Illuminations #201, Adar B, 5779, Parshat Shemini

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Illuminations #201, Adar B, 5779, Parshat Shemini

Torah Gems

“Do not contaminate yourselves through them lest you become contaminated through them” (Vayikra 11:43).The Mesilat Yesharim explains that one who is lenient regarding kashrut laws and is not careful with what he eats is destroying his soul. The Sifra comments on the above quoted pasuk, “If you will contaminate yourselves through eating them, you will ultimately become spiritually defiled through them.” This means that consumption of forbidden food brings impurity and dullness into the heart of a person to the extent that the Shechinah distances itself from him. However, we should realize that the concept of “forbidden food” may take various forms. The Mishnah in Pirkei Avot states: “If three have eaten at the same table and have not spoken words of Torah there, it is considered that if they have eaten of offerings to dead idols” (3:4). A table where Jews eat is likened to the Mizbe’ach upon which Korbanot are offered. It is only through eating with the proper Kavanah and discussing words of Torah that this mundane act is elevated to sacred proportions. A meal in which these conditions are not met is devoid of holiness, and is thus likened to a meal of forbidden foods. There is also another form of food which may be likened to forbidden foods. The B’nei Yisaschar relates in the name of his great teacher, Rabbi Mendel of Rimanov z”l, the following: “We sometimes notice children who were endowed with a special charm and sweetness in their youth, but lose their charm as they grow older. Although this change can be attributed to a variety of factors, it is very possible that the main cause is their consumption of ‘unkosher food,’ namely that which was purchased with money that was earned dishonestly. If a child is continually nourished on such food, as the years go by, more and more of this charm disappears.” These are but two examples of “forbidden foods” and the profound effect they can have on one’s spiritual development. (Peninim on the Torah)

Parsha Pearls

“And the sons of Aharon, Nadav and Avihu, each took his own Ketoret pan…and they offered before Hashem strange fire…and then a fire came out from Hashem’s Presence and consumed them” (Vayikra 10:1-2).

Rashi cites one reason for the death of Aharon’s sons to be their decision to voice halachic rulings in the presence of their teacher, Moshe. The Talmud (Eruvin 63a) explains that they decided the halachah about placing wood shavings on the Altar, despite the fire’s miraculous descent from heaven. The Talmud confirms that the act of rendering halachic decisions in front of one’s Rabbi is punishable by death. To illustrate this point, the Talmud quotes a story concerning a student of Rabbi Eliezer who rendered a decision in his Rabbi’s presence. Rabbi Eliezer mentioned to his wife that the student would not live another year, and he did not. The Ein Ya’akov suggests that the student truly deserved such a dreadful punishment because Chazal have likened one who publicly embarrasses another to a murderer. A student who renders a halachic decision in the presence of his Rabbi is acting as if his Rabbi were incapable of making halachic decisions. Such a student displays a conduct comparable to that of a murderer. Thus, he merits the death penalty. We must understand that our right to exist comes through recognition of the authority of Hashem, His Torah, and its disseminators, from Moshe until today. Our awareness of the greatness of Torah scholars of previous generations encourages us to study their halachic decisions with reverence before boldly proclaming our own views. A student who challenges his Rabbi by asserting his own position in his Rabbi’s presence is, in effect, exhibiting a total disregard for the fundamental principles of Torah. This attitude of defiance, albeit inadvertent, poses a great danger to the future of Torah transmission. Therefore, strong disciplinary action is mandated. (Peninim on the Torah)

Glimpses of Greatness

Rabbi Shalom Chiski was a great Rabbi in Allepo. One Erev Pesach he was walking through the market and noticed that the Romaine lettuce being sold was extremely wormy. He knew that many people would be buying this lettuce to use for maror at the Seder. He knew that it would be extremely difficult to properly check and clean the lettuce so he decided to remove this stumbling block from the people. He bought up all of the lettuce in the market and disposed of it so that it could not be used. One Friday night after making kiddush his wife was about to bring out the Shabbat food. He told his wife not to bring out any of her food, just some vegetables and olives. She asked no questions and the food was never brought out. The next day the Rabbi announced that no one should eat from the meat that was prepared for Shabbat. The people listened without any reason given. After Shabbat it was revealed that gentiles stole the kosher seal and stamped the unkosher meat as kosher, and sold all the unkosher meat as kosher. The people were stunned that the Rabbi possessed such prophetic powers. The Rabbi said that as he was saying kiddush, he saw in front of his eyes the words of the vidui (confession), “We stumbled on the sin of unkosher food.” Since the Rabbi was so careful with prohibited foods both for himself and others, He merited the devine assistance from Hashem to sure that he wouldn’t stumble inadvertently over that same sin. We can merit the same protection if we are careful with what we eat.

Halacha Weekly

Q. Should a Sefardi act like an Ashkenazi, lowering his head for tachanun in an Ashkenaz Synagogue? (II-15-365)

A. There is a prohibition of “lo titgodedu”(Devarim 14-1), forming factions in Israel. It would appear according to what Igros Moshe writes  (Orech Chaim  2-29, R. Moshe Feinstein  Z”L), that one should say the silent prayer according to the nusach tefilah of the congregation one is attending, i.e: a Sefardi in an Ashkenazi synagogue, not only for silent prayer but also for the tachanun. However, Shaarei Deah (2-7, R. Elazar Levi Z”L, author of Shemen Rokeach)  holds that the customs of Sefardim and Ashkenazim have been established already from ancient times as being divergent, and therefore there is no issue of a prohibition of lo titgodedu involved (forming factions arising when one follows one’s own custom in a congregation following the other custom).

According to this reasoning, it appears that an Ashkenazi who prays in a Congregation of Sefardim, or the opposite, is able to act according to his own custom in tachanun (when lowering his head) and does not need to change according to the custom of the congregation. Likewise, I have heard from…the Goan Yaakov Yitzchak Halevi Ruderman Z”L that all should act according to the custom of their fathers…All know their own custom (is distinct), and there is not a concern with lo tigtgodedu.  Mishneh Halachat (Mahadut 99, R. Menashe Klein Z”L) writes likewise.  It also appears that this is the case regarding wearing a talit by Sefardim where Ashkenazim don’t wear a talit when unmarried, and there is not any issue of lo titgodedu since the matter is well know. It is well known to everyone that there are different customs.