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Rabbi Elimelech Biderman - Torah Wellsprings - Acharei Mot - Kedoshim - Part 2

When Rebbe Yissachar Dov of Belz zy'a was old and feeble, his voice was weak, and only the people standing near him could hear his divrei Torah at the tisch. One chassid climbed under the table before the tisch began so he would be close enough to hear the Rebbe's divrei Torah. A few moments before the Rebbe came into the beis midrash for his tisch, one of the gabaim noticed him hiding under the table and the gabai tried to pull him out. The man under the table refused and he bit the gabai’s fingers. When Rebbe Yissachar Dov came in to the tisch he saw the commotion. He asked them for an explanation. The man said, “I wanted to hear the Rebbe’s divrei Torah, therefore I hid under the table. When the gabai tried to pull me out, I bit his hand.” The Rebbe replied, “Essentially, you are in the right. There was no reason for the gabai to force you out from under the table. However, I’ve received the following essential lesson from my parents and from my grandparents. They said, 'the essence of a Jew is seen precisely when he's in the right.’” Because even you're right it still doesn’t mean that it’s the correct thing to do. One needs to take into consideration how others will be affected by his deeds and whether a dispute will ensue. Only after introspection can you know what is the correct and proper thing to do is.

There was a Torah scholar who didn’t want to be occupied with deeds of chessed. He loved the Torah and wanted Torah to be his sole occupation. He would repeat the chazal we say each morning in birchas haTorah, which lists many good deeds, such as bikur cholim, hachnasas kalah, and then conclude, "Learning Torah is even greater." Rebbe Zusha of Anipoli told him a story: Once, a wealthy person bought an expensive jacket. Everyone in town was speaking about it and praising him for it. It was the most exquisite and beautiful coat they ever saw. A poor person saw all the commotion, and decided to buy the same as well. He began to save up his pennies. When he had enough money he bought such a jacket, and came to town expecting to hear compliments, but instead, whoever saw him laughed. He asked his friend, "When the wealthy man bought this coat, everyone praised it! Why are people laughing at me? " The man explained, "Your beautiful jacket has to come along with a clean shirt, polished shoes, a new hat, and so on. But your shirt is dirty and torn, your shoes are scuffed, your hat is out of shape and looks like an antique. They just don’t go together with an expensive coat. It just doesn’t look right." Rebbe Zusha told him, "The Mishnah we say in the morning lists the good deeds that earn reward in both this world and the next world. We mention honoring parents, doing loving-kindness, hosting guests, visiting the sick, hachnasas kallah… and then we conclude that studying Torah is greater than them all. Learning Torah is certainly the highest level, and through studying Torah one earns utmost rewards in this world and in the next world. But when is Torah good? Only when it comes along with all the other good deeds stated in the Mishnah. Torah without chessed can be compared to a person dressed in tatters and wearing a wealthy man’s coat on top. It isn't beautiful. So too, Torah without chessed isn't beautiful…" This scholar wasn't transgressing any particular prohibition. It was just that he didn’t make chessed a priority. He sought to avoid being involved in chessed. Rebbe Zusha told him that although he isn't transgressing any particular halachah. Correct and good is that one should be engaged in chessed, and then his Torah would have more value and beauty too.

In our generation if one is careful with kashrus, says the blessings with intention, eats with derech eretz, tries to eat even just one percent leshem shamayim etc., he is already doing monumental deeds. That is the kedushas achilah that we’re striving to attain. That too is a struggle but at least, it’s within our reach and potential. Each step you take towards eating with holiness will sanctify you immensely. The Baal HaTanya writes, "When one desires to eat, and pushes off the meal for an hour or less, he is conquering the sitra achara (the yetzer hara) below, and Hashem's honor and holiness escalates Above. And because of this holiness, he will receive immense assistance from Heaven, to succeed in his avodas Hashem…"

The first myth we must break is the notion that kashrus is the only criteria for holy eating. Kashrus is definitely the basis and being careful with kashrus is a paramount example of eating with kedushah, but there are several other matters to consider as well, such as saying the proper brachah with kavanah, eating with the intention to have strength to serve Hashem, eating healthy foods, and more. Why? Isn’t it enough that it’s kosher? The answer is the way one eats affects his deeds, his Torah study, and avodas Hashem. Eating with holiness is therefore essential.

One of the thirteen אני מאמין is to believe that the time will come when Hashem will resurrect the dead (techiyas hameisim). The Gemara (Sanhedrin 91:) brings several verses to prove this will happen.

When Rebbe Shmuel, the Lubavitcher Rebbe, zt'l, was visiting St.Petersburg, a Lubavitcher chassid approached him and said, "Rebbe, it’s very difficult to buy kosher l'mehadrin meat here in St. Petersburg." The Rebbe replied, "Who says you must eat meat? The Gemara says, 'it is forbidden for an עם הארץ to eat meat… Whoever studies Torah may eat meat and poultry, and whoever doesn’t learn Torah may not eat meat and poultry' (Pesachim 49). אסור ,forbidden, can also mean bound. Thus, the Gemara can be translated, "the ignorant feel bound to eat meat." They think that they can't manage without eating meat, and if there isn't kosher l'mehadrin meat available, they decide to be lenient, and to eat questionable meat, when nothing will happen to you if you don’t eat meat…"

The Yesod HaAvodah (2:9:24) writes, "It is very beneficial for avodas Hashem that a person shouldn’t only think 'is it permitted for me to eat this food… to go to that place… to do that deed…' rather one should think, 'will this be good in Hashem's eyes?'…"

Reb Chaim Vital zt'l writes, "The Arizal told me that attaining ruach hakodesh is dependent on how much kavanah one has when one says blessings [over food]. When the blessings are said with kavanah, it destroys the kelipos (impurities) and makes the food pure to receive holiness. He warned me about this a lot…. One must be extremely careful because these blessings sanctify him, as it says, ‘your Torah is in my stomach,’ and a divine spirit comes to the person."

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