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Volume 18 Number 29 eaaTc


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  • 1. Rabbi Boruch Sholem Abish

Dvar- Shabbos Hagadol

page 2

  • 2. Rabbi Binyomin Adler

Shabbos Ta’am HaChaim

page 2

  • 3. Rabbi Yitzchok Adlerstein


page 5

  • 4. Rabbi Oizer Alport

Parsha Potpourri

page 5

  • 5. Rabbi Yitzchak Botton - Ohr Somayach

The Pesach Relay Race

page 7

  • 6. Rabbi Shlomo Caplan

Mishulchan Shlomo

page 8

  • 7. HaRav Eliezer Chrysler

  • 8. Rabbi Yosef Farhi -Aish.Com

  • 9. Rabbi Eliyahu Fink - OU

    • 10. Rabbi Zvi Akiva Fleisher

Midei Shabbos

page 8

page 9

Life Coaching from the Parasha

An Incredibly Inspiring Chapter… page 10

Chamishoh Mi Yodei'a

page 10

  • 11. Rabbi Zvi Akiva Fleisher

Chasidic Insights

page 11

  • 12. Rabbi Zvi Akiva Fleisher

Oroh V'Simchoh

page 11

  • 13. Rabbi Zvi Akiva Fleisher

Sedrah Selections

page 11

  • 14. Rabbi Yissocher Frand


page 12

  • 15. Rabbi J. Gewirtz

Migdal Ohr

page 13

  • 16. Rabbi Sender Haber

Out of the Loop

page 14

  • 17. Rabbi Ari Kahn -Aish.Com

M'oray Ha'Aish

page 14

  • 18. Rabbi Avraham Kahn

Torah Attitude

page 14

  • 19. Rabbi Yosef Kalatsky

Beyond Pshat

page 15

  • 20. Rabbi Shlomo Katz


page 23

  • 21. Rabbi Dov Kramer

Taking A Closer Look

page 24

  • 22. Rabbi Label Lam

Dvar Torah

page 25

  • 23. Rabbi Eli Mansour

  • 24. NCYI

  • 25. Rabbi Kalman Packouz-Aish.Com

Weekly Perasha Insights

Weekly Dvar Torah

Shabbat Shalom

page 25

page 25

page 28

  • 26. Rabbi Eliezer Parkoff

Weekly Chizuk

page 28

  • 27. Rabbi Yehudah Prero

Yom Tov

page 30

  • 28. Rabbi Ben-Zion Rand

Likutei Peshatim

page 31

  • 29. Rabbi Naftali Reich


page 32

  • 30. Rabbi Mordechai Rhine

Rabbi's Message

page 33

  • 31. Sara Yoheved Rigler-Aish.Com

Are You In or Out?

page 33

  • 32. Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks

  • 33. Rabbi A. Leib Scheinbaum

Covenant & Conversation

Peninim on the Torah

page 34

page 34

  • 34. Rabbi Dovid Seigel

  • 35. Rabbi Yaakov Asher Sinclair

  • 36. Rabbi Yaakov Singer-Aish.Com


Ohr Somayach – Torah Weekly

Making Passover Personal

page 37

page 37

page 37

  • 37. Rabbi Ben Zion Sobel

Torah MiTzion

page 38

  • 38. Rabbi Doniel Staum

Stam Torah

page 39

  • 39. Rabbi Berel Wein


page 41

  • 40. Rabbi Berel Wein

Weekly Parsha

page 41

  • 41. Rabbi Noach Weinberg ZT”L-Aish.Com

48 Ways to Wisdom – Way #25

page 44

  • 42. Rabbi Dr. Tzvi Hersh Weinreb - OU

Person In The Parsha

page 41

  • 43. Rabbi Pinchas Winston


page 42

  • 44. HaRav Shlomo Wolbe Zt”l

Bais Hamussar

page 43

  • 45. Yeshiva Aish HaTorah-Aish.Com

  • 46. Rabbi Leibie Sternberg

Jewish History Crash Course#25 page 43

Pleasant Ridge Newsletter

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See page 45 for columns on last week’s parsha that were received after publication.



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2 eaaBtu!zsIb!– trcdk trcd ihc! YOUR APPLIANCE AUTHORITY anticipation of the upcoming Pesach. May Hashem bless
eaaBtu!zsIb!– trcdk trcd ihc!
anticipation of the upcoming Pesach. May Hashem bless our efforts with a
beautiful and inviting Seder table, where all feel welcome and inspired, and
bring all family members closer to each other. Shabbat Shalom
© By; Bryan Abish. For comments / free subscription or to unsubscribe;
Subject; Dvar. J
Rabbi Binyomin Adler
Shabbos Ta’am HaChaim
Rabbi Boruch Sholem Abish
Acharei Mos-Shabbos HaGadol 5774 (From the archives)
Shabbos Hagadol - Preparations Galore
In this week's Parshah of “Achrei Mos” we read of the Yom Kippur services in
the Holy Temple. One of the first things done was the sequestering of the
Kohen Gadol (high priest) for seven days. How seasonally timely, being that
Pesach certainly is the season of advance work and preparation. Sometimes
those who actually carry the burden of the preparing, be it cooking cleaning
koshering or setting the table, feel under-appreciated or under-valued.
Notwithstanding that preparing but not doing the mitzvah is missing the mark,
all things being equal, the preparation aka ‘Hachonah’ may actually be of more
value than the Mitzvah itself. One has control during the preparation phase,
more so than the mitzvah performance stage. While the situation may spiral out
of control or simply become stressful during the actual mitzvah, one can do and
redo the preparations, until it gets done well.
We are told that during the Seder night a great holy impact descends on each
and every Seder; however, how much we absorb and keep depends on how big
our pockets are. (A parable can be said of a king who allowed someone into his
treasure house to take as much as he could carry in his hands and pockets. Woe
to the shlemazel who went unprepared.) How we prepare is individual to each
person, man or women. Cooking, cleaning, wine or matzoh, or as we are
enjoined; 30 days before Pesach one should begin studying the laws of Pesach.
The leader of each Seder has both the responsibility and privilege of being able
to instill into everyone at the Seder a belief and understanding of Hashem and
by extension an appreciation of our Jewish heritage, to our children and
Where else do we find merit in the preparation? Everywhere. Before the giving
of the Torah, Hashem says Exodus 19’ 11’; Be prepared for the third day.
Sukkoth is called “the first day” because it is the first of keeping tabs on our
sins after Yom Kippur, Why? Because we are busy preparing; the
ethrog/Lulav, the sukkah and the holiday. The entire ‘Simcha beis hasho’eva’,
was done on the eve of the daily Sukkoth libations. The menorah in the temple
was allowed to be lit even by a non-Kohen, yet only a Kohen was allowed to
do the oil and wick preparations. And of course the Shabbat, where we are
clearly told, Introduction to the Manna, Exodus 16’ 23”: bake and cook for
tomorrow. R’ Shimshon Pincus of blessed memory tells us that in America
while keeping the Shabbat is firmly established, it is generally lacking in
appreciating the Erev Shabbat. The preparations are not merely a means to an
end; rather they have become a mitzvah unto itself. It is a respect for the
Shabbat. We find in the Talmud many examples of Rabbis; even wealthy ones
with an abundance of service help, who rolled up their sleeves and did the
‘dirty work’, cleaned cooked and wiped the cobwebs. All this was over and
above the general kethubah obligation of honouring ones wife above one’s own
honour, by not letting her flounder. Maybe that’s why this week is called
Shabbos Hagadol, the great Shabbos, because we were commanded to tie a
sheep to our bedpost in preparation for the Korban Pesach, this being the first
time that we find a mitzvah in the preparation stage itself. Shabbat afternoon is
called ‘raava D’raava’ alluding to the concept that this is when Hashem was
‘planning/preparing’ to create the world, and then creation started the following
eve of Sunday. Then the story of Rabbi Akiva being cruelly executed by the
Romans for maintaining his Jewish faith. While they presumably paused to ask
if he will abandon his faith, his students asked in astonishment; how do you
have the strength and fortitude to withstand the barbarism? And he answered,
all my life I have been preparing for this moment (by the daily s’hma- he
mentally declared himself ready to abandon his life, rather than abandon his
faith.), now that I am here, will I not follow through?
So what’s with all this preparation? Well, when one prepares for something, it
removes it from a state of ‘routine’ and lackadaisical interest and creates a
desire and urgency, the entire mitzvah takes on a life. The prophets railed
against those who perform Mitzvos by rote and habit. Imagine a groom (who
has his sins forgiven on his wedding day) that avows come his wedding day he
will pray the ‘mother of all Mincha’s. The very heavens will shake! Yet when
the time comes, can not put together two focused and undisturbed minutes.
Why, because there was no preparation! Many coaches and players in
professional games declare when the playoffs come, they will ‘turn it on’ but
then usually it’s too little too late. You gotta get into your game, not just
wander on to the field or ice. Ask any athlete what it means; ‘game-day”.
Let’s take comfort in the efforts of our preparation, and excitement in the
In this week’s parashah, Acharei Mos, we read about the passing of Nadav and
Avihu, the two elder sons of Aharon HaKohen. The Mishna Berura (O. C.
621:2 quotes the Zohar that states that one who cries upon hearing this passage
in the Torah describing the deaths of Nadav and Avihu will be granted
atonement for his sins and his children will not die in his lifetime. One must
wonder what is so significant about the deaths of Nadav and Avihu that if one
were to cry over their deaths thousands of years later, he will merit a reward.
What is the significance of the Exodus narrative?
In order to glean a proper understanding into this matter, let us take a closer
look at the festival that is approaching, the festival of Pesach. On Pesach we
commemorate our freedom from the Egyptian slavery. Yet, we do more than
commemorate our liberation from servitude. We are instructed to relate to our
children the entire story of our slavery to Pharaoh and the Egyptians and to
relate the wondrous miracles that HaShem performed for us upon redeeming us
from slavery and regarding the splitting of the Red Sea. Why is it incumbent
upon us to relate this period in our history to our children more than any other
period of our history?
Shabbos HaGadol and sacrificing the Sheep
The answer to this question can surprisingly be found in the idea of Shabbos
HaGadol, the Great Shabbos that precedes Pesach. The Tur (O. C. 430) and
other Rishonim write that the reason that the Shabbos that precedes Pesach is
referred to as Shabbos HaGadol is because the Jewish People took the sheep,
which were worshipped by the Egyptians, and they tied the sheep to the foot of
their beds. This act was a demonstration by the Jewish People that they no
longer feared the Egyptians and this act also expressed the Jewish People’s
rejection of the Egyptians idols. This explanation, however, requires
understanding. What significance does this incident with the sheep have to us
today? We do not reside in an idolatrous society, and even ideologies that can
be associated with idolatry certainly do not resemble the worship of sheep.
Why, then, do we commemorate this seemingly isolated event that occurred
prior to the Exodus?
The Curiosity of slaughtering the Egyptian Idol
To gain a better understanding of our activities in Pesach, it is worthwhile to
reflect on the Seder night, when we are engaged in stimulating the children to
ask questions and be inspired by this awesome night. There are many
approaches to piquing the children’s curiosity, and the common them is that the
children should be excited and remain awake for a good portion of the Seder.
Perhaps herein lays the solution to the puzzle. Prior to being redeemed from
Egypt, HaShem instructed the Jewish People to take a sheep, the Egyptian idol,
and slaughter it. This instruction certainly must have piqued the curiosity of the
Jewish People, as this command placed the Jewish People’s lives in danger.
Nonetheless, the Jewish People willingly took the sheep and subsequently
slaughtered the sheep before the Egyptian’s eyes. Can we even imagine
performing such an act? This would be equivalent to burning one’s native
country’s flag before its citizens. Are we prepared to act in such a manner if we
were given this instruction from HaShem? In truth, however, twice daily we
recite Shema where we accept upon ourselves to sacrifice our very lives for
HaShem. Rabbi Ephraim Wachsman, Shlita, said that the entire theme of the
Pesach Seder is Shema Yisroel, i.e. sanctifying HaShem’s Name. Thus, we are
not merely relating to our children that we were enslaved to Pharaoh and
HaShem liberated us from a bitter oppression. In essence, we are relating to our
children that we must sacrifice our lives to serve HaShem, as this is what the
Korban Pesach represents.
The act of Nadav and Avihu was a sacrifice for HaShem’s Will
We can now understand why this festival is referred to as Pesach. Rashi writes
that Pesach means compassion or alternately, skipping over, a reference to
HaShem skipping over the homes of the Jewish People and smiting the
firstborn of the Egyptians. Yet, the sacrifice that the Jewish People offered
prior to the Exodus is referred to as Pesach. Based on the premise that on this
festival we are demonstrating our sacrificing of our lives to HaShem, we refer
to the festival as Pesach reflects the Jewish People sacrificing their very lives to
reject idolatry and embrace HaShem’s commandments. This idea is embodied
in Shabbos HaGadol, the precursor to the festival of Pesach. We can now better
understand why one who feels distressed over the deaths of Nadav and Avihu
will merit atonement for his sins and that his children will not die in his
lifetime. Despite the impropriety of entering the Holy of Holies without
permission, Nadav and Avihu demonstrated a willingness to sacrifice their

!eaaBtu!zsIb!trcdk trcd ihc



lives for what they perceived was HaShem’s will. When one cries over their

The Rosh HaYeshiva had, of course, understood that. He asked, “What reward

much your visits have meant to us over the years. We work in a high risk

Shabbos in Halacha


deaths, he is relating to the concept of sacrificing one’s life for HaShem. This year Pesach, in addition to commemorating the miracles of the Exodus, HaShem should allow us to reflect on sacrificing our lives for His Great Name, and in that merit we should witness the Ultimate Redemption, with the arrival of Moshiach Tzidkeinu, speedily, in our days.

did HaShem give to the Hebrew midwives, Shifra and Puah (Alias Yocheved and Miriam) for risking their lives to care for the Jewish infants in defiance of Pharaoh? Everyone thinks, “That He made for them houses”, that is, family dynasties, but that’s not what the verse says. It states, “G-d benefited the midwives- and the people increased and became very strong.” This was their

Shabbos in the Zemiros Koh Echsof

benefit that they saw the work of their hands prosper before them. Rabbi Svei advised that he should rather bring the child back to visit the hospital staff each

Composed by Rabbi Aharon of Karlin, one of the greatest figures in the earliest periods of Chassidus

year on his birthday and offer personal thanks. That’s what he did. Year after year he paraded little Yaakov before the nurses and to thank them again and

ךָתֶ רוֹת ָ בְּ תדֶ חאֶַ תְ מִּ הַ תבָּ שַּׁ הַ תשַּׁ דֻקְ בִּ םשֵׁ דְּ קַ , hallow them with the Shabbos’s holiness which unites itself with Your Torah. The simple meaning of this passage is that the Tana Divei Eliyahu states that one should make Shabbos completely Torah, i.e. one should engage in Torah study as much as possible on Shabbos. Furthermore, the Zohar states that a Torah scholar is in the category of Shabbos, so we are asking that HaShem sanctify the righteous and the Torah Scholars with the holiness of Shabbos so even during the weekday they should bear the sanctity of the Holy Shabbos.

Shabbos Stories Always Focus On The Positive

again. Before his 13th birthday and for the occasion of his Bar Mitzvah young Yaakov and his father delivered a Bar Mitzvah invitation personally to the hospital. Soon afterward, they received a reply. The head of nursing writes, and I paraphrase what Rabbi Krohn read verbatim from the text of the letter. “Congratulations on your family milestone. We wanted to let you know how

setting never knowing if things will turn out alright. Even after a child leaves our care we have little or no idea whatever became of our efforts. I was not even at the hospital when your Yaakov was treated here but you should know

The Chofetz Chaim began approaching him, when the innkeeper intercepted him. “Don’t even attempt to talk to him. That guy was a cantonist, conscripted

that when we train for this difficult and often thankless task your son has become the poster child of what’s possible. We mention again and again that

into the czar’s army at age seven, and he was not let out until twenty-five years later. People have tried to change his ways, but he’s stubborn. It seems he missed the stage of developing his manners or his Judaism.” Unperturbed, the Chofetz Chaim pulled up a chair and said to him: “Is it true that you were a cantonist, drafted into the czar’s army for 25 years?” The cantonist grunted in affirmation. “You must be such a holy individual! I can’t imagine what it took for you to retain your Jewish identity. Countless times they must have beaten you for not converting to Christianity! You never even had a chance to study Torah and yet you held on! You’ve been through the

Just No Bread Sandwiches at My Seder

the infant that you are currently caring for may turn out like “Yaakov”. Then she adds as a postscript, “Many people send us flowers, balloons, and candies. The flowers eventually wilt, the balloons deflate, and the candies are eaten up but the gift that you have given us has been proven valuable beyond comparison.” Take note how a Gadol- a Great Torah Scholar learns Chumash with such depth and practicality. How wise it is to follow their priceless advice. (

The Scope of Borer

worst of conditions and yet you stayed strong! I wish I would have the merits you must have! I wish I could have your portion in the World to Come!” By this time the hardened veteran was crying like a baby, and kissing the hand of the Chofetz Chaim. The Chofetz Chaim continued, “There are just a few things you probably need to work on, but if you could improve in those areas, there would be no one like you!” After this, the man who was previously never affected by the years of people rebuking him became a changed man. For years he remained a close student of the Chofetz Chaim, and truly lived up to his true potential.

V. Activities that are not deemed to be borer at all The following activities are not deemed to be acts of sorting, and can at times be helpful in separating mixtures while avoiding any transgression of Borer. D.Filtering Liquids to Remove Minor Impurities We have learned previously that filtering liquids to remove the impurities is a form of Borer. However, this is only true if the impurities diminish the drinkability of the liquid. One can filter a liquid that one can drink in spite of its impurities, even if one filters the liquid to obtain a more purified state. The reason for this permit is that given that the impurities do not diminish the drinkability of the liquid, they are deemed to be a part of the liquid itself and

New Stories - Acharei Mos-Shabbos HaGadol 5774

No one could get Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev angry. No matter what anyone did, he would always find something nice to say. He believed in treating all Jews kindly, no matter how much his patience was tested. Rabbi Levi Yitzchak’s neighbor had a son who did not want to keep any of the mitzvos. One year, during the Seder, the family was about to make a sandwich of matzah and maror for koreich. To everyone's surprise, the boy pulled from his pocket two slices of bread and some meat, and made himself a sandwich. His father started to cry: “How dare you bring bread to my Seder?” “But father,” the boy answered, “I’m hungry after reading the Hagadah. What

they are not considered separate species. Therefore, their removal is not deemed to be an act of Borer. For this reason one is permitted to use a specialized filter on the kitchen water tap, unless the water is actually impure. Nonetheless, a finicky individual who is bothered by even minor impurities cannot filter out these impurities on Shabbos, as for such an individual this is considered an act of Borer. Similarly, another person is also forbidden from filtering liquids on behalf of the finicky individual,

difference does it make if I eat bread or matzah? I’m sure Rabbi Levi Yitzchak wouldn’t mind. The father jumped up from the table and grabbed his son. “Oh,

Our Legacy Passed Along

wouldn’t he? Let’s go ask him.”

A Passover letter to my child.

The whole family marched next door, the father leading the boy by the ear.

by Rabbi Ahron Lopiansky

“Rabbi,” the man said, “even you would not tolerate what my son just did. He ate bread at our Seder. I have four sons, rabbi, and I don’t have to tell you which one he is.” Everyone in the room was shocked; everyone, that is, except for Rabbi Levi Yitzchak. He smiled at the boy and asked if it was true. “Certainly, Rabbi,” the boy said. “I was hungry so I made myself a sandwich.” “Don’t you know that on Pesach Jews don’t eat bread?” Rabbi Levi Yitzchak continued. “Well, Rabbi,” the boy answered, “to be totally honest, I don’t really believe in all this. What difference could it possibly make if I eat bread or matzah?” The entire room was silent. Only the boy’s mother could be heard sobbing in the doorway. “Please come here,” Rabbi Levi Yitzchak called to the boy. The boy walked slowly, afraid that this time he had gone too far. As he approached the table, the rabbi hugged him. “Such a fine boy,” he said to the father, “and so honest too,” he added to the mother. “He’s ready to admit what he did and he’s acting according to his beliefs. Such a fine, honest boy must sit with me at my Seder. I have so much to learn from him! Just one thing though.” The rabbi turned to the boy and said, “There’ll be no sandwiches at the Seder table - unless you make them with matzah.”

My dear child, It is now a quiet moment late at night. After an exhausting day of Passover cleaning, you have sunk into the sweetest of sleeps, and I am sitting here with a pile of haggadas, preparing for Seder night. Somehow the words never come out the way I want them to, and the Seder evening is always unpredictable. But so many thoughts and feelings are welling up in my mind and I want to share them with you. These are the words I mean to say at the Seder. When you will see me at the Seder dressed in a kittel, the same plain white garment worn on Yom Kippur, your first question will be, “Why are you dressed like this?” Because it is Yom Kippur, a day of reckoning. You see, each one of us has a double role. First and foremost we are human beings, creatures in the image of God, and on Yom Kippur we are examined if indeed we are worthy of that title. But we are also components of Klal Yisrael, the Jewish People, links in a chain that started over 3,000 years ago and will make it to the finish line of the end of times. It is a relay race where a

Through the Eyes of a Gadol

torch is passed on through all the ages, and it is our charge, to take it from

[This story was related by Rabbi Label Lam] A few years back, my wife and I had the pleasure to spend Shabbos at a hotel with Rabbi Pesach Krohn. He told over the following story. A young man from Midwest was married for a good number of years without the blessing of children. One year his wife was expecting and she gave birth prematurely. The child weighed only a few pounds and remained hospitalized in Neo Natal Intensive Care Unit. After a period of time the child was strong and healthy enough to be sent home. They made a Bris and named the boy Yaakov. Now with his son at home, the father of the boy didn’t forget the tireless effort of the nurses that cared day and night for his child. He wanted to express his gratitude somehow. He did something seemingly unusual. He called his Rosh HaYeshiva – his spiritual mentor Rabbi Elya Svei in Philadelphia and asked him what he thought would be appropriate as a thank you gift. Should he get flowers, candy, or balloons etc.? The Rabbi’s answer was at first surprising. He told him to get them nothing. Misunderstanding, the young man reiterated his reason. He only wished to express his gratitude to those who had benefited his child so much.

the one before and pass it on to the one after. Tonight we are being judged as to how well we have received our tradition and how well we are passing it on. “It is now 3,300 years since we received that freedom in Egypt. If we imagine the average age of having a child to be about 25 years of age, there are four generations each century. That means there is a total of 132 people stretching from our forefathers in Egypt to us today. 132 people had to pass on this heritage flawlessly, with a devotion and single- mindedness that could not falter. Who were these 133 fathers of mine? One had been in the Nazi death camps; one had been whipped unconscious by Cossacks. One had children stolen by the Czar, and one was the laughing stock of his “enlightened” brethren. One lived in a basement in Warsaw with many days passing with no food to his mouth; the other ran a stupendous mansion in France. One had been burned at stake for refusing to believe in the divinity of a flesh and blood, and one had been frozen to



eaaBtu!zsIb!trcdk trcd ihc!

death in Siberia for continuing to believe in the divinity of the Eternal

“I choose,” said Rav Preida, “the World to Come for me and my entire

God. One had been hounded by a mob for living in Europe rather than Palestine, and one had been blown up by Palestinians for not living in Europe. One had been a genius who could not enter medical school because he was not Christian, and one was fed to the lions by the Romans…

generation.” Said HaShem to the angels, “Give him both!!” An exceptional story, and an exceptional reward. But in another place, he asked, the Gemara credits Rav Preida’s longevity to something else entirely. Rav Preida’s students once asked him: “Rebbe, what did you do

  • 132 fathers, each with his own story. Each with his own test of faith. And

that you merited to live so long?” (Apparently they never heard of this

each with one overriding and burning desire: that this legacy be passed unscathed to me. And one request of me: that I pass this on to you, my sweet child. What is this treasure that they have given their lives for? What is in this precious packet that 132 generations have given up everything for? It is a great secret: That man is capable of being a lot more than an intelligent primate. That the truth of an Almighty God does not depend on public approval, and no matter how many people jeer at you, truth never changes. That the quality of life is not measured by goods but by the good. That one can be powerfully hungry, and yet one can forgo eating if it is not kosher. That a penny that is not mine is not mine, no matter the temptation or rationalization. That family bonding is a lot more than birthday parties; it is a commitment of loyalty that does not buckle in a moment of craving

story.) His answer: “I was always the first person to arrive in Beis Ha-midrash in the morning. (Megillah 28a)” Now even if they had never heard the story, he certainly hadn’t forgotten it. So why did he give them a different answer? R’ Moshe’s grandson answered brilliantly: There are people who by nature are not particular about how they spend their time. For such a person, if he were to, say, spend three hours in the hospital visiting a lonely old man, it would be a great mitzvah, no doubt, but no great surprise. He may on other occasions spend three hours shmuesing with some friends about matters of no great significance. Perhaps, as a result, he’ll sleep in, and catch a super- late minyan. This is not to diminish the mitzvah that he did. But for him, giving away even big chunks of time is something that comes naturally.

or lust. And so much more. This is our precious secret, and it is our charge to live it and to become a shining display of “This is what it means to live with God.”

But what if a person who is highly scheduled and never wastes even a minute were to spend the same three hours keeping the old man company—now that would be something to talk about!

  • 132 people have sat Seder night after Seder night, year after year, and with

The fact that Rav Preida was willing to give huge amounts of his precious

every fiber of their heart and soul have made sure that this treasure would become mine and yours. Doubters have risen who are busy sifting the sands of the Sinai trying to find some dried out bones as residues of my great great grandfather. They are looking in the wrong place. The residue is in the soul of every one of these 132 grandfathers whose entirety of life was wrapped up in the preservation of this memory and treasure. It is unthinkable that a message borne with such fervor and intensity, against

time to study with his student was in itself a remarkable feat. But taken in the context of Rav Preida’s nature—this was the same Rav Preida who never wasted a moment, never slept in, and was always the first person to open the beis ha-midrash in the morning—it is truly astonishing! R’ Moshe, his grandfather, he said, was the same way. For eight hours a day, he would see people, answer their questions, offer them advice (da’as Torah), and help them work out their problems. As Rav Meisels said, all

such challenges and odds, is the result of a vague legend or the fantasy of an idle mind. I am the 133rd person in this holy chain. At times I doubt if I am passing it on well enough. I try hard, but it is hard not to quiver when you are on the vertical shoulders of 132 people, begging you not to disappoint them by toppling everyone with you swaying in the wind. My dear child, may God grant us many long and happy years together. But one day, in the distant future, I’ll be dressed in a kittel again as they prepare me for my burial. Try to remember that this is the treasure that I have passed on to you. And then it will be your turn, you will be the 134th with the sacred duty to pass on our legacy to number 135. (

over the world, old and young, rabbanim and laymen—whomever you asked would tell you, “R’ Moshe—I’m very close with him!” And they all were. He gave endlessly of his time and energy to help others, always with a smile, and never asked for anything in return. Yet by nature, R’ Moshe was a very scheduled person. For many years, he would take a nap each afternoon—for exactly 13 minutes—no more, no less. In fact, after his death, when they were looking through some of his writings that he wrote when he was younger, it became apparent that his extreme generosity and ever-present smile didn’t come naturally. Many times he had written in his personal diary, “Today I spoke to so-and-so impatiently—I have to work on that!” Ye’hi zichro baruch.

