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Guard Your Eyes
Heichal Halimmud



Drop some coins each morning into the Yagdil Torah פושקא located in 770.
Pushka location: Walk down the main aisle toward the doors, it is on your  on the right side at shoulder height.

Chalukas Hashas 5773   Giving has never been easier

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Chof Zayin Tammuz, 5777

Pointed Out

During the Middle Ages, there was a thriving Jewish community in the city of Bodenheim, in Alsace. One of the great treasures of this community was a silver pointer in the shape of a hand which was used to point to the correct place being read in the Torah scroll. The pointer was believed to have been fashioned during the time of the Roman Empire, and the Jews of Bodenheim were quite proud of this antique.

It happened that a gentile carpenter's apprentice began spreading a vicious story about the Jews, as was common in those days. He claimed that he overheard two Jewish merchants discussing a meeting of all the Jewish leaders of Alsace that had taken place in Colmar. At this meeting, the Jewish leaders supposedly planned to poison the wells of Bodenheim, Colmar, and the neighboring town of Schlettstadt. The apprentice's story was, unfortunately, readily accepted because there was a strange sickness spreading throughout the region.

The Jewish leaders of Alsace were immediately brought to court and questioned. They admitted to having met in Colmar, but the meeting was strictly for the purpose of strengthening Judaism in the region as they felt that it was beginning to weaken in certain areas of faith. The chief of police refused to accept their explanation, and threatened to torture them unless they confessed. One of the leaders, Rabbi Wolf, declared, "G-d is our witness that no evil has been plotted by us against anyone."


Chof Zayin Tammuz, 5777

Which Head Does Mitzvos? 

Installment 5 of 5

In this final installment, we will explore, with Hashem's help, some of the halachic questions that have been raised regarding a person with two heads.

As mentioned in the last installment, the Gemara (Menachos 37a) records a case where a father came to the chachomim with a halachic question. "My wife just gave birth to a two-headed firstborn boy," he asked. "How many shekalim must I give the Kohen, five or ten?"

The Gemara continues by citing a beraysa that says he must give the Kohen ten shekalim. In a regular case of twins, Rashi explains, the father gives the Kohen just five shekalim, because only one of the twins is the true firstborn; it is impossible that they were both born at the exact same moment. However, in this case, since the twins possess a single body, they were both born at the same moment and are both the true firstborn.

A Day Devoted to Torah Chof Zayin Tammuz, 5777

Hashem said to the Jewish nation: "My children! Didn't I write in my Torah that your mouths should never cease from studying Torah? Although during the week you are involved in work [and you are unable to devote all your time to Torah study], Shabbos should be dedicated entirely to Torah."

Our Sages deduced from here that one should always get up early on Shabbos to study. He should then go to the shul and beis midrash, read from the Torah, and learn Navi [i.e., hear krias hatorah and the haftorah]. Only then should he return home to eat and drink, fulfilling the verse, "Go and eat your bread with joy, and drink your wine with a glad heart."

Tana Devei Eliyahu, ch. 1

Yud Gimmel Tammuz, 5777

Keep the "Instructions"

Ever heard of the guy who put aside the mezuzah and held on to the case? He thought it was instructions. He just didn't know.

There is a myth that circulates that Torah study is a means to end - to know what to do. There is truth to that but it does injustice to its many other important reasons.

Deprioritizing Torah study in the thought that one (thinks) he already knows it all - would be somewhat comparative to throwing out the mezuzah - thinking that its secondary.

It sure ain't.


Yud Gimmel Tammuz, 5777

Testimonies in Torah   

Installment 4 of 5

In the last issue, we learned about the descendants of Kayin, two-headed people who live in the subterraneous world known as arka. Let us now continue and see if there are any recorded instances in Chazal and other sefarim of two-headed people who lived in our world.

The first recorded instance of such a person is mentioned in Gemara (Menachos 37a). The Gemara states as follows:

A sage named Plimu once asked Rebbi: "If someone possesses two heads, upon which one does he lay tefillin?" Thinking he was making fun of him, Rebbi responded: "Either get up and go into exile, or accept a niduy!" As they were talking, a person entered the room. "I would like to ask a halachic question," he began. "My wife just gave birth to a firstborn boy with two heads. How many sela'im must I give the Kohen, five or ten?"

