Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Shlach, Bamidbar 14:34. Yom Le'Shana- A Year of Exile for each Day.

great unknown once told me a vort, which he heard in Ner Israel when it was still on Garrison Boulevard, which means many, many years ago.  I have since seen it attributed to Reb Eizikel Charif.

It says here that the punishment was “yom leshana,” a year of wandering in the desert for each day that the spies were in the Land of Israel  (14:34).  The Meraglim were in Israel forty days, so they were doomed to wander in the desert for forty years.  (Rashi in 14:33 explains that even though the Meraglim event was in year 2, the 40 was counted from the Eigel, in year one, and the partial year after the Eigel counted as year one.) Now, Klal Yisrael left Mitzrayim on the 15th of Nissan, and went into Eretz Yisroel on the 10th of Nissan, which means that they weren’t in the desert a whole 40 years, but were given 4 days off. Also, even if they had gone straight from Mitzrayim to Eretz Yisroel, it would have taken them 11 days, so those eleven days have to be subtracted.  The net result is that they got 15 days off of the forty year sentence.  Why?

The passuk in 13:3, talking about the Meraglim as they began their mission, describes them as "Anashim."  Rashi says that Anashim in Tanach expresses chashivus, social prominence and spiritual eminence.  Considering what soon transpired, this is a surprising way to describe the Meraglim.  Rashi, therefore, explains that Be'osa Sha'a, kesheirim hayu- at that hour, the first hour of their mission, they were kasher, they were upstanding and good. 

And with this, he said, we can answer the question:  If the punishment was “yom lashana”, 24 hours equals 12 months, two hours equals one month, and one hour equals half a month.  Since “be’osah sha’ah kesheirim hayu,” that one hour’s worth, fifteen days, was subtracted.

Who, you wonder, was Reb Eizikel, or Isaac'l, Charif?  My father Zatzal, who spent the majority of the waking hours of his life either learning or helping Talmidei Chachamim, loved to say things he heard in Reb Aizikel's name.  (Charif is pronounced with a patach, not a kametz, and it's mi'le'eil, not like the hot pepper sauce.  Cha' rif.)  The problem is that there were two people that were called that.
  • There was the Rav of Pietrekov.  His name was Yitzchak Charif.  You can see a little sefer of his ksavim here, printed by his grandson in 1940, and, according to the grandson's introduction, having been written around one hundred years before he printed it.  The copy linked to was photographed from the Lubavitcher library; also see the haskama from Rav Sonnenfeld, (in which he refers to the author as Reb Yitzchak'l Charif) next to Rav Kook's haskama.  It reminded me that Rav Kook's kever on Har Hamenuchos is right next to or one away from that of Amram Bloi, not that chas veshalom I'm comparing any two people in this paragraph to each other.
  • And there was this Reb Izele Charif, whose family name wasn't Charif, but the adjective was so appropriate that it became his name anyway:  (From Shlomo Katz's Hamaayan on Torah.org)
    R' Yehoshua Isaac Shapiro z"l
    ("Reb Eizel Charif")
    R' Eizel was born in 1801 in Glubki, near Vilna, and his first teacher was his father, R' Yechiel. R' Eizel was a child prodigy whose genius was recognized by the age of seven, and he was soon nicknamed, "The Iron Head" (presumably because he never forgot what he learned). He later earned the nickname "Charif" / "The Sharp One," although he claimed, in his humility, that it was only an acronym of "Chatan Reb Yitzchak Fein" / "son-in-law of R' Yitzchak Fein."

