The Torah Podcast Transcript
096 Torah Portion of the Week – Shemini – The Key to Your Inner World – Silence and Modesty – A Powerful Parable about the Expert Doctor – A Great Story about Rav Moshe Feinstein and Peace in Your Home – Proper Speech in the House
Torah Portion of the Week – Shemini
The Torah Podcast Transcript
096 – The Key to your Inner World – Silence and Modesty
The Torah Podcast 096 – The Key to your Inner World – Silence and Modesty – Torah Portion of the Week – Shemini – A Powerful Parable – Great Stories – Rav Moshe Feinstein and Peace in Your Home
Torah Portion of the Week – Shemini
So, chapter 10 of Vayikra starts out with the death of the two sons of Aaron, Nadav and Avihu. The verses say like this. “The sons of Aaron, Nadav and Avihu, each took their fire pans. They put fire in them and they placed incense upon them. And they brought before Hashem an alien fire that He had not commanded them to bring. A fire came forth from Hashem and consumed them, and they died before Hashem. Moses said to Aaron, ‘Of this did Hashem speak saying, ‘I will be sanctified for those who are close to me, and I will be honored before the entire people.’ And Aaron fell silent.” So we see here that Hashem killed the two sons of Aaron haCohen, and Moshe explained to Aaron what happened there, that it was a sanctification of God’s name, and Aaron was silent. So, Rashi explains that according to Rav Yishmael, they were intoxicated with wine before they came to the Beis HaMigdash, and this was a sanctification of Hashem’s name that Hashem wiped them out. And Moshe Rabbeinu said, “Ah, this is what Hashem was speaking about.” Where did Hashem say such a thing? He said, “I shall meet there the Children of Israel and they should be sanctified to my honor. Do not read ‘through my honor’ but ‘through the honored ones.’ So, Moshe said to Aaron, ‘Aaron my brother, I knew that the House would become sanctified through the intimate with the Omnipresent. But I was in the impression it was either you or me. Now I see that they are greater than us,’ and Aaron fell silent.” He received reward for his silence. What reward did he receive? That the speech was directed to him alone, that God said to them the section of the Torah that deals with the intoxication of wine. So, Aaron was rewarded for his silence.
So, Rav Miller from Gateshead brings the Amek Davar who wants to explain that these possukim are connected with the Gemara in Bechoro 63B that says like this. “If a pupil receives the anger of his teacher in silence, then he will be rewarded by the power to distinguish between the impure and the pure, by becoming a teacher of halacha of Yisroel.” It says that if a person who’s rebuked by his teacher and he keeps silent, he will be rewarded to be a big lamdan, to be a big thinker. So the question is, what’s the connection between being rebuked by his teacher and just sitting there being silent, and becoming a teacher of the Jewish people? So, Rav Miller from Gateshead brings the Ohr Nefesh who explains. He says, “The pupil who has the ability to keep silent and to cultivate a deep, inner intellectual activity, unrelieved by their frequent questioning and objections that are often a psychological escape from the necessary thought, this pupil who has the power of absorption and inner concentration, who can analyze and discriminate even between the mistakes of his teacher and his justified criticisms, he will be granted the opportunity to develop this faculty on his own for intense reflection and discrimination, for close, uninterrupted study, to a point where he will grasp the fine distinctions of halacha which will make him a Jewish teacher in Yisroel. In other words, the person who has the ability to be silent even when he’s being rebuked, he means he has deep inner world. He’s connected with his seichel, with his intellect, and he’s able to look at things in a relaxed way in an open way, that he could understand what the law is. He has a deep mind. Rav Miller says, “It shows he has a deep, reflective inner life and he does not seek the extrovert, self-expression, and the shallow and the volatile. Receiving the words of others without external self-expression, this is the quality needed that ultimately sanctions the halachic leaders of the Jewish people.” In other words, the ability to be rebuked, to be put down, to be able to knock down and not respond means you’re holding in a very deep, high level.
And he brings the Maharal who explains the Pirkei Avos that says, “Be deliberate in judgment and raise many disciples.” The Maharal explains, “What does it mean deliberate in judgment and raise many disciples? It means you can’t just look at things from your own perspective. You have to be able to see out of yourself. You’re happy to see more perspectives. You have to be open-minded. The man who keeps silent and can assimilate the opinions of others turns his energy inward on the problem itself. And in essence, all men are united. In all men is the image of God close from his innermost heart of being, and requires however the stilling of disruptive outside noises. If you are to reach the pure, harmonious truth, you have to get rid of the outside voices. You have to be able to hear your inner voice.”
