Parsha Emor Rabbi Fishel Todd


Parsha Emor Rabbi Fishel Todd

Rabbi Fishel Todd

If the daughter of a Kohen desecrates herself through adultery, she desecrates her father; she shall be consumed by fire. (21:9)

The Torah’s prescribed punishment for a bas Kohen who commits adultery is greater than for a bas Yisrael who commits the same sin. The daughter of a common Jew is executed through chenek, choking, while the daughter of a Kohen receives sereifah, burning. The reason for this severe punishment is the nature of the home in which the bas Kohen had been raised. The education that she received was loftier; the environment that she was raised in was one of increased sanctity. This grants her elevated status. She had more, because she was exposed to more. Consequently, her sin is greater, and thus, her punishment is concomitantly harsher. She should have known better than to sin in a manner endemic to a member of the lowest echelon of society. In other words, she is guilty twofold: first, for desecrating her father’s name, her background, her education, her family purity; she is also culpable for her own position. A girl raised in such a home should have developed a more profound perspective on life. Her goals and objectives should have been loftier. Her raison d’etre should have been more elevated. When one hails from such a home, more is expected of her. With her act of defilement, she brought herself down, and she also brought down her father’s reputation!

Let us look at the Torah’s reason: she profanes her father. The Kehunah, Priesthood, was the most exalted position in the spiritual hierarchy of Klal Yisrael. Shevet Levi stood out among the tribes as the tribe that represented the reply to Moshe Rabbeinu’s clarion call, Mi l’Hashem eilai, “Who is for Hashem (should come) to me!”

The tribe of Levi came forward. They did not sin with the Golden Calf. From the tribe of Levi, the Kohanim were singled out to perform the service in the Bais Hamikdash. When this girl sinned, she impugned the integrity of the Kehunah. The Baalei Mussar, Ethicists, compare this to two thieves, both members of distinguished families who were brought before a judge for sentencing. One thief was sentenced to six months, while the other was sentenced to eight months in prison. “Why?” asked the defense attorney. “Why was one punished more harshly than the other?” The judge, who was a perceptive man, replied, “The thief who received a six month sentence carried out his thievery while dressed in the regular street clothes of a common citizen. The other one had the gall to wear a policeman’s uniform when he stole. He deserves a harsher punishment.”

While having an illustrious lineage can serve as the basis for greater censure, it can also serve as a sentinel protecting one from sin. We find that when Yosef HaTzaddik was confronted by Potifar’s wife, what ultimately saved him was the d’mus d’yukno shel aviv, his father’s image, which appeared to him. Yosef merited to have his father appear to him to save him from sin. Why did Yosef merit this unprecedented favor? Horav Yerachmiel Kromm, Shlita, explains that Yosef never forgot from whom he descended. This awareness accompanied him, guiding him throughout life. Thus, he was able to “call upon it” when he needed it.

This phenomenon did not necessarily affect others in such a positive manner. We find that Adoniya ben Chagis, David Hamelech’s rebellious son, did not make use of his unique lineage. In Sefer Melachim I, 1:6, the pasuk says, “All his days his father had never saddened him (by) saying, ‘Why have you done this?’ Horav Alexander Zusha Friedman, zl, writes in his Maaynah Shel Torah that he heard the Gaon, zl, m’Vilna cited, explaining that the phrase, “his father never saddened him,” means that the fact that he descended from such an illustrious and distinguished father did not sadden him during his sinful behavior. It did not arouse within him a desire to repent. He never asked himself, “How can I, David Hamelech’s son, act so reprehensibly?” He did not care. One who disregards his esteemed forebears does not deserve to benefit from their merit.

The idea that one’s background plays a pivotal role in what is expected of him has compelling ramifications upon anyone who has been privileged to receive a full Torah education. One who has spent his life in a yeshivah, who has been exposed to Torah leaders of the highest calibre, having imbibed Torah in an environment that is sacrosanct and conducive to spiritual ascendancy – has an enormous responsibility. He is the proverbial “bas Kohen.” He is viewed in a different light by others, and he should similarly view himself in a different light. Everything that he does, every activity, regardless of its significance, is measured on a more elaborate and demanding scale.

Indeed, it is only the gedolim – those who are greater or who have had a stronger, more sophisticated education – that are held accountable for even the little infractions. Why? Horav Yaakov Neiman, zl, gives the following parable to shed light on this theory. A soldier must maintain his uniform in excellent condition. His pants must be creased and, certainly, no buttons may be missing from his jacket. A soldier who disregards his uniform denigrates the army in which he serves. On the other hand, one who has deserted his position, who is AWOL from his battalion, will not be held in contempt for a missing button on his jacket. He has to answer for a much more serious grievance. We are all soldiers in Hashem’s legion. There are those who stand at the forefront of the battle for Torah, and there are those who have, regrettably, distanced themselves far from the front line. Some have even deserted the unit completely. Ostensibly, defining one’s infraction will be commensurate with his standing. A soldier is disciplined for a missing button. A missing soldier has much more for which to answer. The button is the least of his problems.

When an ox or sheep or a goat is born, it shall remain under its mother for seven days. (22:27)

Chazal derive two significant laws from the Torah’s wording. The word yivaled, is born, teaches us that only an animal that is born through a natural birth is eligible to be a sacrifice. One that is born through a caesarian birth, however, is not eligible as a sacrifice. Also, since it must remain “under its mother,” an “orphaned” animal, which has no mother, will also be excluded. Let us attempt to analyze the reason for these invalidations. An animal born by a caesarian section has no physical blemishes. There is nothing noticeably wrong with it. Yet, as a korban, it has been excluded as if it were blemished. Why?

