Thursday, September 21, 2006
GEMS FROM THE SAR SHALOM
As mentioned yesterday, we would not have done justice to the memory of the first Belzer Rebbe, the Sar Shalom, without including some gems of his - some of his Divrei Torah. The following are in tune with this season.
Rav Yosef Karo begins the section in his Shulchan Aruch [Code of Jewish Law] about the Rosh Hashana season, with the following: “The custom is to get up early in the morning to say Selichos [prayers for forgiveness] and petitions.” We find no other place where he begins a legal section with a custom – this is usually done by Rabbi Moshe Isserles [the Rama], who, in his commentary on the Shulchan Aruch, would bring the Ashkenazic custom where it differed from that of the Sephardim [those who followed Rav Karo].
The Sar Shalom explains that these days are days of judgment, din; and it is proper to ‘sweeten’ the judgment or even nullify it. The Yerushalmi [Jerusalem Talmud] informs us that a custom can nullify a din. Thus, Jewish custom can nullify harsh judgments [on the Jewish People]. Therefore Rav Karo began this section with a custom, in order to nullify and sweeten the din.
Elsewhere, the Sar Shalom explains why a custom can be stronger than a din. The dinim, or Halachos, have a way of being fulfilled even if a person cannot fulfill them physically, and that is by learning about them. For example, by properly learning about the Korbanos [sacrifices], it can be considered as if one has brought them. But a custom does not have this feature – it can be fulfilled only by actually performing it.
“And the angels hasten to their mission, and are gripped by fear and trembling” [from the Musaf prayers]. What kind of fear do the angels have? The Sar Shalom explains that the angels are supposed to be defenders of the Jewish People, and on the High Holidays, Hashem examines the angels to see if they have performed this task properly. Therefore, the are seized with fear and trembling, and hasten to defend the Jewish People, that they should have only benefits.
Aseres Ymai Teshuva – the Ten Days of Repentance:
These Ten Days are auspicious for doing Teshuva, and even if, G-d forbid, one neglects to repent, he should at least do so on Erev Yom Kippur. If that day is passing and he still hasn’t availed himself of the opportunity, he should at least arouse himself towards the end of the day, when the candles are being lit for the beginning of Yom Kippur. This is alluded to in the Talmudic expression, that a man should say three things [of reminder] in his home on Erev Shabbos [Sabbath eve]: “Isartem, Eravtem, Hadliku es HaNer [literally, take the tithes, arrange the Eruv, and light the candles].” The Sar Shalom interprets it thusly: Isartem – the Ten days of Repentance has passed; Eravtem – and the Eve of Yom Kippur has passed; Hadliku es HaNer – now that they’re about to light the candles for Yom Kippur, and it’s the last minute, why are you not at least now aroused to do Teshuva?***
Chazan in the Days of Awe:
Rebbe Yehoshua of Belz, son and successor of Rebbe Shalom, said the following about the timing of his father's departure: "It is known in the Poskim that the shliach tzibur [cantor] during Yamim Noraim [Rosh Hashana to Yom Kippur] requires preparation and abstinence three days in advance; therefore, my father was requested by the heavenly yeshiva three days before Rosh Hashana in order to serve as the chazan."
NOTE: We previously wrote about Belzer Negina here, where we mentioned: "In general, the Rebbes of the Belzer dynasty did not compose their own tunes...Belzer Chassidus cannot claim a long musical history; in fact, back in Galicia [where the town of Belz was located], Belz never had a choir at all..."
But the real notable exception, of course, is Modzitz, whose Rebbes each composed some 20-30 niggunim per year. In addition, some of the Chassidim also composed: R. Azriel Fastag, Kaufman-Yidel Eidelson, and of course, R. Ben-Zion Shenker who has a few hundred niggunim to his credit. The Modzitz Machon [Music Institute] has collected some 3000 [!] niggunim, and more are coming in!
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