Naturally! (Not)

The generosity of Rabbi Chaim of Sanz zt”l, the holy Sanzer Rav, author

Rabbi Eliyahu Hoffman writes: Last night, I had the privilege of attending the hesped (eulogy) of HaRav HaGaon R’ Moshe Halberstam zt”l, held in the famous Bobov shteibel on Rechov Chaggai in Jerusalem. For many years, the Bobov shteibel had the distinct honor of hosting Rav Halberstam every day for mincha/ma’ariv; this was why it was likewise deemed an appropriate venue for his eulogy.

of Divrei Chaim, is legendary. R’ Chaim, it is said, would never retire at night until he had completely emptied his pockets; every last penny was distributed to the poor and destitute. Once, it is told, a distinguished scholar approached R’ Chaim with a personal problem. He had, with G-d’s help, succeeded in procuring a suitable match for his daughter. But now he was in desperate need of funds

There were many great speakers, including Rav Yaakov Yisrael Meisels, shlita, Rav of Kiryas Bobov in Bat Yam and son-in-law of the previous- previous Rebbe zt”l, and Rav Salant, shlita, who gives a derasha in the shteibel every week during shalosh seudos. The last hesped, delivered by R’ Moshe’s grandson, stands out in my mind. He asked the following question: The Gemara (Eiruvin 54b) tells the famous story of Rav Preida, who, in a monumentally selfless act of dedication, would review each Mishna with an especially weak student

for the wedding, dowry, and other expenses. R’ Chaim gave him generously, but the man was still short a substantial amount. “You know what,” R’ Chaim said, “in the city of Dinov lives a tzaddik—R’ David. He is also well-to-do. Let me write you a letter. Take it to him, and hopefully he will give you a worthy sum.” The man took the letter, and set off to Dinov. There, he met R’ David, son of the renowned tzaddik R’ Hirsch Meilech of Dinov zt”l, author of B’nei Yisasschar. He gave him the letter. R’ David, who deeply respected R’

  • 400 times! Only after 400 times would this student fully grasp the

Chaim, gave the man generously. Along the way, he succeeded in

material, and Rav Preida would not allow him to settle for anything less. Once, in the middle of their studies, there was a knock on the door. It seems Rav Preida’s presence was requested at an urgent community gathering. He politely told them that he was presently in the middle of learning, and that he would come as soon as he finished reviewing the material with his student (little did they know what that meant!). Painstakingly, they continued to review the material 400 times, each time going over it as if it was the first. After the 400th time, Rav Preida, as he always would, asked his student to repeat it to him. This time, however, he couldn’t. Try as he might, he stuttered and stumbled and just could not get things straightened out. “My dear student,” said Rav Preida patiently, “normally, after 400 times, you grasp the Mishna with great clarity. Yet now, even after we have gone over it 400 times, you still stumble. What was different this time that you remain unclear?” “Rebbe,” the student said, “from the time that they came knocking on the door to call you, I could no longer concentrate. I kept thinking, ‘Soon Rav Preida will go… soon he will leave.” “Fine,” said Rav Preida, “I am here. I am not going anywhere until we are finished. Try and concentrate, and let’s start again…” He proceeded to teach him the Mishna another 400 times! The second time around, he got it straight. At that time, the Gemara concludes, a heavenly voice rang out: “Rav Preida, take your pick: Either to live 400 years, or that you and your entire generation will receive eternal bliss in the World to Come (in the merit of your great dedication)!”

collecting additional funds, and by the time he returned to Sanz, he was satisfied that he would be able to wed his daughter with honor and respect. He returned to the Rav to thank him for his help. “Tell me,” said R’ Chaim, “How did you do in Dinov? How much did R’ David give you?” The man told him. “Really?!” exclaimed R’ Chaim, “I would have thought he might have given you more generously!” Somehow, the Sanzer Rav’s words were eventually repeated to R’ David. Needless to say, he was hurt by the criticism. “The Torah says (in this week’s parsha, Kedoshim, 19:17): ‘Do not hate your brother with your heart,’” R’ David said. “I interpret this as follows: One should never be judgmental of others on the basis of one’s own good heart! Everyone has areas in which they excel. Is it my fault that I was not blessed with the generous heart of the Divrei Chaim?!” R’ David’s rebuttal made its way back to the Divrei Chaim. “It’s a wondrous interpretation,” R’ Chaim remarked, “—however in my case, it’s simply not true. I am not at all generous by nature. To the contrary, I was always very stingy, and had a very hard time parting with my money. It’s something I grappled with for many years, until I completely overcame my lack of generosity. All the same, R’ David’s point is well taken.” We are often naturally attracted to areas in which we naturally excel. Of course, it’s only right to use our G-d given gifts to serve HaShem in ways that others perhaps can’t. But true greatness is not defined only by what is achieved in the end, but by the hurdles we had to overcome to get there. (


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Rabbi Oizer Alport

Rabbi Yitzchok Adlerstein

Parsha Potpourri

Parshas Acharei Mos / Pesach – Vol. 9, Issue 29


Mixed Intentions(1)

Attached is a 6-page expanded issue of Parsha Potpourri covering both Parshas Acharei Mos and Pesach. This week’s issue of Parsha Potpourri has been dedicated l'iluy nishmas Cheina Rochel bas Shmuel z"l and Avigayil bas Yaakov Kalman HaKohen z"l; and l'iluy nishmas Hachover Avrohom

Any man from the Bnei Yisrael who will slaughter an ox, a sheep, or a goat in the camp, or who will slaughter it outside the camp, and he has not

brought it to the entrance of the Ohel Moed to bring it as an offering to Hashem before the Mishkan HashemBe’er Mayim Chaim - In a well-known attempt to resolve the a contradiction between passages, Tosafos(2) develop a three-tiered system in regard to intention in the performance of mitzvos. When a person serves Hashem with the sole intent of pleasing His Creator, he is considered as a child to his Parent.(3) Should he study Torah and perform mitzvos not for the sake of His Creator, he is regarded not as a child, but as a servant. Although his service is far from perfect, he can still be regarded at least as a servant. In performing for the ulterior motive of gaining Divine reward and escaping the punishment of Heaven, he seems to be not serving Hashem at all. Seeking reward – and escaping punishment – is really an exercise in self-service! His point of reference is not G-d, but his own well-being and comfort. Nonetheless, Hashem does not take such a jaundiced view of this person’s Torah and mitzvos. Although self-serving, what animates him is the firm belief that Hashem exists, makes demands upon us, and reliably rewards those who act according to His dictates. This emunah is significant. It sufficed to win freedom for our ancestors from Egyptian slavery,(4) and suffices for us to win freedom from our own yetzer hora. It is a wonderful beginning, and can propel a person to the next level up, in which he serves Hashem entirely for His sake. It is enough for a person to be considered at least a servant, even if not a loving child. On the other hand, a person can outwardly serve Hashem without any positive intent at all. One who learns and serves to gain public acclaim or project his self-importance does not really serve Hashem at all. He believes that his success is not a matter of Divine approval or disapproval, so much as a function of his own efforts. He thus lacks the positive aspects of even the person who serves Hashem for the purpose of receiving reward from the outstretched Hand from Above. He is far less than a servant. All of this is alluded to in our pesukim. “Any man from the Bnei Yisrael who will slaughter an ox, a sheep, or a goat in the camp… and he has not brought it … before the Mishkan HashemThe Torah speaks of a person who involves himself in Torah and mitzvos but fails to take them to the innermost place close to Hashem, i.e. he does not perform them on the highest level, which is to act for the sake of Heaven, and for no other reason. Such a person conceivably acts for one of two reasons: “Who will slaughter … in the camp, or who will slaughter it outside the camp.” On the one hand, he might act in expectation of some Divine reward. This is far from perfect, and in a sense enhances the power of evil, since it operates for a cause that is removed from Hashem’s plan. Nonetheless, he should still be seen as acting within the camp, rather than outside of it, for two reasons. Firstly, he is correct in his conviction that Hashem is the Master of all good phenomena, and holds the future of all things in His hands. Asserting the truth of this is important and meritorious. Secondly, the very fact that his frame of reference is HKBH – even if focusing on His ability to offer rich rewards – means that he operates within the same “camp” as Hashem. Therefore, from the not lishmah will ultimately grow the lishmah. On the other hand, the protagonist of our parshah might act in a way that should be labeled as outside the camp. He might act merely to enhance his pride or his image. Worse yet, he might act just to be able to be disputatious with others. All of these place him outside the general frame of reference of Hashem’s Will. He is considered outside the camp of kedushah. The Torah continues with references to both of these contingencies. “To bring it as an offering to Hashem before the mishkan Hashem.” In other words, he may be within range of Hashem, but fail to make his actions the perfect offering to Him, which can only be done when acting completely for the sake of pleasing Him. Or, he may fail to bring it to the mishkan Hashem altogether, by substituting the cause of his own ego over any connection to G-dliness. What is the fate of the person who fails to act with the proper motivation? Not only is his offering not a genuine offering, but at times he shares in the responsibility for some much greater evil. “He has shed blood, and that man shall be cut off from the midst of his people.”(5) Other people are attracted, in a perverse manner, to his imperfection. Those people sometimes go further in their failings, and commit serious transgressions, standing to a certain extent on his shoulders. He can therefore bears some responsibility – at times, for crimes as serious as bloodshed.

1. Based on Be’er Mayim Chaim, Vayikra 17:3-4

Meir ben Simcha Bunim z"l, whose yahrtzeit is on Monday (14 Nissan). Please have them in mind when reading and discussing this issue, and the Torah that is learned should be a merit for them and their entire families. At this point 3 of the 4 remaining issues in Sefer Vayikra are lacking sponsors. Each issue of Parsha Potpourri requires a tremendous amount of work, and sponsorships are greatly appreciated. For more information about dedications, which are $50 per issue, please send me an email. In this ninth cycle of Parsha Potpourri, I would like to work to increase

readership and circulation in the upcoming year, as there are thousands of Jews who could be enjoying and benefiting from each issue. I would like to ask each of you to please forward Parsha Potpourri to anybody who you think would enjoy it and encourage them to subscribe, and thanks to those of you who have already done so. Additionally, if you are able to print out 5-10 copies of Parsha Potpourri and bring them to your shul to share with others, it would be greatly appreciated. Wishing you all a Good Shabbos and a Chag kosher v'sameach, and I hope that you enjoy the Divrei Torah and Points to Ponder!

ל"ז ןהכה ןמלק בקעי תב ליגיבא נ"על ל"ז לאומש תב לחר הנייח נ"על ה נ"עלל"ז םינוב החמש ןב ריאמ םהרבא רבח (16:3) שדקה לא ןרהא אבי תאזב The Vilna Gaon quotes a fascinating Medrash (Vayikra Rabbah 21:7) which teaches that although all future Kohanim Gedolim were only permitted to enter the Kodesh Kodashim on Yom Kippur, Aharon was allowed to enter whenever he wanted throughout the year as long as he performed the service of Yom Kippur. This amazing fact provides the key to resolve many difficulties regarding the section in the Torah that describes the Yom Kippur service. The Vilna Gaon points out that the entire portion dealing with the Yom Kippur service repeatedly refers to Aharon and not more generally to “the Kohen Gadol” as one might have expected. Also, it concludes (16:34) by teaching that this service shall be a decree for the rest of the Jews once annually. In light of the Medrash, we now understand that Aharon’s performance of this service was unrestricted, whereas for future generations it was indeed limited to once per year. This Medrash also explains why the Gemora in Yoma (71a) teaches that the entire service should be performed in the order it is written in the Torah except for one verse (Rashi 16:23) which isn’t written in its proper place. The Gemora’s proof is that if the service was done in the order that it is written, the Kohen Gadol would only have to immerse himself in a mikvah 3 times, which contradicts the Gemora in Yoma (30a) which teaches that he must do so 5 times. However, if we recognize that this section is addressing Aharon’s service on any day of the year that he chooses – when there is no obligation to immerse 5 times – we can understand that for Aharon, this verse is written in its appropriate place. In light of this Medrash, the Chayei Adam adds that we may also understand why with respect to all other sacrifices, the Torah writes first the date and then details the appropriate sacrifice. In our parsha, the date of Yom Kippur isn’t mentioned until the end (16:29) because for Aharon these sacrifices weren’t limited to Yom Kippur. We may similarly explain another difficulty. At the end of this section, the Torah concludes (16:34) that Aharon did just as Hashem commanded him. Rashi, troubled by the fact that he was unable to do so since it wasn’t yet Yom Kippur, explains that Aharon performed the service when Yom Kippur arrived. However, according the Medrash, we may suggest that Aharon immediately entered and performed the Yom Kippur service, as only he was permitted to do, with great alacrity. The Gemora in Gittin (60a) teaches that there are eight portions of the Torah that were taught on the day that the Mishkan was erected, one of which is Acharei Mos. Rashi is bothered by the fact that all of the other portions were immediately relevant and needed to be taught at that point, but the details of the Yom Kippur service seemingly weren’t applicable for six more months. Rav Yaakov Kamenetzky notes that according to the Medrash, we understand that it was relevant at that time, as Aharon was able to immediately enter the Kodesh Kodashim to perform the Yom Kippur service. Finally, the Gemora in Yoma (53b) derives from 16:13 that if the Kohen Gadol leaves out one of the ingredients of the incense or if he doesn’t cause the incense to create smoke, he is liable to the death penalty at the hands of Heaven. The Shaagas Aryeh (71) questions why there is a need to derive this point from a verse discussing the Yom Kippur service, when we could alternatively learn it from the more general principle that because the Kohen Gadol made a forbidden fire on Yom Kippur (since it wasn’t for the sake of doing the mitzvah properly), he is liable to the even more severe penalty of kares (spiritual excision). Citing the Medrash, the Steipler answers that this derivation is necessary with respect to Aharon, who was permitted to perform this service on days of the year when making a fire would otherwise be permitted, but improperly offering the incense in the Holy of Holies is not. (16:30) ורהטת 'ד ינפל םכיתאטח לכמ םכתא רהטל םכילע רפכי הזה םויב יכ The Gemora in Kesuvos (103b) relates that when Rebbi – Rav Yehuda HaNasi – passed away, a piece of paper fell from Heaven. On the paper was written that all who were present at the time of his death would merit a share in the World to Come. Although Rebbi’s level of holiness and spirituality was tremendous, why don’t we find similar episodes in conjunction with the deaths of other righteous individuals? Rav Yitzchok Elchonon Spektor answers that the Gemora in Yoma (85b) records a dispute between Rebbi and the other Sages with respect to the



eaaBtu!zsIb!trcdk trcd ihc!

atonement effected by Yom Kippur. The Sages maintain that Yom Kippur is only effective together with confession and repentance for one’s misdeeds, but Rebbi maintains that the Holiness of the day intrinsically causes atonement and forgiveness for all. It is also known that the death of the righteous is compared to Yom Kippur in its ability to effect atonement (Gur Aryeh Bamidbar 20:1). Although the law is decided in accordance

words, but through actions. We must certainly speak to our children and instruct them how to behave, but that in and of itself is insufficient. We must additionally show our children through our decisions and our actions that we practice what we preach, just as the Haggadah specifies that the mitzvah of recounting the Exodus from Egypt can only be performed ךינפל םיחנומ רורמו הצמ שיש העשב – at the time when you have

with the majority of the Sages, in deference to the honor of Rebbi his death was treated in accordance with his opinion, and all who were present received forgiveness, even if they didn’t repent.

הזה הלילה הצמו ץמח ןילכוא ונא תולילה לכבש תולילה לכמ הזה הלילה הנתשנ המ הצמ ולוכ

matzah and maror placed before you – as this enables our children to see that we don’t just discuss the mitzvos in an abstract philosophical sense, but that we actually perform them as well. (7:17 תומש) םדל וכפהנו ראיב רשא םימה לע ידיב רשא הטמב הכמ יכנא הנה After tempting Chava to eat from the forbidden Tree of Knowledge, the

Shortly after beginning the Maggid portion of the Seder, one or more of the children asks the Mah Nishtanah, a series of four questions highlighting atypical actions that we perform during the Seder. The Abarbanel points out that there are several other unusual features of the Seder that are not mentioned. For example, why don’t we ask about the fact that at every other Shabbos and Yom Tov meal, we begin eating immediately after Kiddush, while at the Seder there is a lengthy delay? Why don’t we also inquire about the four cups of wine, which we are unaccustomed to drink on other occasions, or about the saying of Hallel,

serpent was cursed that it would travel on its stomach and eat dust all the days of its life (Bereishis 3:14). In what way does this represent a punishment, as other animals must spend days hunting for prey while the snake’s diet – dust – can be found wherever it travels? The Kotzker Rebbe explains that this point is precisely the curse. Other animals are dependent on Hashem to help them find food to eat. The snake, on the other hand, slithers horizontally across the earth. It never goes hungry, never looks upward, and is totally cut off from a relationship with Hashem, and therein lies the greatest curse imaginable.

which is not a part of any other meal and is not normally recited outside of the synagogue? The Abarbanel explains that change can occur in one of three ways:

Rashi writes that the first plague (blood) was directed against the Nile River, which was deified by the Egyptians due to the fact that it never rained in Egypt and their only source of water was the rising Nile. Rav

Something can be added, something can be removed, or something can be switched. The first three questions that we ask at the Seder correspond to each of these categories. We begin by asking why on other nights we eat both chometz and matzah, but tonight we take away the chometz and eat only matzah. Next, we ask why on all other nights we consume other types of vegetables, but tonight we switch and eat maror instead. We then ask why on other nights we are unaccustomed to dip even once, yet tonight we add and dip not once, but twice. Each of these first three questions focuses on a change in the meal, while the final question deals with a change in the attendees, namely that on other nights we do not recline while eating, but tonight we do so as a sign of our freedom. In other words, the Abarbanel says that we are not attempting to create an exhaustive and all-encompassing list of every abnormal component of the Seder, but rather to give one example of each type of change that we are experiencing. Rav Eliezer Ashkenazi takes this concept one step further and suggests that the Abarbanel’s explanation can help us understand that the four questions correspond to the four sons. The wise son is satisfied with his lot, so he questions the need to add to it by dipping twice when he is normally quite content without dipping even once. On the other hand, the wicked son is never happy with what he has and always desires more, so he focuses his query on the obligation to take something away, as he asks why we must relinquish the chometz that we are permitted to enjoy throughout the year? The simple son is unsophisticated and is only capable of inquiring about a switch from that which he is accustomed to, namely why we replace the traditional vegetables with maror. The last son does not even know how to ask a question. The proof of this is that he observes the numerous changes that we make at the Seder, not only to the meal, but also to our bodies when we recline, yet none of them inspires him to ask for an explanation, thereby demonstrating that he is incapable of asking a question. לואשל וניאש דחאו ,םת דחאו ,עשר דחאו ,םכח דחא :הרות הרבד םינב העברא דגנכ עדוי

Shimshon Pinkus symbolically explains that just like the serpent, the Egyptians were a totally “natural” people. Because it never rained in their country, they never had to look skyward to see what the clouds foretold. As a result, their hearts never gazed toward the Heavens, which effectively cut them off from perceiving any dependence on or relationship with the Almighty. Everything which occurred in their lives could be explained scientifically and deceptively appeared to be completely “natural.” In light of this, the Exodus from Egypt wasn’t merely a physical redemption from agonizing enslavement, but also represented a deeper philosophical departure. The book of Exodus, then, is the story of exchanging a worldview devoid of spirituality, through which everything is understood and explained according to science and nature, for one in which we confidently declare that Hashem runs every aspect of the universe and of our daily lives, and we are proud to be His chosen people. (8:18) ץראה ברקב 'ד ינא יכ עדת ןעמל During his travels, Rav Yisroel Salanter once entered an inn at which he had stayed several times previously. Rav Yisroel noticed that the innkeeper had significantly deteriorated in his level of religious observance since his most recent visit. The innkeeper explained that the change was due to an atheist who had recently lodged there. The guest spent several days sharing his philosophy about the lack of a Divine system of reward and punishment. Finally, to prove his case, he took out a sandwich filled with non-kosher meat. He announced that if he’s wrong, he should choke on the sandwich and die an agonizing death. The atheist proceeded to consume the entire sandwich with no apparent consequences. Ever since, the innkeeper’s religious belief and observance had slowly weakened. Rav Yisroel didn’t respond to the story. He chose to wait for the right opportunity, which wasn’t long in coming. Later that day, the innkeeper’s young daughter returned home from school. She was glowing and excited about receiving her diploma, with especially good marks in the areas of singing and mathematics. Rav Yisroel asked her to sing for him so that he could judge her talents for himself, but she grew bashful and refused. He

The Haggadah teaches that the Torah addresses four different types of children and instructs us how to educate each of them about the Exodus from Egypt. Specifically, we say that the Torah discusses four sons: one who is wise, one who is wicked, one who is simple, and one who does not know how to ask a question. Rav Nissan Alpert questions why the Haggadah repeats the word דחא (one) for each son, instead of more concisely stating לואשל עדוי וניאשו ,םת ,עשר ,םכח :הרות הרבד םינב העברא דגנכ. Rav Alpert explains that although it appears that we are talking about four different children, in reality we are actually speaking about one child who has four different facets to him. He suggests that this is alluded to by the fact that the numerical value of the word דחא (13) multiplied by 4 (for the four times that this word is repeated) yields 52, which is the numerical value of the word ןב (son), hinting to the fact that each child is comprised of four different parts. How can one person contain within him such disparate and even contradictory elements? The answer is that children are still in their formative years and have not yet become established in their identities. Although they have many strengths and talents, they also have deficiencies. Our job as parents is to take each child, with his four different components, and raise him in a manner that will transform his latent potential into future success and accomplishments. Where does the Seder fit into this process? In advising us how to educate our children, the Torah commands (Shemos 13:8) אוהה םויב ךנבל תדגהו - literally, you should say to your son on that day (Pesach). However, the Avnei Nezer points out that the Targum renders the word תדגהו into Aramaic as יוחאו, which means “to show.” In other words, the Targum is telling us that the ideal form of “talking” to our children is not through

went to inform the innkeeper that his brazen daughter refused to sing for their respected guest. The innkeeper summoned his daughter and demanded an explanation. She told him that the entire purpose of her diploma was to prove her talent once and for all. She argued that it was in fact their guest who was being unreasonable in demanding that she perform according to his whims just because he refused to believe her established record. Hearing this, Rav Yisroel told the innkeeper that two of the great early commentators – the Sefer HaChinuch (Mitzvah 21) and Ramban (Exodus 13:16) – explain that the reason the Torah contains so many mitzvos רכז םירצמ תאיציל – as a remembrance of the Exodus from Egypt – is because it was in Egypt that Hashem proved His power and providence through the numerous miracles he performed for the Jewish people once and for all. Rav Yisroel concluded by pointing out that just as the innkeeper’s daughter rightfully refused to lower herself and perform on demand for whomever may doubt her diploma, so too Hashem already established Himself for all time through the events of the Exodus and has no further need to prove Himself to every doubter who comes along throughout the generations. Now that we understand the significance of the events which are detailed in these Torah portions, we can appreciate why the Chiddushei HaRim suggests that they be analyzed as comprehensively as yeshiva students study a page of the Gemora with its commentaries. The Chofetz Chaim, wanting to make the events recorded in these portions come alive, actually pictured them occurring in front of his very eyes. These images were so realistic that as he reviewed our portion, which contains the first seven of the ten plagues, he literally laughed out loud as he envisioned the suffering being meted out to Pharaoh and the Egyptians in the middle of his study.


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Parsha Points to Ponder (and sources which discuss them):

5) Pesach and Yom Kippur are unique in that they are the two festivals on

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1) How is it possible that a healthy person ate on Yom Kippur a quantity of edible food larger than the size of a large date in a normal manner and in less than two minutes, and yet he is exempt from punishment for eating on Yom Kippur (16:29)? (Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 612:6) 2) How is it possible that somebody became Biblically impure and was able to become pure without having to wait for sunset? (Ibn Ezra and Ayeles HaShachar 16:26) 3) Almost all of the forbidden relationships are bi-directional, in that they apply both to older generations and to younger generations. For example, just as one is prohibited to have relations with his mother or mother-in- law, he is also forbidden to have relations with his daughter or daughter- in-law. One notable exception is that a person is forbidden to have relations with his aunt (18:12-14), yet it is permissible to marry one’s niece. Why is this prohibition different than all of the others in this regard? (Peirush HaRosh, Seforno 18:6)

which we are presently unable to perform the primary mitzvah associated with them due to the absence of the Beis HaMikdash. On Pesach, the central component is the Korban Pesach (Passover-Offering), and on Yom Kippur, the focus is supposed to be the service of the Kohen Gadol to obtain forgiveness on behalf of the Jewish people. We certainly yearn for the Beis HaMikdash every day of the year, and even more so on every Yom Tov, but our present inability to serve Hashem in the proper manner is most pronounced on Pesach and Yom Kippur, so we specifically conclude each of them with a prayer that the following year we should merit observing them properly in the rebuilt Yerushalayim. 6) The Mishnah Berurah rules that a person is required to own the matzah that he uses to fulfill the mitzvah of eating matzah at the Seder. The S'fas Emes adds that it must completely belong to him, such that he could sell it or use it to betroth a woman. He therefore cautions guests to make sure to perform a legal act of acquiring the matzah from their hosts.

4) How is it possible that a person has a perfectly kosher bottle of red wine available at the Seder, yet ideally he should refrain from drinking it? (Mishnah Berurah 175:2)

However, he notes that most people are not accustomed to do so, and he suggests that they rely on the fact that when the host gives them the matzah, he does so with the implicit intent that it will belong to them so

5) At the end of the Seder, in the section called

הצרנ, we sing האבה הנשל

םילשוריב – next year in Jerusalem. This is one of two times that we express this sentiment, the other being at the end of Yom Kippur. What is unique about these two occasions that specifically motivates us to pray that next year we should be celebrating in Jerusalem, more than on any of the other Yomim Tovim? 6) Is a person obligated to own the matzah that he eats to fulfill his obligation at the Seder (Shemos 12:15), and if so, if he is a guest, is he required to perform an action to acquire the matzah that he will eat? (S’fas Emes Sukkah 35a, Imrei Binah Hilchos Pesach 24, Mishnah Berurah 454:15. Shu”t B’tzeil HaChochmah 4:172, Shu”t Tzitz Eliezer 2:37 and 13:15, Moadim U’Zmanim 3:266, Shu”t Mishneh Halachos 8:191, Piskei Teshuvos 454:2) 7) Although Hashem commanded Moshe (14:16) to lift up his staff and

that they can use it to perform the mitzvah. The Imrei Binah notes that the Torah doesn't explicitly write the requirement to own one's matzah but it is derived using Talmudic principles. Therefore, one need not actually own the matzah, and it is sufficient that the host gives him permission to eat it. The Tzitz Eliezer quotes an earlier source who agrees with this opinion. Even if one does need to perform an act to acquire the matzah, Rav Betzalel Stern and Rav Menashe Klein suggest that guests legally acquire the matzah when they begin to chew it, and when they swallow it, it indeed belongs to them. Still, Rav Moshe Shternbuch writes that he knows of many great Rabbis who were careful to actually transfer ownership of the matzah to their guests, which may be done even on Yom Tov for the sake of a mitzvah, and some recommend that guests give a small amount of money to their hosts before Pesach in order to acquire the matzah that they will eat at the Seder.

stretch out his arm over the Red Sea in order to split it for the Jewish people, the Torah relates (14:21) only that he stretched out his hand over the sea in order to do so. Did he also raise his staff as he was commanded, and if so, why is no mention made of it in the Torah, and if not, why did he deviate from Hashem’s instructions? (Targum Yonason ben Uziel 2:21 14:21, Shemos Rabbah 21:9, Rashi 17:5, Rosh, Rabbeinu Bechaye, Tur HeAruch, Kli Yakar, HaEmek Davar, Ayeles HaShachar) 8) How were Miriam and the women allowed to sing the Shiras HaYam (15:21) when the law is (Even HaEzer 21:1) that a man is forbidden to hear a woman outside of his immediate family singing? (Peninim MiShulchan HaGra, Tiferes Yonason, Nachal Kedumim)

7) The Targum Yonason writes that Moshe did use the staff to split the water. This also seems to be the opinion of Rashi. The Rosh, Tur, and Rabbeinu Bechaye explain that the word םרה, traditionally understood to mean “lift up” can also be interpreted to mean “set aside,” which is supported by the Medrash. There were Jews and Egyptians who claimed that Moshe’s strength was solely from his staff, which he had used to perform the plagues, so Hashem insisted that he split the water with his hand without the assistance of the staff. The Kli Yakar suggests that Hashem made this point specifically at this time because He wanted Moshe to perform each miracle in the manner it was decreed in Heaven. Because the ten plagues are described as emanating from Hashem’s finger

Answers to Points to Ponder:

(8:15), Moshe performed them using his staff, which resembles a finger.

