Thursday, May 29, 2008

Reb Aizel Homiler Does a Jew a Favor

26 Iyar, "Yesod of Yesod", is the yartzeit of many great tzadikim. Last year I wrote about Reb Shlomke of Zvhil's Miraculous Cholent. This year I would like to write something brief about Reb Yitzchok Issac Epstein of Homil (1857), best known as Reb Aizel Homiler ZY"A. He was one of the best known of the early Chassidim of Chabad, and author of Chanah Ariel and Maamar Shnei Hameoros. He was a chasid of the first 3 Lubavitcher Rebbes. After the passing of the Mitteler Rebbe, many wanted him to become there leader, but like a true chasid he declined and became a follower of the much younger Tzemach Tzedek. I recall hearing stories many years ago featuring him and Reb Hillel Paritsher ZY"A, another prominent Lubavitcher chasid. Here is one short story about him.


In many towns, including Homil, there was a custom for the Rabbi to go with the Burial Society to check on the upkeep of the local cemetery on Lag BaOmer. This would be followed by a festive meal. On one such occasion, Reb Aizel Homiler passed by a certain grave and paused to read the excessive praises on the deceased man's tombstone. Reb Aizel said that in the next world they were asking this man to explain all of the praises written on his tombstone. Reb Azriel ordered the proper tools brought, and then had the people smash the tombstone until the inscription was no longer visible. Arriving at the meal later than expected Reb Aizel told the assembled: "I was out doing a favor for a fellow Jew".


This story has much to teach us. We have all heard and read exaggerated eulogies and seen tombstone inscriptions of people we knew, that don't match the same person we knew. This could chas V'Sholom cause the departed's soul to suffer very much. One of the great tzadikim (one of those that all circles held of) gave a eulogy at the funeral of a certain Rosh Yeshiva. He said that although the Rosh Yeshiva was a great teacher and disseminator of Torah, he did not reach the level of Yiras Shomayim that he should have. Later on, the tzadik's students asked him (in a respectable manner, in order to understand) how he could say such a thing in public. He responded that he was doing the biggest favor for the departed by praising his real accomplishments and making sure that false praise weren't said about him.


