Haftarah: Yirmiyahu 46:13-28
“Hashem said to Moshe, ‘Come to Pharaoh.’” (Shemot 10:1)
In Egypt, we became a great nation, united to receive the Torah. At the time, it only looked bad. We need to know how to think more deeply and see the wisdom and hesed of Hashem. The following story, told by Rabbi Yitzchok Hisiger, teaches us how to think.
The Skulener Rebbe’s oldest son, Rav Yeshaya Yaakov Portugal, Rav of Khal Meor Hagolah in Montreal, told the following story about an acquaintance of his, R’ Boruch. A large crystal chandelier in R’ Boruch’s home became dislodged and crashed onto the dining room table. Hearing a loud bang, R’ Boruch’s parents, who were in an adjacent room, ran to see what had happened. They were shocked to discover that the chandelier had landed on their infant grandchild, who was lying in an infant seat on the table. With great trepidation, they moved aside the fallen debris in a bid to get to the baby. They discovered that miraculously, despite the force of the fall and the shards of glass strewn all around, the baby was unharmed, without a scratch. The joy of the elated grandparents knew no bounds. They hugged and kissed the baby and ran to inform R’ Boruch of the miracle. The family later made a seudat hoda’ah (a meal of thanks) to express their gratitude to Hashem for what occurred Rabbi Fishel Todd.
In commenting on this incident, Rav Portugal remarked, “Look at the kindness of Hashem. For whatever reason, Heaven had decreed that R’ Boruch’s expensive crystal chandelier had to break, but this monetary loss would have caused great heartache to R’ Borcuh and his family. Thus, it was orchestrated for their infant baby to be on the table underneath the chandelier at that very moment and for the baby to emerge untouched, safe and sound. In this fashion, not only would R’ Boruch and his family not be distressed over their loss, but they would be full of happiness and would actually make a seudah in celebration.” It’s how we interpret the things that happen to us that makes all the difference. Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Fishel Todd
“And the blood shall serve as a sign on the houses in which you are.” (Shemot 12:13)
This verse refers to the smearing of the blood from the Korban Pesah on the doorway of each Jewish home. Rashi explains that this sign shall be for you and not for others. Hence we may derive that the blood was smeared on the inside of the doorway. An important lesson may be learned here. Often we attempt to help others in the fulfillment of Torah and misvot, even at great sacrifice to ourselves. This may sometimes be at the expense of our own families. We are ready to sacrifice our time and energy for others, but are we finding time for our own personal study and self-development? The Torah enjoins us to establish in our homes Torah sessions for ourselves. We must be aware of our responsibilities to our own children, to guide and encourage them ourselves, not by proxy through tutors. We are obliged to do for ourselves and for our families that which we so readily do for others. Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Shmuel Choueka
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A quick tip to boost the power of your prayer. Hazal tell us (Masechet Baba Kama Daf 92A) that Hashem loves the tefilot of one Jew for another so much that anyone who prays on behalf of a fellow Jew with similar needs will have his prayer answered first. A special service has now begun to provide people with names of others who find themselves in a similar predicament. You can call with complete anonymity and get the name of someone to pray for and give the name of someone that needs our prayers. The name of the service is Kol Hamitpalel. Categories include: Marriage; Income; Health; To have children etc.
“Hashem granted the people favor in the eyes of Egypt” (Shemot 11:3) In the midst of the Egyptian exile of slavery, we find an unusual phenomenon. The Torah relates that, during the plagues, the Israelites were loved by the Egyptians. One would have expected the Egyptians to hate the Jews, blaming them for the suffering of the plagues. But, the Torah tells us that this was not the case. The population bore no grudge. The Egyptians said that the Jews had been righteous while they, the Egyptians, were the wicked ones.
Even more interesting is the fact that before the plagues began, the Jews tried to get close and friendly with the Egyptians. They picked up the Egyptian customs and gave great honor to the Egyptians. This didn’t help a bit; the Egyptians turned around and degraded the Jews and enslaved them.
