Tetzaveh 5784: The Purpose of Suffering

לע”נ הרב שלום
בן ר’ יחזקאל שרגא זצ”ל

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Shiur presented in 5779

The Terumos Are For Hashem; Yesurim Are For Ourselves

In this week’s parshah, Hakadosh Baruch Hu begins by talking to Moshe Rabbeinu and telling him ואתה תצוה את בני ישראל, “you shall command the Bnei Yisrael,” ויקחו אליך, “and they should take for you,” שמן זית זך, “pure olive oil,” כתית, “crushed,” למאור, “for the lighting,” להעלת נר תמיד (Shemos 27:20).

The author of the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch, Rav Shlomo Gantzfried (1804-1886), poses an interesting question, in his sefer on Chumash.[i] He points out that in Parshas Terumah,Hashem says to Moshe to tell the Bnei Yisrael ויקחו לי תרומה, they should, ‘take for Me’ the terumah, and in this week’s parshah Hashem says ויקחו אליך, they should take ‘for you Moshe,’ שמן זית. So, the question is why in Parshas Terumah,which talks about the donations, it says they should take ‘for Me’ the terumah, whereas in parshas Tetzaveh, when it’s talking about the שמן זית, the olive oil for the menorah,  it says ויקחו אליך, they should take ‘for you’ olive oil?

He brings the medrash (Shemos Rabbah 36:1) in this week’s parshah which says: ואתה תצוה את בני ישראל, “and you should command the Bnei Yisrael,” ויקחו אליך שמן זית זך, “they should take for you pure olive oil.” The medrash says הדא הוא דכתיב, in one place (in Yirmiyah),it says:זית רענן יפה פרי תאר קרא ה’ שמך.[ii] Yirmiyahu Hanavi tells us that Hakadosh Baruch Hu called Klal Yisrael by the name of a zayis. Hashem called Klal Yisrael olives, “beautiful olives.” What’s the pshat? The medrash asks is Klal Yisrael compared only to olives? We find in pessukim that Klal Yisrael is compared to all types of trees and fruits. They’re compared to vines. They’re compared to figs. They’re compared to dates. They’re compared to cedars, different kinds of nuts, pomegranates and more. So what was the message of Yirmiyahu when he told Klal Yisrael that Hashem considers your name to be a זית רענן?

So the medrash says Yirmiyahu was telling Klal Yisrael that there is something unique about the zayis,over all other trees. The zayis produces oil, and that’s the main purpose of the zayis. Yet in spite of the fact that that’s the main purpose of the olive, in order to get the oil out of the olive, it has to go through a very extensive, difficult and tiring process. The medrash goes into the details of every step, how you first have to shake the tree to get it to fall down. Then you’ve got to beat it, and after you beat it, you’ve got to put it in a press. Then it’s a whole job to press it.

I remember the first time I saw olives growing. I saw an old Arab couple with this big tarp spread out under an olive tree. I wasn’t even sure what it was that was growing on the tree until it was pointed out to me because I always thought that olives came with those little red things in it, pimentos, and with holes, and when I took one in my hand it was a solid rock! It looked almost blackish. This couple was using these long sticks and banging the tree and then they were shaking it. They were having it all fall on the tarpaulin sheet. I remember picking one up. I remember putting my teeth into it. I remember it was like a rock. There was no juice in it. I always pictured an olive producing oil, so it would be at least like an orange. Okay, maybe not like an orange. Like a grape. But this was like a rock! And the process to produce oil? Finally, I met a guy over there who spoke Hebrew, and he was able to explain to me the extensive process required to produce oil, wonderful oil. Yirmiyahu Hanavi says that Hakadosh Baruch Hu called your name זית רענן, and that’s the name of Klal Yisrael.

Klal Yisrael Are Hashem’s Precious Olive

The medrash (ibid.) explains that goyim come, nations of the world come, and they throw the Jewish nation around from place to place. They put them first in ghettos, and then they beat them with sticks and straps and they surround them, besiege them with armies. And then, finally, Klal Yisrael does teshuvah, and Hakadosh Baruch Hu says, “Ah! Now I’m going to answer you.” Chazal ask how do you know this? The answer is in the passuk. When Klal Yisrael cried out from the difficult oppression, ah! Hashem heard them. When it says in the passuk בצר לך ומצאוך, when you’re in a tremendous oppressive state and you find these tzaros befall you, turn to Me, כי קל רחום ה’ אלקיך. That’s why Hashem said to Klal Yisrael, “You’re a זית רענן.” The term zayis in Klal Yisrael refers to the ability to produce oil after an extensive challenging process.

Rav Shlomo Gantzfried explains, now we can understand the difference, inthe language the Torah used in the beginning of Terumah and the language the Torah used in the beginning of Tetzaveh. Over here, in Tetzaveh, it doesn’t say ויקחו לי שמן זית, that “and they should take for Me shemen zayis.”It says ויקחו אליך, “and they should take for you, Moshe.” What is the meaning of this strange lashon?

