Sunday, January 25, 2015

Beshalach 5775

The Torah Portion of "Beshalach" , Shabbat Shira  5775


Excerpted and Translated from the the Teachings of Rabbi Gershon Steinberg ztz"l
L'ilui Neshamat HaGaon HaTzaddik R' Gershon Avigdor Ben Chaim ztz"l

  

"...And Hashem did not lead them by the way of the land..." (Shemot 13:17).  


Hashem did not lead Israel according to the natural way of the world, in which the drinking water arrives from above and the food arrives from below, but in the desert it was reversed; food came from above (the manna) and drinking water came from below (Miriam's well).

"...And the children of Israel were armed..." (Shemot 13:18).  


[Translator's Note: The word "armed" in Hebrew has the same root letters as the word "five".] Rashi explains that one out of five came out and the rest died in the plague of darkness, and the Targum Yonatan explains that each one had five children.  The B'air Yosef asks, how is it possible that each one had exactly five children? He explains that since four out of five died in the plague of darkness and those that remained accepted upon themselves the responsibility to care for the orphans of the 4/5 that died, therefore each one had five families.  In the merit of this kindness there were miracles done for them, and the Tirgum Yerushalmi adds that it was in the merit of good deeds.  Also there is a verse that says "and I remembered for you the kindness of your youth".

"...And Moshe took the bones of Yosef with him..." (Shemot 13:19)  


The Sages say regarding Moshe "...And a wise heart will take Mitzvot...", for everyone was busy with silver and gold while Moshe was busy with the bones of Yosef.  The Sages say: "After a man's death silver and gold do not accompany him, only Torah and good deeds".  That is what is meant by saying that he "took the bones of Yosef with him'", because to the upper realms [in the Next World] we take only Mitzvot. (from Kli Yakar)

"...Before Baal Tzefon..." (Shemot 14:2) 


The Daat Zekainim asks how is it that Hashem said to return and gave them a road-mark to do so before Baal Tzefon?  Isn't it forbidden to use a location of idol worship as a road-mark, as it says "...And you shall not mention the names of other gods"?  His answer is, that this was because it was before the giving of the Torah.

"...And Pharoah said to the children of Israel..." (Shemot 14:3)  


Rashi explains that this means "...And Pharoah said about the children of Israel".  Another explanation is given by  the Tirgum Yonatan, who says that Pharoah spoke to Datan and Aviram who remained in Egypt.  It is asked, if they were wicked [and therefore wanted to stay in Egypt], shouldn't they have died in the plague of darkness?  The answer is, they in truth did want to leave  Egypt, and therefore didn't die in the plague of darkness.  But they thought that since it was only for three days, it wasn't worthwhile to go out and afterwards to return.  The secret that the Jews were going out and not returning was not told to them since they were  Malshinim (Slanderers) who would have told Pharoah.

"...And Egypt will know that I am Hashem..." (Shemot 14:4)  


The Gaon HaRav A.M. Shach ztzvk"l explains, for how much time did Egypt know Hashem?  For just a moment before death, for until the very last moment they wanted to make war against Israel.  From this we see how significant is the one moment that "they knew Hashem", for all the miracles and wonders were worthwhile just so that the Egyptians would know Hashem for one moment.  All the moreso, the miracles and wonders were worthwhile for the sake of the children of Israel, who were meant to serve Hashem for all time [and not just for one moment].

"And Pharoah drew close..." (Shemot 14:10)  


[Translator's Note: The word for "drew close" in Hebrew is "hikriv", which can also be translated as "to bring a sacrifice".] There are three explanations: 1) Pharoah went first to the war, 2) Pharoah offered a sacrifice to Ba'al Tzefon,  and 3) Pharoah brought the Jews close to our Father in Heaven, since because of him Israel repented (did Teshuvah).

"Hashem will fight for you and you shall remain silent." (Shemot 14:14)  


When they were leaving Egypt, why did the Jews need merits such as the blood of the Passover offering and the blood of circumcision, and here [at the splitting of the sea] it was said to them "you shall remain silent"? The explanation is that Hashem knew beforehand that here they would risk their lives in complete devotion to Hashem (Mesirut Nefesh), for example in the case of Nachshon [who entered the sea before it split], and where there is complete devotion to Hashem that is the greatest of all merits. (from Avnei Nezer)  Similarly, it is asked, why didn't they build the Temple on Har Sinai where the Torah was given? The answer is that Har Hamoriah was a place where a Jew (Yitzchak) exposed his neck to be slaughtered for  Hashem's honor, and therefore it was suitable to build the Temple there, since there is no other place which has a greater honor than that.

Before Kriat Yam Suf (the splitting of the Reed Sea)


Before the splitting of the sea at Yam Suf the children of Israel were divided into four groups. One group said we should shout against the Egyptians; the second said we should make war against them; the third said we should return to Egypt; and the fourth said we should fall into the sea, for it is preferable to die in the sea rather than dying by the sword.  Moshe answered to each of the four groups in an appropriate way.  To the group that said we should fall into the sea, he said "...do not be afraid, stand still and see the salvation of Hashem..." (Shemot 14:13).  To the group that said we should return to Egypt he said "...for whereas you have seen the Egyptians today, you shall not see them ever again" (Shemot 14:13).  To the group which said to fight with the Egyptians, he said "Hashem will fight for you..." (Shemot 14:14).  To the group which said we should shout against them, he said "...and you shall remain silent" (Shemot 14:14).  (from Yonatan been Uziel)

"Hashem will fight for you and you shall remain silent." (Shemot 14:14) 


If Israel will guard themselves not to speak in the Bait Haknesset and remain silent, then the Holy One Blessed Be He will fight for them. (from the Zohar Hakodesh)

"...and the waters were split." (Shemot 14:21)  


Rashi says all the waters in the world were split, and on a simple level this was in order to publicize the miracles throughout all the world.  There are those that explain that this was in order to cause the Egyptians to err.  Pharoah was a great king and had many wise counselors, so how could it be that they saw the waters splitting for Israel and were not afraid to enter?  If they were seeing an open miracle for Israel how could they think that they could be saved?  The answer is, that they saw that all the waters in the world were being split, and they said that this was not connected to Israel but was just a natural event.   This is what the Targum means when it translates "the waters were piled up"  (Shemot 15:8) as "the waters were intelligent"; the waters did something intelligent and cunning in order to cause Pharoah to err.  But it can be asked, how did the waters do something that they weren't commanded to do?  And also, why did the Egyptians deserve a punishment?  Weren't they fulfilling the command of Hashem who said to Avraham "and they will enslave them and they will oppress them"? (Braishit 15:13) However, it is because the Egyptians went beyond  the decree of enslavement.  Hashem didn't tell them to throw the boys into the Nile river, or to put the children into the walls.  If so, the waters said, just as the Egyptians went beyond Hashem's decree, we also will go beyond what Hashem decreed.  Also, with regards to the plague of darkness it says in the Psalms that "He sent darkness and it became dark", and the Sages explained, it became even more dark, "and they [the forces that increased the darkness] didn't rebel against His word".  Why wasn't it considered a rebellion?  Just as the Egyptians went beyond the  decree of slavery, so it was permissible for the darkness to increase itself. (from B'air Yosef)

"...and the water was a wall for them..."  (Shemot 14:22 and Shemot 14:29)


One time the word for "wall" in Hebrew is written "Choma" (in the verse Shemot 14:22 it is spelled fully, Chet-Vuv-Mem-Hey), containing the letter "Vuv",  and a second time it is written "Choma" (in the verse Shemot 14:29 it is spelled Chet-Mem-Hey), without the letter "Vuv", so even though it is still pronounced "Choma", it visually looks like the Hebrew word "Chayma", which means "anger" in English.  The Sages say that the tribe of Dan carried the idol of Micah with them, and because of that it is written "Chayma" (anger).  Another explanation of why the word for wall is written two different ways, is that the first group entered into the sea and after that it became dry land, as it is written "and the children of Israel came within the sea on dry land" (Shemot 14:22), and they risked their lives with complete devotion to Hashem (Mesirut Nefesh), and regarding that group the word for wall is written "Choma" with a "Vuv".  And afterwards, the second group entered the water, and regarding them it is written "and the children of Israel walked on the dry land in the midst of the sea" (Shemot 14:29), since they waited until it was dry and afterwards entered the water, and regarding them the word for wall is written like "Chayma" without a "Vuv", which indicates that there was "anger" because they didn't risk their lives to devote themselves to Hashem. (from the Gr"a)

"The sea saw and fled..." (Tehillim 114:3)


What did it see?  The coffin of Yosef.  Also by Yosef it is written "...and he fled outside." (Breisheet 39:13)  The Holy One Blessed Be He said, the sea will flee before someone who fled from sinning. (from Midrash Tehillim)

"...And Israel saw the great hand..." (Shemot 14:31)  


What caused Nachshon to hurry and enter the water?  "The great hand" of the daughter of Pharoah that stretched out her hand and Hashem lengthened her arm.  Nachshon said, I will enter the sea and Hashem will help, and that is what is meant by "...And Israel saw the great hand...".