And Rav Miller brings another proof of how important it is to develop your inner world. The verse says like this. “And Esther found favor in the eyes of all who saw her.” He says, “Wait a second. Every person who saw Esther, she found favor in their eyes? It doesn’t make any sense. How could she find favor in the eyes of every person?” He brings the Maharal that explains like this. He says, “U’bevadai zeh la’amod hamadregas Esther shel al tzircha penimi.” “For sure,” he says, to stand on the level that Esther had when it came to modesty, her inner modesty, ‘ve hanistar shaveh es hakol.’” And he wants to say, this hidden quality of tzenius, of modesty – it translates as modesty, it’s really much more than modesty – the quality of having a deep, inner world he says, “shaveh es hakol,” that’s worth everything. So, he wants to explain, that’s why she found chein, she found favor in every other human being, because she had such a deep, inner world, her tzenius, her modesty went so deep that everybody saw that. Everybody can relate to that. She found chein in the eyes of all the people. She found favor in everybody’s eyes, because they saw her depth. Her depth was so great that everybody could see it.
And Rav Wolbe wants to explain that when Aaron was silent it meant that he totally accepted Hashem’s decree. That’s in terms of a negative thing happening, but he wants to explain that even in terms of the positive, if a person is not silent, he won’t appreciate anything. Look what he says. “In contrast, a person who has difficulty remaining silent will never fully appreciate anything that he experiences. When is awed or shaken by something he’s heard or seen, he feels compelled to categorize the occurrence with a verbal description.” He says, “Amazing, very nice. But if he would remain silent and allow what he has seen or heard to be internalized, it would have a much deeper and greater impression on him.” This is unbelievable. We have to develop our inner world and our silence is the key. How do we get into the inner world through silence? And he explains that silence also goes hand in hand with solitude. A person who enjoys a quiet moment gets to know himself and his internal world, and will make an effort to find some time for solitude. A person who does not know how to remain silent, he constantly flees from solitude. He has no interest in getting to know himself. The problem with our dor, generation, all day on the phone, all day checking the internet, checking the emails, there’s never any time to self-reflect, time to build an inner world. And the world’s pushing on us, everything’s external – go to the mall, go buy something, go do something, move around. No, a person who has the ability to connect with his inner world, he doesn’t need all these things. He’s satisfied internally, and this is how we build our spirituality because spirituality is built on our inner world, on our ability to reflect, to think, to understand really what life is about. If we’re constantly distracted, how are we supposed to know God?
And not only that, but how are we supposed to get across to our children that there’s a God in the world? The Chassam Sofer says like this. “If Aaron continued to weep, the intended kiddush Hashem that his children died would never have got to klal Yisroel. They would have got the wrong message, because if Aaron continued to weep, what would have happened? They would have thought, ‘Oh, you see God punished for his sins. That has nothing to do with us.’ The answer is no, it wasn’t because of Aaron’s sins that his children passed away. It was a kiddush Hashem, it was to show don’t mess with God. Whatever the halacha is, you have to keep the halacha. You’re in the Beis HaMigdash, you are close to God. And if you’re close to God, you have to be on your best behavior. If you’re not on your best behavior God-forbid, that’s what can happen.” And that was the message. So, if Aaron would have continued to cry, that message would not have got across. His silence which means the acceptance of God’s will, that brings God into the world. But acceptance of God’s will is not an easy story. How can a person go through suffering? How can a person have hardships and be silent, and to accept it with happiness? It’s not a simple story. It says, Chazal says that if a person is silent when somebody tells him off, it’s like the sun going forward in its strength. That’s what the verse says.
How can we be like the sun? How can we be strong like that? How can we accept all the decrees that God gives us, and just to be silent with people telling us off, and people acting weird, and kids doing who knows what, and your spouse is doing who knows what, and you remain silent? Where do you get the inner strength? So, the Malbim explains there are three things that can help us to accept God’s judgment. He explains by Avraham Avinu, the first thing is by the lowliness of man. Avraham Avinu said, “I’m but dust and ashes.” Where did he say that? When he was trying to save Sodom, he had to accept what God’s judgment was, it was to wipe out Sodom. And Abraham said, “I’m but dust and ashes.” So, by seeing his own lowliness he understood that Hashem is bigger than him. He doesn’t decide, Hashem decides.