Horav Tuvia Lisitzin, zl, cites the Talmud Shabbos 127b which teaches us an important lesson that sheds light on the above question. “Rabbi Shimon ben Gamliel said: ‘We may stimulate pity to a ritually clean animal on Yom Tov.’ In other words, we may attempt to arouse the maternal instincts of an animal for its young on Yom Tov. How was this performed? Abaye said: ‘A lump of salt was brought and placed in its womb, so that it might remember its travails during childbirth and have pity upon its young.’ Yet, this applies only in the case of a clean animal, but not for an unclean one. What is the reason? An unclean animal does not spurn its young. If it does spurn it, it does not take it back.”

We derive from Chazal that there is an intrinsic difference between a beheimah temeiah, ritually unclean animal, and a beheimah tahorah, clean animal. It is possible to stimulate compassion only within the emotions of a clean animal. An unclean animal is missing the maternal instinct of compassion for its child which is inherent in mothers. An unclean animal will not take back its young once it has distanced itself.

We understand now why the Torah has prohibited us from eating an unclean animal. An animal that can lose all feelings of compassion for its own young is an animal from which we should not partake. It leaves an impression that will affect our own psyche. Likewise, we find that there are certain fowl that we are not permitted to eat. They are birds of prey that plunder and kill. They have no compassion and are thus not suitable for Jewish consumption.

There is an added level of compassion that is to be derived from Chazal. The pain of childbirth creates a sense of pity and compassion within the mother for its young, to the point that later on the pain caused by a lump of salt in its womb will engender its feelings of compassion as its remembers the pangs of childbirth. This raises its feeling of maternal love for its young, a feeling that can be aroused only within an animal that has endured the normal pains of childbirth. An animal that has delivered its young through a caesarian birth will not have this feeling. There was no natural birth; therefore, something is missing in the loving relationship between mother and child. The bonding that is generated through birth is not present. Therefore, an animal delivered through a caesarian birth is invalid as a korban. It may be eaten as chullin, non-consecrated flesh, but not as a korban. It is missing that “extra” emotion that elevates it, rendering it worthy of being sanctified as a korban.

This idea may also be applied to an “orphaned” animal. An animal whose mother died during birth did not experience the maternal love that is initiated through this process. Thus, it is deficient in nature and not valid to be used as a sacrifice. It is noteworthy that when the Torah invalidates an animal from being consecrated, Chazal are able to delve into the inner workings of an animal’s nature in order to conjure a rationale for its impediment. Everything is based on reason. We are limited, however, in our ability to comprehend the full depth of the underlying catalyst for the Torah’s decrees. We observe because we believe. The reason which we do offer is only to provide some form of rationale for human comprehension.

When you slaughter a feast Thanksgiving-offering to Hashem. (22:29)

Rabbi Fishel Todd David Hamelech says in Sefer Tehillim 107:21,22, “Let him give thanks to Hashem for His kindness… and let them slaughter Thanksgiving-offerings, and relate His works with joyful song.” The Midrash asserts that with the advent of Moshiach Tzidkeinu, all korbanos will become batel, nullified, except for the Korban Todah, Thanksgiving-offering, which will never be negated. In an earlier Midrash, Chazal state, “He who has an ox, let him offer an ox as a sacrifice; he who has a ram, let him offer a ram; he who has a sheep, let him offer a sheep; he who has a dove, let him offer a dove; he who has fine flour, let him offer fine flour; he who has nothing, let him bring words, as it says in Hoshea 14:2, ‘Take words with you and return to Hashem.'” What are Chazal teaching us via the above statements?

Horav Sholom Yosef Elyashiv, Shlita, explains that when Hashem performs miracles for a person, after he is saved from death, survives a chronic illness, or is spared from an injury, he is obliged to pay gratitude to the Almighty for His beneficence. In the time of the Bais Hamikdash, he would have offered a Korban Todah from an animal or fowl that he could afford. If he was very poor, he would have offered fine flour. In any event, he would have brought a Thanksgiving-offering in tribute to Hashem. Now that there is no option of offering a korban, the individual brings “words.” What is the meaning of bringing “words”?

Rav Elyashiv cites the Talmud Shabbos 33b in which Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai said that since he had been miraculously saved, he felt that he should do something for the community as a form of gratitude to the Almighty. He asked, “Is there anything that requires mending?” He was told that there was a place where there was a safek tumah, doubtful ritual uncleanliness, a grave of bones having been lost there, which causes a problem for the Kohanim who have trouble circumventing it. Rabbi Shimon rendered judgment concerning the area, whereby part of it was rendered clean and part it was marked as off limits to Kohanim.

We see from here that when Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai decided to mend something for the community, he focused on an area which was a safek, had doubtful tumah. He did not feel it was necessary to concentrate on an expanse which was clearly unclean, because the people knew to distance themselves from that place. The spiritual danger was apparent.

Chazal say that when the world was originally created, Hashem gazed upon the actions of the wicked in contrast to the actions of the righteous. When the Torah writes in Bereishis 1:2, “When the earth was astonishingly empty” this is a reference to the deeds of the wicked. In contrast, when Hashem said, “Let there be light” (Ibid 1:3), the Torah refers to the actions of the righteous. In pasuk 4, the Torah writes: “And G-d separated between the light and the darkness.” This means that Hashem distinguished between the actions of the righteous and the actions of the wicked. Was this necessary? One can plainly see the difference between night and day: darkness and light Rabbi Fishel Todd.

Rav Elyashiv explains that the connotation of the word erev, evening, begins immediately after midday – when it is still light, when the sun is practically still in middle of the sky. Likewise, boker, morning, begins with rising of the morning star – when it is still pitch dark outside. It is regarding this ambiguous time – when it is considered dark, even though it is light, and it is considered light, even though it is dark – that Hashem separated light from dark and delineated the actions of the righteous from that of the wicked. This is the time when people err. These are the people and the actions about whom one can easily err. This is what Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai mended. He took a place that was in doubt, a place where the community could err, and he clarified it.

