Thursday, May 3, 2018

Thursday's Parsha Tidbits - Parshas Emor

The following is a brief summary of some of thoughts said over by R' Frand on the parsha this evening. I have attempted to reproduce these vorts to the best of my ability. Any perceived inconsistency is the result of my efforts to transcribe the shiur and should not be attributed to R' Frand.

R' Frand said two vorts in the name of R' Nissim Alpert. The first related to the mention of Sukkos in the parsha (Vayikra 23:43) where it states that Jews should sit in the Sukkah to remember that Hashem housed us in Sukkos when we left Egypt.

R' Frand next made mention of the Gemara in Sukkah which contains a machlokes as to what these sukkos were. R' Eliezer was of the opinion that the Jews were not sitting in plywood huts, they were sitting in dwellings made of the Ananei HaKavod. However R Akiva said they were actually little huts. 

It is understandable if we hold like R' Akiva as that explains why we sit in huts. But if R' Eliezer is right, why do we sit in huts? They are not a reasonable facsimile of the Ananei HaKavod.

R' Frand quoted R' Alpert in explaining that we cannot duplicate the Ananei HaKavod. But that does not mean that we can't remember that the Jews were hosted in them and protected by Hashem every day...and unless you don't read the news you can't help but be reminded every day that Hashem has protected the Jews living in Israel and continues to protect them every single day for the last 70 years. The Jews of Israel have lived in a tough neighborhood for the last 70 years, but they have been protected. We may believe that the air force or the army protects Jews in Israel and we ourselves may think we are protected by gates and walls and security, but its still the Ananei HaKavod. 

So we need a way to remind ourselves of going out of the house and into the flimsy hut. In this way we can be reminded that its not our defenses which protect us, its Hashem.

R' Frand said a second vort in the name of R' Alpert which was based on the pasuk in Vayikra 22:32 wherein the Jews are commanded in both negative and positive to not desecrate Hashem's name and to sanctify Hashem. We learn from this pasuk that a person is required to give up his life for the three cardinal mitzvos, but it is not explicit, whereas many other mitzvos have commands which tell us exactly what to do - take a lulav, eat matza, sit in a sukkah. But this mitzva does not say - give up one's life rather than violate the big three. But why?

R' Alpert's answer is that being able to stand up if faced with that scenario does not happen overnight. It happens if a person lives a life of mitzvos and he is filled with love of his fellow Jew and is purely ruchni. A person cannot stand up to the ultimate test if he has not spent his life preparing and working on all facets of his spiritual side.

R' Frand then gave an introduction to a story, saying that he does not like to tell holocaust stories and does not like to play on emotions. But he read a story in an email from Ari Wasserman of a story heard by a Rabbi Wallace from his father Judah Wallace, who had been in Dachau. One day an inmate was being taken to his death and he threw a small bag at R' Wallace's father. He opened the bag, expecting to see food and instead found...a small pair of tefillin. He was scared as being found in possession of tefillin would mean instant death.

The next morning, R' Wallace's father put on the tefillin. Immediately a German officer walked into the bunkhouse and took note of his number. He was sent to roll call, where he was called out and it was announced that he was sentenced to death by public hanging for wearing the tefillin. The guard said "Dog, what is your last wish?" He responded that he wanted to wear the tefillin one last time. Dumbfounded, the guard threw him the tefillin and he wrapped them on his his head and arm while saying the V'Erastich prayer...and with the noose around his neck.

The entire camp saw him, even the women's camp next door, all forced to watch the sight. People began to cry and he told them in Yiddish not to cry, because with these tefillin, he was the winner. The officer then said, hanging is too good for you! The officer then put two rocks under Mr. Wallace's arms and told him that he was going to get 25 lashes on the head that wore the tefillin. He was further told that he would be killed if he dropped any of the rocks. The executioner told him to drop the rocks so that he would have a quick death, but he refused. Mr. Wallaces sustained all 25 lashes and then lost consciousness. His body was thrown on a pile of corpses, but a fellow Jew realized that he was still alive and he hid his face and eventually crawled and hid under a bunkhouse until Dachau was liberated a few months later.

After liberation, a 17 year old girl made her way to the men's camp and said to Mr. Wallace - I saw how you stood up to that German officer. I have lost everything and everyone, but don't want to be alone, will you marry me? R' Frand (reading from the e-mail) said that the rest was history. The couple asked the Klosenberger Rebbi to perform the ceremony and he did so and wrote out the Kesubah from memory.

R' Frand said that he never met R' Wallace, but he remarked that only a person who has lived his life in Kedushah could have stood up to that officer and this is the meaning of the double language of the pasuk.

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