Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Mishpatim 5776

Appetizers for the Torah Portion of "Mishpatim" 


Shabbat Mevorchim

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 these are the judgments (or ordinances) which you shall set before them." (Shemot 21:1)  


In Hebrew this verse reads: "V'aileh hamishpatim asher tasim lifnaihem", and the Hebrew letters of each word in this verse form the initial letters of a Hebrew phrase which teaches us something about the judicial process.  From  the letters of "V'aileh", we get: "A person is required to investigate the legal decision".  From "hamishpatim", we get: ""The judge is commanded to make a compromise before holding a trial";  from "asher": "if both sides want".  From "tasim": "Listen to both of them speaking, together (that is, don't hear one side of the case without the other side being present)". From "lifnaihem": "Don't favor the person who is a wealthy philanthropist; act as a stranger to him".  (from Baal Haturim)

"And these are the judgments..." (Shemot 21:1) 


Rashi says, just as the preceding (laws were given) at Sinai, so these (were given) at Sinai. The Chidushai Harim explains that these legal ordinances make logical sense, and we could have arrived at them from our own understanding (even if they hadn't been given at Sinai).  Therefore, the Torah tells us that all the laws were given at Sinai, because we need to focus on the fact that we are following these laws because they are the will of Hashem, even though we could have arrived at them from our own understanding.

"And these are the judgments..." (Shemot 21:1) 


It is written in the Zohar that this refers to the arrangement of reincarnations (Gilgulim).  The explanation is that when one person owes a debt to another person and doesn't return it, when he dies he is reincarnated as a horse or donkey, and the other person purchases him. In that way the person returns the debt to the other person.  There was a story in Jerusalem that there was a man who had a donkey that worked for him much more than was usual.  He went and asked a Tzaddik (highly righteous man) about it. The Tzaddik told him that someone remained financially indebted to him and the donkey was his reincarnation, and if he would say to him "You are pardoned", the donkey would stop doing that.  And so it was; he told the donkey "You are pardoned",  and the donkey died immediately.  There is also a hint about this in the verse "For the horse of Pharaoh came..." Shemot (15:19), that he becomes reincarnated as a horse in order to pay off a debt.  The word Pharoah in Hebrew is similar to the word for repayment.

"...which you shall set before them." (Shemot 21:1) 


Rashi says, like a table which is set and prepared for eating before a person -- the meaning of this is that one should explain matters clearly to a student.. HaRav HaGaon R' Chaim Yehuda Yakovzon ztz"l explained this by way of analogy to a pharmacy.  In truth, the shelves of a pharmacy are full of medications, but the medicines are not given out without a reason.  They are only given to patients who need the medications.  Similarly, Hashem told Moshe, until now we learned all kinds of essential Mitzvot, such as circumcision, Shabbat, and other similar Mitzvot.  But this section of the Torah you only need to set before them, so that they will be prepared if occasionally it is necessary to administer a punishment.  But it would be better if they didn't need to use these remedies at all.

"...and his master shall bore his ear through with an awl."  (Shemot 21:5)


Why does he bore him through his ear with an awl?  The word for awl in Hebrew is "Martzeiya" and this has the Gematria (numerical value of the letters) of 400.  The Holy One Blessed Be He said, I took you out from a slavery of 400 years and I said that "For to Me are the children of Israel servants" (Vayikra 25:55), and this person went and acquired a master for himself; therefore he will be struck with an awl. The reason that the servant doesn't have his ear bored through when he begins his servitude, and only when he has served for six years, can be explained by way a parable which is brought in the beginning of Shaarei Teshuva by Rabeinu Yonah: There were two men who were in prison, and one of them made an underground tunnel and escaped while the second one remained behind.  They began to punish the one who didn't flee with a severe beating, and he said to them, "Because I behaved nicely and didn't flee, do I deserve to be punished?"  They answered him, "Here this is a prison and not a nursing home, and therefore your friend who felt the suffering and punishment searched for strategies in order to escape.  But since you don't feel any suffering in being here,  it's appropriate that we should now give you suffering and punishment."  Similarly, when the servant begins his servitude, there is no reason to bore his ear, but when he wants to remain after six years it's a sign that he doesn't feel the suffering of being a servant, and because of this he deserves to have his ear bored.

"...and  he shall cause him to be completely healed." (Shemot 21:19)  


In Hebrew this is written as "V'rapo  yirapeh"; the root of the word for "heal" is repeated (twice).  This is a hint that when one goes to a doctor, it is sometimes necessary to go repeatedly until one becomes healthy.  But the Holy One Blessed Be He says, "I am Hashem Your Healer (or Doctor)" (Shemot 15:26), and here the root for the word "heal" is only written once.  Hashem can heal us all at once.

"...and he shall cause him to be completely healed."  (Shemot 21:19) 


There is a dot in the Hebrew letter "Pay" within the Hebrew words "V'rapo yirapeh", which is a hint that sometimes when we go to a doctor for healing, there is still some remnant of the illness which continues to leave its mark upon us.  But regarding the Holy One Blessed Be He, it is written "Rofecha" (without a dot, so the Hebrew letter is "Fay" instead of "Pay").  When He heals us, no remnant of the illness remains.