The Ralbag's father, R. Gershon ben Shlomo, records an account as told by the Muslim scholar Ibn Sina (Shaar Hashamayim Ch. 8):

Torah Study 24/7 Yud Gimmel Tammuz, 5777

The berachah on certain mitzvos is said using the word על, while on others we use a למ"ד. One of the rules is that if the berachah is being said after the mitzvah was performed, we say על.

This is why the berachah for Torah study is  על  דברי תורה. When someone is about to study, the obligation to study precedes him, because we are commanded to learn every day and moment. For this reason, we use the word על.

Kesef Mishneh, Rambam Hilchos Berachos 11:11

A Take of two Halacha Lectures
Chof Tes Sivan, 5777

In a span of one week Yagdil Torah hosted two lectures by Rabbi Greenfield of Vaad Mishmeres Stam and Dayan Levi Raskin of London. The organization that has enhanced the community's Torah learning has brought these two giants in their respective fields in the past with glowing praise.

Rabbi Greenfield spoke about what a stam user needs to know. He spoke about issues plaguing the stam market. From what is not mehudar to products that are not usable. He let the crowd know that there are sifrei torah on the market that were written in Lithuania by non-believers, rendering them un-usable. Rabbi Greenfield gave some tips to be able to spot such Torahs.

He also brought up the need of a lamed being shaped a certain way as a source of chesed in the home. He mentioned that when buying from a sofer we should know that, as the pri megadim says, a sofer needs more yiras shomayim than a shochet.

Besides the tips about buying stam Rabbi Greenfield brought up a few halachos pertaining to checking stam. For example, exactly what kind of kid can be used to kasher a shala in stam.

Just a few days later Dayan Raskin spoke about the Halachos of Tefillah. He has written extensively on the subject in his book Siddur Admur Hazaken, and gave some of that knowledge to the participants.

He spoke about practical stuff. If a chazzan should say kedusha with the congregation or not. When 'kohanim' should not be announced by birchas kohanim. When to step back before chazaras hashatz. Just to name a few.

These courses are of the many arranged by Yagdil Torah with the goal of providing quality, interesting and practical Torah learning opportunities to all segments of our community.

Thanks to Empire Shtiebel for hosting these two lectures.

Make sure to sign up to our email list so that you don't miss the notice for next shiur!


Chof Tes Sivan, 5777

Match Made in Heaven

Although the farmer, Yankel, was as wise as could be in the ways of farming, in the vast sea of Torah, he could not swim a stroke. For his sons, however, he wanted better. He sent them to a nearby town which had a good cheder and yeshiva and the two boys learned assiduously until they became known as the brightest students of the school.

One day they happened to hear the Baal Shem Tov speak and from that time they became great adherents of his and went to Mezibuzh whenever they could steal away. Their father couldn't understand what they found so interesting there. "We want to hear the words of the famous Baal Shem Tov," they would reply.

Once Yankel's curiosity was so great that he decided to visit Mezibuzh himself. When he arrived, he quizzed the tzadik on his knowledge of farming, and when he seemed to know all the correct answers, the farmer was satisfied that the Baal Shem Tov was, indeed, a wise man. Over the course of time, Yankel also became a great admirer of the Baal Shem Tov and he traveled to Mezibuzh to seek advice.

When years had passed and Yankel's daughter reached marriageable age, he decided to consult the Baal Shem Tov about finding an appropriate mate. "Send your sons to me and I will send them home with the proper husband for your daughter," the Baal Shem Tov advised the him.

The two sons arrived and traveled with the Baal Shem Tov to a distant town where the tzadik made inquiries about a certain young man named Shmerel. They remained in the town for several weeks, but the youth, Shmerel, was nowhere to be found. On the eve of the new month, when the townspeople had gathered at a festive banquet in honor of their distinguished guest, a wild-looking young man entered the hall. His manners were most uncouth, and he ran in and out just as quickly. This very youth was the one whom the Baal Shem Tov had been seeking, and although the two sons of the farmer Yankel couldn't understand what he could have possibly wanted with such a character, they duly informed him that they had found the boy.