SHABBAT SHIRA:


"Then sang..." (Shemot 15:1)


The word for "sang"  is written in Hebrew "Yashir" (which is actually in the future tense).  The Baal HaTurim says, that this word "Yashir"  consists of the letter "Yud" (which has the numerical value of 10) followed by the word "Shir" (which means "song").  There are 10 Songs:  1) the Song of the Sea, 2) The Song of the Well, 3) the Song of Ha'azinu, 4) the Song of Yehoshua, 5) the Song of Devorah, 6) the Song of Channah, 7) the Song of David, 8) the Song of Shlomo, 9) the Song of Chizkiyahu, and 10) the Song of the Future to Come -- may it come speedily in our days, Amen. Therefore it is not written "Az Shar" (in English: "Then sang"), but "Az Yashir" (in English: "Then will sing"), because in the future to come we will sing again, speedily in our days, Amen.

The Merit of Saying Songs of Praise


Rav Yisrael Ben Levi says that everyone that says songs of praise (Shira) in this world merits to say songs of praise in the Next World (from Sanhedrin 91).  Everyone who says the song of the sea with great happiness, has all his sins forgiven. (from Midrash Tehillim 18)

"This is my G-d, and I will glorify Him..." (Shemot 15:2)  


The Sages say, be glorious before him with Mitzvot - a beautiful Tallit, a beautiful Succah, etc.  And it is necessary to understand why the explanation about beautifying the Mitzvot  is connected to the Torah Portion of Shira (the Song of the Sea), for it should have been appropriate to reveal this concept in one of the Torah Portions which speaks of the fulfillment of the Mitzvot, such Tzitzit, Succah, etc.  The explanation is that besides enabling Israel  to pass through the Sea, Hashem added many more miracles in the Sea, as is explained in the Midrash: many kinds of fruits grew, and there were many kinds of plants, spices, sweet water, and windows within the walls of the sea, etc.  Since Hashem added miracles for us much more than what was necessary, we should certainly add to the Mitzvot much more than what is required by law by making each Mitzvah beautiful and glorious as much as possible. (from Oznaim L'Torah)  In addition, there are those that explain that if we look at Rashi in the Torah Portion Vayeitze (29:35), he wrote "This time I will thank because I have taken more than my portion, and from now on I need to thank".  [with regards to Leah when she bore more than 1/4 of Yaakov's children]  It is clarified that the concept of thankfulness comes into play especially in response to recognition that we are getting more than we deserve. Therefore at the Sea we come to the expression of thankfulness by means of beautifying the Mitzvot because of the recognition and acknowledgement that we have received more than we deserved from the Holy One Blessed Be He.  In response to that, we express our will to serve Hashem more than we are commanded to and required to.  And there are those that say that the reason  that Israel accepted upon themselves to beautify the Mitzvot, was that the fifth miracle which was done at the Sea (look at the Rav Ovadia Bartenura in Ethics of the Fathers Chapter 5 Mishne 4) was that the waters that "froze" on the floors of the Sea were not all in one piece but were like building blocks that were interlocked, and that certainly was in order to make it beautiful for Israel.

TU B'SHVAT:


On Tu B'Shvat, there is a custom to eat different kinds of fruit from trees, and especially from the fruit of the Land of Israel, in order to fulfill the idea of making symbols for ourselves and to show that this day is the New Year for the Trees (in regards to the matter of Trumot and Maaserot, etc.).  And it is customary to pray also for a beautiful Etrog.

The Torah Portion Beshalach has 116 verses. The Torah Portion Beshalach has within it 1 negative commandment.The Haftorah is "V'Devora Isha Naviah" (Shoftim 4)

We say Borchi Nafshi.


May you all have a  light-filled and happy Shabbat.  
Shabbat Shalom.

L'ilui Neshamat HaGaon HaTzaddik R' Gershon Avigdor Ben R' Chaim ztz"l, Nilkach L'Bait Olamo Yud Gimmel Tishrei 5772

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Bo 5775

The Torah Portion of Bo 


Translated from the the Teachings of Rabbi Gershon Steinberg ztz"l
L'ilui Neshamat HaGaon HaTzaddik R' Gershon Avigdor Ben Chaim ztz"l


There are three plagues in the Torah Portion of Bo


"Bo" (Bait-Aleph) has the gematria of three, a hint that there are three plagues in this Torah Portion. (according to Ba'al Haturim)

"Come to Pharoah"   (Shemot 10:1)


When Hashem said to Moshe to come to the house of Pharoah, He said to come (in Hebrew: "Bo") to Pharaoh, and when He told him to go to the water He said to go (in Hebrew: "Lech") to Pharoah.  (according to Ba'al Haturim)

"Come to Pharoah". (Shemot 10:1)  


A small child walking with his father sees a dog and becomes frightened.  His father says to him, come with me, give me your hand and don't be afraid.  Similarly, Hashem said to Moshe, "Come to Pharaoh", come with me and don't be afraid of the sorcery and the lions.

"For  I have hardened his heart". (Shemot 10:1)  


The Midrash says that the root of the word "hardened" ("Kaved") is similar to "liver" ("Kaved").  In the case of liver, the more it is cooked, the harder it gets and it doesn't absorb anything.   Similarly, in the case of Pharoah, the more he is struck with plagues, the more he hardens himself and doesn't want to hear what is said to him.

"That I might show these My signs in the midst of them". (Shemot 10:1)  


There are two signs which are a remembrance of the Exodus from Egypt: 1) Shabbat is referred to as a "sign forever", and  2) Tefillin are referred to as a "sign on your hand".  This is what was meant by saying "That I might show these My signs in the midst of them"'.  That is to say, because of the Exodus from Egypt we will have these two signs (of Shabbat and Tefillin).  

"That one shall not be able to see the earth".  (Shemot 10:5)  


Rashi says that one who sees shall not be able to see.  There are those that explain that locusts do not see, and the Sages say that someone who is blind eats more than he needs because his eyes don't help him to feel satiated, and therefore the locusts cause great damage to the produce.   (according to the Cli Yakar)

"Stretch out your hand over the land of Egypt for (or, with)  the locusts".  (Shemot 10:12)  


The Ohr HaChaim says that it's possible that Moshe  attached a locust to his staff and stretched it out like that over the land of Egypt.

8 Kinds of Locusts


There are 8 kinds of locusts and in Hebrew these are called: arbeh, selam, chargol, chagav, gazam, yelek, chasil,  and tz'latzal.

"And rested in all the borders of Egypt".  (Shemot 10:14)  


The Baal Haturim says the phrase "and rested" appears twice in the Torah:  1) "And He rested on the seventh day" (Shemot 20:11) and 2) "And rested in all the borders of Egypt" (Shemot 10:14). This teaches that the locusts rested on Shabbat.

"And he went out from Pharoah, and he entreated Hashem".  (Shemot 10:18)  


The Ramban writes in the name of Rabbeinu Chananel, that from the time of the prayer of Moshe Rabbeinu until now, there has not been a plague of locusts that causes damage in all of Egypt.  And if locusts fall in the land of Israel and come to enter the border of Egypt, they don't eat from all the crops of the land (of Egypt) until today.  And it is said, that this is something already known to everyone, and on this it is said (in Tehillim 105:2): "speak of all His wonders".

"...and afterwards there will not be any like it." (Shemot 10:14)


Rashi writes that the plague of locusts which occurred in the days of Yoel, of which it is said "there has never been anything like it" (Yoel 2:2), consisted of many different kinds of locusts, for there were together arbeh, yelek, chasil, and gazam.  But the plague in the days of Moshe was only of one species, and something like that never was and never will be again.  And the Ramban raises a question about this, for behold the Tehillim describes the plagues and it is written there (in Tehillim 78:46), "and He gave the chasil their crops and their efforts to the arbeh", and it is written (in Tehillim 105:34): "He spoke and brought arbeh and yelek without number".   And the Mizrachi ztz"l explains the language of Rashi, that a plague of one kind like it, there never was.  His interpretation is that in the plague in the days of Moshe, regarding the particular species of locust referred to as arbeh, something like that plague never happened before and never will happen again, and therefore we find that the plague in the days of Yoel was greater from the perspective that there were more kinds of locusts, for there were arbeh, yelek, chasil, and gazam, but in the plague in the days of Moshe there were only arbeh, yelek, and chasil.  And the plague in the days of Moshe was greater than the plague in the days of Yoel because of the quantity of the specific kind of locust referred to as arbeh, for the arbeh in the days of Moshe was greater than the arbeh in the days of Yoel.  But the Rashi text that the Mizrachi based his interpretation on has no "Vuv" on the word "Comohu" (in English: "similar to it"), whereas the Ramban's version of the Rashi text, like our version which we have today, does have "V'comohu" (in English: "and similar to it"), with a "Vuv" and this may account for the differing interpretations of the Ramban and the Mizrachi.