"...and he shall cause him to be completely healed." (Shemot 21:19)  


From this verse, permission is given to the doctor to heal.  Someone once came to a Tzaddik and told him that he had a sick person in his household and that the doctors had despaired of the possibility of healing him.  The Tzaddik answered him that the Sages say that the doctor has permission to heal but not to despair (or cause others to despair).  The Admor of Kotzk ztz"l added, that there is a hint to this in the phrase "despair without knowledge" (in Hebrew "Ye'ush shelo m'da'at", referring to a discussion in Baba Metzia about whether one is required to return a lost object if the person doesn't yet know he lost it, but would have despaired of finding it if he knew he lost it). If someone has despaired, it's a sign that he doesn't have knowledge. 

"Ayin Tachat Ayin" (In English: "An eye in place of an eye...") (Shemot 21:24)


Rashi explains that this means money, that is: "if one blinded the eye of his fellow he pays him the value of his eye". The Gr"a says that this is hinted by the words  "Tachat Ayin" in this verse, which literally translated into English means "underneath an eye".  The word for eye in Hebrew is "Ayin", which is spelled with the Hebrew letters "Ayin", "Yud", and  "Nun".  If all the letters of the Hebrew alphabet are written vertically from the first to the last one, The letter in the Hebrew alphabet which comes under the Hebrew letter "Ayin" is "Pey", the letter which comes under the Hebrew letter "Yud" is "Kaf", and the letter which comes under the Hebrew letter "Nun" is "Samech".  Together these three letters "Kaf", "Samech", and "Pey" spell the Hebrew word "Kesef", which means "money" in English.  And there are those who explain that in this entire section of the Torah, first the deed is written and then afterwards the punishment, for example, "One who strikes a man so that he dies, shall surely be put to death." (Shemot 21:12), etc.  But in this verse "An eye in place of eye..." (Shemot 21:24), first the punishment is written and then afterwards the deed.  However, it is possible to say that also in this case the deed is first.  And thus would be its explanation: "An eye", if you take out the eye of your fellow, then "in place of an eye" -- you need to pay him something in place of the eye, and what would be the thing "in place of an eye"?  Money.  

"If you will persecute him -- for if he will cry out to Me, I will surely hear his cry"  (Shemot 22:22)


The Gr"a asks why is it written "for if he will cry out", and it's not written " and he will cry out"?  And he explains that if one person caused suffering to his friend, such as in the case of  what Penina did to Chana -- and her intention was for the sake of Heaven because she wanted Chana to pray and cry out to Hashem -- also this is not a good thing.  And that is the meaning of "for if he will cry out to Me, I will surely hear his cry".  (That is, if you are persecuting him in order to get him to pray, even though your intention is good like Penina's was when she persecuted Chana, that's still not a good thing to do.)

"If you will lend money to My people, to the poor person who is with you..." (Shemot 22:24)


One explanation is that even if the "poor person is with you", that is, even if you are also poor, in spite of that, help him. And there are those who explain the phrase "to the poor person who is with you", that you should not lend to the poor person publicly but only privately, and that is the meaning of "with you" -- privately, so that he won't be embarassed.  And there are those who explain that the  Hebrew word for "lend" (Talveh) is related linguistically to the Hebrew word "Levaya" (which means "accompany", and also refers to the funeral procession in which people accompany the deceased to his burial plot).  What are the things which accompany a person to the Next World?  The answer is -- money, that is to say, the Mitzvot such as Tzedakah (charity) that the person does with the money; that accompanies the person to the Next World.  And that is the explanation of the words "with you" -- that the money  which you lend "accompanies" you in the Future.

"....and flesh in the field that has been torn you shall not eat; you shall throw it to the dog." (Shemot 22:30)


Rashi says that the dog receives a reward because he fulfilled the verse "...a dog will not sharpen its tongue..." (Shemot 11:7) at the time of the Jewish people leaving Egypt.  The Da'at Zekainim says an additional explanation, that since the dog guards your flocks and your house, and is even willing to give up his life for your sake, if so, out of gratitude you should give him to eat the flesh which has been torn.  And there are those who explain why the dog is called "Kelev" in Hebrew.  The Hebrew word "Kelev" can be thought of as a compound word made up of two other Hebrew words, "Kol"  (which means "all") and "Lev" (which means "heart"). The dog is "all heart" and totally dedicates himself to the master of the house.

"People of holiness shall you be unto Me; and flesh in the field that has been torn you shall not eat..."  (Shemot 22:30


If you will behave in a holy way, then Hashem will guard you from forbidden foods.

"...and you shall not respond over a dispute..." (Shemot 23:2) 


Rashi says that you should not disagree with the head of the Sanhedrin.  And in the explanation of Rabenu Yonah it is written that you shouldn't answer during a disagreement when others are quarreling with you, but you should just keep quiet.

"If you see your enemy's donkey lying under his burden..." (Shemot 23:5)


The simple explanation is that the donkey is lying under the burden, and the teachers of Mussar (Ethics) explain that this is hinting at the burden of the donkey's owner.  That is to say, even if this man causes you suffering and is always burdensome to you, even so, ignore that and help him.

"From a false matter you shall distance yourself..." (Shemot 23:7)  


We find the language of "distance yourself" only in regards to falsehood, because we need to be especially careful about falsehood.

"From a false matter you shall distance yourself..." (Shemot 23:7)  


It is written that "A speaker of falsehoods will not be established before Hashem".  A Tzaddik  explained, that from one statement of falsehood one becomes distanced from the Holy One Blessed Be He, and that is the explanation of  "distance yourself" -- that is, you will distance yourself from the Holy One Blessed Be He.

