May 16, 2024
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May 16, 2024
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Legendary scholar, educator, author and historian, Rabbi Berel Wein’s rabbinic career spanned Chicago, Miami and the Orthodox Union, before he founded Congregation Bais Tefillah and Yeshiva Shaarei Torah in Monsey, New York. Earlier, when Rabbi Wein was visiting Monsey, he davened at the fledgling community synagogue, which was under the leadership of Rabbi Dr. Moshe David Tendler. One evening, Rabbi Tendler was out of town, his illustrious father-in-law, the gadol hador, Reb Moshe Feinstein was present at shul. Rabbi Wein describes that evening:

“There were about 12 people there. Most of them had come in off the street just to say Kaddish. Between Mincha and Maariv, there was a short break and Reb Moshe would not allow it to be frittered away. So, he took a Chumash from a shelf and began teaching from it to the small crowd. He read each verse and then translated it into Yiddish with such a simple quality. He didn’t say any deep Torah thoughts, no deep analyses from the commentators; just the plain words. ‘Vayomer: un er hot gezokt—and he said … ’ But he spoke in such a way that he wasn’t talking down to anyone. Great people have that ability to talk to everyone: children, teenagers and adults.”

~
ויאמר ה׳ אל משה אמר אל הכהנים בני אהרן ואמרת אליהם …

“Speak (emor) to the Kohanim, and say (v’amarta) to them … ” (21:1)

Rashi teaches us that the apparent repetition of “speak to” and “say” teaches us להזהיר גדולים על הקטנים—“The adults should ‘l’hazir—warn’ the young.” As the older, more experienced Kohanim, they were to instruct the younger generation in the ways of the priesthood. The Lubavitcher Rebbe explained “l’hazir” as being etymologically connected with the word “zohar—illumination,” and he extended this insight into the work of anyone in a position to influence others or simply share positive values and Torah ideas—especially parents and teachers. The directive of “l’hazir—to issue warning” to others regarding maintaining ritual purity, is not just about what we impart, but how we transmit those values; how we educate, view, interact and aspire to influence others. To influence the listener positively, our admonition, our “l’hazir,” must express “zohar;” our words must “shine” and illuminate him with positivity.

Hundreds of Reb Moshe’s halachic opinions are collected in his nine volume magnum opus, “Igros Moshe,” spanning a wide range of sugyos, questions and issues. Among the piskei halacha and ethical directives, Reb Moshe describes what ought to be the primary goal of any teacher (or parent!) in transmitting Torah values: “One must realize that teaching Torah is a mission unlike teaching other subjects. When it comes to secular studies, the teacher must explain the material so that the students understand the information; to the teacher, it is irrelevant whether or not the material penetrates the students’ hearts and souls to the point that they will practice what has been learned. With regard to Torah, the teacher must see to it that the talmidim will absorb what they have learned so that they will perceive in their hearts and souls that Torah is our purpose, and the most important thing in life,” (Yoreh De’ah, III, no. 71).

In 1952, a young, charismatic Reb Shlomo Freifeld was chosen to join a small mission of yeshiva students to Eretz Yisrael, to meet with gedolei Yisrael, run programs and strengthen Torah. The bachurim engaged in a flutter of activity, working day and night on a very tight schedule. Somehow however, it seemed the future rosh yeshiva and founder of Sho’or Yashuv was always holding up the group … Reb Shlomo was always schmoozing! It didn’t matter who he met baderech—on the way. Whether with talmidei chachamim, elderly shop owners, children on the bus, policemen, schnorrers or fellow yeshiva students, Reb Shlomo was schmoozing.

When the friends became slightly frustrated, Reb Shlomo explained that he had recently heard a story about Rav Leizer Levin, who served as the chief rabbi of Detroit for more than 50 years. When Rav Levin was considering leaving his small Lithuanian shtetl and immigrating to the United States, he went to the Chafetz Chaim for advice and a bracha. The Chafetz Chaim sent him off to America, directing him with a holy mission: “Reb Leizer, gei red tzu Yidden—go speak to Jews!”

Reb Shlomo turned to his friends, “Eretz Yisrael is filled with Yidden! Everywhere I turn, I am surrounded by Jews to meet and speak with. I am so excited to fulfill the instructions of the Chafetz Chaim … and speak to Jews!”

~

May the instruction of the Kohanim in Parshas Emor awaken our efforts to share great light and shine forth the illumination and sweetness of Torah with all whom we meet.


Rav Judah Mischel is executive director of Camp HASC, the Hebrew Academy for Special Children. He is the mashpiah of OU-NCSY, founder of Tzama Nafshi and the author of “Baderech: Along the Path of Teshuva.” Rav Judah lives in Ramat Beit Shemesh with his wife Ora and their family.

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