Illuminations #220, Elul, 5779, Parshat ki Tavu

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Illuminations #220, Elul, 5779, Parshat ki Tavo

Torah Gems

Our Parshah begins with the mitzvah of bikurim, the offering of the first-ripened fruit that is brought to the kohen in the Beis Hamikdash. When the basket of bikurim is put down next to the mizbei’ach, the owner says a speech of five pesukim of the Torah (Devarim 26:5-10). These verses include how Hashem saved Yaakov from Lavan, and how Klal Yisrael was afflicted in Mitzrayim until Hashem Yisbarach took us out and brought us to this beautiful land flowing with milk and honey. Why must we say all of this? Rashi says (26:3, citing Sifrei): So that we should not deny the good that Hashem did for us! We see from here that gratitude must be voiced. Sometimes people assume, unfortunately, that hakarat hatov does not need to be expressed; they feel that it is enough to “feel” a debt of gratitude. However, explains Rav Shmuel Scheinberg, zt”l, Chazal taught us that “devarim shebeleiv einam devarim – words that are in one’s heart are not considered words” (Kiddushin 49b), which, regarding hakarat hatov, means that it must be verbalized aloud. If a person does something for us, we must express our gratitude; it must be manifest, apparent hakarot hatov!  Let us pause for a moment when we say the beautiful berachah of modiim in Shemoneh Esrei every day and thank Hashem Yitbarach for everything He always does for us!

Parsha Pearls

The Maharal of Prague, whose yahrtzeit is the 18th of Elul, usually during the week of Parshas Ki Tavo, is known most for the famous golem that he formed, but it is his depth and insights in Torah that are most remarkable, noteworthy and breathtaking. One of the well known pesukim of Tehillim with which we conclude every Shemoneh Esrei is the passuk: Yiheyu leratzon imrei fi vehegyon libi lefanecha Hashem tzuri vego’ali – “May the expressions of my mouth and the thoughts of my heart find favor before You, Hashem, the One Who formed me and is my Redeemer.” The Maharal explains: Hashem tzuri – due to the fact that You, Hashem, are the One Who formed me, You will not be repulsed by Your creations. Therefore, if after You created me, my actions have caused me to be distanced from You, vego’ali – You are the One Who redeems me from any and every situation and circumstance – even though I have become distanced due to my wrongdoings, until I will once again be in the state where my actions will be wanted and desired by You – yiheyu leratzon. May we all merit that our actions be a source of nachat before Hashem!

Glimpses of Greatness

Rav Zeidel Epstein, zt”l, adds to the words of the Baal Haturim: Chazal in Chagigah (13a) teach us that there is a malach who stands behind the merkavah of Hakadosh Baruch Hu and ties crowns to his Creator (kiveyachol – of course, as we say in the ani mamin’s, Hashem has no body or anything of the sort). And where do these crowns come from? Tosafos (ad loc.) explains that they come from the tefillot of the righteous. After Hakadosh Baruch Hu adorns Himself with these crowns made from the tefillot of the righteous, He then proceeds to adorn the people who were the source of these crowns – with the crowns they created! Think about it: when we daven we are making a crown that will be placed on Hashem (kiveyachol) and in turn we will be zocheh to wear it as well! Rav Zeidel, zt”l, adds that it would be worthwhile for us to pause a few moments before we begin Shemoneh Esrei to fathom how we are preparing everything necessary to make a crown for our beloved Father in Heaven. May we all be zocheh to daven properly.   

Halacha Weekly

Q. Can one have a non-Jew do work on Shabbat which is customarily done on contract?

A. Chayei Adam (3-10, R. Avraham Danzig Z”L) and the Mishneh Berurah (242-17, R. Yisrael Meir Kagan Z”L) write that a non-Jew is prohibited to do work in the house of a Jew, even if it is something which is customarily done throughout the entire city as contractual work and he would not be suspected of doing the work as a hired worker. This also is prohibited for the following  reason: That they will come to say that one instructed him to do the work on Shabbat.  See further on this in Shaar Hatzion(244-200-17, R. Yisrael Meir Kagan Z”L).

However, the Sefer Brit Olam (2-66, R. Binyamin Zilber, Z”L) writes: ‘There is an opinion that wants to say that a maidservant is prohibited to do even her own work in the house of her mistress, because of those that will see her, in order that they do not [come to] say that she is doing the work of a Jew [even though actually she is doing her own work].  However, the essential ruling is that it is permitted [for her to do her own work in the house of a Jew]. And fixing her clothing in the house of the householder is [clearly] recognizable that the work which she does she is doing for herself. According to all opinions [then this] is permitted.  And even if it [the work, comes to be] singled out for a particular day it is [nevertheless] permitted as well.’