Thursday, February 26, 2015

Tetzaveh & Zachor 5775

The Torah Portion of "Tetzaveh & Parshat Zachor"  


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 you will command..."  (Shemot 27:20)


The word "command" linguistically indicates encouragement, and apparently this presents a difficulty.  Why is this language of encouragement used in the Torah Portion of Tetzaveh, whereas in the Torah Portion of T'rumah in which the main donations for the Mishkan (Tabernacle) were discussed, this language of encouragement was not used at all?  The explanation is that it is easier to give a lot at one time, than to give even a little bit but on a regular, daily basis.  Therefore, the lighting of the Menorah which was done on a regular, daily basis, requires encouragement.  (from the Gaon HaRav Chaim Shmuelevitz) 

"...crushed for illumination..." (Shemot 27:20)


Rashi explains, that the olives are crushed for illumination but not crushed for "Menachot" (meal-offerings).  A person needs to be "crushed", that is broken in his own eyes, but only on condition that this will be for the purpose of "illumination", and that he doesn't come because of that to sadness and bitterness, G-d forbid.  That is to say, that he does not come because of this to "Menachot" (meal offerings), which in Hebrew is linguistically related to weakness.

"Tarshish and Shoham and Yashfeh" (Shemot 28:20)  [Translator's note: These are names in Hebrew of three of the precious stones on the Choshen (breastplate) of the Kohen HaGadol.]  


The Yashfeh was the stone of the tribe of Benyamin, and the Ba'al HaTurim says this is hinted at by the Gematria (numerical value of the Hebrew letters of the words).  The Gematria  of Yashfeh with the Kollel (one more for the word itself) is equal to the Gematria of Benyamin son of Yaakov. In the Gemara there is a story told about Dama Ben Netina. The Jews came to buy from him a Yashfeh stone for the Choshen (breastplate), but since his father was sleeping at that time on top of the chest in which the Yashfeh was stored, he didn't want to wake him up.  He honored his father, even though he lost a lot of money because of it.  In reward for this, he received a reward from Heaven that made him wealthy after that.  His cow gave birth to a Para Adumah (Red Heifer), and the children of Israel bought it from him for a great amount of money.  The Meshech Chachma clarifies why the stone from Benyamin had been lost.  All of the tribes caused sorrow to their father in the sale of Yosef, and even Yosef caused him sorrow about it because he didn't notify his father that he was in Egypt because he was afraid of the Cherem.  (His brothers had imposed a condition of Cherem, ex-communication, on anyone who told their father about the sale.)  But Benyamin honored his father (since he didn't participate in causing him sorrow through the sale of Yosef), and therefore the Shechina dwelled in his portion.  Therefore when the stone of Benyamin was lost, the Holy One Blessed Be He showed them the greatness of the Mitzvah of honoring one's father through Dama Ben Netina, and this was precisely with the stone of Benyamin, because Binyamin had honored his father. 

"And you shall make the Me'il...the opening of its head shall be folded over within it, its opening shall have a border all around...a golden bell and a pomegranate" (Shemot 28:31-34) 


The Sages say that the Me'il (the robe of the Kohen HaGadol) atones for the sin of Lashon Hara (evil speech).  The reason is, that there ought to be something that has a sound in order to atone for Lashon Hara, which occurs through sound, and the Me'il has a sound emanating from its bells. In addition, the Me'il was folded over at its top opening, to hint that one needs to greatly guard himself in order to keep his mouth closed.  And also "a golden bell and a pomegranate" comes to hint to us that on the one hand, one needs to keep his mouth closed like a pomegranate and not speak forbidden speech, for the pomegranate is like an egg which is sealed and doesn't have a mouth.  And on the other hand, when one's speech is for a holy purpose he shouldn't keep quiet but rather open his mouth, like the bells that made a sound for the purpose of holiness, as it is written "its sound shall be heard when he enters the Sanctuary" (Shemot 28:35), meaning that when it comes to a matter of holiness the sound of one's voice should be heard (for example, when praying or learning Torah).  In addition the Chafetz Chaim writes that if one does so (that is, closes his mouth to avoid forbidden speech, but makes his voice heard  for the purpose of holiness), "his voice will be heard when he enters the Sanctuary", that is to say, that his prayers will be accepted.