Moshe Rabbeinu, the Torah tells us, came with a ta’anah,so to speak, to Hashem. “You sent me to free the Jews and instead You brought raos. You brought oppression, You brought more tza’ar among the Jewish people. What did You send me for?” Hakadosh Baruch Hu answered him, “You want to know why the Jews needed these yesurim?These yesurim are the way to bring out from the Jewish people their ‘oil.’ Yesurim are a way of pressing, of hitting, softening up and producing that virgin olive oil.” Hashem says, “Now you’re going to see what I’m going to do to Pharaoh. Now you’re going to see that everything the Jewish people were challenged with, was the way of Me bringing about their yeshuah.”That’s why it says in the passuk ואתה, “And you, Moshe, didn’t understand the derech, My way of conduct when I was treating Klal Yisrael. So you shall command Klal Yisrael about this, and they should take shemen zayis אליך, for you. It means to show you the nature of this zayis,that only after you put it through all its steps of processing, does it produce its pure oil.”

Yesurim Are Part of Life

You have to know that yesurim are an absolute part of life. From when we’re little kids we have yesurim. Some of the earliest childhood memories that children have are of suffering. They fell down. They hurt themselves. Maybe they broke something. I remember having a terrible stomachache one time and going to my father who was a rebbi and a principal and saying, “I have to go home.” He looked at me with his serious eyes and said, “Why?” I said, “I have a stomachache.” He said, “You have what?” I said, “A stomachache.” I really wanted to go home. He definitely didn’t believe me. And my aunt happened to live next door to the yeshivah. I wasn’t able to go home myself. I was too little to go myself, and it turned out my aunt was going to walk down toward my house so my father let me go but not before giving me a stern warning, to make sure you’re going to rest.

When I came home, I got all better, and I started undertaking projects in the house. When it got late in the day, my mother gave me a warning. “Your father is coming home soon. I want to suggest that maybe you go take a nap.” My stomach wasn’t hurting that much anymore. So I went to bed, and the next thing I remember, my father came to my bed to wake me up, asking if I wanted to eat something, and I started to scream like a banshee because my stomach hurt me. Not because I was afraid of my father. They rushed me to the doctor. They didn’t have a car in those days, so they put me in this big carriage, these old time carriages they used to have. I was too big for a carriage at that time. I was in second grade or first grade. We went to the doctor and the doctor said, “Straight to the hospital.” I don’t remember if it was a hernia or an appendix. It was one of the two. Before that, I had the other one, the appendix or the hernia. I remember being in the hospital. I remember being sad at night and crying. I remember them trying to force me to eat asparagus in the hospital. I had never seen asparagus in my life. The lady there who was in charge of the kids, said, “Eat those asparagus.” I ate them and gave them right back to her, reconstituted. Then she screamed at me at the top of her lungs. You remember these things! You’re sick. You remember lying in bed. Your mother tries to hold you, make your booboos go away. She promises to take you to the doctor because the doctor makes everything go away, right? A nechtige tug.

You’ve got to realize that yesurim are the earliest experiences that accompany people. People say, “Oh, that’s a terrible thing to say. That’s a terrible thing – to have to grow up with yesurim.” My friend, that’s real life.

Yesurim Means You’re Open For Business

A Yid came to Rav Chaim for a brachah, Rav Chaim asked him, for what? He said, “I want a brachah to have no yesurim.” He said, “You want to leave already?” “What do you mean?” the fellow asked. “You’re ready to leave?” “Leave where?” “The world.” He said, “Leave the world?! I don’t want yesurim, that’s all.” Rav Chaim said, “Life is full of yesurim. That’s what life is. The only time yesurim end, is when you leave this world. You should have the strength and zei gezunt. Brachah vehatzlachah.

This is such an important message. Any person who is able to, should acquire this perspective on his or her yesurim. You have to tell your children and you tell yourself, any yesurim you’re having, it means Hakadosh Baruch Hu is trying to produce oil. Hashem is trying to produce shemen zayis. Yes, you go to doctors. No, doctors don’t make booboos go away. A doctor is just a shliach. Hashem makes booboos go away. You have to train yourself. If Hashem is giving me yesurim, that means Hashem feels that this old bird can still produce oil. This is something you have to know.

Three Truths About Yesurim

First of all, you have to know that all yesurim come as a result of a person ignoring Hakadosh Baruch Hu. That’s alef. You can have a big tzaddik and he has yesurim. (I’m not talking about yesurim shel ahavah). But a person could ignore Hakadosh Baruch Hu in a certain aspect of his life. He may be very frum in a certain area and a very nice person in a certain area, but in one area he ignores Hashem. That ignoring of Hashem causes Hashem to bring yesurim upon him. You have to remember that. Second of all, all yesurim are mechaper, they atone. And third of all, all yesurim are there to fix you. But we don’t like the tikun. We hate to change.

Challenges With Tznius

Just this week a woman called me up and she said, “I heard you’re an expert on knowing why things happen to people.” I said, “Let me tell you right now, I’m not an expert.” I said, “Sometimes, Hashem puts ideas in my mind that I can pass along to you.” “Well, I have a problem. My problem is I came down with something on my face, and my face is becoming disfigured and it’s becoming hideous.” I said, “Are you sick? Physically sick?” “No. I’ve gone to every doctor you could think of. Neurologists, skin doctors, internists, specialists, you name it! I’ve tried alternative medication. I got shots, steroid shots. I got everything you could think of.” She started naming medicines, dangerous medicines. Who knows what she was taking. Nothing helped. Somebody told her, “Here’s a number for you to call.”