Why did he do this? Because he had received Hashem’s miracles. His gratitude was zikui harabim, bringing merit to the masses. When one sustains a miracle, when he has been blessed by Hashem, he should pay his gratitude with “words” – with zikui harabim. By enlightening the masses to the dangers of maasei reshaim, the actions of the wicked, by clarifying what is really “light” and what is really “darkness,” by reaching out to the alienated, the unaffiliated and those who have never even been there, we are offering our Korban Todah to Hashem.

And the seventh day is a day of complete rest… you shall not do any work; it is a Shabbos for Hashem. (23:3)

The words Shabbos l’Hashem, “A Shabbos for Hashem,” defines the way we should view this holy day. It is Hashem’s day. To desecrate it is to undermine Hashem, to show disrespect to the Almighty on the day that He designated for Himself. All too often we forget, and think that we are in charge; we make decisions; things must go our way. We forget that we are here as guests of the Almighty. He issues the orders; He makes the decisions; things go His way. Once we learn to accept this, the experience of “life” will go so much easier. It is Hashem’s world; we just happen to live here. Shabbos is His day which He wants us to celebrate with Him Rabbi Fishel Todd.

Shemiras Shabbos, Shabbos observance, has been a staple of our faith from its very genesis. Throughout the generations, people have sacrificed their livelihood, disregarding the opportunities available to them if they were to desecrate the Shabbos. It was Hashem’s day – not theirs. The commitment that these people had made did not go unnoticed by Hashem. Aware of their dedication, He repaid each one at the appropriate time. I recently came across the following story.

It was just days before World War II, prior to Germany’s attack on Russia. The citizens of the city of Bendin were notified by the Russian Army that every person, regardless of age or position, must carry identity papers with him. Whoever was caught without papers was to be sent immediately to Siberia. This obviously was a difficult decree for the Jewish population, since it meant that on Shabbos when they walked to shul, they would have to carry their identity papers. The Bendiner Rav rendered a halachic decision that since it involved pikuach nefesh, a matter of life and death, it was permitted to carry the papers to shul on Shabbos. All the Jews of the city listened to the rav, except one Jew, who refused to carry on Shabbos, regardless of the halachic dispensation.

His family begged him to either not go to shul or to carry the papers with him. He emphatically refused. “Do you want to go to Siberia?” they asked. “If that is to be my punishment, so be it. I will not carry on Shabbos.” he replied.

Rabbi FIshel Todd
Rabbi Fishel Todd

During Krias haTorah, the Russian soldiers barged into the shul and demanded that each of the worshippers present their identity papers. They went from one to the other, searching, checking, looking for anyone who had the temerity to ignore the government’s decree. The only one who did not have papers was the one Jew who had refused to carry them to shul. He was immediately dragged out of shul, his family later rounded up, and, that night, they were all placed on a train to Siberia.

It was a long and grueling trip, especially with the knowledge of what awaited them at their destination. During the entire trip, the man tried to calm his family, “I do not believe that because I observed Shabbos, I will suffer. You will see that Shabbos will protect us.” Because they were sent out that night, they were not in town the next day when Germany attacked Russia. The Germans gathered all the citizens of the community and took them to their infamous concentration camps. They took everyone, except the Jew and his family, who were on their way to Siberia.

They survived the war and are today distinguished members of the Bnei Brak community. Shabbos protected them.

In way of a postscript, this is not the place to discuss the halachic position concerning this individual’s refusal to carry his papers to shul. The rav had permitted this activity. In this case, the man was unnecessarily putting his life in danger. Was it really Biblically considered to be carrying? Obviously, this was not an open and shut case. The purpose of the story is only to demonstrate a Jew’s commitment to Shabbos – and the reciprocity that he received.



Rabbi Fishel Todd

Shulchan Aruch Project


Who said to whom, and under what circumstances?

(a) The wilderness has locked them in.

(b) Do not fear! Stand fast, and see the salvation of G-d.

(c) For G-d is waging a war for them against Egypt.

(d) G-d shall reign for ever and ever.

(e) Sing to G-d, for he is exalted above the arrogant, having hurled horse with its rider into the sea.

(f) As we sat by the flesh-pots of Egypt, as we ate bread to satisfaction.

(g) This is what G-d has spoken: tomorrow is a rest day, a Holy Sabbath to G-d.

(h) How long will you refuse to observe My commandments and My teachings?

(i) Is G-d amongst us or not?

(j) The war of G-d against Amalek shall be from generation to generation.


Rabbi Fishel Todd

(a) G-d to Moses – about His tempting Pharaoh to pursue the Israelites by changing their route, giving him the impression that the Israelites were stranded in the desert. (14:3)

(b) Moses to the Israelites – as they saw the Egyptians in pursuit. (14:13)

(c) The Egyptians to each other – realizing the power of G-d as He gave them a rough ride in their chasing the Israelites though the parted Red Sea. (14:25)

(d) Moses to the Israelites – as a conclusion to the Song of Moses in thanksgiving for the miracles of the Red Sea. (15:18)

(e) Miriam, to the women, in leading them in the Song of Miriam, sung in thanksgiving for the miracles at the Red Sea. (15:21)

(f) The Israelites, to Moses and Aaron. They were complaining about the food in the desert, looking at the past in Egypt with rose-colored spectacles. (16:3)

(g) Moses to the Israelite princes, when they reported the double portion they received on the sixth day of the week. (16:23)

(h) G-d to Moses – following the disobedience of certain Israelites who went out to gather the manna on the seventh day. (See the commentaries section for further explanation of this verse.) (16:28)

(i) Moses – in calling the place of the Israelite protest Masa U-Meriva (strife and quarrel). He records that they were ‘testing’ G-d, as they had contended ‘Is G-d amongst us or not?’ (17:7)

(j) According to the simple context of the verse, it is Moses declaring that war of G-d against Amalek shall be from generation to generation. Amalek is the permanent enemy of His people. (17:16)

Rabbi Fishel Todd


Rabbi Fishel Todd

From where, within Rashi’s commentary, may the following values / rules be found?

