The Torah Portion of Va'eira 5775Shabbat Mevorchim for the Month of Sh'vat
Excerpted and Translated from the the Teachings of Rabbi Gershon Steinberg ztz"l
L'ilui Neshamat HaGaon HaTzaddik R' Gershon Avigdor Ben Chaim ztz"l
There are Seven Plagues in the Torah Portion of Va'eira
In the Torah Portion Va'eira there are seven plagues, as is hinted at by the first two letters of the word Va'eira (Vuv-Aleph) which have the Gematria of seven; and in the Torah Portion Bo there are three plagues which are hinted at by the letters Bo (Bait-Aleph) which have the Gematria of three.
"And I appeared to Avraham, to Yitzchak and to Yaakov..." (Shemot 6:3)
On the words "And I appeared (Va'eira)", Rashi says that means: "to the Patriarchs". It has been asked, isn't it written explicitly in the verse "to Avraham, to Yitzchak and to Yaakov", so what does Rashi's explanation add? The explanation is that the word Patriarchs (Avot) has the meaning of desire, as in the verse "And he didn't desire (ava) to perform the mitzvah of Yibum" (Devorim 25:7). The Holy One Blessed Be He shows himself, as it were, to those who desire him, as the Rambam states. And similarly, the verse "I will be as I will be (Ek-yeh asher Ek-yeh)" (Shemot 3:14) can be explained in like fashion: I will be with those who desire that I will be with them. (from the Chatam Sofer)
The Four Languages of Redemption: "I will take you out" , "I will rescue you", "I will redeem you", "I will take you to Me" (Shemot 6:6-7)
It is written in the Midrash that the reason there are four languages of Redemption is that these correspond to the four decrees against the Jews that Pharoah declared: the hard work, his command to the midwives, the Nile River, and the straw. Also the four languages of redemption correspond to the four exiles: Egypt, Babylonia, Greece, and Edom. Therefore we drink four cups of wine at Passover in correspondence to the four languages of Redemption, as it is said "I will lift up the cup of salvation" (Tehillim 116:13), to show that Hashem saved us in the past from the four decrees and is saving us (continually now) from the four exiles.
"...And I will give it to you as a heritage (Morasha)..." (Shemot 6:8)
It is not written "an inheritance (Yerusha)" to hint that they will not inherit the land of Israel, rather, their children that come after them will inherit it. (from Rabbeinu Bachya)
"...And I will give it to you as a heritage (Morasha)..." (Shemot 6:8)
The word "heritage (Morasha)" is written twice in the Torah, once regarding the Land of Israel and once regarding the Torah, as it is written: "The Torah was commanded to us by Moshe, a Heritage for the Congregation of Yaakov" (Devorim 33:4). This is because there is a connection between the two, for if we have Torah then we also have the Land of Israel, as it is said,"And He will give them the lands of the nations...on condition that they will observe His statutes" (Tehillim 105:44-45).
"...And she bore him Aharon and Moshe..." (Shemot 6:20)
Why are Aharon and Moshe mentioned here? Since they were Prophets and rose to a very high level, they were mentioned here to tell us that even though they were born from a human father and mother, it is still possible for flesh and blood human beings to become elevated to a very high level. And according to the Rambam, everyone has the potential to become as elevated as Moshe Rabbeinu.
"Moshe was 80 years old and Aharon was 83 years old..." (Shemot 7:7)
Why did the Torah mention the ages of Moshe and Aharon? This is to teach us that even though they were so old, they still made a great effort with the wonders and the plagues for the sake of the people of Israel. (from Seforno)
"And Aharon took Elisheva the daughter of Aminadav, sister of Nachshon, as his wife..." (Shemot 6:23)
In the Gemara Baba Batra and the Midrash it is brought, from the fact that it is stated that she was the daughter of Aminadav, don't I know that she was the sister of Nachshon? What is the Torah teaching us by telling us that she was the the sister of Nachshon? This teaches that someone who marries a woman needs to check out her brothers, and there are those that add that the Roshei Teivot (first letters) of the words "Aishet Chayil Mi Yimtza" (Mishlei 31:10, in English "A woman of valour who can find?") spell the Hebrew word "Achim" (in English: "Brothers").
"This is Aharon and Moshe..." (Shemot 6:26)
Rashi explains that this tells you that they were considered of equal significance. But apparently, behold, isn't it written that "there has not arisen another prophet in Israel like Moshe (Devorim 34:10)? The simple explanation to reconcile this is that no one else arose like Moshe, only in regards to the level of Moshe in prophesy. In addition, there are those that explain that in truth Moshe and Aharon were considered of equal significance, but since Moshe was younger than Aharon by three years and in spite of that reached the level of Aharon, therefore no one arose like Moshe. And there are those that say that the meaning of saying that they were of equal significance was that in their own eyes they were equals and neither of them held himself to be greater than the other in anything.
