Parsha Encounters



Parshas Tzav-Parah:

Cleaning House

Rabbi Ephraim Weiss

[Don't forget to see the Halacha Encounters below!]

Zos Toras haolah hi haolah

Rabbeinu Bachaya asks a question on the seemingly superfluous wording of this pasuk. We know that it is an olah from the beginning of the posuk, he asks, so why does the Torah need to repeat, "it is the olah?"

He explains that the Torah is telling us that it was the highest level of all the korbanos, thus the Torah says, "it is the olah," from the word meulah, which means the greatest, or highest level. The simple way to understand this is that the olah was completely burnt, while from all other korbanos, at least some of the meat would be eaten. Based on this explanation, it was the biggest sacrifice in the monetary sense. Another explanation mentioned by Rabbeinu Bachaya is that the olah comes to atone for improper thoughts. This explanation is quite difficult to understand, however, because it is commonly understood that sins in action are far worse than mere improper thoughts. Why then, would this be a reason to consider the olah of a higher level than a chatas or asham, for example, which atone for actions?

Perhaps we could explain this based on a concept from the Nefesh HaChaim. He explains that the spiritual element of man, i.e. his soul, carries tremendous power, and that his actions have major effects in the heavens. We may be able to recognize these effects through their manifestations in this world. In other words, although we do not see any consequences from our actions, they do, in reality, have tremendous significance. We actually build worlds with every mitzvah we perform, but by the same token when we sin, it causes tremendous destruction in the heavens. The actual makeup of man, in fact, was made as a replica of the entire creation, thereby when man sins with a particular limb he causes destruction on the element in the heavens that corresponds to that limb. The Zohar explains that the heart corresponds to the Bais HaMikdash and the Kodesh HaKodoshim in Heaven. This is the source of nourishment for the entire creation, much like the heart nourishes the body. Reb Chaim Volozhiner explains that when aperson brings impure thoughts into his heart it is as though he has brought a harlot into the Kodesh HaKodoshim. This causes tremendous damage in the upper worlds; far worse than the damage done when Titus brought a harlot into the physical Kodesh HaKodoshim. Perhaps we can infer from this that the absence of the Bais HaMikdash in our world is not simply a punishment for our sins but a reaction that was inevitably caused by us destroying the Mikdash that resides within us. The destruction of the Bais HaMikdash was just the physical manifestation of this in this lower world.

What we are implying here is that improper thoughts cause the biggest destruction in the upper worlds because they attack the source of spiritual sustenance. Hence the korban olah, which comes to atone for thoughts, is the highest level of korban.

Based on this concept it would be safe to reason that in order to have the Bais HaMikdash rebuilt in our day it would require us to first repair the spiritual Bais HaMikdash within us by purifying our thoughts. After all, it would be impossible for a physical Mikdash to exist if the spiritual one were not intact, being that the whole existence of the physical Bais HaMikdash is just a manifestation of the one in Heaven. Perhaps if we were to rectify this, it would inevitably result in the rebuilding of the Bais HaMikdash, not as a reward but simply as a manifestation of the rebuilt spiritual Mikdash.

We live in a time where outside impurities infiltrate our communities with little or no resistance. Technology has enabled endless access to the worst immorality available that even non-Jewish educators have noted to be disastrous simply from a moral point of view. This point aside, the infiltration of non-Jewish values ranging from bad middos to outright kefirah has become apparent in our communities as well. This infestation of impure thoughts into our communities may be what is keeping us in Golus. The Vilna Gaon explains that the wars that will take place at the end of days are very much spiritual as much as they are physical. They will require us to realize that we are different from the other nations and to separate ourselves from their abominations. Only then can we purify our thoughts and only then can the Bais HaMikdash be rebuilt.

Rabbi Weiss is a full-time member of the Kollel.

Halacha Encounters

Halacha Encounters

Clapping and Dancing on Shabbos

Rabbi Avi Weinrib

With Purim lingering in the air and the rest of Adar still to follow, feelings of joy and happiness permeate throughout our community. Memories of the singing and dancing on Purim cause one to break out in spontaneous eruptions of joy, especially on Shabbos. However, we have all heard about restrictions on Shabbos regarding clapping and dancing. What exactly are these restrictions, and what is the basis for them?