Number two, we see by Yaakov Avinu by seeing all the good, all the good that Hashem’s giving to us, so of course we’re going to accept His judgment. Hashem knows best. Like the verse says by Yaakov when Esav was running after him. “I have become small from all your kindness.” So, by looking at the good, he was able to accept that judgment was happening with Esav. And the third way was by Dovid HaMelech. By looking at your sins, the verses say, “My bruises have melted because of my foolishness.” Dovid HaMelech had to accept his suffering, because of his sins. If you look at your sins, of course what do you mean, “Why is this happening?” Why is this happening? Of course, it’s happening. What you do, you realize, what are you doing with yourself? Of course it’s happening. These are the same things that help us to accept in silence, what God gives to us. It’s not a simple story.
Rav Schwab brings a story of a Rav who had his wife die, and not long after that his son died in a car accident, and he was very depressed. But what happened? After the son died in a car accident during the shiva the brother, his other boy, had a dream. And his mother came to him in his dream, and the mother said, “Let you father know he’s mourning too much.” Why? “Because you should know, when I was pregnant with the brother who died, Eliyahu HaNavi came to me in a dream and he said, ‘You’re going to live for 100 years. But the child you’re about to have is going to be a stillborn. So, I prayed, I prayed to Hashem, please take some of the years of my life and give it to my son.’” And at the shiva, they added up the years of the son’s life and the years of her life and it came out to be exactly 100. We don’t know the cheshbonos of God. We don’t know the accounting of how God is running the world. But we know that everything is good.
But essentially, the most important midda, the most important character that we need which includes everything that the Maharal said, is the midda of tzenius, of modesty, and having a deep, inner world. By building our inner world it gives us the ability to handle life. It gives us the ability to be happy. Why should you give over your menuchas hanefesh, your peace of mind, to somebody else, to something else? Your peace of mind is the most important thing that you have. It’s who you are. Don’t give it over to somebody else, to something else. Be silent, be quiet. Somebody speaks bad, be quiet. Something bad happens, be quiet. Why? Because your peace of mind is who you are. You can’t give that over to anybody. But the more you build it, the more you build your tzenius, the more you build your modesty and your inner world, then the more peace of mind you’re going to have. And life will become beautiful. You’ll be able to handle everything in any situation, by building your internal world and adding holiness to it, which also builds the entire world. The holiness gives you the ability to handle all of life’s problems.
The verse in Devarim 18:13 says like this. “You shall be whole-hearted with Hashem your God.” What does Rashi say? Be whole-hearted with Him. Walk with Him in your whole-heartedness. Look ahead to Him. Trust what He has in store for you, and do not delve into the future, but rather whatever comes upon you, accept with whole-heartedness. And then you will be with Him, and you will be with His portion.” By accepting God, you’re close to God. And not only are you close to God, but that’s the source of all blessings.
You’ve got to hear this. Rav Aharon Kotler says like this, this is unbelievable. “Bitachon, trust, is the source and foundation of the Divine influence in the world. Your trust brings blessing into the world and blesses you. Like it says in in Yirmyahu, ‘Blessed is the man who trusts in God. And in contrast,’ says Yirmyahu, ‘Cursed is the man who trusts in man. We see that the Divine blessing as well as the absence of the Divine influence are conditional upon trust, bitachon. That is because the purpose of creation is the awareness that everything that happens at every single moment, and all these successes are determined by God.” That’s the whole purpose of why we’re created. We’re created to accept God’s will, and the more we accept God’s will, the more blessings we will have. And if we don’t accept God’s will and we complain and we kvetch, so it brings klallah, it brings curses into the world. He says that even if a person is wicked, if he trusts in God he’ll be surrounded by kindness. It’s unbelievable.
If you trust in God, that’s going to bring the blessing, that’s where the blessing comes from because our whole point is to make kiddush Hashem. Our whole point, our existence is to say, “Yes, there is a God in the world.” And how can we do that more than being silent at the time of our suffering, at the time where things are going wrong, to accept it completely. And Rabbeinu Bachye says like this. “Included in the concept of martyrdom is the acceptance that everything God does is good. And therefore your suffering should be accepted with love.” He considered it martyrdom. A person’s dying for Hashem. Yes, when your wife tells you off and you don’t say anything, and your kids misbehave, or this guy does the wrong thing to you, or a person loses money, or God-forbid death, or who knows – all the things, all the things that happen to a man in his lifetime. If a person accepts that, it’s like he gave his life al kiddush Hashem. Like Yitzhak on the mizbeach, altar, he’s giving over his life for the sake of God, by being silent and accepting that. This is the kiddush Hashem. And that’s the thing that’s going to bring blessings into lives. It’s an unbelievable idea.