"From a false matter you shall distance yourself; and one who is innocent and righteous, do not kill, for I shall not exonerate a wicked person."  (Shemot 23:7)


On the surface of things, the ending of the verse is incomprehensible, for behold, the verse is speaking of someone who is innocent and righteous.  And there are those who explain, behold, there is a Halacha (Jewish law) that says that if all of the judges find the accused person guilty then he is spared.  And therefore, if the last judge reasons that the accused person is guilty but he sees that all the other judges besides him found him guilty, and in that case, if he also finds him guilty they will spare him,  and therefore he wants to say that the accused person is innocent in order so that the judgment will come out that the person is guilty, on this the Torah says: "From a false mattter you shall distance yourself, and one who is innocent and righteous, do not kill".  That is to say, don't say that he is innocent if you think that he is guilty; don't say that he is innocent and righteous in order to kill him.  The Torah tells you, don't worry, "for I shall not exonerate a wicked person", I will already punish him in a different manner, for Hashem has many agents.  (from the grandson of Rashi HaKodesh)

"And these are the judgments..." (Shemot 21:1).  


The first word of this verse in Hebrew is V'aileh, and the Hebrew letters of this word form the initial letters of the words "La'yehudim Hayta Ora V'Simcha" (in English -- "And the Jews had light and joy") from Megillat Esther 8:16.  This is a hint to the beginning of the month of Adar.


The Torah Portion of "Mishpatim" has 118 verses, 23 positive commandments and 30 negative commandments.  The Haftorah is "Hadavar Asher Hayah" (Yirmiyahu 34)


This is Shabbat Mevorchim for the month of Adar Rishon.  Rosh Chodesh Adar Rishon is on Tuesday and Wednesday.  The Molad: Boker Yom Shaini, at the hour 8:47, with 14 Chalakim.

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 24, 2016

Yitro 5776

The Torah Portion of "Yitro"  


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 Yitro heard..." (Shemot 18:1)


Rashi says that Yitro was called by seven names, and tells us that the reason why he was called by the name "Yeter" (which is word which implies something additional) is because one section of the Torah was added because of him: "And you shall see..." (Shemot 18:21).  It has been asked, why does Rashi cite only "And you shall see..." (Shemot 18:21); aren't the words of Yitro also recorded in several verses prior to that?  And the explanation is that the main point is the advice that Yitro gave to Moshe (to appoint judges to assist him), and what that was written before that were only questions to Moshe, such as (Shemot 18:14): "Why are you sitting alone?"

"And Yitro heard..." (Shemot 18:1) (in Hebrew: "Vayishma Yitro")


Rashi explains, and what was the report that he heard and came?  The splitting of the Sea of Reeds (Yam Suf) and the war against Amalek.  The Hebrew word "Vayishma" (which means "And he heard")  is spelled with the letters: Vuv Yud Shin Mem Ayin.  These letters are Roshei Teivot (initial letters) for the words: "Sh'ma M'ilchemet A'malek V'kriat Y'am Suf, which means "He heard the war of Amalek and the splitting of the Sea (of Reeds).  And it is necessary to explain, why was it precisely these two miracles which caused Yitro to come?  But the answer is, that after there were so many miracles for Israel and the whole world knew about it, like what the Sages said on the verse "and the waters split" (Shemot 14:21), that all the waters in the world split (and not just Yam Suf), and in spite of all that, Amalek had the brazenness to come and wage war with Israel.  Therefore, Yitro said, if there is so much evil in the nations (such as Amalek that still wanted to wage war against Israel after all those miracles), it is necessary to separate from them, and that is the explanation of "he heard and came".

"And her two sons, of whom the name of one was Gershom, for he had said, 'I was a sojourner in a strange land'. and the name of  (the other) one was Eliezer, 'for the G-d of my father came to my aid and saved me from the sword of Pharoah'" (Shemot 18:3-4)


Apparently, it would have been appropriate for the first son to be called Eliezer, because the miracle of the sword of Pharoah had already happened before Moshe came to Midian, so why did he give the name "Eliezer" only when he had his second son? And in addition, what kind of benefit was it to give a name to a son based on the concept that "I was a sojourner in a strange land"?  In answer to these questions, the Chofetz Chaim says that at the time that Moshe came to Yitro, Yitro had not yet converted to Judaism, and Moshe was afraid that they (he and his family) might learn from Yitro's deeds.  Therefore Moshe made haste to call his first son Gershom, for he said "I was a sojourner", for by means of this Moshe requested to establish that here in the land (of Midian) he is only in situation of being a sojourner in a strange land, and that it is not a place which is appropriate for serving Hashem.  And there are those that say that behold, it is written in the Mechilta that Yitro said to Moshe that he is giving him his daughter Tzippora on condition that his first son participate in Avodah Zara (idol worship), and that was before Yitro converted to Judaism, and Moshe agreed with him.  And there are those that question this, because how is it possible that he agreed?  And the Baal HaTurim gives an explanatiopn that Moshe knew that in the end he would certainly cause Yitro to return to the proper path and he would change his opinion.  And since Moshe had agreed with Yitro (about the condition that this son would participate in idol worship), he didn't want to give the name "Eliezer" (which has a reference to  one of the names of Hashem) to the first son. 

