Halacha for Friday 23 Shevat 5784 February 2 2024

Parashat Yitro

A ma’amar from HaRav HaGaon Rebbi Yaakov Sasson Shlit”a, Maran’s zt”l grandson
(translated by our dear friend Rav Daniel Levy Shlit”a, Leeds UK)

Building a Home in Olam Haba

In this week’s Parashah, many mitzvot are mentioned and especially the “Ten Commandments”, which are well engrained in the heart of every Jew.

And so it states, “Honour your father and mother. You will then live long on the land that Hashem your G-d is giving you” (Shemot 20:11). Meaning that Hashem Yitbarach promises that a person who honours their father and mother will merit to a long life.

Likewise it states regarding the mitzvah of sending away the mother bird, “You must first chase away the mother, and only then may you take the young. [If you do this] you will have it good, and will live long” (Devarim 22:7). Here too the Torah promises longevity for a person who fulfils this mitzvah as  required.

The Gemara (Hagigah 15b) relates at length about Elisha ben Avuyah [born in Yerushalayim sometime before 70 CE] who was Rebbi Meir’s teacher and who was an exceptional talmid chacham, however “heretical books fell from his lap”, and “Greek songs never stopped from his mouth”, therefore in the end he went astray. He desecrated Shabbat for he felt he was unable to repent, until he passed away and our chachamim, Rebbi Meir and Rebbi Yochanan “overturned worlds” in order to merit him, to take him out of strict judgement and to bring him into Olam Haba (the World to Come).

The Tosafists add there, in the name of our chachamim in the Talmud Yerushalmi, that Elisha ben Avuya’s mother ate during her pregnancy a forbidden food and due to the impurity of that forbidden food it permeated him, and It was one for the causes that made him eventually end up badly. The Tosafists further quote that Elisha’s father sent him to a yeshivah, for the wrong motive, his intention was not correct. These things caused him to eventually end up as he did.

In the Gemara (Kiddushin 39b) Chazal said that Elisha ben Avuyah saw a young lad whose father asked him to go up a ladder and to fulfil the mitzvah of sending away the mother bird, yet on his way down the ladder, the lad fell and died.

Elisha ben Avuya was amazed. These two unique mitzvot about which the Torah promises longevity! Yet this lad died so young. How could this be? This was amongst the causes that in the end he went astray. (Even though in the Gemara Hagigah it is explained that he went astray because he inappropriately studied kabbalah, these matters are deep and illusive in high levels, but we will just bring the matters as they are without entering into additional explanations.)

They said in the Gemara that after some time Elisha ben Avuyah’s grandson (through his daughter) stood and expounded, “you will have it good” - in the world that is all good, “and will live long” - in a world that is all long! Meaning, although these mitzvot are indeed capable of causing long life, however, their main reward for them is long life in Olam Haba, which is the main world.

The Maggid Meisharim the gaon the tzaddik Rebbi Yaakov Galinski zt”l highlights that surely Elisha ben Avuyah could have easily answered himself the question that he was faced with! Indeed the lad went on his father’s instruction but in truth it wasn’t his father! And he also didn’t fulfil the mitzvah of sending away the mother bird for it was the father who was sitting on the chicks, and not the mother! It therefore transpired that there was no mitzvah here! [See Devarim 22:6.]

However in truth, in the end we need the explanation of Rebbi Yaakov that “you will have it good”, the intention is in a world that is all good, “and will live long” in a world that is all long, for if we consider, an increase of 10 or 20 years of life, cannot be called “the reward of a mitzvah” at all! For we have learnt in an explicit Mishnah, whoever performs one mitzvah, they do good to him and they lengthen his days, and Chazal explain that this refers to “Olam Haba”! (Kiddushin 39b). This is the true goodness! Better one moment of bliss in Olam Haba than the whole life of this world! [See also Avot 4:22.] Life in Olam Habab is eternal reward! Forever and ever.

Rebbi Yaakov Galinski relates a true story. An extremely rich person from American sailed by ship to Poland to visit his relatives living in Warsaw. He said, if I am already here, I will go and receive a berachah from the Chafetz Chaim (Rabbi Yisrael Meir Kagan zt”l 1838-1933), for his name is known in the entire world as a leader of the generation and as a tzaddik of the generation!

He enquired and asked where does he live? They replied to him, “In Radin”. He asked, “And where is Radin?” They said to him, “This isn’t a city but a town”. “And how does a person get there?” They responded to him, “Travel by a train to Lissa, and from there travel by a stagecoach pulled by horses for about 24 kilometres until Radin. On arrival you will be able to ask, and they will tell you!”

He thought to himself, what made the rav of Klal Yisrael choose his home in this town? It would appear that we are speaking of picturesque resort town, and he has a mind-blowing holiday apartment there!

He travelled and was shaken by the rocky roads until he arrived at Radin. His eyes darkened; he saw an abandoned town that was about to fall. They all pointed to a shack belonging to the “Chafetz Chaim”. The rich man entered the rav’s house and behold he saw, a shack, not even carpeted, a simple wooden table and two wooden benches to its side, not even a chair!

The rich man was stunned, he turned to the Chafetz Chaim and asked, “Rebbi! Where is your furniture?” The Chafetz Chaim asked him in response, “And where is your furniture?” The rich man responded, “I am not local!” The Chafetz Chaim responded to him, “I too am not local!”

The Chafetz Chaim busied himself furnishing his house which is prepared for him in the life of Olam Haba, the affairs of this world didn’t concern him at all.

I will relate a story which happened. Twenty years ago, they arranged for Maran the grandfather zt”l a luxurious car. A nice and sophisticated car. Maran would travel in it daily to act as a sandak and to give shiurei Torah. However, despite this, when the car was delivered, there were faults in it, so the car wasn’t working. After a week the car was respectfully sent to the garage to fix the problem.

During that time Maran didn’t have a car. So they arrange for him from day to day someone who would take Maran to wherever he needed to go. One time this was his son the gaon Rebbi David, and one time it was a neighbour or a relative, each time another person. Of course this sometimes led to delays and inconveniences.

After a few days the car was returned. But again there was a problem with it and the car was again sent to the garage. For a number of days Maran had no car and had to rely on favours from others who would take him.

At that time it was announced in the news that Maran had a sophisticated car and that of course he was very happy to have such a luxurious car. Likewise, further nonsense was written, for there are people who don’t understand the mindset of the gaon of the generation. They can’t believe that he doesn’t even know the name of the car in which he travels.

One evening Maran had to go out to give shiurei Torah. He requested from one of his relatives to take him in his car. It was a simple car, not new, but working. Maran sat next to the driver and asked him, “Tell me, what is the name of your car?” The driver replied to him, “Why does the rav ask such a question?” But the rav stood his ground and asked, “Nu, tell me what is your car called?” The driver responded, “Corolla”. After this Maran said, “Perhaps we should also buy a car such as the this, ‘Corolla’, for it is very good and travels without any problems…”

A person who is connected to Torah and serving Hashem, experiences themselves what eternal happiness is, what elation they feel when the neshamah shines. Likewise, they merit to understand the worthlessness of matters appertaining to this world, and therefore they busy themselves with the main objective. As Rebbi Yaakov said in the Mishnah (Avot 4:21), “This world is like an antechamber before Olam Haba. Prepare yourself in the antechamber so that you may enter the banqueting hall!”

Shabbat Shalom umevorach!

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