Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Rav Moshe Weinberger - Yisro 5773 - Mending Broken Vessels

Below, please find a write-up of Rav Weinberger's morning drasha from the Parshas Yisro. Baruch Hashem, this version reflects his review of the write-up. See here for past write-ups. Also, thousands of Rav Weinberger's shiurim are available onlin HERE. Please note that these drashos will only be available online for one month. Shalosh Sheudos will remain up. If you are interested in a particular drasha that is no longer online, you can email me and I'll send it to you IY"H, BL"N.

Rav Moshe Weinberger
Parshas Yisro 5773
Mending our Vessels

When Hashem gave us the Torah on Har Sinai, He was our Rebbe, our Melamed, and He brought us into His “yeshiva” in order to give us the Torah. Every morning, we refer to Hashem as “המלמד תורה לעמו ישראל,” “the Teacher of Torah to His people, Israel.” As the pasuk (Devarim 4:5) says, “רְאֵה לִמַּדְתִּי אֶתְכֶם חֻקִּים וּמִשְׁפָּטִים,” “See, I have taught you ordinances and statutes.” We learn many of the principles of chinuch, educating our children and ourselves, from how Hashem gave us the Torah. For example, the Torah teaches that the manner in which Hashem gave the Torah was (Devarim 5:4) “...פָּנִים בְּפָנִים דִּבֶּר ה' עִמָּכֶם,” “Hashem spoke with you face to face...” From this we learn that a rebbe or morah must engage directly with his or her students and not in a backhanded way which is not truly directed at who the students are and what they need.

Rav Yaakov Galinsky, שליט"א, one of the last great magidim, quoted a fascinating Midrash from Koheles Raba 3:15:

ראויין היו ישראל בשעה שיצאו ממצרים שתנתן להם תורה מיד אלא אמר הקדוש ברוך הוא עדיין לא בא זיוון של בני משעבוד טיט ולבנים יצאו ואין יכולין לקבל תורה מיד מלה"ד למלך שעמד בנו מחליו ואמרו לו ילך בנך לאיסכולי שלו אמר עדיין לא בא זיוו של בני ואתה אומר ילך בנך לאיסכולי שלו אלא יתעדן בני שנים ושלשה ירחים במאכל ובמשתה ויבריא ואחר כך ילך לאיסכולי שלו כך אמר הקב"ה עדיין לא בא זיוון של בני משעבוד טיט ולבנים יצאו ואני נותן להם את התורה אלא יתעדנו בני ב' וג' חדשים במן ובאר ושלו ואח"כ אני נותן להם את התורה אימתי בחדש השלישי
The Jewish people were fit to be given the Torah as soon as they left Egypt. But Hashem said "The radiance of their health has not yet returned to my children.  They have just left the slavery, mortar, and bricks and they cannot receive the Torah immediately.” This is comparable to a king whose son has just survived a serious illness and people begin to say “Your son should go back to school.” [The king answers,] “The radiance of my son’s health has not yet returned and you say that he should go back to his school?! Instead, let him take it easy for two or three months with food and drink in order to recover and afterward, he can go back to his school.” So too, Hashem said, “The radiant health of of my children has not yet returned from the slavery, mortar, and bricks from which they just left. Shall I give them the Torah?! Instead, let them take it easy for two or three months with the mann, the well, and quail, and afterward, I will give them the Torah. When? In the third month[, Sivan].

We learn a fundamental principle of education from this Midrash. One can only act as a vessel to receive the Torah if he feels like a “mentch,” with a sense of dignity and wholeness. Otherwise, he is a broken vessel, and a broken vessel cannot contain the light of Torah. We can see this principle illustrated through several stories. Rav Galinsky relates that although he was never in a concentration camp, he lived in a displaced persons camp in Berlin immediately after the War. At that time, once the War was over, the enormity of what everyone had been through and what they had lost began to sink in. The camp was in a constant state of mourning. The sounds of crying, groaning, and weeping came from all directions at all hours of the day and night; “Everything is lost!” “Everyone was killed!” “There is no point in living!” The brokenness of our people at that time stood out in stark relief when, one day, a young man came to Rav Galinsky and asked him to officiate at his marriage to young woman in the camp. It is known that a number of weddings took place at that time in the camps, but this was the first one and Rav Galinsky was taken aback. When he asked the young man if his kallah, his bride, would cover her hair, he responded that he thought so, but that he did not even have a little piece of cloth to use as a tichel, a hair covering. This was the state of the brokenness of our people at that time. They managed to find a piece of cloth and they held the chasunah, although everyone in attendance had only the torn clothing on their backs to wear for the occassion. Reporters even came to cover the “crazy” Jews who were trying to build a new life after losing everything.  

Our people were broken after the War. When I was little, I would look at an album of pictures taken shortly after the War in America of my parents and the family members who had survived the concentration camps and managed to come to America. I was taken aback by the fact that none of them wore yarmulkes and that the women did not dress in an orthodox manner. I asked my father to explain this. Sighing, he tried to explain to me that it was very difficult after the war to rebuild a life of Shabbos, kashrus, yarmulkes, and the like. It wasn’t that they lacked faith or had any great theological questions because of the Holocaust. Really, it was a case of  משעבוד טיט ולבנים יצאו ואין יכולין לקבל תורה מיד,” “they have just left the slavery, mortar, and bricks and they cannot receive the Torah immediately.” Everything and everyone they had, including their sense humanity, had been taken from them. They were broken vessels and needed time to come back to themselves in order to regain their ability to receive the Torah. The “radiance” of life never returned to them. 

