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23 Tammuz 5766 - July 19, 2006 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly










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Opinion & Comment
Bein Hazmanim and Advice for Kiruv by a Ben Torah

A Mussar Shmuess by Maran HaRav Yaakov Kamenetsky zt'l
Edited by Rav Yosef Blier

Before we enter bein hazmanim we have to realize that it requires preparation, like any spiritual endeavor. If one does not prepare himself he would be like someone who commits suicide. The foundation of bein hazmanim is that we must have things to do.

Certainly, bein hazmanim is a time to rest. However rest is also something positive, active. This is implied in the posuk: "And G-d completed on the seventh day His work that He did, and He abstained on the seventh day from all His work that He did" (Bereishis 2:2). Rashi cites the Chazal: "What was the world lacking? Rest. The Shabbos came, and so came rest. The work was completed and finished."

If rest were only the cessation of work, how is possible that the world was lacking such a thing and that work was needed to finish it?

We find in the halachos for writing a sefer Torah the law of the "open" paragraphs (pesuchos) and the "closed" ones (setumos). If the scribe closed a paragraph that was meant to be open, the entire sefer Torah is invalid, even the parts done properly with intensive labor.

The same applies to a ben Yeshiva during the bein hazmanim. If he makes sedorim for himself just as he has when he is in yeshiva, he will be physically weak when the new zman arrives while his friends are starting with renewed vigor. This is a great wrong. He is not only invalidating the new zman, he is invalidating the previous zman as well.

The Rambam entitled the section in Mishneh Torah on seder Moed: "Zmanim." The explanation is that zmanim are special times for some purpose. Therefore the holidays are called "zman," such as the zman kotzir, time of harvesting, or zman matan Toroseinu, the time of the giving of our Torah.

Likewise, the holidays are called "moed" in the Torah (for example, mo'adei Hashem, asher tikre'u osom bemo'adom, lemo'eid chodesh ho'oviv). However, the Torah does not write moed regarding Shavuos. This is because all the other Yomin Tovim have set dates (Pesach - 15th of Nisan, Succos - 15th of Tishrei), but concerning Shavuos the gemora says: "Sometimes it is on the fifth, sometimes on the sixth, and sometimes on the seventh" (Rosh Hashanah 6b). The date depends on whether Nisan and Iyar were full 30 day months or 29 day months, but Shavuos is always fifty days after Pesach. Since its date is not fixed it is not called a moed, because moed refers only to what has a fixed date or fixed place, such as the Ohel Moed, the Tabernacle, or "veno'adeti eileicho."

Zman in a yeshiva means that the student is obligated to keep the Yeshiva's sedorim. Bein hazmanim is a time of rest but not a time for bitul Torah; it is a time that is "between the times." (Not to kill time — "men harget avek di tzeit").

The zman of bein hazmanim is a particularly hard zman, because there is no mashgiach and we have to make the sedorim by ourselves. In yeshiva we have an advantage in that we are obligated to keep sedorim and have to accept upon ourselves the yoke of Torah.

On the other hand, the yeshiva also has a disadvantage. For example, if someone enjoys learning beki'us — and there is a great advantage in learning what one enjoys — he will have difficulty doing so when he must keep up with the roshei yeshiva's shiurim and learn only what is learned in the yeshiva.

I knew that the gaon HaRav Dovid Rappaport ztvk'l was a boki in all of Shas, literally by heart. He knew the entire Shas word for word, and anyone who needed to the exact language of any gemora, anywhere could ask him. I tested him and I have never seen another man who was a boki in the entire Shas by heart as he was.

Now, such an accomplishment is impossible in a yeshiva. He was able to do so because his father was wealthy and hired a private teacher for him instead of sending him to yeshiva. He held the view that the Torah shebe'al peh means literally that his son should learn the entire gemora by heart.

For another godol, the yeshiva system was a definite benefit. If he would not have been forced to learn the yeshiva's curriculum he could have made chiddushim on the entire maseches, and not just the first two perokim. However, if he had not been in the yeshiva he would have become a "vilder iluy." The yeshiva provided him with the great benefit of forcing him to learn in sedorim and he was thus able to utilize his potential.

Someone might make the claim that since it is written in the gemora and codified by the Rambam that a man's main wisdom comes from studying all night, he will learn from sunset until sunrise and pray in the vosikin minyan, and then sleep all day. Perhaps he would become a chochom, but he has no place in a yeshiva.

The purpose of bein hazmanim is that a ben yeshiva can think for himself about his path in learning, and evaluate his situation [for what to do in that time]. He may learn a lighter maseches, or beki'us, or catch up on Chumash with Rashi in depth, or Tanach, which are not part of the yeshiva's curriculum. Resting our mind from the strenuous thought of iyun is a great benefit. We also need to rest our bodies from the physical exertion of the zman and strengthen ourselves. One could learn to swim if his father never taught him.


Another point needs to be clarified regarding the bein hazmanim. We are living in a generation of baalei teshuvoh. There are so many baalei teshuvoh because man's nature is to continuously change his path in life. In this generation, which is on such a low level that they cannot descend any lower, automatically some people return and recognize the truth.

Returning even one Jewish soul back to learning Torah and observing the mitzvos is certainly a great mitzvah, and is equivalent to saving the entire world. However, this mitzvah requires great caution. Many methods that people use for kiruv require a shailas chochom whether they are permitted.

For example, going to a place of mixed dancing between young men and women, thinking he could be mekarev them by taking part in the dancing, is certainly prohibited. It is prohibited to mix with them; this is simple and needs no shailas chochom, because "your life," i.e. your spiritual welfare, takes precedence.