"...the name of one was Gershom...and the name of one was Eliezer..." (Shemot 18:3-4)


It has been asked, why is it written the second time also "and the name of one", rather than saying "and the name of the second"?   And the explanation that the Sages say it that when Moshe went up to the Heavens he heard the Holy One Blessed Be He say "Rabbi Eliezer My son says that the Red Heifer is at the age of two years", and Moshe said -- if only that would be a descendent of mine!  And that was Rabbi Eliezer HaGadol who descended from Eliezer (Moshe's son).  And that was the meaning of the verse saying "and the name of one was Eliezer", that is, it was a reference to the one that was special, and this is Rabbi Eliezer HaGadol who was the teacher of Rebbe Akiva.

"And Yitro rejoiced..." (Shemot 18:9) 


The explanation is that he was happy, and according to the Midrash the explanation is that his flesh became prickly and he developed gooseflesh, because he was aggrieved over the destruction of Egypt. (from Rashi)  [Translator's Note: The basis of Rashi's explanation is that the word in Hebrew  "Vayichad" can be simply translated as "rejoiced", but it also has the same root letters as the Hebrew word for "prickly".] The Mashgiach HaRav HaTzaddik R' Yechezkel Levenshtein said to the students at the Mir Yeshiva in Shanghai during the frightful days of the Holocaust, that we see from this verse that it is natural that when someone hears of the sufferings of his people, even if he is disconnected from them for ten generations, he will nevetheless have his flesh become prickly.  And if we currently hear about the sufferings of our fellow Jews and we don't feel anything and our flesh does not become prickly, this must only be because our sins and transgressions have caused our hearts to become stupid and our nature has changed (for the worse).  Another explanation is that Yitro thought he was coming to the desert to live a life of sorrow and suffering in order to bring himself to the acceptance of the Torah.  Now that he came to the desert and saw that they had everything good, he was aggrieved because the Torah was not being received in suffering, because the Sages say that we are given reward for one Mitzvah done in suffering more than for a hundred Mitzvot that are done easily. 

"And Yitro took ... and Aharon came and all the elders of Israel to eat bread with the father-in-law of Moshe before G-d" (Shemot 18:12)


The Ramban say that this was a festive meal for the celebration of a Brit (circumcision), because Yitro became a convert and was circumcised on that day.

Yitro's Advice


Yitro's advice was that there would be rulers of thousands, rulers of hundreds, rulers of fifties, and rulers of tens. There were 600 rulers of thousands, 6,000 rulers of hundreds, 12,000 rulers of fifties and 60,000 rulers of tens.   The sum total of all the judges was 78,600.  The judges needed to have four qualities: that they would be men of strength (that is, they needed to be wealthy), men with fear of Heaven, men of truth, and that they would hate financial gain (that is, that they would find bribery repugnant).

"...every great matter they shall bring to you..." (Shemot 18:22)


Why was it stated in the advice of Yitro to Moshe that "every great matter they shall bring to you..." (Shemot 18:22), and afterwards when Moshe chose the judges it was stated: "the dificult matter they will bring to Moshe" (Shemot 18:26)?    And the explanation is that Yitro who was a convert to Judaism thought that a legal Torah case involving a lot of money needed to be brought to a greater judge, which is how it is done by the other nations.  Moshe said to him that for Israel, that is not the case; a judgement involving a small amount is the same as a judgment involving a larger amount. If a case is complicated and difficult, even if it only involves a small amount, it needs to be brought before a greater judge; and a judgment of a simple case, even if it involves a lot of money, the smaller judges can decide it. 

"In the third month from the Exodus of the Children of Israel from the land of Mitzrayim (Egypt), on this day they arrived at the Wilderness of Sinai. (Shemot 19:1)


On this day -- refers to Rosh Chodesh (the beginning of the month of Sivan), and Moshe did not go up on this day to the heights, since all of his ascendings at Mount Sinai were early in the morning.  Therefore it is not possible to say that on the day that they came, he went up on Mount Sinai. On the second of Sivan, Moshe went up to the heights. Hashem said to him that if they would accept the Torah they would become "a kingdom of priests (that is to say rulers), and a holy people" (Shemot 19:6); and the congregation of Israel answered "we will do it" (Shemot 19:8). On the third of Sivan, Moshe said to Hashem that the congregration of Israel said  "we will do it", and Hashem said to him that he would speak only with Moshe, and the rest of the people would hear in their homes.  On the fourth of Sivan, Moshe went up to the heights and said to Hashem that they say that our will is to see our King, because there is a big difference between someone who hears from the mouth of a messenger and someone who hears directly from the mouth of the King.  Hashem said to him, if so, they need to prepare themselves  for three days, separating from their wives and setting boundaries around the mountain.  

"They journeyed from Rephidim and arrived at the desert of Sinai and they encamped in the desert (or wilderness); and Israel encamped there, opposite the mountain" (Shemot 19:2)  


There are 3 preparations for receiving the Torah: 1) "They journeyed from Rephidim...',  means that they left the trait of having weakness of hands, which is laziness. [Translator's Note: The basis for this interpretation is that although the word Rephidim is a place name, it is also similar to the Hebrew word "Refayon", which means weakness.] 2) "...and they encamped in the desert (or wilderness)", each one needs to regard himself as if he is a desert (or wilderness) in order to abandon his physical lusts and to humble himself. 3) "...and Israel encamped there, opposite the mountain", means that all of Israel were together in unity. (from the Ohr HaChaim)

"They journeyed from Rephidim and arrived at the desert of Sinai and they encamped in the desert (or wilderness); and Israel encamped there, opposite the mountain" (Shemot 19:2)  


The Hebrew word for "encamped" is not written in the plural, as are the other verbs in this verse, to say that they came to Mount Sinai "as one man, with one heart", for the Torah cannot be acquired unless there is unity.

