Compiled from the lectures of HaRav Chaim Pinchas
Mitzvos, Miracles and Prayers
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
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
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
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
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
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