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March 05 Kosherpages launches 

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Chanuka

Wednesday, 13th December 2017

Rashi seems to hold that the main miracle of Chanukah was the miracle of the oil; the miracle of victory in battle is not the main thing we are celebrating on Chanukah, according to Rashi. 

The question is why is this so - after all, the battle was a huge, world-changing and lifesaving miracle which essentially ensured our survival. Whilst the oil miracle, on the other hand, was seemingly unnecessary - we could have survived without pure oil; the worst that would have happened was that we’d have had to wait another week or so for pure oil to be produced. Why is the miracle of the oil something to celebrate at all, and why does it take centre stage? 

Rabbi Chaim Shmulevitz explains that it is precisely the unnecessary nature of the oil miracle that sees it thrust into the foreground. The very fact that HaShem (G-d) went out of His way, so to speak, to provide us with pure oil showed us that He loves us and cares for us. For a father who really loves his son makes sure to tend to every little detail - even seemingly the smallest and most unnecessary - of his son’s needs and wants. Thus, the miracle of the oil showed us a fuller extent of HaShem’s love for us.

Vayeshev

Friday, 8th December 2017

Yosef (Joseph) is in Mitzraim (Egypt) and is in charge of the household of Potifar. The Torah testifies: Vayehi Hashem Es Yosef Vayehi Ish Matzliach, “And Hashem (G-d) was with Yosef and he was a prosperous man.”

The Chafetz Chaim makes a very interesting observation. When we say the prayer for the new month we repeat one particular phrase. Twice we ask for Yiras shomayim (fear of Heaven). No other request is repeated. His explanation for this is that in between these two times we have a request for Osher v'Kovod (wealth and honour).

He makes the observation that it is often the nature of people who attain the position such as Yosef's of wealth or honour to draw away from his closeness to Hashem.  We, therefore, ask again for Yiras Shomayim implying that even if our prayer for wealth and honour be granted we still want Hashem to help us maintain our close contact with Him.

This is what the Torah testifies about Yosef. Even though he was Prosperous, Hashem was still with him. He never lost his Yiras Shamoyim.

Vayishlach

Thursday, 30th November 2017

Yaakov's (Jacob's) parent's told him to go to the house of Lavan and find a wife.  He did that, but only after a 14 year detour to the Yeshiva (college) of Sheim and Eiver.  Why did he stop over for 14 years instead of going direct and getting the job done that he set out to do?

Rabbi Elyashiv (Divrei Aggada) says that Yaakov had big plans and intended to carry on the legacy of his forefathers.  He wanted to go to Charan, a city of Avodah Zara (idol worship), and do what Avrohom (Abraham) did.  He had planned to call out in G-d's name and convince the people to become Baalei Tshuva (to return to Judaism).  

However, on his way, he was robbed by Elifaz and was left penniless.  Yaakov understood that to be successful in kiruv (winning people over), you need money.  Avrohom won people over with his very successful hotel and hospitality.  After wining and dining the people, he turned them towards G-d.  Without the financial clout, Yaakov knew he didn't stand a chance in Charan.

Yaakov had to forge a new path of kiruv and decided that he would bring people close to G-d through Torah.  To succeed using this method one has to be very well versed in the Torah. 
 
He did not yet feel that he was well enough equipped to even stand up to Lavan, let alone having the capability of being able to convince others.  To accomplish this he needed new training in the form of Torah learning without stopping even to sleep, for 14 years. Only then was he able to continue his journey and carry out the original job that he had set out to do and look for a wife for himself.

Vayetze

Thursday, 23rd November 2017

We find that after Leah had six sons, she was pregnant with the seventh son.  Since she knew that there would only be 12 tribes she calculated that since the two maidservants had 4 sons between them, 2 each, if she would have a 7th, that would leave only 1 for her sister Rachel. This would be embarrassing for Rachel as she would have less than the maidservants. Leah prayed and it changed to a female and she was named Dinah.

This was a tremendous sacrifice that Leah had done for her sister Rachel, to give up the merit of having another holy Tribe.

One would imagine that such a daughter, born as a result of Leah’s self-sacrifice would merit great blessings and a tremendous Choson (groom).

But what happened?   She gets taken by Shechem a Gentile!

Is this Leah’s reward for her sacrifice?  Is this the Nachas (the pleasure) Leah is supposed to get from Dinah for her self-sacrifice?