The Ramban in Beresheet (37:16) says that the decrees of Hashem are true and will be born out, and man’s effort, at times, is futile. This means that when the Jews follow the decrees of Hashem all will turn out for the best. If, however, man decides instead to use his logic, he will not succeed. The experience of the Israelites confirms this rule. When they followed their own strategy it backfired. However, later on, when the Israelites followed Hashem’s will as told to them by Moshe, suddenly the Egyptians fell in love with the Jews.
This is a great lesson for us today. The more we become Jewish, the more the gentiles will love the Jews. Shabbat Shalom.
“All of your servants will come down to me…and he left Pharaoh’s presence in anger” (Shemot 11:8)
When Moshe was telling Pharaoh about the last plague, which was the death of every first born, he said to Pharaoh, “Your servants will come to me to ask me to leave, and that’s when I will leave Egypt.” Moshe didn’t say to Pharaoh, “You will come to me to ask me to leave,” even though that’s what really happened, because he didn’t want to show dishonor to the king of Egypt. This is truly amazing, because right at the end of this verse it says that Moshe stormed out of the palace in anger for the way Pharaoh had spoken to him. If someone is angry, does he still have the presence of mind to show honor and to speak in a certain way? This should reinforce to us the greatness of our leaders, such as Moshe Rabenu. Although he got angry at Pharaoh, he was in complete control of himself, down to the exact words with which he should speak to the king. Everything Moshe did was exactly measured in order to be able to do the will of Hashem.
Indeed, many of our great Sages followed in Moshe’s footsteps in this respect. There was a great Rabbi of the previous generation who once got angry at what his son had done, but waited two weeks, until he was totally in control of his emotions, before rebuking him! On the one hand, we can’t help but be in awe of such self-discipline, but on the other hand, we have to learn from them how to behave in such situations. How often do we fly off the handle just because we’re upset? Even in anger or frustration we must learn to stay in control and use the right words and the right tone of voice. We will be the real beneficiaries of such self-control. Shabbat Shalom.
COME WITH ME Rabbi Fishel Todd
“And also our cattle will go with us; not a hoof will be left behind, for from it we must take to serve G-d” (Shemot 10:26)
Why does it say, “our cattle will go” instead of “we will take”? When the prophet Eliyahu debated the false prophets of Ba’al, he challenged them to a test: He and they would separately bring sacrifices, and the G-d that accepted the offering would be recognized by all as the true G-d. The oxen were willing to be Eliyahu’s sacrifice but refused to be used by the false prophets of Ba’al. Eliyahu whispered to an ox that he should agree to be used by the false prophets, because the failure of their efforts would prove the falsehood of Ba’al worship, and through the ox there would be a great Kiddush Hashem (sanctification of G-d’s name). Moshe told Pharaoh, “Even if we should agree to let our cattle remain in Egypt, it will be to no avail. For even if we do not take them, our cattle will go with us of their own volition, due to their deep desire to be used as sacrifices for Hashem.” (Vedibarta Bam)
“And the blood shall serve as a sign on the houses in which you are” (Shemot 12:13)
Rashi explains that this sign shall be for you and not for others. Hence we may derive that the blood was smeared on the inside of the house.
The principal reason for smearing the blood on the inside of the threshold was for the Jew to comprehend the importance of self-sacrifice in the privacy of his home. He must concentrate on the inner dimensions of his personality. The essence of the Jewish act is not the one performed on the public stage, but the one performed on the inner stage, when the audience is only Hashem. The only audience to which a Jew should attach significance is the audience of Hashem. Inner heroism and self-sacrifice is the hallmark of a Ben Yisrael.
Another lesson may be learned here. Often we will attempt to help others in the fulfillment of Torah and Misvot, even at great sacrifice to ourselves. This may be at the expense and the neglect of our own families. We will sacrifice our time and energy for others, but will we find time for our personal study and self-development? The Torah enjoins us to establish in our homes Torah sessions for ourselves. We must be aware of our responsibilities to our own children, to guide and encourage them ourselves, not by proxy through tutors. We are obliged to do for ourselves and our families that which we so readily do for others. (Peninim on the Torah)
THE HAFTARAH CONNECTION
This week’s Haftarah: Yirmiyahu 46:13-28.
