Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

12 Shevat 5763 - January 15, 2003 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly









Produced and housed by
Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Shema Yisrael Torah Network

Opinion & Comment
Mitzvos, Miracles and Prayers

Compiled from the lectures of HaRav Chaim Pinchas Scheinberg, shlita

Part II

In the first part, HaRav Scheinberg explained that when we put on tefillin we are supposed to think about what Hashem did for us in taking us out of Mitzrayim. The Ramban teaches us at the end of Bo that, "As a result of the tremendous open miracles, a person will acknowledge concealed miracles -- for they are the fundamental basis for the whole of Torah. A person has no share in the Torah of Moshe Rabbeinu until he believes that all things and every occurrence, all of them, are miracles; that they do not operate by any natural or automatic process, either for the masses or for the individual."

"You redeemed us from Egypt . . . and liberated us from the house of bondage. In famine you nourished us and in plenty you sustained us . . ." (Pesukei Dezimroh of Shabbos; Nishmas Kol Chai)

There are two ways in which Hashem deals with the world. One way, as the Torah (Bereishis 3:19) states, "By the sweat of your brow you shall eat . . ." This was Hashem's edict for Odom Horishon because of his sin. Odom Horishon was banished from Gan Eden and driven into a world that is governed by indirect and hidden means, the hester ponim of "nature" and its laws of cause and effect.

The other way is what the gemora Pesochim (59b) refers to as, "Cohanim eat and the owners are cleansed." This is a direct and open process. It supersedes all considerations of the physical world and operates directly and completely according to the Will of Hashem.

We can illustrate the point through a question that is raised in the sefer Minchas Chinuch (Mitzvas 102 & 134).

In all mitzvas that have to do with eating -- for example Korbon Pesach, Matzo, and Morror -- the usual minimal amount of food that is required to be eaten is a kezayis -- the volume of an olive. To be considered an act of eating according to halochoh, the ingested food must give the person some minimal feeling of satisfaction.

We would assume that this rule also applies to the eating of a korbon by the Cohanim but it does not, for the principle of "Cohanim eat and the owners are cleansed," causes the process of eating and digestion to operate differently.

When a person is obligated to bring a korbon as part of his purification for a transgression that was committed, the Cohanim have a share in the owner's offering. Essential to this process of purification from sin is the Cohanim's eating the offering. Normally, the required amount to be eaten would be a kezayis, for this is the smallest quantity of food that gives a person some partial satiation. Any smaller amount is not considered eating.

Yet, in many cases of kodshim there was, if the mitzvah called for the offering to be shared equally amongst many Cohanim -- only a morsel the size of a pool would be available for each Cohen. A pool is a small bean that is far smaller than a kezayis and certainly incapable of allaying any feelings of hunger.

If so, the Minchas Chinuch asks, how could the Cohanim eat such a small amount and it still be considered an act of eating? If a kezayis satisfies and a pool does not, how could eating a pool-sized portion benefit the owner of the offering and thereby help him achieve purification? Consequently, by virtue of the Minchas Chinuch's question, the sefer Mikdash Dovid (Kodshim 14:6) concludes that the proper quantity for eating some korbonos does not need to be the volume of a kezayis, but rather the size of the smaller pool.

These bean-sized portions were crucial in the fulfillment of many daily mitzvas performed in the Beis Hamikdosh. Remarkably, these morsels were apparently providing satiation, for if the Cohen did not have some minimal sense of satisfaction, then no halachic eating occurred and the avodoh of the korbon was not fulfilled. A "miraculous" daily phenomenon!

This would be impossible under normal conditions. However, since the mitzvas were fulfilled properly, the process of purification was successful. The eating was an entirely different eating and so was the effect of the food. This very subtle, almost secret, miracle was "allowed" to happen all because it was done according to Torah law.

The gemora Niddah (12b) tells how Rovo, when speaking to Rav Papa called him, "Sodnee." The word Sodnee, Rashi explains, refers to a talmid chochom, for it says in Tehillim (25:14), "The secrets of Hashem are to those who fear Him." The word "sod" means secret. Talmidei chachomim, because they fear Hashem, are privileged to see the secrets of the Torah and consequently, the hidden aspects of the world. Therefore, they are called "Sodnee," for they are the ones who know His secrets.