This, of course, is something only a really great person can do. For the rest of us, keeping away from false praise is all we can do. Although we should not try to do things in order to be praised, the moral lesson we can use to improve ourselves is to think how we can improve our Avodas Hashem in such a way that the Heavenly Court will never question even the most excessive praises of us after 120.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Parshas Bamidbar
שְׂאוּ אֶת-רֹאשׁ כָּל-עֲדַת בְּנֵי-יִשְׂרָאֵל לְמִשְׁפְּחֹתָם לְבֵית אֲבֹתָם בְּמִסְפַּר שֵׁמוֹת כָּל-זָכָר לְגֻלְגְּלֹתָם
Why does the posuk say בְּמִסְפַּר שֵׁמוֹת the number of names? The Ramban answers the question by saying that the Jewish counting is fundamentally different then a regular Census. A regular census is to collect data. There is no recognition of the individual. Therefore the torah went out of its way to say at a Jewish counting each person according to his name. Reb Lebowitz Zatzal says Hashem is telling we have to emulate him. When we interact with people we don’t just say yes he another of a certain group we must recognize each person for the individual he is and Honor and respect him as such.
וַיְדַבֵּר יְהוָה אֶל-מֹשֶׁה בְּמִדְבַּר סִינַי בְּאֹהֶל מוֹעֵד בְּאֶחָד לַחֹדֶשׁ הַשֵּׁנִי בַּשָּׁנָה הַשֵּׁנִית לְצֵאתָם מֵאֶרֶץ מִצְרַיִם לֵאמֹר
The Medrash starts off in these weeks Parsha "the Torah was given with three things: fire, water, and desert. The Medrash may have one more lesson that is not so readily apparent that is the kosher aspect. That is just as the Torah expects our dishes to be Kosher so to Hashem expects no less of us, in order to receive the Torah. The Three elements are clear illustrations of Koshering. There are three ways to make a non kosher item kosher. They are all in our Medrash first is fire this is Libun known more widely as Kashering in English it is purging that means heating a pan or grill until it is red hot, so here we have the element of fire. Then there is hagalah which is essentially submerging the utensil in boiling water we now have the element of water. The most recognizable aspect of the desert is sand and dirt and now you can understand the final correlation. There is a way to Kosher something called na’itza and it is only for knives. It is when you stab it in hard soil 10 times you know have the element of desert. The Medrash now has a whole new level in its symbolism as now it represents Kashrus.
וַאֲנִי הִנֵּה לָקַחְתִּי אֶת-הַלְוִיִּם מִתּוֹךְ בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל תַּחַת כָּל-בְּכוֹר פֶּטֶר רֶחֶם מִבְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל וְהָיוּ לִי הַלְוִיִּם
Whenever the torah speaks about the Levim it almost always says מִתּוֹך from among. What is the Significance that the Levim be among the Bnei Yisroel? Reb Yosef Chaim Sonnenfeld answers it is to teach a lesson for the Levim. There are Halachos that apply to the Jews interaction with the Shevet Levi the Kohanim and Levim come first for Bentching and Kriyas Hatorah. This may lead to them to feel superior. This is why the torah always said from among the Jews. The reason you receive the honor is because you are among the Jews as teachers therefore you are owed the respect and not because of some Intrinsic quality. He also noted this message in the word יִשְׂרָאֵל when you spell it out and take the middle letter it spells out the word Levim
לויים =, למד, אלף, יוד שין ריש
so here we have another level of the Levim being מִתּוֹךְ בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל.
וְנָסַע אֹהֶל-מוֹעֵד מַחֲנֵה הַלְוִיִּם בְּתוֹךְ הַמַּחֲנֹת כַּאֲשֶׁר יַחֲנוּ כֵּן יִסָּעוּ אִישׁ עַל-יָדוֹ לְדִגְלֵיהֶם
What is the Posuk telling us as they rested so they traveled? The Satmar Rebbe in his Sefer Divrie Yoel gives an answer based on a Gemara in Taanis. The Gemara says that Yosef warned his brothers do not talk torah on the way as you are liable to get lost or fall into a pit because you will get caught up in your learning. This week in the Medrash it explains how the clouds of glory worked .They traveled in front of the Jews a distance of three days it cleared the land of snakes and scorpions and leveled it so that there are no pits. Therefore we now understand what the Posuk is saying, that is just as when we rest we are not concerned about getting lost and falling into the pit so to now with the clouds of glory leading the way even when we travel getting lost is not a concern.
מִבֶּן שְׁלֹשִׁים שָׁנָה וָמַעְלָה וְעַד בֶּן-חֲמִשִּׁים שָׁנָה כָּל-בָּא לַצָּבָא לַעֲשׂוֹת מְלָאכָה בְּאֹהֶל מוֹעֵד
Why here by קְהָת does the torah use the language מְלָאכָה but by גֵּרְשֻׁנִּי the torah says עבודת ? The answer is a Klal in Hilchos Shabbos. קְהָת carried things on his body that is an Issur from the Torah so we call it a מלכה. The other Levim but the objects from the Beis Hamikdash on animals which is only a Drabonon so their work is called an עבודה

