Past Weekly Shabbat Message
Jewish Heritage
Rabbi Dovid Saks
(Torah Portion Bamidbar) Opportunities!

Years ago while sitting next to a friend in Shul on Friday night during a particularly spirited Kabalat Shabbat service, he turned to me and said he was deeply moved by the singing and prayers which took him back to his youth when he attended Kabalat Shabbat services with his father.

He then added, “My children are grown and they only came with me on Shabbos day. Looking back, I feel sorry that I never took them to Shul for Kabalat Shabbos and given them an opportunity to be exposed to this warm spiritual feeling!”

There is an axiom, “The most descriptive report of the shades and tones of a breathtaking and magnificent sunset don’t come close to actually being there and seeing it.”

Many times our perception and opinions about things and experiences are based on someone else’s account. Judaism is a continual experience, and unless one personally takes part in it, a lot gets lost in the translation.

We are currently in the final stretch of counting each day toward the holiday of Shavuos when we received the Torah from G-d Himself. The study of Torah and its application have the ability to transform a person and his environment.

Rebbe Mendel of Viteptsk was once in the middle of presenting a Talmudic discourse to his students when the door suddenly swung open and a Jew excitedly announced that the Moshiach / Messiah had arrived!

Without saying a word, Reb Mendel stopped his class and went to the window, opened it and stuck his head outside for a moment and returned stating that it was a mistake and Moshiach has not yet arrived.

After the dejected man left the Shul, Reb Mendel’s students asked him, “Rebbe, we all knew that Moshiach did not arrive. Why was it necessary for you to go and stick your head out the window?”

Reb Mendel replied, “Students, you should know, when I am in the midst of studying the Torah with you in this holy environment, the experience is so powerful that I actually smell the pleasant aroma of Moshiach and I feel as though the redemption has come! For this reason I had to go to the window and put my head out to see if the scent of Moshiach is out there in the streets. When I failed to gain a whiff of Moshiach there, that is when I was convinced that he hadn’t come.

In a certain way, we can each identify with a special redeeming and uplifting feeling that overcomes us when we become engaged in certain spiritual aspects of Judaism.

The Mishna in Ethics of our Fathers states, Im Ain Kemach, Ain Torah – translated literally, it means, if there is no flour – food – support – there is no Torah.

The question raised is, why does the Mishna specifically use the term Kemach – flour, rather than something else?

Commentators explain, the Mishna is teaching us that just as a grain of wheat must be ground, refined, purified and cleansed before pure flour emerges, so too, must one diligently, thoughtfully and respectfully study the Torah. The study of Torah impacts upon a person, refining and purifying him, and making him polite, caring, and sensitive.

G-d’s Torah is different than other studies where the main importance is the subject matter, and does not necessarily transform and uplift his personal life.

A famous ethicist was once caught in a rather uncompromising situation, and was asked, “Haven’t you always taught how wrong this is?” His reply; “I am presently not the teacher of ethics and morals. My current behavior is being done while I am a regular person. The teacher and the person have nothing to do with each other!”

The Mishna can thus read as follows: If one has not approached his Torah study the way Kemach / flour is processed, he has not acquired Torah, for authentic Torah study and observance is meant to refine, purify and elevate the spiritual stature of a person!

Wishing you a restful, peaceful
and enjoyable Shabbos!
Rabbi Dovid and Malki Saks and family