Illuminations #35, Sivan 5775, Parshat Sh’lach

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Illuminations #35, Sivan 5775, Parshat Sh’lach

Torah Gems

Calev silenced the people to [hear about] Moshe, and he said, “We can surely go up and take possession of it, for we can indeed overcome it.”

Rashi tells us that Calev began with the words, “Is this the only thing ben Amram did to us?” Everyone quieted down and he had the floor. He began singing the praises of Moshe Rabbeinu. He continued and said, “He also split the sea for us; he gave us Mann and he gave us meat….” Later, in sefer Devarim, Hashem said that Calev was rewarded tremendously for his act of silencing the crowd.

The question that comes to mind is that he may have silenced the crowd but he did not put out the fire. Why is Calev getting credit if he did not accomplish anything? He did not solve the problem at the time; all he did was calm them down a bit before they started up again. Why was he deserving of such high praise and great reward?

Rav Moshe Feinstein, zt”l, says that we find in Shulchan Aruch that one may be mechalel Shabbat to save another’s life, even if it is a short lived life (and they may die shortly anyway). The reason for this is because a short lived life is still a life. Reb Moshe says that the same is true with ruchniyut: even if a person makes a commitment and it is short lived, it is still substantial. Even though Calev only stopped them for a little bit, it was extremely valuable. This is why Hashem said that he was very deserving of an incredible reward.

Many times people try to be better by undertaking greater challenges and making kabalot, but then they get frustrated when it does not last as long as they hoped it would, which causes them to give up. We must understand that the few days we controlled ourselves is tremendous in the eyes of Hashem. Just because one did not overcome it completely, it does not mean that it went unnoticed in the eyes of Hashem, and a person should not frown upon even a minimal success.

Parsha Pearls

Rashi quotes the gemara in Menachot that says techelet (blue tzitzit strings) reminds a person of the sea, the sea reminds one of the heavens, and finally, the heavens make one think about the Kiseh HaKavod (Almighty). The gemara is telling us that when we look at the techelet, it reminds us of the Ribono Shel Olam, and this thought prevents us from transgressing forbidden sins.

There once was a professor who was aware of the Torah and mitzvot but was not religious. He walked into the Mir Yeshiva and went over to Rav Yerucham Levovitz, zt”l, and questioned this gemara. He asked, “Is it really possible for someone who wears tzitzit to constantly see the image of God, because the blue reminds him of the sea, the sea of the heaven, and heaven of the creator?”

Rav Yeruchum pulled out a Shulchan Aruch and read him the following law: A man may not gaze at a clothes line that has the garments of a woman on it as it will cause his mind to wander. He asked the professor:  “Do you have a difficult time understanding this Halacha?!”

The Rav was bringing out an important fact. A person whose mind is leaning toward filthiness needs a slight nag and then his mind will wander into the wrong places. If a person’s mind is leaning toward something all day, all he needs is a small reminder for his thoughts to shift back to where they naturally go. However, a Torah Jew just needs a slight push in the opposite direction because his mind is always leaning toward Torah. A person whose mind is directed to Ruchniyot will automatically associate his thoughts with holy matters with just a small reminder. He will automatically associate techelet with the Ribono Shel Olam.

Glimpses of Greatness

It was said that one of the members of Rav Yisroel Reisman’s shul looked sad shortly after the Siyum Hashas. When the Rav approached him and asked if everything was alright, he replied that he felt very disappointed. Every seven years he made a commitment to finish Shas and as soon as he completed Mesechet Brachot, he began to fall behind and eventually dropped out. This occurred cycle after cycle. Rav Reisman responded, “That’s great! Every seven years you finish Mesechet Brachot!”  This is exactly right: every accomplishment, big or small, is always tremendous in the eyes of Hashem, and it should be in our eyes as well. Just because it does not last as long as we anticipate, it doesn’t mean it was in vain.

Halacha Weekly

Q: What if an unmarried man will not be home on Friday night—how can he light Shabbat candles (what are the details of the mitzvah)?
A: If one is not going to eat at home on Friday night, there are a few options how to act:
1) You can light at the place where you will eat that night.
2) You can ask the Baal Habayit (your host) to have you in mind when lighting their candles, or pay them a nickel so that you have a part in the ownership of the oil for the candles.
3) You can light at your own home AND make sure that you have enough oil placed in the candleholder so that by the time you come back from your meal the Shabbat lights are still burning.  Then you should sit by the candles and have a piece of cake or fruit and enjoy the candles.
The mitzvah of candle lighting is the woman’s mitzvah; everyone, however, is obligated to light. Husbands should try to participate in the mitzvah by preparing the candles before Shabbat for kindling.