13 in 2013-bar-mitzvah-celebrations-is-in-your-hands!
It’s also the yahrtzeit of the holy Rebbe Meir baal Haness.
Rebbe Meir, a third-generation Mishnaic sage or Tanna, is affectionately known as Rebbe Meir “Baal HaNess”, or “master of the miracle”. He is one of the most quoted sages in the entire Talmud and one of the five (some say seven) latter pupils of Rebbe Akiva. His father, a righteous convert, was a descendant of the Emperor Nero.
The Gemara (tractate Avoda Zara, 18a-b) tells us that Rabbi Meir was married to Bruria, a brilliant woman and the daughter of the holy Rabbi Chanina ben Tardion, one of the ten martyrs whom the Romans persecuted. The tyrannical Roman occupiers sentenced Rabbi Chanina and his wife to be executed for teaching Torah publicly. They sentenced his daughter – Bruria’s sister – to be placed in a brothel. Image, above: Rebbe Meir’s holy gravesite in Tiberias
Bruria asked her husband to save her sister. Rabbi Meir took a bag of gold coins and said to himself, “If she has remained chaste, a miracle will occur for her, and if not, there won’t be a miracle.”
He then went to the brothel disguised as a Roman cavalryman, and asked her to sleep with him. She refused, claiming she was in the midst of her menstrual period. When he offered to wait until it was over, she said, “There are many other women here that are more beautiful than I.” He then realized that she used this tactic with everyone who sought her and concluded that she indeed maintained her chastity.
The disguised Rebbe Meir then he offered the gold coins as a bribe to the guard. The guard replied, “When my supervisor comes, he will notice one girl missing and he’ll kill me.”
Rabbi Meir answered, “Take half the money for yourself, and use the other half to bribe the officials.”
The guard argued, “And when there is no more money, and the supervisors come – then what will I do?”
Rabbi Meir answered, “Say, ‘elaka d’Meir, aneni - G-d of Meir – answer me!’ and you will be saved.”
The guard was not yet convinced: “How can I be sure that this will save me?”
Rabbi Meir replied, “Look – there are man-eating dogs over there. I will go to them and you will see for yourself.” Rabbi Meir walked over to the dogs, threw a clump of dirt at them, and they ran at him to tear him apart. He cried, “G-d of Meir – answer me!” and the dogs retreated. The guard was convinced, accepted the bribe and he gave Rebbe Meir Bruria’s sister.
The story’s not yet over: When the group of supervisors came, the guard bribed them with the money. Eventually, the money was used up, and it was publicized what had happened. They arrested the guard and sentenced him to death by hanging. They tied the rope around his neck and he said, “G-d of Meir – answer me!” The rope tore, much to everyone’s amazement. He confessed, so they put out a warrant for Rebbe Meir’s arrest. The guard was saved.
The Romans distributed an engraving with Rebbe Meir’s likeness on it and proclaimed that anyone seeing such a person resembling should turn him in to the authorities. One day, some people spotted him and ran after him, so he fled and entered a harlot’s house. They barged into the house in pursuit. Eliyahu HaNavi - Elijah the Prophet – appeared to them as a harlot who embraced Rebbe Meir. “If this was Rebbe Meir,” they said to each other, “he certainly would not have acted like this!” Rebbe Meir escaped and fled to Babylon.
Ever since, there is a surefire tradition in Judaism that when a person is in peril, Heaven forbid, he should give charity, and dedicate it in the memory of Rabbi Meir Baal HaNess. He should then say “Elaka d’Meir aneni” – three times, which means, “G-d of Meir – answer me!”
Rebbe Meir’s yahrtzeit, the anniversary of his death, falls on Pesach Sheni, the 14th day of Iyar, which this year falls on Wednesday, April 24, 2013. This is a special day to give charity in the name of Rebbe Meir and to ask for all your heart’s wishes. Even better, try to visit Rebbe Meir’s holy gravesite in Tiberias, overlooking the Sea of Galilee. It’s a special place where thousands flock to, for many have seen miracles in their own lives after visiting there.
May Rebbe Meir’s holy memory intercede in our behalf, amen!
