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Shabbat Parashat Shemot | 5769
Holy Things That Bring Long Life, Fully Entering a Synagogue Before Prayer
Holy Things That Bring Long Life
(based on Berachot 1:91)
Gemara: They told Rabbi Yochanan: there are old men in Bavel. He was surprised and said: “The pasuk says, ‘… so that your days and the days of your children shall be long in the Land,’ implying that in chutz la’aretz (the Diaspora) there is not long life.” Once they told him that they came early and stayed late in batei k’nesset (synagogues), he said: “That is what did it for them.”
Ein Ayah: The lengthening of lives comes from two factors: 1) from the arrangement of ethical life with good middot (personal qualities) and refraining from getting pulled in after desires and luxuries. This can be attained only by the good influence of ethics and fear of G-d. 2) Additionally, when the powers of the spirit increase they lengthen the days of one’s life.
For this reason, Rabbi Yochanan wondered about long life in the Diaspora. Long life for Jews is suitable only in Eretz Yisrael, where the Land’s sanctity and great ethical elements for the Nation of Israel that are inherent to it uplift the spirit and strengthen the spiritual powers. It also leads people in the straight path of an ethical life and good middot. However, in the Diaspora the land causes “torn-up wisdom” and a confusion of the middot. How can the spiritual powers be strengthened and the middot straightened there to arrange good ethical lives that lengthen days?
However, when people told Rabbi Yochanan that people came early and stayed late in batei k’nesset, he said that this is what did it for them. This is because the elevating of the spirit, the influence of good middot, and arriving at abundant, pleasant ethical life come to the heart by one being in the house of Hashem daily, joining in to the communal ethical life. This helps by the beit k’nesset serving as a mini-sanctuary in the lands of dispersion. The gemara brings a proof that wisdom can cause more complete middot and the justice of life, which increase the length of life from the following pasuk: “Fortunate is the person who listens to Me to frequent My doorways daily, to guard the doorposts of My openings” (Mishlei 8:34). This means that when entering the places where wisdom and completeness find a place, the spirit must be uplifted and the middot must be straightened. The pasuk continues to speak of one “who finds Me,” in the manner of chancing upon something without giving the matter thought, but by frequenting good holy places where people sanctify His Blessed Name. This naturally causes the sanctification of one’s spirit and completeness until he “finds life and extracts good will from Hashem.” This occurs by going on a straight path and keeping statutes and proper justice to be good to Hashem and with people.
Fully Entering a Synagogue Before Prayer
(based on Berachot 1:92)
Gemara: A person should always enter the measure of two openings and afterward pray.
Ein Ayah: This comes to teach us that one who prays in a beit k’nesset should be careful of two things. First he should remove the burden of his thoughts, which may be overloaded with fleeting needs and a life of physicality and interest in his desires. That is the point of the first door. The second is to positively elevate himself toward ethical needs, which are related to the needs of the entire community. This is because the needs of a community always overlap with the needs of morality because the life of the community cannot be good unless they follow justice and the fear of Hashem. Only after the measure of the two doorways (of leaving the physical and entering the moral) will one be able to leave behind his own personal, physical needs because the goal of prayer is to go beyond such concerns.
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This edition of Hemdat Yamim is dedicated to the memory of Shirley, Sara Rivka bat Yaakov Tzvi HaCohen z”L
R ' Meir ben Yechezkel Shraga Brachfeld
Hemdat Yamim is endowed by
and Louis and Lillian Klein, z”l.