I told her, “The answer is simple, but you’re not going to like to hear it.” “Oh no, no. Tell me. I want to hear it.” I said, “Are you sure?” I said, “What is the effect of this disease, this problem you’re having?” “I can’t walk out of my house.” I said, “Are you familiar with the passuk כל כבודה בת מלך פנימה, the honor, the respect of a woman is in her home? The source of a woman, she’s a queen in her home.”

Now that’s an important concept. That’s where the concept of tznius comes from. It doesn’t mean that a lady is never allowed to walk out her door, but it tells me the idea of “penimah.”A lady has to be “inside.” She has to be tzanuah. If you’re not tzanuah, Hashem says, “You’ve got to go back inside.” You know what tzanuah means? Hidden. That’s what tznius means, hidden. You have to be hidden. I said, “You’re challenged with tznius. That’s why Hashem is putting you in the house.”

She said, “What do you mean? I’m frum.” I said, “This is what Hashem is telling you.” She said, “Well, two years ago, I actually made some changes, little changes. Everybody knows you have to start off with small changes.” I said, “Well, it was a little two years ago but right now, it’s nothing. Hashem wants to see a little more or maybe a lot more. You want to get better? You want to know what Hashem is telling you?”

Then we started to have the discourse. This is what always happens. “No, why can’t I just daven? I did start davening. Could I daven? How about tzedakah?” I said, “You have tznius problems.” She said, “Well, I’m not so bad at tznius.” I said, “It must be bad if Hashem did this thing to your face.” Finally, she tells me, “You know what you’re asking of me?” I said, “What?” “Every piece of clothing that I own I have to throw out.” I said to her, “I know you didn’t want to hear this answer, but I’m telling you the emes. This is a simple thing. You tried to do everything you could to get out of it. Hashem is talking to you now.” “Why did Hashem pick me?” “I don’t know. There are people that are worse than you.” “That’s exactly what I’m thinking,” she says. “There are many people worse than me.”

I said, “You don’t have to listen. It could get worse.” I said, “Now, it’s only your face. I don’t know what could happen next. But isn’t it clear to you that Hashem is saying you can’t go out of your house. Something about the way you’re conducting yourself or presenting yourself is improper.” I said, “You’re not doing me a favor. I’m trying to help you figure out what Hashem wants from you. I’m trying to help you.” She said, “You can’t think of anything else?” I said. “Right now, no.” I said, “This is clear.”

Another lady called me up. She’s having a problem with the bottom part of her feet. She’s an avid walker, and a biker. She likes to ride a bike around the frum neighborhood. That’s not so tznius. This hampers her from walking around on her power walks. Some people get into this zone where they think you can’t exist without the run, or without that power walk. I could relate to it. I could understand it. But Hashem is sending her a message. I said, “Get yourself a stair walker. Walk in your house. Hashem is telling you something.”

Another lady called me up and said she was having a problem with her feet. After asking a few questions, it turns out she’s a runner. I said, “Where do you run?” “I run in public.” That’s not so tznius. I happened to meet this lady a couple of months later. Something looked out of shape. I took one look at her. She was standing on stilts. She was wearing shoes that looked like they had 8 inch heels. She was walking on her tippy toes. I said, “And you had a question of what’s wrong with your feet?! Have you ever taken a look at your shoes?! That’s what’s wrong with your feet. First of all, it’s not even a healthy shoe you’re wearing.” She was wearing it, even not at a simchah. Just regular. She liked high heels. Some people like to walk on their tippy toes. So Hashem was helping her out!

It’s the same thing with everything. There’s no yesurim that’s not a tikun. You’ve got to understand that like nobody’s business.

How To View Yesurim

Now, I want to tell you how to view yesurim. Rav Shach once said he knew a tremendous ba’al yesurim who lived in Slutzk, and the man suffered in life geferlech. Geferlech. Rav Shach was once talking to him, and asked him, “How do you deal with it?” Listen to what he said. He said, “In Russia, the worst of all the gulags, the labor camps they had, was a place called Katringa.It wasknown to be worse than any other place possible. You couldn’t live there for more than a few days. Very, very few people made it out of there alive. If they ever gave you this gezeirah, you’d get on your knees and you would plead that they send you to the furthest reaches of Siberia. You’d beg because over there, you stood a little better chance to make it. If they were maskim, you’d be dancing up and down. I got spared from Katringa!I’m going to Siberia!” A simchah.

This yid said to Rav Shach, “Every one of us is going to have to face mishpat in the next world. And that mishpat on the other side of the door is Gehinom, for the aveiros that a person transgressed in his life. That’s like Katringa.If a person could exchange his yesurim of Gehinom, which are worse than any yesurim that a person could imagine in this world – worse than all the chemo, worse than all the migraines, worse than all the gallbladders, worse than having babies. It’s the worst of all pain. Nu, would a guy not be in seventh heaven if he got yesurim in this world?” He said, “I look at my yesurim in this world as an exchange for the Gehinom in the future. I’m avoiding Katringa. And Hakadosh Baruch Hu brought this to me in exchange. So why shouldn’t I be happy?!”

