Illuminations #204, Iyar, 5779, Parshat Kedoshim

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Illuminations #204, Iyar, 5779, Parshat Kedoshim

Torah Gems

“You shall rebuke your fellow” (Vayikra 19:17)

We must wonder, why the redundancy of the words “ho’cheach tochiach?” The Ben Ish Chai explains this with a story. There was once a king who had zero tolerance for theft. Anyone who was caught stealing was sentenced to death. There was no reprieve, no commutation. The form of punishment served, for the most part, as a powerful deterrent. One day a theif was caught and sentenced to death. When the sentence was passed, the thief made a special request that the king would grant him an audience for a few moments. The king granted the thief his request. “What is it that you want?” the King asked the thief. “I have been blessed with a unique ability. I can prepare a potion that has incredible powers. It would be a sin to die and take this secret with me to my grave. I will be happy to share this exceptional wisdom with the king.” The king acquiesced to the man’s request. The prisoner asked for a number of ingredients which he mixed together. After his potion was completed, the prisoner asked the king for a package of seeds. Regardless of their type, if they were to be soaked in his preparation, he guaranteed that the very same day that these seeds were planted in the ground, they would sprout fruit! This was an astonishing claim, and, if true, it would be one of mankind’s greatest discoveries. The king brought the seeds and waited with baited breath for the planting to begin. Then the prisoner threw a fast one at the king. “In order for this potion to work, the one who plants the seeds must never have stolen a thing in his life. Now, we all know that I am ineligible to perform this process, so I humbly ask the prime minister to plant the seeds.” The prime minister suddenly became “unavailable.” He begged off from participating in this process. He just happened to remember that as a child he had stolen some money from his father’s wallet. “Well, that excludes the Prime Minister,” he said. “Let us ask the Treasury Minister. Surely, someone who is in charge of the country’s finances must have a spotless record.” The Treasury Minister demurred, claiming that when one works with so much money he might err in his accounting. Apparently, the prisoner was not surprised to hear this. He relentlessly kept on trying to locate that one elusive person who was worthy of planting the seeds. Alas, there was no one. Even the self-righteous King conceded that, as a youth, he had taken a valuable wristwatch from his younger brother. At that moment, the prisoner fell on the ground before the King and began to cry bitterly. “My lord, behold what I have demonstrated before your very own eyes. There is absolutely no one in this country – not even his royal highness – who is not in some way tainted by the scourge of theft. Why is it that among all the thieves of this country, I was unfortunate enough to get caught? Furthermore, I stole to feed my family. Others have stolen to satisfy their illicit desires.” Listening to this clever thief, the king realized that the special potion was nothing more than a ploy devised to arouse his attention to a verity which he had ignored. Indeed, the thief had a legitimate claim: Was he any different than anyone else? After being warned that he would not be so fortunate the “next time,” the thief was released. The episode teaches us a powerful lesson concerning our interpersonal relationships. No one is perfect. When our anger is aroused at someone whom we feel has harmed us – physically, financially, or emotionally – we should immediately question ourselves: Are we any better? Are we all that perfect? Do we feel all that self-righteous that we can find guilt in others and nothing but innocence concerning ourselves? Additionally, how often do we anger Hashem, and He simply ignores our impudence? We criticize others, yet, we expect Hashem to overlook our faults. Hocheach Tochiach – before we confront others, let us first examine ourselves. Let us undergo some serious self-rebuke before we take it upon ourselves to find fault in others. The word rebuke is repeated because the rebuke should be offered twice: once to himself; followed by the rebuke he intended to give to the other fellow. (Peninim on the Torah)

Parsha Pearls

“Love your fellow man as yourself, I am Hashem” (Vayikra 19:18)

The Talmud (Shabbat 31a) relates that a non-Jew came to Hillel and said to him, “Convert me on the condition that you will teach me the entire Torah while I stand on one foot.” Hillel accepted his condition and told him, “What you dislike, do not do to your friend. This is the entire Torah.” Since Hillel was referring to the commandment of love your neighbor, why didn’t he just mention the words of this verse? Rabbi Yeruchem Levovitz explained that this is to teach us an important principle. From the words, “love your fellow man,” one might think that as long as one feels the emotion of love towards others one fulfills this commandment. But the truth is that just feeling love alone is not sufficient. Rather, this love must motivate us to do positive things for others and to refrain from any actions or words that could cause someone any pain or suffering. The Torah definitely requires us to feel deep love for others in our hearts. But even more than that, our behavior towards others must manifest this love. Therefore, Hillel explained to this man that a basic Torah principle is that the same commandment which requires us to have a profoundly positive feeling for others also requires us to behave in an elevated manner in our daily encounters with them. (Growth through Torah)

Glimpses of Greatness

The Hazon Ish would listen patiently to the problems of anyone who came to him. This was quite a feat since people would come to him at all hours of the day and night. A relative of the Hazon Ish was amazed at how he was able to listen to a certain “nudnick” who spoke in a loud tone of voice and in a very long-winded and roundabout manner. The Hazon Ish explained, “A person who owns a mill is used to the noise of the mill. On the contrary, if the mill would stop it would give him a headache.”

Rabbi Chayim Koledetzky related to his family how he was a guest at the home of the Hafess Hayim. The Hafess Hayim personally made the bed for him and prepared the pillow and blankets. Reb Chaim was startled to see that, after preparing the bed, the Hafess Hayim lay down on the bed for a few seconds to check if it would be sufficiently comfortable for his guest.

Halacha Weekly

Q. Is there a prohibition of taking fruit out of the land of Israel? [II-3-50]

A. It is a clear halachah written explicitly in the Shulchan Aruch that one may not bring fruit on which life depends out of the land of Israel to the Diaspora. (See Baba Metzia (4b), and Shulchan Aruch Choshen Mishpat 231-26). This halachah is very interesting because it is so difficult to understand why it should be prohibited since the world has a custom not to act this way. Why should bringing fruit from the Land of Israel out of the Land to the Diaspora be forbidden?

Imrei Noam (2, R. Mordechai Dov Klein, Z”L) writes that there is no prohibition to bring fruit in small quantities as a gift [when leaving Israel] and that the entire prohibition is in order not to cause scarcity [of produce] in the land of Israel, and this would only occur if one were to leave taking a large quantity [to the Diaspora]. And…. one finds …that there is a [well established] custom for many generations to bring fruit of the land (of Israel) to the righteous who [when receiving it] cherish it greatly.

Pri Hasadeh (3-181, R. Eliezer Chaim Deutsch Z”L) writes that certainly today there is fruit in great abundance, and there is planting [in the Land of Israel specifically] for the purpose of [agricultural production for international] commerce. Also, many people living in the land of Israel are supported [from such business]. Given [all] this, [taking fruit out of the Land to the Diaspora] is all the more a case of chayei nefesh (physical survival ), and [therefore, today it] is not prohibited.