Saturday, 16 January 2021
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Parshat Hashavua - RE'EH

Parshat Hashavua Re'eh expalined by Rabbi Nissim Mordechai Makor

Parshat hashavua Re'eh Rav Nissim Mordechai Makor"When He has granted you safety from all your enemies around you, and you live in security" (11:10).

In the city of Baghdad lived an affluent, charitable Jew, Reb Yisroel. In fact, he served as the Minister of Finances for the governor. Reb Yisroel generously supported the sacred, venerated Kaballist of Jerusalem, Raphael Avraham Sherabbi, of blessed memory, grandson of the Rashash. The governor of Baghdad trusted Reb Yisroel, entrusting tremendous responsibility into his hands.

Scornful and envious, the other ministers, unlike the governor, despised Reb Yisroel, slandering him whenever possible. "He is plundering government funds, squandering the money of our people," they would claim. Their envy grew and grew, until they paid off witnesses to falsely testify against Reb Yisroel, attesting to his, "surreptitious pillaging of government funds."
"I have little choice," decided the governor, "but to bring the Jew to trial." The malicious ministers, zealous to witness the downfall of their rival, bribed the Judges, fixing the verdict even before the trial began! "We hereby deem Reb Yisroel - guilty. So, being thus culpable, guilty of breaching his loyalty to the governorship, having betrayed the ideals of his duty and position, Reb Yisroel has the option - of denying his faith in One God, and abandoning the faith of his fathers; or we will confiscate his property, and ascertain further measures of rebuke, in accordance with his wickedness..."
The court guards suddenly surrounded Reb Yisroel, binding him in chains. They threw him in a damp cell, and slammed the steel door shut. Reb Yisroel's wife, helpless and confused, wondered, "What now? Where shall I go for help?" Pondering the situation, crying from anguish, she finally remembered the holy Rabbi, Raphael Avraham, the Kaballist from Jerusalem. Without fail, she sent a messenger to the holy Kaballist, notifying him of her husband's dilemma, pleading for assistance.
Upon hearing the unfortunate news, Raphael Avraham traveled to Baghdad with two students. "We have arrived, my students. This is the house," he said. They opened the door, only to find an empty house with Reb Yisroel's wife, sobbing hysterically, frantically hugging her children. "The news... the news," she struggled to say, choking, "the news has gotten worse. In three days... three days... they will --chop off his..." That is, the courts decided that only execution would absolve Reb Yisroel of his treacherous betrayal of the State.
Raphael Avraham comforted her, assuring, "Please, have no fear. Tomorrow, the governor himself will release your husband, innocent, free from all guilt." Though doubtful, his assurance brought her relief. She prepared a room for them to sleep in, yet they didn't sleep. Despite their tiresome journey, Raphael Avraham and his students remained awake, engaging in Torah, the revealed and the hidden.
With the dawn of the sun, Reb Yisroel's wife knocked on the door. Trembling, she said, "Last night, two guards of the governor himself came. They asked if visitors from Jerusalem were here. I was so petrified, and admitted your presence. Then, they left. I fear for you. Trouble looms in the near future, I daresay." Raphael Avraham displayed no signs of concern whatsoever. He continued to engage in the holy Torah with his students, as if nothing had occurred.
After an hour or so, Reb Yisroel's wife heard a carriage enter the courtyard. She looked out the window, and saw the governor's guards... Brazenly, they entered the house, boldly demanding, "We have come for the visitors from Jerusalem." Distraught, she pointed to their room.
The guards opened the door, yet Raphael and his students did not so much as acknowledge their presence. "You are the wise men from Jerusalem?" the guards demanded. Raphael Avraham lifted his head, and nodded, as though indifferent. "You will come with us, please, to see the governor." Raphael Avraham did not respond, at first. After a few moments of silence, he shut his book, kissed it, and rose. "Certainly, we shall come and pay our respects to the governor," the holy Rabbi said, politely.
The carriage sped through the city, through alleys and streets, markets and gates. At the palace, the guards led Raphael Avraham and his students through an intricate maze of corridors and halls, past gates and guards, until they reached the governor's quarters. They heard dissonant whining, horrific weeping, such devastating agony; the weeping echoed in their ears. As they entered the governor's room, they realized the source -- the governor himself, for anyone who saw him rolling, shaking, squirming like a worm, could but wonder what gruesome sickness slowly and painfully devoured him.
The governor gasped upon seeing Raphael Avraham and his two students. He called to the guards, crying, "Protect me, protect me! It was them, they did it!" Terrified, heshuddered violently, convulsing. He addressed the holy Rabbi, with awe and reserve, "You came here, last night. You had whips, all of you. You tortured me! You did this to me, brutalizing me from head to toe, without mercy. Who are you? Why? Why did you do this to me? How did you get here, past the guards, through the gates? Please, explain yourselves, I beg you."
"I am Raphael Avraham Sherabbi, from Jerusalem. These are my two students. We come concerning Reb Yisroel, former minister of finance, an upright individual of unquestionable virtue. We heard that he is imprisoned. We heard that the courts pressured him to convert. Also, we heard that the courts intend his execution. Were the accusations against the honorable Reb Yisroel true, would harm have befallen you, governor?"
The governor, his suffering waning, clearly understood. He instantly ordered the release of Reb Yisroel and return of his property. He apologized to the holy Rabbi, Raphael Avraham, and promised to investigate the matter thoroughly. Finally, the governor personally supervised the travel arrangements of Raphael Avraham and his two students, so they would return to Jerusalem in luxury and comfort.
"Hechal Hashem Hemah"
The great Gaon R' Sion Abba Shaul, the Rosh Yeshivah of Porat Yosef, always saw life through the prism of halacha. Once, at a shiur, a student left a mark on the wall as he moved his chair closer to the Rav. The Rav turned to him and asked pleasantly," Do you know what prohibition you have just violated?"
The student was taken aback, and the others in the shiur began arguing in technicalities: perhaps he must pay for the damage; on the other hand, the damage was not worth a perutah; perhaps it was not stealing at all since this is a common occurrence in houses -- walls usually get scraped by the chairs. As the argument went on, the Rosh Yeshiva listened but did not say anything. Finally, when they had calmed down, he spoke.
"I have heard many interesting lines of thought, but I have not heard the answer. Have you forgotten that it says in the Torah, in Parshat Re'eh: 'You shall break apart their altars; you shall smash their pillars; and their sacred trees shall you cut down; and you shall obliterate their names from that place. You shall not do this to Hashem...'
"Our sages learn from here that one is prohibited from erasing or destroying one of the names of Hashem. In fact, it happened once that a person, in decorating the wall of a shul, inadvertently used the name of Hashem. For hundreds of years afterwards, nobody dared to paint over that wall. They even let the spiderwebs hang, out of the fear that if they were brushed away, some of the plaster might come off, and lead to a partial erasure of the name.
"Another prohibition that we learn from this pasuk is not to break off even one stone from the mizbeah or the Bet Hamikdash. And since we know that a bet midrash or a shul is called a "mikdash me'at"(minor mikdash), damaging a wall of those structures falls under the same category!
"So you see, my son, how careful we must be in weighing our every action, and in making sure that what we do fits with all parts of the Shulchan Aruch!" We can extend this idea even further: each of us may be considered a "mikdash me'at". This follows from the pasuk "and make me a mikdash, and I will dwell within them" -- within each one of us. R'Chaim of Volozhin expresses the same idea:
"The ultimate purpose of the resting of the Shechinah on the Bet Hamikdash was for the sake of man. If man will properly sanctify himself through the performance of the mitzvot, then he himself becomes a miniature mikdash. In him the Shechinah dwells, as the pasuk says, "Hechal Hashem Hemah" (these are the sanctuaries of Hashem)..."
If man is a miniature mikdash, then every averah that we transgress is comparable to destroying a stone from our individual mikdash. And this is also included in the prohibition of "You shall not do so to Hashem." The Zohar compares our hearts to the Holy of Holies. If we really valued the purity of our hearts as much as we would value and protect the Holy of Holies, we might be better people for it. 

