Speech on the Second Day of Shavous – June 10th, 2019

I said the following speech at N’elas HaChag Shevous 2019. The Sefer, Siach Sarfei Koddush, Volume 1, page 235 (Bnei Brak 1989) brings down the following Kotzker Vort on Shevous.

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In his second explanation, the Kotzker explains that we say that Shevous is Zman Matan Torasnu  (the day of giving the Torah), and not Zman Kabblas Torsanu (the day of receiving the Torah), because God gave one Torah equally to everyone. But the receiving of the Torah was not equal. It was received differently by each person based on that individual’s level of understanding, his references in life, and his background.

What is the deep meaning of the Kotzker’s Vort? The Kotzker is saying what Rabbi Shochet said, and Boruch Hashem, I explained. There is only one Torah that is understood differently by everyone – similar to a diamond that shines differently based on where you are standing. The Kotzker is saying that every Jew’s understanding is directly connected back to the truth of Torah, one Torah. The Torah has threads that lead outwards into millions of explanations. Knowing this idea and understanding this not only intellectual, but also in your gut, brings internal peace to Israel, because everyone is part of the Emes – Truth of Torah. This is the message of Shavous, as Rashi says that at Har Sinai: the Jewish people camped around the mountain of Sinai like one man with one heart.

As I have said above, Hashkafah, way to live life, and theology are all debatable and there are tremendous fights. Arguing these points leads to bitter disagreement and fighting among Jews Only recognizing their own truth of the Torah when it is just part of the truth.  Whether the Torah is from Har Etzion, Ger, Mir, Aterat Cohanim, the Torah is all Emes.

The most recent time I was in Israel  was in 2015.  I was on a bus headed back to Jerusalem from Ranana. A teenage boy, about 17, was sitting near me and I engaged him in conversation. He was wearing dungarees, a T-Shirt, and running shoes. He was wearing the uniform of Jewish youngsters in Israel: his Tzitzits were out. His parents are from England and we talked. He told me that he is headed back to Yeshiva, which I recall being in Kiryat Arba. He told me that first Seder he is learning Alleu Mitzzius Sh’Lo and second Seder, another Perek in Baba Metzia. I asked him when he will go into the army. He said that he loves learning and that is his priority at this time. I said Mi Kamcha Yisroel – how great are the Jewish people that this boy dressed with a T-Shirt is no different than the boy learning in Mir, and perhaps greater because he will likely join the army and put his life on the line for Klal Yisroel. This is the Kotzker’s and Ahavas Yisroel’s Pshat.

The following is a translation of the Ahavas Shaul’s Maamer on “Tzion our Holy City and the Founding of Mizrachi.”:

The blue is the translation and the black are my comments.

Brcohos 3B mentions King David’s harp that hung over his bed. 

David had a sign indicating when it was midnight. As Rav Aḥa bar Bizna said that Rabbi Shimon Ḥasida said: A (Kinor) harp – lyre hung over David’s bed, and once midnight arrived, the northern midnight wind would come and cause the lyre to play on its own. David would immediately rise from his bed and study Torah until the first rays of dawn.”

The Ahavas Shaul questions – how can a northern wind play a harp.    A harp (lyre)  is played only with a pick and by a person.  It must be that this Gemoro is like  golden apples hidden in a regular money bag – meaning that contained in this Gemoro there is hidden a beautiful message.

(This is such a Litvishe question.  The Chassidim and many others explain the Gemara at its basic meaning, that Dovid’s harp was miraculous.)

Rabbi Shochet continues:

  1. We find by Elisha the prophet that when he got angry and the divine presence departed from him, he would ask for music to be played and the divine presence would return.  The harp represents ‘Hashrashas Hashcina”.

  1. Exile is called night.

  1. Morning references redemption.

  1. In Shir HaShirim it says that King Solomon had sixty warriors surrounding his bed, each holding a sword knowledgeable in battle with his sword at his side.

  1. The bed of a person references his children.

Using these ideas we can understand the hidden meaning in Dovid Hamelech’s harp in the Gemora of Brcohos

The    כנור of David which we see by Elisha brings the divine presence, represents Torah learned at a higher level with the Divine Presence. These thoughts of Torah of Dovid HaMelech, were above the bed of his children,  of  King Solomon who had 60 warriors surrounding him.  The sixty warriors represent 60 Volumes of Talmud Bavli and all of them were knowledgeable in the battle of Torah.  Their main thoughts were to learn our holy Torah.

