Dedicated in Honor of Edmund and Rochelle Rahmey
By All of Their Children, Grandchildren, and Great Grandchildren
Rabbi Mendel Kessin spoke this past week about the current coronavirus pandemic. He brought down a midrash from the Baal HaTurim about how before Mashiah comes, there will be a plague that encompasses the whole world. The whole world hasn’t been punished at the same time since Noach and the great mabul! Throughout history whenever Mashiah was close to approaching, there were a few obstacles that stalled the arrival: immorality, sinat hinam--baseless hatred (fueled by nonsensical lashon hara), and materialism. When Hashem created the world, He appointed the Satan to be the prosecutor of the Jewish nation. The Satan’s job when Mashiah gets close, is to go to Hashem and remind him that B’nei Yisrael are involved with these three sins.
But Hashem, in his great kindness to us, created coronavirus, which is a plague that can completely detour the Satan’s efforts to stop Mashiah. By keeping the people inside, the three obstacles can be easily avoided. Keeping people away from each other limits immorality; not having social gatherings restricts lashon hara, and therefore, sinat hinam; and of course, no Passover trips and parties makes materialistic desires virtually disappear.
Hashem, in His unbelievable mercy, gave a plague to the world that brought a fear of death. When a person has a fear of imminent death, it is considered as if he died, and the Satan is not able to prosecute someone in this situation. He is therefore not able to complain to Hashem about the immorality still out in the world. Coronavirus also created a sense of ahdut yisrael through the quarantine. Families are reconnecting and enjoying each other’s company, taking away the problem of sinat hinam. And lastly, the virus also completely shattered the economy, destroying the desire for luxuries in its wake. Everyone is concerned about the future and being extra frugal with materialistic needs. However, I’m noticing more and more that people are not hesitant to use their money to give tzedaka, even during these difficult times.
Hashem is doing for us a great hessed. He is helping us to do teshuvah and atone for our sins. He is doing the same as He did during Galut Mitzrayim, where He didn’t wait for B’nei Yisrael to trigger the teshuvah, rather the opportunities for sinning were not readily available since they were forced to work as slaves.
Rabbi Shlomo Bussu expands on this, saying that during this time, it’s important to reflect and to understand what opportunities Hashem may be taking away from us to sin. Perhaps someone was struggling with working on Shabbat, but now he can barely work during the week. Maybe someone was saying lashon hara, and now he covers his face with a mask. Hashem sent a microscopic virus that stopped the world. We must think about why and try to make ourselves better, as Rabbi Kessin said, so as not to give the Satan any ammunition against the Jewish nation.
In Parashat Bo, we learned that B’nei Yisrael were supposed to be in Egypt for 430 years. But really, when we count from when Yaakov went down to Mitzrayim, B’nei Yisrael were there for only 210 years. Hashem deducted 220 years from the original decree. We also learn in the Gemara that Mashiah will arrive before the year 6,000. If we subtract 220 years (the same deduction that Hashem made for Yetziat Mitzrayim), we come to the year 5,780, which happens to be this very year on the Hebrew calendar!! B’ezrat Hashem we should hope and pray that we will be redeemed very very soon, just in time for Pesach! Amen!
The Small Alef
This week’s parasha is Vayikra, the first parasha in the third book of the Torah. It begins with the passuk, “He called [vayikra] to Moshe, and G-d spoke to him.” The word vayikra is written in the Torah with a small alef. The Baal HaTurim explained that because of his profound humility, Moshe would have rather left out the alef, so that the Torah would say vayikar, which means “He (Hashem) happened upon him.” This is a more deprecating term, similar to the terms used when Hashem spoke to Bilaam.
The commentaries note that at Har Sinai Hashem called Moshe several times. There, the word vayikra appears without the small alef. Why?
Rabbi Twersky quotes Rav Yitzchak of Vorki, who says that sometimes a person may belittle himself and act humbly when he is in public. This is actually vanity, not humility, because he is trying to give others the impression that he’s humble.
When Hashem called out to Moshe at Sinai, it was in the presence of all of Klal Yisrael. If Moshe would have shown off his humility in front of everyone, he would have been flaunting his humility, which is an act of vanity. However, in this week’s parasha when Moshe was called to the ohel mo’ed, no one but Moshe heard the call from Hashem. Here the small alef shows that Moshe’s expression of humility was genuine and sincere.
Another reason for the small alef is that the word alef actually translates to “learning” in Aramaic. The message of the small alef is that we can only learn when we are humble, for vanity is the opposite of learning. There are some very bright people who don’t learn much because they think that they already know everything. We have to know that the Torah was given on the lowest mountain to the most humble of all men, Moshe Rabenu. This was to teach us that in order to learn Torah, we have to be truly humble in the eyes of Hashem, and only in that way will we gain the true knowledge of Hashem’s holy words.
Vayikra begins the third book of the Torah. The first two books concern the beginning of the world and the building of the Jewish nation. The book of Vayikra now addresses the sacrifices that Hashem instructed the Israelites to bring to the Bet Hamikdash. Today, we are missing a Bet Hamikdash, and until the Mashiah rebuilds it, we must remain without one. Therefore, we aren't able to bring sacrifices until that time. However, the Jewish people have been making other types of sacrifices in a different way since losing the Holy Temple. They’ve been sacrificing their homes, their livelihoods, and even their lives for the sake of Hashem and the Torah.