A person has to know, it’s not easy. But a person has to know that there is a way of avoiding yesurim many times, and I’ll tell you how. Chazal (Midrash Tanchuma, Re’eh 2) tell us that Hakadosh Baruch Hu never brings yesurim in one bang. This is the lashon of the Chazal אין הקב”ה מביא צרה לאדם, Hashem does not bring any tzarah to a person, עד שהוא גולל לאזנו, until he whispers in his ear first, ומתרה בו, and he gives him hasra’ah, he gives him a warning, כדי שיחזור בו, in order that he should do teshuvah. אם חזר בו, if he does teshuvah, הרי יפה – good, אם לאו מביא עליו רעות, if not, He brings upon him evil.[iii]

Discomfort is a Sign…Not to be Ignored

Yesurim always come as a sign. If I wake up one day and go to daven and I feel maybe the tiniest amount of discomfort in my chest, the tiniest amount, you know what I could say? “Ah, it’s gornisht.”If you would come and ask me about it, I would tell you it’s nothing. “You’ll be fine. Go back and finish davening.”But, the brocha of refaeinu Hashem veneirafeh that I say when I daven on that day is like I have some machalah. When I say hashiveinu avinu lesorasecha that day and selach lanu avinu, I think of all the teshuvah and selichah and melichah I need on that day. And then I ask myself, “Why can’t I do this on a regular basis: I need some mechila, I need some refuah, I need some teshuva, etc.” If I get a pain on my side, I think, “Oh boy. That’s the kidneys. That’s Hashem being megaleh my ozen.”If you get a crack in your neck, maybe something is starting to grow chas veshalom.

Now, some people are hypochondriacs and they run to the doctor right away. I don’t like to go to doctors. I say to Hashem, “I got your message. Thank You.” And so far, they go away.

But Hashem doesn’t bring anything on a person until He’s masreh bo and He’s megaleh ozno. That’s what Hashem does. The problem is, that most of us blow it off. It’s only after months of seeking the treatment and trying to get rid of the sickness, then finally, in exasperation you pick your hands up and say, “Okay, let me call a rabbi. Is there anybody who can give me a brachah?” That’s when you wake up. You know what Hashem says? “You know what it says in the Torah? If I sent yesurim to you and you ignored Me and you said, ‘Nah, I’m not a hypochondriac. It’s a mikreh. It happens. Stuff happens. That’s life. Pains, little pains, are part of life.’” You know what Hashem says? Hashem says, “I’m going to bring it upon you seven fold.” So what started off as a little thing, may end up to be a much bigger thing. I always think how much is seven times of what I’m going through right now? Let’s say a guy ignores that. Hashem says, “I’m going to come down with a wrath upon you like nobody’s business.”

So, here is a guy who is feeling shvach, feeling weak. So what does he say? “Oh, a little more sleep. Maybe an iron pill.” I say, “You know Hashem is הנותן ליעף כח, Hashem is the One Who gives a person koach. No one else gives you koach.” Not your pills. Not your Wheaties. Not eating avocados for breakfast. Not dipping things in olive oil. That’s not going to give you koach. What’s going to give you koach is Hashem, ברוך אתה ה’ אלקנו מלך העולם הנותן ליעף כח. And Hashem is the One who takes away your koach. So if you are feeling a little shvach, that means Hashem is talking to you right now. You know what Hashem is telling you? “You’re losing your koach. I’m warning you. You’re not using your kochos for what I gave you your kochos for. You’re expending good kochos that I invested in you on doing aveiros. You’re investing your kochos in hevel havalim, in shtusim, in everything but what I gave you the koach for.”

Now, the problem is a person sometimes calls me up and tells me he has such tzaros. I mean, someone gave me a laundry list of tzaros one time. I said, “I wouldn’t even know where to begin to talk to you because you have to know where things started.” I said, “This is the result of repeated warnings from Hashem. And Hashem gave you sevenfold times sevenfold times sevenfold, and you still didn’t get the message. What could I do for you? You must learn that the second you experience the smallest pain, don’t run to the doctor first. Run to do teshuvah. Think, what could this be for? You’re feeling tired? Maybe you didn’t use your energy for the right thing. When you were awake you didn’t use it for the right thing. You didn’t utilize your alertness properly. What did you invest your alertness into?” You know how many people start to learn after they get sick? They wake up. Then, they don’t have kochos to learn.

Be Faithful To Hashem

You have to know, one of the main questions that gedolim deal with is yesurim. And it’s not shayach for a person to avoid yesurim in this world, no matter what. And if Hakadosh Baruch Hu is kovea for you yesurim, they’re called חלים רעים ונאמנים. The gemara (Avodah Zarah 55a) says specific yesurim that come to a person get mushba, adjured, they’re put under oath, to come at a specific moment and leave at a specific moment, רעים ונאמנים.[iv]

Now, the time to wake up is before you get the yesurim, when you get that small warning, that small whisper. A person should daven to Hashem before he gets sick. The problem is it’s very hard to daven to Hashem sincerely and commit to real change before you get yesurim. It’s only after you get the yesurim that you get really smart. Until then you don’t get really smart.

“You Are Better Off With These Yesurim”

There’s a sefer we have here called Toldos Yaakov about the Steipler. He says that there was a fellow who lived on the ground floor, and there was no sunlight or air in his apartment. In Eretz Yisrael, that’s a very important question. I never heard of that question until I went to Eretz Yisrael. When you go to Eretz Yisrael, anybody talking about apartments asks, what’s the size? Is there light? Is it sunny? He wanted to know if he should move to a different dirah. You know what the Steipler told him? “Stay in this dirah.But Rebbi, I’m suffering.” “It’s better to deal with tzaros that you know what the tzaros are, than to go to another dirah and discover new tzaros that you don’t know if you’re going to be able to handle.” You’re used to these tzaros. Accept them. Finished.