Parshas Emor 5773-2013 from Rabbi Price :) This sicha shoud be in memory of my brother, Yerachmiel Yaacov Yoseph (Joel) ben Moishe Dovid, on his Yahrzeit this week, Wednesday,14 Iyar-Pesach Sheni-April 24
Rabbi Frand on Parshas Emor
Parshas Emor contains the portion of Priesthood, beginning with instructions to the Kohanim regarding their special laws. These laws include the fact that a Kohain is not allowed to have any direct contact with a dead body except for his immediate relatives. Even after a Kohain buries a close relative, Rachmana litzlan, he may not go back to the cemetery. This is a very difficult thing, but that is part of being a Kohain.
Kohanim have other restrictions, beyond that of normal Jews. They are not allowed to marry divorcees. They have to be careful in their consumption of Teruma and Kodshim. If it is “difficult to be a Jew,” as the world says, it is even harder to be a Kohain.
If that is the case, the choice of words that the Torah uses to begin this portion, seems strange. The verse begins “Vayomer Hashem el Moshe” (And G-d said to Moshe) [Vayikra 21:1]. We know that most chapters in the Torah begin with the words “Vayedaber Hashem el Moshe leimor” (And G-d spoke to Moshe saying).
Our Sages tell us that the difference between “Vayomer” and “Vayedaber” is that the latter is a harsher type of speech, the former is a much softer type of speech.
To give an example, when I want my children to make their beds and clean up before they leave the house in the morning, I say, “Will you PLEASE make your bed?” That is ‘Vayedaber.’ When I tell them “Go take a snack,” that is ‘Vayomer.’ They will readily take it.
If that is the case, what choice of words should the Torah have used over here? Obviously, since the Torah was giving restrictions — in terms of who they could marry, in terms of what they could eat, in terms of what type of funerals they could go to — we would have expected “Vayedaber Hashem!”
G-d is asking them to give up a lot. It should need a harsher type of language. Yet, the Torah employed the much softer expression, Vayomer.
Rav Moshe Feinstein says a beautiful thought [in Darash Moshe]: The role of the Kohanim was to be the spiritual mentors of the Jewish people. “They teach Thy Laws to Jacob and Thy Teachings to Israel” [Devorim 33:10]. In order for a person to be an effective leader and teacher, in order to for him to be an effective role model, he cannot feel that his life is a drag. He cannot feel that he has a difficult life and that his restrictions are a pain.
If the person, who is supposed to be the leader and teacher, feels that his lot is a tough lot, then he cannot be an effective Kohain. In order to give over a heritage to someone, one must feel privileged, rather than burdened. If the Kohain feels that all the things that the Torah put on him are a burden rather than a privilege, then he can’t be the spiritual leader that we want him to be.
That is why the Torah uses the language “Vayomer.” Even though it may seem hard, they must accept it and feel as if it is easy. Rav Moshe goes on to say, that the Ramba”m writes in Mishneh Torah, at the end of Hilchos Shmitah v’Yovel [13:13], a very famous passage. He says that this role of spiritual mentor is not restricted to the Tribe of Levi. Any person who accepts upon himself a life of Holy Service, anyone who decides to step into a role of Torah disseminator, anyone who decides to devote his life to the work of G-d, he too has the status of a Kohain or a Levi.
Rav Moshe says that this is an ethical lesson to be learned by those who enter the Holy Professions, the work of teachers, the work of Rabbis, the work of community professionals. Even though we all know the burdens that Torah teachers and Rabbis have to suffer, even though we all know that so many times they are treated without the proper respect they deserve, but if the Levi or the teacher or the Rebbe feels that it is a pain and he is constantly ‘kvetching’ about his situation, Rav Moshe says, he should get out. He cannot be an effective teacher.
The effective Rabbi, must feel that it is a ‘Vayomer.’ It is tough, but it is a privilege. Yes, we all may have our moments where we feel that it is too much, but they should only be moments. That must not be the way we always are.
If we feel that it is too difficult, we can’t give it over. If one can’t give it over, according to Rav Moshe then he should get out now.
That is why the Parsha of Kohanim is said with ‘Vayomer.’ [Till here from Rabbi Frand]
I saw somewhere else that Rav Moishe ztl. says that really every Jew should have this understanding that Judaism is not a burden. Of course , even more so, the Rebbeim.
On the Shabbos before Pesach we read a special Haftorah from the Prophet Malachi.
Rav Moshe Feinstein in the sefer, “Kol Rum,” compiled by Rabbi Avraham Fishelis, zl. Vol II, p.248, brings an important lesson from the Haftorah on how to serve Hashem.