(a) One ought not to demand the impossible from one’s children.

(b) G-d makes Himself known to humanity as He enables good to triumph over evil.

(c) There is a time for prayer, and there is a time for action. The two should not be confused with each other.

(d) G-d punishes the wicked according to their degree of evil.

(e) G-d does not only bring distress to those who actually harass Israel, but to those far away who support the harassment.

(f) When a person complains and protests, he should do it in a decent manner.

(g) A person should ask for what he needs in whatever he is doing, not for luxuries.

(h) It is forbidden for a person to travel a substantial distance from his own settlement into an uninhabited area on Shabbat.

(i) G-d has His ways of supporting those who study Torah.

(j) It is important for a leader to give his people the benefit of the doubt.

(k) One should respect one’s students as one respects oneself.


(a) The text recalls that Joseph adjured his descendants that his final resting place should be in the Holy Land, and that his remains should be transferred there when the Israelites finally leave the country. Unlike his father Jacob, he did not command his children to bury him in the Holy Land immediately after his death. For Jacob had a son – Joseph the Viceroy of Egypt – with enough authority to carry it out: Joseph himself did not. (13:19)

(b) The text states that after Pharaoh pursues the Israelites, G-d ‘will be honored though Pharaoh’ – through the miracles forming His judgement over him. (14:4)

(c) As the Egyptians approached the fleeing Israelites, G-d told Moses not to stand in prayer, but to direct the Israelites to travel forward. (14:15)

(d) The text of the Song of Moses states that some of the Egyptians drowned ‘like stone’ (v.5), others ‘like straw’ (v.7) and yet others ‘like lead’ (v.10). This shows that each Egyptian was treated according to what he deserved. The worst were tossed about like weightless straw – incessantly thrown around – suffering the most. The best of the group sank like lead – a quick death, and those in the middle sank a little slower – like stone. (15:5)

(e) The text states that the ‘princes of Edom will panic, the powers of Moab will tremble’. (15:15) Even though these people did not actually oppress the Israelites, they are made to suffer deep unease and fear. This is because the power they had faith in and supported against the Israelites was hurled into the abyss in such a spectacular manner. (15:15)

(f) We may learn the importance of asking for essentials in a respectful manner in Rashi’s comment to 15:25 – where he states that the Israelites should have asked Moses to pray to G-d to send them water, rather than merely grumble to Moses and Aaron (15:24) about the lack of water.

(g) The Israelites complained about the lack of bread and meat in the desert. Bread is an essential – therefore the ‘bread from heaven’ fell at the convenient hour in the morning. Meat is a relative luxury – and in any case they still had cattle from the spoils of Egypt – therefore G-d showed His displeasure in bringing the quails at inconvenient evening hours. (16:8)

(h) G-d’s telling Moses that on the seventh day ‘everyone should remain in his place: let no person leave his place on the Sabbath day’ (16:29), is used as a source by the Talmud as a basis for the Rabbinical rule that a person may not travel more than two thousand cubits into uninhabited territory, and if he does, he may not travel more than four cubits until Shabbat is over.

(i) The text states that a small amount of Manna was to be set aside in a suitable container as a reminder to future generations that, as in the desert, G-d has His ways and means of looking after His people who serve Him (16:32-33).

(j) When the Israelites suffered thirst at Rephidim and they complained vociferously to Moses, he cried out to G-d with ‘what can I do for these people – they are about to stone me’! (17:4) Although the people did not protest in the most polite way, they did not personally threaten Moses. In G-d telling Moses to ‘pass before the people’ he was demonstrating to him that he should see for himself that the Israelites did not have violent intentions towards him even in the most extreme circumstances, and that he should have given them the benefit of the doubt.

(k) Moses is recorded to have told Joshua to ‘choose men for us’ (17:9) to go into battle against the Amalekites. Joshua was Moses’ student, yet he treated him as an equal…


Rabbi Fishel Todd

(a) Why, according to Ibn Ezra, did Moses tell the Israelites to wait for Divine Intervention against the pursuing Egyptians, rather than urge them to physically go into battle, as he did later with the Amlekites?

(b) Why, according to the Ohr Hachayim, did G-d tell Moses not to stand in prayer as the pursuing Egyptians approached, but to order the Israelites to go forward – into the Red Sea?

(c) What, according to the Ramban, is the relevance of ‘G-d shall reign for ever and ever’ (15:18) to the content of the Song of Moses?

(d) G-d declared that He would give a daily supply of food to the Israelites, so that He ‘would test them – whether they would follow… (the) Torah or not’. (16:4) What was that actual test according to Rashi, the Ramban, and the Ohr Hachayim?

(e) On Shabbat, some people went out to gather Manna and found none. For that, the text states, G-d said to Moses: ‘How long will you refuse to observe My commandments and My teachings?’ (16:28) Why was that rebuke directed at Moses instead of at the errant Israelites? – according to Rashi, and Ibn Ezra.


(a) Ibn Ezra suggests that the Israelites were incapable of fighting without miraculous Divine intervention, because generations of being slaves to the Egyptians had destroyed the necessary initiative and fighting acumen. That is why only Moses’ prayers enabled them to later overcome the Amalekites.

(b) The Ohr Hachayim states that this was not the time of prayer for the following reason. The Israelites had to have the merit of showing faith in G-d in order that they might be saved through Divine intervention. That was that they should ‘journey forth’ (14:15) – and demonstrate that faith by entering the Red Sea when it was in full flow… It would be that act of faith – not the prayers of Moses and Aaron – that would make them worthy of G-d’s salvation at the Red Sea.

(c) According to the Ramban, these words link the miracle of the Red Sea to G-d’s salvation in the future. Just as He destroyed the might of Egypt, so may He reign forever, saving His faithful from those who seek their harm.