1) The Shulchan Aruch rules that if a person eats food at the beginning of Yom Kippur, when he is still so full from the meal that he ate before the fast began that he finds the food loathsome and has no benefit from it, he is exempt from punishment. 2) Although a living animal is ritually pure, the Torah decrees that the man who is in charge of transporting the goat to Azazel on Yom Kippur becomes ritually impure as soon as he exits the walls of Jerusalem. After completing his mission, the Torah requires him to immerse both his clothing and himself in a mikvah, at which point he may reenter the Jewish camp. The Ibn Ezra comments that the immersion alone suffices to render him pure and he is not required to wait until sundown. Rav Aharon Leib Shteinman notes that this is quite unusual, as it is the only case of a person who is Biblically impure yet is able to become pure even before sunset. 3) The Seforno maintains that the Torah prohibits relations between close relatives, both going directly up the family tree (such as one's parents and grandparents) and going down (one's children and grandchildren).

The splitting of the Red Sea is connected to Hashem’s hand (14:31), so He wanted Moshe to split it with his hand without the staff. 8) The Vilna Gaon answers that for this reason the verse says that Miriam answered the men, meaning that she told them that they could sing, but the women in fact could only say the words due to the prohibition against singing in the presence of men. Rav Yonason Eibeshutz suggests that for this reason Miriam and the women took instruments with them, so that the din of their instruments would drown out their voices so that they could sing without being heard by the men. The Chida cites the Gemora in Niddah (13a), which rules that certain activities which would normally be forbidden because they could lead to forbidden thoughts are permissible when in the presence of the Shechinah. Since Chazal teach that there was a tremendous revelation of the Divine presence at the Yam Suf, the women were permitted to sing in front of the men without being concerned that it may lead to inappropriate thoughts.

Additionally, marriage to any relative who is one step removed from this

Rabbi Yitzchak Botton - Ohr Somayach

line is also forbidden. These lines are determined in relation to the man, and for this purpose, a woman has the same legal status as her husband. As a result, it is forbidden for a man to marry his father's sister, as she is one

The Pesach Relay Race

step removed from his father, who is her sibling. However, it is permissible for a man to marry his niece, as she is the daughter of his

“In every generation a person is obligated to see himself as if he had come out of Egypt.” (Pesach Haggada)

brother, and as such, she is two steps removed from him. Alternatively, the Rosh explains that part of a woman's function in marriage is to serve her husband, and if a man's aunt were to serve him, it would be considered disrespectful to his parents for one of their sisters to serve their child. However, the reverse is not true and a man is not required to serve his wife. As a result, there is no problem for a man to marry his niece, as he will not serve her and there is therefore no disrespect to his sibling who is the parent of the niece. 4) The Mishnah Berurah rules that one should הליחתכל (preferably) refrain from bringing a new and higher-quality bottle of wine to the Seder table to drink during the actual meal, as doing so would obligate him to recite the blessing ביטמהו בוטה (which is said when consuming wine that is superior to the wine over which the blessing ןפגה ירפ ארוב was initially recited, but which was not present at that time), and reciting this blessing when drinking wine gives the appearance that one is drinking a fifth cup.

The night of Pesach, one of the most festive and well known of the year, memorializes the birth of the Jewish Nation. We drink lots of wine as we tell over, in detail, the age-old story of the exodus from Egypt. Recalling the great miracles and events that were witnessed by over three million people, we are meant to connect with the story in a personal way. In fact, many consider this story as their own. But can this story which happened so long ago really have anything to do with the Jews of today? According to Kabbalah the Jewish People, although innumerable, are in truth all individual parts of one general soul. Just as a body, despite being made up of two hundred and forty eight limbs and three hundred and sixty five sinews, is one entity, so too the countless individual souls of Israel are in essence united as one. With this in mind we can gain a deeper understanding of how the story of Egypt affects us. Let us consider a relay race. When each individual runner is running, he represents all of the runners. If he takes the leading position, all of the



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future runners share in that position. And if he falls back, they all fall

Rabbi Shlomo Caplan

HaRav Eliezer Chrysler

back. What the Jews accomplished through the harsh Egyptian exile is shared by

Midei Shabbos

all of the future generations as well. So although a Jew living today was

Vol. 21 No. 29

not actually a slave in Egypt, by virtue of his connection to those that were, he benefits. And in turn, he must also allow those that were in Egypt to benefit from him as well.

This issue is sponsored by the Intract Family l'iluy Nishmos Yosef ben Yitzchak Halevi and Faigy a"h whose Yohrzeit is 28 Adar Rochel bas Zev and Chana Aidel a"h whose Yohrzeit is 16 Nissan

How does he do that? When he continues to race forward towards the

Parshas Acharei-Mos (Ha'Gadol)

finish line, he does it for all of the past generations of Jews that lived

The Changing Morality of the Egyptians

before him, including those that actually left Egypt. While if he were to

(Adapted from the Oznayim la'Torah)

quit racing for whatever reason, then all of the generations of Jews that came before him would also be out of the race. In light of the above we can gain new insight into one’s obligation to see

"Do not emulate the deeds of Egypt, in which you dwelt, and do not do the deeds of Cana'an, where I am taking you, and do not go in their ways' (18:3).

himself as if he went out of Egypt. Since a person living today was obviously never in Egypt, this cannot be taken literally. However, in a deeper sense, if a Jew of today has a connection to the Jews that left Egypt, then, by virtue of that connection, it is as if he went out of Egypt too. As mentioned above, the implied message is that it is also as if I, through my actions, take the Jews that left Egypt with me, affecting them for good or bad depending on what I choose to do. Now if there was a Pesach Seder in Heaven, so to speak, we could say that their Haggada would read, “We are obligated to see ourselves as if we are experiencing what our descendants are doing in the world today.” We specifically focus on those who were redeemed from Egypt, because spiritually, if they never left Egypt the burden to escape from there would

The Medrash extrapolates from this Pasuk that the Egyptians were the most depraved and perverted nation in the whole world. And what's more, says the Medrash, the words "in which you dwelt", indicate that it was Yisrael who were responsible for Egypt's depravity. But how can Yisrael be blamed for Egypt's depravity, asks the Oznayim la'Torah, when Chazal tell us that Yisrael in Egypt were on an extremely high level of morality and that only one woman (among hundreds of thousands) behaved immorally? Moreover, the Medrash informs us, when Yosef came to Egypt, he guarded himself against immorality, as his encounter with his mistress indicates, and that the Egyptian men took their cue from him and did likewise!

fall on us. However, through their suffering we were spared from the burden of the Egyptian slavery, and we are therefore indebted to them and must continue to work for their sake, as well as our own, for the future redemption. May it be speedily in our days. © 1995-2014 Ohr Somayach International - All rights reserved. Articles may be distributed to another person intact without prior permission. We also encourage you to include this material in other publications, such as synagogue or school newsletters. Hardcopy or electronic. However, we ask that you contact us beforehand for permission in advance at and credit for the source as Ohr Somayach Institutions

So we see that if anything, the Jewish people had a positive influence on the Egyptians, and not the opposite! To answer the question, the Oznayim la'Torah draws a distinction between our laws and customs and those of the nations. We have been given a Heaven-based Torah, which we observe, irrespective of whether we are successful in our daily lives or not. Success is not a reason to follow the path of Torah; nor is failure a reason to deviate from it. Ours is a religion of faith, and if things appear to go wrong, we apply the Pasuk "A Tzadik lives on his faith". A Jew understands that when things go wrong, it is his behavior that he must change. Not his religion! Not so the nations of the world, whose man-made laws and customs are based on earthly values. Consequently, when one nation succeeds in conquering other nations, people tend to look up to them with admiration

Mishulchan Shlomo

and to adopt some of their customs, because they assume that their

Rabbi Caplan On The Parsha – Mishulchan Shlomo

customs breed success and are therefore worth emulating. This is not the case with a nation that has been conquered and has lost its

Pesach - Ask Me A Question

independence. There, people will shun their customs, for fear that the way

Rav Chaim Soloveitchik asks, “How is this night of Pesach different from all other nights?” On every night of the year there is a Mitzvah to remember the Exodus from Mitzrayim. In what way is the Mitzvah to recite the Haggadah on Pesach night different? One difference that Rav Chaim describes is the requirement to follow a question and answer format. This not only defines the procedure for the Seder, but it is also the framework of all productive chinuch (education). A question puts the student into the center of the discussion. It is an interactive experience. The answer is not merely a monologue but a response to something the student feels he needs to know. In this way the student is more likely to properly digest and retain the information. A question also helps to define the topic of discussion and set its parameters. It demands a response that is clear and accurate. In this way the question enlightens the teacher as well as the student. Rebbi Chanina

of life that brought about that nation's downfall will bring about their downfall too. With this, says the Oznayim la'Torah, we can understand what happened in Egypt. When the Egyptians saw Yosef leave prison and become viceroy of Egypt, they witnessed a tremendous success-story unfolding before their very eyes. Duly impressed, they were keen to adopt his exemplary Midos, above all, his outstanding Midah - Tzadik (morality). But that was then! Meanwhile, Yisrael became their slaves, humiliated and tormented, their children thrown into the river or used as bricks in the walls of buildings. These were no longer people whom they wished to emulate. On the contrary, the good Midos of their slaves were things to avoid, and avoid them they did, degenerating to the point that they became the most depraved nation in the world.

declared, “I have learned much from my teachers, even more from my

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Living By The Mitzos

colleagues, and more from my students than from anyone else.”

(Adapted from the Oznayim la'Torah)

After Reish Lakish passed away, his teacher Rebbi Yochanan was

" … Observe My statutes and My judgements which man (ha'Adam) will

inconsolable. Although his students attempted to ease his pain by extolling

do and live by them (va'chai bahem), I am Hashem" (14:5).

his lectures, Rebbi Yochanan exclaimed, “Are you like Reish Lakish? Whenever I would say anything, he would ask twenty-four questions, I would give twenty-four answers, and the topic was clarified.” Indeed, the question-answer format strengthens the relationship between teacher and student. Through a sincere desire to arrive at a clear and true explanation, a sense of mutual respect and admiration develops. The Gemara in Maseches Kiddushin (30b) asserts that although the discussion may become heated and even contentious, at the conclusion there will be only love. There is, however, one type of question which does not deserve an answer. That’s the rhetorical question, for in truth it is not really a question; it is a statement. That is the question of the Rasha, the wicked son. It is a wise father or teacher who can distinguish the rhetorical question from the genuine one. Sometimes it is the choice of words. Sometimes it is the tone of voice. However, Rav Chaim Shmuelevitz insists that in reality, it takes a true discernment of the personality or the agenda of the asker. Thus, although the questions in the Haggadah of the wise son and the wicked son are extremely similar, the father knows who is who. Whether at the Seder, in the classroom or during the daily interactions of parents and children, learning and spiritual growth take place in an atmosphere which encourages and welcomes sincere and thought- provoking questions.

From this Pasuk, the Gemara in Sanhedrin (Daf 74) learns that Mitzvos are meant to be a source of life, not of death. Consequently, whenever life- danger is involved, one should rather transgress than risk one's life, with the three exceptions, that is, of the three cardinal sins idolatry, adultery and murder. The obvious question, points out the Oznayim la'Torah, is seeing as the Parshah goes on to talk about adultery and incest (one of the three exceptions that override life), why does the Torah insert "va'chai bahem" here, when basically, it does not apply here? Elaborating further, he reminds us that even Rebbi Yishma'el, who maintains that idolatry is included in "va'chai bahem", concedes that both murder and adultery are not - the former, since logic dictates that it is forbidden, since who says that 'my blood is redder than my friend's?', the latter, because the Torah compares it to murder. So why does the Torah insert "va'chai bahem" here, where at first glance, it is not applicable? Initially, the author suggests that the Torah inserts it, because, based on the Gemara there (Daf 59), wherever the Torah uses the word "ha'Adam" (with a 'hey'), it comes to include B'nei No'ach. And since the word "ha'Adam" is used here, the Torah is coming to tell us that a Nochri is not obligated to give up his life in order to observe one of his seven Mitzvos. In any event, he isn't subject to the Mitzvah of Kidush Hashem, so his inclusion in the Mitzvah of "va'chai bahem" makes good sense.


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He refutes the suggestion however, based on the opinion of Tosfos there (DH 'ben No'ach', that "va'Chai bahem" was said to Yisrael, and not to the

the Gemara writes in Kesubos, Daf 3). Consequently, "va'Chai bahem"

Pesach Supplement

"And G-d will draw a distinction between the cattle of Yisrael and the cattle of Egypt" (9:4).


B'nei No'ach. In one of his two answers to the initial question (why the Torah needs to "va'Chai bahem" specifically in the Parshah of Arayos, where one is obligated to give up one's life), the Oznayim la'Torah therefore explains

G-d made this distinction with all ten plagues, observes R. Chayim, so why mention it here? By the plague of pestilence it was necessary to stress that none of the Jews' animals died, he explains, because Moshe had told Par'oh that the plagues

that it is necessary to exempt women from giving up their lives even with regard to committing adultery. The significance of this leniency is due to the fact that as long as a woman remains passive (which is why Chazal refer to her as 'Karka Olam'), she is not subject to the sin of adultery (as

comes to teach us that, not only is a woman who is forced, on pain of

were only to force him to let Yisrael go and sacrifice to G-d in the desert. Consequently, had their animals died too, Par'oh would have turned round and accused Moshe of lying, and that the plagues were really meant to punish his people. The fact that the Jews' animals were spared prevented him from presenting any such argument.


death, to commit adultery, not obligated to refuse, but that she is forbidden

In the Tochacha (the rebuke) in Ki Savo, the Torah refers to "the boils of

to do so.

Egypt". Rashi there (Devarim 28:27) explains that the boils in Egypt were

He does point out however, that this Chidush is confined to the opinion of the Rambam, in whose opinion "va'Chai bahem" overrides Kidush Hashem. It will not hold water however, according to the Poskim who permit someone who is Patur, to give up his life in order to sanctify G-d's Name.

The Ten Plagues

particularly virulent, inasmuch as they were wet on the inside and dry on the outside, as the Gemara explains in Bechoros (41a). The Stypler z.l. points out that the Gematriyah of the words "sh'chin Mitzrayim"(the boils of Egypt) is equivalent to that of 'zeh hu lach mi'bi'fenim ve'yavesh mi'ba'chutz'(this is [boils that are] wet on the inside and dry on the outside).


(Adapted from the Hagodas Kehilas Ya'akov)

By all the other plagues that Torah relates how "Par'oh called Moshe and

'These are the ten plagues that G-d brought upon the Egyptians in

Aharon". Why here, asks R. Chayim, does it use the expression " … Par'oh


sent for and called Moshe and Aharon"(9:27)?

The words 'in Egypt' seem to be superfluous, suggests Maran R. Chayim

By all the other plagues, he explains, Par'ah sent his slaves to plead with



Moshe and Aharon, and 'the hand of a slave is like the hand of his master'.

To explain why the Ba'al Ha'godoh inserts it, he cites a Mechilta, which explains that the Pasuk in Bo (13) 'And I will smite every firstborn in the land of Egypt" comes to include other nationalities who were in Egypt, whereas the Pasuk in Tehilim (136:10) "To the one who smote Egypt with their first-born" comes to include Egyptians who lived elsewhere. This was true of Makas Bechoros; but all the other plagues took place within the borders of Egypt exclusively,

Most of the following explanations, just like the previous one, are given by

Here however, this was not possible, due to the prevalent hailstorm that threatened the life of any Egyptian who went outside. So he had no option other than to send people from B'nei Yisrael, who were able to walk outside without fear. And he cites the Yerushalmi in D'mai, which rules that although a Nochri cannot be a Shali'ach for a Nochri, a Yisrael can.

And it is because all ten plagues took place inside the country, and only

"There had never been locusts like that, nor would there ever be" (11:14).

Makas Bechoros taking place also outside its borders, that the Torah added the word "in Egypt" to the text.

Moran Chayim Kanievski (Sh'lita).

Rashi explains that the plague that occurred in the time of Yo'el was actually heavier than that of Moshe, only whereas that plague comprised four species of 'locusts', this one consisted of the species known as 'Arbeh' exclusively - and as plagues of Arbeh go, there was never another one like


it. Why, asks R. Chayim, did G-d not send the Egyptians a wide variety of


The Torah writes that the fish died (7:18) - who would have thought that

locusts? After all, we are told, they suffered fourteen different species of

they would survive in a sea of blood? - to teach us that it was real blood and not just water that magically had the appearance of blood.

lice, and twenty-four of boils, so why only one species of locusts? And he quotes the Medrash, which explains how the Egyptians rejoiced


over the locusts when they first saw them, because they anticipated

Commenting on the Pasuk (8:2) "And a plague of frogs came up", Rashi explains that the Torah writes 'frog' (in the singular), to teach us that initially, only one frog appeared, and it was only when the Egyptians began striking it with their sticks, that swarms began to emerge from it - the more they struck it, the more the swarm of frogs increased. Common sense dictates than when such a scenario occurs, one stops striking the frog to stop the plague in its tracks, says R. Chayim. But common sense and anger do not make a good match. And anger dictated

pickling them - a sumptuous delicatessen in those times. Not that they succeeded in doing so, since, as Rashi points out, they were all carried away, but their initial reaction was one of excitement. And it was to minimize their initial excitement that G-d sent them only one species of locust, and the smallest species to boot. Rashi, on the Pasuk "Not one locust remained", quotes a Medrash that even the pickled locusts flew out of the jars and were blown away together with the live ones. This is borne out says the Stypler, by the Gematriyah of

that the more frogs that broke off from the original, the more reason to give vent to one's anger. And that's what happens when a major quarrel breaks out between two sides. Common sense dictates that one swallows


"one locust" which is equivalent to that of 'af ha'meluchim" (even the pickled ones).

one's words before the quarrel gets out of control. But anger prevails, and hurtful words fly until the small fire escalates into a uncontrollable

Rashi poses the question why G-d sent the Egyptians the plague of darkness, and he answers that it was to enable Yisrael to bury the four-


fifths of their numbers who died, without the Egyptians being aware of it, and in order to take note of where the Egyptians hid their valuables, which

The Slaying of the Firstborn

Rashi explains that the Egyptian sorcerers were "unable to create lice or even to bring them from other locations, because the demons employed by the sorcerers were powerless over creatures that were smaller than a barley." The question remains however, why did they not produce them by means of witchcraft? To answer the question, he cites the Gemara in Sanhedrin (Daf 44b),

they subsequently asked to 'borrow'. The question is what prompted Rashi to question the reason for the plague of darkness more than for any of the other plagues? R. Chayim ascribes it to the uniqueness of darkness, inasmuch as, unlike all the other plagues, it may have limited their movements, but it did not cause them harm in the way that the other plagues did.

which describes how Shimon ben Shetach rendered eighty witches powerless to do him harm by having them lifted off the ground. By the same token therefore, the Egyptian magicians were unable to produce lice by means of witchcraft since, as the Medrash tells us, the entire terrain of Egypt was covered with carpet of locusts one Amah thick. Consequently, since there was no empty piece of ground to stand on, they were powerless to produce locusts even via witchcraft.

Rashi points out that the Egyptian women would commit adultery with other men, with the result that they often bore a number of firstborn children, the first one, the firstborn of its mother, the subsequent ones, the firstborn of their father. And each of these firstborn died during the plague of Makas Bechoros. R. Chayim cites the Pasuk in Tehilim (75:51) which supports this explanation -"All the firstborn in Egypt (with reference to the firstborn of

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Wild Beasts

their mother) the first of their strength in the tents of Cham (with reference

"And I will distinguish on that day the land of Goshen on which my people are standing" (8:17).

Why, asks R. Chayim, does the Torah add the words "on which my people are standing"?

to the firstborn of his father),

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And he explains that it is to teach us that, even if an Egyptian tried to escape to the land of Goshen, where no Jews were being threatened, he


Life Coaching from the Parasha

would not find refuge there, since it was only on the ground on which a

Acharei Mot - Giving Rebuke

Jew stood that was 'safe'. The moment an Egyptian entered Goshen, he was no better off than he was in Egypt.

A certain psychologist was concerned as to exactly how he should respond to a patient who confesses his sin, looking for acceptance and understanding. "On the one hand, if I do a "blame shift" or lighten the severity of the sin, allowing the patient to feel that he could face himself in


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the mirror, then I may be forgoing the mitzvah of giving rebuke. And if I tell him that he was wrong, then things could get much worse. The solution I found so as not to be sitting by passively while the person is pouring out a litany of his transgressions is to ask him if he thinks that what he did was the right thing to do. Then, I show him genuine respect for admitting his failures and mistakes. This somehow helps the person feel comfortable and not embarrassed to see me even after therapy." Many times we hear about the mitzvah of giving rebuke and wonder:

great Mitzvah of reliving the Exodus via the Seder. He is a giant of Jewish spirit. Late 19th century Belarus had many pious, practicing Jews. But apparently, many were apathetic or simply ignorant of the Seder traditions. (Yes, even in the shtetl, there was “Social Orthodoxy” and religious greenhorns.) Would these people be able to make a Seder on their own? Certainly not. So would they just miss the entire Seder process? R’ Epstein would not stand for that. It was either assumed that more educated

Rabbi Eliyahu Fink, J.D., is the rabbi at the famous Pacific Jewish Center | The Shul on the

should I be saying something to the child? Should I tell the person just how bad his/her actions are? The Talmud (Bava Metziah 31a) tells us that the repetition of the Hebrew words "rebuke and rebuke" comes to teach that one must rebuke even one hundred times! There are different ways to understand this. One approach is that sometimes the person giving the rebuke is not worthy of saying what needs to be said. And at other times, the person who sinned is not ready to hear what he is supposed to hear. It may be that only after one hundred times both prerequisites can be met: that a person can actually say what needs to be said to the person who really needs to and can hear it. This is an interesting twist on that piece of Talmud. However, I have found the following to be very valuable. The Torah says "Rebuke your friend, and do not bring sin upon yourself because of it." This can be interpreted to mean that if you do not give rebuke, you are guilty of sin. When understood on a basic level, this can seem stressful. However, there is a deeper meaning here. The words also mean "do not put a sin on him". The Chavot Yair (also see Zohar) explains this to mean that when one gives rebuke, he should not let the person feel that he is a wicked person. Rather, he should say things that can uplift him - "such acts are not befitting either for you or for your level of character". Do not make him feel as if he is a sinner; rather, that he is a righteous person who has sinned. An external act - that is not to be identified with the one who performed it. Labeling a person with a title of "sinner" or evildoer causes the person to feel disabled, disarmed and depressed.

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neighbors would obviously be out all Seder night helping their neighbors who needed a Seder, or perhaps R’ Epstein was making an oblique suggestion that people should get out and help their neighbors. It’s a grand view of the role of the practicing Jew and R’ Epstein almost demands that this be our approach to the non-practicing Jew. Reaching out to others is expected. I was inspired by this chapter of Aruch Hashulchan. I was inspired by the clever reframing of an obscure legalistic exercise into a spectacular practical lesson in caring for our fellow Jew. Fortunately, it seems we have embodied this monumental lesson into our modern Pesach Seders. So many people host Seders with incredibly diverse groups of their Jewish brothers and sisters. The level of education and familiarity with the rituals ranges from expert to novice. But all are included. An emphasis on Jewish education and modern technology gives us all easy access to attaining familiarity with the Seder and its traditions. We can all assist others and help them participate in a Seder. Let’s do our best to make sure that there is no one who needs to look up the laws of §484 this year. Make sure that everyone has a Seder to attend. There’s also enough time to learn about the Seder in time for Monday night’s big event. All the Jewish people experienced the exodus and tasted freedom together. The Seder belongs to all of us. Take ownership and share the joy of the Seder freely and generously.

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5 Questions And Answers On Parshas Acha'rei Mose 5774 - Bs"D

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Passover Seder Law

1) Ch. 16, v. 1: "Va'y'da'beir Hashem el Moshe acha'rei mose shnei bnei Aharon" - And Hashem spoke to Moshe after the death of two

April 9, 2014

sons of Aharon - Rashi comments: "Mah talmud lomar?" He then brings

2) Ch. 16, v. 2: "Ki be'onon eiro'eh" - Because in a cloud I shall be

This article originally appeared at

the parable of Rabbi Elozor ben Azarioh of two doctors who warn a

SederPlate_smWhen it comes to inspiration, most Orthodox Jews turn to glorious books of Mussar, or historical legends about our Torah sages, or fiery speeches by modern day orators, or the latest inspirational

person. What bothers Rashi with the beginning of our verse, how does the parable answer his concern, and how is it alluded to in the verse itself?

story, or other Torah content that is heavy on encouragement or equally overloaded with deprecation. When it comes to Jewish law, we study Halachic texts. We don’t expect to find inspiration in legal works. But Halachic text can be inspirational too. For example, Aruch Hashulchan, Orach Chaim §484.

seen - It was the opinion of the Tzidokim that first one lights the incense and only after it is already smoking, does the Kohein Godol enter the Holy of Holies, and this seems to be the simple understanding of these words. However, they are wrong, as we see from the mishnoh in the 1st chapter of Yoma. Nevertheless, what is the "pshuto shel mikra" application?

The original text of OC §484in the Tur and Shulchan Aruch dryly

3) Ch. 16, v. 16: "Hashochein itom b'soch tumosom" - Who rests with

discusses the codification of the Rif regarding the procedure for one who is, for some unknown reason, making blessings of the Seder in more than

them in their defilement - Rashi (gemara Yoma 56b) says that these words teach us that even when the bnei Yisroel are ch"v defiled through

one home. It’s fairly straightforward and uninteresting. This is standard

their sins, Hashem does not forsake them, and still rests among them. When does Hashem distance Himself?