The verse in Tehillin 37:7 says, “Be mute before Hashem, and wait with longing for Him.” On this Rav Hirsch says, “The realization that your fate comes only from God should end all doubts and silence all protests. Once you understand that God’s running the world, of course you’ll be silent. But where does that come from, and where does it lead to? It’s a cause and effect. The more silent we are, the more we build our inner world. And the more we build our inner world, the more silent we will be. We’ll become different people. We could be transformed, our middos, our character could be totally transformed to become a different person that does not react, a person who’s relaxed, a person who’s happy, a person who has menuchas hanefesh, peace of mind. And all this, the mafteach, the key to all this, is silence – that if we can learn to be silent and build our inner world, it will lead to our true happiness.
A Powerful Parable
The same verse said, “A fire came forth from Hashem and consumed them and they died in the presence of Hashem. Moshe said to Aaron, ‘It is Hashem who spoke saying through those who are near Me, I will be sanctified. In the presence of the entire people I will be glorified.’” The Maggid Mi Dubno brings a moshul. He wants to explain, how can it be that the two children of Aaron died?
So, one time there was a minister who wanted to build a city. He hired all the best architects, and he’s going to build this beautiful city with streets and bridges, and gardens. He’s going to build everything. So he asked his adviser, “Are we missing anything?” He says, “Yeah, we’re missing a doctor. We have to bring the top doctor to the city. That’s also going to add to the city.” So, what did he do? He sent out messengers all over the place to find the best doctor. He says he’s going to pay him the best salary. So, what happens? The doctor comes to the town, everybody’s waiting for the doctor, and they’re all happy. So, the minister says, “Listen, let’s test out the doctor. Let’s bring him a sick man.” Someone in the audience says, “Really, I’m not feeling very good. I haven’t been feeling good the past couple of days.” So the doctor says, “Okay, fine. Come to my house you’ll get a rest there, I’m going to take care of you.” So, what happened? After a couple of days the guy died. So, the minister said and all the people shouted out loudly, “What’s with this doctor? He’s supposed to be the best doctor. The first guy they bring him a couple of days later, the guy died.” The minister asked him, “What happened? How could it be that he died?” He said, “It’s true, he did die. That’s because I let him die.” “What do you mean, you let him die?” He said, “I want to do a chessed for the entire community.” Why? “Because if I would have saved him, what would the community think? ‘Listen, we have this miracle doctor. We can do whatever we want. We don’t have to sleep at night. We can drink and eat all day, no problem. We’ll be healthy.’ But since they saw that this guy died, they understand that surely he’s a great doctor. But we have to understand, it’s dependent on us. We have to take responsibility for our own lives.’ So, that’s why I wanted to let the guy die.” That was the moshul, what was the nimshal?
He wanted to say the nimshal is when the Cohanim came. When the Jewish people saw that they had Aaron haCohen so they thought, “That’s it. We could do whatever we want, and then Aaron haCohen is going to take care of all of our sins.” But once they saw that Aaron’s two children died because of their sins, so then we understood, it’s not really so simple. We’d better take responsibility for ourselves.
Great Stories – Rav Moshe Feinstein
Rav Yitzhak Zilberstein brings a story about Rav Moshe Feinstein. One time there was a wedding of one of Rav Moshe Feinstein’s students, and it was in a hotel. And who owned the hotel? The father-in-law of the boy getting married. So, everybody’s going to come to the hotel for Shabbos, the Shabbos before the marriage. So, they invited a lot important people. There was about 250 people in the hotel. And what happened? Unfortunately, the boy’s father passed away. They didn’t know what to do. Everybody’s in the hotel for Shabbos, it’s the Shabbos before the wedding. The next day is the wedding, the wedding’s on Sunday. It was going to be a two day thing, and what’s going to be? They asked Rav Moshe Feinstein, he was the Posek HaDor. He’s the one who decides the halacha. He was the Gadol HaDor, he’s the one that decides. So, they asked him, “What do we do? Do we first bury the father or do we have to wait?” \
So he said, “Usually the halacha is, if there’s monetary laws, so you could have the wedding.” In other words, you’re going to lose all the money for the wedding so then you can have the wedding. But in this case, for example, the father-in-law owned the hotel. The father-in-law had all the food. He could freeze the food, it’s his hotel. You’re not going to lose anything.” But Rav Moshe said, he continued. He said, “But there’s other points too. There’s other aspects. It doesn’t only include the financial loss of the actual money for the wedding, but it includes other financial losses also. For example, if all the guests would leave and not have the wedding and the wedding would be two weeks later, so not all the guests would come. So, they’re going to lose a lot of gifts. The couple’s going to lose all the gifts that they would have got from these extra guests, the couple’s going to lose.” So therefore, he paskened that the wedding should be the next day, and after that they’re going to bury the father. But what did he say? He told everyone in the hotel, 250 people, “You cannot tell anybody that the father passed away. You’re not allowed to tell them, because then no one’s going to come to the wedding. Who’s going to come to a wedding when they know the dead father’s body is inside the hotel, they’re not going to want to come to the wedding.” So, 250 people were silent. They kept their silence, and they didn’t reveal to any of the other guests that the father died. We see from this the silence that the Jewish people had and the broadness of mind that Rav Moshe Feinstein had, to give the right halachic decision.