"...and Israel encamped there, opposite the mountain" (Shemot 19:2) 


The word for encamped  in Hebrew ["vayichan"] is similar to the word for "grace" or "favor" in Hebrew ["chein"].  And "opposite the mountain" is a hint about opposing the Evil Inclination.  The Sages say that the Evil Inclination is similar to a mountain, and if everyone will find favor (or grace) in the eyes of his fellow, that is the greatest weapon we can have against the mountain which is the Evil Inclination.  

"So shall you say to the house of Yaakov and tell to the children of Israel" (Shemot 19:3)


The "house of Yaakov" refers to the women, and the "children of Israel" refers to the men.  It is written in the Midrash, why did the giving of the Torah begin with the women?  Because the commandment about the Tree of Knowledge was said by Hashem to Adam, so that he would tell Chava, and that commandment ended up being broken.  Therefore in the giving of the Torah Hashem said "I will start to tell the women first" and that will be successful.

"So shall you say to the house of Yaakov and tell to the children of Israel" (Shemot 19:3)


The Maharsha explains, that "So shall you say to the house of Yaakov" refers to the women, "and tell to the children of Israel" -- they, the women, will tell to the children of Israel who are the males, because it is the way of the woman to be present all day in the home and she educates the children of Israel when they are little.

"...Go to the people and you will sanctify them today and tomorrow" (Shemot 19:10)


The Yetzer Hara (Evil Inclination), when he sees that someone is beginning to serve Hashem, he tells him to begin from tomorrow.  And the advice for dealing with this is to answer the Yetzer Hara that you agree with him, on the condition that "you will sanctify ... today and tomorrow", also today and also tomorrow.  And regarding Amalek, it is written, "go out to fight with Amalek, tomorrow" (Shemot 17:9), for it is known that Amalek represents the Yetzer Hara (Evil Inclination); you should fight with him on what that he tells you all the time to begin tomorrow.

"All of Israel are guarantors [in Hebrew "aravin"] one for another".  (Masechet Shavuot 39a)


There is an explanation that each one needs to be sweet to the other one, because although the Hebrew word "aravin" means guarantors (of loans) it is also is similar to a word in Hebrew which means sweetness.

"And G-d spoke all these words, saying" (Shemot 20:1)


Rashi explains that the word "saying" means that on every single one of the statements of the Ten Commandments, Israel said "yes" to a positive commandment and "no" to a negative commandment.  But, "I am Hashem your G-d ..." and "You shall have no other gods..." (Shemot 20:2-3) were said simultaneously (according to the Zohar Chadash at the end of the Torah Portion of Yitro).  This is what is meant when it says in the Tehillim (62:12): "G-d spoke one thing, I heard  two (Gematriot of Rav Y. HaChassid on the Torah Portion of Va'etchanan). And behold, at the time that the children of Israel heard the first two Commandments simultaneously, they were frightened and confused and didn't know what to answer.  For if they would say "yes", it would be possible to misunderstand their words and think that G-d forbid they were saying "yes" on the prohibition of "You shall have no other gods before Me", and if they would say "no" it would be possible to misunderstand their words and think that they said "no" to the statement "I am Hashem your G-d...", and that they don't want to accept the Kingship and Oneness of His Blessed Name, G-d forbid.  And regarding this problem they took advice from within their inner souls, and they all shouted as one voice "Hashem is Our G-d Hashem is One", and this statement was a good answer for both of the Commandments.  For as is known, one needs to have intention at the time of reading the first verse of Sh'ma, "Sh'ma Yisrael Hashem Elokeinu Hashem Echad"  (Hear Oh Israel, Hashem is our G-d, Hashem is One).   When one says "Hashem Elokeinu" ("Hashem is Our G-d"), that is a reference to the first  of the Ten Commandments, "I am Hashem your G-d".  When one says "Hashem Echad" ("Hashem is One"), that is a reference to the Second of the Ten Commandments, "You shall have no other gods...".  And this is what is hinted at when we say in the Zemirot (Songs) for Shabbat, "And everyone came in a covenant together, we will do and we will hear, were said in unity and they began and answered "Hashem is One".  (from the Rav Sholom of Belz, may his memory protect us)

"Do not take the name of Hashem your G-d in vain.." (Shemot 20:7)


It is appropriate to avoid swearing even about something that is true. The Hebrew word for "in vain" is L''shav, which is spelled Lamed Shin Vuv Aleph.  These letters are the Roshei Teivot (first letters) of the words in the Hebrew phrase "L'o Sh'eker V'lo E'met", which means "Not Falsehood and Not Truth".

"You shall not covet your fellow man's house...nor anything that belongs to your fellow man" (Shemot 20:14) 


It can be asked, why was it stated "your fellow man's house", isn't that included in "anything that belongs to your fellow man?"  And the answer that is given (tongue in cheek) is that if a person covets what another has because he has a nice house or other nice things,  he is told to take into account that it's a package deal and if you get everything that belongs to your fellow man that also includes all the sorrows, obligations, and other difficulties.



The Torah Portion  of Yitro has 72 verses. The Torah Portion of Yitro has within it 3 positive commandments, 14 negative commandments.The Haftorah is "B'sh'nat Mot Hamelech Uziahu" (Yeshayahu 6)

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 17, 2016

Beshalach 5776

The Torah Portion of "Beshalach" , Shabbat Shira  


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 Vayeitzei (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.