Talmudic and post-Talmudic legalism. Conjure up an obscure situation and use it as a test case to demonstrate the limits of the law. In this case,

4) Ch. 17, v. 13: "Chayoh o ofe asher yei'ocheil v'shofach es domo

the laws that dictate how and where one must eat their Seder meal and perform the Seder rituals. The practical law is not relevant to the point of

v'chisohu be'ofor" - An undomesticated animal or a bird that may be eaten and he spilled its blood and he shall cover it with earth - Why does

this article.

this law apply only to "chayoh" and "ofe," but not to "b'heimoh," a domesticated animal?

Interestingly, in his halachic work, R’ Epstein pretty much invents (unless he gets it from another source that I have not been able to find) the

5) Ch. 18, v. 18: "V'ishoh el achosoh lo sikoch" - And a woman to her

circumstances of this quirky law. The Aruch Hashulchan, OC §484 begins

sister shall you not take - Why doesn't the verse straightforwardly state,

this section with this introduction: “One who has neighbors who don’t

"V'achos ish't'cho lo sikach," and the sister of your wife you shall not take?

know how to make the blessings and perform the Seder rituals, and he has


no choice but to make a Seder for his neighbors, should perform the Seder on their behalf in the following manner.” Later he says, that if the neighbors can’t read Hebrew he should recite the blessings with his neighbors word by word. He references this idea of teaching his neighbors how to do the Seder several times throughout the section. And not just at one home. The law is speaking about an individual who is going from home to home to home in order to help all his neighbors make a proper Seder. Thus, the dry law found in the Tur and Shulchan Aruch is not merely an abstract construction designed to test the limits of the law. In fact, the law is relevant to a very practical and possibly common situation. The chapter is about a Good Samaritan who abandons his own Seder for the sake of his neighbors who don’t know how to do a Seder on their own. I can’t help but feel a surge of love and pride for R’ Epstein and his imaginary, but surely very real, hero of this section of halacha. This man is incredible. Of course he does his own Seder. And of course he does it well.

#1 On Dvorim 2:17 Rashi says that when Hashem addresses Moshe, the term "va'y'da'beir" is considered a soft way of communicating, from which we may conclude that "va'yomer" is a harsh way of communicating. Commentators are puzzled with this, as in other places Rashi says the exact opposite, as does the gemara Makos chapter 2. This was answered and explained in a beautiful manner in a previous issue on parshas Dvorim in the name of B'eir Baso'deh. In any case, for Moshe, "dibur" is "rach" and "amiroh" is "kosheh." Possibly, Rashi is bothered with our verse starting off with "va'y'da'beir" and the next verse with "va'yomer." Why the repetition and why the change of words? This is answered by Rabbi Elozor ben Azarioh. One doctor spoke to a person who was afflicted with a disease, advising him to avoid certain things. Another did the same, but added on that non- compliance could be fatal, as it was to his acquaintance. The second doctor

When he proclaims at his Seder that “All who want to partake may come and join us,” no one comes. But he knows that his neighbors are clueless as to how to make a Seder. He knows that they are not enjoying their own Seders. So he finishes his Seder in a timely manner, leaves the comfort of

did a much better job of advising him, as he made him aware of the severity of non-compliance. This is the intention of first writing "va'y'da'beir," a soft way of speaking (the first doctor), and then being repetitive, but in a stronger manner, "va'yomer" (the second doctor).

his home, and gets to work on assisting as many people as he can in the

(Nirreh li)


!eaaBtu!zsIb!trcdk trcd ihc



#2 The Sforno on our parsha says that Aharon had permission to enter the Kodesh Hakodoshim any day provided that he made the sacrificial preparations. This is actually stated in Toras Kohanim. The Sforno adds that the required cloud when it wasn't Yom Kipur was the "ana'nei haKovod," clouds of glory. They were indeed there AHEAD of his lighting. (Nirreh li) #3 Chovas Halvovos in shaar avodas hoElokim 4:9 says that haughtiness is worse than an actual sin. The Holy Baal Shem Tov offers a compelling proof for this statement. The gemara Sotoh 5a says that Hashem cannot countenance a haughty person. Yet, from our verse the gemara derives that Hashem can tolerate a defiled sinner. This lesson was brought down to practical terms by the Apter Rov, Rabbi

Ch. 16, v. 16: "Hashochein itom b'soch tumo'som" - Hashem rest His Holy Spirit within the bnei Yisroel even if they are ch"v defiled (gemara Yoma 56b), but not if they are haughty. (Baal Shem Tov) Ch. 16, v. 22: "El Eretz g'zeiroh" - The scapegoat is brought to the earth, which has a decree against it, "aruroh ho'adomoh." Man is made of this earth, so how is he expected to be perfect? This claim itself brings atonement. (Rabbi Yekusi'eil Yehudoh Grunwald of Siget in Yeitev Lev) Ch. 16, v. 30: "Ki va'yom ha'zeh y'cha'peir a'leichem l'ta'heir es'chem mikole chatoseichem" - Through the sanctity of the day you will have some atonement. However, there is some residue of the sin still present. To rid yourselves of this you must purify yourselves as well, "a'leichem l'ta'heir es'chem." Then it will be a total cleansing, "mikole chatoseichem."


Yehoshua Heshel, author of Oheiv Yisroel. He once came to a community

(Rabbi Boruch of Mezhbizh in Botzina Dinhora) A Gutten Shabbos Kodesh.

and was offered lodging in one of two homes, that of a very religious and

Rabbi Zvi Akiva Fleisher

scholarly person who was renown for his haughtiness, and the other of a simple person who was not totally Torah observant. He immediately

Oroh V'Simchoh

responded that he would lodge with the simple irreligious person. People were quite surprised at his choice, and he responded that he wanted to

Meshech Chochmoh On Parshas Acharei Mose - Bs"D

emulate Hashem. Just as He manages to rest even among defiled irreligious people, but not with an inflated person, he too would do the same. #4 The Rokei'ach in #319 says that this is based on a medrash that says that when Eliezer returned with Rivkoh to his master Yitzchok, he said that if Yitzchok finds that she has no virginal blood it is not because Eliezer violated her. It is because during their return she fell off the camel and her virginity was broken. They retraced a bit of their steps and found where this happened. The blood was protected by undomesticated animals and birds. The Rokei'ach says that because domesticated animals did not come to take part in the protection of the blood, they do not merit having this mitzvoh done with their blood. (Chid"o in Chomas Anoch)

Ch. 16, v. 4: "V'rochatz bamayim es b'soro ulveishom" - In all other places that the Torah prescribes immersion in a mikveh, the verse says "v'rochatz b'soro bamayim," first mentioning what is to be immersed, "b'soro," and only afterwards "bamayim." Here we find the order reversed, "bamayim es b'soro." The mishneh Yoma 34b relates that the Kohein Godol would descend to immerse himself, ascend, and sponge himself dry. The Mishneh L'melech hilchos avodas Yom haKippurim 2:2 questions the need to sponge himself dry. He offers that it is either because we fear that when he immersed himself in the mikveh he might have picked up some object that stuck to his body, and halacha requires that nothing intervene between his body and his garments, or that the water itself might be an intervening object.

#5 The gemara P'sochim 119b relates that in the future the righteous personalities of the Torah will partake of a meal. At the end of the meal Yaakov will be asked to lead the grace after meals. He will decline, saying, "I do not deserve to lead the bentching because I have married two sisters, something that the Torah would in the future prohibit to ME." This is quite puzzling. The prohibition is not "to ME." It is a universal prohibition. We can say that the Torah should have said "v'achos ish't'cho lo sikach," but changed it to "v'ishoh el achosoh lo sikoch" to allude to Yaakov specifically. He intended to marry Rochel and not Leah. Once he was

The Meshech Chochmoh explains that the gemara Z'vochim 18b derives from the word BOD in our verse that the garments of the Kohein Godol must be as good as new. This disqualifies using a garment that was soiled, even if it was laundered and there are no stains left. If the Kohein Godol were to not dry himself after immersion his wet body would detract from the crisp newness of his garments. This is why the verse switches the order of the words. By saying "bamayim es b'soro," the verse is stressing that the water should only go onto his body and not onto the garments he will put on afterwards. This necessitates the need to dry himself.

aware of the exchange he knowingly married Rochel afterwards. This is

Ch. 18, v. 28: "V'lo soki ho'oretz es'chem b'tamaachem osoh kaa'sher

"v'ishoh," Rochel the "akeres habayis," the one Yaakov intended should be his wife, "el achosoh," in addition to her sister Leah. (Chanukas haTorah) A Gutten Shabbos Kodesh.

ko'oh es hagoy" - The verse seems to contradict itself by saying that you will NOT be expelled when you DO contaminate the land. A number of interpretations:

Rabbi Zvi Akiva Fleisher

You will not be treated as the heathen nations who have occupied this land before you and have been ejected, but rather:

Chasidic Insights

1) Not only will you be expelled, but you will also suffer the punishment of excision, "ko'reis," as stated in verse 29, "v'nich'r'su hanfoshos ho'osos.

Chasidic Insights Parshas Acha'rei Mose From 5765 Bs"D For sponsorships and advertising opportunities, send e-mail

(Rabbi Moshe of Kutzi) 2) If you fulfill the words of verse 26, "ushmartem …… v'lo saasu," then


Ch. 16, v. 2: "Hakapo'res asher al ho'orone" - One should repent, "kapo'res," before he begins to study Torah, symbolized by the Holy Tablets that are contained in the Holy Ark. (Noam Elimelech) Ch. 16, v. 2: "Ki be'onon eiro'eh al hakapo'res" - Those who believe in "Torah sheb'al peh" explain these words to mean that only after the Kohein Godol enters the Holy of Holies should he light the incense, which will in turn create a smoky cloud. Those who do not believe in the oral law say that the intention of these words is that the Kohein Godol light the incense before he enters the Holy of Holies (see gemara Yoma 19b, 53a). The words of the written Torah are exact, while "Torah sheb'al peh" is not always clearly evident from the actual words of the Torah. This is symbolized by the smoky cloud created by lighting the incense. This is the disagreement over where to ignite the incense and create the smoky cloud. Those true to "Torah sheb'al peh" say to light the incense in the Holy of Holies, right in front of the Holy Ark, which houses the Holy Tablets, the symbol of the written Torah. The Rabbinic interpretation of the Torah goes together with the Written Torah. They are both true and inseparable. The non-believers say to light the incense in the outer room, creating the smoky cloud there, and only then to bring it in to the Holy Ark. This alludes to their false opinion that the Oral Torah is not part and parcel of the Torah, and that the Oral Torah is the independent innovation of the Rabbis, who bring it from the outside to the Holy Ark and the Holy

you will be saved from punishment. Translate "V'lo" as LEST. (Rabbeinu Elyokim)

3) You will also be expelled, but in a manner which will be more severe than the expulsion of the heathen nations. (Rivo) 4) They have only been expelled, but did not suffer the punishment of "ko'reis." You, however, will not be expelled, but will be punished with "ko'reis." (Baalei Hatosfos) The Toras Kohanim 20:123 (mentioned in Rashi) compares sinning in E.Y. to a prince who had a sensitive digestive system, as he was used to only the finest of foods and delicacies. Any coarse alimentation would upset his system. Similarly, E.Y. is very sensitive to sins. Those who sin would be expelled. The Meshech Chochmoh says in the name of his father that according to the above parable, if the prince continued to eat coarse food he would eventually grow accustomed to it and would successfully digest it. Likewise, if E.Y. would ch"v be subject to continuous sinning, it would also become desensitized. This can be the meaning of our verse. The land will NOT vomit you even though you defile it, as it has expelled the previous occupants of the land. At that time the land was still sensitive. However, it has unfortunately become accustomed to the sins, and instead your punishment will be excision, as per verse 29, "v'nich'r'su hanfoshos." I believe that this interpretation fits in best with the 4th explanation offered above by the earlier commentators. Feedback And Submissions Are Appreciated. Sholom613@Rogers.Com

Tablets, the Written Torah. (Nirreh li)

Rabbi Zvi Akiva Fleisher

Ch. 16, v. 3: "B'zose yovo Aharon" - Aharon shall come with THIS, the prohibition to come whenever he wishes of the previous verse. After

Sedrah Selections

hearing that he may not enter at his whim, he is humbled, and this in itself prepares him to enter. (Rabbi Yisroel of Modzitz in Divrei Yisroel)

Sedrah Selections Parshas Acha'rei Mose 5774 Bs"D

Ch. 16, v. 4: "Bad kodesh" - Doing mitzvos when no one sees you doing them is holy. (Rabbi Mordechai Yoseif of Radzin in Tiferes Yoseif) Ch. 16, v. 16: "V'chi'per al hakodesh" - Even the holy acts a person does require atonement. They are sometimes done with the intention to show off, or some other ulterior motive. (Agro D'kaloh)

Ch. 16, v. 2: "V'al yovo b'chol eis el hakodesh" - And he shall not come at anytime to the holy - The gemara explains the words "Osseh tzedokoh v'chol eis" to refer to the person who financially supports his wife and children. One might think that he has reached the apex of sanctity through totally involving himself in a livelihood. Another person might forsake all his financial responsibilities to his wife (a contractual



eaaBtu!zsIb!trcdk trcd ihc!

responsibility in the kesuboh) and children and totally immerse himself in Torah study and other mitzvos, and think that he has thus reached "el

does not want this. He wants us to nurture our greatest bonds. (Mei Hashilo'ach)

hakodesh." The golden middle is the correct path. (Korbon He'oni)

may enter the Holy - He actually enters the Holy of Holies so why does

Ch. 18, v. 28: "Kaasher ko'oh es hagoy asher lifneichem" - As it has

Ch. 16, v. 3: "B'zose yovo Aharon el hakodesh" - With this Aharon may enter the Holy - The previous verse says "V'al yovo b'chol eis el hakodesh." With this, the control he exhibits of not entering just any time, he becomes elevated and may enter on Yom Kippur. (Sfas Emes) Ch. 16, v. 3: "B'zose yovo Aharon el hakodesh" - With this Aharon

the verse not say "el kodesh hakodoshim?" Although in our jargon the inner chamber is called the "kodesh hakodoshim" the verse says that he is only entering the "kodesh" because there is a location that is even holier. This is on top of the "kaporres," from whence the words of Hashem emanate to Moshe. (N'tzi"v) Ch. 17, v. 4: "V'el pesach o'hel mo'eid lo heivi'o …… dom yeichosheiv lo'ish hahu" - And to the opening of the tent of meeting he has not brought it …… it will be calculated as if that man has spilled blood - The ante-deluvian law was that no one was allowed to slaughter an animal. When the Torah introduced permission in parshas Noach it was limited to

expelled the nation in front of you - Hashem had an original plan to create the world with strict judgment and later, when it came to the actual creation, He brought mercy in as well. The closer to the source of creation the stricter it is. We find this in other matters as well. The Holy of Holies does not allow fir the entry of even a Kohein, and even the Kohein Godol, who is allowed to enter, it is only at restricted times, with much preparation, i.e. offering of korbonos and ketorres. There were areas of the Mikdosh campus where only Kohanim were allowed, but only with preparation, and then there were areas where even bnei Yisroel were allowed. The further from the source, the more lenient in what it can absorb, i.e. the less "din" and more "rachamim." Eretz Yisroel is so holy that it cannot maintain sinners, but "chutz lo'oretz," which is not holy, can endure sinners. (Arvei Nachal on parshas Breishis) A Gutten Shabbos Kodesh.

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Rabbi Yissocher Frand

when all applicable laws were adhered to and otherwise the law reverts to ante-deluvian law. This is why when a person slaughters his offering

outside the Mikdosh compound it is as if he spilled innocent blood. (Sforno)

Ch. 18, v. 2: "V'omarto a'lei'hem ani Hashem Elokeichem" - And you

shall say to them I am Hashem your G-d - It seems from these words that Moshe was commanded to say "I am Hashem your G-d," something that sounds as if Moshe is ch"v saying that he is Hashem. The gemara

Ch. 18, v. 5: "Asher yaa'seh osom ho'odom vochai bohem" - That a


Parshas Acharei Mos

These divrei Torah were adapted from the hashkafa portion of Rabbi Yissocher Frand's Commuter Chavrusah Tapes on the weekly portion: Tape # 854 - Tattoos: Totally Taboo? Good Shabbos!

The Message of the Lottery of the Two Goats

Sukos says that we say on Sukos "Ani Voho hoshio na." this is explained as two Holy Names of Hashem derived from the three verses that are in a continuum in parshas B'shalach that each has 72 letters, and through a system 72 groups of three letters each are derived. They are called the 72 letter Holy Name of Hashem. This is the intention here as well. Tell the bnei Yisroel that "Ani Hashem Elokeichem," three words that are all Hashem's Names has said …… (Haksav V'hakaboloh) Obviously this is quite a chiddush. I wonder if based on this insight a sofer should sanctify

A major component of the Yom Kippur Temple Service involved the ritual of the "Shnei Seirim" [two goats]. Two goats were taken and stood in front of the opening of the Tent of Meeting. Lots were drawn assigning one goat to Hashem and one goat to 'Azazel'. The former was slaughtered and offered on the Mizbayach in the Mishkan / Bais HaMikdash; the latter was pushed off a remote cliff in the dessert. This Yom Kippur requirement of choosing a Korbon by lot ('goral') is unique in the Temple ritual. The Akeidas Yitzchak offers a beautiful insight into this concept of 'goral':

this word with kedushas Hashem.

In the future, we will each be held accountable for what we do and what we do not do in this world. Different people have different spiritual traits,

the handle and does not need to worry about spiritual consequences. No,

person shall do and shall live in/from them - Don't do mitzvos by rote! Put life and spirit into your mitzvos. (Holy Admor of Kotzk) He will live INSIDE them. Even when a person just plans to execute a mitzvoh, a holy spirit from above descends and envelopes him. This sanctity intensifies when he actually does the mitzvoh. He literally exists

varying strengths and weaknesses in matters of the soul. There are students, for example, who can sit and learn for hours on end. They have the patience and the intellect and the spiritual desire to sit in a Beis Medrash [Study Hall] hour af ter hour after hour studying Torah. There may be other equally bright young men who just do not have the patience

inside the cocoon of the mitzvoh. (Nefesh Hachaim) One is to put his whole life into the fulfillment of mitzvos. The mitzvoh itself puts life back into the person. This is why Nodov and Avihu died. Although they put their whole being into bringing fire to Hashem, they nonetheless died because there was no command to do so. (Chdushei Hori"m)

to sit and study for hours on end. This tendency will impact a person's experience and level of success and accomplishment during the years he spends in Yeshiva. It will continue to impact his learning level and degree of knowledge and spirituality acquired throughout his life. We are all held accountable for our actions. The studious person – after 120 – will go to the World of Truth and get

One should draw his raison d'etres from mitzvos and from no other source. No "I really come to life when ……" (Chidushei Hori"m) One should draw his life sustenance from the Torah. This also refers to "olom ha'zeh." If you want to have a happy, meaningful "olom ha'zeh," work on preparing for your "olom habo." (Nisoyon hachaim) Live only through Torah and mitzvos. Without them life is devoid of any meaning. The Rambam writes that there are three sins for which a person should rather give up his life than transgress, and he is prohibited from offering his life rather than transgressing any other of the mitzvos. If he gives up his life for any other mitzvoh it is as if he has committed suicide. Rabbeinu Yeruchom says that one may be stringent and give up his life for

reward for all the hours and years he spent studying Torah, even though it may have come relatively easy to him. What about the person who did not have the patience to sit and learn? Will he be punished for not having accomplished something he was apparently not given the tools of patience and studiousness to accomplish? The same question can be raised regarding other human personality traits. Some people by nature are very calm and serene. It takes a lot to ge t them angry. Because of their natural temperament, they never lose their temper. There are other people who are not like that. They fly off the handle. They have no patience. They have a nervous makeup and they get angry very often. Is it truly 'just' that they should be held accountable after 120 years

another mitzvoh as well. The Ram"o and Sha"ch write that a holy upright Chosid may give up his life for a lesser mitzvoh if he is sure that it will bring a sanctification of Hashem. This opinion seems quite hard to comprehend, as the gemara clearly states only three cardinal sins. Based on our verse that a person draws his life's sustenance from mitzvos, we have a bit of a grasp of this opinion. (Yismach Moshe) Ch. 18, v. 5: "Vochai bohem ani Hashem" - And shall live in/from

for not being as calm and serene through all of life's stresses as their fellow man who was born with a calm personality and makeup? The answer is that the Master of the Universe takes all of this into account. "The Rock -- perfect is His work" [Devorim 32:4]. The Justice He metes out is perfect. Everyone is given appropriate reward and punishment that factors in their particular upbringing and nature. We do not need to worry that we will be held to the same standards as the next fellow. The

them I am Hashem - When a person does mitzvos with enthusiasm then "ani Hashem," Hashem is present. (Rabbi Aharon Hagodol of Karlin) Ch. 18, v. 6: "Ish ish" - A man a man - This is one of four places in our parsha that we find this expression. By the other three the verse goes on to say "mi'beis Yisroel," but not here. This is because in the other places the law under discussion only applies to the bnei Yisroel. Here, where the verse is discussing sins of improper unions, goyim are also included, and hence no "mibnei Yisroel." (Tosfos Brochoh) Ch. 18, v. 21: "Umizaracho lo si'tein l'haavir lamolech" - And from your children shall you not give to pass through molech - This prohibition is mentioned in the middle of the list of forbidden unions to teach us that even if a person ch"v begot a child from a union that carries the penalty of excision, and the child is a "mamzeir," nevertheless, the Torah prohibits offering the child to molech. (Taama Dikra) Ch. 18, v. 21: "Umizaracho lo si'tein l'haavir lamolech" - And from your children shall you not give to pass through molech - The greatest bond a person has is to his family. His children are his greatest love.

Almighty knows that people are different by nature and they react to things differently. The True Judge will judge with true fairness. This is the message of the two goats and the associated drawing of lots. The word 'goral' in Hebrew means two things. It means lots but it also means fate. Yom Kippur is about Repentance and Forgiveness. The Almighty is sending us a message by the ritual of drawing lots over the goats. We must ask ourselves: Why does this goat go to Hashem and the other one go to Azazel? It is not their fault! That is the way the lot came out and that is their destiny. Hashem will take it all into account. This does not necessarily mean that if a person has trouble learning, he is off the hook or if the person has a short temper, he has license to fly off

this is not so! But on the other hand, it is also not the case that a person is judged by a universal standard without factoring into account varying differences of personality and natural tendency. This is the message of the lottery determining that one Goat goes to G-d and the other Goat goes to A zazel.

Molech's service was to give up one's greatest love to this deity. Hashem

The Message of The Deaths Of Aharon's Two Sons


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The Daas Zekeinim m'Baalei haTosfos on our parsha quotes a Medrash that clearly speaks to our times. The Medrash, discussing the death of

This write-up is adapted from the hashkafa portion of Rabbi Yissocher Frand's Commuter Chavrusah Torah CDs on the weekly Torah Portion. CDs or

Though it applies in the Bais HaMikdash as well, what is unique about this command at that time is that in the desert the Jews were not permitted to


Aharon's two sons, who were consumed by fire for having offered a "foreign fire" on the Mizbayach, links this incident with a pasuk in Tehillim [78:63]: "Fire consumed His young men, and His maidens had no marriage celebration." The Medrash comments: Why were the two young sons of Aharon consumed by fire? It was because they allowed the young maidens to go unmarried. In other words, they were punished for not having gotten married themselves. Many young maidens remained single waiting for the prospect that one of these two very eligible bachelors would marry them. Nadav and Avihu said to themselves (according to the Medrash) "Our uncle (Moshe Rabbeinu) is King, our father (Aharon) is the Kohen Gadol, our other uncle is Prince, we are Vice-Priests (Seganei Kehunah) – which woman is good enough for us?" That is why they n ever got married. They thus died without children. The Daas Zekeinim m'Baalei haTosfos uses this Medrash to explain an apparent redundancy in the pasuk: "After the death of the two sons of Aharon when they approached before Hashem and they died." [Vayikra 16:1]. The first expression "After the death" refers to their own death; the second expression "and they died" refers to the fact that they died childless and had no one to carry on their lineage."

eat meat on their own. If they wanted to eat meat, it had to be part of a korban Shelamim, a peace-offering. This subjugation of the desires is key to the phrasing of our posuk, “this is the thing HaShem has commanded.” It conveys to us that the way to follow the Torah is as a soldier receiving orders from a commanding officer. We do it not because it makes sense to us, symbolized by the desire to eat meat, but because it is part of our service of G-d. While the Chacham, the wise son, asks for details of all the rituals HaShem commanded us, the Rasha, the wicked son, is looking for a reason before complying. “What is this ritual about? Why should I do it?” Such arrogance pushes away the Shechina, HaShem’s countenance. Yes, we should seek to understand the reasons behind the mitzvos, but at the end of the day, we do them because this is what HaShem commanded Moshe at Sinai. Being able to subdue our personal desire to understand and carry out the mitzvos simply because HaShem commanded us to do so shows that we have evolved beyond our human nature. “The Torah was only given to those who ate the mon,” say Chazal. Perhaps this is one explanation for that. Only those who ate the mon, but held back from eating meat unless it was a korban, were at the level of accepting the Torah as the will of G-d without their own biases.

We need to understand that we are speaking about Nadav and Avihu, who our Sages say were righteous individuals, pillars of the world. We cannot




The Haggadah tells us that the more one speaks of the events of the

speak of their faults in the same way that we speak of the faults of other people. We do not understand who they were and we certainly cannot ascribe pettiness to them. Moreover, I am acutely aware because of the

Exodus, the more praiseworthy it is. To highlight this, it tells the story of five great sages who spent the entire night discussing the story of Yetzias Mitzrayim until their students came to tell them it was time to recite the

position I occupy, how difficult it is sometimes for a young man to find a suitable marriage partner. There are certainly young men who try and try and try as they might, yet they cannot readily find their destined soul- mate. This is not always because of over pickiness or pettiness. Sometimes they get turned down; whatever it is, this is sometimes the reality. However, all that having been said, the lesson we need to learn from this Daas Zekeinim m'Baalei haTosfos is that Nadav and Avihu rejected too many girls because they thought that they were not good enough for them. Part of what is happening in our society today –- and this is a crises in our society –- is that there are so many single men and single women who are not getting married. Again, I am not making universally applicable accusations, but certainly PART of the problem is that people are looking for perfection. The girl needs to have everything. She needs to be beautiful and she needs to have money and she needs to have yichus and she must

Shema. What is the significance of the fact that it was their students who told it to them, and that it was time for Shema? Could they not have said it was time to pray, or that it was the morning? Perhaps the purpose of expounding on the story of the Redemption is to gain a better understanding of the mastery of the Al-mighty. By discussing each act, we discover more about how He controls everything. However, it’s possible for one to get carried away with his ideas. The students came to remind their teachers that when all is said and done, no matter how great you are in expounding on the Torah and delving into its depths, you still fulfill it as a student fulfills his teacher’s will, accepting the yoke of obedience even if you do not grasp why. The Shema represents that understanding that G-d is unique and we don’t have to understand it all.

have this and must have that, the list goes on. If they do not fit all the

It is said that when Henry Ford bought parts for his Model T, he insisted

categories on my list, she is not good enough for me (and vice versa). The problem is that we have become such a pampered society and we can achieve perfection in so many areas of life that we think we can achieve perfection in 'shidduchim' as well. We can order a car and the car can be exactly to our liking from the exterior color to the interior color to the sound system, to all the options and bells and whistles. Forget cars -- we can go into the coffee aisle of the supermarket. It used to be that there was Folgers and Maxwell House, and that was it. Today, there are so many options of how to order a cup of coffee -- to custom design it to one's ultimate taste of perfection – that we expect to be able to custom design our future spouses as well! The problem is that people are not cars and they are not coffee. People are NOT perfect. One should not expect to

that the parts be sent in crates made to his very specific instructions, down to where to put the screws. Not wanting to give up such a lucrative account, the parts suppliers gladly had the crates made the way Ford wanted. While they complied, the suppliers could not imagine what difference it made what kind of crate the parts came in as long as they got to their destination. When the parts arrived, however, Ford’s workers were instructed not to use crowbars to tear open the crates. The wooden crates were then disassembled and became the floorboards for the famed Model T, with holes for the screws already in the proper places! There was a plan behind his orders, and the seemingly random holes and cuts in the crates were all a part of it.

achieve perfection in this area of life.