Peace in Your Home
Rav Aaron Stern speaks about proper speech in the house. He says, “Speech is this thing that separates man above animal,” we know that, b’al chayim medaber. A man is defined as an animal that speaks. And not only that, but speech also reflects the state of mind. In other words, a person speaks loud, they see him as angry. If he speaks softly, they see that he’s calm. And not only that, if a person even if he doesn’t understand what the person’s saying, they could understand from his tone of voice what he’s saying. It is said that Yehuda spoke to Yosef in Hebrew, even though he didn’t know that Yosef understood Hebrew, just to get the message across based on his emotional state. Speech has the ability to do that.
There is a famous story of the Chofetz Chaim who went to court one time by a Polish, a non-Jewish Pole, and he started to speak in Yiddish. The Judge judged him favorably because he was able to understand from his emotional state what was going on. The Judge said, “There’s no need to translate. His words could be understood in every language.” But there’s also a downside to that, because speech can be misinterpreted. For example, when Yehuda told Yosef he was like Pharaoh, so you have two explanations. What do you mean, like Pharaoh? If you’re important like Pharaoh, then you’re going to be punished like Pharaoh. So, speech is very loose. We don’t know what the other person’s saying.
And it happens all the time in a marriage. “For example,” he say, “A husband says to his wife, ‘Don’t forget to take the money before you leave the house.’” So, what is he trying to express? That he cares about her. And the wife interprets it, “What do you think, I’m a little kid, I don’t know what I’m doing?” No, the husband was trying to express that he cares about the wife, and the wife interpreted it in the wrong way. And the Chiddushei HaRim explains why did the Jews not only hear the words at Har Sinai but they also saw them? Because he wants to say – this is unreal – he says, “Because when it says do not steal, we can either read lo signav, it says do not steal. In Hebrew lo can be with an aleph or it can be with a vov. And if it’s with an aleph, it means do not. But if it’s with a vov, it means “’He shall steal.’” They would interpret it that it’s okay to steal. Maybe that was one of the Commandments, because everybody sees things the way that they want to see things.
He goes on to explain that your words could be the most damaging thing in your marriage, like arrows. Words could be like an arrow, it penetrates the heart. And not only that, once you let go of the arrow, there’s no way to get it back. You can’t retract it, so you have to be very careful before you speak. You can’t just say, “Oh, I was joking.” That doesn’t work. You’re going to pay a big price for such a thing. He says, “You should look at it like a telegram.” Every word you have pay for in a telegram, every word you have to pay. So too when you speak, you have to be careful with your words. He says, “If a man says the wrong thing he’s worse than an animal. Why? Because at least the animal can’t speak. He can speak, and he says the wrong thing.”
So also, when it comes to asking for example in your marriage, when do you ask for something? You have to know when to ask at the right time. Don’t speak every moment. You have to wait for an eis ratzon. We learn this in the Torah from a couple of different places. It’s said that Moshe Rabbeinu asked Hashem, “Please show me Your glory” after his previous request had been granted already. And Chana also asked for children at an eis ratzon. She was childless for nine years, but at that point when she asked, she understood that if I ask now, maybe I’ll be able to have a child, and she had Shmuel HaNavi. So, speech is a very, very important thing in our marriage. And if in general we can learn to express our feelings, but at the same time not talk too much, we’ll wind up with a much happier marriage.
Okay, that’s it for this week’s Torah podcast. I hope you enjoyed it. Please share it with your friends, and please leave comments.
Rabbi Eliyahu Mitterhoff