The Prophet Malachi 3:13-14 rebukes the Jews telling them that Hashem says that you have said strong words against me. When the Jews asked, “What did we say?”, Hashem answers, “You said, ‘it isn’t worth to serve Hashem, what benefit do we get from keeping His Mitzvos?…the sinners were right…’ ”
Rav Moshe asks that if that’s what they said to Hashem, that it’s not worth it to keep Torah and Mitzvos, so how could they have the audacity to deny it and tell Hashem , “What did we say?”
Rav Moshe answers that in reality they kept Torah and Mitzvos and even instructed their children to do so. However they did it in such a way that showed that they felt that it’s not good to serve Hashem and keep Mitzvos. Despite this they keep it and they instruct their children to do the same, to keep the Torah even though it was hard and he lost a lot by doing it.
So, even though they didn’t actually say it outright, the way they kept it, was proclaiming that it was not worth it to serve Hashem. Consequently, other people, who were not on the level to keep Torah despite its hardship, learned from them to abandon it.
What they should have said was that Torah and Mitzvos are good and a great gift. Hashem chose us from all the nations and gave us the Torah and made us free people-“there is no free man only one who deals with Torah.” This is the greatest joy and there is no loss from keeping Torah and Mitzvos because everything is from Hashem and our whole life and everything we were given is dependent on Him. With this attitude he would be able to have a good influence on his children and students. Anyone who sees how happy he is by doing Torah and Mitzvos will want to emulate him.
In the book “City on Fire,” compiled by Sarah Shapiro, about the twin tower tragedy of September 11, they bring on p. 197, Rav Matisyahu Salomon who cites the Alter of Slabodka who explains the prophecy of Malachi like Rav Moshe and elaborates on this point. He says in part,
“If a Torah Jew, who represents Yiddishkeit [Judaism], walks down the street, mixes with people, and is obviously not a happy person, if he doesn’t show that his life has content, if he is not an example of refinement and fulfillment, then he is shouting to the world, ‘It isn’t worthwhile to serve Hashem.’
He is saying to everyone, ‘We didn’t make it, but you made it. You are happy people. You have your entertainment, your pleasures….and I go around with my long face.’ You are telling everyone, ‘What benefit do we have in keeping His mitzvos?…It isn’t pleasure. It isn’t life itself. It isn’t an achievement. I don’t feel fulfilled….’ Hashem seems to have pushed us away, and we seem to be affirming those who do what they want, who extract the pleasures of life and seem to get a better deal. And that’s an indictment of Torah observance.”
Rabbi Zelig Pliskin, in his sefer “Growth Through Torah,” p. 18-19, brings from Rav Yeruchem Levovitz that the very first verse in the Torah Genesis 1:1, makes us aware that Hashem is Creator and Ruler of the universe. This will make a major change in you for the rest of your life. You realize that there is a reason for everything. The world has meaning and purpose.
Rabbi Pliskin elaborates that without meaning in life even if one accomplishes a lot, has health and wealth, fame and fortune, there is a strong feeling that something is missing. It is. Without meaning, there is no real enjoyment and satisfaction. Yes, a person can have moments of excitement, joy, and even ecstasy. But they are short-lived. When the high feelings settle down, there is emptiness. Nothing seems to really matter.
Rabbi Pliskin (ibid.), continues to say that without meaning in life there is no real enjoyment, but once you internalize the awareness that there is a Creator of the universe, you see plan and purpose. There is an inner glow and a drive for spiritual growth. Those who lack this realization see only the external actions and behaviors of those who live with the reality of the Almighty. They are unaware of the rich inner life of such a person. The true believer in the Creator is a fortunate person. He sees divinity in every flower and tree and in every blade of grass. His life, regardless of how it unfolds, is full of purpose and meaning. While he appreciates this world as a gift of the Creator, he looks forward to an eternity of existence. This is the profound message of the first verse of the Torah.
Rabbi Pliskin concludes with a story of a certain well-known communal leader, who as a teenager saw Rabbi Moshe Feinstien for the first time. He remembered something that Rav Moshe said that made an indelible impression.
Rav Moshe was saying, “People destroy their children by always repeating [in Yiddish] ‘Es is shver tzu zein a Yid (It is hard to be a Jew).’ No, it is not hard to be a Jew. It is beautiful and joyous to be a Jew.”
Rav Moshe’s face glowed with pride and happiness when he said those simple words, and the young listener recalls that he too became suffused with pride in his Jewishness.
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