VOLUME 60 NUMBER 5
APRIL 27, 2012
IYAR 5 28, 5772
Candle-lighting Time: 7:32 PM
This edition of Sparks of Torah is dedicated in memory of Haviva Belkowitz and Frieda Makovsky Englard, two beloved great grandmothers who passed away this week. May their souls be bound in the bonds of eternal life.
Doing Sixty in a Forty-Five Zone
By Rabbi Raphael Leban
One morning, after leaving the house a few minutes later than usual, I have to admit, I was driving a little quickly to make it to shul on time. Well, a lot quickly.
A mere block or two before I arrived, it happened. I saw a white motorcycle with flashing red and blue lights slip in behind me. I felt that awful feeling deep in my stomach. I was being pulled over.
The officer was very polite and efficient. He didn’t even give me a chance to make an appeal to his sense of mercy (or his sense of humor, depending on how bad the appeal was). He wrote me a speeding ticket and wished me a good day.
A decade without a speeding ticket, I was somewhat crestfallen. Oh, the embarrassment. Oh, the indignity. Oh, the $100 dollar fine.
As I read the ticket later in the morning, I found out how Colorado tickets work. Since I am sure that you, dear reader, have never had such an experience, I’ll describe it.
If you wise up quick, you send the money within 20 days and the charge is reduced to ‘Operating an Unsafe Vehicle’. To do so, you must sign the ticket declaring your guilt and pay the fine promptly. If you aren’t so wise, after thirty days, the fine goes up to $120 dollars and you get the full charge of speeding on your record. If you haven’t responded in six weeks or so, your court date arrives and then you have to pay court fees as well. After that, we can only pity the brainless sole who fails to appear in court! I wonder what he gets.
As I thought about it all, I found myself saying (in the middle of dovening), ‘Thank G-d for warnings.’ As unpleasant as it is to get a ticket, it’s healthy. Unchecked speeding and careless driving causes accidents. Deal with the fine and wise up, the sooner the better.
In a well-known chapter of Tehillim (Psalms) King David wrote, “Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.” I am not a sheep, but I would imagine that the sheep who gets smacked with the rod when he gets out of line is not exactly ‘comforted’ by it. How is the rod a comfort?
With the rod, the Shepherd keeps the sheep together and safely within His care. Without it, they would wander off on their own and be lost. The warning patch (smack) of supervision keeps them comfortably safe.
This week’s parsha reads like the back of the speeding ticket. When the Temple stood, there were Divinely sent warning signs for all kinds of misbehavior. If someone spoke slanderously about someone else, was selfish with his possessions or treated the people around him with haughty disdain, G-d sent a skin discoloration as a warning.
Those who wised up quickly, simply had to go to the mikvah. For those who dragged their feet a bit, the penalty was still minor: a week of quarantine (a little time to think about things) and then a trip to the mikvah. For people who didn’t get the message, there could be a few extra weeks of quarantine, a major haircut and a sacrificial donation brought on the altar. And who knows what befell the person who never heeded the warning.
The parsha lists many different types of skin afflictions for different types of aberrant behavior and objectionable character traits, a veritable catalogue of Divine ‘speeding tickets’.
We pray that the Temple will speedily be rebuilt, when we will again be blessed with the opportunity to get a spiritual ‘pulling over’. It may not sound so appealing, but it’s a lot better than cruising down the highway of life headed for a spiritual thirty car pile-up.
Why Is It So Messy?
By Rabbi Dovid Nussbaum
Sefer Vayikra deals extensively with the sacrificial order that took place in the Beis Hamikdash. There are numerous types of offerings mentioned, each with many minute detailed instructions. There is another subject discussed in this part of the Torah that is very complex as well – the laws of tumah, or impurity. There are many different categories of tumah and many specific details involved. One can understand the need for sacrifices. After all they exemplify man’s desire to dedicate himself to Hashem. However, why must there be so much emphasis on what defiles a person? Do these laws also create a more holy person?