(d) The test connected with the Manna was, according to Rashi, whether they would keep the intricate laws of Shabbat associated with it or not. The Ramban prefers a simpler interpretation – would the Israelites follow Me even though they do not have food for the next day? The Ohr Hachayim places the emphasis on ‘Torati’ (16:4) – now all their needs are taken care of, would they employ their free time to Torah study and service of G-d?

(e) According to Rashi, the rebuke was directed at Moses as he had failed to impress on the people that they were to receive a double portion on the sixth day for Shabbat. Ibn Ezra, however, argues that although the rebuke was directed at Moses, he was not its object – he was the spokesman to convey that message to those who were actually guilty Rabbi Fishel Todd.


We read in the Hagadda shel Pesach that ‘in every generation they rise against us to destroy us, but the Holy One… saves us from their hands’. Of all our enemies why is the nation of Amalek – who was the grandson of Esau – singled out as the worst of all our attackers? as reflected in the Mitzva of ‘you shall blot out the memory of Amalek from beneath the heavens’. (Deut. 25:19).


Rabbi Fishel Todd


Parsha Bo Rabbi Fishel Todd

Haftarah: Yirmiyahu 46:13-28

Rabbi Fishel Todd


“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

Rabbi Fishel Todd

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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.

Rabbi FIshel Todd

– Rabbi Fishel Todd

“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)

Rabbi Fishel Todd


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.

by Rabbi Fishel Todd

“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.

Shabbat Shalom.

Rabbi Fishel Todd

“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.


“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)


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

PARASHAT VA-EIRA Rabbi Fishel Todd


Rabbi Fishel Todd
Rabbi Fishel Todd


Questions marked with a * refer to Rashi’s commentary.

1. *How may the opening words ‘I am G-d. I appeared to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob’, be seen as G-d’s rebuke to Moses?

2. *Why are the genealogies of Reuben, Simeon, and Levi – but no other tribes, listed in this Parasha?

3. Did G-d actually ‘harden Pharaoh’s heart’ as He declared he would before the Plagues commenced?

4. What fraction of his life had Moses spent by the time he stood before Pharaoh on the threshold of the Ten Plagues?

5. Which plagues were initiated by Aaron, *and why?

6. How do the text and *Rashi’s commentary suggest that the third plague – that of lice – was a greater miracle than the first two?

7. In which two places in the text does Pharaoh actually break his word?

8. How did the fates of the frogs in the second plague differ from the wild animals in the fourth plague, *and why?

9. What, according to the text, were the true purposes of the Plagues?

10. *Moses declared that he had to actually leave the city to pray for the hail and fire to stop crashing down. Why?



1. This is for the following reason. The end of the previous Parasha relates Moses’ protest to G-d that his mission had caused the lot of His people to deteriorate instead of to improve. The opening words of this Parasha relate the substance of G-d’s reply to Moses – in the form of a sharp castigation. G-d speaks harshly to Moses, and He compares him unfavorably with the Patriarchs who maintained their faith without complaint, even though they went through much suffering and anguish and did not live to see the fulfillment of G-d’s promises to their descendants. By contrast, Moses’ protest: ‘Why have you done evil to this people? Why did you send me?’ (5:22) implied lack of faith even when told that the Redemption was at hand.

2. The simple explanation (actually expanded by the Ramban) is to illustrate that Reuben and his tribe retained the rights of the firstborn in regards to genealogy – that right not extending to Moses and Aaron however great they were. Rashi, quoting Midrashic sources, states that the Torah confirms the first three tribes’ importance despite Jacob’s sharply reproving them before his death.

3. Although G-d said that He would ‘harden Pharaoh’s heart’ (7:3), he did not actually do so until after the sixth plague (9:12). This issue is discussed by the commentaries and taken up in answer to question 3 in the next section.

4. Moses was already eighty – two thirds of the way to his hundred and twenty years – at the time he stood before Pharaoh (7:7), on the threshold on initiating the events that were to set the Exodus in to motion.

5. The first three plagues: blood, frogs, and lice, were initiated by Aaron and his stick. The reason Rashi gives broadly follows the principle of ‘do not cast stones into the well from which you drank’. Thus Aaron, rather than Moses, used the stick to make the Nile turn to blood and expel the frogs onto dry land, and the dust to turn into lice. Such an action done by Moses would have shown ingratitude to the waters of the Nile which were instrumental in saving his life as a baby, and to the dust of Egypt which concealed the dead Egyptian that he himself struck.

Rabbi Fishel Todd
Rabbi Fishel Todd

6. The text states that although Egyptians sorcerers could replicate the first two plagues, turning dust into lice was beyond them (8:14). Rashi implies that units of dust are too small for sorcerers to work on.

7. Pharaoh declared after the fourth and seventh plagues that he would release the Israelites to serve G-d in the wilderness, but on both occasions he changed his mind after the plagues stopped, thus breaking his word.

8. The frogs did not return to the Nile, but died on land and putrefied it (8:9-10). ‘He (G-d) removed the wild animals… not one remained’. (8:27) Rashi states that dead animals had commercial value for hides; dead frogs were foul-smelling and useless. The plagues were for the enrichment of the Egyptians.

9. The true purpose of the Plagues was not only to put increasing pressure on Pharaoh to release the Israelites, but to establish in Egypt that G-d is the Almighty and above all humans and idolatry. ((7:4-5)

10. The reason is that Pharaoh’s metropolis – rife with idolatry – was an unsuitable location to approach the Divine Presence in prayer. From that, it may be learnt that one should only pray in appropriate surroundings Rabbi Fishel Todd.


1. What, according to Rabbeinu Bachya, are the precise events alluded to by the four expressions of redemption (6:6-7) which have since been linked with the four cups of wine at the Seder?

2. The Holy Land promised to the Israelites is not merely a ‘yerusha’ – an inheritance, but a ‘morasha’ (6:8) – a heritage. What is the meaning of that difference according to the Ha-emek Davar?