In this haftarah, the prophet Yirmiyahu is sent by Hashem to tell Nebuchadnessar, king of Babylon, to attack Egypt. He then describes the complete devastation of Egypt, similar to the theme of this week’s perashah.
The haftarah ends with Hashem’s assurance that he will save Israel from all their enemies, and although he will punish Israel with justice, he will never wipe them out.
Rabbi Fishel Todd
“And each man should borrow from his [Egyptian] neighbor, silver and gold vessels” (Shemot 11:2)
As we read about the final stages of the Exodus from Egypt, Hashem takes care of a promise He made to Abraham Abinu. Hashem promised that when they leave Egypt, they would go with great wealth. In Perashat Shemot (3:22) Hashem predicts to Moshe that the Jewish people will “borrow” from the Egyptians great wealth. In our perashah, Hashem requests of Moshe to actually tell the Jews to borrow from the Egyptians great wealth of gold and silver. This seems a little strange. If Hashem wants to give the Egyptian wealth to the Jews, couldn’t Hashem find a way that would not leave the Jews beholden to the Egyptians? Rabbi M. Shlov explained in a humorous vein that human nature is such that a person who owes something to someone else is careful to avoid his creditor. Therefore to ensure that the Jews will never return to Egypt, he instructed them to borrow valuable items from them.
If one would analyze the verse in Shemot (3:22) that first mentions this concept of borrowing the wealth, we might notice that the wording is a bit difficult. It says, “They would borrow gold and silver and clothing to put onto their sons and daughters.” Why doesn’t it simply state that they should “dress their children” instead of the more awkward phrase “to put onto their sons and daughters?”
The Pardes Yosef explains that, as we know, the Jews in Egypt retained their own style of dress. They could not possibly just take the Egyptian clothing and dress their own children in them. They had to first alter them and adapt them to their own modest style. These alterations would make the clothing much smaller than their original size, just fit to be “put onto their children.”
This is a profound lesson for us. If the Jews, who were subject to intense persecutions, did not give in to the immodest dress styles of the Egyptian society, why should we? May the merit of reclaiming our heritage of modesty bring about the speedy end of our current exile. Shabbat Shalom.
“And the blood shall be a sign for you on [the doorposts of] the houses.” (Shemot 12:13)
The Jewish people were commanded to slaughter the sheep as the Korban Pesah and put its blood on the doorposts of their houses. In that way G-d would see the blood and pass over their houses during the plague of the Destruction of the Firstborn. We would therefore assume that the blood should be put on the outside of their homes. Rashi tells us that in fact they were to put the blood on the inside, where they themselves could see it, and it should be a sign for them.
The message we can derive from here is that putting the blood was not just an arbitrary act which would protect them. By slaughtering the sheep, which was worshipped by the Egyptians, they showed that they were breaking their ties to any idol-worship that they might have had. In order to reinforce this, they put the blood on the inside of the doorposts so that they themselves could see it and be strengthened in their resolve to abandon idol-worship.
Although a person can make a resolution to become better, when he sees a constant reminder of his resolve, this gives him the strength to go even further. Hashem saw this zechut (merit) of the blood and therefore passed over their houses to protect them, since He saw their commitment to serve Hashem exclusively. We would do well to apply this to our own lives and try to reinforce our acceptance of certain positive traits by seeing how the negative traits are not good for us. This will help us serve Hashem better.
TEACH YOUR CHILDREN WELL
“You shall tell you son on that day, saying, ‘Because of this Hashem acted on my behalf when I left Egypt'” (Shemot 13:8)
It is a holy duty for a father to educate his children, to act as a spiritual guide for them. According to the Rambam, the commandment to educate children is fulfilled especially when the father gears his lesson to the child’s understanding. If we approach the issue sensitively, and respond with courtesy and care to questions the child might pose, and address him as an individual, taking into consideration his unique needs and abilities, the child will understand the spirit of what we are trying to teach him. There is hope that he will arrive at full understanding and be convinced of the truth of what we are teaching him.