Pearls of Life

The Pearls of Life quotes the letter of the Gra who wrote that one must raise their children well correctly and sensitively, and pay their tutor well, for ‘Man’s entire sustenance for the year is fixed for him for Rosh Hashanah, except Tishrey {Talmud,  Shabbos, Rosh Chodesh and Yom Tov – Beitzah 16a}. For Hashem’s sake, guide them well and gently. Take care of their health and make sure they have enough to eat. They should first learn the entire chumash [five books of Moshe], seeing that they know it almost by heart. The learning  must be done without undue pressure, rather gently, because it is best absorbed when one is relaxed.  Give them coins as a reward.  Always focus your attention on these matters and not on others, because all else is trivial.  For man can salvage nothing from his labor to take with him, except two white garments [burial shrouds]. Fear not when a man grows rich, for when he dies, he shall carry away nothing. “Don’t say, “ I will leave a portion for my children” – who will tell you in the grave? The children of man are like grasses of the field, some blossom and some fade [Eruvin 54a]. Everyone is born under their constellation and Divine Providence. They are glad when he dies and he goes into the nether world. [At his death] Resh Lakish left his children a kav of saffron [a handful of seeds], and he applied the verse [Tehillim 49:11] “and they leave their wealth to others” [Gitten 47a]. Woe to all who plan on leaving [wealth] to their children! The only reward from sons and daughter’s is through Torah and good deeds.Their sustenance is fixed for them. It is also known that women earn merit by making their children learn Torah. [Berachos 17a].  Our sages said [Tanna D’Vei Eliyahu Rabba 9]. “The only proper wife is one that does her husbands will”. May we all take these words to heart and read them again and again.  
Yeshiva Pirchei Shoshanim
Shabbat Shalom, Chodesh Elul Tov
As taught by my Torah Masters