"Moshe caused Israel to journey from Yam Suf (in English: "the Sea of Reeds"...) (Shemot 15:22)


Rashi says that the Children of Israel wanted to remain more time there in order to gather up silver and gold, and after that they came to Marah and they didn't have water, because the Holy One Blessed Be He wanted to show them that money (that is, silver and gold) isn't worth anything. For behold, they had a lot of money and they didn't have what to drink.  Is it possible to drink silver and gold?  (from Baalei Mussar -- The Masters of Ethical Teachings)

"...and Moshe became angry with them."  (Shemot 16:20)


About what did he get angry with them?  The Meshech Chachma explains that until they left over the Mannah and it became infested with worms,  we can see that there was an amazing amount of Bitachon  (trust) by Israel, that even though they were in a desolate wilderness and the Mannah appeared each day and was going to vanish, they didn't take more than what was necessary for that single day, and this was a constant test of their faith every day.  But, when they left it over and it became infested with worms and stank, after that they saw that even if they attempted to store it up for the future, it would become infested with worms and stink, so the test of their faith was over with, and their high level of trust, and therefore, Moshe got angry with them.

Commandments regarding the Mannah


1. One Omer per person.
2. Not to leave any over till tomorrow (Datan and Aviram didn't fulfill this)
3. To prepare from the Mannah that appeared on Friday for Shabbat.
4. Not to try to gather it on Shabbat (Datan and Aviram didn't fulfill this)
5. To store a container of the Mannah, the next year, when they erected the Mishkan.

Miracles of the Mannah


They didn't take more and they didn't take less (than an Omer per person). It had all the tastes in the world except for garlic, onion, zucchini, melon, and eggplant, for these are not good for the nursing of babies (see Rashi in Beha'alotcha).  On Friday, it was a doubled portion, and also on Erev Chag (the day before a Yom Tov) and Erev Yom Kippur (the day before Yom Kippur).   On Shabbat the taste was different so that it tasted better than on the weekdays.  On the day of Shabbat, it did not become infested with worms (even though it was left over from that which was the double portion gathered on Friday).  At the end of 40 years from the 7th of Adar until the 16th of Nissan, it remained in their vessels and did not get wormy.  It told everyone what his situation was, as it is said "K'zera Gad" (in English "like a coriander seed".  In addition, the word "Gad" in Hebrew is similar to the Hebrew word "Magid", which means "to tell" in English).

"...go out to do battle with Amalek, tomorrow..."  (Shemot 17:8)


Amalek hints at the Evil Inclination.  The way of the Evil Inclination is to always postpone things till tomorrow.  When the Evil Inclincation sees that someone is arousing himself to serve Hashem, it says to him "start tomorrow", in order to cool him off.  And that is why it says in the verse "... go out to do battle with Amalek, tomorrow...".  You should battle against it (the Evil Inclination) when it tells you "tomorrow", and not listen to it.


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.

Shabbat ShalomThe 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

Monday, January 11, 2016

Bo 5776

The Torah Portion of Bo 


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 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 Kli 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 Kain" (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" (Braisheet 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'vot Moftai 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 11 negative commandments 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

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Va'eira 5776

The Torah Portion of Va'eira 5776  

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.  

This week's Torah Portion mentions the ages of a father, son, and grandson, as well as the marriages of a father, son, and grandson.


The three ages of a father, son, and grandson written about in this week's Torah Portion are:  Levi who lived for 137 years, Kahat who lived for 133 years, and Amram who lived for 137 years.  The three marriages of a father, son, and grandson written about in this week's Torah Portion are:  Amram with Yocheved, Aharon with Elisheva, and Elazar with the daughter of Putiel.

"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.

"...provide a wonder for yourselves..."  (Shemot 7:9)


What is the meaning of "for yourselves" in this verse?  The explanation is that those who perform magic tricks do so only for others but not for themselves, since they know that it is only a matter of deception.  And that is why Pharoah said, "provide a wonder for yourselves", perform a wonder that would also be for yourselves a wonder. 

The Miracle of the Staff


In the miracle of the staff was a miracle within a miracle, because after the snake returned to become a staff again it swallowed up the other staffs, and also, there wasn't any visible difference in the staff after it swallowed up the other staffs.


"...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.

"...he has refused to send the people."  (Shemot 7:14)


One of the Kabbalists in the previous generation performed a "Sh'ailat Chalom",  a Kabbalistic method for asking the answer to a question by means of a dream.  He asked why the final redemption has not yet occurred, and the answered he received was this verse "....he has refused to send the people," (Shemot 7:14).  Since the Hebrew word for "refused" (Mai'ain) in this verse is spelled with the letters Mem, Aleph, and Nun which are the same letters which spell the word "Amen",   he understood that the reason we are not yet being redeemed is because we don't say "Amen" properly. 

A teacher asked his students,  what did the Egyptians lose in the plague of blood?


They answered him, three things -- water, fish, and money.

"And Pharoah turned and went to his house, and didn't take this to his heart either."  (Shemot 7:23)


It is written in Mishnat Rebbe Eliezer (Perek 19)  that within the house of Pharoah, the plague of blood did not take effect.  And the Meshech Chachmah  wrote regarding this, that since it has been explained that all the water that the Egyptians received for money, did not turn to blood, therefore, it must have been the case that Pharoah had given a lot of money to Moshe, who had grown up in his house.   Thus it is written "and Pharoah turned and went to his house, and didn't take this to his heart either" (Shemot 7:23).  The main thing for him was that in his own house there wasn't blood, and he didn't care about his people at all.

