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25 Iyar, 5782 - May 26, 2022 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly










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The Journey From Leil Haseder To Kabolas HaTorah

by HaRav Shlomo Brevda


A Shmuess Delivered By HaRav Shlomo Brevda on Chol Hamoed Pesach 5753 At Beis Haknesses "Tiferes Shlomo", Har-Nof, Yerushalayim. We first published it the same year, and it was reviewed by HaRav Brevda zt"l.

For Part 1 of this series click here.

For Part 3 of this series click here.

Part II

The first part explained the importance of approaching tefillah as an oni, a pauper, one who feels that he has nothing and needs everything and begs Hashem for all his needs.

Second Step: Anava, Tefillah and Torah

In the first perek of Brochos the gemara says, "Whoever fixes a place for his tefillah, the G-d of Avrohom will come to his aid. When he passes away he will be eulogized in these terms: `Where is the chossid? Where is the anav? A disciple of Avrohom Ovinu.'"

Talmidei Rabbenu Yonah, (on the Rif in Brochos) explain what "fixing a place for tefillah" means. We usually daven in shul. Nevertheless, it sometimes happens that for some reason, a man has to daven by himself at home.

In our generation, we are surrounded by tzoros every day, all kinds of problems R'l, illnesses, quarrels, no shalom bayis, tza'ar gidul bonim and what not. Thus a man needs a place at home to daven: a corner where he can pour out his heart saying Tehillim. Rabbenu Yonah says: that is being koveah mokom for tefillah. He must designate a place in his house which is not used for other things, where he comes to daven when he needs to. Elokei Avrohom comes to the aid of such a man. When he passes away he is called "chasid, anav, a talmid of Avrohom Ovinu."

Talmidei Rabbenu Yonah then continue with a question: Does he deserve such great praise for this alone? The gemora in Sanhedrin (11) says that even though Klal Yisroel lost nevuah and ruach hakodesh with the petiroh of the last nevi'im, they still had the bas kol. Once, the chachamim went up to the attic of Beis Gurion and heard a bas kol which said, "There is a man here who is fit to have the Shechina rest on him, but the generation isn't deserving — they are preventing it. They all looked at Hillel Hazaken. When he died they said, "Where is the chasid? Where is the anav? A disciple of Ezra who spread Torah like Moshe in his time, the anav mikol adam."


On another occasion, says the gemora, the chachamim were sitting in Yavneh and a bas kol—literally, ruach hakodesh, nevuah—came with the same message. There was a man present who was fit for the Shechina to rest on. They all looked at Shmuel Hakoton. When he passed away they said, "Where is the chossid? Where is the anav? A disciple of Hillel Hazaken." Before he died, he opened his mouth and said nevuos about the asora harugei malchus, just like a novi. He had been fit all his life for this.

We see from the gemora, that "anav, chasid" are terms used to describe men like Shmuel Hakoton and Hillel. If a man fixes a place for his tefillah at home, is he zoche to such descriptions just for that?

This is the question of Rabbenu Yonah.

He answers, that chazal didn't say this simply because he fixes a place for tefillah. Rather, a man who is so careful about his tefillah that he even prepares a special place for it, evidently loves tefillah and greatly values what it is. Certainly—and therefore—he has midas anava for without it, his tefillos are unacceptable.

He must have anava, says Rabbenu Yonah, "so that his tefillah will be acceptable to Hashem, as the posuk says, "Zivchei Elokim ruach nishboro." Hashem wants both a korbon and tefillah only from a man who doesn't hold of himself at all. The ultimate anav is one who doesn't hold he has any independent power, for if he doesn't have anava, continues Rabbenu Yonah, he will never be able to daven with kavana!

Did you hear? Do you think I came to teach you the importance of midas anava? When I refer to midas anava I say, "Zichrono livrocho!" In this generation, who looks for this midda?

Suppose an avreich sees something in the seforim hakedoshim—deep, penetrating words—about midas anava and he decides, "I'll start to work on anava."

First maybe he won't walk bekoma zekufa in the street. When he reaches his apartment building and finds children playing in the stairwell in front of him, he'll stand there waiting for half hour until the children move elsewhere. His wife on the other hand, isn't working on anava. She goes about with such a koma zekufa that she doesn't even notice that her husband is working on anava.

One day the neighbor knocks and asks, "Tell me is your husband sick? Does he have a bad back? From my window I saw that he's walking bent over."

So the wife asks her husband whether perhaps he is in pain?

He says, "No."

"They say you are walking bent."

"I have decided to work on anava," he replies.

What will her reaction be? Mostly unquotable in public! Who understands anava today? Nowadays, if someone learns one daf they say he has finished the masechteh. If he makes one chidush a year they say he is a mechadesh chidushim. Anava? Does anyone hide his good deeds?