    At one point, R' Eizel was a disciple of the chassidic rebbe, R' Aharon of Staroselya (a leading disciple of Chabad's founder, R' Shneur Zalman), but he later became a critic of chassidut. He also studied in the famed Blumke's kloiz in Minsk, where, it is said, he used to review the entire Talmud every month. In 1832, R' Eizel was appointed rosh yeshiva and darshan / preacher in Minsk's Kloiz Chevra Kadisha.
    R' Eizel received semichah / ordination from R' Abale, the av bet din / chief rabbinical judge of Vilna, and through the latter's recommendation was appointed a dayan / rabbinical judge in Kalvaria, Lithuania. After 1839, he held rabbinic positions in Kutna and Tiktin.
    In 1853, R' Eizel was appointed rabbi of Slonim, the town with which he his associated for posterity. In every town where he served, R' Eizel somehow found time, despite his superhuman schedule of learning and writing, to engage in numerous communal and charitable activities. In addition, many dinei Torah / legal disputes were brought to R' Eizel for resolution, and he was one of the three judges appointed to rule on the dispute involving the leadership of the Volozhin Yeshiva.
    R' Eizel's nickname, "Charif," alludes in part to his sharp sense of humor, which he readily used to humble those who he felt needed humbling and to criticize those whose scholarship was not up to par with the standard that he expected of Torah leaders. (Chassidic rebbes were frequent subjects of his witticisms.) In particular, R' Eizel was adept at making puns or plays on the words of verses and Talmudic statements.
    R' Eizel died in 1873, leaving 11 works including Emek Yehoshua, Nachalat Yehoshua and a commentary on the Jerusalem Talmud, Noam Yerushalmi. Many of his derashot are in the style of the 18th century Parashat Derachim, explaining midrashic stories and actions of biblical figures in halachic terms. All exhibit a wide-ranging knowledge of halachah, midrash and Tanach. 

     I once had the pleasure of hosting the Gadol Batorah Rabbi Yankel Drillman.  He told me another thing from Reb Aizikel.  Someone brought Reb Aizekel a sefer for a haskama, and he refused.  The shliach kept insisting, and said, "But this Rebbe and that Rebbe gave me haskamos, why won’t you?"  Reb Aizikel answered, as a Litvak would, that “Onu maskimim, ve’heim maskimim.  Onu maskimim ledivrei torah, ve’heim maskimim lidvorim be'teilim."

If  you have something from Reb Aizikel, I would love to hear it.

Another story about a haskama.  Late one night, Reb Eizekel's rebbetzin heard him pacing back and forth, muttering under his breath.  She went into the room, and heard that he was saying "Besser unter der barg! Besser unter der barg!"  "Reb Eizekel," she said, "what do you mean by that?"  He answered "Reb Ploni left me a sefer because he wanted a haskama from me.  I went through his sefer, and I remembered that when Hashem picked up the mountain and told Bnei Yisrael that if they accept the Torah, then fine, but if they don't, He will drop the mountain on them and they would be buried there.  And I say, if this is the Torah, then Besser unter der barg!"


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  2. point of interest, at least to me: I told you that vort almost exactly forty years ago. yom le'shana indeed. now I'm just waiting for my tu be'av.

  3. Yes, tes vav be'av, the day that the people who dug themselves a kever and lay down in it realized they were still alive.

  4. A friend told me the following from R' Eizel.

    The length of time it took him to daven Shmoneh Esrei wasn't consistent; sometimes he davened for a long time, and sometimes he davened quickly. His talmidim asked him to explain his conduct.

    He brought the famous question: Chazal say that when Klal Yisrael was doing ritzono shel Makom, the keruvim faced each other, and when they were not doing ritzono shel Makom, the keruvim turned away from each other and faced the wall. Yet, another Chazal says that when the goyim entered the Beis Hamikdash by the churban (a time of not doing ritzono shel Makom), they found the keruvim facing each other?!

    He answered, Before the churban, when the Shechina was dwelling in the Beis HaMikdash, the keruvim weren't mere pieces of metal, there was a chiyus, there was life! Some times were good, so they faced each other, and sometimes were not good, so they turned away. But at the churban, the Shechina was gone, the keruvim were just lifeless metal forms and reverted to their original state and just stayed in the same position, lifeless.

    Said R' Eizel, I'm a person, I'm alive! I have my ups and I have my downs, thats what live people do! And my tefilla reflects that; its not going to be the same each and every time like a lifeless form, its going to have ups and downs, too!

    Maybe its yeshiva legend to attribute this to R Eizel, I didn't research at all. Ubber azoi zugt min ibber.

  5. There's a lot floating around in his name, and he deserves the attention of a good researcher and writer. I know someone who's doing Reb Mottel Pagremansky. I'm going to suggest to him that he turn his attention to Reb Eizekel.