There is a yetzer hora to think that for the sake of making baalei teshuvoh everything is permitted without making any calculations.

HaRav Itzel Petterburg said in the name of his rebbe, Maran HaRav Yisroel Salanter, that kiruv rechokim is compared to those who serve as garbage collectors. No one could say that because they clean the street they are clean themselves. Of course not! Since they carry the garbage the odor clings to them.

The same applies to kiruv rechokim: the odor of transgression clings to the one who deals with it and so he needs to be cautious.

There is a method of kiruv rechokim that is kosher according to all views and does not present the danger discussed above. In Megillas Rus we read: "And they said to her, `No, but we will return with you to your people'" (Rus 1:10). Both Rus and Orpah wanted to return with Naomi to Eretz Yisroel. "And Naomi said, `Return, my daughters; why should you go with me?'" (Ibid. 11). "And Orpah kissed her mother-in-law, but Rus cleaved to her" (14).

The Sages revealed what kind of inner potential they had. (Orpah returned and engaged in immoral relation on that night, becoming pregnant with Golias the Plishti, the one whom the people of Yisroel later needed to kill). Both of them wanted to return to Eretz Yisroel with Naomi even though she never tried to convince them and, on the contrary, she tried to dissuade them.

In the end Orpah returned to her people and her gods, "but Rus cleaved to her." What did Rus see that encouraged her to cleave to Naomi? She had never been in Eretz Yisroel. They had never heard anything about the Jews, because it was a time of famine and foreign peddlers were forbidden to go to Eretz Yisroel. Orpah had great potential as well, and yet she returned to her people. What did Rus see more than Orpah?

The answer is that there are two types of guidance: 1) Chinuch — education, and 2) Hashpo'oh, influence. Chinuch means going down to the level of the one being educated, understanding his situation, and leading him — the way one would lead an ox.

Hashpo'oh comes from the same language as meshupah, slanted. This can be compared to rain falling on a slanted roof and the water pours off onto a pedestrian on the sidewalk below. The roof is not aware that it pours water upon the man below; it occurs automatically.

We need to do the same thing in spiritual matters. We should not attempt to educate another person at all. Rather, our behavior should automatically influence the other. When the other person sees our behavior he will be awakened on his own to do teshuvoh.

The ben Torah should practice kiruv through hashpo'oh — inspiring a fellow Jew to become a ben Torah. In this method the goal of a ben Torah is to be himself — a ben Torah — and not to lower himself from the level he is currently in. The searching person will eventually realize the greatness of Torah, tefilloh, and middos, and be inspired to follow in the ways of a ben Torah.

This was the way it was regarding Naomi. She kept the Jewish religion and made her home a Jewish home, and her daughters- in-law saw her practices. The power of influence is great!

Through Naomi's actions, Rus was influenced and cleaved to her, and Melech HaMoshiach is descended from Rus.

On the other hand, Orpah did not learn, and she was therefore not influenced and she did not realize her potential. From Naomi, though, the Sages learn the laws of conversion. On the contrary, there is no mitzvah to bring the gentiles closer; we must actually discourage them from converting.

Maran HaRav Yisroel Salanter had three disciples: HaRav Itzel Petterburg, HaRav Simcha Zissel (the Alter of Kelm), and HaRav Naftoli Amsterdam. Maran HaRav Yisroel instructed HaRav Itzel to be a rov, and HaRav Simcha Zissel to be a maggid, a preacher. The custom of maggidim in those days was to go to cities to preach mussar in shuls, between minchah and ma'ariv, and they placed a pushka to collect money by the door of the shul for their parnossoh.

HaRav Simcha Zissel told Maran HaRav Yisroel Salanter that he did not wish to use a pushka because he already had a parnossoh from his wife's store. Maran HaRav Yisroel answered that he should put the pushka down anyway and give the money to tzedokoh.

He told him that this is because when they see the maggid does not take any money, human nature dictates that they will think the maggid is only coming to rebuke them and they will close their hearts, because they do not want to hear any mussar. But when they see he takes money they think he is coming just for his parnossoh and not to rebuke them, so they will listen. Even though it is not clear they will actually listen, but still, a few words of his rebuke will enter their hearts. How great is the power of influence!


There is another point of caution for bein hazmanim. Although chillul Hashem is possible when a ben Yeshiva is in the Yeshiva, nevertheless, it is on a smaller level because only the other bnei Yeshiva see it. However, when the ben Yeshiva goes to the street, the potential for chillul Hashem is much greater, because everyone looks at him as a ben Yeshiva and therefore all his deeds must be appropriate for a ben Yeshiva.

The gemora says that chillul Hashem for Rebbe Yochonon would be if he walked four amos without tefillin. Even if he had a headache he had to wear his tefillin or else write a sign that he had a headache and hang it around his neck. Even though for a normal person this would not [even] be a transgression, for Rebbe Yochonon it was a chillul Hashem!

All this is included in the Beraissa that interprets the posuk: "And you shall love Hashem your G-d" — the Name of Heaven should become beloved through your actions. One should read and learn and serve Torah scholars, and he should be pleasant in his business dealings with others. What will they say about him? "Fortunate is his father who taught him Torah, . . ."

The Rosh writes in Orchos Chaim that people normally, "discount the good points and magnify the faults." If a ben Yeshiva does something improper during the bein hazmanim, people will say: "That's what a ben Yeshiva is all about." One needs to be very careful about this, and try to do good deeds so that people will say about him: "Yisroel — in you I am glorified."

This shmuess was originally delivered in Yeshivas Philadelphia and was originally published in a Daf Chizuk of Zeirei Agudath Israel of America in Sivan 5738, Volume 13.

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