A Kabalah From Steipler on Avoiding Tzaros

One day, a lady came to the Steipler and said she was dealing with tremendous tza’ar gidul banim. She didn’t know why it was happening to her. “I’m suffering from raising my children.” Her children were big troublemakers. They weren’t easy raises. The Steipler told her, “You should know you can’t ignore it. You can’t avoid it. Certain tzaros are part of life. Hashem knows what He’s doing. Accept it. But you know you could choose. You could choose. If you don’t want the tza’ar of gidul banim, invest in being mekayem mitzvos with tza’ar and yesurim. That’s another tremendous way.” If a person pushes himself to fulfill mitzvos and learn Torah beyesurim, that goes on his cheshbon of yesurim. Every time you push yourself to sit and learn, you are getting yourself yesurim. You’re going to save yourself from yesurim in other areas! And if you think you’re going to run away from them, you can’t. Hashem always knows how to get you back. He could give you bad neighbors. He could give you other bad things.

Once a doctor came to me. He said his wife is suffering from continuous tzaros. Every Monday and Thursday, nach tzaros. It was taka crazy. Nothing was serious, so at first I thought she was a hypochondriac. It turned out she wasn’t. One day, she had a jaw problem. One day, she got better. She went to doctors, dentists, oral surgeons. She had TMJ. She got rid of the TMJ. She had to put this thing in her mouth. Don’t ask what she had to go through! Then she had a root canal. When she was finished with the root canal, all of a sudden her back went out. When her back got better, her knee started to hurt. There was not a day that went by when she didn’t experience some tzarah. She came to me, “Rebbi, what is going on with me?” I said, “I have a kabalah from the Steipler that a person could choose which tzaros they could get. You could avoid tzaros by directing the tzaros to areas like learning Torah and doing mitzvos.

I knew this doctor. He had a little challenge; he was a tightwad. His pockets were so tight. He used to put the money in and then sew them tight. I used to ask him, “What do you do that for?” He said, “Rebbi, I don’t make a lot of money.” I said, “You call $400,00 or $500,000 not a lot?” He said, “I’m not holding by $500,000 yet.” I said, “For me, $450,000 is not small change. You know how much ma’aser you have to give for that?” He said, “Rebbi, no, no. Don’t even count that. $250,000, I put away. I lock it up. That doesn’t even count. You know what $250,000 is for my family?! That’s no money at all!” I told him, “My friend, you’re a little messed up in your head up there, but I want to tell you something. You want to have no tzaros? Give tzedakah. I’ll make you a plan.” I said, “It’s got to pinch, because if it doesn’t pinch, it’s not yesurim. Are you going to give me $100 and hope you’re going to have no tzaros from that? You can buy your tzaros out. Give your money to a poor talmid chacham. Give me a check book, sign the checks. Write big numbers there. He told me, “Ok, I’m going to give it to him.” I said, “Ok, let’s see if your tzaros go away.”

All his tzaros were cured!!! But not stam. He gave me a checkbook with twelve checks, one check per month. He was always complaining. I said, “Don’t complain. Just remind yourself of the yesurim. I know that for you, it’s yesurim.” I said, “I gave you a golden opportunity. You’re getting a mitzvah of tzedakah! When your wife got the TMJ, she got the neck problem, the knee problem, the back problem, there was no mitzvah in that. This way, you’re getting off the hook for very cheap. You’ll be tzaros free.”

After a year I said, “Nu? Are you going to renew it?” He said, “I think I’m out of the woods.” I said, “I hope so.” I told the yungerman who was receiving the checks, “That’s the end of the gravy train.” Next month, bam! The tzaros were back! I said, “My friend, I’m not home anymore. I’m not home. Deal with the doctors.” I said, “You’re a doctor. You must love doctors. Deal with the medical field. I can’t help you.”

Then, his wife started getting better, from the medical aspect. He said, “I think I beat everything.” I said, “I hope so.” All of a sudden, she turned on him. And the yesurim started coming on this guy. It was crazy. The yesurim she gave him were abnormal. Crazy yesurim. I said, “Hashem loves you.” He said, “This is what I get for coming to Hashem?!” I said, “Apparently, you’ve got a long way to go yet. You made some great moves. You made wonderful moves, but Hashem wants you to get to the top of the mountain, and Hashem is giving you this challenging, climbing experience.”

Figure Out Your Problem

This is such an important lesson, rabbosai! When you get yesurim, I’m telling you, figure out what the problem is. I tell people, “You know where the problem usually lies? In the thing that’s right in front of your nose that you don’t want to think about.” People say, “I don’t want to go there. Let’s go everywhere else, but there. Maybe my brachos aren’t so good.” Somebody told me recently, “Maybe it’s because I’m not making the meah brachos with kavanah.” I said, “Who do you think you are? Hashem needs your meah brachos? You think Hashem is going to give you such yesurim for not saying meah berachos?Nu, maybe if you’re Rav Shach.”

A person has to realize this and wake up. I’m telling you, there’s a way you can deal with it. Hashem is producing pure oil. Yes, you’re a tough nut. You’re as tough as any olive growing on a tree. Hard like a rock. But with some pushing, some beating, some softening up, some crushing, you could finally produce shemen zayis zach. Help yourself produce that shemen without having Hashem to need to squeeze out any, and then you’ll be ahead of the game. A gutten Shabbos!

