Thursday, May 2, 2019



Rabbi Ezriel Tauber zt’l[1] related[2] that he was once traveling with Rabbi Shimshon Pincus zt’l. While they were conversing, Rabbi Tauber asked Rabbi Pincus what he would do if he found out that his mother’s mother wasn’t Jewish and therefore, he wasn’t Jewish.[3]
Rabbi Pincus excitedly replied that if he wasn’t Jewish, he would first run to offer a korbon to Hashem.[4] Only afterwards, would he hurry to a Bais Din to convert and become a Jew.  
Rabbi Tauber noted that he personally wouldn’t waste a minute, even to offer a korban, and he would therefore run straight to Bais Din so that they could convert him immediately. He wouldn’t want to lose out on the opportunity of being a Jew for a moment longer than necessary.
After contemplating and discussing their diverse reactions, they understood that their differing approaches were based on their life experience. Rabbi Tauber was a survivor, and during the war years he was forced to hide and live among non-Jews. There were many times when he had to violate halacha, such as eating kosher and observing Shabbos, to preserve the overriding mitzvah “And you shall live by them”[5].  
Rabbi Pincus on the other hand, had grown up as a Torah observant Jew. He had spent his years engaged in Torah study, including the Brisker yeshiva where they studied the laws of korbanos and the Bais Hamikdash. That engendered within him a burning desire to be able to fulfill those mitzvos, which a Jew cannot fulfill in exile.

The beginning of Parshas Achrei Mos describes the unique service performed by the Kohain Gadol on Yom Kippur. The Torah introduces the Yom Kippur service by stating that it was taught, “After the deaths of the two sons of Aharon, when they brought forth (incense) before G-d and they died. And Hashem said to Moshe ‘speak to Aharon your brother…’”[6]
The Medrash explains that following the destruction of Yerushalayim and the Bais Hamikdash, the prophet[7] said “Speak upon the heart of Yerushalayim”. Just as there when the pasuk says “speak” it means to console, so too when the pasuk states that G-d told Moshe to speak to Aharon, the intention was that he console Aharon with words of comfort.
Rabbi Mordechai Rogov zt’l[8] explained that the intention here was that Moshe comfort Aharon for the tragic loss of his two sons, in the same vein as Yerushalayim would be comforted centuries later. What was the comfort of Yerushalayim to, “speak upon the heart of Yerushalayim”?
When a doctor is assessing a patient to decide about a medicine or procedure for the patient, he will always examine the patient’s heart to determine whether the patient is vibrant enough to handle the treatment. At times, G-d forbid, a particular approach or medicine which may be ideal for a patient, won’t be able to be used because the patient isn’t strong enough to handle it. No matter where in the body the malady is, the doctor must know how strong the patient’s heart is.
The prophet’s message of comfort regarding Yerushalayim was that even though there had been so much devastation, tragedy, and loss, the heart of Yerushalayim is still strong. The collective heart of its exiled inhabitants is still beating, and the heartbeat of the lonely city is still discernable to the hearkening ear. Therefore, there is hope for its future. That comfort invigorated us even after centuries of separation from the holy city. Despite our travails and anguish, the Jewish heartbeat - our dedication to Torah and mitzvos, which is our eternal connection to the holy city - never wavered.
That was the comfort Moshe was instructed to convey to Aharon. Though his two righteous sons were physically gone, their spiritual heartbeat – their purity, holiness, and aspiration for greatness and divine connection, did not die, but continues to inspire their people for all time. Not only did they did not die in vain, but that component of them never died at all.

The service of Yom Kippur symbolizes that no matter how much one has sinned, and how far one has strayed from the proper path, he is always able to repent. The Torah states, “He shall atone the sanctuary of the impurity of B’nei Yisroel and from their iniquities for all of their sins, and so he shall do for the Tent of the Meeting, who dwells with them amidst all of their sins.”[9] Rashi comments, “Even when they are impure, the divine Presence rests among them.” As long as a  Jew feels he is still a part of his people, then he will undertake the long journey back. It is only if he tragically feels disconnected, that he will fall into spiritual cardiac arrest.
Shlomo Hamelech describes the state of the Jewish people in exile as “I am asleep, but my heart is awake”[10]. When G-d “knocks at our door” we are too lazy to open it, claiming that we have already gone to bed, and are too fatigued to shake ourselves out of our complacency. When we finally do pull ourselves up from our slumber it’s too late. Our beloved is gone, and we, having missed the opportunity, are subjected to the torments and mockery of the surrounding nations.
The key is that despite our failings and missed opportunities, “my heart is awake”. When the heart is awake, there is hope for return.
In the Haggadah, when addressing the son who doesn’t know to ask, we are instructed that “you must open him”. It is not sufficient to offer him explanations and speeches. The child who is disengaged and emotionally dead, must be turned-on to the beauty of his heritage and experience the grandeur of Torah observance. He doesn’t need intellectual stimulation, but a cardiac jolt. Once his heart is engaged, everything else will follow.
In our generation, our greatest danger is in this area. So many Jews do what they have to do, but are emotionally flatlined. They lack excitement and passion, and do not understand the meaning, depth, and truth of what they spend their lives doing. They lack the heart.

