Illuminations #139, Kislev 5778, Parshat Vayishlach

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Illuminations #139, Kislev 5778, Parshat Vayishlach

Torah Gems

Chazal teach that a talmid chacham is allowed to possess an eighth of an eighth of haughtiness, which is 1/64th (Sotah 5a). How does one practically know how to calculate this amount? The Vilna Gaon has been quoted as saying to look at the eighth passuk of the eighth parshah to know the answer. Well, the eighth parshah is Vayishlach and the eighth passuk is (32:112 ): “I am unworthy (lit. too small) of all the kindness and all the faithfulness which You have done for Your servant…” Yes, remembering this beautiful approach to life will help us to never become arrogant or haughty! There is another beautiful approach to explaining this Gemara in the sefer Chanukat Hatorah (likutim 207). Hashem chose to give the Torah on Har Sinai, a small mountain, to show and teach us humility. The question is, if Hashem wanted to teach us humility, wouldn’t it have been better to give the Torah to us in even a lower place such as on a level surface, or even better, in a valley? He writes the following explanation: Har Tavor, the highest mountain, is four parsah tall (Bava Basra 73b). We know that a parsah is four mil, and each mil is 2,000 amot. In other words, each parsah is 8,000 amot. This means that Har Tavor, which is four parsah, is in essence 32,000 amot tall! According to the Midrash in parshat Bo, Har Sinai is 500 amot tall.  So there you go! That makes Har Siniai exactly 1/64th the size of Har Tavor (500×64=32,000)! In this great, uplifting way, Hashem Yisbarach taught us that for the right reasons, a little bit of ga’avah is permissible for talmidei chachamim. Amazing!

Parsha Pearls

Rav Shraga Feivel used the words of the Nevi’im to transform the lives of his talmidim. One of his most powerful lessons was apparently based on the pasuk: “To open blind eyes, remove a prisoner from confinement, dwellers in darkness from a dungeon.” Rav Shraga Feivel was sitting on the lawn of Bais Medrash Elyon in Spring Valley giving shiur to his talmidim. Suddenly, he asked a talmid to bend down and lift up a rock that had been firmly embedded in the grass. Immediately, the insects living under the rock scurried away in surprise and confusion. “Look!” said the Rav, “until this moment, these insects have been living in a dark, damp world. Now, for the first time, they realize that the world is bright and sunny and an absolute delight  to enjoy. You’ve revealed to them the sun and the moon, the cool fresh air, and the blue sky. All this became possible by simply removing the rock of darkness that had covered them and their world! This, too, is your task as future Torah educators. You must remove the heavy stones from the hearts of Jewish children, which are covered by the spiritual darkness that blankets this land. When a Jew is exposed to the beauty of Torah living, the performance of mitzvos and study of Torah, he will delight in a world that he knew nothing about until then.”

Glimpses of Greatness

One Rosh Hashanah, Rabbi Dovid of Lelov was at the court of the Seer of Lublin. It was time to blow the shofar, but Rabbi Dovid was missing and the Seer did not want the shofar sounded until Rabbi Dovid was present. Eventually someone found him in a barn, with a sack of oats. He was feeding the horses, whose owners had gone to shul for the services and neglected their responsibilities to care for their animals.

In another situation, Rabbi Dovid of Lelov carried this one step further. He once saw a driver whip his horse. He said to him, ” If you only knew how to communicate with your horse, you would have no need to hit him. Is it fair and just to whip the horse because of your ignorance?” He went on to tell the man that one day the horse would take him before the Heavenly Tribunal, for having caused him needless pain.  “Will you not be embarrassed to have to go to trial with a horse?”

Halacha Weekly

Q. Can one visit a wax museum containing wax statues of people? (1-5-194)

A. Shuchan Aruch (Yoreh Deah 141-7) writes that there are opinions that say that one should not prohibit making the form of a person (a statue), except if the form is complete with all of its limbs. If so,  is it permitted to visit a wax museum that has in it statues of complete forms of people [including all their limbs] which are made of wax?

It is reasonable to say that there is no prohibition except for the owners of the statues themselves, and not on those that visit the museum. Also, one could add the argument of the authorities that say that in the present day, it is permitted to leave the form of a person (without nullifying it) since there is no reason to suspect idolatrous worship of the form, because it is known that  in the present day people do not worship the forms of people. See Chochmat Adam (85-6, R. Avraham Danzig Z”L), and YebiaOmer (3 Yoreh Deah 8, R Ovadia Yosef Z”L).

But we find Mishnat Yosef (8-14, R. Yosef Leiberman) who writes the most appropriate way to act is to avoid visiting or traveling to such a wax museum, because it is a form of  desecration of G-d’s Name, since one could be visiting a place where one is benefiting from an act of transgression if the statue is made by a Jew ( where it is definitely prohibited), and one would be assisting the hands of one that performs a transgression.