A daughter was born from the union of Shechem and Dinah.  Her name was Osnas (Osnat).  She was considered Jewish as her mother was Jewish.  Nevertheless, the brothers wanted to kill her so people shouldn’t say there was immorality in the “House of Yaacov (Jacob).”

Yaacov wrote the Holy Name of G-d on something and hung it around Osnas’s neck and sent her away.  G-d, who sees everything, sent the Angel Michoel to take her and bring her down to Egypt to the house of Potiphar and his wife.  The wife of Potiphar was barren and brought up Osnas as her own daughter.  Eventually she married Yoseph (Joseph).

Yoseph and Osnas had two children, Menashe and Ephraim.  They were counted among the 12 tribes.

So now we have the amazing answer to our question! Leah gave up one tribe and gained two tribes Menashe and Ephraim, her great grand children!!

In the beginning, when Leah made this sacrifice, we didn’t see immediate beneficial results.  Only much later do we see the final benefit that she merited double.

We learn from all of this that we have to have patience.  We won’t always see immediate results for our sacrifices.  But if we have patience we may see it in the end.  With this outlook we can make peace with the difficult present.

Toldos

Thursday, 16th November 2017

Yaakov (Jacob) gave Esav bread and lentil stew, and he ate and drank, got up and left; and Esav belittled the birthright. Ch.25/34

Esav had only asked for the lentil stew. Why did Yaakov add bread to the menu?

The answer is that Yaakov wanted to close the deal for the rights of the firstborn with Esav being required to take an oath. The problem was that because of Esav’s extreme hunger, his oath would have been considered “under duress” and therefore invalid according to Jewish law. So, Yaakov first fed Esav bread to take away his raging hunger, so that Esav could take his oath with a clear mind, thus making it binding.

 

Chayei Sarah

Wednesday, 8th November 2017

“And G-d blessed Avrohom (Abraham) with all.” (Bereishis 24:1)

What is the meaning of “all”? If G-d blessed him without specifying a particular area, surely that means that he was blessed with all?

The true tzadik (righteous person) is, by definition, a model of selflessness. His main concern is what G-d wants of him, and what other people want and need. His own material substance, beyond maintaining his health and strength to serve G-d, is of little concern to him.

Therefore, when the tzadik prays, he doesn’t pray to G-d only for himself, he prays for the welfare of the whole community. Even if his prayers are answered, and G-d blesses him, it’s not a blessing in his eyes if others are not included.

Therefore, if G-d wants to really bless the tzadik, He will bless the whole community, as well. That’s the meaning of the verse, “And G-d blessed Avrohom with all.” G-d acceded to Avrohom’s wishes, and blessed all the people, not just him. 

Vayerah

Thursday, 2nd November 2017

Verse 1. Now the Lord appeared to him in the plains of Mamre and he was sitting at the entrance of the tent when the day was hot.

Verse 2. And he lifted his eyes and saw, and behold, three men were standing beside him, and he saw and he ran toward them from the entrance of the tent, and he prostrated himself to the ground.
Why are the words “from the entrance of the tent” repeated in verse 2, what is the Torah trying to teach us?

The Gemoro (Talmud) in Brachos 6b says: One who  leaves Shul (the synagogue) shall not take large steps while leaving.

The reason for this is that he shouldn’t be happy when leaving from doing a mitzvah (positive commandment).

The rule brought down in Shulchan oruch in Orach Chaim Siman 90 Seif 12 writes: It is a mitzvah to run towards a shul, or to do any other mitzvah.

Now,  if someone is running from one mitzvah to a second, should he run or not? If he runs, he is “embarrassing” the first mitzvah. If he doesn’t run, then he isn’t doing the mitzvah of running to perform the second mitzvah!

Rather we must say: If the first mitzvah is greater than the second, then he shouldn’t run; so as to not embarass the first and greater mitzvah. If the second mitzvah is greater, the he should run in order to fulfill the second greater mitzvah with Zerizus (eagerness). What if the 2 mitzvos are equal? He should walk the first half of the journey and run the second half, in this way he fulfills both his obligations.

The Gemoro in Shabbas 127a writes:
Taking in guests is greater than speaking to Hashem (G-d).
If this is true, then when Avraham (Abraham) went to take in guests although he was speaking to Hashem, then since the second mitzvah was greater than the first, Avraham had to run the entire journey, as we learnt before.
Therefore the possuk (verse) writes that ”He ran towards them from the entrance of the tent “, because he had to run towards the second mitzvah the entire journey; from the entrance of the tent

Lech Lecha

Wednesday, 25th October 2017

Those who bless you I shall bless and those who curse you I shall curse
 
The weeks Torah portion opens with G-d telling Avram (Abraham) to leave his home town and blessing him that ‘I will make you into a great nation …... those who bless you will be blessed and those who curse you, I shall curse’ (12;2-3). 
 
