Part Three
Midrashic Mysteries - Part Three

(26) What is the connection between the binding of Yitzchok and the ten days of repentance?

(26) The sefer No’ovoh Sehilloh on Tehillim 68 brings a puzzling Midrash - At the time of the binding of Yitzchok, Avrohom Avinu asked Hashem: Master of the World, give to my son the ten days of repentance.

Everyone is astonished by this Midrash - what connection is there between the ten days of repentance and the binding of Yitzchok?

But it can be explained according to the reason given by the commentaries why repentance is effective for Yisrael but not for the other nations, because Yisrael has the attribute of being children of Hashem, and the rule is that if a father wants to forgo his honour he can do so. But the other nations have the attribute of being servants of Hashem, and the rule is that if a King wants to forgo his honour he cannot do so.

Now, the sefer Parshas Derachim, Drush 25, writes that it is clear from the resurrection of the dead that Yisrael have the attribute of children, because Chazal taught in the first chapter of the gemora Ta’anis, that three keys were not given over to the hand of an emissary, but rather Hashem Himself deals with them, and one of them is the key of the resurrection of the dead. But this is a problem because Hashem is a Kohen, so how can He cause Himself to become impure, so to speak, by resurrecting the dead? The answer must be like the Tosofos in Sanhedrin teaches, that Yisrael are called children, and a Kohen is allowed to defile himself for his child.

And it is written in Pirkei D’Rebbi Eliezer, that at the time of the binding of Yitzchok his soul flew away, and afterwards returned, and so he knew that the dead are resurrected, and he said: Blessed are You Hashem, Who resurrects the dead.

With this the words of the Midrash are clear. At the binding of Yitchok, when Avrohom saw that his son’s soul flew away but then returned because Hashem revived him, it became clear to him that he and his descendants had the attribute of being children of Hashem, because if not so how could Hashem revive him back to life. And since they are His children repentance is effective for them. Therefore he asked Hashem to give to His children the ten days of repentance, the time that is fitting for the repentance of those who wish to return to Hashem.

(29) Which day was missing from the first year of creation?

(29) The sefer Ya’aros Devash brings a puzzling Midrash on the posuk in Tehillim (27,1) “Hashem is my light and my salvation, from whom shall I fear? Hashem is the stronghold of my life, from whom shall I be afraid?”. “Hashem is my light” - on Rosh Hashanah, “and my salvation” - on Yom Kippur.

To understand why the Midrash attributed the light to Rosh Hashanah and the salvation to Yom Kippur, we first need to look at the gemora in Yoma 20a, which says that the word השטן - the satan, has a gematria of 364, which is the number of days in the year that he is allowed to make accusations. But on the 365th day, which is Yom Kippur, he is not allowed. We need to understand why this is so, and with this we will also understand why the Torah says in one place concerning Yom Kippur “and you shall afflict yourselves on the ninth of the month”, but in another place it says “on the tenth of the month”, and about which Chazal taught that anyone who eats and drinks on the ninth is considered as if he has fasted on both the ninth and the tenth.

We can understand all this from the teaching of Chazal that the two days of Rosh Hashanah are considered like one long day. The reason for this is because Adam HaRishon was created on Erev Shabbos, which was the first of Tishrei, and the Midrash teaches that the sun did not set from then until the end of Shabbos, and so the first and second of Tishrei are like one day. If so, in the year of creation, reckoning according to the sun, Yom Kippur was on the ninth of Tishrei, since the sun did not set on the first day, and this is why the Torah says that you shall afflict yourselves on the ninth of the month. However, according to the lunar cycle these first two days of Tishrei are considered as two days, and thus the Torah says that you shall afflict yourselves on the tenth. This is so because nine is the last of the single digits, and in combination with one makes ten, which is also one in terms of the double digits. Similarly Yom Kippur in combination with Rosh Hashanah makes ten.