וְאֵלֶּה תּוֹלְדֹת אַהֲרֹן וּמֹשֶׁה בְּיוֹם דִּבֶּר יְהוָה אֶת-מֹשֶׁה בְּהַר סִינָי
The Gemara in Sanhedrin learns out from this Posuk whoever teaches a child torah it is as if he is his child. The Chacham Tzvi questions based on the posuk, is a golem good for a minyan. The logic in question is if we apply the adage כל המגדל יותם בתוך ביתו מעלה עליו
הכתוב כאילו ילדו meaning whoever raises a child it is as if he was born to him. Then following that logic it would be as if he was born to him and therefore he would be good for a minyan. The Chacham Tzvi answers that it is not good for a minyan. He came to this decision based on another Gemara in Sanhedrin. This Gemara says that רבא created a golem and sent him to Reb זירא. Reb זירא realized what it was and told it return to the ground from where it came and so it was. Therefore he says that the golem is an it because if not he would have been killing someone, and hence is not good for Minyan. The Har Tzvi's son brought another proof to his fathers Psak. He said to be part of a Minyan you need Ruach and Nishama if not you cant be part of a Minyan because if you are sleeping and your Nishama is not with you, you are not able to be part of the Minyan.
וַיָּמָת נָדָב וַאֲבִיהוּא לִפְנֵי יְהוָה בְּהַקְרִבָם אֵשׁ זָרָה לִפְנֵי יְהוָה בְּמִדְבַּר סִינַי וּבָנִים לֹא-הָיוּ לָהֶם וַיְכַהֵן אֶלְעָזָר וְאִיתָמָר עַל-פְּנֵי אַהֲרֹן אֲבִיהֶם
The Posuk is structurally strange it says Nadav and Avihu died and they had no children. What is the connection between the two? A second question is also asked we know they died because they did the Avodah drunk and other things why change that in our Posuk? The Chasam Sofer answers everything is because they had no children. The explanation is as follows children teach adults a very important lesson respect. Children reflect behavior of their parents thereby if the parents are disrespectful so is the child. The parents see this behavior and realize their own shortcomings and hopefully change. Nadav and Avihu did drink and they also issued a ruling in front of Moshe and they also stood behind Moshe and Aharon and said "when will they die so we can take over". This is all one concept disrespect. The connection is now clear the lack of respect because they had no children. The change of reasoning is also answered. That is it is the same reasoning the original reasoning's are extensions of this one that they did not have children and thereby where lacking respect.
וַיִּפְקֹד אֹתָם מֹשֶׁה עַל-פִּי יְהוָה כַּאֲשֶׁר צֻוָּה
Why is it that the Levim had the fewest of all the tribes? There are many answers to this question. Here are a few Reb Elchonon Wasserman answers that the Levim are like Diamonds that is the reason for their value is their Rarity. It is only because they are so hard to come by that they are worth so much. The Levim are the same because there are so few they are so valuable to Klal Yisroel. The Ohr Hachaim has a very different answer from the other side of the spectrum he says because they followed Amram who separated from his wife after Pharaoh said he would kill the children. They where never slaves so the where very sensitive so they stopped having children. The Beis Halevi had a very practical answer he said the Levim are supported by the Jews and he did not one to place a large burden on the Jews so he made sure there would be few of them. The main reason is that they where not enslaved so they did not get the counter Bracha to have many children. The Sefer Shlal Rav has an amazing insight based on this. What is the reason for this Bracha of many children to counter the enslavement? The answer is there was a fear that People would say the men where enslaved so for sure the women where attacked too. In order to defend against this idea Hashem gave A Bracha to give many children illustrating they where kosher Children of two Jewish parents as Hashem would not give Bracha to an illicit relationship. Therefore since the Levim where not enslaved they did not need this proof against this claim of their children not being their own so they had less children.
פְּקֹד אֶת-בְּנֵי לֵוִי לְבֵית אֲבֹתָם לְמִשְׁפְּחֹתָם כָּל-זָכָר מִבֶּן-חֹדֶשׁ וָמַעְלָה תִּפְקְדֵם
There is an amazing diyuk in Rashi based on this Posuk. Rashi here says משיצא מכלל נפלים that is "count from this age to make sure he is not going to die". Later in posuk Mem Rashi says משיצא מכלל ספק נפלים. Why the change in language and add the word ספק? The Medrash says in the first mention in Posuk Tes Vov Moshe walked over to each Levis tent and Hashem told him how many people lived there. By the second Posuk Moshe counted. The first one done by Hashem Rashi says מכלל נפלים as hashem can not have a ספק only humans can.