In fact, this latter blessing of ‘those who bless you I shall bless and those who curse you I shall curse’ is quite evident and openly manifest over the course of history. 
The following is something quoted from Professor Huston Smith’s ’The Religions of Man:’

“…Western civilization was born in the Middle East, and the Jews were at its crossroads. 
In the heyday of Rome, the Jews were close to the Empire’s centre. 
When power shifted eastward, the Jewish centre was in Babylon.
When it skipped to Spain, there again were the Jews. 
When in the Middle Ages the centre of civilization moved into Central Europe, the Jews were waiting for it in Germany and Poland. 
The rise of the United States to the leading world power found Judaism focused there. 
And now, today, when the pendulum seems to be swinging back towards the Old World and the East rises to renewed importance, there again are the Jews in Israel…” 
 
The converse is true also. 
When Jewish persecution under the Roman Empire rose, Rome began its permanent demise from centre stage. 
When, in 1000ce, Jewish life in Babylonia became unbearable and previous tolerance was ignored, Babylonia’s fall began. 
Spain too, initially welcomed the Jews, rose to a world power, and less than a century after the Jews’ 9th Av 1492 expulsion from Spain, Spain too had fallen into decay. 
Europe then became the power focus, and many Jews were there, and after the holocaust - which was preceded by mass Jewish immigration predominantly to America, the USA is currently the world superpower and not Europe.
 
“Those who bless you I will bless and those who curse you I will curse.”

Noah

Thursday, 19th October 2017

Our sages teach us that the construction of the ark took 120 years. Although Hashem (G-d) could have saved Noach (Noah) and his family in many ways, which would have saved much time and energy, the sages teach us that He specifically chose to have Noach go through this arduous task to arouse the curiosity of all who passed by. This would enable Noach to have a chance to explain to them that Hashem was planning a flood that would destroy the entire world because of the evil that had pervaded it. The passerby would, hopefully, be impressed enough to change his behaviour and begin to live a more ethical lifestyle. 
 
Is it not odd that from the thousands of people who must have passed by and seen Noach hammering away, not even one person allowed themselves to be inspired and to be saved from death? We know that only Noach, his wife, his sons, and their wives were protected in the ark throughout the flood. Apparently, no one else had decided to repent. If they had, they would have been saved. How could this be?

Perhaps the answer lies in another teaching of the sages. The Torah says that Noach and his family went into the ark "because of the waters of the flood" (Genesis 7:7). From here the sages derive that Noach was mediocre in his belief because it took the pushing of the waters to force him into the ark. 
 
Obviously, this statement is not to be taken at face value. The Torah itself states that "Noach was righteous and walked with Hashem" (ibid. 6:9). There is no doubt that he was aware of Hashem and knew that His word was to be taken seriously.
 
However, we are being told that Noach was lacking in his belief, a belief that was to be expected of him. Perhaps this is the explanation for Noach's inability to convince anyone to repent. One who, himself, is not totally knowledgeable of the truth he is teaching will not succeed in convincing others of its importance. They will sense that he is not firm in his own belief and will, ultimately, be turned away because of it.

In order for a change to take effect, one must have the intent in his heart, as he speaks with his words. Words do not have an effect until they are spoken with sincerity. Noach had something important to teach, which should have been taken seriously, but his lack of belief (on whatever level it may have been) was enough to take the effect out of his warnings to the people. 

Sukkot

Tuesday, 10th October 2017

Even if we did not commit as we should have on Yom Kippur, the Teshuva (repentance) via actions of Sukkos/Shmini Atzeres can see us ‘released.’

This is seen by the parable of Chazal (our Sages) of a king sending his messengers to fetch a certain person who has been convicted for the crime of disobeying the king. When the messengers arrive, they see a man who is happily fulfilling the king’s decrees and return to the king saying that the king must have got it wrong; this cannot be the convicted person, and the king agrees.

So too, continues this Chazal, that even if we are convicted in the judgment of Yom Kippur, the fact that we have acted as we should have throughout Sukkos and Shmini Atzeres makes us new people and we escape conviction. It is a Teshuva via action.

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