By Rabbi Moshe Meir Weiss
Every motzoei Shabbos, the communal highlight of our sacred havdalah service is the public chanting of the posuk, “LaYehudim hoisa ora v’simcha,v’ soson v’yakar – And to the Jews there was light and joy, exultation and honor.” Then, we cap-off all this with the prayer, “Kein tihye lonu – So it should be for us.” Most people who say this have their focus (correctly) on the simcha and soson, happiness and joy, at the beginning of the week and beseech that the coming week should be a happy one, filled with all kinds of joy.
But, as we know, in this verse there lurks much more. The Gemora in Masechtas Megillah breaks down this posuk and teaches us ora, light, refers to Torah; simcha, happiness refers to Yomtov; soson, exultation, denotes milah; and yakar, honor signifies tefilin. The Sfas Emes, Zt”l, Zy”a, asks the obvious question: Why doesn’t the posuk say what it means? Why don’t we just say, “And to the Jews there was Torah, Yomtov, milah and tefilin?” Why use code words? He answers that the posuk found in the megillah refers to the state of Jewish mind after the miracle of Purim. It was then that they realized that Torah was their true light, that Yomtov was the source of happiness, milah was something to exult in and tefilin was the height of Jewish honor. It is this correct passion and meaningful religiosity that we wish for in the beginning of the week.
The first thing we ask for is ora, the light of Torah. We pray that the guiding light of the Torah should illuminate our home. To appreciate what this means, picture yourself in a room full of obstacles, pitch blank and with no windows. Without the benefit of light, one is certain to stumble and hurt oneself. The same thing is true in the way we lead our lives. If we live without the direction of the Torah, we are certain to stumble. If we don’t have the Torah’s warning against vengeance and bearing grudges, we are likely to suffer in our interpersonal relationships. If we don’t have the Torah’s inhibitions against false weights and measures, lying, usury, cheating, we are likely to tumble in our business dealings. Without the Torah’s commandments of kivud av v’eim – honoring parents, and v’shinantom livonecha – teaching our children, v’ahavta l’rei’echa kmocha – treating out friends the way we want to be treated ourselves, lo sitnah es achicha bilvovecha – do not hate your fellow in your heart, v’asisa hayoshor v’hatov – and do that which is upright and good, we are likely to mess up our relationships.
A young man once approached Rav Shteinman, Zt”l, Zy”a, and asked him why it was that he did not find sweetness in his Torah learning. After all, the posuk says that the Torah is compared with brilliant light m’sukim m’dvash, and is sweeter than honey. Why was it that he was learning for many years and couldn’t wait until the day was over, until he could close his Gemora and leave the Beis Midrash? Rav Shteinman asked him a different question: When does honey not taste sweet to a person? When the young man looked puzzled, Rav Shteinman answered that it was when a person has sores on his tongue. If this were the case, the honey would hurt and sting. Rav Shteinman said that it’s the same thing with that which is spiritual. If we have spiritual sores in our mouths such as the sin of lashon hara – sinful gossip, nivul peh – being vulgar, sheker – lying, or onaas devorim – saying hurtful things to people, or if we reveal peoples secrets, then the spiritual sores in our mouths do not allow us to taste the sweetness of Torah we speak and learn.
I would like to elaborate on Rav Shteinman’s idea. If our hearts are full of hate and jealousy, our heart cannot embrace the sweetness of Torah. If our minds are full of impurities, they cannot then appreciate the beauty of Abaya and Rava, Ravina and Rav Ashi. So, at the beginning of the week when the family in unison says “Kein tihye lonu,” we should have in mind that the light of the Torah should be allowed entry into our homes, our hearts and our minds. Rav Zelig Pliskin, in his beautiful sefer on marriage, cites a custom that some couples have. Right after Shabbos, they each light a candle and for a moment they say a quite prayer that they should each have the merit to bring light into their partner’s life during the coming week.
May it be the will of Hashem that the glow and the warmth of the fire of the Torah should be ablaze in our homes and in that merit may Hashem grant us long life, good health, and everything wonderful.
Sheldon Zeitlin takes dictation of, and edits, Rabbi Weiss’s articles.
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