Monday, March 31, 2008

Haftorat Tazria- Parshat HaChodesh

This week we will be taking out two Sifrei Torah, one for Parshas Tazria and one for Parshas HaChodesh. As mentioned previously we read the Haftorah of Parshas HaChodesh due to the rule that the Haftorah always follows the preceding Torah reading. Therefore the Haftorah’s words are connected to Parshas HaChodesh.

In Parshas HaChodesh, Klal Yisrael was given the first Mitvah, the Mitvah of Rosh Chodesh- sanctifying the new moon. Since Rosh Chodesh was the first Mitvah given, it obviously has deep significance to it. The majority of Meforshim explain that what makes the Mitvah of Rosh Chodesh so special is because through this Mitzvah, Hashem gave us control over time. In the Tamud we find many places where the idea is stressed that the Jewish calendar only functions based upon the declaration of Beis Din to when the new moon is. The determination of the dates for the Yomim Tovim and Moadim all depend upon the declaration of Beis Din. The declaration itself only comes as a result of the testimony of two valid witnesses who testify that they’ve seen the new moon. Parshas HaChodesh is read on the Shabbos preceding Rosh Chodesh Nissan since the mitzvah of Rosh Chodesh was given on the first of Nissan.

In this week’s Haftorah we read about the different Korbanos the Nasi would be required to bring on Rosh Chodesh, Shabbos, and the Yomim Tovim.

Rav Yosef Dov Soloveitchik explains a very fundamental idea in the understanding of Rosh Chodesh. The Talmud in Rosh HaShana (24b) states a rule that Beis Din does not sanctify the moon at night and rather Rosh Chodesh can only be declared during the day. We can ask, is this rule that Rosh Chodesh can not be declared at night, due to the general rule that Beis Din does not meet at night or is it a special concept within Rosh Chodesh that it must be declared during the day. Rav Soloveitchik explained that this rule is specific to Rosh Chodesh since the main fulfillment of the day is done through the special Korban that is brought during the day. The time for the declaration of Rosh Chodesh is based upon its main fulfillment, the Korban. This also explains why at night if one forgets to say ‘Yaaleh VeYavo’ one does not need to go back but during the day one must.

This idea of Rav Soloveitchik is seen throughout many places in Tanach including this week’s Haftorah.

An important lesson can be learned out based upon this explanation. Nowadays, without a Beis Hamikdash we no longer have the ability to actualize the main fulfillment of Rosh Chodesh. It is important for us to realize that we are lacking an integral part of our lives with the destruction of the Beis Hamikdash. However, Rosh Chodesh can also be symbolized as the potential for renewal. That just although the Beis Hamikdash was destroyed and we were sent into exile, still the new moon every month reminds us that HaShem is still with us and we will ultimately reach the final Geulah Sheleimah.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Haftorat Tzav