The Bottom Line

By commanding Moshe Rabbeinu, וְיִקְחוּ אֵלֶיךָ שֶׁמֶן זַיִת זָךְ, Hakodosh Boruch Hu taught him that just as olives go through a difficult and arduous process to produce oil, the Jewish people endure suffering (yesurim) as a means of bringing out their spiritual essence. The difficult and constant yesurim in Mitzrayim brought out the שֶׁמֶן זַיִת זָךְ (“pure oil”) aspect of our nation, by purifying us and bringing out our true essence. In our own lives – when we experience suffering or difficult challenges which are an integral part of life – it also means that Hashem is trying to “produce pure oil” and bring out our pure essence. It’s important to recognize the three aspects of yesurim: they are brought as a result of ignoring Hashem (even in one, small aspect of our avodas Hashem), they are mechaper (atone) our past misdeeds and they are also mesaken (correct) us. This coming week, if I experience some difficulty – whether physical, emotional or otherwise – I will first attempt (bli neder) to find the connection between the nature of my challenge and the potential area where I might have “ignored” Hashem. If I was particularly tired this week, for example, or didn’t sleep well, I will try to remember whether I used my energy and time for the right things, or I misused them for things that I shouldn’t have. Also, in the spirit of the advice from the holy Steipler Gaon, if I experience certain challenges with raising my children, for example, I will accept it and commit (bli neder) to do mitzvos, learning and tzedakah, with a little bit of a “pinch,” when it’s not always comfortable or easy. And in the zechus of recognizing the purpose behind suffering and challenges, and then committing myself to change, I will strengthen my connection to Hakodosh Boruch Hu and, iy”H, will avoid other, unnecessary “reminders.”

[i] ואתה תצוה את בני ישראל ויקחו אליך שמן זית זך כתית למאור וגו’. במדרש [רבה ל”ו א’] ואתה תצוה, הדא הוא דכתיב [ירמיה י”א ט”ז]. זית רענן יפה פרי תואר קרא ה’ שמך וכו’, מה הזית הזה עד שהוא באילנו נחבט, ומשחובטין אותו מעלין אותן לגת, ומגרגרין אותן, ואח”כ מורידין אותן ונותנים אותן במטחן, ואח”כ טוחנין אותן ואח”כ מקיפין אותן בחבלים, ומביאים אבנים ואח”כ נותנים את שומנן, כך ישראל באין עכו”ם וחובטין אותן וכו’ ואח”כ עושין תשובה והקב”ה עונה להם, מנין שנאמר ויאנחו בני ישראל וגו’ הוי זית רענן יפה פרי תואר וכו’ ע”כ. נ”ל דלכאורה קשה לשון הקרא ואתה תצוה מהו ואת”ה. ויקחו אליך, מהו אלי”ך. ובפ’ תרומה כתיב ויקחו לי תרומה, ולמה נאמר כאן אליך. ונ”ל דהא בסוף פ’ שמות אמר משה, למה הרעותה לעם הזה למה זה שלחתני, ומאז באתי אל פרעה וגו’ הרע לעם הזה וגו’, ויאמר ה’ אל משה עתה תראה אשר אעשה וגו’. וי”ל עפ”י מ”ש הטעם לשיעבוד מצרים כדי שיזדכך החומר ויהיו ראויים לקבלת התורה, ובלתי זה לא היו ראויים. וממילא כל שנתקשה השיעבוד מקורב הזיכוך לקבלת התורה, ומשה רבנו ע”ה לא הבין את זאת ולכן התרעם למה הרעותה וגו’, אבל באמת היתה זאת לטובתם כדי שיתקרב הזיכוך. ועל זה השיב לו הקב”ה עתה תראה וגו’ אתה מתרעם על קישוי השיעבוד, הנה זהו לטובתם כי רק עת”ה לאחר שנתקשה השיעבוד תראה אשר אעשה לפרעה. וי”ל שז”ש כאן ואת”ה כלומר אתה שלא הבנת כי קישוי השיעבוד הוא טובה לישראל, תצוה את בני ישראל ויקחו אלי”ך, כלומר בשבילך יקחו שמן זית זך כתית למאור, ללמוד מן הזית כי רק לאחר שהוא כתית אז הוא מוכשר למאור, כן המה ישראל, וז”ש המדרש שהוקשה לו תיבת ואתה, ותיבת אליך, ומתרץ הדא הוא דכתיב וכו’. (אפריון פי’ תרומה)