The Baal Shem Tov was delighted and gave instruction that the boy be cleaned up and dressed properly and then brought before him. Shmerel was given the place of honor next to the Baal Shem Tov, and during the meal the Baal Shem Tov passed his handkerchief over the boy's face and commanded, "Give us a Torah discourse!" To the shock of all present, Shmerel began speaking and he expounded gems of Torah for the next few hours. The two brothers were very pleased with what they saw and heard and they set off for home with the yokel in tow.


Chof Tes Sivan, 5777

Subterraneous Worlds  Installment 3 of 5

In the last installment, we saw what Torah has to say about two-headed animals. Now let's see what Torah says about two-headed people.

The existence of people with two heads can be traced back to the first years of Creation, when Kayin sinned by murdering his brother Hevel.

Hashem's Tremendous Kindness Chof Tes Sivan, 5777

We are enjoined to express gratitude to Hashem whenever we learn Torah, thanking Him for the tremendous kindness He has done to us by giving us His Torah and teaching us the proper way to act so we will inherit the World to Come. Just as we are commanded to bless Hashem after eating [to thank Him for giving us sustenance], we are similarly commanded to bless Him before learning Torah [to thank Him for the Torah we are about to learn].

Hasagos of the Ramban on the Rambam's Sefer Hamitzvos, Shich'chas Ha'asin, Asei 15

Tes Vov Sivan, 5777

What's More Important?

Dear Editor @ Yagdil,

I read with great interest all your articles about how Torah learning is the most important.

I do have to disagree though. I know of at least 3 Chazal's that highlight certain mitzvos over Torah study! Like Yishuv Eretz Yisroel, Shabbos, and Bris Milah.

 

Dear Writer,

Yes, you are right. But you are also saying that I am! We know of the greatness of those mitzvos because of these chazals i.e. the Torah.

This is brought out very well by the Rambam who explains that Talmud torah is kineged kulam because it brings to all other mitzvos.


Tes Vov Sivan, 5777

Among Animals   

Installment 2 of 5

As mentioned in the first installment, a reference to a two-headed creature can be found in a possuk in Chumash:

The Torah lists the animals that are not kosher in Parshas Shemini, and again in Parshas Re'eih. Why does the Torah list them twice? The Gemara (Chulin 63b) explains that there are a couple of new dinim we learn from Parshas Re'eih. One of them is the din that an animal called a shesuah (mentioned in Re'eih 14:7) may not be eaten.

What is a shesuah?

The Gemara (Nidah 24a, cited in Rashi to Re'eih ibid.) quotes Rav Chanin bar Aba, who identifies the shesuah as a creature with two backs and two spines. This description itself is a matter of dispute between Rav and Shmuel (Nidah ibid., as explained by Rashi): According to Shmuel, a shesuah is a unique species of animal with two backs and spines, while Rav is of the opinion that a shesuah is a two-backed calf (or other type of otherwise kosher animal) born to a regular cow.

[Interestingly, some posit that the two-backed species the Torah is referring to (according to Shmuel) is the peccary, a South American pig-like animal that has a groove along its back, giving it the appearance of two backs (see Malbim to Shemini 11:4).]

Having two backs and two spines does not necessarily equal having two heads. However, the Targum Yonasan ben Uziel translates a shesuah as an "unborn fetus that possesses two heads and two spines," giving us a clear source in Torah to a two-headed creature.

Targum Yonasan explains that the reason such a fetus is forbidden is because it cannot survive. Indeed, although there are recorded instances of animals that were born with two heads, most of them died within a few days. (One such instance, of an unborn two-headed calf discovered in its mother's stomach in London in the year 5630/1870, was recorded by the shochet R. Avraham Zusman in his sefer Vayaas Avraham, p. 118.)