"...V'acharav Lo Yihyeh Cain." (In English: "...and afterwards there will not be any like it.") (Shemot 10:14)


The word "V'acharav" (in English: "and afterwards"), has the same Gematria (numerical values of the letters) as "V'afilu Bimai Yoel" (which means "and even in the days of Yoel").  And the words 'Lo Yihyeh Cain" (in English: "there will not be any like it") has the same Gematria (numerical values of the letters) as "Zehu Min Achad" (in English: "This is one kind").  (from Rav Ch. Putiel) 

"They did not see one another nor did anyone rise from his place". (Shemot 10:23).  


The greatest darkness is when one does not want to be concerned about another person.  (from the Chidushi Harim)

"And also our cattle shall go with us". (Shemot 10:26)  


The intention of this is that the animals will go of their own accord and with the desire that they will be offered as sacrifices.  This is similar to what is written regarding Eliyahu on Mount Carmel, in which the bull which he offered ran with joy.  (from Malbim)

"For thereof must we take to serve Hashem" (Shemot 10:26)  


There are those that explain that also from Pharoah it is possible to learn something about how to serve Hashem.  Even after he received so many plagues he still stood in his rebellion.  Similarly, in the case of serving Hashem, even if occasionally there are difficulties or failures Chas V'shalom, we need to strengthen ourselves with more capacity and strength to serve Hashem.  

"And we don't know (with) what we will serve Hashem until we come there".  (Shemot 10:26)  


In this world it is not possible to know if we did the Mitzvot and served Hashem appropriately, until we come to the Next World (Olam Haba) to give a judgment and accounting, and this is the explanation of "until we come there", that is to say, to the Next World.  (from Chidushei Harim)

The Rav asked his students: in what ways was Pharaoh agreeing with Moshe and what not?  


The students answered:  In the beginning he didn't want to agree at all.  Afterwards he agreed that they should offer sacrifices in the land of Egypt, and after that he agreed that they would go out of Egypt to sacrifice but only a short distance and not far away.  Afterwards he agreed only to the adult men leaving, and after that he agreed that everyone would leave except for the animals. Finally in the end he agreed on everything, and also that they would take animals from him as well.

"Speak please in the ears of the people".  (Shemot 11:2)  


Why is it written "please" (in Hebrew: "Na") which is a language of request?  This was so that the righteous one, Avraham, should not say that the promise "And they shall serve them and they shall afflict them" (Braishit 15:13), was fulfilled for them by Hashem, but "... afterwards shall they come out with great possessions" (ibid), was not fullfilled for them by Hashem. (Rashi)  And also there are those that say that since they were being commanded to request silver and gold, the act would be tainted by impure motives (the evil inclination) , even if it were being done for their own benefit.  Thus Moshe said "please", a language of request; that is to say, I request from you to overcome the evil inclination.

"And let them ask every man of his fellow". (Shemot 11:2)  


On one level,  "his fellow"  simply refers to the Egyptians,  but another explanation is that they every man should ask of his fellow Jew.  The strategy behind this was as follows: if the rich Jews would give to the poor ones, then the Egyptians would also give silver and gold to them, because they would understand that a requirement of the Jewish festival was that everyone would need expensive clothing. And the Gr"a explains that first of all the Jewish people needed to do kindness with each other, and in this way Hashem would cause the Jews to find favor in the eyes of the Egyptians, who would then give silver and gold to them.

"And let them ask every man of his fellow". (Shemot 11:2)  


The book Toldot Adam explains the verses "And let them ask every man of his fellow...And Hashem gave the people favor in the eyes of the Egyptians" (Shemot 11:2-3) in a similar way. If the people of Israel act in a kind way with each other and help each other at a time of need, then Hashem will grant Israel favor in the eyes of the nations. 

"Also the man Moshe was very great".  (Shemot 11:3)  


It would only be natural that the Egyptians should hate Moshe because he brought upon them all the plagues, but nonetheless they honored him greatly. 

"Also the man Moshe was very great in the land of Egypt, in the eyes of Pharoah's servants, and in the eyes of the people".  (Shemot 11:3)  


It is known that to become well-known as a very great man in the eyes of the common people there are two possible routes: 1) One way is when the great people of the nation recognize his greatness  because even though superficially he is similar to everyone else, they recognize his true righteousness, and they publicize his name also among the common people.  2) Another way is when the man does strange acts so that the common people who don't understand much think that he is a holy man, say that he is supernatural, and make up fictitious, wondrous stories about him until his name becomes publicized among the masses.  The great extent of the publicity also affects the great, wise people of the nation so that a doubt enters their hearts regarding him and they think that probably it was not for nothing that his name became famous among the masses. Therefore they will also honor him.  This second mechanism is by no means a proof that a man who is publicly known as a great man is truly a great man in reality.  And this is why the verse emphasized "Also the man Moshe was very great in the land of Egypt, in the eyes of Pharoah's servants, and in the eyes of the people." (Shemot 11:3) In the beginning his name became publicized among the great, wise people of the nation who were the servants of Pharoah, and afterwards his name was publicized by them among the common people.  This shows that Moshe was truly great.  (according to Meshech Chachma)

"To multiply My wonders in the land of Egypt". (Shemot 11:9)  


In Hebrew this phrase reads: "R'vut Mofti B'eretz Mitzaim", and the initial letters of these four  Hebrew words are Reish , Mem, Bait, Mem -- which spells Rambam.  It is told that at the end of his life the Rambam was in Egypt, but in the other places that he lived he suffered from many persecutions.

Where does Rambam's name appear in the Talmud Bavli?


There is only one time in all of the Talmud Bavli that the name of the Rambam is mentioned in the Tosefot, on page 42 of Menachot: The words (at the bottom of the second side of the page) that begin "Tefillin" where he brings the explanation of R' Moshe ben Maimon (the Rambam)  that Mezuzot don't need to be made with proper intention (L'shma).  And there is a sign which is associated with that:  "See Menachot 42". In Hebrew this phrase reads: "Re'ai Menachot Mem-Bait", and the initial letters of these four Hebrew words are  Reish, Mem, Bait, Mem -- which spells Rambam.

"This month is for you the beginning of months, it is the first for you of the months of the year".  (Shemot 12:2)  


The Chatam Sofer says that Israel is required to count according to the numbering of the months of Israel and not according to the numbering of the months of the non-Jews, because the first month is Nisan and not as the non-Jews say that the first is January, as it is said, "It is the first for you".  (according to the Chatam Sofer)

"It is the first for you".  (Shemot 12:2)  


The Sages say, the First will come, that is the Holy One Blessed Be He of Whom it is said "I am the First"; and He will take retribution against Eisav, of whom it is said "And the first one came out ruddy"; and He will build the first, that is the Temple of which it is said, "The throne of glory from the first"; for the sake of the first, that is Israel of whom it is said "The first for Zion are they"; in the first month, of which it is said "It is the first for you".  (Shemot 12:2)

Why did the Passover offering need to be a male?


It has been explained that the reason the Passover offering needs to be specifically a male and not a female is because the lamb was worshiped as an idol by the Egyptians.  They had to sacrifice a male and not a female, so that the Egyptians couldn't claim that because they sacrificed a female their idol couldn't resist them, but if they had sacrificed a male the idol would have resisted them. Therefore the Passover offering also needed to be without any blemishes, so that they couldn't say that because it was weak it consented to be sacrificed by them.

"And they shall slaughter it, all the assembly of the congregation of Israel".  (Shemot 12:6)  


The Aramaic translation by Yonatan Ben Uziel in the Torah Portion Yitro on the verse "And I carried you on the wings of eagles" (Shemot 19:4), says that a cloud came and brought all of the children of Israel to Mount Moriah and they sacrificed the Passover offering there and then returned to Egypt.


The Rav asked his students: how is it possible that Moshe entered the Land of Israel?  


And he told them the answer: according to the words of Yonatan Ben Uziel, all of Israel came in a cloud from Egypt to Mount Moriah to do the Passover offering, and certainly Moshe was also with them.

"And they shall put it on the two side-posts and on the lintel". (Shemot 12:7) 


And later on it is written that Moshe told Israel to smear the blood first on the lintel and afterwards on the two side-posts.  The reason for this is that the Holy One Blessed Be He, because His great love for Israel, told them first to do it below on the two side-posts because that's easier, and afterwards on the lintel.  But Moshe said the opposite, that we need to show love for Hashem, first on the lintel even though that's more difficult and afterwards on the two side-posts.

"And the blood shall be to you a sign upon the houses" (Shemot 12:13)


The Rashba in his questions and answers, part 4, section 187 writes that a non-Jewish priest asked him about the verse "Greater will be the glory of this last House from the first", here it calls the second House the last, and if so doesn't that mean there will not be a third Temple?  And  he answered him, in the Torah Portion of Shemot it says "And they will believe the voice of this last sign" (Shemot 4:8).  And afterwards it is written, "And if they will also not believe in these two signs" (Shemot 4:9), and if so we see that the last is not always the last.  Until here were the words of the Rashba.  And it has been added on the verse written in this Torah Portion, "And the blood shall be to you a sign upon the houses" (Shemot 12:13), that the blood which was the third sign (in the Torah Portion of Shemot) even though the sign before it was called the last, will be a sign regarding the Temples.