However, the bed of King David;  his Torah and divine inspiration  contained more than just Torah.  David was on a higher level, the combination of Torah and Kinor, Torah and divine inspiration   What happened to David during his lifetime happened to the Jewish people throughout history.   David  was at death’s door numerous times;

  1. The time that Shaul the king chased after David  and King Shaul was encamped on one side of the mountain with 10,000 men, while David only had 300 men on the other side of the mountain,
  2. So too with the people of K’elah, and
  3. When David had to flee from Avsholem.

It all these times he was closer to death than life.

What did King David do at the times when life was at its darkest, at midnight and the northern (evil) wind blew, threatening to topple Dovid Hamelech? Dovid would not only learn Torah, but he delved into Torah and he worked on the Torah (guided by the Kinor) as we say in the second Bracha of morning Krias Shma – God should place in our hearts to understand and be knowledgeable .  . .  to learn and to teach, to guard, and to establish all the ideas contained within the Torah.  David delved into Torah to bring out the potential which is hidden in the Torah into action, meaning how to act and how to respond to his enemies.  In this way when it was midnight, he used his divine inspiration to bring the morning from the darkness, to go from exile to redemption.

This Gemara is telling us in Brcohos that even when it is the darkest at midnight, when our eyes are darkened and our ears our blocked due to hearing of all the oppression and troubles of our brothers, the Jewish people,  from the land of death which is Russia, which lies to the north of Israel – we have to do what Dovid Hamelech did.  We have to play the Kinor – meaning we have to be guided by divine inspiration, that is not enough to just learn but we must delve into Torah to find the answers to our darkness, and to bring to reality what we pray for at the beginning of davening, that a new light should shine of Zion, and as we say as we stand up in prayer in the Shemonah Esra, that with mercy should we return  to our city, Jerusalem.  And  in Bentching, God should have mercy on Jerusalem.  

Our main purpose is to learn from Dovid Hamelech; whose actions where definitely guided by Torah and do just like him.  Meaning to fight and find ideas and work towards bringing the Jews back to Israel and Jerusalem.

My comments:

  1. The Ahavas Shaul said this in the first part of the 20 century, when the drive to go back to Israel was picking up momentum and this seemed to be the best, and perhaps the only, solution for the troubles of the Jewish people.
  1. The Ahavas Shaul’s  ideas were felt and put into action each on their own level by many great leaders, including my great-great- grandfather, the Pilaver-Kotzker Rebbe, the Netziv,  the Meshech Chochmo, Rabbi Avrohom Yitzchok HaCohen Kook, the Ger Rebbe,  the Slabodka Yeshiva, and many others.

The Ahavas Shaul continues:2

And therefore the Rov, the Goan, Rabbi Yitzchok Reines TZL established Mizrachi to show that even though we are Zionists, we still follow the dictates of our holy Torah, and not like the Zionist radicals who place  a priority on uprooting our faith, like one radical  spoke at the Zionist Congress held in Basel, Switzerland and said:

What do you think that when we take over our land, we will build a Bais Hamikdash and offer cows and lambs in it.  A (Bais Hamikdash) was needed  two thousand years ago when the world was not yet civilized.  But  now this is nonsense that cannot be.”

Immediately when Rabbi Reines heard this speech, he separated himself from them and established Mizrachi.  Therefore we have to not only pray, but also to be occupied with activities of Torah.   And God should bring upon us  quickly the sunrise, which is our redemption quickly in our days.  Amen.

Footnotes:

  1. The radical said that the world in 1900 was civilized.  The 20th century was the bloodiest ever, with estimates as high as 200,000,000 people killed by Stalin, Hitler, the communists and the Japanese.  I recall a book written on the horrors of the entire 20th century.

  2. Picture in your mind’s eye who was at the original Basel Zionist Congresses.  You had Theodore Herzl, Dr. Max Nordau, Usishkin, Ahad Ha-am and other founders of Zionism, many wearing formal wear.