In this weeks Parsha we read about the inauguration of the Mishkan and the Kohanim as well as the laws of additional Korbanos and services to be performed by the Kohanim
The continuous theme throughout Sefer Vayikra is the service of the Mishkan, dealing mainly with the laws of the korbanos and laws of Tumah and Tahara. This theme connects Sefer Vayikra to Sefer Shemos, explains the Ramban in his introduction to Sefer Vayikra, as the sign of the complete redempton from Egypt was the building and completion of the Mishkan. The service performed in the Mishkan would act as a protection for Klal Yisrael as it would ensure that Hashem's presence would not leave since the Korbanos brought would act as an atonement for their sins.
However, this notion that acts of bringing sacrifices will atone for our sins is somewhat difficult for us to comprehend. Is this all we need for Hashem to forgive our actions? Furthermore, as we read in Parshas Terumah (25:8) the purpose of building the Mishkan is "ועשו לי מקדש ושכנתי בתוכם", that the Mishkan should serve as a place that Hashem can dwell among us. This notion of Hashem, who we believe has no physical element whatsoever, dwells among us through the building of the Mishkan is also difficult to comprehend. How can it be that Hashem is containe in a physical entity?
The explanation to these questions, לענ"ד, perhaps can be found in this weeks Haftorah andhopefully it will give us a better perspective on the act of bringing Korbanos and the general idea of having a Mishkan/Beis Hamikdash/Shul.
In this weeks's Haftorah, Yermeyahu criticizes Klal Yisrael by telling them to pile their Korban Olos on their Korban Shelamim since "So said Hashem... for I did not speak with your forefathers nor did I command them-on the day that I took them out of the land of Egypt-concerning olah offerings or peace offering, Rather I commanded them only regarding this matter, saying: "Hear mt voice that I may be G-d unto you and you shall follow along the entire path in which I command, you, so that it will go well for you" (Artscroll translation).
It seems that the message is clear, Hashem does not desire mundane pleasure from us and therefore requires us that we should bring Korbanos, rather only with if the Korbanos are brought with sincerity can they be considered in fulfillment of serving Hashem. Yermeyahu is telling Klal Yisrael that the whole idea of bringing Korbanos is to serve as tools in serving Hashem which is what He desires and not insincerely brought Korbanos. Likewise, the Mishkan does not give us greater access to Hashem, rather it is something we can identify with to give us a sense of greater connection and closeness to Hashem. Hashem recognizes that as humans we always relate to something better if we can observe it physically. This is similar to the Kuzari's idea that the sin of the Eigel was not that they worshiped Avodah Zara, but because Klal Yisrael needed some physical entity that could bring them close to Hashem which is perfectly fine but it must be as Hashem commands. Therefore the Eigel, which was not as Hashem commanded was a grave sin for which many were punished but the Mishkan which was commanded by Hashem also served the same purpose for which they had built the Eigel, to inspire them in their Avodas Hashem. This idea can also help us better understand the idea of Davening in Shul and the reason why it's called a "Mikdash Me'at', to serve as a inspiration for us in our daily Avodas Hashem.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Haftorat Pekudei- Shekalim

This week’s Dvar Torah is לעילוי נשמות of those that were brutally murdered by Arab terrorists Thursday night,

Remember to have in mind in your Tefillos all the victims who are critically injured.

This Shabbos we have the unique opportunity of taking out three Sifrei Torah. This is due not only to the fact that it is Rosh Chodesh Adar but it also the first week of the four special Torah readings where this week we will read Parshas Shekalim. ( See Rabbi Shlomo Yosef Zevin’s ‘Moadim BeHalacha’ for a detailed backround of these special readings)

In this situation, the Parsha of the week is read followed by the reading of Rosh Chodesh and then Parshas Shekalim is read. This order is based on the rule of 'תדיר ושאינו תדיר קודם', that when one is faced with two Mitzvos and he has the ability to perform both of them then the Mitzvah that is more commonly done takes precedence. Therefore, Rosh Chodesh which comes out more often than Parshas Shekalim is read first. However, this principle only tells us which Mitzva takes precedence but not which should be performed if one only has the choice to perform one of them. Therefore since we only can read one Haftorah we choose the Haftorah of Shekalim even though Rosh Chodesh is more common. This based on the principle of (לבוש סי' תרעה) 'מאי דסליק מיניה', meaning “that which he has just left” which tells us that Haftorah that is read always relates to the immediate preceding Torah reading. Therefore this week the connection between the Haftorah and the Parsha is between the Haftorah of Shekalim and the special Maftir of Parshas Shekalim.

It appears that the theme of Parshas Shekalim is Achdus, unity among Klal Yisrael. This was not any regular census, rather the goal of the requirement of every member of the Jewish People, rich or poor, to contribute half a Shekel, was in order elevate ourselves by contributing to a sacred cause. The Talmud (Bava Basra 10b) learns this idea out from Pasuk 12, "כי תשא את ראש בני ישראל וגו', which means “when you elevate the heads of Bnei Yisrael”. Rabbi Shimshon Rafael Hirsch writes in stressing this theme of unity, “But the symbolic expression of the duty to work for the common weal is מחצית השקל, half a shekel per person. Objectively, actually, even the most complete and most perfect work of any single individual is never the whole of the work, can never accomplish everything, the work of any single person will always remain but a fragment, it requires an equally devoted sacrifice on the part of his brother to establish a whole” (‘The Pentateuch’, Judaica Press, page 578). We see that that the point of being counted through contributing a Half Shekel was in order to facilitate every Jew striving together and putting aside selfish interests in order to accomplish the national goal of building a Mishkan.