Don’t Try This at Home

We need to stress and stress again to our single young men and women in

A fellow who was known as quite a joker had an interesting custom at the

the community that we cannot achieve perf ection in a shidduch. The 'list' has to be cut down to one or two major items and that is it! If there is any lesson we can take out from the tragic death of Nadav and Avihu, this is that lesson.

a complete catalogue can be ordered from the Yad Yechiel Institute, PO Box 511, Owings Mills MD 21117-0511. Call (410) 358-0416 or e-mail or visit for further information. To Support Project Genesis- Transcribed by David Twersky Seattle, WA; Technical Assistance by Dovid Hoffman, Baltimore, MD RavFrand, Copyright © 2007 by Rabbi Yissocher Frand and Join the Jewish Learning Revolution! The Judaism Site brings this and a host of other classes to you every week. Visit or email to get your own free copy of this mailing. Need to change or stop your subscription? Please visit our subscription center, -- see the links on that page. Permission is granted to redistribute, but please give proper attribution and copyright to the author and Both the author and reserve certain rights. Email for full information. The Judaism Site Project Genesis, Inc. 122 Slade Avenue, Suite 250 Baltimore, MD 21208 (410) 602-1350 FAX: (410) 510-1053

Seder. When he reached the part that read, “Maror zeh,” this bitter herb, he would point at his wife! All joking aside, there is actually a custom brought down in German Haggadas that upon saying those words, “one points to his wife.” Incredible? Here’s the story. R’ Moshe Meir Weiss Shlit”a offers two insights to why such a custom might be instituted. First of all, Chazal tell us that when the Egyptians enslaved the Jews, they resorted to psychological warfare as well. Part of that entailed giving men

Rabbi J. Gewirtz

work that was typically reserved for women, such as child-rearing, sewing,

Migdal Ohr

and other home-based work. At the same time, the women were forced to do back-breaking manual labor. This role reversal caused not only physical pain, but mental anguish.

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Therefore, when we say that the Egyptians embittered their lives with hard

Volume 16– Issue 29 P’ Achrei Mos – Shabbos HaGadol – Pesach 5774



work, we point to the women, who were subjected to the hardest labor. Also, the Midrash says that the slavery was intended to keep down the Jewish population, so only married people were enslaved, giving an incentive not to wed and have a family.

“Speak to Aharon, to his sons, and to all the Children of Israel and say to them, ‘This is the thing that HaShem has commanded,’ saying:” (Leviticus 17:2)

Moshe was commanded to convey this message to the Kohanim and all the Jews that when one brought a sacrifice, it had to be in the Mishkan, and

By pointing at the wife, we highlight that the man was willing to endure bitter labor because she was worth it. But still, don’t try this at home. Thought of the week:

No one will turn down a good meal just because he doesn’t understand the digestive mechanism.

not anywhere the wished. One who sacrificed outside of the permitted boundaries was liable for kareis, early death. The Kohanim had to be given the command because it was they who

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would perform the sacrificial rituals. The Jews likely needed to hear it so they did not attempt to bring a korban somewhere else.


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Rabbi Sender Haber

year later, Aharon and his descendants are commanded to recreate the

For a more in depth analysis see:

Out of the Loop

cloud, to enter the Holy of Holies in a cloud of incense. This cloud, on this day, will effectuate forgiveness. In the Yom Kippur ritual, God elegantly addressed both failings: By

Good Idea? (Acharei Mos)

commanding Aharon to bring incense, God instructed Aharon to do what

After the death of Aharon’s two sons Moshe came and told Aharon that he should not enter the Kodesh Hakodashim. Rav Yosi Haglili confirms that the sons of Aharon had been killed as a punishment for their entry. Something seems wrong here. If the sons were punished for bringing a strange fire or for being intoxicated, one could argue that they had been warned. But here there was no hint at all that the brothers were not allowed to enter the Holy of Holies. Why the punishment? One could argue that we are dealing with cause and effect but that does not seem to be the approach of Rav Yosi Haglili. I think the answer lies in a Medrash Rabba. The Medrash says that the sons committed four sins. They entered the Holy of Holies, they brought a strange fire, they brought the wrong sacrifice, and … they did not consult with one another. Some explain cleverly that there is a sin for more than one person to enter the Kodesh Hakodashim at a given time. Since Nadav and Avihu didn’t collaborate they ended up coming together and they died. I think the explanation may be much simpler:

his sons had done, with one crucial difference: They had now received a commandment. There would be no free-style, spontaneous worship; approaching the holiest place on earth would be permitted only through precise adherence to the Word of God. On the other hand, the cloud of incense would recreate the atmosphere at Mount Sinai on the day the Torah was first given. Yom Kippur captures both the exalted moment before the sin of the golden calf and the day the Torah was finally received - the day God forgave them for their terrible transgression and Moshe descended with the second Tablets of Testimony. This same day becomes, for all time, a day on which we can return to a more pure state, cleanse ourselves of our sins, and make a new commitment to accepting God's commandments - which is the very core of repentance, the very essence of the day. God even accepts our clumsy, misguided attempts to relate to Him by transforming those very same actions into commandments that lie at the heart of the Day of Atonement, creating the dynamic that recasts our sins as mitzvot. By commanding Aharon to do precisely what his sons had done - to recreate the cloud of Revelation and seek out intimacy with the Divine -

Whenever we embark upon something holy, exciting, and new, we need to humble ourselves and check with somebody else. There is certain arrogance to saying, “there is one spot on earth that is holier than any other and I am going to be the first one to enter it”. It may come from a good place and it may even be a good sentiment, but Nadav and Avihu should have at the very least conferred with one another before taking the step.

Aish.Com - Rabbi Ari Kahn

God allows each and every one of us to experience that intimacy every Yom Kippur. When we approach this intermingling of holiness and intimacy properly, even the most profound transgressions can be forgiven.

motkedoshim.html Torah for Pesach: pesach.html

The Torah is acquired B’chavrusa and B’eitzah – through companionship

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and advice. Perhaps the brothers were punished for entering because they should have

Rabbi Avraham Kahn

consulted with someone else first. Maybe they would have come up with a different idea. Maybe they would have realized that only Aharon should

Torah Attitude

go in, and only on Yom Kippur, and only for a minute.

Pesach: Wicked Son, Wicked Son, What Have You Done?

This was Moshe’s message to Aharon. “Your sons cannot be excused for

April 10, 2014

entering the Kodesh Hakodashim on their own. You didn’t enter. You


waited to discuss it with me. I am here as your brother to tell you that it is

There are different answers to the wicked son in the Haggadah and the Torah.

a good idea”.

A factor of ignorance is underlying the mockery of the wicked son. When the Jewish people roasted their pesach offerings they would see how useless the

The commandments educate us and affect our whole psyche. Even the wicked


M'oray Ha'Aish

Acharei Mot - Rectification

Egyptian idol was. The Patriarchs brought a pesach offering before the exodus from Egypt. The deeper levels of the commandments are known only to G-d.

son has a truly holy soul, only his ignorance has brought him to his negative

The parasha begins with an ominous frame of reference: "After the deaths of the two sons of Aharon." The deaths of Nadav and Avihu are recounted

attitude. Every child is different. There is a way to deal with each one.

earlier in the Book of Vayikra, although some five chapters, laden with commandments, separate the tragic events of day of the Tabernacle's consecration from the Torah's response to those events in our present

In the Haggadah, we read about the four sons: the wise one and the wicked one, the simple one and the one who does not know how to ask. The wicked son says, "What is this service to you?" On this the Haggadah reflects, "To you, but not to me! Since he excludes himself from the group, he denies

parasha. In fact, the content of the commandments that are transmitted in this parasha may be regarded as no less ominous than the events that frame

everything. You should give him a blunt answer and say, ‘Because of this, G-d did [miracles] for me, when I left Egypt.” With this answer the Hagaddah hints

them: In this chapter, God conveys the laws that constitute the Yom Kippur service. The Day of Atonement, first instituted here, will be a constant in Jewish life for all time, yet this first Yom Kippur must have raised mixed feelings for Aharon. On the one hand, Yom Kippur marks the day that Moshe obtain forgiveness from God for the sin of the golden calf;

that since he excludes himself he would not have been part of the redemption. “For me – but not for you! If you had been there, you would not have been saved!" (Me’am Lo’ez Haggadah, p.32). All the questions of the different sons are mentioned in the Torah. We find the question of the wicked son in Parashas Bo where it says (Shemos 12:26-27):

on the other hand, Aharon played no small part in that sin. We find ourselves at a strange intersection of the two great tragedies in Aharon's life: the deaths of his children and the sin of the golden calf. One wonders if the thought ever crossed his mind that these events might be

“And it shall be when your children say to you, ‘What is this service to you?’ You shall say, ‘It is a pesach offering to G-d, Who passed over the houses of the Children of Israel in Egypt when He smote the Egyptians but He saved our households’.” This seems strange. Why does the Haggadah not give the same answer to the wicked son as the Torah?


Wicked Son

From our perspective, the Yom Kippur ritual seems to contain echoes of both of these tragedies. The sin committed by Nadav and Avihu that led to their deaths was bringing incense that they were not commanded to bring.

The question is even bigger. For the Haggadah’s answer to the wicked son actually appears in the Torah a little later (Shemos 13:7-8): "And you shall tell your son on that day saying, ‘It is because of this that G-d did [miracles] for

Conversely, the climactic moment of the Yom Kippur service is the entry of the High Priest into the Holy of Holies and ignites the incense to create

me, when I left Egypt". To add to the confusion, this is also what we tell the son who does not know how to ask in the Haggadah.

a cloud, as per the precise instructions recorded in this parashah. On Yom

Simple Son

Kippur, this cloud and the scent it carries somehow facilitate forgiveness,

Further on in the parasha it says (Shemos 13:14): "And it shall be when your

whereas in the case of Aharon's sons, the result was the polar opposite. A cloud of a different kind was a central aspect of the Revelation at Sinai. The cloud was a visual representation of God Himself descending, as it were, to the physical plane in order to rendezvous with His people and

son will ask you in the future, ‘What is this? You shall say to him, ‘With a strong hand G-d took us out of Egypt from the house of bondage". This question is asked by the simple son in the Haggadah, and in this case the Haggadah gives the same answer as the Torah.

give them the Torah. Later, Moshe ascended into the cloud to bring down

Mocking Undertone

the Tablets of Stone, the physical testament to the Revelation. While Moshe was at the summit of Mount Sinai, the sin of the golden calf unfolded; as a result, the Tablets were shattered. Thus, in a very real sense, the giving of the Torah, the completion of the process that began as the cloud descended on the mountain, was "ruined" by the golden calf. The cloud dissipated, as did the protective clouds that had accompanied the Israelites as they left Egypt. Only on the tenth day of Tishrei, precisely one year before the events recorded in Parashat Aharei Mot, on the day that would become known as Yom Kippur, the people were forgiven and Moshe was given a new set of Tablets…and as a result, the clouds which protected the Jewish people soon returned. Now, on that same date one

The Beis Halevi (one of the great Rabbis of Brisk) points out the difference between the way the Torah instructs us how to deal with the wicked son and the simple son. The simple son asks a straight question and we give him a clear answer. The wicked son has a mocking undertone in his question. The Torah instructs us to say a straight answer. But if we analyze the exact wording, we see that the Torah just instructs us what to say, not to address it to him. Whereas, in the answer to the question of the simple son, the Torah says explicitly “you shall say to him”. The reason is, says the Beis Halevi, that the Torah’s answer is not necessarily addressed to the wicked son himself. Rather, this answer is intended for those that are genuinely interested to understand and want to get closer to G-d. On the other hand, the Haggadah responds to this son directly and gives him a message with a hint, in response to his mocking. “G-d


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performed miracles for me, to enable me to live a life of Torah and mitzvot. If you, wicked son had been there, with your attitude, you would not have been redeemed." The Haggadah teaches us not to feel intimidated by those who try to mock us, and to stand up for the truth we believe in.

Hashem).” However, the issue of not providing for the needy, as Rambam states, is not limited to the Passover Holiday, it also applies to the other Festivals. However, there is something specific about providing the means to celebrate the Passover Seder properly with matzah and whatever the Seder requires. Why is there a special



obligation to provide for these specific mitzvos?

We still need to clarify why we answer the wicked son with the same words that we address the son who does not know how to ask. Maybe the answer is that they are not all that different? After all, there is a factor of ignorance underlying the mockery of the so-called “wicked son”. He does not appreciate the deeper significance of the pesach offering. If he only realized that there is a

Shalah HaKadosh explains that the Jewish people were not sufficiently worthy to merit redemption from Egypt. Despite that fact, G’d did redeemed them. The Midrash tells us that as the Jewish people passed through the Sea, enclosed on each side by walls of water, the angels began prosecuting them before G’d. They had

lot more to the mitzvot than meets the eye, he would not be so quick to mock his heritage. So in fact the way we deal with the son who does not know how to ask and the wicked son addresses the ignorance of both.

said, “Why are you sparing the Jewish people and destroying the Egyptians? These are idolaters and these are idolaters.” Since the Jewish people were classified as idolaters to no less a degree than their Egyptian masters, why were they being

Breaking Ties With Idols

redeemed and the Egyptians destroyed? Although Chazal tell us that the Jewish

Before the exodus from Egypt, the Jewish people were surrounded by idol worship. Many were influenced by the ways of their Egyptian neighbours and

people had some degree of worthiness to be redeemed because they did not shed their identity as Jews, although they had been the chattels of the Egyptians for many

began to worship idols themselves. The lamb was one of the idols of Egypt. The Rambam explains that one of the reasons for bringing the pesach offering was to help the Jewish people to break their ties with idol worship. For when they roasted the Pesach lamb, they clearly saw that the idol was totally useless.

years (they did not change their names, dress, or language). Nevertheless, the Jewish people were redeemed from Egypt was because of G’d’s unlimited Kindness. It was purely an act of benevolence that He had taken then out of Egypt. Each of the Patriarchs chose to emulate a specific Attribute of G’d. Avraham our

Modern Life

With his question, the modern-day “wicked son” indicates that we no longer worship lambs as idols. Therefore, the ancient rituals do not apply to our modern lifestyle. But he is ignorant of the fact that our Patriarchs and Matriarchs already brought pesach offerings hundreds of years before the Jewish people even entered into the land of Egypt. The Torah (Bereishis 27:9) tells us that Rebecca told Jacob to bring two goats for her to make a savory meal for Isaac. Why two goats? Surely, Isaac was not so hungry that he would eat even one goat? So what was the second goat for? Our sages teach that the second goat was to be brought as a pesach offering, (for both the kid of a goat

Patriarch chose to emulate G’d’s Attribute of Kindness (Chesed). Yitzchak chose to emulate G’d’s Attribute of Justice (Din) and Yaakov chose to emulate His Attribute of Mercy/Truth (Rachamim/Emmes). Why did Avraham choose the Attribute of Kindness and not any of the other Attributes? King David writes in Psalms, “Olam chesed yibaneh – the world was created out of (His) Kindness.” G’d is the perfect and complete Being who is in need of nothing. He created existence only out of His Kindness to give man the opportunity to develop in a setting that will qualify him as one who is deserving of reward. This opportunity for spiritual advancement is only due to the Kindness of G’d.

or a lamb can be used as a pesach offering) even though there was no reason to celebrate the exodus from Egypt yet. This clearly teaches that there is more to the pesach offering than commemorating our exodus from Egypt and its idols.

Avraham chose to emulate G’d’s characteristic of Kindness because just as G’d brought about existence through His Attribute of Kindness, so too would Avraham bring about a new existence with kindness. Avraham was the equivalent of entering


Deeper Levels

into a new creation because he was the only individual in a world of paganism to

Every time we try to second guess G-d and His Ways, inevitably our guess will

recognize G’d and espouse His existence. Avraham himself was the equivalent of a

be wrong. King Solomon, the wisest man of all times, thought he knew the reason for every commandment. But when he was unable to understand the workings of the Red Heifer (Bamidbar 19:1), he realized that there are levels upon levels to every commandment that are beyond human comprehension (see Proverbs 7:23).

new existence and thus established himself as the progenitor of the Jewish people, who were destined to be G’d’s people. The Jewish people were taken out of Egypt only for the specific objective to receive the Torah at Sinai. As a result of accepting G’d’s Torah they became His holy


Breaking Bones

People, which was the equivalent of a new creation that did not exist before that

The Sefer HaChinuch (Mitzvah 16) teaches us that the commandments develop and educate us and affect our whole psyche. Each of the detailed laws of the

moment. This process of creation began with the Ten Plagues of Egypt and culminated at Sinai, with the receiving of the Torah. Since the process of redemption

Pesach offering has its own reason and message. For example, the prohibition not to break the bones of the Pesach offering educates us to eat with good manners like an aristocrat, rather than to devour our food like a hungry wolf.

was the equivalent of a new creation, G’d utilized His Attribute of Kindness to bring it about. Thus, the month of Nissan is the month that G’d demonstrated His Attribute of kindness.

Answer For The Wicked Son

The “wicked son” mocks his heritage, because he fails to see that there are deeper meanings to G-d’s commandments than appears at first. In the Torah’s response to the “wicked son”, the Torah addresses the one who seriously tries

to understand what the service is all about. The Torah does not answer the “wicked son”. But as we see in the Haggadah, there is an answer for this son as well. The Torah combines it with the lesson to the one who does not know how to ask. For deep down, even the “wicked son” has a truly holy soul. It is only

Sample Lesson

Zohar writes that when one takes a proper initiative on the terrestrial level, it activates infinite forces within a similar context in the spiritual realm. In order for

the Jewish people to be beneficiaries of the ultimate redemption they must be worthy of G’d’s Kindness. Since the month of Nissan, in its essence is a month that G’d had demonstrated His infinite Kindness, when the Jew provides for his fellow what is needed for the Seder to appreciate G’d’s Kindness (regarding the redemption from Egypt), it will activate redemption, which is the ultimate kindness.

2. What is the Meaning of Freedom for a Jew?

just his ignorance that has brought him to his negative attitude.

The Men of the High Assembly, who composed the text of all the prayer services,

The Seder night is a sample lesson for parents and educators how to deal with our children and students. Every child is different and needs to be dealt with accordingly. There is no one answer that fits everyone. Parents and educators may come across any of the four sons in real life situations, and it can be a

chose to refer to the Festival of Passover as “the time of our freedom (zman chairuseinu).” It is true that we recount in the Seder service that it was during this time that G’d redeemed the Jewish people from Egypt. They were enslaved for hundreds of years and had suffered during their bondage under their Egyptian

major challenge how to deal with some of them. The Haggadah teaches us that there is a way to deal with each one. It is important to look beyond the negative façade of mockery and find the way into the holy soul even of the “wicked son”. Only then we can hope to educate every child to be a proud Jew committed to a life of Torah and mitzvot.

taskmasters. The Jewish people were the equivalent of the chattel of the Egyptians. However, had G’d freed them from their bondage through His infinite Kindness. The objective of taking the Jewish people out of Egypt was not only to free them from their physical oppressors, but rather it was so that they should stand at Sinai and receive the Torah. Every aspect of the process of their redemption and

These words were based on notes of Rabbi Avraham Kahn, the Rosh Yeshiva and Founder of Yeshivas Keser Torah in Toronto. Shalom. Michael Deverett P.S. If you have any questions or enjoyed reading this e-mail, we would appreciate hearing from you. If you know of others who may be interested in receiving e-mails similar to this please let us know at For previous issues please see

progressing towards Sinai was essential to qualify them to receive the Torah and become G’d’s Holy people. The Ten plagues and all the revealed miracles that had

Rabbi Yosef Kalatzky

transpired relating to their redemption caused the Jewish people to be weaned from

Beyond Pshat

their pagan beliefs and become spiritualized. During their enslavement in Egypt they had become pagans to no less a degree than their Egyptian masters. However, at Sinai the Jewish people chose to accept the Torah with the unequivocal declaration

L’Zeicher nishmas avi mori Reb Moshe Ben Yosef Kalatsky z’l u l’zeicher nishmas emee morasi Shaindel Bas Reb Chaim Tzvi z’l L’Zeicher nishmas ishtee Yehudis Chanah Kalatsky Bas Reb Kehas Z’l

of “Naaseh V’nishma (We will do and we will listen).” Thus, the objective of redemption from Egypt was achieved. What is the meaning of freedom as it pertains

1. Activating G’d’s Kindness in the Month of Nissan

to the Jew?

The Gemara in Tractate Rosh Hashanah states, “In the Month of Nissan our

The Jewish people could have chosen not to accept the Torah. If they had done so,

forefathers were redeemed, in Nissan (in the future) they are destined to be redeemed.” Why is the month of Nissan considered to be especially relevant to the redemption of the Jewish people? Ramah in the Code of Jewish Law (Shulchan Aruch) states that there is a custom among the Jewish people to provide the means for the needy before Passover in order to purchase flour for matzos (kimcha d’pischa), as well as other Holiday

they would have perished under the mountain and all existence would have come to an end. The creation of the world and its ongoing existence was contingent upon the Jewish people accepting the Torah at Sinai. However, they agreed to be committed to the dictate of G’d without knowing its extent and ramifications. Regarding the Ten Commandments that Moshe had received at Sinai, the Torah uses the term “charusengraved.” The words of the Ten Commandments were etched

.. ancient among the Jewish people. For ages, the Jewish people have been providing for the needy so that they should be able to celebrate the Holiday with dignity and without lacking the basic necessities. Rambam writes that if one celebrates the Holiday without concern for his fellow who may not have the adequate financial means to provide for himself, it is considered that he is celebrating the holiday to “sate his own belly.” His celebration does not qualify as a “Holiday for G’d (Moadei


Mishna Brurah cites the Jerusalem Talmud which states that this custom is

through the stone Tablets. The Mishna in Pirkei Avos (Ethics of our Fathers) states that the word “charus” should not be read with its vowels but rather it should be read as “cheirus – freedom.” (Both words are spelled with the same letters; however, they are punctuated with different vowels which determine their reading). As it states, “There is no free man other than the one who engages in Torah study. Why is this so? If one is without a master dictating his existence, he should be considered free to do as he chooses. However, the Torah, through the world “cheirus” alludes to the


eaaBtu!zsIb!trcdk trcd ihc!

fact that this is not so. The Torah which is replete with dictates and commandments,


which guide every aspect of one’s life, seemingly woulkd deny one’s freedom rather than making him a free man. One who is truly free is able to make decisions based on choices that are in his best interest. One must establish an objectivity to be able to make that evaluation. In order for one to make these choices he must have a sense of clarity in order to discern between what is good and what is the antithesis of goodness. If one attempts to choose what is truly good based on his own sense, intellectualism, and experience he will be subject to his own human inclinations and desires. These human needs create a conflict of interest that do not allow the individual to appreciate all the full ramifications the issues in order to make the proper choice. Thus, one is enslaved by his own impulses and material needs. He is blinded from what he truly needs to advance his spirituality. In contrast, one who engages in Torah study is able to extricate himself from the animalistic and material drives to utilize the material in order to facilitate spiritual growth. One will have an understanding that the material itself has no intrinsic value unto itself. Therefore, the one who engages in Torah study is truly free, whereas the one who is not involved in that process is being driven by the animal that exists within every person. We say in the Haggadah that it was G’d Himself who took the Jewish people out of Egypt. It was not through an angel or any other spiritual entity. Arizal explains that the spiritual impurity of Egypt was so intense that not even an angel, who is a spiritual being, would have been tainted by the environment. Therefore, only G’d Himself could have extricated the Jewish people from that location of impurity. At the time of their redemption they were permeated and infected with impurity to the point that their spiritual system was completely shut down. They did not have the capacity to process and relate anything within the spiritual realm. G’d not only freed the Jewish people from their physical bondage, He had extricated and purged them from the spiritual impurity that they had absorbed during the Egyptian bondage. The Torah states, “Yisro, the Minister of Midian, the father-in-law of Moshe, heard all that G’d had done for Moshe and Israel, His People – that Hashem took Israel out of Egypt.” After Yisro heard all that G’d had done for the Jewish people, he abandoned his position as Minister of Midian and his community to join the Jewish people in the desert. Why was Yisro so impressed with all that he had heard? Yisro was world renowned as a pagan priest of idolatry. He was the most proficient person in all forms of idol worship. In the past, he had been one of Pharaoh’s personal advisors. He thus understood and appreciated the intense impurity that

.. Egypt and that they were able to express themselves at the Splitting of the Sea, as they had done as a result of processing the miracles that they had witnessed, he was amazed and taken aback. He realized that G’d had cleansed and purged them from the impurity that they had attained in Egypt. It was not humanly possible for one to be freed from the influences of Egypt unless G’d Himself intervened. After Yisro had heard what had transpired, he abandoned his position of honor in order to join the Jewish people in the desert. The spiritual freedom that the Jewish people had attained was unequaled in existence. G’d gave them an objectivity, which gave them the ability to make the proper choice. The process of full spiritual emancipation culminated in the receiving of the Torah at Sinai. When we mention in our prayers that Passover is the “time of our freedom (zman chairuseinu).” we must understand that we are not only referring to our physical freedom, but also the spiritual freedom to have the clarity to make the proper choices. We are only able to function as G’d’s people because of that special level of

existed in Egypt

When he had heard that G’d had taken the Jewish people out of

3. Redemption from Egypt, the True Kindness of G’d

the offering that Adam had brought had greater value. It was truly pleasing to G’d. Therefore, we supplicate G’d that at the end of time our offerings should be as

pleasant to Him as in the time of Adam, when there was no impurity of idolatry in the world. The Jewish people, by slaughtering the Pascal lamb, which was the deity of their Egyptian masters, were in effect purging their midst from idolatry/paganism. Rejecting idolatry in such a vehement manner was a reinstatement of creation at the time of Adam. Ohr HaChaim HaKadosh explains, based on a Zohar, that Adam was created without a foreskin. It was only as a result of his sin, that the foreskin developed as an outgrowth of the impurity that Adam had brought upon himself. If the Jewish people were to be redeemed from Egypt, they needed to replicate the setting of existence that was at the beginning of Creation. They were therefore given the mitzvah of circumcision so that they would be in the state of Adam, before he had sinned. When the Jewish people accepted the Torah at Sinai, they had fully ascended to the level of Adam, before the sin. They became eternal spiritual beings. G’d had initially created the world to be a setting in which His Presence could dwell. However, because Adam had putrefied existence, the Divine Presence could not dwell on the terrestrial level. At Sinai, the world was restored to its initial setting, in which the Divine Presence could again dwell amongst the Jewish people. However, because they had sinned with the Golden Calf they once again caused existence to revert back to its impure state, as Adam had done through the eating of the fruit. Both Adam and the Jewish people had putrefied existence with idolatry. The Gemara in Tractate Sanhedrin tells us that after Adam had sinned, he was classified as a “heretic.” Despite the fact that Adam was in the presence of G’d, he ate of the Tree of Knowledge, defying His Will. This was a denial of G’d’s existence similar to that of idolatry. Ramchal explains that G’d had initially created man in a way that the soul (neshama) was contained within the body. Adam’s physicality was spiritualized to the degree that his soul could be infused within his body. However, after the sin of Adam, the body of man became physicalized and thus the soul needed to hover above the body. The body was no longer qualified to contain the soul. There was only one person, other than Adam, whose body was sufficiently spiritualized to be the vessel for the soul; it was Moshe. Thus, there is a commonality between Adam and Moshe. However, just as Adam had failed with idolatry, so too did Moshe’s decision precipitate idolatry among the Jewish people. Moshe had allowed the rabble (eirev rav) to leave Egypt along with the Jewish people, without consulting with G’d. It was the rabble that had instigated the sin of the Golden Calf. Once again there is a parallel between the time of creation and the exodus from Egypt. Maharal of Prague and Ramchal explain that the Jewish holidays that are mentioned in the Torah are not merely commemorative (to commemorate events of the past). But rather, the Jew is meant to re-experience what had transpired on those particular moments in history. Whatever energies/influences that G’d had released to bring about those events in the past, are once again released every year at those particular times. The Jew who observes the festival as prescribed creates an infrastructure to capture that energy- thus causing him to be the beneficiary of those influences. Therefore in order for one to be the greatest beneficiary of the Divine Kindness that is made available on Pesach, which is what had brought the world into existence, one must create a proper setting by observing and internalizing the laws of the festival.

