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Parshas Pinchas - Celebrate with Hashem & Rebuild His Home          23 Tammuz 5778

07/06/18 12:23:17


We are all too familiar with “Bein HaMetzraim” - literally translated as ‘between the troubles’, and figuratively translated as ‘the three weeks’. For centuries, the focus for all of us during this time has been to figure out how to bring about the coming of Moshiach and the rebuilding of our Beis HaMikdash.

We know that the destruction of the Second Beis HaMikdash was caused by Sinas Chinam – unwarranted hatred amongst Jews. It should be obvious that to reverse the decree of our expulsion and exile there must be Ahavas Chinam: to love Jews for no particular reason – just to accept each other, respect and love each other as one people. That, in and of itself, is challenging. For the past number of decades there has been a tremendous effort to try to curb the damage that one Jew can do to his fellow Jew simply by watching his speech. Year after year there have been campaigns to teach and to encourage the laws of Lashon Hara – literally translated to mean ‘evil tongue’ or learning how not to speak derogatorily about each other. We all understand that we must be careful about what we say in order to prevent harm from being done to another person. Not only should we actually study the laws of proper speech; we need to work on our middos – character traits – as outlined in the sifrei mussar, books of moral character such as Orchos Tzadikim.

These Seforim were written only a few hundred years ago. What did people turn to learn from prior to their existence? The learning of Mussar, or books on Middos, are teachings drawn from the Torah itself. When we learn about the stories of Avraham, Yitzchok, and Yaakov, Moshe, Aharon and the like, we are learning how to act properly, modeling from our forefathers. The sefer Pirkei Avos – Sayings of our Fathers – contains all the lessons derived from our forefathers. Avrahom, Yitzchok, and Yaakov lived by those traits. Reb Shlomo Ganzfried, in his work the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch, 27:3, writes that someone who is unable to learn as his primary focus can at the minimum set aside times to learn the Halacha (laws) that every Jew needs to know. He must understand the Mussar which serve to subjugate the Yetzer Hara. Reb Shlomo Zalman of Liadi in his Shulchan Aruch HaRav Yalkut Torah, 246.2, seems to say that Mussar is included in the category of Talmud. When a person learns Gemara, Mishnah, and Halacha, he is incorporating the ideals of Mussar, thereby working to perfect his character.

During the three weeks we should all conscientiously focus on improving how we interact with others. Rav Gavriel Zinner, in his introduction to the laws of the three weeks, explains a verse from Eicha. In Eicha 2:19 the Navi Yirmiyahu says: “Kumi Roni BaLayla L’Rosh Ashmuros”, “Arise, pray aloud in the night, at the beginning of the watches.” This specifically refers to learning Torah! But, why is this specific to the night? Didn’t Yehoshua in 1:8 already command us to learn Torah day and night? The Ri”f explains that the ‘watches’ refers to the covering up of the judgment that rules at night. While the Temple was functioning, the sacrificial parts and limbs that burned all night on the pyre cooled off God’s judgment. Therefore, Hashem now cries out, “Woe that I destroyed my house” - that He needs a new remedy from us, from the people below. For the Gemara in Menachos 110 teaches that now that the Beis HaMikdash is destroyed, the learning of the laws of the Olah, the offering, is as if we offered the Olah. We see the great effect and benefit of Torah study. Reb Levi Yitzchok of Berditchiv, in the Kedushas Levi on Shevuos, writes, ”How great is the completion of a tractate or Siyum Mesechta, so much so that a great feast was made in celebration of its completion.” Yet, Reb Levi Yitzchok of Berditchiv asks, “Is the simcha and joy now finished because the learning is finished?” In this week’s parsha Pinchas Rashi explains that the Yom Tov of Shmini Atzeres, the extra day that Hashem needs to spend with those who are closest to Him even after the joy of Sukkos, is defined as ‘Kashe Alai Pridaschem’: ‘Your departure is difficult for me, so before you leave, let’s celebrate’. So, too, after the learning is complete, we hold on just a little longer and celebrate by having a Siyum of the tractate.

The Chidushei HaRim, Rav Yitzchak Meir Rotenberg-Alter, the first rebbe of the Ger Hassidim, stated that there is a specific reason to have a Siyum during these days. By inviting everyone to the celebration of completion of a tractate of learning, we create ahavas chinam - love and harmony between Jews, the antidote to Sinas Chinam – baseless hatred. It was therefore the custom of many tzadikim and gedolim to make Siyumim to increase Torah learning. They taught that learning Torah weakened the strength of impurity and would therefore lead us to deeper purity and eventually to the Geulah – redemption. The Rosh writes that the Rebbe from Ruzhin made a Siyum on Tisha B’Av night after completion of the fast.

The Torah is our map of life and contains all the necessary knowledge for life. Reb Shlomo Luger in the Yam Shel Shlomo writes,”During these days of mourning, the destruction and the pain felt by the Shechina, we must increase the completing of Gemara because there is no greater simcha/joy to Hashem other than the joy of Torah; there is not anywhere Hashem is found in this world except within the four cubits of Halacha.” When we learn Gemara, which is the delving into the laws of how we behave and conduct ourselves – whether between man and God or between man and man – the Halacha is found in the Torah. Mussar and learning of proper middos are built into the learning of the Torah she’b’al peh – the oral Torah – the Talmud.

Let us all commit to learning more Gemara which contains all the necessary ingredients to live our lives accordingly. As we delve into the Talmud we will refine our character, directing our behaviors in an appropriate manner, thereby removing any enmity and bringing about Ahavas Yisroel and the rebuilding of the third Beis HaMikdash with the coming of Moshiach speedily in our days!

Wed, October 23 2019 24 Tishrei 5780