[ii] וְאַתָּה תְּצַוֶּה, הֲדָא הוּא דִּכְתִיב (ירמיה יא, טז): זַיִת רַעֲנָן יְפֵה פְרִי תֹאַר קָרָא ה’ שְׁמֵךְ, וְכִי לֹא נִקְרְאוּ יִשְׂרָאֵל אֶלָּא כַּזַּיִת הַזֶּה בִּלְבָד, וַהֲלוֹא בְּכָל מִינֵי אִילָנוֹת נָאִים וּמְשֻׁבָּחִים נִקְרְאוּ יִשְׂרָאֵל, בְּגֶפֶן וּתְאֵנָה, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (תהלים פ, ט): גֶּפֶן מִמִּצְרַיִם תַּסִּיעַ, תְּאֵנָה, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (הושע ט, י): כְּבִכּוּרָה בִתְאֵנָה בְּרֵאשִׁיתָהּ, כַּתָּמָר, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (שיר השירים ז, ח): זֹאת קוֹמָתֵךְ דָּמְתָה לְתָמָר. כָּאֶרֶז, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (תהלים צב, יג): כְּאֶרֶז בַּלְּבָנוֹן יִשְׂגֶּה. כֶּאֱגוֹז, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (שיר השירים ו, יא): אֶל גִּנַת אֱגוֹז יָרַדְתִּי, וּקְרָאָן בְּכָל מִינֵי שְׁלָחִים, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (שיר השירים ד, יג): שְׁלָחַיִךְ פַּרְדֵּס רִמּוֹנִים, וּבָא יִרְמְיָה לוֹמַר: זַיִת רַעֲנָן יְפֵה פְרִי תֹאַר, אֶלָּא מָה הַזַּיִת הַזֶּה, עַד שֶׁהוּא בְּאִילָנוֹ מְגַרְגְּרִין אוֹתוֹ וְאַחַר כָּךְ מוֹרִידִין אוֹתוֹ מִן הַזַּיִת וְנֶחְבָּט, וּמִשֶּׁחוֹבְטִין אוֹתוֹ מַעֲלִין אוֹתוֹ לַגַּת וְנוֹתְנִין אוֹתָן בַּמַּטְחֵן, וְאַחַר כָּךְ טוֹחֲנִין אוֹתָן, וְאַחַר כָּךְ מַקִּיפִין אוֹתָן בַּחֲבָלִים, וּמְבִיאִין אֲבָנִים וְאַחַר כָּךְ נוֹתְנִין אֶת שַׁמְנָן. כָּךְ יִשְׂרָאֵל, בָּאִין עוֹבְדֵי כּוֹכָבִים וְחוֹבְטִין אוֹתָם מִמָּקוֹם לְמָקוֹם וְחוֹבְשִׁים אוֹתָן וְכוֹפְתִין אוֹתָם בְּקוֹלָרִין וּמַקִּיפִין אוֹתָן טַרְטְיוֹטִין, וְאַחַר כָּךְ עוֹשִׂין תְּשׁוּבָה וְהַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא עוֹנֶה לָהֶם, מִנַּיִן, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (שמות ב, כג): וַיֵּאָנְחוּ בְנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל, וְכֵן (דברים ד, ל): בַּצַּר לְךָ וּמְצָאוּךָ (דברים ל, לא): כִּי אֵל רַחוּם ה’ אֱלֹהֶיךָ, הֱוֵי: [זַיִת רַעֲנָן יְפֵה פְרִי תֹאַר. דָּבָר אַחֵר, מָה רָאָה יִרְמְיָה לִמְשֹׁל אֲבוֹתֵינוּ כַּזַּיִת, אֶלָּא כָּל הַמַּשְׁקִין מִתְעָרְבִים זֶה בָּזֶה, וְהַשֶּׁמֶן אֵינוֹ מִתְעָרֵב אֶלָּא עוֹמֵד, כָּךְ יִשְׂרָאֵל אֵינָם מִתְעָרְבִים עִם הָעוֹבְדֵי כּוֹכָבִים, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (דברים ז, ג): וְלֹא תִתְחַתֵּן בָּם. דָּבָר אַחֵר, כָּל הַמַּשְׁקִים אָדָם מְעָרֵב בָּהֶם וְאֵינוֹ יוֹדֵעַ אֵיזֶה תַּחְתּוֹן וְאֵיזֶה עֶלְיוֹן, אֲבָל הַשֶּׁמֶן אֲפִלּוּ אַתָּה מְעָרְבוֹ בְּכָל הַמַּשְׁקִין שֶׁבָּעוֹלָם הוּא נָתוּן לְמַעְלָה מֵהֶן. כָּךְ אֲבוֹתֵינוּ, בְּשָׁעָה שֶׁהֵם עוֹשִׂים רְצוֹנוֹ שֶׁל מָקוֹם נִצָּבִים לְמַעְלָה מִן הָעוֹבְדֵי כּוֹכָבִים, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (דברים כח, א): וּנְתָנְךָ ה’ אֱלֹהֶיךָ עֶלְיוֹן, הֱוֵי: זַיִת רַעֲנָן יְפֵה פְרִי תֹאַר. דָּבָר אַחֵר, זַיִת רַעֲנָן, הֲדָא הוּא דִּכְתִיב (תהלים מח, ג): יְפֵה נוֹף מְשׂוֹשׂ כָּל הָאָרֶץ, מַהוּ יְפֵה נוֹף, לָשׁוֹן יְוָנִי קוֹרִין לְכַלָּה נִמְפִּי, מְשׂוֹשׂ כָּל הָאָרֶץ, שֶׁלֹא הָיָה אֶחָד מִיִּשְׂרָאֵל מֵצֵר כְּשֶׁהָיָה בֵּית הַמִּקְדָּשׁ קַיָּם, לָמָּה, שֶׁהָיָה אָדָם נִכְנָס לְשָׁם מָלֵא עֲוֹנוֹת, וְהָיָה מַקְרִיב קָרְבָּן וּמִתְכַּפֵּר לוֹ, אֵין שִׂמְחָה גְדוֹלָה מִזּוֹ שֶׁהָיָה יוֹצֵא צַדִּיק, הֱוֵי: יְפֵה נוֹף מְשׂוֹשׂ כָּל הָאָרֶץ. כְּתִיב בְּצוֹר (יחזקאל כז, ג): צוֹר אַתְּ אָמַרְתְּ אֲנִי כְּלִילַת יֹפִי, אַתְּ אָמַרְתְּ אֲבָל אֲחֵרִים אֵינָם אוֹמְרִים, אֲבָל יְרוּשָׁלַיִם הַכֹּל אוֹמְרִים שִׁבְחָהּ, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (איכה ב, טו): הֲזֹאת הָעִיר שֶׁיֹּאמְרוּ כְּלִילַת יֹפִי, וּכְתִיב (תהלים מח, ג): הַר צִיּוֹן יַרְכְּתֵי צָפוֹן קִרְיַת מֶלֶךְ רָב, מָקוֹם שֶׁמַּקְרִיבִין בּוֹ קָרְבָּנוֹת, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (ויקרא א, יא): וְשָׁחַט אֹתוֹ עַל יֶרֶךְ הַמִּזְבֵּחַ צָפֹנָה, לְכָךְ נֶאֱמַר: זַיִת רַעֲנָן יְפֵה פְרִי תֹאַר, כְּשֵׁם שֶׁהַשֶּׁמֶן מֵאִיר כָּךְ בֵּית הַמִּקְדָּשׁ מֵאִיר לְכָל הָעוֹלָם, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (ישעיה ס, ג): וְהָלְכוּ גוֹיִם לְאוֹרֵךְ, לָכֵן נִקְרְאוּ אֲבוֹתֵינוּ זַיִת רַעֲנָן, שֶׁהֵם מְאִירִים לַכֹּל בֶּאֱמוּנָתָם, לְכָךְ אָמַר הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא לְמשֶׁה: וְיִקְחוּ אֵלֶיךָ שֶׁמֶן זַיִת זָךְ]