4. The Plague, A Reaction to the Defiance of Pharaoh

freedom that we had attained at the time of the exodus from Egypt.

The Midrash cites a verse from Psalms regarding the plague of darkness, “ ‘He (G’d) sent darkness and it became darker because they did not accept His dominance.’ The

We recite in the Passover Haggadah and at every bris (circumcision) a verse from the Prophet Yechezkel which states, “In Egypt you were naked and devoid…” Chazal explain that the verse is referring to the spiritual state of the Jewish people when they were in Egypt. Since they had become pagans, they were devoid of mitzvos. The Prophet concludes, “I saw you wallowing in your bloods. Through your blood, you shall live. Through your blood you shall live.” In order for the Jewish people to be worthy of redemption from Egypt they needed to have sufficient spiritual merit. Therefore, G’d gave them the opportunity to perform the mitzvah of circumcision and the mitzvah of sacrificing the Pascal lamb. It is through the “bloods” of circumcision and the Pascal sacrifice that the Jewish people were made sufficiently worthy for redemption. Why did G’d specifically choose these two mitzvos in order to give the Jewish people sufficient merit? Shalo HaKadosh writes that the redemption from Egypt was a replication of the creation of the world. King David writes in Psalms, “Olam chesed yibaneh – the world was created with Chesed (Kindness).” Nothing existed before Creation. Therefore, there was no one who was deserving of Creation. G’d created existence out of His Kindness in order to give man the ultimate opportunity to spiritually perfect himself. Just as creation initially came about in a context in which there was no one who was worthy of it, so too were the Jewish people redeemed from Egypt, despite their lack of worthiness. The only reason G’d had given them the opportunity to be redeemed was purely out of His Kindness. The redemption from Egypt, emanating from G’d’s Kindness, was a replication of the creation of the world. Every day we conclude the Amidah (silent prayer) with a request that G’d should rebuild the Temple where we shall worship Him and “the offering of Yehudah and Jerusalem will be pleasing to G’d, as in the days of old and in former years.” One would think that “…the days of old and in former years” is referring to the time of the First Temple, or the Mishkan when the Divine Presence dwelt in the midst of the Jewish people. However, the Midrash explains that “days of old and in former years” is referring to the days of Adam when he had brought his offering. At the time of Adam, because the world was pristine and spiritually untainted by idolatry,

darkness that G’d had brought upon the Egyptians was severe. Why was this so? Because the Egyptians were unwilling to become subservient to G’d (despite all of the plagues that had preceded the plague of darkness). G’d had said to the angels, ‘The Egyptians deserve to be smitten with darkness.’ All of the angels agreed in unison and they accepted G’d’s Word. G’d sent the darkness and it to become more intense. The darkness was more than a mere absence of light it was tangible. This is analogous to a king who gives an order to one of his loyal servants to punish a defiant subject with fifty lashes. Rather than administering fifty lashes, the devoted servant of the king gave one hundred lashes. Similarly, G’d had commanded that darkness should come upon the Egyptians and the darkness intensified itself.” Meaning, the angels that were commanded to bring darkness upon the Egyptians, intensified the plague on their own accord. An angel is a spiritual being that carries out the Will of its Maker with total devotion as instructed. If this is so, how could have the angels intensified the darkness that came upon the Egyptians, which was not in conformance with the Dictate of G’d? The Torah tells us regarding the plague of hail that it was a phenomenon of fire and ice coexisting simultaneously. Rashi cites Chazal who explain, “Although fire and water are opposing forces, they made peace with one another in order to carry out the Will of their Maker.” Because G’d Wills that fire should burn and water be the agent that extinguishes fire, that is why nature functions in this manner. However if G’d should Will that water should not extinguish fire, then water and fire will coexist with one another. If this is so, then what is the meaning of the words of Chazal “fire and water made peace among themselves…?” This indicates that these forces, on their own, chose to coexist without G’d Willing this new phenomenon. Rambam writes in The Fundamentals of Torah that an angel is an intellectual spiritual being. It is a being that has a unique level clarity to understand G’d and His Will. Thus, it carries out the Will of G’d as instructed. An angel is not a spiritual automaton. It is because of its exceptional understanding of G’d that the angel is compelled to carry out His Will. This is similar to the Sinai experience at the time of the giving of the Torah.


!eaaBtu!zsIb!trcdk trcd ihc



The Gemara explains that the Jewish people were compelled to accept the Torah at

was the Will of G’d. There was no aspect of the redemption that was not enmeshed

imprisoned, had it not been for G’d to allow him gain special favor in their eyes.


Sinai. As it states, “G’d held the mountain over them, as if it were a barrel, and had said ‘If you accept the Torah it will be good. If not, there you will be buried.’” According to the literal understanding of the words of the Gemara, the Jewish people were physically coerced to accept the Torah at the threat of losing their lives. Reb Meir Simcha of Dvinsk explains that this passage within a metaphorical context. The Jewish people had ascended, at Sinai, to an unusual level of clarity that was compared to the angels. Choice only exists when one believes that there is an alternative. However, if one’s understanding of value is unencumbered then one no

5. Taking Nothing for Granted

with miracle. We find that although Yosef was exceptionally gifted and accomplished, he would not have been appreciated by his master Potiphar or the warden when he was

We beseech G’d continuously throughout our prayers that we should find special favor in His Eyes and in the eyes others. Although one may possess unique qualities and abilities, one must understand that one’s value is only appreciated if G’d allows it to be so.

longer has choice. Thus, they were compelled to accept the Torah. It was the

  • 6. The Culpability of the One Who Has Clarity

equivalent of holding the mountain over them. When G’d brought the plague of hail upon the Egyptians, the angel responsible for the function of water and the angel responsible for the function of fire chose to coexist because they understood with absolute clarity the desecration of G’d’s Name that was being perpetrated through the defiance of the Egyptians. The Egyptian belief was that all existence was limited and bound by the laws of nature. Thus, fire and water, which are opposing forces could not coexist. After Pharaoh had witnessed the plague of hail he exclaimed, “This time I have sinned; Hashem is the Righteous One, and I and my people are the evil ones.” Seeing this new phenomenon which was contradictory to the laws of nature was a sanctification of G’d’s Name. Pharaoh understood at that moment that there was a power outside of nature that dictates existence. Similarly, the angel that was responsible to bring about darkness appreciated the desecration of G’d’s Name that was being perpetrated through the defiance of Pharaoh and the Egyptians. Therefore, when G’d ordered the plague of darkness to come upon Egyptians, the angels responsible for executing the Will of G’d, intensified the plague in order to punish the one who desecrated G’d’s Name by bringing greater devastation upon the Egyptiansjust as the loyal servant added fifty lashes to the punishment of the defiant subject.

The Torah states after the seventh plague, “G’d said to Moshe, ‘Come to Pharaoh…Until when will you refuse to be humbled before Me…” After experiencing all of the devastating plagues which befell Egypt, why was Pharaoh not asked to humble himself before G’d earlier? Why did G’d wait until after the seventh plague to reproach him in this manner? After the plague of hail, the Torah states, “Pharaoh saw that the rain, the hail, and the thunder ceased, and he continued to sin; and he made his heart stubborn…” Prior to this moment, when the Torah mentioned the hardening of Pharaoh’s heart it did not state that “he continued to sin.” Why, only after the plague of hail, does the Torah state “he continued to sin?” Regarding the third plague (lice), although the sorcerers of Egypt had said to Pharaoh, “It is the finger of G’d”, meaning it could not be attributed to sorcery, he was not considered a “sinner” for remaining unaffected by the plague. Until the plague of hail, Pharaoh had attributed the previous plagues to a deity. Although the Egyptian sorcerers had recognized that the plague of lice was the “finger of G’d,” Pharaoh himself interpreted that to mean that it was the hand of the deity of the Jewish people. The deity of the Jews, although it had demonstrated superior powers, was only one among many other deities. This is in fact the basis for pagan belief. Pagans worship powers that exist within nature, believing that they are independent of G’d. These deities, regardless of their enormous power, are limited to

Hashem (YKVK) is the Righteous One, and I and my people are the wicked ones…”

The Torah states, “G’d said to Moshe, ‘…Please speak in the ears of the people: Let each man request of his fellow and each woman from her fellow silver vessels and gold vessels.’ Hashem granted the people favor in the eyes of Egypt; moreover, the man Moshe was very great in Egypt,… in the eyes of the people.” G’d had promised Avraham that after the Jewish people completed their years of bondage in Egypt, they would leave with great wealth. In order to bring this promise to fruition, G’d had told the Jewish people to request of their masters silver and gold vessels. One would think that after experiencing nine devastating plagues that had reduced Egypt to rubble, the Egyptian people would have even been willing to relinquish their valuables to them as a result of intimidation. Why was it necessary for G’d to grant the Jewish people special favor in the eyes of the Egyptians in order to borrow their wealth? Seemingly, all that had previously transpired was not sufficient to force the Egyptians to lend their personal effects to the Jewish people. The Torah states at the beginning of the Portion of Shemos, “A new king (melech chadash) arose over Egypt, who did not know Yosef.” After Yosef had passed away, Pharaoh decreed new mandates against the Jewish people as if he did not know Yosef. Yosef had been the Viceroy of Egypt who was responsible for Egypt’s survival during the years of famine. The Jewish people were initially revered by the Egyptians during Yosef’s lifetime because they were seen as royalty. However, now

the natural order. Pharaoh was not willing to accept the concept of spirituality, an Omnipotent and Infinite Being, Who transcends and dictates nature. As the Torah states, “Pharaoh replied, “Who is Hashem (YKVK) that I should heed His voice to send out Israel? I do not know Hashem, nor will I send out Israel!” All of the plagues that had transpired prior to the plague of hail were plausible within a natural context. Once the plague was unleashed, its reality was something that existed within the natural order. It was only the enormity of the plague that overwhelmed Egypt. Contrastingly, the plague of hail was the coexistence of fire and water, which are contradictory forces that cannot coexist within nature. As Rashi cites the Midrash, “Fire and water made peace between them in order to do the Will of their Maker.” Thus, Pharaoh could not attribute the plague of hail to a deity. He had understood that the plague of hail was something that transcended nature and therefore was Willed by an All-Encompassing Being. The Torah states, “Pharaoh sent and summoned Moshe and Aaron and said to them, ‘This time I have sinned;

This was the first time Pharaoh had reached a level of clarity to recognize G’d as the Omnipotent Being and not another deity. However, after Moshe had prayed and caused the plague of hail to cease, Pharaoh again hardened his heart and reverted back to his previous stance and did not allow the Jews to leave. This is the reason

they were reduced to slaves.

the Torah at this moment states, “He continued to sin

It was only because

The Midrash states, “The Prophet says, ‘They (the Jewish People) betrayed G’d and they fathered strange children. Because of this, they will be eaten by ‘chodesh.’ They bore children and did not circumcise them. The moment Yosef had passed away, the Jewish people nullified the mitzvah of circumcision. They had said, ‘We shall be like the Egyptians.’ When G’d had seen that the they no longer wanted to identify themselves with Him, by nullifying the sign of the covenant/circumcision, He nullified the love of the Egyptians for the Jewish people. As it states, ‘He changed their heart to despise His people…’ Now they will be consumed by ‘chodesh.’ As it states, ‘A new king (melech chadash) arose over Egypt.’ (Without vowels the word chodesh is read chadash) This king enacted new decrees to embitter their lives.” The Jewish people were no longer were esteemed or revered by the Egyptians because they had ceased to circumcised themselves. Since they nullified their covenant with G’d, He nullified the love that the Egyptians had for them. The only reason one finds special favor in the eyes of another is because G’d grants that special favor. When the Jewish people were still despised by the Egyptians they were their slaves. Naturally a master does not esteem his slave/chattel. When G’d caused the Jew to be seen by his master as special and worthy of respect, it was obvious that it was a miracle being performed by G’d. It is true that even if the Jewish people would not have found special favor in the eyes of their masters they would have released their valuables on loan out of fear; nevertheless, G’d wanted the Egyptians to give up their wealth because they perceived the Jewish people as special. G’d wanted to convey this understanding to the Jewish people – that one’s status and acceptability is determined by G’d. Initially the Jewish people chose to stop circumcising themselves because they believed that by being uncircumcised they would be embraced by Egyptian society. However, G’d caused them to be rejected and despised by their Egyptian masters. This confirmed that finding favor in another’s eyes is not determined by the way one behaves but rather by how G’d wants him to be perceived. Immediately before redemption, G’d wanted to reiterate this understanding and belief- thus causing the Jewish people to find special favor in the eyes of their masters. The Jew needed to understand before redemption that every

The Gemara in Tractate Pesachim tells us that the Jew who truly despises Judaism/practicing Jews is the one who had studied Torah but chose to leave its path. Rashi explains that this Jew detests the others because since he had studied, he knows how he is regarded and seen by other Jews. He knows that others regard him as a lesser person for living the life that he has chosen. However, one can explain this passage in the Gemara in another manner. The person, who at one time came upon truth and then chose to reject it, must live in a state of denial in which he must suppress the truth in order to accommodate his conflicts of interest. When one lives a life of falsehood (denial), knowing the truth yet choosing to ignore it, he continuously experiences a degree of guilt that causes an irrational hatred for Judaism. The Gemara in Tractate Kiddushin states that if one sins and then chooses to repeat it, it assumes a permitted status to that person. When one transgresses in a particular area (intentional or inadvertent), he has a choice to either correct the wrong by doing teshuvah (repenting, or if he chooses to continue along the path of sin he must recognize that behavior as permissible. This is because if he does not, he must continuously live with guilt which is something that a human being cannot tolerate. He must retreat into a state of denial by suppressing the truth and allowing his conflicts of interest to dominate him. This is similar to the one who had studied Torah and chose to leave the path. Pharaoh, who had clearly seen the Hand of G’d in the plague of hail, could not deny G’d’s Omnipotence. It was only his arrogance and conflicts of interest that caused him to reject and suppress the truth – which is the meaning of “Pharaoh hardened his heart.” This is why the Torah refers to his behavior after the plague of hail as “he continued to sin.” This is the reason Moshe reproached him only after the seventh plague and not before.

aspect of his life is determined by G’d Himself.

  • 7. The Perspective that is Needed for Survival

The Jewish people needed to understand that the great wealth that they were taking

The Torah tells us that after the Jewish people had seen the remains of the Egyptians

was not because they had intimidated the Egyptians, but rather it was only because it

on the seashore, “They believed in Hashem and Moshe His servant.” After the Sea



eaaBtu!zsIb!trcdk trcd ihc!

had closed upon the Egyptian army, the Jewish people were not convinced that their enemies had perished in the Sea. They were concerned that they would circumvent the Sea in order to continue pursuing them. When their remains were cast on the seashore, they had seen Divine retribution and they believed in G’d and Moshe His servant. They were inspired to sing G’d’s praises along with Moshe, articulating every aspect of the destruction of their enemies. The Midrash states, “It was because ‘they believed in Hashem…’ that the Jewish people merited to inherit the Land. In the merit that Avraham believed in G’d, he inherited this world and the world to come. As it states, ‘He believed in Hashem, and it was considered a righteousness.’ Similarly, when Moshe presented himself to the

Yechezkel the Prophet had not seen. Although they had declared after the Sea closed upon the Egyptians their belief in G’d and Moshe, three days later they quarreled with Moshe rather than speaking to him in a more respectful manner. One would think that after experiencing this level of revelation and understanding of Moshe’s status as G’d’s Prophet, they would have behaved differently. It is evident from their behavior that even when one is exposed to G’d’s Presence, one’s human frailties and conflicts do not allow the person to process and internalize the event sufficiently. Without, the spiritualization of one’s mind and emotion, the events have relatively little impact on his being. The only thing that gives one the capacity to fully appreciate a spiritual encounter is the study of the Torah itself. The Jewish people at

which precedes the study of Torah is to engage in its Words. It is this process that

Jewish people as the Redeemer, ‘they believed.’ …As it states, ‘The tzaddik will live through his belief (in G’d.).” It is understood that if one believes in the in G’d after he is the beneficiary of His Beneficence, his belief is not considered notable. However, if one has reason to question and despite his difficult predicament, he believes, it is considered something admirable. For example, the Torah states that Avraham ‘believed in G’d’ after he was promised that he would have a son. Although he had not yet fathered a child from Sarah, our Matriarch, at his advanced age, Avraham believed in G’d’s promise that he would. Therefore, his belief was considered a “righteousness.” It is when one believes in G’d, despite the one’s circumstance, that belief is considered to be exemplary. Although the Jewish people were pagans in Egypt, when Moshe presented himself as the Redeemer of Israel, the Torah states “and the people believed.” Despite the fact that they had abandoned their Jewish beliefs, when Moshe presented his credentials as G’d’s agent, they believed. Chazal compare the physical world to the night time period. It is because when there is an absence of light, things are obscured and distorted. One’s perception of truth is very often based upon one’s own conflicts of interest. Throughout history, we as a Jewish people have witnessed and experienced many tragedies and upheavals such as the destruction of two Temples, expulsions, and continuous discrimination and victimization. Without belief and trust in G’d, that all that He does is for the Good, one would have difficulty doing His Will. A Jew can only thrive within the spiritual realm, if he is secure in his belief. When the Jewish people declared their belief in G’d and Moshe His servant it was after witnessing the splitting of the Sea and the many revealed miracles that had previously occurred. They had also witnessed Divine retribution when the remains of the Egyptian army were cast on to the seashore. If their declaration of belief occurred immediately after benefiting from G’d in a context of miracles, why was their declaration of belief at that moment esteemed by G’d that they should merit to inherit the Land and that the Divine Presence should rest upon them? If anyone would witness what the Jewish people had, it is understood that they would declare their belief in G’d. Why is it necessary for the Torah to state, “They believed in

this time did not have that available to them. Therefore, G’d gave the Jewish people the portions of the Shabbos, the Red Heifer, and laws, in order to engage in their study. Through this process of studying, the Jewish people would be spiritualized in mind and emotion to have the capacity to fully appreciate spirituality. Thus, they would overcome their human impediments. The blessing that is recited before one engages in the study of Torah is, “Blessed are You Hashem…and has commanded us to engross/engage ourselves in the words of Torah…” One would think that the blessing should be, “…and has commanded us to learn Torah …” Maharal of Prague explains that the mitzvah of Torah study is to engage in its study. The process of engagement, attempting to understand the words and concepts of the Torah, is the mitzvah itself. Therefore, the text of the blessing

impacts upon the person and spiritualizes him. It is not limited to the accumulation of its knowledge. Chazal tell us, “Talmud Torah keneged kulam - the study of Torah is equivalent of fulfilling all the mitzvos of the Torah combined.” Thus, engaging in Torah study touches upon the total spiritual development of the individual. Although the Torah in its entirety was not yet given to the Jewish people at Marah, nevertheless, studying the portions of Torah that were given to them would impact upon them as if they had studied all aspects of the Torah. Consequently, through engaging in these portions, they would become spiritualized in preparation for the Sinai event. The Gemara in Tractate Avodah Zorah tells us that the one who engages in Torah study and performs acts of kindness will dominate his evil inclination. Chofetz Chaim explains in his work Toras Chesed that the evil inclination affects a person in two areas of his existence – through his mind and through his physicality. When one engages in Torah study, the mind is spiritualized. Thus, his thoughts become impervious to the evil inclination. When one engages in acts of kindness (chesed), he is spiritualizing his physicality. Thus, body is not inclined towards evil. The only reason one does not have clarity is because one is distracted by his emotions and desires. The only way one can contend with this issue is to engage in Torah, which spiritualizes all aspects of one’s being.

Hashem and Moshe His servant?” Seemingly, this is a natural consequence.

9. Relativity Determines the Degree of Sanctification of G’d

Evidently, since the Torah does share with us their declaration of belief, it must be

The Midrash states, "Why does the Portion begin, 'It happened when Pharaoh sent

because their experience was not as convincing as one may think. If it were, the

out the people


It is because the same mouth that had said, ‘I will not send them

Torah would not need to state it.

out’ now had said ‘I will send them out.’ What was the reward for this? The Jewish

The Jewish people at this point had left Egypt to go into the desert without any provisions or any sense of security for the future. They had left the security of their homes based on Moshe’s directive in the Name of G’d. Despite all of the uncertainties of their predicament, their faith and belief in G’d and Moshe was unswerving. This was considered an accomplishment that was valued by G’d. As the Prophet states, “I (G’d) will always remember the kindness of your youth…your

people were given the mitzvah of not being permitted to harass the Egyptian. The

mouth that initially rejected G'd by saying, ‘Who is Hashem

... Hashem’ retracted and said during the plague of hail, ‘This time I have sinned;

Hashem is the Righteous One, and I and my people are the wicked ones

What was

I do not know

following Me into an unplanted land

It was because of their belief in G’d that the

G’d. The righteous live by their belief. Despite all of the unanswered questions and difficulties of life, every Jew must believe with absolute faith that G’d is continuously watching over us and will speedily bring Moshiach to bring about the ultimate redemption.

8. The Spiritualization of the Mind

After the Jewish people had witnessed the revelation of G’d at the Sea, the Torah states, “Moshe caused Israel to journey from the Sea of Reeds and they went out to the Wilderness of Shur; they went for a three-day period in the Wilderness, but they did not find water. They came to Marah, but they could not drink the waters of Marah because they were bitter…The people complained against Moshe saying, ‘What shall we drink? ’” ... After seeing the Hand of G’d in Egypt through the plagues and the splitting of the Sea, it was inappropriate for the Jewish people to complain to Moshe that they did not have anything to drink. They should have requested of him to pray to G’d to provide them with water. Moshe cried out to G’d and He showed him a tree, which he threw into the water – and the water became sweet. The Torah then states, “There Hashem established for (the nation) a Decree and an Ordinance, and there He tested them.” Rashi cites Chazal, “Marah was the first location in which the Jewish people were given portions of the Torah for them to engage in (their study). What were the portions that were given? The laws of the Shabbos, the laws pertaining to the Red Heifer (Parah Adumah), and laws pertaining to monetary issues/damages (Dinim).” Before the giving of the Torah at Sinai, the classification of the Jewish people was “Noahides.” They were not yet bound by the laws of the Torah. They were not subject to spiritual contamination, because only a Jew (post-Sinai) is susceptible to spiritual impurity. The laws of the Red Heifer had no relevance to their present status. The value of the Red Heifer that was communicated to them was purely for the sake of engaging in its study. Why was it important at this time to engage in Torah study? The Jewish people had witnessed at the Sea the Hand of G’d on the most vivid level. Chazal tell us that what the maidservant had seen at the splitting of the Sea even


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had originally represented the most advanced position as a pagan priest, he rejected

was a kiddush Hashem.

Heaven and Earth

The term “Bereishis” also alludes to the Jewish people who are


it all for the truth of monotheism. It would be the equivalent of the head of the

the chosen people/choicest and who will receive the Torah at Sinai. G’d created

Catholic Church rejecting all his previous beliefs and acknowledging Judaism as the true religion. An ordinary pagan converting to monotheism would have not brought about such a level of kiddush Hashem. The Midrash tells us that when Yaakov’s children together with the Egyptians had taken him to be buried in the cave of Machpelah in Canaan, the Canaanites initially wanted to wage war against Yaakov’s family. However, when they saw the crown of Yosef, the Viceroy of Egypt, they encircled it with their own crowns – thus renaming the location to memorialize the event. The Canaanites exclaimed, “It is a time of profound grieving for the Egyptians. Yaakov is being buried.” When they had made this declaration, they had either first walked four cubits, according to one interpretation in the Midrash, or raised their fingers to acknowledge the event.

existence for the sake of the Torah and the Jewish people. In order for them to be worthy and qualified to receive the Torah, they needed to experience the purging process of the Egyptian exile. Thus, the Second Book is a continuation and culmination of the First. It is interesting to note that four fifths of the Jewish people perished during the days of darkness, which befell Egypt during the plagues. Why did they not merit redemption? The objective of the redemption from Egypt was so that the Jewish people should receive the Torah at Sinai. Thus, becoming G’d’s chosen people. It was not to remove the shackles of bondage and be free of oppression. Since these individuals had no interest in leaving Egypt, they perished during the plague of darkness.

According to the first opinion, for each pace they had taken to acknowledge the

11. The Egyptian Bondage, An Outgrowth of Avraham’s Question

passing of Yaakov, they merited that the Jewish people should be kept out of the Land of Israel for one generation. Thus, since they had walked four cubits, the Jewish people were not able to enter into the Land until four generations had passed. Because they were pagans, their acknowledgement of the tragic passing of Yaakov, a man who personified and embodied holiness, was considered a sanctification of G’d’s Name. The Gemara in Tractate Avodah Zorah tells us that Reb Chananyia Ben Tradion, his wife, and daughter experienced tragedies at various levels. Reb Chananyia Ben Tradion was wrapped in a Torah scroll and was burnt to death. His wife was taken out to be killed, and his daughter was sent to a brothel in Rome. When each of them experienced their own personal tragedy, they acknowledged and proclaimed that G’d was just in the punishment that was being meted out to them. Without their declaration, one could think that their tragic fate would be considered a travesty of justice (G’d forbid). However, because they had declared that G’d is righteous and Just in His Judgment, they dispelled any question and embraced G’d’s decision. This

The Gemara in Tractate Yoma tells us that when one repents out of fear of G’d , his deliberate sins take on an inadvertent status. However, if one repents out of love, then his deliberate sins are converted to merits. When one assumes the status of a sinner and despite that status, he acknowledges G’d by repenting out of fear, it is a degree of kiddush Hashem (albeit limited). However, when one assumes the status of a sinner and truly recognizes the wrong and repents out of love for G’d it is a more advanced level of sanctification of G’d’s Name – thus he is able to convert the deliberate sins into merits. When one is able to acknowledge G’d in His true context, despite all the distortion of truth, one is bringing about a sanctification of His Name whose merit is profound and unlimited.