3. In the first five plagues, ‘Pharaoh’s heart hardened’ and in the final plagues ‘G-d hardened Pharaoh’s heart’. The latter implies that Pharaoh had no free choice – in the later plagues, he could not have released the Israelites even if he wanted to. How does this justify the further plagues and suffering for not releasing the Israelites – according to (a) Rashi, and (b) the Sforno?

4. The Hagada relates that R. Judah groups the Ten Plagues into three: ‘detzach, adash, be-achav’. What, according to Marcus Lehmann (in Lehmann’s Passover Hagada) is the point that Rabbi Judah is making?


1. According to Rabbeinu Bachya, the four expressions of Redemption refer to four very specific stages of the process, namely:

(a) ‘Vehotzeiti’ – I shall take you out (from the burdens of Egypt) – subsequently linked to the first cup of wine – denotes the end of the actual slavery which, following Rabbinic tradition, stopped some six months before the actual Exodus.

(b) ‘Vehitzalti’ – I shall save you – subsequently linked to the second cup of wine – refers to the actual leaving of Egypt.

(c) ‘Vegaalti’ – I shall rescue you – subsequently linked to the third cup of wine – refers to the splitting of the Red Sea in the face of the pursuing Egyptians.

(d) ‘Velakachti’ – and I shall take you – subsequently linked to the fourth cup of wine – links with the spiritual climax of the Redemption: the Revelation at Mount Sinai.

2. The Ha-mek Davar makes the following distinction between ‘yerusha’ and ‘morasha’. The former is something that belongs to the person when he is in possession of it. The latter is connected with the person even when not in possession. Thus the Holy Land was a ‘morasha’ to the Israelites even when they were slaves in Egypt and throughout all the succeeding exiles.

3. According to Rashi, G-d did actually deprive Pharaoh of free choice after the sixth plague, as the text states that He ‘hardened Pharaoh’s heart’. That is because his level of corruption was of such a degree that G-d’s only purpose in keeping him alive was to use him as a means of demonstrating His Power and His Might (7:5), and the implied folly of relying on sorcery and idolatry. The Sforno understands the words ‘G-d hardened Pharaoh’s heart’ differently to Rashi. They do not mean that he took away his free choice, but that he expected a higher degree of repentance. G-d’s hardening Pharaoh’s heart meant that He gave Pharaoh more strength to absorb the suffering of the plagues. Were he to repent, it would not be because of the pain, but out of sincere and true repentance; in the spirit of acknowledging that ‘G-d is the righteous and that I (Pharaoh) and my people are the wicked’. (9:27)

4. According to Lehmann, the rhythm of ‘detzach, adash, be-achav’ is the rhythn of the plagues. The Nile turned to blood – outside people’s homes. The frogs actually entered the houses, and the lice went one better – got into people’s actual flesh. Logically the next plague should have killed the people off entirely – instead, the wild animals terrorized those outside near the wild, the pestilence went a little closer affecting property (cattle), and then the boils, like the lice, actually got to the people themselves. With the seventh plague the cycle repeats itself… the hail destroyed crops outside, the locusts were a little more intimate, but it was the darkness which, like the lice and the boils, actually bought normal existence to a stop. (Thus the three cycles of ‘far, closer, and closer’ were a ‘three time warning’ to Pharaoh.) But after the Plague of Darkness, Pharaoh did not see it that way. Instead, he assumed that the next plague would be the start of the fourth cycle. He was wrong – as he ignored the first three sets of warnings, the tenth plague was the logical extension of the third cycle: further away / closer / still closer / and then (at the Killing of the Firstborn) closest: namely death.

Rabbi Fishel Todd
Rabbi Fishel Todd


1. Moses spoke before G-d: “Behold the Israelites have not listened to me – how will Pharaoh listen to me? I have sealed lips” (6:12). Bereishit Rabba (92:7) states that this is one of the ten times where the kal va-homer (a fortiori deduction) appears in the Torah. Why was Moses so sure that Pharaoh would not listen to him? And in addition, why didn’t Moses give the more obvious reason – that he had been unsuccessful, as G-d had told him, and it was now time for Him to intervene? G-d had told Moses that the Redemption from Egypt would not take place through Moses directly, but through Divine intervention: For I know the King of Egypt will not let you go… I shall set forth My Hand and smite Egypt… and afterwards he will let you go (3:19-20). Moses and Aaron had already pleaded to Pharaoh once, and he responded by intensifying the sufferings of the enslaved Israelites.

2. The Passover Hagadda links the ‘strong hand’ and the ‘outstretched arm’ to the Plagues that G-d imposed on Pharaoh and the Egyptians, to persuade them to release the Israelites. As the Hagadda relates:’With a strong hand’ – that is the plague of pestilence (fatal animal disease), as Moses warned Pharaoh, ‘Behold the Hand of G-d is on your animals – horses, donkeys, camels, cattle, sheep, and goats, to bring them a very heavy pestilence’ (9:3). Why was the ‘strong hand’ of the Exodus related specifically to the plague of pestilence – the fifth out of the ten plagues? What special qualities did the death of the Egyptians’ domestic animals possess over and above the other plagues, so that it was the crucial one that helped the Israelite Exodus to take place?


Rabbi Fishel Todd

Parsha Shemot Rabbi Fishel Todd

Rabbi Fishel Todd

Moses grew up went amongst his people and observed their burdens… (2:11)

The Torah records little about the early life of Moses. By the time he ‘stood before Pharaoh’ he was already 80 years old (7:7): and entering the last third of his life.

What is recorded develops with three incidents where he firmly and effectively applies the principles of leadership and social justice. These bring out the vital characteristics Moses needed to do his life’s work. That was to found the Israelites as distinct people: a ‘holy nation’ (19:6). It was his task to deliver and enforce the message of G-d. That would determine the precise terms of their being able to be, and continue as, a ‘holy nation’.