"And you shall have it in keeping until the fourteenth day of this month, and all the congregation of Israel shall slaughter it at dusk."  (Shemot 12:6)


Rashi says on Shemot (12:6) "for they circumcised themselves on that night".  It is also written by the Ba'al Haturim on verse 13 that they circumcised themselves on the night of Passover. Also Rashi on a verse in Yehoshua (5:2) wrote that they circumcised themselves on the night of Passover.  It has been asked, how is it permissible to circumcise at night?  The explanation is that it is written in the Holy Zohar that during that night there was light such as during the season of Tammuz as it is said, "A night which like a day will give light".  If so, then this night was daytime.  [And we still need to clarify this, because circumcision needs to be done specifically during the daytime.]

How does the Passover offering symbolize unity and completeness?


The Passover offering symbolizes unity and completeness, for it needs to be eaten in a group in unison, and its roasting is precisely when it is whole.  It is forbidden to break a bone in it because it needs to be whole.  It needs to be roasted and not cooked, because cooking causes it to break apart and roasting only contracts it and it remains intact.  The Holy One Blessed Be He wanted to hint to us that the first offering should be in unity and completeness, and in that manner, we will have success in everything.  (according to Maharal) 

"And the children of Israel journeyed from Rameses to Succot, about six hundred thousand".  (Shemot 12:37) 


What is the meaning of the language "about six"?  The Da'at Zekainim says that also the Divine Presence (Shechina) returned with them from Egypt, as it is said, "In all their troubles He has sorrow".

"And the children of Israel journeyed from Rameses to Succot". (Shemot 12:37)  


Israel had a miraculously quick jump between places in their journey (in Hebrew: K'fitzat Derech), two times: 1) from Goshen to Rameses, as Rashi wrote on the verse "And I carried you on wings of eagles" (Shemot 19:4), and 2) from Rameses to Succot which was a distance of 120 miles but they arrived there within a moment.  (according to Rashi)

"Any alien shall not eat from it". (Shemot 12:43) 


A non-Jew and an apostate are not given to eat from the Passover offering.  And it has been asked, why do we say during Kol Nidrei that we are allowed to pray with the transgressors, and in the case of the Passover offering we don't participate with them?  The answer is that on Yom Kippur the transgressors also come to fast, and we certainly need to join with them, but if they come to eat the broiled Passover offering it is not possible to join with them. (according to Pardes Yosef) 

"And for frontlets  (in Hebrew:  Totafot) between your eyes". (Shemot 13:16)  


Rashi says that "Tat" in the Coptic language denotes "two", and "Pat" in Africa denotes "two".  It has been asked, isn't the Torah written in the Holy Tongue?  So how is it found that the language of other nations is found in the Torah?  The explanation is, that during the generation of the separation of the languages (at the time of the attempt to build the tower of Bavel) each nation inserted into its language some words from the Holy Tongue, because also the impure draws into itself some aspects of holiness in order for it to be able to exist.  (from various Meforshim)

Why does the Midrash P'liah say that we don't eat the Passover offering except "with leavening"?


Midrash P'liah says that we don't eat the Passover offering except "with leavening" (in Hebrew : "B'Chametz").  And the explanation is that the letters of the Hebrew word "B'Chametz" (Beit, Chet, Mem, Tzadi) are the initial letters of the words "at night" (in Hebrew: "B'laila"), "midnight" (in Hebrew: "Chatzot"), "by subscription" (in Hebrew: "Minui"), and "roasted" (in Hebrew: "Tzli").  

"...the firstborn of man among your sons you shall redeem." (Shemot 13:13) 


A person came to Rav Yosef Chaim Zonenfeld ztz"l and said to him that the Sde Chemed says that there is no source for what people say that it is possible to redeem 84  fasts at a feast for a Redemption of a Firstborn Son (in Hebrew: "Pidyon Haben").  Rav Yosef Chaim answered, I have found for this a hint, in the words "...man among your sons you shall redeem" (Shemot 13:13) which in Hebrew is "Adam b'vanecha tifdeh".  The letters of these Hebrew words are: Aleph, Dalet, Mem, Bait, Bait, Nun, Yud, Chaf, Tav, Pey, Dalet, Hey.  In Hebrew, these letters spell the initial letters of: "If you have enjoyed an item of food at a Pidyon Haben it is as if you fasted 84 fasts".  (In Hebrew: "Im Davar Ma'achal B'pidyon Ben Neheneta Y'hyeh K'ilu Ta'aniot Peh-Dalet (that is, 84) Hita'anita". 

A page of Gemara is also worth 84 fasts


It is told that a person came to Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach ztz"l when he was in the middle of learning and asked him to stop learning in order to attend a Pidyon Haben.  He answered him that he was in the middle of learning.  The person inviting him said, this is as important as 84 fasts.  Rav Shlomo Zalman answered him, a page of Gemara  (in Hebrew: "Daf") has the gematria of 84 (since the letters of "Daf" are "Dalet" with a value of 4 and "Peh" with a value of 80).  If so, also a page of Gemara is as important as 84 fasts.

"And every firstborn of a donkey..." (Shemot 13:13)


It is said in the name of Rav Yosef Chaim Zonenfeld that two animals helped Israel to leave Egypt, the donkey who carried the burdens of Israel out of Egypt and the dog that didn't bark.  Why to the dog do we only give an unkosher animal to eat, and to the donkey do we perform a Mitzvah of the firstling of a donkey (in Hebrew: "Peter Chamor") and we publicize it with great publicity? The reason is that the donkey gave a shoulder, that is, he struggled with a large burden of possessions, as it is said by the Sages, there wasn't a poor person in Israel who did not take a burden carried by 90 donkeys. We see that there is a great difference between a Mitzvah which is done by means of struggling and a Mitzvah which is done easily.

Why were the Egyptians punished by the plague of locusts?  


Because they said to Jews to shepherd their (the Egyptians') flocks. And why the plague of darkness?  1) In order that the Jews would know where they were hiding their silver and gold, 2) so they wouldn't know that there were Jews in the congregation of Israel who were dying because they didn't want to leave Egypt, and 3) because they told the Jews to light lanterns for them to illuminate the road.  And why the plague of the firstborn? Because the congregation of Israel are called firstborn, as it is written "My son, My firstborn, Israel", and Pharoah tortured Israel who are the firstborn of Hashem.  In addition, the firstborn were worshiped as an idol by the Egyptians.

Why do we begin the observance of aspects of Passover a half a day earlier than the Festival, from mid-day of the day before Passover (Erev Pesach)?  


This is not the case with any other Festival.  Since the Holy One Blessed Be He hastened the end (of our exile in Egypt), we also hasten to begin the observance of Passover as a remembrance of the haste.  This is referred to in the Yotzrot of Shabbat Hagadol (special prayers said on the Shabbat before Passover) in the section beginning "There is no measure": "And why is there eating of Chametz (leavening) for 6 hours?  As a remembrance for the haste of the Divine Presence (Shechina) to remove the evil decrees."

Why do we emphasize specifically for the plague of the firstborn the word "plague"? 


For the rest of the plagues we don't emphasize the word "plague", we just say "blood", "frogs", etc.  The reason is that everyone understands that "blood", "frogs", etc., are things that are not good, but from the word "firstborn" by itself we don't understand that there is anything not good about that, so therefore we emphasize this by referring to it as the "plague of the firstborn".

The Ramban at the end of the Torah Portion Bo


The Ramban at the end of the Torah Portion Bo says: "From the great, publicized miracles a man acknowledges the hidden miracles, which are the basis of the entire Torah.  A man does not have a portion in the Torah of Moshe Rabbeinu, until he believes that all of our matters and circumstances are all miracles and that they are not controlled by forces of nature and the customs of the world, whether we are speaking of events affecting many people or events affecting individuals.  Everything is a decree from above."

Mussar (Ethics): 


It is said about the Gr"a that when he was a small boy they told him to play with a seesaw.  He answered that when playing with a seesaw, one person goes up and another goes down, and he doesn't want to be elevated if his friend will be lowered.  And also, perhaps he would be elevated only because his friend is lowered, and he doesn't want to be elevated at the expense of his friend.

The Torah Portion Bo has 106 verses.The Haftorah is "Hadavar Asher Dibair Hashem" (Yirmiyahu 46)There are 9 positve commandments and 1 prohibition in the Torah Portion Bo.


We say Borchi Nafshi.



May you all have a  light-filled and happy Shabbat.  
Shabbat Shalom.

L'ilui Neshamat HaGaon HaTzaddik R' Gershon Avigdor Ben R' Chaim ztz"l, Nilkach L'Bait Olamo Yud Gimmel Tishrei 5772

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Va'eira 5775

The Torah Portion of Va'eira 5775 

Shabbat Mevorchim for the Month of Sh'vat 

Excerpted and Translated from the the Teachings of Rabbi Gershon Steinberg ztz"l
L'ilui Neshamat HaGaon HaTzaddik R' Gershon Avigdor Ben Chaim ztz"l

There are Seven Plagues in the Torah Portion of Va'eira


In the Torah Portion Va'eira there are seven plagues, as is hinted at by the first two letters of the word Va'eira (Vuv-Aleph) which have the Gematria of seven; and in the Torah Portion Bo there are three plagues which are hinted at by the letters Bo (Bait-Aleph) which have the Gematria of three.