Perhaps the most important words in the life of a Jew are the opening words of Shema: “Listen Yisroel – Hashem is our G-d; Hashem is One.” It is a declaration, not only of our unwavering commitment to G-d, but also of our commitment to being part of the Jewish people.[11]
The Kaliver Rebbe, Rav Menachem Mendel Taub zt’l, passed away this week at the age of 96.
During the last 60 years, since World War II, the Rebbe dedicated his life to perpetrating the memory of the Kedoshim of the Holocaust. He also devoted his life to spreading the message of Shema Yisroel. Wherever he went he would recite the verse and encourage others to do so as well.
          The Rebbe once explained the reason behind his emphasis on saying and spreading Shema Yisrael: “Just a few hours before we were liberated, they Nazis gathered us inmates and were throwing us into a fire. As I cried out Shema Yisroel I said: Master of the World, this may be the last time I will have the merit of saying Shema Yisrael, and soon I will be united with the rest of my family who were killed. But if You should see fit to grant me life, I promise You that I will say and preach the message of Shema Yisroel, declaring Your eternity with those who survive the war.”
          The Rebbe fulfilled his promise, and now, after reciting Shema Yisroel one final time, he has indeed ascended to reunite with his family. They sanctified the Name of Hashem in their death; the rebbe did so throughout the years after he survived.
          May his memory be for a blessing.  

“Speak to Aharon your brother”
“I am asleep, but my heart is awake”

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

[1] Rabbi Tauber was a Holocaust survivor, renowned lecturer, author of numerous books and seforim, founder of multiple Torah institutions, scholar, and philanthropist. Together with Rabbi Shimshon Pincus, he founded Shalheves in 1985, an organization that sponsored periodic weekend seminars for inspiration for religious families.
[2] I heard the following story years ago from one of my chavrusos, R’ Ephraim Yarmush z”l, but I had never seen it in print. After hearing that Rabbi Ezriel Tauber passed away just two days before Pesach, when I was in a seforim store this week, I asked if they had any of the seforim of Rabbi Tauber. The owner brought me two of them. I opened one of them to peruse it and it opened to this exact story. The sefer is called “Nisyonos Acharis Hayamim – the tests of the end of days”; the story is on page 53.
[3] Rabbi Tauber noted that that exact situation had occurred prior with a yeshiva student. The student had been raised as a regular Orthodox boy, attending yeshivos, including high-level learning. Then he found out that his mother’s mother wasn’t born Jewish and had undergone a conversion that was not halachically valid. The student’s Rosh Yeshiva told the student that he could immediately assemble two other rabbis to convert the student. He was shocked when the student replied that he wanted to remain a non-Jew and only observe the seven Noachide laws.
[4] Since the time of the construction of the Bais Hamikdash, a Jew was not permitted to offer any karbanos (offerings) outside of it. Even after the destruction of the Bais Hamikdash in the year 70 C.E. the Divine spirit (shechinah) has not completely departed from there. Therefore, it is forbidden for a Jew to offer a korban until the arrival of Moshiach when the Bais Hamikdash will be rebuilt. A Non-Jew, however, is permitted to bring an offering to G-d on a ‘bamah’, i.e. any altar that he finds.
[5] Vayikra 18:5
[6] Vayikra 16:1-2
[7] Yeshaya 40:2
[8] Ateres Mordechai
[9] Vayikra 16:16
[10] Shir Hashirim 5:2
[11] Torah sheba’al peh (the Oral Torah) begins with the laws of reciting the daily Shema (Berachos chapter 1)


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