All the Clothing of the Kohen HaGadol serves as an Atonement


These are the things that the clothing of the Kohen HaGadol atones for: The Mitznefet (mitre) atones for having a coarse spirit.  The Tzitz (golden plate on the mitre) atones for brazenness, and for blood that was dashed or fat that was burned (in the Temple) in a state of impurity.  The Choshen (breastplate) atones for the perversion of justice.  The Me'il (robe) atones for Lashon Hara (evil speech).  The Ephod (apron) atones for idolatry.  The Avnet (girdle) atones for improper thoughts.  The K'tonet (tunic) atones for bloodshed.  The Michnesayim (breeches) atones for immorality.

"And I will dwell among the children of Israel" (Shemot 29:45) 


It is told about one of the early Tzadikim (Righteous Men), that when he was still a little boy,  his father said to him: "If you tell me where the Holy One Blessed Be He is, I will give you one gold coin".  The little one answered: "If you tell me where he can't be found, I will give you two gold coins, because the Holy One Blessed Be He fills the whole world with His Glory".

The Mitzvah of Reading "Zachor"


The Rambam writes in the Sefer HaMitzvot, that we were commanded to remember what the Amalek did to us, that he hurried up to do evil to us, and that this will be stated year after year, so that we arouse our souls by means of the words in these passages to fight him and the people are encouraged to hate him until the Mitzvah will not ever be forgotten and and the hatred of Amalek will not be removed from the souls of the people with the passage of time...Behold, you see that Shmuel HaNavi, when he began to do this Mitzvah, how he did it.  First he remembered Amalek's evil deeds, and then he commanded to kill them.  And thus, it is brought that the Chafetz Chaim, ztzk"l would fill himself with hatred and anger against Amalek at the time when he heard the reading of "Zachor".

The Fast of Esther, Purim, and the Remembrance of the Half Shekel


On Wednesday, the 13th of Adar, is the Fast of Esther.  After Mincha, the unwalled cities give a remembrance for the half shekel.  On Thursday, the 14th of Adar, is Purim in the unwalled cities, and the walled cities give a remembrance for the half shekel after Mincha. Friday the 15th of Adar is Purim in the walled cities. One needs to be careful, at the time when he gives the remembrance for the half shekel, that he shouldn't say "this is for the half a shekel", because it is not appropriate at this time (since we don't have the Temple).   Rather, he should say it's a "Zacher l'mechatzit hashekel" (remembrance for the half shekel). 

The Torah Portion of "Tetzaveh" has 101 verses, 4 positive commandments and 4 negative commandments.  


We take our two Torah Scrolls.  In the first we read the weekly Torah Portion, and in the second we read for the Maftir in the Torah Portion of Ki Teitze, "Zachor".  The Haftorah is: "Ko Amar Hashem Pakaditi" (Sh'muel Aleph 15)


We say Borchi Nafshi.


"M'shenichnas Adar Marbim B'Simcha"
"When Adar begins Happiness Increases"
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

Saturday, February 14, 2015

T'rumah 5775

The Torah Portion of "T'rumah" 


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


Why does Torah Portion of T'rumah (in English: an offering or donation), immediately follow the Torah Portion of Mishpatim (in English: judicial laws and ordinances)?  


The Beit Levi explains that in the beginning before a man does the Mitzvah of giving Tzedaka (charity) wiith his money, he needs to see to it that his money was earned lawfully without the slightest dishonesty.  For if he doesn't do that, the Tzedaka that he gives will not be effective for him at all.  Similarly a Lulav which is stolen is disqualified, because it would be a Mitzvah which comes about by means of doing an Aveirah (transgression).  Therefore the Torah told them first about"Mishpatim" (judicial laws and ordinances) and afterwards about the donation for the Mishkan (Tabernacle).

"And they shall take (to) Me an offering". (Shemot 25:2)   


The commentators ask, shouldn't it have been written "And they shall give"?  The Sages say that more than the rich person gives to the poor person, the poor person gives to the rich person.  By virtue of the poor person's acceptance of a donation from the rich person,  the rich person is able to fulfill the great Mitzvah of Tzedaka.  This is the explanation of "And they shall take" -- that the act of giving is in its very essence an act of taking.

"And they shall take (to) Me an offering". (Shemot 25:2)  


It is written in the Tanach that "Mine is the silver and Mine is the gold" (Chaggai 2:8).  It would therefore seem that it is not appropriate to speak of giving an offering to the Holy One Blessed Be He, since all the money really belongs to Him.  But the explanation is that the main thing that the Holy One Blessed Be He requests from the Children of Israel is that when we give an offering to Hashem, we should give it with a full heart.  That is why it is written "whose heart makes him willing" (Shemot 25:2).  The physical act of donating  is in itself not doing anything, since "Mine is the silver and Mine is the gold", but the act of giving with a full heart is the main point of the donation.