"And I appeared to Avraham,  to Yitzchak and  to Yaakov..."  (Shemot 6:3)


On the words "And I appeared (Va'eira)", Rashi says that means: "to the Patriarchs".  It has been asked, isn't it written explicitly in the verse "to Avraham, to Yitzchak and to Yaakov", so what does Rashi's explanation add?   The explanation is that the word Patriarchs (Avot) has the meaning of  desire, as in the verse "And he didn't desire (ava) to perform  the mitzvah of Yibum" (Devorim 25:7). The Holy One Blessed Be He shows himself, as it were, to those who desire him, as the Rambam states.  And similarly, the verse "I will be as I will be (Ek-yeh asher Ek-yeh)"  (Shemot 3:14) can be explained in like fashion: I will be with those who desire that I will be with them. (from the Chatam Sofer)

The Four Languages of Redemption: "I will take you out" , "I will rescue you", "I will redeem you", "I will take you to Me" (Shemot 6:6-7)


It is written in the Midrash that the reason there are four languages of Redemption is that these correspond to the four decrees against the Jews that Pharoah declared: the hard work,  his command to the midwives, the Nile River, and the straw.  Also the four languages of redemption correspond to the four exiles: Egypt, Babylonia, Greece,  and Edom.  Therefore we drink four cups of wine at Passover in correspondence to the four languages of Redemption, as it is said "I will lift up the cup of salvation" (Tehillim 116:13), to show that Hashem saved us in the past from the four decrees and is saving us (continually now) from the four exiles.

"...And I will give it to you as a heritage (Morasha)..."  (Shemot 6:8)


It is not written "an inheritance (Yerusha)" to hint that they will not inherit the land of Israel, rather, their children that come after them will inherit it. (from Rabbeinu Bachya)

"...And I will give it to you as a heritage (Morasha)..." (Shemot 6:8)


 The word "heritage (Morasha)" is written twice in the Torah, once regarding the Land of Israel and once regarding the Torah, as it is written: "The Torah was commanded to us by Moshe, a Heritage for the Congregation of Yaakov" (Devorim 33:4). This is because there is a connection between the two, for if we have Torah then we also have the Land of Israel, as it is said,"And He will give them the lands of the nations...on condition that they will observe His statutes" (Tehillim 105:44-45). 

"...And she bore him Aharon and Moshe..."  (Shemot 6:20)


Why are Aharon and Moshe mentioned here?  Since they were Prophets and rose to a very high level, they were mentioned here to tell us  that even though they were born from a human father and mother, it is still possible for flesh and blood human beings to become elevated to a very high level.  And according to the Rambam, everyone has the potential to become as elevated as Moshe Rabbeinu.  

"Moshe was 80 years old and Aharon was 83 years old..." (Shemot 7:7)


Why did the Torah mention the ages of Moshe and Aharon?  This is to teach us that even though they were so old, they still made a great effort with the wonders and the plagues for the sake of the people of Israel.  (from Seforno)


"And Aharon took Elisheva the daughter of Aminadav, sister of Nachshon, as his wife..." (Shemot 6:23)


In the Gemara Baba Batra and the Midrash it is brought, from the fact that it is stated that she was the daughter of Aminadav, don't I know that she was the sister of Nachshon?  What is the Torah teaching us by telling us that she was the the sister of Nachshon?  This teaches that someone who marries a woman needs to check out her brothers, and there are those that add that the Roshei Teivot (first letters) of the words  "Aishet Chayil Mi Yimtza" (Mishlei 31:10, in English "A woman of valour who can find?") spell the Hebrew word "Achim" (in English: "Brothers").

"This is Aharon and Moshe..." (Shemot 6:26)


Rashi explains that this tells you that they were considered of equal significance.  But apparently, behold, isn't it written that "there has not arisen another prophet in Israel like Moshe (Devorim 34:10)? The simple explanation to reconcile this is that no one else arose like Moshe, only in regards to the level of Moshe in prophesy.  In addition, there are those that explain that in truth Moshe and Aharon were considered of equal significance, but since Moshe was younger than Aharon by three years and in spite of that reached the level of Aharon, therefore no one arose like Moshe.  And there are those that say that the meaning of saying that they were of equal significance was that in their own eyes they were equals and neither of them held himself to be greater than the other in anything.

"...And it became a serpent."  (Shemot 7:10)


Why did Moshe's staff become, specifically, a serpent, and not some other kind of creature?  This was because the Holy One Blessed Be He cut off the legs of the serpent and it cried with a loud voice that was heard throughout the world, and this was a hint to Pharoah that also he would cry out at the Exodus from Mitzrayim (Egypt), "...Rise, go out from among my people..." (Shemot 12:31), and this would be heard throughout Mitzrayim, and also the Egyptians would cry out.  (from Yonatan ben Uziel)  And there are those who explain that it was because the serpent sinned and caused Chava to sin with his tongue, and also the wicked Pharoah sinned with his tongue when he said "Who is Hashem that I should listen to His voice...I do not know Hashem" (Shemot 5:2).  And we find that everyone who speaks against Hashem, G-d forbid, is punished with the biting of serpents, as was written (in Bamidbar 21:5) "And the people spoke against Hashem and Moshe", and afterwards it is says (Bamidbar 21:6) "And Hashem sent against the people the burning serpents and they bit the people".   

"...from shortness of breath and difficult work." (Shemot 6:9)


There are two kinds of torture, one is difficult but afterwards there is a break before the next torture.  And the other is not as difficult, but it is without and stopping and resting.  And that is what is meant by "from shortness of breath and hard work".  The work with the mortar and bricks was difficult but they had a respite of a break time and resting.  The work of gathering the straw wasn't such difficult work but they forced them to do it without a break time and resting, and that was the torture referred to by "shortness of breath".  (from the Gr"a)

"...from shortness of breath..." (Shemot 6:9)


The Ohr HaChaim HaKodesh says that it's possible to explain that since they weren't Torah scholars they didn't listen, and that this was called "shortness of breath" because the Torah expands the heart of a person.

"Behold, the children of Israel didn't listen to me, so how will Pharoah listen to me?..." (Shemot 6:12)


Those who explain the Torah see a difficulty in this statement, for behold, Israel didn't listen because of difficult work and shortness of breath, as is stated explicitly in the Torah, but this reason didn't apply in the case of Pharoah.  There are those that reconcile this by saying that in truth Israel didn't listen because of difficult work and shortness of breath, but Moshe because of his humility thought that they were not listening because he had blocked lips (a speech impediment).  Therefore he said, if the children of Israel didn't listen, all the moreso Pharoh will not listen.  But the Torah's verse (Shemot 6:9) revealed the truth to us, that they didn't listen because of difficult work and shortness of breath.


Rosh Chodesh Sh'vat


Rosh Chodesh Sh'vat is mentioned in the Torah at the beginning of the Torah Portion of Devorim "And it came to pass in the fortieth year in the eleventh month on the first day of the month...Moshe began to explain the Torah..." (Devorim 1:3-5), and he spoke until the seventh of Adar.  It is written in the Holy Books that this day, Rosh Chodesh Sh'vat, is a propitious time to pray for understanding of the Torah.  

A "Simcha" Every Two Weeks


The Rebbe said to his students that every two weeks there is a Simcha (happy occasion): Rosh Chodesh Sh'vat, Tu B'shvat, Rosh Chodesh Adar, Purim, Rosh Chodesh Nisan, Pesach, Rosh Chodesh Iyar, the 14th of Iyar which is Pesach Shaini, the 18th of Iyar which is Lag Ba'omer, Rosh Chodesh Sivan, the Chag of Shavuot.  May Hashem help us so that all of the year will be happy.
(Note: Since this year is a Shana Meuberet which has two Months of Adar, we also have Rosh Chodesh Adar Aleph and Purim Katan during the month of Adar Aleph.)

The Torah Portion of Va'eira has 121 verses.Haftora: "Ko Amar Hashem" (Yechezkel 28).


This is Shabbat Mevorchim for the month of Sh'vat.
The Molad is Yom Sh'lishi (Tuesday in the daytime) at 11:15 with 1 Chelek.
Rosh Chodesh Sh'vat is on Yom R'vi'i (Wednesday).

We say Borchi Nafshi. 


May you all have a  light-filled and happy Shabbat.  
Shabbat Shalom.