[iii] רְאֵה אָנֹכִי וְגוֹ’. זֶה שֶׁאָמַר הַכָּתוּב: וַיִּגֶל אָזְנָם לַמּוּסָר וְגוֹ’, אִם יִשְׁמְעוּ וְיַעֲבֹדוּ, יְכַלּוּ יְמֵיהֶם בַּטּוֹב וּשְׁנֵיהֶם בַּנְּעִימִים, וְאִם לֹא יִשְׁמְעוּ, בְּשֶׁלַח יַעֲבֹרוּ (איוב לו, י-יב). וַיִּגֶל אָזְנָם לַמּוּסָר. אֵין הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא מֵבִיא צָרָה לָאָדָם עַד שֶׁהוּא גּוֹלֶה לְאָזְנוֹ וּמַתְרֶה בּוֹ, כְּדֵי שֶׁיַּחְזֹר בּוֹ. אִם חָזַר בּוֹ, הֲרֵי יָפֶה. אִם לָאו, מֵבִיא עָלָיו רָעוֹת. וַיִּגֶל אָזְנָם לַמּוּסָר. מִמִּי אַתְּ לָמֵד. מִפַּרְעֹה מֶלֶךְ מִצְרַיִם, כְּשֶׁהָיָה מְבַקֵּשׁ לְהָבִיא עָלָיו מַכָּה, הָיָה שׁוֹלֵחַ וּמַתְרֶה בּוֹ בְּיַד מֹשֶׁה עַבְדּוֹ, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר: הִנְנִי מֵבִיא מָחָר אַרְבֶּה בִּגְבוּלְךָ (שמות י, ד). וְכֵן הִנְנִי נוֹגֵף אֶת כָּל גְּבוּלְךָ בִּצְפַרְדְּעִים (שם ז, כז). מַתְרֶה בּוֹ לַמּוּסָר, לְמוּסָרָהּ שֶׁל תּוֹרָה. וַיֹּאמֶר כִּי יְשׁוּבוּן מֵאָוֶן (איוב לו, י), מֵעַוֵּל בְּנֵי אָדָם וּמִלְּעַוֵּל לְהַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא. יְכַלּוּ יְמֵיהֶם בַּטּוֹב, בַּטּוֹב הֵם מַשְׁלִימִין שְׁנוֹתֵיהֶם.

[iv] א”ל זונין לר”ע לבי ולבך ידע דעבודת כוכבים לית בה מששא והא קחזינן גברי דאזלי כי מתברי ואתו כי מצמדי מ”ט. אמר לו אמשול לך משל למה”ד לאדם נאמן שהיה בעיר וכל בני עירו היו מפקידין אצלו שלא בעדים ובא אדם אחד והפקיד לו בעדים פעם אחד שכח והפקיד אצלו שלא בעדים אמרה לו אשתו בוא ונכפרנו אמר לה וכי מפני ששוטה זה עשה שלא כהוגן אנו נאבד את אמונתינו. אף כך יסורין בשעה שמשגרין אותן על האדם משביעין אותן שלא תלכו אלא ביום פלוני ולא תצאו אלא ביום פלוני ובשעה פלונית ועל ידי פלוני ועל ידי סם פלוני כיון שהגיע זמנן לצאת הלך זה לבית עבודת כוכבים אמרו יסורין דין הוא שלא נצא וחוזרין ואומרים וכי מפני ששוטה זה עושה שלא כהוגן אנו נאבד שבועתנו. והיינו דא”ר יוחנן מאי דכתיב (דברים כח, נט) וחלים רעים ונאמנים רעים בשליחותן ונאמנים בשבועתן.

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