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ואנשי סדם רעים וחטאים לד' מאד

Now, the people of Sodom were wicked and sinful toward Hashem. (13:13)

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Every once in a while, I like to veer from the recurrent themes of our commentary and digress with an exposition that has an esoteric Chassidic slant to it, especially if it presents the message of the pasuk in a totally new and positive light. The seudas Melaveh Malkah, meal bidding farewell to the Shabbos Queen, holds great significance in Jewish tradition. While it is true that it seems to have taken on a greater celebratory life in Chassidic circles, it does not mean that it has any less significance in other Orthodox circles. After spending an entire day immersed in the unique – almost mystical – retreat from the material and mundane, our added Shabbos soul, the neshamah yeseirah, takes its leave, and we return to our daily lives. Many sit down to a meal on Motzoei Shabbos, sing zemiros, religious songs, themed concerning Dovid Hamelech/Moshiach and Eliyahu HaNavi, and recite stories of tzaddikim, righteous persons. A further tradition is that we each have a small, indestructible bone in the body called the luz. It sits at the base of the skull, where the knot of the Tefillin rests. It is from this bone that Hashem will reconstruct the entire body when the time for Techiyas Ha’Meisim, Resurrection of the Dead, arrives. The only food that nourishes the luz bone is that which is eaten during the Melaveh Malkah seudah, meal.

In the sefer Divrei Chonoh, Horav Chonoh, zl, m’Koloshitz homiletically renders the pasuk, V’anshei Sodom raim v’chataim l’Hashem, with the word Sodom serving as an abbreviation for samech – seudassa; daled – d’David; mem – Malka, – the meal of David Hamelech, namely the Melaveh Malkah meal. The author continues by interpreting ra’im, as reim – friends, and chata’im, as related to v’cheetai es ha’bayis, “He shall cleanse the house” (Vayikra 14:52), in which ra and chet are interpreted as friend and cleanse, respectively. The pasuk thus implies that when we eat the Melaveh Malkah meal together with friends, it is a purifying and uplifting experience, facilitating our spiritual ascendance.

The Ohr Pnei Moshe, Horav Moshe, zl, m’Pshevorsk, was a close associate of Horav Elimelech, zl, m’Lishensk and Horav Zushe, zl, m’Annapole and other Chassidic giants (1720-1806). He was known to be an unusual sofer, scribe. It is known that the Alshich HaKadosh appeared to him often to teach him Torah. Apparently, prior to being megaleh, revealing himself as a Rebbe, the Pshevorsker was a manager in a whiskey factory. (This story was related by Horav Shlomo Halberstam, zl, first Bobover Rebbe.) When the Rebbe applied for the position, the owner of the factory (himself a deeply-observant Jew) asked if he knew the secret of producing high-quality whiskey. The Rebbe said not to worry, he would produce high grade-whiskey which would be highly sought after. Obviously, having no experience whatsoever in the whiskey-making field, this assurance was a stretch, but, true to his word, the reputation of the whiskey which the factory produced spread far and wide, making the owner a wealthy man. The relationship between the owner and his manager was very amicable. Out of a sense of appreciation for the success engendered by his manager, the owner invited him to share in Melaveh Malkah, to which the manager agreed.

One Motzoei Shabbos, the manager did not come by. After a while, the owner became concerned and went to Rav Moshe’s home to find out if anything was wrong. When he came to the house, he noticed a brilliant light shining from the window (This is before light bulbs. A candle gives off just so much light. Apparently, an unusual illumination emanated from the house.) The owner walked over to the window to discover Rav Moshe in deep conversation with an elderly man. Their discussion was Torah-related and involved the pasuk in Tehillim 89:21, Matzasi David Avdi, b’shemen Kodshi Meshachtiv, “I have found David, My servant, with My holy oil I have anointed him.” The Midrash (Rabbah, Lech Lecha 41) asks: “Where did I find him? In Sodom.” Clearly, this Midrash appears enigmatic. The elderly man (who was evidently a holy person – if he was, in fact, a person) explained that Sodom is a notrakon, acronym, for seudassa d’David Malkah, which alludes that the Melaveh Malkah meal is a time to connect with the attributes of David Hamelech. Afterwards, the elderly man informed Rav Moshe that the time had come to reveal himself as a Rebbe.

The owner of the whiskey factory now realized that Rav Moshe was no simple Jew who knew how to prepare a good whiskey. He was a spiritually-elevated, holy Jew. The very next morning, the owner stood by Rav Moshe’s door, bearing a kvittel, written petition, with his family names and a pidyon, redemption money, both of which are given to a Chassidic Rebbe upon petitioning his blessing. He said, “I want to be the first person to give the “Rebbe” a kvittel.

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