L'ilui Neshamat HaGaon HaTzaddik R' Gershon Avigdor Ben R' Chaim ztz"l, Nilkach L'Bait Olamo Yud Gimmel Tishrei 5772

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Shemot 5775

The Torah Portion of Shemot 


Excerpted and Translated from the the Teachings of Rabbi Gershon Steinberg ztz"l
L'ilui Neshamat HaGaon HaTzaddik R' Gershon Avigdor Ben Chaim ztz"l


Sefer Shemot (The Book of "Names")


This week we are beginning a new Chumash, the second of the five books of the Torah, Sefer Shemot.  The Ramban calls Sefer Shemot "The Book of the Redemption", because within it the Redemption from Mitzrayim (Egypt) is discussed.  And there are those who call it "The Book of the Wars of Hashem". 


"And these are the names of the children of Israel..."  (In Hebrew:  "V'aileh Shemot B'nei Yisrael" -- the beginning four words of the first verse of the Torah Portion of Shemot, Shemot 1:1)


The letters of the Hebrew words "V'aileh Shemot B'nei Yisrael" are: Vuv Aleph Lamed Hey Shin Mem Vuv Taf Bait Nun Yud Yud Shin Raish Aleph Lamed. These letters, taken in order, are the initial letters (in Hebrew : Roshei Teivot) of the following message in Hebrew: "V'adam A'sher L'omaid H'aseder Sh'naim Mikra V'achad T'argum B'kol N'aim Y'shir Y'chyeh Sh'anim R'abot A'ruchim L'olam".  In English, this means "And a man that learns the weekly Torah Portion twice in the Hebrew text and one time in the Aramaic translation with a pleasant voice, singing, will live for many long years forever".  (from the Ba'al HaTurim as brought in ancient Chumashim)

"And these are the names of the children of Israel who came..." (In Hebrew: "V'aileh Shemot B'nei Yisrael Habaim"  -- the beginning five words of the first verse of the Torah Portion of Shemot, Shemot 1:1)


The last letters of the Hebrew words "V'aileh Shemot B''nei Yisrael Habaim" are Hey, Shin, Yud, Lamed, Mem.  These letters spell the word "Tehillim", Psalms.  With the book of Tehillim (Psalms), it is possible to get out of all narrow straits, and that is the meaning of the word "Mitzraima". (Note: "Mitraima" is the next word in this Torah verse.  "Mitzraima" literally means, "to Egypt", but the root letters of the word for Egypt are related to the word for "narrow straits").  This is also a hint that for the period of time known as SHOVAVI"M (the time period when the first six Torah portions of the book of Shemot are read), one needs to say a lot of Tehillim (Psalms).

"And these are the names of the children of Israel..." (Shemot 1:1)


Rashi explains that even though Hashem counted them by their names during their lifetimes, He counted them again after their passing, to make known how precious they are to Him, for they are likened to the stars which He brings out and brings in by number and by their names.  The Kli Yakar brings out, that there are those who explain that the star, even though it is not visible during the daytime, in any event, it is still present also during the daytime.  So to, the Tzaddik (Righteous Man), when he is in the Next World, which is compared to daytime, he has an existence even though he can't be seen, and he appears to be lost only from the perspective of his own generation.  And in addition the Kli Yakar brings his own explanation, that the true value of a person's having a good name can only really be recognized after his death, since during his lifetime it is unknown whether he will continue to be righteous throughout his entire lifetime.  And that is why it states "...and Yosef was in Mitzrayim (Egypt)" (Shemot 1:5) and Rashi explains on this verse that it comes to tell us of his righteousness, for he continued to be righteous all the days of his life.   Therefore, the children of Israel are compared to stars, which can be seen after the setting of the sun. And that is what it means when it states "those who cause the masses to become righteous are like stars forever" (Daniel 12:3),  for someone who causes the masses to become righteous, will not have a sin come to his hand, so that it won't be the case that he will be in Gehinom and his students will be in Gan Eden.  And if so, it is clear that he will be shining like the stars even after his death.  But someone who does not cause the masses to become righteous, it is not clear that he will always continue to be righteous throughout his lifetime.  And there are those who explain, that in the daytime the stars are not recognized because they are present next to the light which is shining from the sun, and only when the sun sets and darkness reigns in the world are they recognized.  So too regarding the tribes (i.e., the children of Yaakov).   As long as Yaakov their father was alive, their greatness was not recognizable because Yaakov was like the sun that prevents the people from being able to distinguish light sources of lesser intensity, but when Yaakov Avinu died and the children of Israel became enveloped in the darkness of Mitzrayim (Egypt), then the holy light of the tribes began to sparkle.

"...who did not know of Yosef" (Shemot 1:8)


There are those that explain that he didn't know about the past of Yosef, how he was at the lowest level and afterwards became elevated to to position of a king.  And he needed to contemplate about the past and the future of Yosef, and to learn from that also about the entire congregation of Israel that is impossible to destroy them, just as the verse (Shemot 1:12) states: "But as they afflicted them, so they multiplied and so they spread..." (from Mayana Shel Torah)

The Four Decrees and the Four Cups


In this week's Torah Portion, it is written that there were four decrees placed upon the congregation of Israel: 1.  crushing labor - they were made to serve with crushing labor, 2. the river - the baby boys were to be cast into the river, 3.  the midwives - the midwives were instructed to kill the baby boys, and 4.  straw - they would no longer be provided with straw but still had to produce the same number of bricks.  From this, there are those who add another reason why the Sages established to drink four cups at Passover, because we give thanks that we were saved from the four decrees.

"The Egyptians made the Children of Israel to serve with crushing labor."  (Shemot 1:13)


The word for "crushing labor" in Hebrew is "B'parech".  The Sages gave an alternative interpretation of the word "B'parech"; that this word is composed of two words "B'peh Rach".  In English this literally means "with a gentle mouth", that is to say that the Egyptians at first convinced us to serve them with gentle words. In the beginning the servitude was accepted willingly by the Jews, and afterwards it was forced.  As a symbol of that, it was established to eat Maror (Bitter Herbs as exemplified by Romaine Lettuce) on Passover that in the beginning of their growth are sweet and afterwards are bitter.   This raises a question, for why was a symbol established to remember a period of time which was gentle, that is to say, when we willingly served?  It seems that if we were serving willingly, that was not a difficult decree.  And the Katav Sofer explains that when a man is forced to work against his will for someone who was once his friend, this is an extremely difficult situation.  For a servant who works for someone who was always his enemy, knows that he is his enemy and that he is enslaved to him.  But in the case in which someone behaved toward him with friendliness and love and suddenly changed his heart to become his enemy, and at this time he needs to be enslaved under him, this is a very difficult thing.  And therefore the fact that it was at one time with a "gentle mouth", is also a difficult decree.

"And Pharoah commanded to all his people..." (Shemot 1:22)


Rashi says that he also made this decree upon the people of Mitzrayim (Egypt), for on the very day that Moshe was born, his astrologers told him that today the man who will save Israel was born and we don't know if he is a Jew or an Egyptian.  Therefore he decreed on that day even on the Egyptians, as it is said "every son that is born" (Shemot 1:22), and it doesn't say "that is born to the Jews". However, the Targum Onkelos (translation to Aramaic by Onkeles) says "every son that is born - that is born to the Jews", so that the meaning is that he only made the decree on the Jews.  There are those who explain that the understanding of the Targum is that publicly, Pharoah decreed that the decree would be also upon the Egyptians, for there was no rational reason in the world to decree only upon the Jews.  However, the officials of the kingdom secretly received the true explanation of the law, and they explained to those who were appointed to carry out the decree that the intention was - on the Jews.  (from Mayana shel Torah) 

"...and they kept the boys alive."  (Shemot 1:17)


The Sages say that even those who were not viable and able to survive, Shifra and Puah would pray about them and they would remain alive, and that is the explanation of "and they kept the boys alive."

"And G-d did good to the midwives, and the people increased and became very strong."  (Shemot 1:20)


The Daat Zekainim explains that this in and of itself was their reward, for the midwives had said to Pharoah that the women of Israel don't need us, and Pharoah had said that they were liars.  And when Pharoah saw that there was such an increase in the birthrate of Israel, he changed his mind and said that they had spoken the truth, because it's not possible that only two women could serve as midwives to all of Israel, and if so, the women of Israel were certainly like wild animals that are able to give birth by themselves (without midwives).

"And Pharoah's daughter went down to bathe at the river..."  (Shemot 2:5)


Teachers of Mussar (Ethics) say that when Pharoah's daughter went down to the river, Moshe's sister certainly thought and prayed that Pharoah's daughter would not see him and was greatly distressed about what would be.  And afterwards when Pharoah's daughter took the basket she certainly was already entirely giving up hope and in great fear.  And in the end, Pharoah's daughter herself saved him, and from that came the salvation of all of the people of Israel.  We see from this that it is impossible to know from where salvation will come.