HaRav Chaim Volozhin zt"l, in his sefer Ruach Chaim on Pirkei Ovos (6:1) writes that all the concealed and secret aspects of Torah are in fact obvious, however our eyes are just prevented from seeing them. At times, even the self-evident aspects of Torah can be elusive. It was for this reason Dovid Hamelech included in his Tehillim (119: 18) the prayer, "Unveil my eyes that I may see wonders from Your Torah."

In spite of Dovid Hamelech's wealth of Torah, he still felt the need to ask Hashem for help! On the next posuk, "I am a stranger in the land, do not hide Your mitzvas from me," the Medrash Tehillim asks, "And was Dovid a stranger? Rather he was saying that just as a new convert knows nothing of Torah, likewise the eyes of people are open and they do not know the difference between the right and left of Torah. If Dovid, who sang all these songs and praises, said that he was a stranger in the land and knew nothing, how much more so ourselves!"

Did Dovid Hamelech really mean to say that he knew nothing? Obviously, he was not lying. Rather, he knew his wisdom was a gift and so he considered it not truly his. Dovid Hamelech knew that as great as his knowledge was, it all amounted to nothing without Hashem's blessings. Therefore, he could not give himself any credit for it.

Likewise, he understood that without siyata deShmaya his eyes were incapable of seeing even the most blatant examples of Hashem's Presence in the world. His understanding and vision depended on his fear of Hashem, for with yiras Shomayim the greatest of all secrets could be revealed and understood, and so the Tehillim of Dovid Hamelech became great testimonies to the splendor of Hashem throughout all the workings of the universe. They became the famed proclamations that all creations and events -- from the mundane and insignificant to the impressive and magnificent -- are His and subject to His Will.

When HaKodosh Boruch Hu took us out of Egypt, He gave Klal Yisroel an opportunity to see and know all this. The Ramban teaches us that we are obligated to see the miraculous workings of Hashem within the concealment of "nature." Who does not acknowledge these miracles, as the Ramban, zt"l wrote, "has no share in the Torah of Moshe Rabbeinu (end of parshas Bo)."

Tefillin is an os, a mitzvah that helps us constantly recall that Pharaoh and his people were powerless against all the forces that Hashem threw against them in a miraculous fashion. Caught in the trap of their own denial and disbelief, they met death and destruction. Their magic and false gods had no power to save them.

Simultaneously, the Ten Plagues were lessons for our people; an everlasting demonstration of the power, majesty and supremacy of our Creator. All was perfectly clear, an experience of Truth that we are commanded never to forget. The greatest civilization of the time was in ruins and Klal Yisroel was on its way to accept the Torah at Har Sinai.

The last of the Plagues brought death to every firstborn of Egypt. HaKodosh Boruch Hu timed the deathblow to occur immediately after Bnei Yisroel observed their first Passover, the eating of the Korbon Pesach, Matzo and Morror. The Pesach sacrifice was slaughtered and its blood, along with the blood of Bris Milah, was placed on the inside doorposts of their homes.

The posuk (Shemos 12:13) tells us the reason and meaning of the blood. "The blood shall be a sign for you on the houses where you are -- when I see the blood, I shall pass over you, there shall not be a plague of destruction upon you when I strike in the land of Egypt." Like Tefillin, this blood was an os, something to cause us to take notice and consider.

More specifically, the blood was for our eyes only, for according to Rashi, "For you it is a sign, and not for anyone else a sign. From here it is known that the blood was placed only on the inside." Rashi continues to explain the significance from Hashem's point of view, "HaKodosh Boruch Hu said, `I will direct My eyes to see that you are occupied with My Commandments and I will pass over you.' "

Obedience to Hashem's mitzvas saved us. HaKodosh Boruch Hu took special notice of our compliance to His Will. The blood on the doorways was the sign for us to know then -- and remember always -- that on that night of Pesach we obeyed His Will and so Hashem did miracles for us and He redeemed us.

Hashem's miracles are constant and infinite. They may be hidden, but through obeying His Will, they will become revealed and obvious to those of us sensitive enough to notice them. The mitzvah of Tefillin enables us to always remember it, to know it and to experience it.

End of Part Two

All material on this site is copyrighted and its use is restricted.
Click here for conditions of use.