The Gemara in Tractate Nidarim tells us that one of the reasons the Jewish people experienced the exile in Egypt was because Avraham had posed a question to G’d that was considered inappropriate. The Torah tells us that G’d had promised Avraham that he and his offspring would inherit the land of Canaan. The Torah states, “Avraham said, ‘My Lord, Hashem/Elokim: Whereby shall I know that I am (my offspring) to inherit it…And He (G’d) said to Avraham, ‘Know with certainty that your offspring shall be strangers in a land not their own – and they will serve them and they will oppress them…” Avraham was concerned that if his offspring were to sin in the future, they would not be worthy to inherit the Land. However, G’d’s promise to Avraham was that his progeny would inherit the Land unconditionally. Thus, Avraham’s question/concern was unfounded. This was considered a breach of faith and required that the Jewish people should experience exile in Egypt. How did G’d’s response to Avraham, address his failing? After remaining in Egypt for 210 years, the Jewish people had deteriorated spiritually to a point that they had become idolaters. At the time of the splitting of the Sea, G’d had decreed that the Jewish people should safely pass between the walls of water, while the Egyptian army was being destroyed. The angels questioned G’d, “Why are You destroying the Egyptians and not the Jewish people? These (Egyptians) are idolaters and these (the Jewish people) are idolaters.” Meaning, the Jewish people were as much deserving of destruction as the Egyptians for their idolatrous behavior. The Torah states, “A new king arose over Egypt, who did not know Yosef.” Rashi explains that the king of Egypt did not know Yosef because he was in fact a new king (different person) or the king of Egypt was actually the Pharaoh who did know Yosef; however, he acted as if he did not know him. Kli Yakar explains this verse differently, “The king of Egypt did not ‘know Yosef’ because he was unaware of what had transpired between Yosef and his brothers. Yosef’s brothers attempted to

to many obstacles, hardships, and casualties (in the physical and spiritual sense), he

10. The Objective of the Egyptian Exile

destroy him, nullify his dreams, and not allow them to come to fruition (that they

The Torah states, “V’eileh shemos…And these are the names of the Children of Israel who were coming to Egypt…” The verse begins with the letter “vav” which means “and.” This indicates that there is a connection and continuum between the book of Shemos and the Book of Bereishis. Ohr HaChaim HaKadosh explains, “Avraham, Yitzchak, and Yaakov understood that the Egyptian exile was needed to purge the Jewish people from the sin of Avraham our Patriarch. He had posed an inappropriate question to G’d and thus the Jewish people were decreed to be exiled to Egypt. The state of exile began with the birth of Yitzchak and it culminated after being in Egypt for 210 years. The Patriarchs understood that the necessity for the purging process brought about by the Egyptian bondage was for the ultimate objective of being qualified to receive the Torah at Sinai/to become the chosen people. So too, the 70 individuals who came to Egypt with Yaakov understood the importance of coming there. This is the significance of the letter “vav” (and). Thus, the Torah is telling us that the descent to Egypt was with the same level of intent and willingness to bring about a more spiritual people as the Patriarchs had intended. Ohr HaChaim HaKadosh continues, “Although the individuals who came to Egypt were identified earlier in the Portion of Vayigash, the Torah reiterates their names to discern between them and Esav. The Midrash tells us that when Esav was given a choice to receive the Land of Canaan he was made to understand that this could only come about if the “debt” of exile was paid (going to Egypt). He chose to pass on this opportunity in favor of going to Mt. Seir. Yaakov and his family chose to go to Egypt because they understood the value of receiving the gift of the Land of Canaan.” There is a question among the earlier commentators regarding the identification of the Five Books of the Torah. Ramban identifies the first book as Bereishis (Genesis), the second book as Sefer Ha’Geula (Book of Redemption), the third as Torahs Kohanim (Laws of the Kohanim), the forth books as Sefer Ha’Pikudim (Numbers), and the fifth book as Mishna Torah (Review of Torah). Each book is identified by its content. However, Baal Halachos Gedolos (BHAG) identifies the first book as Sefer Bereishis, the second book as Sefer Sheini (second Book), and the remaining three books are identified by content. Nitziv z’tl in his introduction to Haamik Davar (Commentary on Torah) asks, “If the basis for the identification for each of the Books of the Torah is based on content then why does BHAG identify

would bow to him one day). However, despite all of their efforts Yosef’s dreams came true. It was the Will of G’d to advance Yosef and bring him to an exalted position and nothing could interfere with the Will of G’d. Similarly, G’d had said that the Jewish people would increase in number and ultimately be redeemed from Egypt; however, Pharaoh attempted to stifle their growth and keep them in bondage. Despite all of his efforts, he was unable to interfere with their destiny. Just as nothing could interfere with Yosef’s destiny, so too nothing could interfere with the destiny of the Jewish people.” Yosef was the model/profile of the Jewish people. He, like his father Yaakov, was the prototype of the Jew in exile. Despite the fact that the Jew is in exile and subject

nevertheless ultimately survives and flourishes. Pharaoh did not know/appreciate that this was the essence of Yosef nor did he know it was the essence of the Jewish people. Avraham was concerned that if the Jewish people would sin, they would no longer be worthy to inherit the Land. In response to this, G’d exiled the Jewish people to Egypt where they were subject to bondage and oppression. They became idolaters and as the verse in Yechezkel states, “They were stripped naked (devoid of any mitzvos).” The Jewish people seemingly had no worthiness to be redeemed from Egypt. Despite this, G’d gave them the mitzvah of “dam Pesach- the blood of the Pascal Lamb” and “dam milah – blood of circumcision” and thus had merit to be redeemed from Egypt. Fifty days after the exodus, the Jewish people stood at Sinai and declared, “Naaseh V’Nishmah – we will do and we will listen” to receive the Torah, G’d’s most precious commodity. This demonstrated that despite the fact that the Jewish people had fallen to the depths of spiritual debasement through being acculturated in Egypt, their essence remained intact and unaffected. Thus, they were able to ascend and be worthy of becoming G’d’s people. G’d’s response demonstrated that Avraham’s understanding of the Jewish people was inaccurate. Through the Egyptian bondage, it was indicated that although the Jewish people had fallen to the depths of spirituality, their recovery and rehabilitation was (relatively speaking) immediate. Thus, even if the Jewish people should sin and fail, they still have relevance to the Land of Canaan, which will be ultimately the Land of Israel – Eretz Ha’Kiddoshah (the Holy Land).

the Second Book by number?” Nitziv answers, “BHAG identifies the Second Book

12. The Innate Negative Characteristic of Man

by number to indicate that in fact it is the second chapter, which is the closing chapter of the First Book – Bereishis (Genesis). The First Book discusses the creation of existence and the evolvement of the precursor of the Jewish people, while the Second Book is the culmination of that evolvement, which concludes with the Sinai experience/the Torah being given to the Jewish people.” The Torah begins, “Bereishis bara Elokeem – In the beginning G’d created…” The Midrash explains that the word “Bereishis” is alluding to the fact that, “B’shvil Reishis bara Elokeem… – for the sake of ‘the choicest’ (which is Torah) G’d created

The Torah states, “A new king arose over Egypt, who did not know Yosef.” Rashi cites two opinions regarding this verse. One interpretation is that truly a new king arose over Egypt who did not know Yosef. The other interpretation is that it was the same king, however with a new mandate. The meaning of “who did know Yosef” is that the king acted as if he did not know Yosef. Daas Zikainim Baali Tosafos cite a Midrash which states, “Reb Yehudah Ben Levy gives us an understanding of the words “who did not know Yosef” with an allegory. A person had stoned the image of the king and was not punished for his behavior.



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The following day the same individual stoned the king himself. Initially Pharaoh did know Yosef, then ultimately he said, “I do not know G’d.” How does the Midrash equate the allegory of the individual who stoned the image of the king with Pharaoh not knowing Yosef and ultimately denying G’d’s existence? When the individual

to assign blame. The individual wants to deny that he is in fact the cause of his own situation. Chazal tell us that Avraham was initially destined to live 180 years; however, G’d deducted five years of his life because He promised Avraham that he would pass

14. The Privilege of Choice

stoned the image of the king, it a clear indication that he had no regard for the king himself. Since he was not restrained after disgracing the honor of the king, he chose to go to the next level and disgrace the king himself. However, regarding not recognizing Yosef, seemingly this has no relevance to not recognizing G’d. It is interesting to note that one does not immediately deny G’d’s existence. It evolves through a gradual conditioning process which one undergoes that begins with denying that he is a beneficiary of the good that was done on his behalf by others. The same individual, because he is not willing to recognize that he should be beholden to others, will ultimately deny that he is a beneficiary of G’d’s Goodness. Pharaoh should have been beholden to Yosef. His level of indebtedness to him and his family should have been unwavering and permanent. Had it not been for Yosef, Egypt would have perished with the famine. It was only because of Yosef’s genius and astuteness did Egypt become the provider for the entire world. Egypt, through the sale of the grain, amassed the wealth of the world. Rather than being beholden to Yosef, Pharaoh subjugated his family to bondage. A person, although he may be the beneficiary of the goodness of others, is able to enter into a state of denial, which allows him to evade that reality in order to accommodate his own agenda. Despite the fact that it was undeniably clear that Yosef had benefited Egypt more than any other individual, Pharaoh chose to ignore this because of his own insecurities. G’d provides man with his total existence. It is undeniable that all existence emanates from Him and is sustained by His Goodness. Yet it is possible for one to ignore this fact because of one’s own conflicts of interestwhatever they may be. This conditioning process, which brings the individual to a level to even deny G’d, begins with one’s evading the fact that he is a beneficiary of the kindness of others. This is the analogy stated by Reb Yehudah Ben Levy, who explained that it begins with the stoning of the image of the king and concludes with the stoning of the king himself. Identically the denial of G’d begins with one not feeling beholden to others and ultimately concludes with not having any sense of being beholden to G’d. Thus,

13. The Intensification of the Bondage

away in a “good old age”. If Avraham were to have lived to 180, he would have witnessed the day that Esav committed five cardinal sins. It would have been in contradiction to G’d’s promise of passing away in a “good old age.” Avraham would have been anguished to know that his grandson is in fact evil. The Torah tells that when Esav had returned wary and exhausted from the field, he came upon Yaakov cooking a pot of lentils. The Midrash tells us that when he entered into his home he noticed that Yaakov’s face was soiled with soot as he was preparing the lentils. Esav asked him, “What has happened?” Yaakov answered, “Our grandfather has passed away.” Esav’s reaction was, “There is no justice and there is no Judge!” Thus, he denied G’d’s relevance to existence. Esav understood that Avraham, his grandfather, was meant to live 180 years. When Avraham passed away at the age of 175, Esav questioned G’d’s Justice. The irony is that the answer to Esav’s question is found within himself. Esav chose to be a rasha (an evil person). In essence, he was the cause of his grandfather’s demise. When he chose to commit five cardinal sins on the day of Avraham’s passing, G’d was forced to cause Avraham to die before his time. Esav became a heretic and denounced G’d because he believed his grandfather died prematurely when in fact he was the cause of Avraham losing five years of his life. Esav essentially brought about his own spiritual demise and turned G’d into the culprit. Most people do not understand and appreciate why difficulties and complications come upon them. They believe that their suffering and setbacks are undeserved. When a person does not accurately evaluate himself and believes that he is undeserving of punishment he will feel that G’d is being unfair. Ironically, the basis for his disillusionment with G’d is only a consequence of his own unwillingness/denial to recognize who he really is. One is most often the cause of his own negative predicament. This is what actually happened to the Jewish people when their lives were “embittered.”

Pharaoh was the ultimate ingrate. It is within the natural makeup of man to have the ability to acknowledge and recognize G’d through the reality of existence or despite that to reject Him. The Torah tells us that after Adam had eaten from the Tree of Knowledge, G’d had asked him, “Why did you eat of the fruit of the Tree?” He replied, “It is the woman that You gave me…” – implying that it was only because G’d had provided that woman that Adam sinned. In essence, Adam transferred blamed to G’d for his own sin. When G’d had created Chava, He had done so only because it was necessary for Adam to have a counterpart and helpmate. After Adam’s response to G’d, He said to Adam, “You are an ingrate.” After G’d had provided Adam with all of his needs and accommodated him with a wife (who is a necessity in his life to succeed), he did not acknowledge the Good and furthermore, he blamed G’d for his failing. It is in the fabric of mankind, because of their conflicts of interest, to resist seeing reality for what it is in order to accommodate their own agenda. Thus, man is by nature an individual driven by self-interest, causing him to be an ingrate. The Torah tells us that G’d had provided the Jewish people with the Manna in the desert, which was a spiritual food that accommodated their every nutritional need. Because of the Manna, the Jewish people were fully sated and protected against any type of disease or illness. It was absorbed into their organs so that they did not need to do any bodily functions. However rather than expressing their gratitude to G’d for what He had provided, they complained vociferously, “What is this light food that You have given us? Perhaps we may ultimately die from it!” The Gemara in Tractate Avoda Zorah tells us that G’d responded, “You are ingrates the children of an ingrate.” G’d was enraged by their behavior because this negative characteristic of being an ingrate/denying that one is the beneficiary of the good, will ultimately lead them to deny the existence of G’d. Pharaoh, because he was unwilling to acknowledge the goodness of Yosef, ultimately denied the existence of G’d.

The Torah states at the beginning of the Portion of Bo, “Hashem said to Moshe, “Come to Pharaoh, for I have made his heart and the hearts of his servants stubborn …” When Moshe and Aaron approached Pharaoh to ask him to release the Jewish people, the Torah states, “Moshe and Aaron came to Pharaoh and said to him, ‘So, said Hashem, G’d of the Hebrews: Until when will you refuse to be humbled before Me? Send out My people…” The Torah states in one verse that G’d hardened Pharaoh’s heart and in the following verse Moshe says to Pharaoh – “until when will you refuse to humble yourself before G’d’.” The Torah is telling us that the basis for Pharaoh’s rejection of all the previous events was because he was not willing to acknowledge G’d due to his own lack of humility. Seemingly, we are able to understand this within the context of measure for measure. Just as he was not willing to soften his heart to G’d, G’d in turn hardened his heart. Rambam writes in Hilchos Teshuvah (the Laws of Repentance) that Pharaoh had forfeited his power of free choice. Rambam states that if one believes that the classification of “tzaddik (righteous)” or “rasha (evil)” is predetermined, thus indicating that man has no free choice, he is a fool. Every individual is born with the ability to choose between good and evil. Thus, there is culpability for one’s choice if he has done evil, and is fully deserving if he has chosen to do good. Rambam asks if one is only culpable for doing evil because he had the choice to refrain from evil, then why was Pharaoh culpable for enslaving and withholding the Jewish people if G’d hardened his heart? Rambam explains that initially Pharaoh did have the ability to choose between right and wrong but because he had become so evil, G’d revoked his ability to choose. This is the meaning of “I (G’d) have hardened his heart.” Although Pharaoh’s continued perpetration of evil was not within his control, he is held fully accountable for that behavior b ecause it was his choice not to have choice. It is interesting to note that although from the sixth plague onwards Pharaoh no longer had free choice because G’d had hardened his heart, nevertheless, regarding each consecutive plague the Torah again tells us that G’d hardened his heart. If Pharaoh had forfeited his ability to choose after this sixth plague, then why was it

The Torah states, “Yosef died, and all his brothers and that entire generation. The Children of Israel were fruitful, teemed (va’yishretzu), increased, and became strong – very, very much so…” The Torah continues, “A new king arose over Egypt, who did not know Yosef.” Sforno explains “va’yishretzu” to mean that after the generation of Yosef had passed away, the Jewish people began to behave inappropriately – similar to rodents “sheratzim” (pejorative term for improper behavior). Sforno states, “Although Yosef’s contribution to the survival of Egypt was part of their history, after his death, Pharaoh did not acknowledge Yosef’s contribution and enslaved his people. After the passing of Yosef and his brothers, the generation that followed had no semblance to that which preceded it. The Jewish people had left the path of spirituality to pursue the material. They had given up their spiritual posture. Thus, Pharaoh had no conscience when he chose to enslave Yosef’s descendents.” Yosef and his brothers lived on a spiritual plane, which clearly quantified them as G’d’s people. However, the generation that followed them is compared to the rodent – completely devoid of spiritual perspective. The Torah states, “…They (the Egyptians) embittered their (the Jewish people) lives.” Sforno explains, “When the Jewish people further deteriorated spiritually, the Egyptians increased their level of bondage. The Prophet tells us that the Jewish people did not cast away idolatry…Therefore the wrath of G’d was unleashed upon them.” It is interesting to note that typically when one experiences difficulties in his life, rather than introspecting to understand the cause of the problem, he points outwardly

necessary for the G’d to continue to revoke his ability to make the proper choice? Avraham, our Patriarch, was presented with ten tests by G’d. Each of the tests was progressively more difficult and built upon the previous one to develop Avraham’s understanding of G’d and give him internal strength and resolve. If Avraham was first to be tested with the Akeidah (binding of Yitzchak), which was the most difficult of the tests, he would have probably failed. It was only after he developed through his trials and tribulations a greater understanding of G’d that he was able to succeed with the Akeidah. Similarly, the plagues that came upon Egypt occurred in a specific progression of increasing levels of revelation. They each touched upon and affected another aspect of existence. Each one of them revealed another dimension of G’d’s ability. Initially the Egyptians understood the plagues as being sorcery/witchcraft. However, when they experienced the third plague of lice, the sorcerers declared, “It is the finger of G’d!” When the seventh plague came upon Egypt, Pharaoh was impressed to the point that he declared, “…I have sinned; Hashem is the Righteous One…” The plague of hail was obviously not rooted in witchcraft or nature since two contradictory forces were able to coexist simultaneously. The plague of hail was comprised of water and fire. With each of the plagues Pharaoh came to a new understanding of G’d. Each plague had the potential to bring him to a greater level of clarity and understanding of G’d. Thus, with each new level of clarity and understanding, it was necessary for G’d to revoke his power of choice at that level.


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The Torah tells us that it was Pharaoh’s refusal to “humble” himself before G’d that caused his heart to be hardened. The Gemara tells us that regarding a person who is arrogant and haughty, G’d says, “The world is not large enough to contain you and

Sforno continues, “G’d said to Moshe, “Please speak to the Jewish people to beseech them to borrow the wealth, because it is in only through this that the salvation will come about.” Meaning, what seemed to be not in the best interest of

Divine Justice in the world is a Kiddush Hashem (Sanctification of G’d’s Name).


I.” In order for one to merit a relationship with G’d one must be humble. If one is arrogant, G’d withdraws from that individual. The Gemara in Tractate Kiddushin tells us that if it were not for G’d’s intervention and assistance to deal with one’s evil inclination, it would be impossible to survive spiritually. Because of one’s conflicts of interests and natural tendencies/drives, one needs Divine assistance in order to triumph over one’s inclinations. After being exposed to the first five plagues, which are classified as “revealed miracles,” one should naturally acknowledge G’d’s power. However, because of his arrogance, Pharaoh rejected G’d and behaved as if G’d did not exist. Thus, Pharaoh’s rejection of G’d at that point was the ultimate display of arrogance. G’d therefore disassociated Himself from Pharaoh. Consequently, Pharaoh no longer had the power of choice. Therefore, it was not necessary for G’d to be proactive in hardening Pharaoh’s heart, but rather it was because of his own arrogance that his heart was hardened.

the Jewish people was in fact what brought about the ultimate salvation. The Jewish people borrowed the wealth as per Moshe’s pleading and they were pursued by the Egyptians just as they had feared. If they had not taken the wealth, Pharaoh would not have been able to motivate his people to pursue the Jewish people. G’d had already devastated Egypt on their behalf. However, since the Jewish people had taken that which was most precious to the Egyptians, they were pursued. How did this bring about the ultimate salvation? The greatest miracle of the exodus was the splitting of the Sea. Had the Jewish people not taken the valuables, the Egyptians would not have pursued them and there would not have been a need to split the Sea. The revelation at the splitting of the Sea was at such an advanced level that even the prophet Yechezkel did not merit to see what the maidservant saw at the splitting of the Sea. If the Jewish people had not taken the valuables, they would not have been privy to such a level of revelation. All of the events of the exodus were in preparation for the giving of the Torah at

15. The Importance of the Status of the Jew Before Redemption

Sinai, which was the ultimate salvation. Every experience that the Jewish people had

The Torah states, “Hashem said to Moshe,’…Please speak in the ears of the people:

during the exodus was to advance their spirituality in order to make them worthy

Let each man request of his fellow and each woman from her fellow to borrow silver vessels and gold vessels.’ Hashem granted the people favor in the eyes of Egypt;

and give them the greatest capacity to be taken as G’d’s people at Sinai. Chazal tell us that at Sinai when G’d spoke to the Jewish people, each person

moreover, the man Moshe was very great in the land of Egypt, in the eyes of the servants of Pharaoh and the eyes of the people.” The Torah tells us that G’d communicated to Moshe to “please” speak to the Jewish people to borrow the valuables of the Egyptians. The Gemara in Tractate Berachos tells us that the Torah uses the term “please” to indicate that Mo she needed to beseech the people to do so. The Gemara explains that the reason Moshe needed to plead with the Jewish people to comply with his request was so that both aspects of the promise made by G’d to Avraham, our Patriarch, would be fulfilled. The Gemara states, “So that Avraham, the tzaddik, should not say that the decree – they shall be enslaved and afflicted for 400 years - was fulfilled and – afterwards they would go out with great wealth - was not fulfilled. The people said to Moshe, “We are not interested in wealth. We have been in bondage for 210 years and want to leave as soon as possible with our lives. All we want is to be released.” Thus, Moshe needed to beseech the Jewish people to borrow the precious possession of the Egyptians. It is interesting to note that the reason Chazal tell us that Moshe had to beseech the Jews to borrow the wealth from the Egyptians was so that “Avraham, the tzaddik” should not have a claim against G’d. Chazal could have simply said that the reason the Jewish people needed to borrow was to fulfill the promise that G’d had made to Avraham – that they will leave with great wealth. How do we understand this? The Torah tells us that G’d caused the Jewish people “to find favor in the eyes” of the Egyptians. In addition, Moshe was made to have special status in the eyes of Pharaoh and the Egyptians. It is only after the Jewish people and Moshe assumed “favorable” status did they borrow. Why was it necessary for G’d to cause them to assume a special status as a prerequisite to the borrowing? The Jews could have

16. The Setting for Kiddush Hashem

prophesized to the level of his own spiritual capacity. Thus, the greater the capacity the more advanced and profound is the level of understanding of the transmission of the Torah. If the splitting of the Sea had not occurred, the Sinai event would not have been at that advanced spiritual level. The Jewish people had experienced such a profound level of revelation of G’d’s Presence at the splitting of the Sea that they were able to point and say, “This is my G’d!” Thus, although the Jewish people were initially terrified by the prospect of the Egyptians pursuing them, it was because of their borrowing the wealth that they experienced the ultimate salvation at Sinai in the most advanced state. Chazal tell us that G’d interacts with the world in the manner of “measure for measure.” The Egyptians were drowned in the Sea because they killed the firstborn Jewish males by drowning them in the Nile – measure for measure. The revelation of

The measure for measure punishment that was brought upon the Egyptians at the Sea was a testament to the world that there is a Judge and there is Justice. The world is not a random stream of events but rather the Omnipotent Being directs every aspect of existence. The splitting of the Sea was not only beneficial for the spiritual development of the Jewish people as a preparation for Sinai, but also it was a Kiddush Hashem as a testament of G’d’s Justice. Even the most advanced civilization in the world was subject to Divine Justice and could not outwit G’d. Thus, Moshe needed to beseech the Jewish people to borrow the wealth because despite the fact that the pursuit of the Egyptians was inevitable, it would bring about the ultimate salvation and Kiddush Hashem.

taken the wealth without special status because G’d had already devastated and humiliated Egypt through nine of the ten plagues. What then is the significance of

17. The Innate Difference Between the Jewish People and the Nations of the World

the Jewish people finding “special favor/charm” in the eyes of the Egyptians? If the Jewish people had been seen by the nations of the world as renegades/fugitives/escapees, who plundered the wealth of their masters and fled bondage, it would not have been a Kiddush Hashem (Sanctification of G’d’s Name). Avraham, our Patriarch dedicated his life to bringing about Kiddush Hashem. The only reason the Jewish people needed to be exiled to Egypt was to purge them of the failing of Avraham – who had asked G’d an inappropriate question. It was a Chilul Hashem (desecration of G’d’s Name) that the Egyptians should enslave the Jewish people – the descendents of the man who introduced monotheism into existence – and ultimately forfeit their heritage/belief in G’d. In order to bring about a proper correction for the Chilul Hashem that had transpired because of Avraham’s failing, the Jewish people needed to leave Egypt in a manner that would bring about the ultimate Kiddush Hashem to reflect Avraham’s lifelong commitment to G’d’s Glory. It was public knowledge that G’d Himself destroyed Egypt on behalf of His people – the Jews. This awareness was a Kiddush Hashem. Despite the fact that G’d had destroyed Egypt, the Egyptians willingly gave their precious belongings to the Jews because they were perceived as special – even though they were the chattel of the Egyptians for 210 years. Thus, the world will see the Jews as special. The Jewish people left Egypt not as a downtrodden band of slaves, but rather as a valued people of great status and prestige. This was a Kiddush Hashem. Thus, we can understand the reason Moshe needed to beseech the Jewish people to borrow the precious belongings of the Egyptians.

The Torah states, “Hashem said to Moshe, “…I shall harden the heart of Pharaoh so that I may multiply My signs and My wonders upon Egypt…Pharaoh will not heed you, and I shall put My hand upon Egypt.” Rashi cites Chazal who explain, “G’d said, ‘It is known to Me that when the nations of the world do teshuvah (repent) they will not do so with a whole heart. It is better that I harden their hearts so that I should have the opportunity to increase My signs (miracles) so that the Jewish people should recognize My strength.’ G’d brings tragedy and destruction upon the nations of the world so that the Jewish people should take notice and fear Him. As it is written, “I have cut down nations and made their corners desolate so that you should take mussar (reproach).” Sifsei Chachamim explain Rashi, “G’d said, ‘If I do not harden the heart of Pharaoh, he and the Egyptians will definitely do teshuvah. However, it is revealed before Me that it will not be a complete teshuvah with a full heart. If I should bring further plagues and tragedies upon them, mankind will say – ‘This is the way of G’d, that he brings destruction upon those who do teshuvah.’ They will not realize that it is only because they did not do a complete teshuvah. Therefore, I will harden the heart of Pharaoh so that he should not do teshuvah of any sort, thus avoiding a desecration of My Name.” When one does not do a complete teshuvah, G’d will bring upon him further punishment to purge him of his spiritual impurity to bring him to the realization that his teshuvah was not complete. However because the nations of the world do not perceive the possibility of punishment in this context, G’d will not allow them to begin the teshuvah process.