"...and she sent her maidservant..."  (Shemot 2:5)


The word for "her maidservant" in Hebrew is "Amata".  This same Hebrew word can alternatively be translated into English as "her arm".  Rashi brings an explanation that her forearm lengthened, and it is written in the Midrash that it lengthened by 60 Amot (in English: cubits).  It has been asked, if Moshe's basket was so far away in the river, why did she think at all to extend her arm?  The explanation is that a man needs to do everything that is within his capability and to rely upon Hashem that He will help him.  Similarly, Pharoah's daughter extended her arm and didn't think about how her arm would reach the basket which was far away, and Hashem helped her.  [from Teachers of Mussar (Ethics)]

 "...and moreover he drew water for us..." (Shemot 2:19)


There is saying that goes: "Everything that people do, they are only doing it to themselves."  The Sages say that at the time that Moshe removed Pharoah's crown from his head, Bilaam said that it was necessary to kill him, and Yitro said that it was necessary to test him with glowing hot coals. If so, Yitro saved Moshe (since Moshe reached for the coals instead of the crown), and also, afterwards, Moshe saved the daughters of Yitro at the well.  In addition, the Da'at Zekainim brings that the Midianites threw the daughters of Yitro into a well because Yitro had abandoned their idol worshipping practices, and Moshe saved them as it is written "...and moreover he drew water for us..." (Shemot 2:19), that is, he gave us water, and he also saved us from the pit.  This is alluded to, because the Hebrew word for "drawing" with the root letters "Dalet-Lamed-Hey"  (meaning "draw") is written twice in this verse.  [That is, one time refers to the drawing up of the water from the well, and the other time refers to the drawing up of the daughters.]  In addition, there are those that say that Yitro threw Moshe into a pit, and Tziporah threw bread into the pit, and that was a great goodness to Moshe.  And therefore, afterwards, Tziporah merited that Moshe would be her husband, and also Yitro merited that Moshe would be his son-in-law.  And that is why people say, "Everything that people do, they are only doing it to themselves" (from the Be'er Yosef).

The Questions that Moshe asked at the Bush


1. "Who am I..." (Shemot 3:11) - how am I important enough to speak with kings?  And Hashem said to him "...because I will be with you..." (Shemot 3:12).
2.  Moshe asked, what merit does Israel have that they should be brought out?  And Hashem said to him, that Israel would serve Him on this mountain when they receive the Torah (Shemot 3:12).
3. Moshe asked what he should say when Israel will ask regarding Hashem, "What is His name?" (Shemot 3:13)  And Hashem said to him "Ek-yeh Asher Ek-yeh" (In English: "I Shall Be What I Shall Be") (Shemot 3:14). 
4. Moshe said: "but they won't believe me...."  (Shemot 4:1) And Hashem said to him that he should do for them three signs: the snake, his hand that would become stricken with tsaraat (leprosy), and blood.
5. Moshe said "...I am not a man of words..." (Shemot 4:10), meaning that he had a speech impediment.   And Hashem said to him, "...I will be with your mouth..." (Shemot 4:12).
6.  Moshe said "...Please send whomever you You will send"  (Shemot 4:13),  meaning that He should send the person He was accustomed to send, and that was Aharon.  And it is written "and the anger of Hashem was kindled..." (Shemot 4:14).  And He said to him, that in truth you needed to be Kohen and your brother Aharon the Levi, and because you refused, Aharon will be Cohen and you will be Levi.  And regarding the reason he refused to be the Shaliach (agent) and wanted Aharon to be the Redeemer, Rashi explains that Moshe was worried about the honor of Aharon who was older than he was.  And Hashem said to him, "...and he (Aharon) will see you and will be happy in his heart" (Shemot 4:14), and in truth, because of this Aharon merited to have an item of jewelry on his heart, and that is the Choshen.

"...Please send whomever You will send..." (Shemot 4:13)


The Ramban says that Moshe meant, anyone whom You will send no mattter who he is will be better than I am, and this was from the great humility of Moshe.

Why did Moshe have a speech impediment?


There are those that explain that the reason Moshe had difficulty speaking, was so that people wouldn't say that because he spoke well that he was able to convince Pharoah to send out the Jewish people.  And in addition, the Jewish people had received a tradition that if someone came and said "Pakod Pakaditi" (In English:  "I have surely remembered")  (Shemot 3:16), it would be a sign that the time of Redemption had arrived.  And Moshe, even though he had a speech impediment and was not able to pronounce the letter "P", in spite of that he said "Pakod Pakadi" perfectly, and then they knew clearly that the time for Redemption had come. 

The Torah Portion of Shemot has 124 verses.Haftora: "Haba'im Yashreish" (Yeshayahu 27 until "V'nilkadu", and then we skip to Chapter 29:22-23)


We say Borchi Nafshi. 


May you all have a  light-filled and happy Shabbat.  
Shabbat Shalom.

This is the beginning of the days known as SHOVAVI"M T"T(Translator's Note: The term SHOVAVI"M T"T is made up of the the initial letters of the names of the Torah Portions for this week and the next several weeks: Shemot, Va'eira, Bo, Beshalach, Yitro, Mishpatim, T'rumah, Tetzvaveh.  The initial letters of these Torah Portions are: Shin, Vuv, Bait, Bait, Yud, Mem, Tav, Tav and together those spell the two words SHOVAVI"M T"T.  The period of time known as SHOVAVI"M T"T is an auspicious time for repentance. Note that the word for repentance in Hebrew is Teshuvah, and the root of this word is linguistically related to the word SHOVAVI"M.)

L'ilui Neshamat HaGaon HaTzaddik R' Gershon Avigdor Ben R' Chaim ztz"l, Nilkach L'Bait Olamo Yud Gimmel Tishrei 5772

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Vayechi 5775

The Torah Portion of Vayechi 


Excerpted and Translated from the the Teachings of Rabbi Gershon Steinberg ztz"l
L'ilui Neshamat HaGaon HaTzaddik R' Gershon Avigdor Ben Chaim ztz"l

"Vayechi Yaakov..."  (In English "And Yaakov lived...") (Bereisheet 47:28)


The Hebrew word "Vayechi"  has the Gematria (numerical value of the letters)  of 34, for the main point of Yaakov's life was when he was together with Yosef, 17 years before the sale of Yosef, and in Mitzayim (Egypt) another 17 years.  Together this adds up to 34 which is the Gematria of the word "Vayechi".

"Vayechi..."  (In English: "And he lived...") (Bereisheet 47:28)


This Torah Portion speaks of the deaths of Yaakov and Yosef, and in spite of that the Torah Portion is called "Vayechi" ("And he lived").  Similarly, the Torah Portion of "Chayei Sarah" (in English:  "The life of Sarah") speaks about the death of righteous people and the Torah Portion is called "Chayei..." ("The life..").  The reason for this is that Tzaddikim (Righteous People), even when they are deceased, are still considered to be alive.

"And he told Yaakov and said: 'BEHOLD - your son Yosef has come to you'; and Yisrael strengthened himself and sat up on THE BED."  (Bereisheet 48:2)


The Sages say that Yosef was the "same age", that is to say, he had the same "Mazel" (astrological star signs) as Yaakov, and the Sages explain that when someone visits a sick person and he has the same "Mazel", he takes away one part of 60 (that is, 1/60th) of the illness.  And that is hinted at in this verse.  The word for "BEHOLD" in Hebrew is "Hinay" with a Gematria (numerical value) of 60 ["Hinay" is spelled  with the letters Hey, Nun and Hey.  The Gematria of Hey = 5, Nun = 50, and Hey = 5, for a total of 60.]  The word for "THE BED" in Hebrew is Hamitah", with a Gemtraia of 59.  ["Hamitah" is spelled with the letters Hey, Mem, Tet, and Hey.  The Gematria of Hey = 5, Mem = 40, Tet = 9, and Hey = 5, for a total of 59.]  This is a hint to the words of the Sages that Yosef decreased Yaakov's illness by one part out of 60.

"...And Yisrael strengthened himself and sat up on the bed."  (Bereisheet 48:2)


The Baal HaTurim says that it is written about Haman that he "fell on the bed" (Megillat Esther 7:8) and regarding Yaakov it is written "And Yisrael strengthened himself and sat up on the bed".  The reason for this is that Tzaddikim (Righteous people), even when they are weak, strengthen themselves as it is written "And Yisrael strengthened himself", and Wicked people, even when they are in their full power fall, as it is stated, "and Haman fell on the bed".

"...May G-d make you like Ephraim and like Menashe..." (Bereisheet 48:20)


Why does every father bless his sons "May G-d make you like Ephraim and like Menashe"?  The B'nai Yisachar says that Ephraim didn't hold himself proudly as being superior and act arrogantly toward Menashe, even though he was more important than his brother who was the firstborn.  Also, Menashe was not envious of his brother who was younger than him yet had been given more privileges and Yaakov had put his right hand on him.  Therefore every father blesses his sons that one of them should not act arrogantly toward the other, nor should one of them be envious of the other.  

"...May G-d make you like Ephraim and like Menashe..." (Bereisheet 48:20)


Another reason why the father blesses his sons that they should be like Ephraim and like Menashe, is that they were raised in Mitzrayim (Egypt) which was a place of impurity, and in spite of that they held onto their righteousness.  And thus the father blesses his sons that even if G-d forbid his sons will have difficult times, they will strengthen themselves and hold onto their righteousness like Ephraim and Menashe did.