Rabbi FIshel Todd
Rabbi Fishel Todd

These leadership features are within the fabric of the stories. He needed courage, and at the same time discretion: when he saw the Egyptian beating the Hebrew ‘he looked this way and that way and saw no man. He struck the Egyptian…’ (2:12) There was courage, and yet discretion. He was no more sympathetic to the Hebrew who was beating a fellow Hebrew (2:13). There was consistency in justice; not one law for insiders and another for outsiders. He intervened on behalf of Jethro’s daughters, who were being unfairly elbowed and shoveled by the brawny shepherds to the back the queue (2:17). Might was not to conquer right. And he also knew his place in the hierarchy. He was given seemingly impossible orders by G-d to put the Exodus in motion. He did not fear to voice his gravest doubts and ask for help, but still placed himself in G-d’s hands (4:10-18).

Rabbi Fishel Todd These qualities balanced humility before the Creator with the vital qualities of leadership, justice, determination, and impartiality needed to win the confidence and command of the nation.

Yet there is one thing that is missing from the account. That is Moses previous experience as a leader of an important division of the Egyptian army, for Pharaoh. There are records (both in the Midrash and in Josephus, as well as a passing hint in ‘the Ethiopian wife that Moses married’ – Num. 12:1), but the text is silent about Moses’ previous successful campaign on behalf of Pharaoh on the southern border of the Egypt against the people of Ethiopia.

The reason for the silence could be as follows. It is to teach that new tasks are precisely that. Some values – humility before G-d, courage, determination, and social justice are applicable to all situations. Others are counterproductive. Indeed many people who transfer positions in life are unsuccessful because they will not learn the job afresh. They just put ditto marks and say: ‘It’s one more job, it should (and it better had) be like the last place’.

Moses knew that. The Israelites were not the Egyptian army. They were a very difficult group of people who did not have Pharaoh’s backing in carrying out Moses’ orders. His previous experience was not only irrelevant, but potentially counterproductive – had he led the Israelites as though it was an army, he would have failed.

Instead – it was back to the drawing board – with the burning bush.



Rabbi Fishel Todd A new king arose over Egypt who did not know Joseph. He said to his people: ‘Behold! The children of Israel are too many and too mighty for us…’ So they appointed taskmasters over them in order to afflict them with their work… (1:8-11)

The text relates how the rapidly-grown Israelite population in Egypt was frightening the host population. On one hand, their loyalty to Pharaoh and Egypt was beginning to become suspect. On the other, they were too useful a sub-group for Pharaoh to be permitted to leave the country.

The Ohr HaChayim translates the word mi-menu ‘from us’. He suggests that the words Pharaoh used to incite his population against the Israelites were: ‘The children of Israel are too many and too mighty – and that came from us – the Egyptians’. In other words: ‘They flourished at our expense – by taking advantage of our hospitality during and after the famine (c.f. Gen. 47:21,27). And now is the time to take back what really belongs to our own people’.

No mention of it being Joseph’s wisdom that kept them alive. Had Joseph not organized the Egyptian land, finance (and effectively become the first Israelite banker), and grain reserves, they would have no longer been around. As they themselves declared generations ago: ‘It is you that has kept us alive’ (Gen. 47:25).

This aspect of selective memory shows how it is possible to put together a series of facts each not necessarily false, but when joined together give a picture that is an entire distortion of the truth. It is that principle which has been the basis of much anti-Semitism ever since. When they were needed, the Jews were treated well. When it was in the national interests to treat them with suspicion or dispense with them completely, the selective memory came into play.

And further light on this subtle form of anti-Semitism is shown in the story of the conflict between the shepherds of Isaac with the shepherds of Gerar (the host population) over the well that Isaac’s servants had dug. (Remember that the Patriarchs had lots of sheep and cattle, with local water shortages keeping them on the move until towards the end of Jacob’s life when the lack of water made them move down to Egypt.)

Rabbi Fishel Todd
Rabbi Fishel Todd

As the text states:

Isaac’s servants dug in the valley. They found a well of fresh water. The servants of Gerar quarreled with the servants of Isaac saying: ‘The water belongs to us’ (Gen. 26:19-20).

Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch observes that Isaac’s servants supplied the initiative labor, but King Abimelech’s servants – the servants of Gerar – claimed that the water was theirs. He emphasizes that ‘the enterprise and the work was yours, but the products are ours’ is the part of the mechanics of anti-Semitism. Even when there would have been no water at all, but for the initiative of Isaac’s servants…

Similarly with Pharaoh and the Israelites – ‘the initiative for saving us was theirs, but the benefits are all ours…’

Haftorah Shemos

“So in an obscure speech and a foreign tongue they [the prophets] speak to this nation. But who will say to them, ‘This is transquility, bestow it to the weary, this is inner happiness!’–for they do not want to listen.” (Isaiah 27:11-12)

Rabbi Fishel Todd Picture for a moment the life of the Jew in seventeenth century Europe. He is shut out from most occupations; he lives in a walled-in ghetto area. He is always in danger of attack from the Gentiles who surround him, and who have been known in the past to attack and plunder his community on one pretext or another. When he travels outside the ghetto walls, he is eyed with mistrust by the non-Jews, who feel no affinity with him.

But within the home! There we find another scenario. There is found peace and harmony. On the Shabbos, the candles bestow their glow over a home transformed and infused with the radiance of the holy Shabbos day. The old, faded bookshelves hold the precious, worn out sefarim over which the man pores late into the night. There in the home the Jew may find respite from all the hardships, all the travails which await him outside. “This is tranquility, bestow it to the weary, this is inner happiness!” The sanctity-filled life which the Jew led made all the difficulties bearable; indeed, through it he was even able to find cheer and inner peace, despite the obstacles which the world heaped before him.