Rabbi Yitzchok, Yaakov Reines, TZL, Born 1839 – August 20, 1915

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Shabbos – May 25, 2019

Memorial Day Weekend

This Shabbos I had tremendous Siyatah Dishmaya – Divine Providence.  I was in Shul Shabbos morning and I am a pacer.   As I was walking out the Shul at its back entrance to study Daf Yomi in  the back yard, I noticed an old Sefer sitting by the Rabbi’s seat.  I picked it up and was smitten.  I forsake learning Daf Yomi, which set me back 2 Blatt,  to learn and understand the Sefer.   I spent over two hours learning the Sefer.

The name of the Sefer is Ahavas Shaul, printed in Chicago in 1916 by Rabbi Shaul Yedidya Shochet.  He was Rov of a Shul called Anshei Nariditch.  I found the following biographical information on the web:

Shochet issued them (his Teshuvos) between 12 June 1905 and 12 Feb. 1920 while serving as a Rabbi in England, Kansas City (MO), Louisville and Chicago. Most deal with matters of divorce. Some were issued in response to conditions in the various communities in which he served. Others are addressed to Russian, German, British, Belgian and American rabbis. Among the American correspondents are R. Zevi Hirsch Grodzinsky of Omaha.  (Rabbi Aaron Soloveichik mentioned Reb Tzvi Hirsch Grodzinsky in a Sholsh Seuduas speech in 1973.)   R. Dov Baer [Bernard] Abramowitz of St. Louis, R. Joseph Zechariah Rosenfeld of St. Louis, R. Robias Geffen of Atlanta and R. Mordekhai Solomon Siber of Minneapolis. Shochet was born in Old Zagare, Kovno Province, in 1860. He served as rabbi for 14 years in a number of Russian communities before immigrating to Hull, England in 1905. After serving as a rabbi there for one year, he proceeded to America and occupied pulpits in Perth Amboy (NJ), Kansas City (MO), Louisville and finally, in 1916, Chicago. Bookseller Inventory # 005673.

Who knows when this Sefer was last opened and when someone last read Rabbi Shochet’s Torah, let alone spoke it out at a Shabbos meal.  I decided to speak the Torah of Rabbi Shochet at the Shlosh Suedas meal.  Rabbi Shochet lived at 736 S. Marshfield, Chicago.  The Gemora says that when the Torah of a deceased person is read, the lips of the deceased person who wrote and said the Torah moves.  Rabbi Shochet mentions this Gemora in his introduction.

Early in the afternoon I went to my nephew’s house, Yonatan Glenner, to show him and learn from the Sefer.  I was re-reading the introduction and a thunderbolt hit me. In his introduction, Rabbi Shaul Yedidya Shochet said that he  wrote and signed the introduction to his Sefer on the 20th of Iyar 1916.  This Shabbos is the 20th of Iyar (May 23, 1916).  I discovered this Sefer 103 years to the date when the author finished the Sefer.  Wow.   What a Zichus.

When I spoke later Shabbos, I discovered that my nephew, Mayer Chase, knew about Rabbi Shochet and had another one of his books, Tiferas Yedidya, which is on the four portions of the Shulchan Aruch.   Tiferas Yedidya was published in 1920. Rabbi Shochet put in his Haskomos – approbations that he received when his first Sefer came out in 1903.   On Monday of Parshas Yisro 1902, January 27, 1902 Rabbi Avrohom Yitzchok Hacohen Kook wrote a Haskama.  The Haskamah was written when Rabbi Kook was still Rabbi in Boisk.   Rabbi Kook made Aliyah in 1904.  It is signed, Rabbi Kook. Servant of this Nation of God.

There is also a Haskama from Rabbi Yaakov Dovid Wilovsky, the Ridvaz, who signed his Haskama on the 19th of Shevat 1903, February 16, 1903.  The Ridvaz writes that he is the Goan, Av Bais Din of Slutzk.  The Ridvaz travelled to Chicago to raise money to publish his Seforim. The Ridvaz was forced to flee Chicago in the middle of the night in 1900 due to problems with Schitah in Chicago.  The Ridvaz’s opponent was Rabbi Album of Mishne Gemoro, the Shul where I daven.  In the Rivdaz’s Haskamah he writes, “I know quite well that the author is a great person, one of the expert Rabbis, but his Mazel caused him to live in a distressful place.”