Sforno captures the depth of this matter in one word – repentance. Each particular form of defilement is a clear sign of a spiritual illness with physical symptoms. For example, when one had the signs of tzoraas, mistakenly considered a physical malady, in the form of certain white-colored spots on the body, the Kohen imposed a short waiting time upon the individual until his status could be determined. Sforno comments that during that interval period, the person would reflect on his life and its direction. Is he conducting himself appropriately or are there major flaws in his behavior to be improved. We are given warning signals of these problems in order that we may examine our character and modify those ‘impurities’ in our lives that are the foundation of these imperfections. And this is true for each and every type of impurity. Physical contamination is merely a sign of a deeper, internal issue.
Once we have responded to tumah, we are given a regimen of tahara, purity that will complete our return to wholesomeness and propriety. Thus, it is appropriate that these laws are combined with those of the sacrificial order because together they serve to accompany our return to Hashem in the most complete and comprehensive process possible. When we have achieved success in these matters, we will deserve to retain Hashem’s presence in our midst vis-à-vis the Beis Hamikdash.
Today we lack the Beis Hamikdash and the accompanying presence of Hashem that it represented. Therefore, as Nachmonides writes, we also do not merit the existence of these divine messages in the forms of the various impurities. We are, in a sense, clueless and oblivious. We do not possess the tools to adjust our moral compass to the correct heading. How are we to cope with this grave disadvantage?
The Talmud addresses this issue and says that when we experience pain or anguish, we are truly suffering. When we are squeezed, we begin to wonder why it is happening. What have I done so wrong that Hashem is punishing me? Then we begin to examine our deportment and seriously search for faults and defects that corrupt our lives.
Perhaps one might believe that tainted character traits are not optimal but neither are they so terribly destructive. For 33 days between Pesach and Shavuos, we are forbidden to make festive celebrations like weddings. There are different customs as to when these days begin and end. However, they represent the 33 days during which the disciples of the great Sage Rabbi Akiva died due to a terrible plague. The Talmud states that although they studied Torah day and night, their character was flawed and the Torah standards between fellow men were not respected. We nationally mourn their loss and attempt to correct their mistakes within the context of our lives.
Byte For Shabbos
After someone has become ritually impure, contact with sacrificial meat and entry to the Holy Temple are forbidden until the process of purification is complete. The lesson is that we cannot achieve sanctity or virtue until we have thoroughly prepared ourselves to scale that mountain.
A Question for the Rabbis
By Rabbi Mordechai Becher
The verse in the Torah portion this week states, “And on the eighth day you shall circumcise the flesh of his foreskin” (Leviticus 12:3). The Talmud (Shabbos 132b) derives from this verse that although circumcision itself is a desecration of the Sabbath, nevertheless if the eighth day falls on Shabbos, the child must be circumcised. Rabbi Shmuel Halevi Wozner was asked about delaying a bris that fell on Shabbos because most of the guests, and probably the parents of the child as well, would drive to the bris and hence having the bris on Shabbos would cause mass desecration of the Shabbos (Responsa Shevet Halevi 1:205). His response was that it is indeed appropriate to delay the bris until after Shabbos. Even though the Torah permits the bris itself on Shabbos, desecration of the Shabbos day for anything else other than the actual circumcision itself is prohibited. Rabbi Moshe Feinstein (Igros Moshe, YorehDeah 1:156) was asked if the mohel (the one who performs the circumcision) should not do a bris where he would have to be in an environment where desecration of Shabbos was taking place. His response was that while one should try not to be in a place where Shabbos is being desecrated, however, one should certainly not delay the mitzvah of circumcision in order to avoid this situation.
Reprinted with permission from Parsha Partner, a weekly publication of Partners in Torah. Please add us to your Parsha reading list. www.partnersintorah.org/parsha-partner
Joke of the Week
If Fed Ex and UPS were to merge, would they call it Fed UP?
Do Lipton Tea employees take coffee breaks?
If olive oil comes from olives, where does baby oil come from?