Thursday, May 3, 2018



   Rabbi Yisroel Saperstein[2] related that one of the many chesed organizations in Monsey provides volunteer drivers to help people without means of transportation to get to needed destinations, such as doctor appointments, hospital visits, etc.
On one occasion, when Rabbi Saperstein was being driven to visit someone in the hospital, the chassid driving him related that on one occasion he received a call in the middle of the night that there was a family who needed to get to Baltimore as quickly as possible for a medical procedure. The man agreed to take them (!), and after dropping them off, he went to a nearby shul in Baltimore to daven shachris.
Being that he had rushed out in the middle of the night, he didn’t have his talis or tefillin with him. He saw someone who was finishing davening with a pervious minyan and asked if he could borrow his talis and tefillin. He assured the man that as soon as he finished davening, he would bring the talis and tefillin wherever he wanted them to be brought.  At first the man was hesitant. He wanted to know why the chassid had come to shul without his own talis and tefillin. When the chassid explained the predicament, the man couldn’t get over the extent of the chesed he had done, driving over three hours in the middle of the night to help a family he never met. He told the chassid he would be happy to let him use his talis and tefillin. He told the chassid where to leave it in the shul when he was done.
Sometime later this chassid, a salesman by trade, arranged an important meeting with the wealthy owner of a large company. It was a potentially lucrative deal for the chassid and he was eager to make the connection. He walked into the meeting and immediately recognized the owner as the person whose talis and tefillin he had borrowed a few days earlier in shul. The owner recognized him as well and reassured him that he was eager to give such a ba’al chesed his business, and he placed a large order.

The Meshech Chochma notes that there are certain mitzvos, such as mezuzah, tefillin, and tzitzis, that inspire us and draw us closer to Hashem, while other mitzvos, such as tzedakah and chesed, serve to promote social connections that draw us closer to each other. 
On Shabbos there are numerous prohibitions that restrict us from “expanding outwards” and promoting social connections[3]. It is prohibited to cook food for a guest on Shabbos, nor may one carry gifts or food out of one’s home. Essentially then, Shabbos is a day of introspection, when we are meant to reflect inwardly upon our personal relationship with Hashem. We celebrate and observe Shabbos together, but everything must have been prepared beforehand.
Rabbi Shimshon Pincus zt’l compared Shabbos to our ‘honeymoon with Hashem’, as it were. When a couple is on their honeymoon, and are sitting together enjoying watching a magnificent sunset, and the groom takes out his cell phone to make a call, it is insulting to his bride. This time was set aside for them to spend together and any distractions take away from that bonding.
During the Yomim Tovim however, when it is permitted to cook and to carry, our main focus is external - towards our fellow Jew, promoting unity and love.
Although Pesach marks the genesis of our nationhood, at the time of the exodus we hadn’t fully become a nation. This is manifested in the fact that although the Korbon Pesach must be eaten as part of a chaburah (a group), the chaburah had to be arranged beforehand. In addition, one was not permitted to leave the home where his chaburah was eating the Korbon Pesach.
At the time of the exodus we began building connections with each other, but we did not yet achieve national unity. That would only happen at the foot of Sinai at the time of the revelation and giving of the Torah.
The restrictions regarding the Korbon Pesach symbolize that although Pesach is a Yom Tov, it bears certain similarities to Shabbos. This is reflected in the fact that when the Torah instructs about the mitzvah of Sefiras Haomer, it refers to the first day of Pesach as Shabbos. “And you shall count for yourselves on the morrow of the Shabbos, from the day when you bring the Omer that was waved, seven complete weeks they shall be.”[4]
It was seven weeks later, when the nation stood around Har Sinai in complete unity that they truly became a nation. The gemara[5] states that Moshe Rabbeinu added a day and ‘pushed off’ the giving of the Torah. When the nation followed his lead with complete allegiance, that too was a symbol that they had achieved unity and nationhood.
The counting of the Omer symbolizes the transformation from quasi-nationhood to complete nationhood.
Although there is some controversy regarding determining the proper balance between physical celebration and spiritual service during the other holidays of the year, on Shavuos one must display and enjoy physical celebration. Regarding Shavuos, the gemara states “all agree that on Shavuos you also need a component of lachem- for you”[6], i.e. physical enjoyment. On Shavuos we must celebrate together! On Shavuos we as a nation accepted the Torah in complete unity, and therefore we must celebrate together in unity.

When the Torah commences its discussion of the laws and mitzvos of the holidays of the year, it begins with Shabbos: “Speak to B’nei Yisroel and say to them- these are my fixed times… for six days work shall be done, but on the seventh there shall be a Shabbos of complete rest…”[7] Rashi, quoting Sifra, comments, “What is the relation between Shabbos (whose sanctify is affixed by Hashem) and the holidays (which are affixed by the Sanhedrin)? To teach you that anyone who desecrates the holidays it is considered as if he desecrated the Shabbos; and anyone who fulfills the holidays, it’s as if he has fulfilled the Shabbos.”
We often think of Judaism as being a G-d-centered religion, that a Jew must live his life focused on his obligations and responsibilities in his service to G-d. But the truth is that a Jew who learns Torah with intensity, davens, and performs mitzvos, yet cannot get along with others, is severely remiss in his observance.
Shabbos represents the ultimate in one’s service with Hashem. It is a day spent completely focused on spiritual pursuits, when we question ourselves whether we are living up to our own spiritual responsibilities throughout the week. It is a day to put our spiritual lives in order.
Yomim Tovim represent the ultimate barometer in how we are connecting with others. As we able to celebrate with others, or is our holiday observance a selfish experience?
One desecrates the spirit of the holidays by denigrating the importance of his “social Judaism”. Such a person isn’t striving to improve his interpersonal relations with others. He is also desecrating the spirit of Shabbos, because his relationship with Hashem cannot be as it should be, if he isn’t trying to grow in his interpersonal relationships as well. Conversely, one who sustains the holidays, by promoting unity and love among other Jews, is fulfilling the spirit of Shabbos, and bringing tremendous nachas to Hashem as well.[8] 

The compete Jew isn’t only growing horizontally – in his striving to grow closer to heaven and to make this world a conduit for holiness, but also vertically - by building relationships and caring for his fellow Jew, and seeking to ease his burdens and empathize with his plight.
A Jew must strive to grow in all directions, for Hashem is to be found not only in heaven but also in the heart of his fellow man.

“Speak to B’nei Yisroel and say to them these are my fixed times”
“You shall count for yourselves on the morrow of the Shabbos”

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 Emor 5773 in honor of the bar mitzvah of Refi Minsky.
[2] A fellow Rav in New Hempstead, Rabbi Saperstein is the Rav of Kehillas Ohaiv Shalom
[3] Unless pre-arranged before Shabbos
[4] Vayikra 23:15
[5] Shabbos 87b
[6] Pesachim 68b
[7] Vayikra 23:2-3
[8] I heard this explanation of Rashi from my dear friend Rabbi Yosef Bendrihem


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