Why is a frog called "Tz'fardeyah" in Hebrew?


The reason is that the frogs know how to distinguish when it is morning.  The word "Tz'fardeyah" in Hebrew is composed of two words: "Tz'far" which is similar to the  word "Tzafra" (in English: "morning"), and "Deyah" (in English:  "knowledge").

The frogs performed Mesirut Nefesh, that is, they dedicated their lives to fulfill Hashem's will.


Also the song that the frogs sing every day (as recorded in Pirkei Shira) is "Baruch Sheim Kavod Malchuto L'olam Va'ed", (in English:  "Blessed is the Glorious Name of His Kingship Forever and Ever")  which is the verse which we say right after the first verse of the "Sh'ma" prayer.  This verse is also an expression of Mesirut Nefesh.

Chananiah, Mishael, and Azariah learned a "Kal V'Chomer" (a principle based on the reasoning of "all the moreso") from the frogs.


The "Kal V'Chomer" that they learned was that just as the frogs performed Mesirut Nefesh and dedicated their lives in order to enter into the ovens at Hashem's command, all the moreso, they were obligated to perform Mesirut Nefesh and give up their lives in order to sanctify Hashem's name.  It has been asked, why did they need this reasoning of "Kal V'Chomer"?  Isn't it written specifically in the Torah that one should allow himself to be killed and not transgress Hashem's will, so that it would have been obligatory for them to give up their lives?  The explanation given by the Sages is, that they had a choice, they could have fled, but they learned what to do from the frogs, because also the frogs had a choice.  The frogs could have entered other things, for example, they could have entered into food, and they didn't need to enter into a burning oven.  Nevertheless, they did enter the fire, and from this Chananiah, Mishel, and Azariah learned a "Kal V'Chomer" from the frogs.  Even though the frogs were not commanded to sanctify Hashem's name, and they had another choice, in any event they entered into the fire with Mesirut Nefesh to sanctify the name of Hashem may He be blessed.   Even all the moreso, we who are commanded to sanctify Hashem's name, should do the same.  And also, the Sages say, that those frogs who entered the fire remained alive, and the hint to that is within the verse "...only in the River shall they remain."  (Shemot 8:7)  This is because the Hebrew word 'Bay'or" which means "in the  River" in this verse, is very similar to the Hebrew word "Ba'or", "in the fire".

"...and they brought up the frogs upon the land of Mitzrayim (Egypt)."  (Shemot 8:3)


The Sages say that there was a war at that time between Kush and Mitzrayim about their borders, and the frogs established the true extent of the border of Mitzrayim, because the area in which the frogs were found was a sign indicating that the area was part of Mitzrayim.  The Egyptian magicians wanted to expand the border of Mitzrayim, and therefore the verse emphasizes that also when the magicians brought frogs they went up "upon the land of Mitzrayim", and not further than the border like they wanted.

"...for when should I entreat on your behalf, and for your servants, and for your people...And Moshe cried out to Hashem concening the frogs which He had brought upon Pharoah..." (Shemot 8:5, Shemot 8:8)


These verses present a difficulty.  Behold, the entire miracle of the plague of frogs was only in order to cause Pharoah to submit to Hashem's will, and if so why should Moshe need to increase his level of praying and entreat Hashem in order to remove the frogs?  It should have been sufficient for Moshe to say before the Holy One Blessed Be He, that there was no longer any need for the frogs because Pharoah is already submissive.  But the explanation is, that we see that after the plague was already brought about by the Holy One Blessed Be He, 
the plague became the natural course of events, so that it became necessary for Moshe Rabeinu to increase his level of praying so that a new miracle could be brought about and the situation could be returned to what it had been previously.  If so, there was a double miracle, the bringing of the frogs to Mitzrayim, and their removal from Mitzrayim. (from HaGaon HaRav Y. Kaminetzky ztz"kl)

"...And Moshe cried out to Hashem..."  (Shemot 8:8)


In the plague of frogs, the expression "cried out" is used, and the Siftei Chachamim explains that the person praying needs to speak loudly enough to hear what he is saying with his own ears, and the frogs were making a lot of noise.  Therefore, Moshe "cried out" so that he could hear his prayer with his own ears. 

"...the finger of Elokim..." (Shemot 8:15)


In the plague of lice, it is written "...the finger of Elokim.." (Shemot 8:15).  The Egyptian magicians were not able to produce lice because of their small size, since they were smaller than a barley seed.  The Egyptian magicians said that everything was from Hashem, and that is hinted at by the letters which spell the word "Etzba"  (the Hebrew word for finger).  These letters are Aleph, Tzadi, Beit, Ayin, and they are the Roshei Teivot (initial letters) of the Hebrew words: "A'in Tz'rich B'dikah "O'd", which means: "It is not necessary to check further".

"...all the dust of the earth became lice..."  (Shemot 8:13)


The Da'at Zekainim brings another explanation for why the Egyptian magicians were not able to produce the plague of lice, because the magicians need to be on the ground at the time of performing magic, and they were not able to to perform magic because they couldn't stand on the ground, as it is stated "all the dust of the earth became lice."  (Shemot 8:13)  This was similar to the story about Rebbe Shimon Ben Shetach and the magicians, when he raised them up from the ground, and thus was able to hang them.