In Midrash Rabba our Sages tell us that Hashem says. “Listen to Me, because nobody ever loses by listening to Me.” A person is constantly faced with decisions. He can either choose to do what Hashem wants, or he can disobey Hashem and choose what appears to provide a bigger short term gain. Following Hashem is always a win-win. It may not always seem that way, but later on, the gain will become apparent.
Today we don't have korbanot--burnt offerings to give on an altar as we did in the days of the kohen gadol and the Bet Hamikdash, but we do have other kinds of sacrifices. We all make sacrifices today for our children. We sacrifice to give them a good education and upbringing. For our elderly parents, we sacrifice our time when they need us to help care for them. For our spouse, we sacrifice pieces of ourselves in many different ways as we compromise and build a healthy and happy home for our families.
Then there are also personal sacrifices, for instance, when someone decides to stop eating in unkosher restaurants. It may be a sacrifice of someone’s social life, and cause him to lose friends he’s had for years. Or perhaps a woman will start to wear skirts or cover her hair, which is a big personal sacrifice. Sacrifices for Hashem come with a lot of hesitation and fear. It’s important to push through and continue to grow spiritually to reach our full potential.
Hashem asks us to make sacrifices, but they are not for Him. Hashem doesn’t need a korban, or for a woman to cover her hair. Hashem asks us to sacrifice in order to grow closer to Him, which is really for our benefit. Everything He asks us to do is only for us. Hashem is perfect, Omnipotent, and needs nothing from us. Rather, we need everything from Hashem!
Everything Hashem Does Is Only Good!
The following famous story shows how all sacrifices we make are for our benefit. There once was a boy in the Holocaust whose whole family was taken to concentration camps except for him and his little sister. After losing his parents, he felt responsible for the fate of his little sister. Every day before he would go to work, he would warn her to be very careful and stay out of the Nazis’ path.
One day he returned home from work, but his sister wasn’t there. She was gone! He found out that SS Nazi officers had come and taken her. He was a young kid, but he became overcome with emotion. He stormed down to the Nazi headquarters, screaming in German, “Where’s my sister?” The commanding officer heard the commotion and came stomping down, with all his medals and decorations bouncing on his uniform. The soldiers told the officer that this little Jew was claiming that he’s not leaving until we release his sister. The officer looked down at the boy laughing and said, “When you grow hair on the palms of your hands, that’s when you’ll see your sister.” In other words, you’ll never see her again!
The Jewish youth stood there, turned to the Nazi, and calmly opened his hand to reveal a hairy palm. The officer cried out, “Satan! The devil is here!! Get this kid out of here and let his sister go!” They opened the door and let the sister go. The two children made their way back to the ghetto and eventually escaped and survived the perils of the Holocaust.
He explained later that when he was a child, he had burnt his hand very badly. The doctor did a skin graft from his leg which grew hair, and eventually he had a hairy palm. His whole life he was bothered by this. “Why do I have to be a freak?” His palm was such an embarrassment. But later he understood. An imperfection was a small price to pay for his sister’s life.
May we all realize that while the sacrifices we make for Hashem and Torah can sometimes be very difficult, Hashem hand-picked these tests for us to grow stronger in our devotion to Him. We must know that these tests and adversities are ultimately for our benefit! Today more than ever, we must understand that coronavirus may be a terrible struggle in our eyes, but really, it is a hessed from Hashem that will help us get closer to Mashiah’s arrival very very soon! Amen!
Rabbi Amram Sananes as written by Jack Rahmey
What sacrifices have we made for Hashem?
Are we taking this time in isolation to reflect on our lives and properly do a sincere teshuvah?
The Baal HaTurim says, before Mashiah comes, there will be a plague that encompasses the whole world. The Satan cites immorality, sinat hinam, and materialism as reasons to stall Mashiah’s arrival. In quarantine, the opportunity to do these sins is drastically reduced.
Hashem is doing for us a great hessed. He is helping us to do teshuvah and atone for our sins. He is doing the same as He did during Galut Mitzrayim, where He didn’t wait for B’nei Yisrael to trigger the teshuvah, rather the opportunities for sinning were not readily available.
Parashat Vayikra introduces the concept of burnt offerings, or sacrifices to Hashem. We must always remember that Hashem doesn’t need our korbanot, but we are asked to give them. Any sacrifices for Hashem or Torah are made for our benefit and our benefit only. Although difficult, sacrifices bring us closer to Hashem and ultimately help us in the long run.
Eliyahu Ben Rachel
Rabbi Shimon Chay Ben Yaasher
Avraham Ben Garaz
Sarah Bat Chanah
Esther Bat Sarah
Avraham Ben Mazal
Shulamit Bat Helaina
Rabbi Meyer Ben Chana
Rahamim Ben Mazal
Batsheva Bat Sarah Esther
Rafael Ben Miriam
Ovadia Ben Esther
Rav Haim Ben Rivka
Moshe Ben Mazal
Moshe Ben Yael
Yitzchak Ben Adele
Avraham Ben Mazal
Meir Ben Latifa
Chanah Bat Esther
Yaakov Ben Rachel
Malka Bat Garaz
Moshe Ben Garaz
Avraham Ben Kami
Yaakov Ben Leah
Mordechai Ben Rachel
Chacham Shaul Rachamim Ben Mazal
Natan Ben Rachel
Saadia Ben Miriam
Eliyah Ben Latifa Simhon
Margalit Bat Mazal
Ovadia Haim Ben Malaky
Rabbi Aharon Chaim Ben Ruchama
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