The Torah states, “Hashem said to Moshe,’…Please speak in the ears of the people:

Chazal tell us that when King Solomon built the Bais HaMikdash (Temple) he

Let each man request of his fellow and each woman from her fellow to borrow silver vessels and gold vessels…” The Torah tells us that G’d commanded Moshe to “Please” speak to the Jewish people to tell them to borrow the silver and gold vessels of the Egyptians. Evidently, by needing to say “please” Moshe need to beseech the Jewish people to borrow the wealth of the Egyptians. Without his beseeching, the Jewish people would not have wanted to borrow the wealth. Sforno explains that the reason Moshe needed to beseech the Jewish people was because, “The Jewish people thought, ‘If we simply leave with our own belongings, the Egyptians will not pursue us. However if we borrow all of their wealth and leave the Egyptian never to return, they will pursue us. Thus it is better not to ask to borrow the wealth.” Thus Moshe needed to plead with the Jewish people to borrow the wealth of the Egyptians.

prayed to G’d that when the non-Jew comes to pray on the Temple mount, his prayers should be received regardless of his level of worthiness. This is so he should not accuse G’d of being unfair. However, regarding the Jewish people, G’d should only respond to the prayers of those who are worthy. It is because the Jew will understand that if G’d does not respond to his requests and supplications, it is due to his unworthiness. The Midrash tells that there is no nation in the history of existence that G’d began to punish that was not ultimately destroyed. The reason for this is the more G’d inflicts punishment upon them, the more they became enraged and defiant with G’d. They believed that they were undeserving of punishment. As a result of their increased rejection of G’d, they ultimately had to be destroyed. The Jew, on the other hand, when tragedy and suffering befall him, will ultimately introspect and reflect on his



eaaBtu!zsIb!trcdk trcd ihc!

past behavior. This is a fundamental and innate difference between the way the Jew and the non-Jew process each of their own realities. It is interesting to note that in the Portion of Haazinu the Torah states, “G’d says, ‘My arrows will be expended from My quiver (inferring that the Jewish people will not be expended).’” Rashi cites Chazal who explain this with an allegory. It is similar to an archer who shoots his arrows at a secure beam. Eventually all his arrows will be expended but the beam remains standing and intact. So too, despite the difficulties and suffering that G’d will bring upon His people (to do teshuvah), they will not be destroyed through punishment. Rather, they will introspect and bring themselves to a point of reinstatement. This is not the case with the non-Jew. The Sanctification of G’d’s Name (Kiddush Hashem) in Egypt was as a result of the non-Jew not understanding that even if he had done teshuvah, it would not have been sufficiently complete. They would have not understood that their difficulties were because of their own shortcomings. When G’d offered the Torah to the nations of the world at Sinai, their response to G’d was, “What is written in it?” They were not willing to accept its dictates unless they knew in advance that it did not conflict with their own interests. When G’d told the Edomites (Esav) that the Torah contains the commandment “Thou shall not kill,” they responded, “We cannot accept the Torah since it is contrary to the blessing that we received from our grandfather Yitzchak- that we are to live by the sword.” Thus, they rejected it. If G’d had told them that the Torah contained the mitzvah of honoring one’s father and mother, which was the commandment Esav observed meticulously, the Edomites would have agreed to accept the Torah. However, the basis for their acceptance would have been to fulfill their own interest rather than submitting to the word of G’d. On the other hand, the Jewish people unequivocally declared, “Naaseh v’nishma – we will do and we will listen,” when they were offered the Torah. The

cannot be quantified. As G’d had promised Avraham, the Jewish people will be as numerous as “the stars in the heaven” and “the sands on the seashore.” This quantification of the Jewish people is not in a quantitative sense; but rather, in a qualitative sense. This is the reason the actual number of the Jewish people has always been insignificant (regarding our physical existence) vis-à-vis the nations of the world. After Pharaoh rejected Moshe’s presentation of his credentials as the agent of “YKVK,” he refers to G’d as “Elokei Ha’Ivrim- G’d of the Hebrews” because Pharaoh could not accept the reality of the Infinite. The appellation “Elokei Ha’Ivrim” simple means “the Power/Deity behind the people who came from the other side of the river (Ivrim).” In terms of the Jews as a physical people, Moshe refers to their G’d and them as “Elokei Ha’Iverim” which was a term and identification that Pharaoh would accept and consider. In the Portion of Va’eira the Torah uses both appellations for G’d before the onset of the plague of Blood- “Hashem (YKVK), the G’d of the Hebrews (Elokei Ha’Ivrim)” to indicate that if Pharaoh did not release the Jewish people (no different than other physical nations) he would be punished by Hashem (YKVK) – the Infinite Being who transcends the laws of nature. Sforno explains that sorcery and witchcraft can only change the appearance of nature. It cannot change its essence. The sorcerers and magicians of Egypt were able to change the appearance and texture of the water to seem that it had assumed the properties of blood. However, its essence remained water. The Torah states that Moshe had said, “…I shall strike the waters that are in the River, and they shall change to blood. The fish that are in the water shall die…” to indicate that when Hashem (YKVK) changed the water to blood, its essence was also changed. Sforno explains that the additional verse, “The fish that are in the water shall die…” is to qualify that the change to blood was not merely visual but an actual transformation.

relevance to the Infinite and Omnipotent Being – YKVH (Hashem). Despite the fact

  • 19. Appreciating G’d’s Mercy

basis for their acceptance of the Torah was that it was the Will of G’d. Their needs and conflicts of interest were not relevant at that moment. The Jew has the ability to see beyond his own circumstances and evaluate the moment correctly even if it means to recognize his own shortcoming.

18. The Eternity of The Jewish People Rooted in G’d

Moshe initially was communicating to Pharaoh that the Jewish people were physical beings only because of their circumstance; however, their essence was spiritual with

that Pharaoh could not believe in such a Being, he would be compelled to accept this belief through the plague of Blood – because it is only the Creator of the Universe

The Torah tells us in the Portion of Shemos that Hashem instructed Moshe to present himself to Pharaoh and request that the Jews be released from their bondage.

(the Omnipotent One) who could transform water into blood.

The Torah states, “Afterwards Moshe and Aaron came and said to Pharaoh, ‘So said Hashem(YKVK), the G’d of Israel, Send out My people that they may celebrate for Me in the wilderness.’” Pharaoh replied, “Who is Hashem (YKVK) that I should heed His voice to send out Israel? I do not know Hashem, nor will I send out Israel!” The Midrash tells us that when Pharaoh was told that “Hashem, the G’d of Israel” wanted the Jews to be released, he immediately consulted his book of deities but did not locate the deity of “YKVK (the four letter Name of G’d)-Hashem” listed. Pharaoh thus responded to Moshe, “I do not know Hashem.” Moshe then said to Pharaoh, “The G’d of the Hebrews (Elokei Ha’Ivrim) happened upon us…” It is interesting to note the different appellations for G’d used by Moshe and their significance. When Moshe initially presented himself to Pharaoh he used the appellation “YKVK – Hashem” in conjunction with the Jewish people being referred to as “Yisroel- the Children of Israel.” However after Pharaoh’s response, Moshe changed his presentation as the agent of the “G’d of the Hebrews Elokei Ha’Ivrim” He no longer used the appellation of “YKVK,” and the Jewish people were referred to as the “Hebrews” and not “Yisroel.” How do we understand this? In the Portion of Va’eira before the plague of Blood, the Torah states, “Hashem said to Moshe, ‘Go to Pharaoh…You shall say to him, Hashem (YKVK), the G’d of the Hebrews (Elokei Ha’Ivrim), has sent me to you, saying: Send out My people…So says Hashem, Through this shall you know that I am Hashem; behold, with the staff that is in my hand I shall strike the waters that are in the River, and they shall change to blood. The fish that are in the water shall die…” In this context the appellation for G’d is “Hashem(YKVK)”; however, regarding His relationship to the Jewish people He is identified as “Elokei Ha’Ivrim- G’d of the Hebrews.” What is the significance of these changes of reference to G’d? Rabbeinu Bachya explains that the title for the monarch of Egypt was always “Pharaoh.” This appellation contains the Hebrew letters “ayin, pay, raish” which spells the word “aafar – dust/earth.” The Egyptian people believed that existence was limited to the physical and the powers at hand/ deities were purely to maintain physical existence. They rejected the belief of a spiritual realm, which transcends physical existence. Thus it is befitting that the king of the Egyptian people, who epitomized the essence of his people, is given the title of “Pharaoh” which connotes earthiness and physicality. The appellation “YKVK-Hashem,” which denotes “I was, I am, and I will be,” identifies G’d as the Infinite and Omnipotent Being. The concept of an infinite G’d who is not bound by nature and who transcends existence was something that was rejected by Pharaoh. This is the meaning of his initial response to Moshe, “Who is Hashem (YKVK) that I should heed His voice to send out Israel? I do not know Hashem (YKVK), nor will I send out Israel!” There is no such Being or Power that

The Portion of Va’eira begins, “V’yadaber Elokim - G’d spoke to Moshe and said to him, “I am Hashem…” Rashi cites Chazal who explain, the Portion begins with the appellation of “Elokim” because it connotes the Attribute of Justice. At the end of the previous Portion, the straw subsidy that was provided by the Egyptian government (as one of the materials needed to manufacture bricks) was withdrawn from the Jewish people. However the same quota that was demanded of them until time was not reduced- despite the fact that the Jews themselves needed to gather their own straw for the manufacturing of the bricks. Moshe said to Hashem, “My Lord, why have You done bad to this people? Why have You sent me?” Hashem responded to Moshe, “Now you will see what I shall do to Pharaoh…” The Midrash tells us that the word “Now” in the verse infers that Moshe would only “now” witness the redemption and exodus from Egypt but will not merit to bring the Jewish people into the Promised Land/ Canaan. Because Moshe had no right to express himself in the manner that he had, he forfeited the right to enter into the Land. Thus, Moshe is addressed by G’d as “Elokim” to indicate he was being judged by the Attribute of Justice. Additionally the term “v’yadaber- spoke” is a more formal manner of speech than “vayomer-said.” G’d was communicating to Moshe in a most formal manner. Ohr HaChaim HaKadosh explains that the verse which concludes with the words “I am Hashem,” indicates that Hashem is the G’d of Mercy. Meaning what Moshe had depicted and understood as having done “bad” to the Jewish people, as an expression as His Attribute of Justice, was in fact an expression of His Attribute of Mercy. The Jewish people were meant to be in Egypt for 400 years as G’d had said to Avraham our Patriarch. However, because of the intensity of suffering, the bondage was reduced to 210 years. Thus, the withdrawal of the straw subsidy was in fact an expression of G’d’s Mercy because it shortened their stay in Egypt. Moshe should have recognized this as mercy and not questioned G’d as he had done. The Midrash Tanchuma explains that Avraham, Yitzchak, and Yaakov did not question Hashem although He did not reveal His Name (YKVK) to them. However, Hashem did reveal His Name (YKVK) to Moshe and he did question Him. Thus because of this failing, Moshe would only witness the initial redemption but would not enter into the Promised Land. The Midrash concludes, “Moshe was judged with the Attribute of Justice – as the verse states, “V’yadaber Elokim - G’d spoke to Moshe…” However the Jewish people were judged with the Attribute of Mercy as the verse states, “I am Hashem.” Meaning, although Moshe was not worthy of the Attribute of Mercy, nevertheless, the ultimate redemption would only come through the Attribute of Mercy. One could think that the Jewish people, although they are undeserving, succeed because of their leaders. However, this is not the case. It is true that without a person

goes beyond the finite. When the Torah refers to the Jewish people as “Yisroel” or “B’nei Yisroel” it is using the appellation that was given to Yaakov after he had wrestled with and defeated the angel. He had dominated the physical and spiritual, thus establishing himself as the one who transcends the constraints of physicality. Yaakov was thus given the name “Yisroel” which connotes the eternal person, who has relevance to the infinite. Thus, the Torah initially refers to the Jewish people as “Yisroel” within the context of “Hashem(YKVK)” to indicate that the Jewish people have relevance

who did not have the qualifications of Moshe Rabbeinu, the redemption could not have taken place. However, Moshe was only able to evolve into the special person that he was only because he was needed to be the one to take the Jews out of Egypt. Since Jewish people needed to be redeemed they needed a qualified Redeemer. The emphasis is not on the Redeemer – it is on the merit and worthiness of those who are to be redeemed. The Jewish people themselves have merit because of their Patriarchs (Avraham, Yitzchak, and Yaakov) and thus Hashem will always provide them with a qualified Redeemer.

to the Being who is YKVK – the Infinite/Eternal Being. The basis for the Jewish

  • 20. The Objective of the Plagues

people being an eternal people is because of their relationship and connection to Hashem (YKVK). Just as Hashem cannot be quantified; so too the Jewish people

The Torah states regarding the Plague of Frogs, “Hashem said to Moshe, Say to Aaron, ‘Stretch out your hand with your staff over the rivers…and raise up the frogs


!eaaBtu!zsIb!trcdk trcd ihc




over the land of Egypt.” The Torah tells us that the frogs had pervaded all of Egypt – the houses, the land, and even entered into the innards of the Egyptian people. The

Additionally the Torah states regarding the Plague of Hail, “…For this time I shall


Therefore, after the sin, we read (Shemot 33:7) that Moshe dismantled the Tent and rebuilt it outside of the camp. (Sichot Mussar 5731, No. 16)


plague reached an intolerable level. Pharaoh summoned Moshe to request of him to

“Aharon shall lean his two hands upon the head of the living he-goat

remove the plague. Moshe agreed to do so saying, “It shall be as you requested – so

and confess upon it all the iniquities of Bnei Yisrael,

and send it with

that you will know that there is none like Hashem, our G’d.” Meaning, the purpose of the Plague of Frogs and its subsequent removal was so that Pharaoh should “know” that there is no Being that is comparable to Hashem.

iniquities to an uninhabited land, and he [the messenger] should send the he-goat to the desert.” (16:21-22)

The Torah reveals the objective for the Plague of Wild Beasts and its subsequent removal. The Torah states, “…I shall incite against you…the swarm of wild beasts…so that you will know that I am Hashem in the midst of the land…”

shall know that there is none like Me in all the world…” The Torah makes it a point to continuously use the phrase “so that you shall know …” It does not state, “so that

The Mishnah (Yoma 66a) teaches that, even though it was Yom Kippur, there were way-stations where food and drink were offered to the man taking the se’ir lazazel to the desert. However, says the Gemara (Yoma 67a), the person never needed the food or drink. This illustrates the principle that “one who has bread in his basket is not like one who does not have bread in his basket,” i.e., a person who has the ability to fulfill a

you shall understand that I am G’d

Evidently there is a difference between

particular desire generally does not desire that thing as strongly as does

“knowing” and “understanding.” “Understanding” is based on intellectual reasoning and comprehension. One can develop an understanding of something through a process of reasoning. However if it should be demonstrated that one’s understanding or evaluation of something was incorrect, based on false reasoning, then it would cause him to change his understanding of fact. Because “Understanding” is based on evaluation, it is thus subject to conflict of interest. However, the term “knowing” is applied and utilized in a situation that is not based on intellectual evaluation and reasoning; but rather, on fact. For example, one “knows” that if he were to put his hand into fire he would be burned. There is no need for the intellectual process to be utilized to come upon this reality. Thus, it is not subject to conflict of interest. The Torah uses the term “know” and not “understand” regarding the objective of the plagues, in order to communicate that G’d’s obviousness in each one of these instances was at such a revealed level that it was established as fact. Thus, G’d’s Omnipotence could not be denied. One did not require any level of intellectualism or reasoning to accept this truth. Pirkei Avos (Ethics of our Fathers) states, “Rebbe says, “If one considers these three things he will never sin. You should know what is above you. There is a seeing eye, a listening ear, and all of your actions are recorded in a ledger…” It is interesting to note that the term used by Rebbe is not “you should understand” but rather “you should know.” Meaning, if one “knows” that there is a seeing eye, a listening ear, and that all of one’s actions are recorded, it is only then that one will not sin. One must live every moment of his life “knowing” that G’d and His involvement in creation is fact. If one internalizes this as a reality, he will not sin. It is only when one believes this on a conceptual level and not as fact/reality, that one’s conflicts of interests could allow him to see it differently. Chazal also tell us, “You should know before whom you stand.” Here again, the term “know” is used rather than understand.

one who does not have the ability to fulfill that desire. Rabbeinu Nissim z”l (“Ran”; 14th century; Barcelona, Spain) writes that this is the same principle which states that a mitzvah performed by one who is obligated to perform that mitzvah merits greater reward than does the same mitzvah performed by one who is not obligated to perform that mitzvah. When one is obligated to do a certain mitzvah, the yetzer hara resists. One who is not obligated does not experience that resistance, just as someone “who has bread in his basket” is immune from the whiles of the yetzer hara. Ran continues: There is another reason why a mitzvah performed by one who is obligated earns greater reward than does the same mitzvah performed by one who is not obligated. If G-d commands that a certain mitzvah be done by a certain category of people or in certain circumstances, and not others, it is because that is the only way the “secret” behind that mitzvah can be actualized. Even though a person who is not commanded may still be permitted to do that particular mitzvah, his actions do not accomplish the tikkun / spiritual rectification that that mitzvah was designed to accomplish. (Derashot Ha’Ran: drush chamishi, nusach bet) Elsewhere, Ran offers a third reason for why a mitzvah performed by one who is obligated merits greater reward than does the same mitzvah performed by one who is not obligated. If G-d needed our mitzvot, then there would be no difference between one who is commanded and one who is not, for each would have given G-d exactly the same thing. In fact, however, G-d does not need our mitzvot; rather, they were given to us in order bring us merit. That merit, however, can come about only by following G-d’s instructions, not by doing things He did not command. (Derashot Ha’Ran: drush shevi’i)

The objective of the plagues of Egypt was to reveal and present to the Jewish people

From the Haftarah


and the Egyptians that G’d is a reality and His omnipotence is fact. King David lived every moment of his life “knowing” that there is a G’d. G’d was always before his

“Behold! I send you Elyah the prophet, before the great and awesome day of Hashem.” (Malachi 3:23)

eyes as it is stated in Tehillim (Psalms), “Hashem is always before my eyes.” Anything that is less than “knowing” is subject to one’s conflict of interest.

R’ Yitzchak Weiss z”l (rabbi of Verbau, Slovakia; killed in the Holocaust) notes that the initial Hebrew letters in the phrase, “Behold! I send you

Rabbi Shlomo Katz

Elyah the prophet,” have a gematria of 343. This alludes to the 343 out of


the 613 mitzvot which cannot be practiced today. After Eliyahu Hanavi heralds the redemption and mashiach arrives, we will again practice these commandments. (Siach Yitzchak p.151)

Parshas Acharei Mos - Habits


Shabbat Hagadol

Volume 28, No. 29 12 Nissan 5774 April 12, 2014

Sponsored by Aaron and Rona Lerner in memory of their fathers Avraham

Why is the Shabbat preceding Pesach called “Shabbat Hagadol / “the Great Sabbath”?” R’ Zelig Reuven Bengis z”l (1864-1953; rabbi of Bodki

Midrash Rabbah relates that Moshe Rabbeinu persuaded Pharaoh to give

ben Yaakov Hakohen a”h and Yaakov Yonah ben Yisrael a”h The Neugroschl family on the yahrzeit of Genendel bat Yaakov v’Rachel a”h Martin and Michelle Swartz on the yahrzeit of his grandmother, Eva (neé Kalikow) Lichman a”h

Much of this week’s parashah is devoted to describing the sacrificial

and Kalvarija, Lithuania; later rabbi of the Eidah Ha’chareidis of Yerushalayim) suggests the following reason:

his slaves, Bnei Yisrael, one day of rest every week, and Moshe chose Shabbat as their day off. At that point, however, Shabbat was nothing

Daf Yomi (Bavli): Beitzah 13

service that the Kohen Gadol was required to perform whenever he entered

more than a day of physical rest; it did not yet have a spiritual component. Indeed, our Sages teach that Bnei Yisrael were mired in idolatry like their Egyptian neighbors.

(L’flagot Reuven - Haggadah Shel Pesach p.17)

the Holy of Holies. The Torah says (Vayikra 16:2), “He shall not come at

Before the Exodus, Hashem commanded Bnei Yisrael to set aside lambs to

all times into the Sanctuary

.” Why not?

offer as the korban Pesach. Lambs were holy to the Egyptians; thus,


fulfilling this commandment meant breaking from the idolatry of the Egyptians and expressing emunah / faith in Hashem. The day on which Bnei Yisrael set aside lambs to slaughter as offerings was the tenth of Nissan, which that year fell on Shabbat. That Shabbat was the first one on which Bnei Yisrael did more than rest physically; they experienced a day of spirituality. Thus, it was a “greater” Shabbat than any previous one.


R’ Yishmael Hakohen z”l (Modena, Italy; died 1811) writes: There are two conflicting midrashim regarding the reason for the Ten Plagues. According to the Midrash Rabbah, each of the plagues was a punishment for some aspect of the slavery that the Egyptians imposed on Bnei Yisrael. For example, because the Egyptians did not let the women of Bnei Yisrael immerse in a mikvah, their water turned to blood; because they forced Bnei Yisrael to gather small animals for them, they were swarmed by frogs; because they forced Bnei Yisrael to sweep their marketplaces, the dust of those marketplaces turned to lice; etc. According to the Midrash Tanchuma, on the other hand, each of the plagues represents a weapon that a king would use against a rebellious province: First, he cuts off their water supply, next he disturbs their peace with loud noises, then he shoots



eaaBtu!zsIb!trcdk trcd ihc!

arrows at them, etc. Likewise, Hashem first attacked the Egyptian’s water supply (blood), next he disturbed their peace with loud noises (frogs), then he shot arrows at them (lice), etc. What is the point of departure for this disagreement? R’ Yishmael explains: The disagreement is whether the primary purpose of the plagues was to punish the Egyptians for enslaving Bnei Yisrael or it was to force the Egyptians to let Bnei Yisrael go. According to the Midrash Rabbah it was the former; according to the Midrash Tanchuma, the latter. What is the practical implication for us? R’ Yishmael answers: There is a well-known midrash which teaches that the angels wished to sing praises of Hashem after the Egyptians drowned in the Yam Suf, but Hashem told them, “My creations are drowning in the sea, and you want to sing?” Commentaries ask: Why then were Bnei Yisrael allowed to sing? Because they benefitted directly from the drowning of the Egyptians. Similarly, concludes R’ Yishmael, if the primary purpose of the plagues was for our benefit, as the Midrash Tanchuma holds, then we should give

Egypt,” our issue has been resolved. However, other issues are now raised in its place. For one thing, Seder Olam uses Iyar as a reference point in his timeline (how it is used depends on how his timeline is understood, a matter of discussion that we will put aside for now) because that is when the straw Paro made the Children of Israel start to collect (Sh’mos 5:7) is available in the fields. Paro added this task right after Moshe’s first trip to see him, which Rabbi Emden says was in the middle of Nisan, not in Iyar. Nevertheless, Seder Olam (5) says that Moshe spent a week trying to get out of being the person to take the nation out of Egypt, meaning that he left the “burning bush” with only a week left in Nisan, not halfway through it. And he went back to Midyan to get his family and take leave of his father-in law (Sh’mos 4:18-20) before heading to Egypt, which had to take more than one day (since G-d had to tell Moshe again in Midyan to go back to Egypt, see 4:19, and he stayed at an inn on the way to Egypt, see 4:24). All of this occurred before going to Paro, meaning that Moshe

praise and thanks to G-d for the plagues. On the other hand, if the primary purpose was to punish the Egyptians, we should not rejoice at the plagues, as it is written (Mishlei 24:7), “When your enemy falls, do not rejoice.”

didn’t see Paro the first time until the very end of Nisan (at the earliest), which fits with the “straw season” being in Iyar. Although this removes the possibility of there being exactly 12 months from Paro’s first refusal to

(Haggadah Shel Pesach Shevach Pesach)

To Support Project Genesis- Copyright &copy 2014 by Shlomo Katz and The editors hope these brief 'snippets' will engender further study and discussion of Torah topics ('lehagdil Torah u'leha'adirah'), and your letters are appreciated. Web archives at start with 5758 (1997) and may be retrieved from the Hamaayan page. Hamaayan needs your support! Please consider sponsoring Hamaayan in honor of a happy occasion or in memory of a loved one. The low cost of sponsorship is $36. Donations to HaMaayan are tax-deductible. Questions or comments? Email Join the Jewish Learning Revolution! The Judaism Site brings this and a host of other classes to you every week. Visit or email to get your own free copy of this mailing. Need to change or stop your subscription? Please visit our subscription center, -- see the links on that page. Permission is granted to redistribute, but please give proper attribution and copyright to the author and Both the author and reserve certain rights. Email for full information. The Judaism Site Project Genesis, Inc. 122 Slade Avenue, Suite 250 Baltimore, MD 21208 (410) 602-1350 FAX: (410) 510-1053

send the Children of Israel out until they actually left Egypt, if we include the drowning in the sea as part of their “judgment” (which is quite reasonable), we are off by only a couple of days. Other issues with this approach that need to be resolved are the Midrashim (e.g. Bamidbar Rabbah 11:2) that say Moshe disappeared for three months after he saw Paro the first time before going back to see him the second

Rabbi Dov Kramer

time, as well as the fact that a month is not needed for the tenth plague

Taking A Closer Look

(Rabbi Emden only accounts for two “missing months,” not three). However, if the plagues started a month later (in Av), and we move the “snake/stick” scene to shortly before the first plague, we have a three

“The judgment of the Egyptians [lasted for] 12 months” (Eiduyos 2:10). There is much discussion about what this “judgment” consisted of, and how it could have lasted for 12 months. The starting point for much of the discussion is Rashi’s explanation of the “seven days” given for length of the plague of blood (Sh’mos 7:25); “the plague was active for a quarter of a month (the seven days mentioned in the verse) and [for] three [quarters of the month] he (Moshe) warned them (about the plague).” If each plague lasted for one month, and there were 10 plagues, the “judgment of Egypt” should have only lasted 10 months, not 12. Why are there two additional months that are considered part of the “judgment of Egypt,” and what was happening that it qualifies as part of their judgment? Numerous approaches have been suggested to deal with this issue. Y’feh To’ar, commentating on Sh’mos Rabbah (9:12, the Midrash that Rashi is based on), says explicitly that this Midrash is not consistent with the Mishna in Eiduyos, as according to the Midrash the “judgment of Egypt” must have only lasted nine months (one month each for the first nine plagues; the tenth plague followed immediately after the ninth, so no additional time had passed). However, there is no need (aside from thereby sidestepping having to reconcile the Mishna with the Midrash) to say that the term “judgment” must refer to the actual plagues. As a matter of fact, the Vilna Ga’on, in his commentary on Seder Olam (3) saying that “the plagues of Egypt [lasted] 12 months,” says that Seder Olam does not literally mean “the plagues,” as the 12 months started from the time G-d spoke to Moshe at the burning bush, which Seder Olam (5) says was during the time of Pesach. (The Ga’on brings a couple of proofs that Seder Olam could not have meant that the actual plagues lasted 12 months.) Therefore, even though att