"...And it became a serpent." (Shemot 7:10)
Why did Moshe's staff become, specifically, a serpent, and not some other kind of creature? This was because the Holy One Blessed Be He cut off the legs of the serpent and it cried with a loud voice that was heard throughout the world, and this was a hint to Pharoah that also he would cry out at the Exodus from Mitzrayim (Egypt), "...Rise, go out from among my people..." (Shemot 12:31), and this would be heard throughout Mitzrayim, and also the Egyptians would cry out. (from Yonatan ben Uziel) And there are those who explain that it was because the serpent sinned and caused Chava to sin with his tongue, and also the wicked Pharoah sinned with his tongue when he said "Who is Hashem that I should listen to His voice...I do not know Hashem" (Shemot 5:2). And we find that everyone who speaks against Hashem, G-d forbid, is punished with the biting of serpents, as was written (in Bamidbar 21:5) "And the people spoke against Hashem and Moshe", and afterwards it is says (Bamidbar 21:6) "And Hashem sent against the people the burning serpents and they bit the people".
"...from shortness of breath and difficult work." (Shemot 6:9)
There are two kinds of torture, one is difficult but afterwards there is a break before the next torture. And the other is not as difficult, but it is without and stopping and resting. And that is what is meant by "from shortness of breath and hard work". The work with the mortar and bricks was difficult but they had a respite of a break time and resting. The work of gathering the straw wasn't such difficult work but they forced them to do it without a break time and resting, and that was the torture referred to by "shortness of breath". (from the Gr"a)
"...from shortness of breath..." (Shemot 6:9)
The Ohr HaChaim HaKodesh says that it's possible to explain that since they weren't Torah scholars they didn't listen, and that this was called "shortness of breath" because the Torah expands the heart of a person.
"Behold, the children of Israel didn't listen to me, so how will Pharoah listen to me?..." (Shemot 6:12)
Those who explain the Torah see a difficulty in this statement, for behold, Israel didn't listen because of difficult work and shortness of breath, as is stated explicitly in the Torah, but this reason didn't apply in the case of Pharoah. There are those that reconcile this by saying that in truth Israel didn't listen because of difficult work and shortness of breath, but Moshe because of his humility thought that they were not listening because he had blocked lips (a speech impediment). Therefore he said, if the children of Israel didn't listen, all the moreso Pharoh will not listen. But the Torah's verse (Shemot 6:9) revealed the truth to us, that they didn't listen because of difficult work and shortness of breath.
Rosh Chodesh Sh'vat
Rosh Chodesh Sh'vat is mentioned in the Torah at the beginning of the Torah Portion of Devorim "And it came to pass in the fortieth year in the eleventh month on the first day of the month...Moshe began to explain the Torah..." (Devorim 1:3-5), and he spoke until the seventh of Adar. It is written in the Holy Books that this day, Rosh Chodesh Sh'vat, is a propitious time to pray for understanding of the Torah.
A "Simcha" Every Two Weeks
The Rebbe said to his students that every two weeks there is a Simcha (happy occasion): Rosh Chodesh Sh'vat, Tu B'shvat, Rosh Chodesh Adar, Purim, Rosh Chodesh Nisan, Pesach, Rosh Chodesh Iyar, the 14th of Iyar which is Pesach Shaini, the 18th of Iyar which is Lag Ba'omer, Rosh Chodesh Sivan, the Chag of Shavuot. May Hashem help us so that all of the year will be happy.
(Note: Since this year is a Shana Meuberet which has two Months of Adar, we also have Rosh Chodesh Adar Aleph and Purim Katan during the month of Adar Aleph.)
The Torah Portion of Va'eira has 121 verses.Haftora: "Ko Amar Hashem" (Yechezkel 28).
This is Shabbat Mevorchim for the month of Sh'vat.
The Molad is Yom Sh'lishi (Tuesday in the daytime) at 11:15 with 1 Chelek.
Rosh Chodesh Sh'vat is on Yom R'vi'i (Wednesday).
We say Borchi Nafshi.
May you all have a light-filled and happy Shabbat.
L'ilui Neshamat HaGaon HaTzaddik R' Gershon Avigdor Ben R' Chaim ztz"l, Nilkach L'Bait Olamo Yud Gimmel Tishrei 5772