June 20, 2024
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June 20, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

The city of Petra in Jordan is listed as one of the Seven Wonders of the World. In my years learning in Eretz Yisrael, during bein hazmanim (off time between semesters) I went on various tours. I visited three out of the seven wonders of the world! One was the city of Petra in Jordan: a city with carved rose-red sandstone rock facades, tombs, and temples. I also saw the Great Pyramid of Giza, outside of Cairo. On a trip back to the USA, I had a stopover in Rome where I saw the Colosseum. These three wonders and an additional four are listed as the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, based on their impressive architecture and grand design.These are man-made wonders. There are also seven natural wonders of the world which people travel the globe to see.

Every day, however, we take note of an even greater wonder — much closer to home. Each time we use the bathroom, we recite the Asher Yatzar blessing to thank Hashem for the ability to expel the toxins from our body and filter the nutrients from the foods we eat. The berachah concludes: “Blessed are You, Hashem Who heals all flesh ‘u’mafli la’asos’— and does wondrous things.”

What are the wonders? Rav Yosef Karo says they are the wonders of the human being: a person is composed of a body… and a soul. The soul is a spirit, somewhat like a gas that should normally exit through any opening. A body has many orifices and cavities. The miracle is that Hashem keeps the soul contained inside our body.

Rav Moshe Isserles points out another wonder: both the body and soul have opposite agendas! The body has urges and desires for physical pleasure; while the soul yearns for connection to Hashem and spiritual endeavors. The true wonder is that Hashem combines the two in human beings, with the goal of living in harmony.

In Parshat Naso, the word “fele”— wonder — is used to describe what happens when a person makes a vow: “ish ki yafli.” The Ibn Ezra indicates that the root of the word “yafli” is “fele” — wonder or amazement. A nazir — one who makes a vow to abstain from grape products — is a wonder, since most people pursue a life of physical pleasure, while this person goes against the tide and engages in abstinence. Rashi defines the word “yafli” as “separates.” By separating himself from the urge of pleasure, he is doing something wondrous.

The Rambam, in his famous work “Yad HaChazakah,” in which he codifies all of Halachah, includes a volume entitled “Hafla’ah” which deals with vows. The name comes from the description the Torah gives for a vow, which is considered a “fele” — a wonder.

A vow takes effect only if a person articulates the words constituting the vow. Why are vows specifically classified as something wondrous? Why is giving one’s word in the form of a vow considered a wonder?

Rav Shimshon Raphael Hirsch, known for his insights on the meaning of words, explains “wonder” as something beyond the existence of the laws of nature. “Fele,” being independent of the laws of nature, reveals the Unique One Who rules over the laws of nature and is able to make exceptions at will. The first “fele” was the actual creation of the laws of nature. In this context, a vow is an act of pure free will, sometimes going against man’s natural tendencies, that establishes binding regulations for the person making the vow, sometimes going beyond the requirements of Halacha.The ability of a person to create a new prohibition for himself by making a vow, is a true “fele” — a wonder.

The mouth is the vehicle that bridges the soul and the body, enabling us to express words of Torah. In many ways, our world depends on communication. Our ability to communicate is a gift from Hashem, unifying the potencies of body and soul. In our human relationships, our words can give expression to our neshama, creating harmony between body and soul.

Words can create; words can destroy. One caring word can change a person’s entire day and in turn positively affect all those with whom that person comes in contact. Conversely, one negative word can ruin someone’s day and, subsequently, that of all those who encounter him.

Even without expressing a vow, we can utilize the gift of “fele.” Let us set a goal to compliment a family member or someone with whom we’re in contact, once each day. Using our words properly, we can accomplish daily “wonders.”


Rabbi Baruch Bodenheim is the associate Rosh Yeshiva of Passaic Torah Institute (PTI)/Yeshiva Ner Boruch, where he leads a multi-level Gemara-learning program.  Rabbi Bodenheim can be reached at [email protected]. 

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