A father must even use his belongings as collateral for a loan if he needs funds to educate his children properly. The Rav of Lublin sees this from the laws concerning the implements of the Bet Hamikdash. All of the holy implements must be made of gold, but if gold is unavailable, they may be made of silver. There is one exception. That is the cherubim. They must be made of gold, and nothing else. The cherubim represent Jewish children. Their education is the only insurance of Israel’s eternity. We must use our energy and resources to the maximum to ensure that Jewish education be of the highest quality. One must never be satisfied with cheap substitutes for the best. In the end, this is the best investment. What might seem economical in the short run, will cost dearly in the long run, and in the World to Come. Shabbat Shalom.
IT’S YOUR CHOICE
“Come to Pharaoh for I have made his heart stubborn” (Shemot 10:1)
Many commentators ask: How could Hashem have hardened Pharaoh’s heart? Did He really take away Pharaoh’s free will to decide whether to let B’nei Yisrael go?
Yalkut Ma’amarim answers with a story. A Jew once had a financial dispute with a non-Jew, and the non-Jew took him to court. Before the case was scheduled to begin, the Jew sent an expensive gift to the judge who would be presiding over the case. The judge asked him, “How could you send me a bribe? Doesn’t your Torah state that a person who receives a bribe will be unable to judge fairly? Rabbi Fishel Todd”
The Jew answered, “If you had been a Jew, and the two parties standing before you were also Jews, then you would be impartial to each of the two parties. Then if one of them would give you a bribe, you would be swayed to his side. However, in this situation, you are already leaning to the side of the non-Jew, so I sent you the bribe simply to even the scale and get an impartial judgment.”
This can explain why Hashem hardened Pharaoh’s heart. Pharaoh’s true desire was to deny B’nei Yisrael the right to leave Egypt. The suffering from the plagues was so intense that they were forcing him go against his desire, almost against his will. In effect, Pharaoh at this point, had no free will. So Hashem hardened his heart in order to remove some of the fear of the plagues, so that Pharaoh could once again have his free will to make his own decision. (Lekah Tob)
WHO’S TO BLAME?
Rabbi Fishel Todd
“An uncircumcised male may not eat of it” (Shemot 12:48)
One who is uncircumcised may not partake of the Korban Pesah. The sacrifice celebrating our liberation from bondage demands that one be aligned with the Jewish people if he is to share in their freedom. The story is told that Rav Chaim Brisker once came to an inn at St. Petersburg to join in a halachic conference. The question arose regarding the acceptability of children whose parents did not circumcise them. The majority of the Rabbis argued that a child who was not circumcised may not be included in a community’s Jewish register. It was their way of censuring those assimilated Jews who rejected Berit Milah as their way of showing disdain against what they felt was an archaic religion. The consensus was that by excluding these children from the register, their renegade parents may change their minds about circumcision.
Hearing their decision, Rav Chaim emphatically demanded, “Show me where it says that an uncircumcised child is not a Jew! I understand that he is prohibited from eating Kedoshim and Terumah. He may also not eat of the Korban Pesah. But where does it say that he is not Jewish? Why blame the child for the fault of the father?”
One of the speakers at the conference recounted that, in the city of Warsaw, a certain Jew refused to circumcise his son. After a while the child became ill and died. The community leaders did not permit this child to be buried in the Jewish cemetery. Most of the attendees at this conference agreed with the decision of the Warsaw community who took this stand. The only one who protested was Rav Chaim Brisker. “There is no halachah that forbids an uncircumcised child from being buried in a Jewish cemetery. While there are certain areas that exclude an ‘arel,’ burial in a Jewish cemetery is not one of them. If you’re concerned about making a safeguard to serve as a deterrent against assimilation, don’t take it out on the children. Take it out on the parents. Don’t bury the father who refuses to have his child circumcised!” This reaction was applauded by many – even those who were alienated from Torah and misvot. Rav Chaim had the courage to place the blame where it belonged. It would serve us well to attempt to conjure up some of this same courage.
Rabbi Fishel Todd