"From every man whose heart makes him willing you shall take (to) Me an offering."  (Shemot 25:2)


At the time when the Chafetz Chaim was about to construct the building for his Yeshiva, a Jew came to him and said "Rabbi!  Hashem graced me with wealth and I want to merit the great Mitzvah of constructing the Yeshiva  entirely from my funds."   The Chafetz Chaim answered him: "Your intention is praiseworthy, and Hashem should reward you for your good thoughts, but I cannot accept your offer.  The building of a Yeshiva, a place of Torah, is a Mitzvah, and it is necessary to give every Jew the possibility of participating.  Thus we find in the case of the Mishkan (Tabernacle).  The Holy One Blessed Be He said 'From every man whose heart makes him willing you shall take (to) Me an offering'.(Shemot 25:2)  According to the Sages, every single person in Israel had the financial capability to build the Mishkan all by himself.  Nonetheless, the Torah commanded: 'From every man', so that every person in Israel would have a portion in the construction of the Mishkan."

"And they shall make Me a Mikdash (Sanctuary), so that I may dwell among them". (Shemot 25:8) 


Why was it written "among them"? Shouldn't it  have said "within it", that is to say, within the Mikdash?  The Alshich Hakodesh explained that the intention of this verse is that each one of us needs to make a Sanctuary within his own heart, so that it should be a dwelling place for the Shechina (Divine Presence).  Thus, when the verse says "so that I may dwell among them", it  means "within the heart of every single person".

"And they shall make an Aron (in English: Ark)" (Shemot 25:10) 


Regarding the ark it is written "And they shall make", in the plural.  Regarding all the other vessels, it is written "And you shall make", in the singular.  The reason the Ark is different is because the Torah was within the Ark, and the intention of this verse is to show us that all of us are equals when it comes to the Torah, since every single person has a portion in it. (from the Ohr HaChaim HaKodesh)

"And they shall make an Ark of accacia tree-wood;  two and a half Amot (in English cubits) shall be its length, and one and a half Amot shall be its width, and  and one and a half Amot shall be its height." (Shemot 25:10)  


All the measurements of the Ark are not whole numbers: two and a half Amot, one and half Amot,  and one and a half Amot.  This is to hint that someone who learns Torah needs to regard his position as being at only  the half-way point in his journey, and that he has not yet reached wholeness and completion. 

"And they shall make an Ark of accacia tree-wood...And you shall overlay it with pure gold". (Shemot 25:10-11)  


Wood is a plant substance which continually grows; it develops without stopping and it also bears fruit.  In contrast, gold is the substance which is most stable; it doesn't rot or get rusty, and it preserves its qualities against every external influence.  The ark hints at the Torah, which has both the qualities of gold, in that it is eternal, and as well as the qualities of wood, in that it grows and causes others to grow.  The person that occupies himself with Torah renews himself and grows without stopping because he finds within it an infinite depth.

"And they shall make an Ark of accacia tree-wood...And you shall overlay it with pure gold". (Shemot 25:10-11)  


They made the ark of wood and gold.  This is a hint that the Torah belongs to everyone equally, whether we are poor or rich.  The wood hints at poor people and the gold hints at rich people.

"...from inside and from outside you shall cover it..." (Shemot 25:11)


The Ark hints at Talmidei Chachamim (Torah Scholars). Thus, what is meant by the phrase "from inside and from outside you shall cover it" is that a Torah Scholar needs to be the same on the inside as he is on the outside, as is discussed in the Gemara.  Also on the outside and also on the inside it needs to be recognizable that he is a Torah Scholar.  In addition the Beit Halevi explains, that one should not say, it's sufficient for the Torah Scholar if I provide him with essentials such as food so that his heart can be turn towards his Torah studies, but why does the Torah Scholar need to be glorified, and why should I increase my spending for him so that he should be dignified?  On this, a hint comes to us from the verse "from inside and from outside you shall cover it...".  That is to say, he should also look nice on the outside, for when one supports a Torah Scholar, he should financially cover both the "inside" and the "outside"; he should have inside his house what to eat, and also on the outside, he should look nice in the eyes of people in his clothing, and his apartment, and in all his matters.