As a child, I was once at a friend’s house and his non-frum uncle, who was a survivor, was visiting. He asked me what we were learning in yeshiva. I told him that we were learning Bava Metzia. He asked what page were on, and when I responded, he put his arm over his head to cover it, since he had no yarmulke, and began to recite the page of Gemara I was learning by heart. My friend asked why he didn’t just wear a yarmulke and he responded vaguely that we simply did not understand. Some people were so broken that they were never able to heal and re-receive the Torah. 

Dovid Hamelech summed this up when he said (Tehillim 116:7-8) “שׁוּבִי נַפְשִׁי לִמְנוּחָיְכִי כִּי-ה' גָּמַל עָלָיְכִי. כִּי חִלַּצְתָּ נַפְשִׁי מִמָּוֶת אֶת-עֵינִי מִן-דִּמְעָה אֶת-רַגְלִי מִדֶּחִי,” “Return, my soul, to your rest because Hashem has dealt generously with you for You have rescued my soul from death, my eyes from tears, and my feet from stumbling.” One’s soul can rest only after it has been rescued from death, tears, and stumbling. We can only receive the Torah after “בא זיוון של בני,” Hashem’s children have returned to a state of health. 

It is well-known that when the Satmar Rav first came to Williamsburg after the War, there were very few survivors from Hungary who were able to join him. He began giving a Gemara shiur and at that time, there were only four or five people in attendance. They were learning Chullin and as soon as he began giving the shiur the first day, he started telling stories of tzadikim and giving chizuk. The second day of the shiur, he again started the Gemara but continued telling more stories. The third day, after telling a few stories, he started asking people how they were doing, whether they were able to find jobs, and the like. Finally, on about the fourth day of the shiur, one of the men asked him, “Nu, Rebbe, the Gemara?” The Rebbe answered him, “Does your Gemara have a daf alef, a page 'one?’” “No,” the man answered, “no Gemara has a daf alef.” The Satmar Rav then explained, “Do you know what daf alef of the Gemara is? Feeling like a mentch. Having a little chizuk. Having someone ask, ‘how are you doing?,’ ‘Did you get that job interview?’ That is daf alef of the Gemara.” These broken Jews around the table needed to begin with daf alef. 

This is a great principle in educating our children, other people’s children, and even ourselves. It is brought in Chayei Moharan (432) that Rebbe Nachman taught not to push children too much because you don’t know what a boy or girl is going through in life. Many children grow up in difficult environments. It is very hard to push a child to do his or her homework if there is a divorce, some sort of abuse, or a serious illness at home. Rebbe Nachman continued “ואי אפשר לבאר הדבר הזה, והוא ברור למשכיל, ונצרך מאד למלמדים, וכן לכמה ענינים. כי זהו כלל גדול, שלא לדחוק עצמו ביותר על שום דבר, רק בהדרגה ובמיתון,” “It is impossible to explain this matter properly but it is clear to those who are wise and is extremely important for teachers and so too in many other areas. This is a great principle: Do not push yourself more than is appropriate in any matter, rather it should be gradually and patiently.”

We see that Rebbe Nachman teaches that even with our own growth, we must not force our selves to grow until we fulfill our own basic human needs. I know a morah in a girls’ high school who told me that the school keeps a very private file of issues that girls are dealing with at home so that their teachers can keep this in mind in school. They will know if a girl’s home has some serious sickness, divorce, abuse, or any other serious disruption in her life so they can take this into account when working with the girls.

Rav Galinksy related another story from shortly after the War. Many of the survivors who made their way to Eretz Yisroel settled in Bnei Brak. The residents there found two apartments for a group of orphan girls in one apartment building. Because all of these girls had lost their entire families, the apartments were constantly filled with sadness, mourning, and tears. Finally, one of the girls became a kallah, got engaged. She was the first girl in the group to get engaged and the Shabbos before her chassuna, during her Shabbos Kallah, the girls broke out into song and began singing zmiros together for the first time. One of the neighbors ran down to the Chazon Ish, זצ"ל, complaining, “הקול באישה ערוה! יש למחות!,” “It’s Kol Isha, a woman is singing! We should protest!” The Chazon Ish asked him who was singing and he answered that it was the orphan girls in the apartment. The Chazon Ish answered, “They’re singing!? They’re finally singing! Let them have a little joy! You can take a Shabbos walk in order to avoid hearing them, but the girls must continue singing.” Their “radiance” was finally returning after all the years of misery. 

When teaching other people or even trying to learn and grow ourselves, we must realize that a person must be a “mentch,” must heal and have human dignity in order to become a solid vessel to contain the Torah. Torah which is poured into צובראכינער כלים, broken vessels, will only spill out. We must build our children and ourselves up so that we will be able to receive and hold onto the Torah. That is why Chazal (Avos 3:20) say “אם אין דרך ארץ, אין תורה,” “Without the way of the earth, there is no Torah.” People must have their basic human needs met, must be able to smile, must have the “radiance of their good health” back before they can truly receive the Torah.
May Hashem fill all of our needs and make us proper כלים, vessels, so that we may fulfill our ultimate purpose of receiving, learning, and fulfilling the Torah.

Click here to get Dixie Yid in your e-mail Inbox or here to subscribe in Google Reader.

1 comment:

NachRock said...

Thank you!!!! Was looking forward to this one since Shabbos!