kodesh parshas Tzav 5778.
[2] The Korban Todah was offered by one who experienced salvation from particularly perilous situations – crossing a desert, crossing an ocean, being released from prison, or being cured from a dangerous illness.
[3] Vayikra 7:15 
[4] Nefesh Shimshon, Siddur Ha’Tefilla, Bircas Hashachar; Rav Pincus yahrtzeit is 12 Nissan. 
[5] Haggadah Shel Pesach – Barech
[6] Shemos 9:20
[7] Ohr Somayach, Torah Weekly, Parshas Vaera


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