"...By you shall Israel bless saying, 'May G-d make you like...' "  (Bereisheet 48:20)


The Baer Yosef asks, what is the meaning of saying "By you"?  He explains that this is referring to Yosef, for from Yosef we can learn that even though he was in the lowest of circumstances he was still able to ascend to the highest of heights.  Thus every father is able to bless his son that in any situation whatesoever, his son will still be able to ascend to the highest of heights.

"...Which I took from the hand of the Emori with my sword and with my bow..."  (Bereisheet 48:22)


Rashi explains that this refers to wisdom and prayer.  Why doesn't Rashi explain this according to the simple meaning of the text, with a sword and with a bow?  The reason is that the way of war is to first shoot with an arrow from a distance, and afterwards when one gets closer to the enemy, to fight with a sword.  But in this verse it is written in the opposite order, first the sword and then the bow.  There are those who explain why prayer is likened to a bow.  Just as in the case of a bow, the more that a person draws it closer to himself, the further the arrow goes when it is shot; also in the case of prayer, the more a person has Kavana (intention or concentration) and makes an effort in prayer, the higher the prayer rises in the Upper Realms.  Another explanation of "with my sword and with my bow" is that it refers to the war against the Yetzer Hara (Evil Inclination).  First it is necessary to do battle with it from close up because it is is present in your heart, and afterwards to battle it from a distance so that it doesn't get close to you at all.

"...with my sword and with my bow..."  (Bereisheet 48:22)


An explanation of this is, with prayer and with requesting.  A sword hits immediately and a bow only hits afterwards (because it takes time for the arrow to reach the target).  So too it is with prayer.  Sometimes a prayer is answered immediately, and sometimes it is answered only after a period of time.  In the writings of the Gri'z (the Rav Yitzchak Ze'ev HaLevi Soloveitchek) on the Torah, he clarified that there are two kinds of prayer.  The first is the fixed Nusach (version) such as the Shemoneh Esrei which was established by the Anshei Knesset HaGedolah (Men of the Great Assembly), which has the strength to act and the Segulah (effectiveness) to be accepted like a sword because in and of itself it is sharp like a sword which can kill.  The second, is the private request of every single individual.  The Segulah (effectiveness) of this type of request being received depends on the strength of the prayer and the righteousness of the individual who is praying, and this is simllar to a bow and arrow, which in and of itself doesn't kill except by means of the man who is drawing the bow.

"...'Gather yourselves and I will tell you what will befall you in the End of Days.' " (Bereisheet 49:1)


The expositors of the Torah say that this comes to teach us that before the end, we need to gather ourselves and be unified and that will bring closer the coming of Mashiach, and that is the explanation of the words "End of Days".

"...for in their anger [in Hebrew "Apam"] they killed a man" (Bereisheet 49:6)


[Translator's note: The Hebrew word "Apam" can be translated as "their anger", and can also be translated as "their noses".]  The Chafetz Chaim says that occasionally it's possible to kill someone with only a nose.  For example, when a poor person wants to be hired for some kind of work in order to earn a living, and the owner of the business goes to ask people about him, if they turn up their noses (a body language expressing a negative attitude) they can destroy all his possibilities for supporting himself.

"Yehudah, you, your brothers shall thank..." (Bereisheet 49:8)


The Tirgum Yonatan be Uziel says that he blessed him that the children of Israel would be called by his name, the children of Yehuda (i.e., Yehudim or Jews, based on Yehudah's name).  And there are those that add that the sign of a son of Israel is that he always gives thanks to Hashem, and this is the name of Yehuda which is from the word Hebrew word "Hodia" (in English: "thankfulness"), and also he has within his name the letters of the name of Hashem. 

"...from the prey, my son, you ascended..."  (Bereisheet 49:9)


[On this verse, Rashi says, "from that of which I suspected you, 'Joseph is without doubt torn in pieces, an evil beast hath devoured him'...you withdrew yourself..."] The Chafetz Chaim says that Yaakov didn't know about the sale of Yosef until the day of his death, and only then was it made known to him by means of Ruach HaKodesh (Divine Inspiration), as it says in this verse "...from the prey, my son, you ascended...".

"...He stooped down, lied down like a lion...' (Bereisheet 49:9)


There are those that explain that even if a man has all kinds of times and occasionally he is in a situation of stooping down and lying down, a period of decline, G-d forbid, he needs to regard himself as a lion and a strong person, and to strengthten himself in every kind of situation.

"Yissachar is a strong-boned donkey, lying down between the boundaries." (Bereisheet 49:14)


All the animals, such as the camel, can't stand to have a burden on their body at the time of sleeping.  The only animal that even at the time of sleeping carries a burden is the donkey. And that is what is hinted about Yissachar;  the intention of this verse is that it refers to the Torah which Yissachar will learn without stopping whether during the day or during the night, which is the time of sleeping.  


"And he saw a  pleasant resting place, that it was good...and he bent his shoulder to bear..."  (Bereisheet 49:15)


Someone who wants a life of pleasantness and restfulness, should accept upon himself to bear a burden, and should not be strict but rather give in to everyone.

"For Your Salvation do I long, Hashem." (Bereisheet: 49:18)


When it says "For Your Salvation", this apparently means for Hashem to be saved.  Since "I am with him in his suffering" (Tehillim 91:15) (that is to say that Hashem is together with us in our suffering), we pray, as it were, for Hashem to be saved, and then we also will be saved speedily in our days, Amen.

A Summary of Yaakov's Blessing


Reuven lost three things: the first born son's birthright, kingship, and the priesthood.  Regarding Shimon and Levi, Yaakov cursed their anger.  He said that the descendents of Shimon would be scribes and teachers, and they would be scattered throughout all the land of Israel to seek their livelihood and they would be poor.  Levi would need to go around to the fields to request Trumot and Ma'aserot (the donations and tithes that the other tribes are required to give to the tribe of Levi.)  Yehudah was blessed with kingship, success in war, the praise of his brothers, wine, and milk. Zevulun would have success in trade.  Yissachar would have success in Torah, and a good land.  From Dan would descend Shimshon HaGibor who would judge all of them as one man, and Yaakov prayed that at the end of Shimshon's days that Hashem would help him when the building with the Pelishtim would fall on him.  Asher would have in his portion a lot of olive oil and would would produce delicacies fit for a king. Naphthali's land would produce crops quickly and from his fruits they would say the first blessings on them.  Yosef was blessed with grace, the blessings of the heavens, the blessings of the depths, many children, and with unlimited blessing until the four ends of the earth.  Gad was blessed that they would go to war and their wouldn't be amongst them any casualties. Binyamin was blessed that the king Shaul would descend from him who would be the first to reign, and he would eat the booty of the nations, and there would be descended from him Mordechai and Esther who would recevie the house of Haman with the booty. 

"...Perhaps Yosef will hate us..."  (Bereisheet 50:15)


The Baal HaTurim says that at the time that they returned from the funeral of Yaakov Avinu, in the middle of the journey Yosef saw the pit which he had been thrown into and said the blessing about Hashem doing a miracle for him at that place.  Therefore the brothers were apprehensive that feelings of hatred would be aroused in Yosef about the sale and perhaps he would punish them.  Because of that, they said to him afterwards that their father requested that he would forgive them.

"Although you intended me harm, G-d intended it for good..." (Bereisheet 50:20)


This is similar to a case of someone pushing his friend into a pit of mud and dirt, and the person finds a very valuable diamond inside the pit.  When he comes up he says to his friend, thank you for throwing me into the pit because I've made a lot of money because of it. So Yosef said to his brothers, you thought to do to me evil, but from that came out a great goodness for all of us.  (from Masters of Mussar, ethical teachings)  

"...'please forgive the spiteful deed of your brothers and their sin for they have done you evil'...." (Bereisheet 50:18)


Rabeinu Bachya says that when the brothers of Yosef requested forgiveness from him, he didn't answer them explicitly that he forgave them.  Rather, he only said to them that they didn't do anything, and that everything was from Heaven.  And because Yosef didn't say that he forgave them the children of Israel were punished afterwards with the Eser Harugai Malchut (Ten Martyrs who were killed by the Roman Kings).  And this is a lesson for the generations, that when one person asks another for forgiveness he should answer him explicitly that he is forgiven. 

SHABBAT CHAZAK


This Shabbat is Shabbat Chazak, when we finish reading one of the books of the Torah (Sefer Breisheet).  When the congregation says "Chazak, Chazak, V'nitchazek" at the end of the Torah Portion, the one who has been called up to say the blessings on the reading of the Torah should not say it, in order not to interrupt between the reading of the Torah and the blessing that he says after the Torah reading.



The Torah Portion of Vayechi has 85 verses.Haftora: "V'yikrivu Y'mai David" (Malachim Aleph Chapter 2).


We say Borchi Nafshi.  



May you all have a  light-filled and happy Shabbat.  
Shabbat Shalom.

L'ilui Neshamat HaGaon HaTzaddik R' Gershon Avigdor Ben R' Chaim ztz"l, Nilkach L'Bait Olamo Yud Gimmel Tishrei 5772