This theme of unity is clearly seen in this week’s Haftorah. The back round to the Haftorah is the evil king Achav’s daughter, Queen Asaleyahu, murdered every member of her family in order to be able to rule as queen. The Jewish People led by the righteous Kohein Gadol Yehoyada, destroyed the houses of idol worship setup by the evil queen and put her to death by the sword. Yehodaya had sealed a new covenant with Hashem and there was peace among Klal Yisrael. The one family member who had been saved by Yehodaya was Yehoash who was accepted by Klal Yisrael to be the king. The Haftorah tells us that as king, Yehoash reinstituted the service in the Beis Hamikdash as well as setting up a new system of maintenance for the necessary repairing. Yehoash decreed that all money contributed to the Beis HaMikdash would go directly to the repair fund.

Why did Yehoash focus on reparing the Beis Hamikdash so much? Why out of the forty years of Yehoash’s reign as king is his devotion to the Beis Hamikdash heavily stressed by the Navi?

It seems that the message we are being given that just like by the Mishkan a census was imposed in order to unify the Jewish people, so too after a period of tragedy and suffering under the reign of King Ahchav and Queen Asaleyahu, the best way to once again unify the Jewish People is to instill in them the common national goal of taking care of Hashem’s house. King Yehoash saw that only through this way will once again peace and harmony be brought back to Klal Yisrael.

The past few weeks Klal Yisrael has been experiencing terrible suffering, how fitting is it that after this past week full of tragedies we can read the Navi telling us the importance of unity. As the Rambam quoted earlier writes, only through a national unified effort of davening and reflection can tranquility be achieved and the sufferings removed.

Have a great Shabbos!

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Blog Info

Throughout the week I hope to post issues relating to the various halachos of reading the haftorah. On thursday night the weekly dvar Torah on the haftorah will be posted.

Friday, February 29, 2008

Characters in this Week's Haftorah- Interesting Biographical Facts

King Shlomo-
King Shlomo should have been one of the people who have no share in the world to come for being influenced by his wives at an old age. However, since he hurried to build the Temple he was listed with the righteous kings (Pesikta Rabbasi 6:19).

Chiram- King of Tyre
Chirah is Chiram who lived to 1,200 years. (Bereishis Rabbah 85:4)

Haftorat Vayakhel

The Haftorah for Parshas Vayakhel describes a number of aspects pertaining to Shlomo Hamelech’s construction of the first Beis HaMikdash. Just like the Mishkan, here too a great deal of enthusiasm and creativity went into the making the Beis Hamikash and it’s various components. The Pasukim describe how the vessels used in the Beis Hamikdash were much more numerous and luxurious then their Mishkan counterparts.
One of the main additions in the first Beis HaMikdash was the two massive and ornately decorated pillars standing at the entrance to the Ulam (hall). The Pillar on the right was called Yachin;” it will remain established”, and the pillar on the left was named Boaz; “in it is strength”. Most commentaters explain that the pillars were names such as a siman tov so that the temple will remain forever, and that the Jewish people will remain strong and mighty.
The Malbim gives a deeper explanation to the naming of the pillars. He says that the names are a hint to the two ways in which G-d interacts with the world. The first way is through the laws of nature that were set at the beginning of creation. This is represented by Boaz, hinting to the fact that G-d’s might can be seen in the natural world, and that it will never change. The second method of interaction is through miracles and divine providence. This is embodied in Yachin, implying that G-d will establish divine assistance for those who follow in his ways on earth.
Have a Great Shabbos!

Historical Backround to the Haftorah # 2

Why is it called the Haftorah?
The Avudraham (Seder Shacharis shel Shabbos) writes that the world Haftorah means leaving, meaning we are leaving the morning prayer. Others write that it comes from the word Pesichah, entrance or opening (see Shemos 13:2), connoting the fact that during the Torah reading we must refrain from talking but afterwards it is permitted for us to open our mouths and talk. This of course does not mean it is permitted to talk about anything during the Haftorah rather it means we can now talk about things that relate to Halacha. (Levush Orach Chaim 284:1)