According to one explanation, this was also the form of the egel hazahav: an animal with two backs and two heads, one that appeared like a calf, and the other, like a donkey (R. Chaim Vital in Etz Hadaas Tov, Chukas 19:2).

In the ninth century (during the era of the Geonim), an individual named Eldad HaDani arrived in the city of Kairouan, Tunisia. He claimed he hailed from the tribe of Dan (hence his name, HaDani), who lived together with the tribes of Naftali, Gad, and Asher near the river Sambatyon. He repeated a number of halachos kept in his hometown, each one reputed to have been stated by Yehoshua bin Nun in the name of Moshe Rabbeinu. Some of these halachos are cited (and sometimes refuted) by the Rishonim, with varying approaches as to whether or not his story was credible (see, for example, Ibn Ezra to Shemos 2:22).

One of these halachos reads as follows: "How should an animal or bird with two heads be slaughtered? The right head should be placed above, and the left head below. If the right head was slaughtered incorrectly, it is unfit, but if the left head was slaughtered incorrectly, it is kosher" (Eldad HaDani [Epstein ed.], p. 87).

Assuming this halachah is correct, how can it be reconciled with Targum Yonasan, who states that a two-headed animal may not be eaten? A possible answer is that only an animal with two heads and two spines is forbidden, but an animal with two heads and one spine is permitted.

Now that we have seen what Torah has to say about two-headed animals, let's see what Torah says about two-headed people.

To be continued, bli neder...

Legal issues Tes Vov Sivan, 5777

Why is it that one who gets up in the morning must recite a berachah before [reciting select portions of Torah] but not afterward, while one who receives an aliyah must recite a berachah before and after?

Because with an aliyah, each oleh concludes his mitzvah, and he can therefore make a concluding berachah. But when someone gets up to study, there are no limits to how much he should be studying.

Shibolei Haleket, §5


Rosh Chodesh Sivan, 5777

It is Indispensable!

By the year 1843 word of the disputes between the Chasidim, Misnagdim and Maskilim had reached the Tsar's court. An order was issued that representatives be chosen to appear in Petersburg, where a commission, headed by the minister Count Uvarov would meet to decide which "brand" of Judaism was correct.

Each group selected a representative: The Chasidim of White Russia chose the Tzemach Tzedek; the Polish Chasidim, Reb Israel Halperin of Berdichev; the Misnagdim, chose Rabbi Yitzchak of Volozhin; the Maskilim chose to represent their viewpoint, Bezalel Stern, who was the director of the Jewish school in Odessa. Other Jewish dignitaries had been invited, but declined. Every delegate was permitted to bring an advisor; the Lubavitcher Rebbe brought his son, Reb Yehuda Leib.

When the meeting had convened, Count Uvarov explained that it was not the intention of the Tsar to overturn or annul any Jewish law or custom, merely to elucidate and clarify matters.

The Tzemach Tzedek was accorded due respect by the ministers, and he successfully answered all the questions that were put to him, which devolved mainly on matters of Chassidus and Kabbala.

One of the questions asked of all of the representatives was, "What is the purpose of studying Chassidus and Kabbala?"

Bezalel Stern replied that the study was totally unnecessary. Rabbi Yitzchak of Volozhin made no reply at all. When it came the turn of The Tzemach Tzedek and Reb Yisroel Halperin, they answered that this study is indispensable to all Jews.

On Friday afternoon, Count Uvarov made an announcement: "The question of the study of Kabbala and Chassidus will be decided according to Torah, that is, according to the majority opinion. Since Stern and I hold that it is not necessary and Yitzchak holds his peace, which indicates that he is also against it, and only Schneersohn and Halperin are in favor, I rule that this study be abolished!"

The Tzemach Tzedek stood up and with a bitter cry emanating from his heart declared, "Whatever may happen, the study of Kabbala and Chassidus cannot be abolished!"

Count Uvarov was beside himself with fury. "Arrest him!" he barked at his guards, and they immediately led the Rebbe from the room. Count Uvarov remained, pacing like an enraged tiger, while the other members of the commission looked on in horror.