The third Haskama is from Rabbi Shmuel Yaakov Rabinowitz from Yalik. I tried to locate him but am so far unsuccessful.

It is important to not the Rabbi Shaul Yedidya Shochet wrote the below in 1916 when it was very difficult to keep Shabbos.  His first essay on Behar touches upon this difficulty.

Behar:


Vayikra – Chapter 25 – Verse 2:

דַּבֵּ֞ר אֶל־בְּנֵ֤י יִשְׂרָאֵל֙ וְאָמַרְתָּ֣ אֲלֵהֶ֔ם כִּ֤י תָבֹ֙אוּ֙ אֶל־הָאָ֔רֶץ אֲשֶׁ֥ר אֲנִ֖י נֹתֵ֣ן לָכֶ֑ם וְשָׁבְתָ֣ה הָאָ֔רֶץ שַׁבָּ֖ת לַיהוָֽה׃

Speak to the children of Israel and say to them: When you enter the land that I give to you, the land shall observe a sabbath of the LORD.

The words  לַיהוָֽה וְשָׁבְתָ֣ה הָאָ֔רֶץ שַׁבָּ֖ת means, just like on a regular Shabbos, Shabbos is for God where we have no power to earn a living – yet it protects us and provides support for our families during the six days of work, so I am asking you, וְשָׁבְתָ֣ה הָאָ֔רֶץ, that for six years plant your fields, prune your vineyards, and gather your crops; but the seventh year should be a שַׁבַּ֤ת שַׁבָּתוֹן֙ יִהְיֶ֣ה לָאָ֔רֶץ שַׁבָּ֖ת לַיהוָ֑ה – “the land shall have a sabbath of complete rest, a sabbath of the LORD”. The explanation being that just like Shabbos is completely holy to God because Hashem Yisborach rested from work, so too the seventh year must be holy to God, forbidden to plant, plow, and harvest. The Torah concludes that even though you cease from work; nonetheless if you have faith in Hashem Yisborach, “The Sabbath produce of the land shall be yours to eat” and “even for your animals” because through faith in Hashem Yisborach, Hashem Yisborach will send you a double blessing.

Rabbi Shaul Yedidya Schohet continues. Based on this (concept of faith in God) we can answer the question of the Alshich. The Parshah opens with כִּ֤י תָבֹ֙אוּ֙ אֶל־הָאָ֔רֶץ אֲשֶׁ֥ר אֲנִ֖י נֹתֵ֣ן לָכֶ֑ם -plural, when all of you come into the land. The Torah then continues in the singular –    שֵׁ֤שׁ שָׁנִים֙ תִּזְרַ֣ע שָׂדֶ֔ךָ וְשֵׁ֥שׁ שָׁנִ֖ים תִּזְמֹ֣ר כַּרְמֶ֑ךָ וְאָסַפְתָּ֖ אֶת־תְּבוּאָתָֽהּ׃.

The Alshich asks – the Torah should be consistent, either all plural or all singular.  The Ahavas Shaul answers that we can understand it according to the above explanation (which is all about faith in God). How is it possible that a person can keep the commandants of the Seventh year to allow everyone take the fruits of the land in the seventh year that comes to a person him with great effort. Therefore the Torah explains, do not question this commandment (of Shmittah) because the Torah tells us כִּ֤י תָבֹ֙אוּ֙ אֶל־הָאָ֔רֶץ, you (all the Jewish people) received the land of Israel because I gave the land to all of you. As a result all the Jews are partners in the land of Israel.  It is enough for each one of you to work your own fields, prune your vineyards, and you alone gather the crops for six years and not others. However, the beginning of Behar tells us that the Jews are partners in the land because God gave Israel to the entire nation of Israel to settle the land. This partnership manifests itself during the Shmittah year, the seventh year, when anyone can walk into any field and take the produce on any field.  (I may add – this creates a comradery, a sense of responsibility, a partnership)

Rabbi Shaul Yedidya Shochet then goes on and discusses the Gemoro on Sanhedrin 91A which brings down the story where the people of Africa brought a lawsuit against the Jews before Alexander the Great. I spent two hours on the last 2 pages of his Torah on this Gemara. It is attached in the Hebrew

 

Rabbi Shaul Yedidya Shochet, Introduction to Sefer and Torah on Behar (1)