So, did I come to speak about anava? No. I came only to tell you what is written in the seforim. Rabbenu Yonah says that without anava it is never possible to daven with kavana. It is a frightening and fearful chidush. I hope that it won't take all the simchas hachag away from you! Still, don't despair. Although the beginning of this drosho is bitter, it's end is sweet.

So Rabbenu Yonah makes it hard for us by adding "lo tihye tefillaso retzuyo"—his tefillah will be unacceptable to Hashem, boruch Hu. If, on the other hand, he fixes a place for tefillah, and is machshiv tefillah, learning what is necessary in order to daven, if he makes himself an oni al hapesach, if he says to Hashem, "I don't have sechel, chochmah, binah..." if he asks only for presents from shomayim —if he does all this, then he truly loves tefillah and he wants to be able to be mechaven, to direct his thoughts. Let's consider what being "mechaven" means. Can't a ba'al ga'ava be mechaven?

The answer is, no, he can't. He is full of self-importance and someone who is machshiv himself thinks only about himself. When he stands saying Shemoneh esrei, if he catches himself a few times in tefillah, he'll see what he's thinking about: about himself, his worries, his needs, his kovod. Why? Because someone who is full of his own importance can't suddenly say eighteen brochos directing his thoughts only to Hashem. His pride wins a victory over his kavana.

By contrast, one who says "nachnu mo?" "ofor vo'efer," "ofor rimo vetoleyo," stops thinking about himself and thinks about the Melech Malchei HaMelachim, HaKodosh Boruch Hu. He can be mechaven in tefillah. Without anava it is impossible to be mechaven in tefillah. In the end he'll catch himself thinking about himself. He can't direct his thoughts to Hashem. "Velo tihye tefiloso retzuyo." If a man is so particular as to fix a place only for tefillah, doing nothing else there, then certainly he has worked on tefillah and on anava.

"Anava leads to chassidus, chassidus leads to anava." It is fitting to say of such a man "Where is the chossid? Where is the anav? A disciple of Avrohom Ovinu who fixed a place for his tefillah, as the gemora says of Avrohom "to the place where he stood." He merits all this because he takes care with his tefillah.

You are sitting here, rabbosai, and wondering, "posach bekad vesiyem bechovis." I started with the yearning for kabolas haTorah and suddenly switched to talk about tefillah and anava.

The Rambam in the third perek of Hilchos Talmud Torah brings, in his own words, the gemora in the first perek of Taanis (as well as in other places): "Divrei Torah are compared to water as it says, "hoi kol tzomei lechu lemayim." To teach you that just as water doesn't gather on a high place, but descends to a low place, so divrei Torah are not found in "gasei ruach" nor in the heart of a "gvah lev" but in "daco ushefal ruach" who is "misaveik be'afar chachamim."

What has the Rambam told us here? He's told us that without midas anava, one's Torah will never be Toras emes!

To our great distress, we all know big lamdonim who are ba'alei ga'ava. Chazal say that divrei Torah flee from ba'alei ga'ava and go to ba'alei anava. How then, can ba'alei ga'ava be lamdonim? How can they have such fluency and know by heart shas Bavli and Yerushalmi, rishonim, acharonim and sifrei ShuT, literally word for word?

Know that their Torah is not Toras emes. And know that if chazal tell us a rule and someone doubts the rule, he is denying the words of the chachamim, R'l, and his punishment is unbelievably severe.

For example, the Rambam in a hakdamah brings chazal's teaching that "Ein am ha'aretz chossid. An unlearned man cannot be a pious man."

What is a chossid? Someone whose actions are perfected. His good character traits are perfect and complete. The mitzvos he does are whole. Says the Rambam, quoting chazal, an am ha'aretz is not a chossid and therefore, if we see a man whose actions all seem perfectly straight and wonderful, and his mitzvos all seem to be completely perfected, and we know that he is not a lamdan but an am ha'aretz, then someone who says that this a man is a chossid, that his actions are perfect and correct, denies divrei chachomeinu! He contradicts divrei chazal.

If they say no, it's no. If they say divrei Torah flee from ba'alei ga'ava, then we have to say that the Torah of a ba'al ga'ava is not Toras emes. And if we haven't yet seen it clearly yet, then we must wait another six months or a year or two. This ba'al ga'ava will have some kind of nisoyon and then we'll hear how he is megaleh ponim beTorah shelo ke'halacha, how he speaks kefirah and apikorsus. If chazal say that divrei Torah flee from someone like this, then they flee. We believe them because we live with emunah, not with the ordinary human intellect, not with a superficial, earthly outlook.

End of Part 2


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