Now, at the beginning of creation the satan, because of the sin of Adam HaRishon, was given permission to rule over all the days of the year with no exclusions. But this is according to the solar cycle, which is how the nations calculate the year, and that year was only 364 days long, and thus the satan has a gematria of 364. But in truth there was another day subsumed within the first Rosh Hashanah, and in subsequent years Rosh Hashanah was split into two, and from this came forth Yom Kippur, which is the tenth. And since this day did not exist in that first year which only had 364 days, therefore this day was not designated to the satan as one of the days of the year over which he rules.

Therefore, one should eat on the ninth, because on that day the satan has authority, and so it is necessary to give to him a portion in the eating which the satan has a part of, as is well known. But not on the tenth which is holy to Hashem, and thus it is the day on which there is salvation and help, because the satan has no authority over it. But all this is because there had been light on the two days of Rosh Hashanah thus making it like one long day, but if not for this the satan would rule even over Yom Kippur, and there would have been no room for atonement, G-d forbid, because of the abundance of accusations of the satan.

Thus the Midrash says that Hashem is my light on Rosh Hashanah, because there was an extended period of light lasting two days, but which was one long day, and because of this Hashem is my salvation, since therefore the satan has no permission to accuse on Yom Kippur, and thus the posuk concludes “from whom shall I fear”, and “from whom shall I be afraid”.

(30) In what way is Pesach similar to Yom Kippur?

(30) The sefer No’ovoh Sehilloh on Tehillim 27 brings a puzzling Midrash: “Hashem is my light” - on Pesach, “and my salvation” - on Yom Kippur.

He writes that it is possible to explain it according to what the sefer Chesed L’Avrohom writes, that every year thirty days before Pesach, Hashem removes one thirtieth part of the defilement of the souls of Yisrael, so that on the night of Pesach Yisrael are found to be Holy, free from sin. And Hashem’s wisdom decreed that there should be removed from them only a little bit at a time, in order that the accusing angel Samael will not feel so much distress at this, and come to make accusations.

This is what the Midrash means: Hashem is my light on Pesach, and also my salvation on Yom Kippur, that on these two occasions Hashem purifies us from sin.

(31) Why will the mitzvah of polishing our shoes on Erev Shabbos cause us to grieve in the future?

(31) The sefer Rozin D’Oraissa brings a puzzling Midrash, which says that Yisrael do not appreciate the reward that they will receive for cleaning their shoes on Erev Shabbos, as it is written (Son of Songs 7,2) “How beautiful are your feet in sandals, O daughter of nobles”. This is what is meant by the posuk in Yeshayohu (22,12) “Hashem called on that day for weeping, and for lamenting, and for baldness, and for girding with sackcloth”. What is the connection between this posuk and cleaning shoes on Erev Shabbos?

He writes there that the Holy Rabbi from Apta explained this Midrash with a parable about a very wealthy man who lost all his wealth, until he was forced to go begging from door to door, and from village to village. One day, he came across a certain mountain upon which were some very beautiful stones, and he put some of them in his knapsack. However, as he walked along the burden became too heavy for him, and so he started to lighten it periodically by casting out some of the stones.

Eventually he came to a large city, and took lodgings with a poor teacher. He was very tired and hungry, and so he searched in his knapsack, thinking that perhaps he would find some money. But all he found was one of the stones which he had been carelessly casting away, but no money, and he excused himself greatly to the teacher. But when the teacher saw the stone in his hand, he said to him: Listen to my advice and come with me to a dealer in precious stones, because it appears to me that this stone is a gem. But this wretched pauper strongly pushed off his suggestion, because he was very hungry.

However, he pressured him until he was persuaded to go with him to the dealer. When they arrived at the house of the dealer and showed him this gem, the dealer said that he would give a thousand pieces of silver for it. But the owner of the stone just stood there dumbstruck, and the dealer, thinking that perhaps he wasn’t pleased with the deal that he had offered him, started to increase his offer, until the price reached an absolute fortune.