"The staves shall remain in the rings of the Ark; they shall not be removed from it." (Shemot 25:15)


The Ramban wrote that the reason it is forbidden to remove the staves is because of the great holiness of the Ark, so that one should not carry the staves when it is not necessary.  And there are those who say that the Ark hints at those who learn Torah, and the staves hint at those who support the learning of Torah (such as by financial means, emotional encouragement, etc.).  And this is the intention of this verse, that it is necessary to continue to support the learning of Torah without any interruption.

"And the cherubim shall be spreading out wings above, screening with their wings over the ark-cover..." (Shemot 25:20)


The cherubim had the appearance of young children, and this is a hint to the Tinokot Shel Beit Raban (young children in the house of their Torah Teachers), who learn Torah.  And that is the explanation of "screening with their wings", that they (the young children) are defending all of Israel and all of the world by means of their Torah learning, as the Sages stated: "The world would not exist except for the merit of the breath of the mouths of the young children learning Torah."

"...their faces one towards another..." (Shemot 25:20)


In the Gemara it is clarified that if Israel does the will of Hashem, then the faces of the cherubim are towards one another, but if G-d forbid they don't, then their faces are not pointed that way.  And there is a hint in this verse that the intention of "doing the will of Hashem" is precisely "their faces one towards the other"; that each of us needs to worry not only about himself, but also about other people.  But if he worries only about himself, then that is called "not doing the will of Hashem", G-d forbid.

"...and He placed  at the east of the Garden of Eden the cherubim..." (Breisheet 3:24)


Rashi says that the cherubim in this verse in the Torah Portion of Breisheet are angels of destruction, and in connection with the Aron the cherubim are a hint to Tinokot Shel Beit Raban (young children in the house of their Torah Teachers). This is because if the child is outside, we have  "angels of destruction", and if he is inside the Mishkan (Tabernacle) he is holy, and we have "Tinokot Shel Beit Raban" (young children in the house of their Torah Teachers).


"On three things does the world stand, on Torah, on Avodah, and on Gemilut Chasadim." (Avot 1:2)


In the Mishkan we find  hints to the three things which the world stands upon: Torah, Avodah (Divine Service), and  Gemilut Chasadim (Acts of Kindness).  There were 48 boards within the Mishkan, in parallel  to the 48 ways of acquiring the Torah.  The sacrifices represent Divine Service.  And the middle bar (in Hebrew: Briach HaTikon) hints to Acts of Kindness.  The Sages explain that the middle bar was made from the Eshel  (tree) of Avraham Avinu a"h, where he received guests.  It is written in the Targum of Yonatan Ben Uziel that the angels cut down the Eshel of Avraham and threw it into the sea, where it floated on the face of the waters.  The angels shouted that the wood was from the Eshel of Avraham, so the Children of Israel took it and made the middle bar from it.  There were many miracles associated with the middle bar; its measure was 70 Amot and it entered into the walls of the Mishkan from its three sides completely, like a snake.  All this comes to hint to us that if we do these three things (Torah, Divine Service, and Acts of Kindness), this will bring about the revelation of the Shechina (Divine Presence), just like in the Mishkan.

The Mishkan vs. The Second Temple


The Sages say that within the Mishkan which was in the Wilderness, the revelation of  Shechina occurred on a daily basis,  just like on the day of Yom Kippur.  Aharon the Cohen HaGadol was able to enter the Holy of Holies every day just like on Yom Kippur, and so was Moshe Rabeinu.  But in the Temple of Hordus (in English: Herod), even though the Sages said that someone who did not see the building of Hordus never saw a beautiful building all his life, nonetheless  the Kohen HaGadol was only able to enter within the Holy of Holies on the day of Yom Kippur.  The revelation of the Shechina which occurred on Yom Kippur, did not occur every day.  We see from this that even though from an external viewpoint the Temple  was much more beautiful than the Mishkan (which was built from wooden boards and curtains); nonetheless, the main point is the internal aspect and not the external aspect.