"...rise up early in the morning and stand up firmly before Pharoah..." (Shemot 8:16)


What is the explanation of "stand up firmly"? Even though Moshe was humble, regarding Pharoah he didn't need to display any submissiveness, and that is the explanation of "stand up firmly", that he should stand up with his head held high.  (from the Or HaChaim)

"...And the houses of Mitzrayim shall be filled with the mixture of wild beasts and also the ground upon which they are..." (Shemot 8:17)


The Sages say that there is an animal which is called a Yedoni, and there are those who say it is also called Adnei Hasadeh, and that this creature is connected to the ground by means of a sort of pipe whose length is about 50 Amot, and thus it draws its nourishment from the ground, and if the pipe is torn it dies.  [See Rav Ovadia of Bartenura on Kallaim Perek 8 Mishneh 45]  This animal came to Mitzrayim with a clump of ground that its pipe was drawing its nourishment from.  And that is hinted at in this verse "...and the houses of Mitzrayim shall be filled with the mixture of wild beasts and also the ground upon which they are..." (Shemot 8:17)  In addition, there are those who say that also regarding the rest of the animals, that the animals brought dirt from their original  locations, so that they would feel at home and would be able to attack, since the nature of animals is that when they are not in their natural locations  they are afraid to attack.

"...and also the ground upon which they are..." (Shemot 8:17)


There are those who explain, that the Egyptians wanted to flee to the wilderness of Mitzrayim, since they thought that the animals abandoned the wilderness and arrived at the settled areas of Mitzrayim.  But the Holy One Blessed Be He caused the mixture of wild beasts to also be present in the wilderness.   And that is the meaning of "and also the ground upon which they are..."  (Shemot 8:17), that also the areas of land where the animals were usually found, were also full of animals.

"...stand up firmly..."  (Shemot 8:16)


It is written in the Midrash that in the entrance to the house of Pharoah there was a low opening, and everyone that entered needed to bend down, and there was an idol there.  The result was that everyone that entered needed to bow down to the idol.  But when Yaakov entered, and also Moshe and Aharon, the opening became lifted up so  that they didn't need to bend down.  And that is why it says (regarding Moshe) "...stand up firmly...", and regarding Yaakov it says "...and he stood him before Pharoah..." (Bereisheet 47:7).

"He that feared the word of Hashem...And he who didn't pay attention to the word of Hashem"  (Shemot 9:20-21)


Why doesn't it say the opposite of the one who feared the word of Hashem, that is to say "and he who didn't fear the word of Hashem"?  The explanation is that the Evil Inclination doesn't wait until a man has no fear at all of the word of Hashem, G-d forbid.  But when the Evil Inclination sees some weakness it already arrives at that point.  And that is why it says "who didn't pay attention", he just had a small weakness.  Also it is written in Mishlei (23:5):  "Should you blink your eyes at it, it is not here".  At the blink of an eye it already comes. If he finds the smallest thing, the Evil Inclination already  finds a place to cause the person to stumble.

"He that feared the word of Hashem..." (Shemot 9:20)


There are those who explain, why is it written "He that feared the 'word' of Hashem",  rather than saying "He that feared Hashem"?   The reason is that they were afraid of the plagues (which were things that were brought about by the word of Hashem), but they didn't really have true fear of Hashem.

"...Hashem is the Righteous One, and I, and my people are the wicked ones." (Shemot 9:27)


It is written in the Midrash about the phrase "Hashem is the Righteous One, and I" (Shemot 9:27), that Pharoah's meaning was that he also was righteous, only his people, they were the wicked ones.   And it is written in the Midrash that when the decrees were made against the Jews, Pharoah didn't agree to it at first, and they removed him from his throne for three months, until he agreed to it.   And that is why it says "and my people are the wicked ones" (Shemot 9:27), they are the wicked ones.  And in truth, wicked people always blame other people, but not themselves.

Rashi brings the Midrash Tanchuma to explain the significance and ordering of the plagues


Just as in a war, first they destroy the water supply, and that accounts for the plague of blood.  And afterwards they blow ram's horns and trumpets to frighten the enemy, and that is the plague of frogs, etc.  There are other reasons written in the Midrash as well.

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.  

Positive messages from the name of the month of Sh'vat


The name of the month of Shvat is spelled with the Hebrew letters "Shin", "Beit", and "Tet".  These letters form the Roshei Teivot (initial letters) of the Hebrew phrase: "Sh'omrom B'irchom "T'aharom", (in English:  "Guard them, Bless them, Purify them").   Also they form the Roshei Teivot of the Hebrew phrase: "Sh'nishma B'surot T'ovot"  (in English:  "That we should hear good tidings").   Another hint about good tidings from the name of this month is the phrase from Tehillim (105:37), "V'ain B'SHVAT'av Kosheil"  (in English: "and there was no one among His tribes who stumbled".  Note: The connection between the name of the month and this particular verse from Tehillim, is that the three letters that spell the name of the month of Sh'vat are the same three letters that spell the Hebrew word for "Tribe".)

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: This year is a Shana Meuberet which has two Months of Adar, Adar Aleph and Adar Beit.  Thus, we have Rosh Chodesh Adar Aleph and Purim Katan during the month of Adar Aleph, in addition to Rosh Chodesh Adar Beit and Purim during the month of Adar Beit.)

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 Lail Rishon  at 8:03 with 13 Chalakim.
Rosh Chodesh Sh'vat is on Yom Shaini (Monday).

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