And so it was, when the owner of the stone heard how incredibly valuble his stone was, he fell to the ground and tore at his hair, and cried out: Oy! I had so many of these stones, but I carelessly threw them away.

So too, when a person comes after a hundred and twenty years to the World of Truth, and all he has in his hand is the small mitzvah of cleaning his shoes Erev Shabbos for the honour of Shabbos, and sees how much bountiful reward he is given for this, then he will wail bitterly for his soul because of the many big mitzvos which he forsaken and not bothered with. Now the Midrash is clearly understood.

(35) Where does the Torah allude to the construction of the menorah?

(35) The sefer Divrei Noam writes that R. Yechezkel from Prague said to our Holy Rabbi, the Maharish from Shipitivki: I remember that when I was young, a certain Torah sage asked my father about a puzzling Midrash, but he did not explain it. So now I am asking His Honour to explain to me the Midrash which says that the posuk in Bamidbar (8,2) “towards the face of the menorah shall the seven lamps cast their light” can be explained by the posuk in Tehillim (119,130) “The opening of Your words enlightens”, according to the opinion that the menorah was seventeen handbreadths tall.

The Holy Rabbi explained it to me thus: The Midrash which brings the posuk "the opening of Your words enlightens" is referring to the beginning of each of the five books of the Torah, which allude to the construction of the menorah which had eleven knobs, nine flowers, twenty-two goblets and seven branches. And it was seventeen handbreadths high according to one opinion (the other opinion being eighteen).

Thus, the first posuk of sefer Bereishis which has seven words corresponds to the seven branches of the menorah. The first posuk of sefer Shemos has eleven words corresponding to the eleven knobs, that of Vayikra has nine words corresponding to the nine flowers, and that of Devarim has twenty-two, corresponding to the twenty-two goblets. And the first posuk of Bamidbar has seventeen words corresponding to the height, and therefore the Midrash concludes that this is according to the opinion that the height of the menorah was seventeen handbreadths, like the gematria of טוב.

(43) Why did Adam start to speak Aramaic?

(43) The sefer Rozin D’Oraisa brings a puzzling Midrash, which says: From when Sarah Imeinu died, Adam started to speak Aramaic.

He writes in the name of R. Menachem Mendel from Vishnitz the following explanation:

It is written that when a Tzaddik dies he goes and complains to Adam HaRishon, saying: You caused death in the world!. He repiles that it is written (Koheles 7,20) “For there is not a righteous man on the earth who does good and sins not”. If so, your sin caused your death!

But by Sarah it is written (Bereishis 23,1) “And the life of Sarah was one hundred years, and twenty years, and seven years”, and Chazal expounded that the reason why the posuk wrote the word "years" by every digit, was in order to teach that when she was a hundred she was like a twenty year old - without sin. Therefore, Adam was not able to answer her like he answered everyone else.

So therefore he started to speak Aramaic, because the Aramaic Targum (translation) is "And the life of Sarah was one hundred and twenty and seven years", and it does not specify the word "years" with every digit, and so there is no possibilty of expounding that she was without sin. Thus he was again able to respond to her “For there is not a righteous man on the earth who does good and sins not”.

(44) What is the connection between the mitzvah of sending away the mother bird and the mitzvah of learning Torah?

(44) The sefer Rozin D’Oraisa brings another very puzzling Midrash which says that a person should always learn Torah even not for its own sake, because from this he will come to learn for its own sake. This is what the posuk writes in Devarim 22:7 “You shall surely send away the mother, and take for yourself the young”.

He writes in the name of R. Dovid from Tolna that the explanation of the Midrash is that the relationship between learning Torah not for its own sake which is the start of the process, and learning for its own sake which is the result, is the same as the relationship between a mother and her offspring. And in this case the child is superior to the parent.

Thus the Midrash says that this is what the posuk writes, to send away the mother - to abandon the learning that is not for its own sake, and to take the young - the result of this learning, which is to learn Torah for its own sake. Then it will be good for you all of your days.

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