The Three "Crowns" in the Mishkan


There were three Crowns in the Mishkan: the Golden Crown of the Ark which represents the Crown of Torah, the Golden Crown of the sacrificial Altar which represents the Crown of the Kehuna (i.e., the Cohen or Priestly class), and the Golden Crown of the Table which represents the Crown of Kingship.  (from Rashi)  Similarly, there are 3 times that the word "V'Nishma" (in English: "And we will hear") occurs in the Torah, in parallel to these three Crowns.  "Naaseh V'Nishma" ("We will do and we will hear") - this corresponds to the Crown of Torah (regarding the acceptance of the Torah in the Portion of Yitro and the Portion of Mishpatim, Shemot 24:7).  "Y'Nishma Kolo" ("And its voice will be heard") - this corresponds to the Crown of the Cohen (in the Torah Portion of Tetzaveh, Shemot 28:35, regarding the M'eil, the Robe of Aharon HaCohen HaGadol).  "V'Nishma Pitgam HaMelech" ("And the king's saying will be heard") - this corresponds to the Crown of Kingship (from Megillat Esther 1:20).

"And you shall make it a border" (Shemot 25:25)


Regarding the Table, it is written: "And you shall make it a border" (Shemot 25:25).  This comes to hint to us that at the table of a person during his meal, he needs to make a border around it, so that he doesn't fulfill all of his physical desires.  (from Kli Yakar)

"And the Menorah opposite the Table" (Shemot 26:35)


"And the Menorah opposite the Table" (Shemot 26:35) The Menorah hints to Torah, as it written, "A Candle is a Mitzvah and a Torah is Light".  The Table hints to Parnassah, a Livelihood.  And this is the intention of "And the Menorah opposite the Table", one thing faces the other.  For if there is no flour (Parnassah) there is no Torah, and if there is no Torah there is no Parnassah. (from Meforshim)

"And the Menorah opposite the Table." (Shemot 26:35) 


It is written by the Ramban, that by virtue of the Menorah there is an emanation of blessing and satisfaction to all of Israel, just as in the story about the prophet Elisha (Melachim II:4) -- by virtue of the cruze of oil, all of the vessels were filled with oil.

The Torah Portion of "T'rumah" has 96 verses, 2 positive commandments and 1 negative commandment. There is a one week break in the four special Torah Portions that we read for Maftir (last Shabbat we read Shekalim and the Shabbat after this one we read Zachor).The Haftorah is "V'Hashem Natan Chachmah" (Melachim Aleph 5) 


We say Borchi Nafshi.

"M'shenichnas Adar Marbim B'Simcha"
"When Adar begins Happiness Increases"
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, February 8, 2015

Mishpatim & Shekalim 5775

The Torah Portion of "Mishpatim" - Shabbat Shekalim


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 Tzadik (highly righteous man) about it. The Tzadik 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 Tzadik 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 Tzadik 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. 

"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 Tzadik  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.

"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.

M'shenichnas Adar Marbim B'Simcha (When Adar enters, we increase in happiness)


The Torah Portion of "Mishpatim" has 118 verses, 23 positive commandments and 30 negative commandments.  Two Torah Scrolls are taken out.  In the first we read the weekly Torah Portion.  In the second we read the Maftir, the Torah Portion of Shekalim from the beginning of the Torah Portion of Ki Tisa until "Al Nafshoteichem".   The Haftorah is "Ben Sheva Shanim" (Malachim Beit 12)


This is Shabbat Shekalim and Shabbat Mevorchim for the month of Adar.  Rosh Chodesh Adar is on Thursday and Friday.  The Molad: Lail Chamish, at the hour 11:59, with 2 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, February 1, 2015

Yitro 5775

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"?  But the explanation is 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 G-d) 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 have 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. 

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. 

"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. [Translator's Note:  The basis for this is that the singular verb is used for encamped, and as Rashi interprets it: "as one man, with one heart".]  (from the Ohr HaChaim)

"...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 25, 2015

Beshalach 5775

The Torah Portion of "Beshalach" , Shabbat Shira  5775


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

  

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

SHABBAT SHIRA:


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


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

The Merit of Saying Songs of Praise


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

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


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

TU B'SHVAT:


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

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

We say Borchi Nafshi.


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

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

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Bo 5775

The Torah Portion of Bo 


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


There are three plagues in the Torah Portion of Bo


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

"Come to Pharoah"   (Shemot 10:1)


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

"Come to Pharoah". (Shemot 10:1)  


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

8 Kinds of Locusts


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

Why did the Passover offering need to be a male?


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

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


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


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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

How does the Passover offering symbolize unity and completeness?


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

A page of Gemara is also worth 84 fasts


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

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


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

Why were the Egyptians punished by the plague of locusts?  


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

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


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

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


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

The Ramban at the end of the Torah Portion Bo


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

Mussar (Ethics): 


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

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


We say Borchi Nafshi.



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

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