The Background

The Mishna in Beitza [36b] rules that it is forbidden to clap one's hands, bang on one's thighs or dance [on Yom Tov]. Tosfos explains [Shabbos 148b] that since these actions were generally done to the accompaniment of musical instruments, the Sages were concerned that if one of the instruments would break one might come to fix it on Yom Tov or Shabbos. Fixing an instrument on Yom Tov or Shabbos would be a violation of the Melacha D'Oraisa of Maka BiPatish. [As an aside R' Yerucham Levovitz [Daas Torah Chaya Sora 24-3] offers a fabulous insight as to why we see some of the decrees of Chazal as a bit farfetched. He explains that unfortunately we do not fully appreciate the severity of a sin and how detrimental it is to us. If we would only realize how serious sins are, we would fully understand why it was necessary to place so many fences around them. We can compare it to a train approaching a busy thoroughfare. Before it arrives, there are signs, flashing lights, and descending gates, which are there well before the train arrives, and go up only after there is no chance of any damage being done. Since the consequences of being struck by a speeding train are so severe, the more precautions there are, the better. How much more so is a sin, which is so damaging to our body and soul.  The Sages in their infinite wisdom saw it as necessary to place many safeguards around sin.] Most Poskim are of the opinion that this prohibition against repairing instruments would apply today as well. Tosafos [Beitzah 30a] maintains that since we are not experts in repairing instruments this forbiddance is no longer relevant. The Poskim struggle with Tosafos. Firstly, as a rule, even when the reason given no longer applies, unless a spiritually greater court would actually uproot the decree it would still be in effect. [See Bais Mayer 339-1 Igros Moshe O.H. 2 Siman 100]

Secondly, according to Tosafos would it also be permitted to actually play musical instruments as well? The consensus of the Poskim is that even according to Tosafos, only clapping and dancing would be permitted, and not the playing of actual instruments. [See Shut Shaar Ephraim 36 Eliyahu Raba O.H. 339-1 Biur Halacha ibid s.v. ulisspek]

The Halacha

The Shulchan Aruch [O.H. 339-3] rules that it is forbidden to clap one's hands, bang on one's thigh or dance on Shabbos. The Rema quoting Tosafos teaches that some say that nowadays, since we are no longer experts in repairing instruments the decree is no longer applicable. However, the Poskim do not fully concur with Tosafos. The Mishna Berura [S.K. 8] only permits this on Simchas Torah where clapping and dancing is a Mitzvah in honor of the Torah. However for any other reason, even other Mitzvos such as a Sheva Berachos it would not be permissible. [In many Chasidic circles the custom is more lenient based on the Minchas Elozer [Volume 1 Siman 29] who permits dancing and singing for those who are caught up in the joy of Shabbos since for them it is considered a Mitzvah.]

What is Dancing?

Stepping back for a moment, it is incumbent upon us to define what is included in the category of dancing. There is obviously a difference between walking around in a circle and dancing. The Toras Shabbos [O.H.339-2] based on a Yerushalmi defines dancing as the action when one picks up his first foot, then before it fully returns to the ground, the second foot has already begun to rise. Any form of moving around in a circle that would not include this would be permitted.

Only to the Tune?

The Aruch HaShulchan [339-9] raises another point. He maintains that the only clapping and dancing that was forbidden was where one is in tune with the song. Only in such a scenario is the clapping or dancing intrinsically connected to the song and there is a worry one could come to fix the broken instrument. Any form of clapping or dancing, which is sporadic and not done in tune, would be permitted. Although some Poskim disagree with the Aruch HaShulchan, many see this a basis for those who are lenient in these matters.

Banging and Snapping

Included in this decree would also be banging on a table or the like with or without any utensil. Snapping one's finger along with singing would also be included.

Clapping not Associated with Music

The Poskim rule that only clapping connected to song would be included. Clapping, snapping or banging to get another's attention, wake someone up or silence an audience would be permitted [ O.H. 338 Mishna Berura S. K. 2,4].  Clapping for applause would also be permitted [Oz Nidbiru  Vol 13-14].

In an Abnormal Fashion

Clapping and banging was only forbidden in a normal fashion. If done in an abnormal way, for instance clapping against the back of one's hand, this would be permitted, as it would serve as a reminder, and would not lead to fixing any instruments. [O.H. 339-3]


Any form of music with one's mouth was never included in the decree. Therefore one would be allowed to whistle a tune or melody on Shabbos. This would be true even with the aid of one's fingers [Aruch Hashulchan O.H. 338-7].

Door Knockers

Included in the decree was any instrument that is made for the express purpose of making noise, being that it is similar to a musical instrument.  Therefore it is forbidden on Shabbos to use a door knocker, bells, or play with a rattle even not in tune. However, one can knock on a door even with a utensil such as a key as long as not being done to a tune. [O.H. 338-1]

Rabbi Weinrib learns full time in the Kollel and is a frequent contributor to Halacha Encounters.

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