Rabbi Yehoshua Alt

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R’ Alt merited to learn under the tutelage of R’ Mordechai Friedlander Ztz”l for close to five years. He received Semicha from R’ Zalman Nechemia Goldberg. R’ Alt has written on numerous topics for various websites and publications. He lives with his wife and family in a suburb of Yerushalayim where he studies, writes and teaches. The author is passionate about teaching Jews of all levels of observance.

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Full of Flavor

R’ Bachaye[1] tells us just as the body gets pleasure from the taste of honey so too does the soul get pleasure from wisdom. With this, we can explainויחזו את האלה-ים ויאכלו וישתו[2], they gazed at Hashem and they ate and drank, which is stated by Matan Torah, as the pleasure of seeing the Shechina is compared to eating and drinking. So, one can get satiated through spirituality.[3]

 

The Ohr Hachaim comments on ותורתך בתוך מעי, your Torah is in my innards,[4] that one can get to the point where he feels that his learning is like eating and satiates him just as food does. Moshe epitomized this when he was by the mountain for 40 days without eating or drinking. His body was satiated from spirituality just as one who eats and drinks and is alive because of it.[5]

 

After the Yeshuos Yaakov got married he lived by his father-in-law in the city of Yaroslov. In the shul there where he was davening in for Yom Kippur, a man suddenly came in and went up to be the Shliach Tzibur. He led the davening for Kol Nidrei, Maariv, Shacharis, Mussaf, Mincha, Neila, and Maariv after Yom Kippur with such התעוררות in addition to staying up all night reciting Tehillim, being the Baal Korei at Krias Hatorah and blowing the Shofar. After Mussaf, the Yeshuos Yaakov wondered to himself if this was a Malach or a human. As Yom Kippur came to an end, they decided there was no doubt this was a Malach. At the conclusion of Yom Kippur the Yeshuos Yaakov invited him for Havdala. He took up on the offer and led Havdala with fervor. After drinking from the Havdala wine, he fell onto a chair from exhaustion expressing that he doesn’t feel good. He requested that they bring him something to give him strength. Realizing he wasn’t a Malach, they rushed to bring him food in which he pushed aside. He then requested a Gemara Succa (as it was the Yom Tov following Yom Kippur) in order to strengthen himself. He then began to learn with tremendous yearning all night. The Yeshuos Yaakov hid under the bed in the guest’s room until he fell asleep. When the Yeshuos Yaakov awoke, it was already morning and the guest was engaged in learning until he finished the Mesachta. Afterwards, it was revealed that this guest was the Kedushas Levi.[6]

 

R’ Alexander Ziskind, author of יסוד ושרש העבודה once saw a non-Jew that appeared to be מדשני ענג, saturated with delight. He wondered how this could be since he doesn’t learn Torah.

 

A group of boys from the Navardok yeshiva stuck in a ghetto during World War Two were extremely stressed from not having Gemaras to learn from. Knowing the Germans allowed cheese to be brought in from outside the ghetto,[7] the boys had their friends wrap the cheese in pages of Gemara. One by one they collected these pages until they had several complete Mesachtos. They then thought maybe they shouldn’t have used the Gemaras in such a way since it was disrespectful. The question was presented to a renowned Posek. His response: it was permitted for them to do so for two reasons. First, it was honor for the Torah when they demonstrated their desire to learn. Additionally, for those boys it was פקוח נפש, life-threatening, to be provided with a means of studying Torah.[8]

 

In regard to the מן, it says “let them pick each day’s portion on its day so I can test themהילך בתורתי אם לא, whether they will follow my teaching or not.”[9] In light of what we mentioned we can grasp a different meaning in these words. Many of us in this physical world get our variety, renewal, and excitement from that which is physical—especially the various foods we eat. Where does one who learns Torah all day, with a simple lifestyle as in פת במלח תאכל[10] get his variety from (symbolic of one who eats the same מן every day)? They get it from the Torah. This is what is meant in הילך בתורתי אם לא. In this way, we can grasp yet another meaning in ויחזו את האלה-ים ויאכלו וישתו as one can get his variety in spirituality just as others get it from eating and drinking.

 

[1] End of Hakdama to Parshas Vayakhel.

[2] Shemos 24:11.

[3] Rashi (Brachos 17a, s.v. ויאכלו) remarks they were satiated from the radiance of the Shechina as if they ate and drank.

[4] Ohr Hachaim, Vayikra 18:2. Tehillim 40:9.

[5] The Chazon Ish (Emuna Ubitachon 1:9) writes, “When one merits becoming aware of the reality of Hashem’s existence he will experience limitless joy. All the pleasures of the flesh immediately disappear. His soul is enveloped in sanctity and it is as if it has left the body and floats in the upper heavens. When one transcends to this level an entirely new world is opened to him. It is possible for one to be momentarily like a celestial being in this world. All of the pleasures of this world are as nothing compared to the intense pleasure of one cleaving to his creator.”

[6] מורשה אבות 5:211. The Kedushas Levi, who was a student of the Magid of Mezerich lived from 1740-1809.

[7] The Germans allowed this because then they wouldn’t have to feed them.

[8] When we speak of life and non-life, we must ask ourselves what is our definition of life?

[9] Shemos 16:4.

[10] Avos 6:4. See Taamai Haminhagim, p. 145, s.v. ובספר קהלת משה.

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