Elul, A Time for Introspection

 

2 Rosh Chodesh Elul 5773
August 7, 2013

JKN is pleased to welcome back Rabbi Eliyahu Neiman, our shatnez expert, one involved in the field for many years. Following is an article written by Rabbi Neiman to heighten our awareness regarding this important mitzvah, which represents a different aspect of kashrus.

Elul is a time for serious introspection, a time to consider our deeds of the previous year and repent before Yom Kippur.

On Rosh Hashanah, we are judged by Hashem based on our thoughts and actions during the previous year. The resulting judgment is recorded and a person’s future is determined for the following year.

Though that judgment is inscribed, it is not yet sealed and can still be changed for at least another ten days. The Creator of the Universe waits until Yom Kippur to seal the book for the year.

How can a person change their judgment for the better? “Repentance, Tefilla, and Tzedaka can remove an evil decree.” Hashem looks especially at these three areas during the time between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, the Ten Days of Repentance. By doing Teshuvah with true regret for the past and commitment for the future, a person can erase his misdeeds and hence improve his judgment before it is sealed on Yom Kippur.

Similarly, by praying with greater concentration before G-d, and by giving Tzedaka with the proper intent, one can overturn an evil decree.
Wearing a garment of Shatnez is a prohibition of the Torah and all year round a Jew must be careful not to transgress.

But Shatnez has a hidden severity reveled to us by the masters of Kabala. The ability to impede tefilla from being accepted on High!

Tefilla is a crucial component during the month of Elul and the days of awe, and its ramifications may be felt throughout the coming year. One must be extra careful in these days regarding the prohibition of shatnez.

What is the connection between Shatnez and Tefilla?
The sefer Shalmei Tzibur and others write “Nothing blocks tefilla from ascending on high like wearing a garment of shatnez does, even if it is worn unintentionally! And “Wearing shatnez one day can block tefilos for 40 days!”

Just think according to what we have just learnt if, G-d forbid, a person wears a garment of shatnez on the first day of Rosh Chodesh Elul his tefillas will be blocked not only until and including Rosh Hashanah but all the way through Yom Kipper!

HaGaon HaRav Chaim Shmuelevitz was Rosh Yeshiva of the Mirer Yeshiva during its sojourn in Shanghai during World War II. When asked what was the biggest miracle he encountered during the ordeal he said over the following incident.

“On weekdays the students wore suits that they brought with them from Lithuania. However, for Shabbos and Yom Tov they were given new suits. One Yom Kippur, a student left the Beis Hamidrash in the middle of davening and returned shortly afterwards. To everyone’s surprise he had changed into his weekday suit. When he was later asked why he had changed his suit, he answered that he found himself unable to pray with his usual kavana (concentration). It occurred to him that his suit might have shatnez in it although it had been checked. “He remembered that the seforim write that shatnez can prevent a person’s tefilos from being accepted and presumably it can likewise stop the person from praying properly. He therefore changed to his weekday clothes, and to his great relief, he felt a big improvement in his ability to pray. After Yom Kippur his suit was checked carefully and shatnez was in fact found in an unexpected place. It transpired that although the garment was previously checked the shatnez had escaped detection.”

The Mishna in kilayim chapter 9-8 says “You may not wear shatnez – something which is shua (carded), tavui (spun), and noz (woven). Shimon ben Elazar says: He (one who wears shatnez) deviates and causes his Father in Heaven to turn from him.

The sefer Meam Loez, Vayikra page 213 in the name of Maharam Rikanti writes if certain prosecuting angles would join forces they would level very strong accusations against Klall Yisroel. However, Hashem in His mercy holds them apart so that they cannot join forces. This intervention on the part of Hashem occurs when Klall Yisroel themselves keep separate that which they have been commanded not to mix. However, if they wear shatnez and mix together what should have been kept apart, Hashem likewise allows the prosecuting angles to join forces – to the detriment of Klall Yisroel.

The Zohar teaches “Shatnez” can be separated into two words “Satan Az,” meaning “the Satan is strong. The Zohar also states that when someone wears Shatnez an “evil spirit” lurks within him, just as in the time of Cain & Abel where the fusion of these two products brought tragedy and calamity.

Rabbi Pesach Eliyahu Falk of Gateshead, England tells over the following true story

The following incident happened to a Kollel Avreich in Gateshead Yeshiva. When he would travel to London in order to raise funds for his Kollel he would periodically visit a traditionally Orthodox couple. Over the years he became very friendly with them. This couple kept Shabbos, taharas hamishpacha (family purity) and kashrus to the best of their ability. As time went on they would observe new mitzvos as they learned about them. They had been married for six and a half years but had no children although they were very eager to have a family. They sought the best medical advice available but to no avail. The young woman poured out her heart to their annual visitor weeping bitterly that they seemed to be destined to have no children.

This avreich was very moved and on his return to Gateshead discussed the matter with a good friend. After some thought, the latter recommended that the couple be encouraged to undertake an additional mitzvah that they had presumably not kept, in the merit of which they might be blessed with a child. The avreich liked the idea and after some consideration decided to suggest the mitzvah of shatnez.

The husband’s immediate reaction was that he knew all about shatnez. He had his suits and coats tested for shatnez and they were perfectly kosher. He was then asked whether his wife’s outfits and coats were tested. The husband reacted with surprise. They had been under the impression that this mitzvah was only for men and did not apply to women. On realizing their error, they took the wife’s clothes to be tested and on inspection her coat was found to be full of shatnez, the shatnez was promptly removed and the garment rendered Kosher.

This incident happened in mid-Elul 5753. In Tammuz 5754, just nine months later, she gave birth to a healthy baby boy. The delight of the couple was indescribable and they are eternally grateful to Hashem Yisborach for having answered their tefilos. Let us take this story to heart and appreciate the kedusha of a mitzvah and the tumah generated by an aveira even when transgressed inadvertently.

Note: The deeper meaning of this story is as follows: It may be decreed on a couple (for a reason known to Hashem) that they will have children only if a substantial zechus (merit) materializes. The zechus can be in the form of special tefilla, tzedaka, gemilus chassidim (acts of kindness) such as establishing G’mach (free loans), devotion to learning (limud haTorah), the bracha of an outstanding tzaddik and the like. At this point shatnez comes in. Even if a major zechus already exists, shatnez is such a powerful “obstruction” that it can stand in the way and prevent the salvation from materializing. As soon as this “obstruction” is removed, the zechus comes into effect, enabling the yeshuah to materialize quickly.

To all our readers and all Klal Yisroel L’shana tovah tikasvu v’esachasamu,

May you all be inscribed and sealed for a good year.

Eliyahu Neiman
Note New Email Address for your kashrus inquiries: shatnezlabint@gmail.com

 Rabbi Eliyahu Neiman is certified as an expert in the field of shatnez in testing and halacha from the “Vaad Mishmeres Habeged” of Bnei Brak and the “International Association of Professional Shatnez Testers and Laboratories” of  Lakewood, NJ. He founded, managed, and has been senior tester at various  Shatnez Laboratories throughout Israel for many years. He strives to bring shatnez awareness to the forefront of the public’s conscious.

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