Rabbi Fishel Todd Now let us shift the scene and envision this man’s einekle (descendent) two centuries hence. The walls of the ghetto have come tumbling down, the world lies invitingly before him. Intoxicated with the spirit of the new era, our friend has drunk deeply of the world’s culture. He is a man of taste. He can rub shoulders with the highest born and the urbane sophisticates. On a shelf at home he possesses a fine bound copy of Mendelsohn’s Biur, the commentary of the Pentateuch written in classic, flowing German. The book has gathered quite a bit of dust from years of sitting usused on the shelf. For the Torah, though translated now into the rich cadences of the German tongue, has ceased to speak his language. “In an obscure speech and a foreign tongue they speak to this nation.” The Torah’s teachings fail to resonate in the ear of our newly Enlightened friend.

Rabbi Fishel Todd
Rabbi Fishel Todd

If we find that the Torah’s words don’t strike true in our own hearts, then we must look within ourselves. These same words provided solace to countless of our ancestors in generations past; if they now appear to be foreign ideas, then it can only be we who have distanced ourselves. Hashem’s teachings are tailor-made especially for us; they alone contain the key which can enable us to truly understand ourselves. It is our job to relearn the language.

Rabbi Fishel Todd


Parsha Miketz Rabbi Fishel Todd

Rabbi Fishel Todd discusses Parshas Mikeitz(76)

Rabbi Fishel Todd


Rashi teaches us the meaning of a familiar word

Genesis 42:34

“And bring your younger brother to me and I will know that you are not spies but that you are honest; your brother, (Simon) I will give back to you and you can travel the land.”


And you can travel the land. Rashi: [It means literally] you can travel around the land. All such words [ in Hebrew] as ‘socharim’ (merchants) and ‘sechora’ (merchandise) are derived from the fact that they travel around ( in Hebrew ‘sechor’ = around) after business.


Rashi tells us the meaning of the word ’tischoru’. The root is ‘s’chor’ which literally means ‘around’, but frequently it has the derived meaning of doing business, because businessmen travel around a lot.


Rashi often tells us the meaning of words in the Torah. When he teaches us the meaning of a strange or rare word there is no problem. His comment is necessary because we need his help. But when he teaches us the meaning of a familiar word, which he does occasionally, we have two questions. 1) Why the need to teach us the meaning of a familiar word? & 2) If the word has already appeared in the Torah why didn’t Rashi tell us its meaning the first time it appeared?

Which question would you ask of Rashi?

Hint: See verses above 23: 16; 34:10; and 37:28.

Your Question:


A Question: We see from that this word has already appeared in the Torah several times. Why did Rashi wait until now to teach us its meaning?

Can you see a reason for this?

Hint: Note that this verse is spoken by the brothers to Jacob; they are quoting what Joseph had said to them. You can see the exact quote of Joseph in verse 42:20. Is there a difference between what Joseph actually said and what they quoted him as saying?


Rabbi Fishel Todd Answer: Of course there is a difference. All that Joseph said was that if they bring their younger brother then they will be believed that they are not spies. He said nothing about “sechora”.

So why did the brothers add this gratuitous phrase?

Can you think of an answer?

Your Answer:


An Answer: The brothers were on the defensive, since they returned without Simon. They didn’t tell their father Jacob everything. They did not tell him that Simon was being held in prison. They wanted to convince Jacob to release Benjamin in their custody so they could get the needed food in Egypt. Perhaps they figured that if they reported the man was very cold and distant Jacob would remain hesitant and fearful. So they improved on what he had actually said a bit; they said he would then consider them as foreigners in good standing and they could even tour the country freely.


Rashi too was bothered by the way the brothers misquoted Joseph’s words. He understood that this was done intentionally. Their use of the word “tischoru’ must mean “travel around” freely and not have its usual meaning of doing business. If the word meant to do business this would mean that Joseph jumped from suspecting them as spies and restricting their movement to allowing them become equal to all citizens, permitted to do business in his country! No. That would sound too strange to Jacob. So their meaning must that the man considered them to be in good standing and permitted to travel freely through the country. That sounded reasonable. It is for this reason that Rashi says the word does not mean business here, which usually does; it means just to travel around.

And it is for this reason that Rashi did not have to tell us the meaning of the word ‘sechoruha’ above (Genesis 34:10) because in that verse it had its usually meaning of doing business and Rashi assumed we knew its meaning. Only here where it does not mean to do business does Rashi need to enlighten us.


It is interesting and enlightening to note that even these reasonable words still did not convince Jacob to let them take Benjamin. It was only Judah later (42:3- 10) who put everything on the table in a straightforward, unadorned manner that Jacob finally conceded to let Benjamin go with them.

Rabbi Fishel Todd

Genesis 42:2″And he said ‘Behold, I have heard that there are provisions in Egypt. Go down there and purchase for us there, that we may live and not die.’ “RASHIGo down there: RASHI: He did not say ‘go’ (but rather ‘Go down’) This is a hint to the two hundred and ten years that they (the Nation Israel) were to be enslaved in Egypt. For the Hebrew word “R’du” (Go down) is numerically 210.”Look at Rashi on verse Genesis 45:9.Do you have a question on our Rashi-comment?Your Question:QUESTIONING RASHIA Question: This Rashi comment assumes that the word “go” (“l’chu” in Hebrew) is more appropriate than “r’du’. But this is not so. Rashi himself has tells us further on (Genesis 45:9) that EretzYisrael is higher than all other lands, thus when speaking of going to Eretz Yisrael the Torah uses the word “alu” (“go up”) and conversely when one leaves Eretz Yisrael the Torah uses the word “to go down.” So Jacob’s word here – “go down there (to Egypt)” is appropriate. How can Rashi imply that he should have said “go” and not “go down”?A difficult question.Can you think of an answer?Hint: Look carefully at verse 45:9. That verse speaks of “going up” and our verse speaks of “going down”. But can you see another difference between our verse and that one?Your Answer:UNDERSTANDING RASHIAn Answer: Rashi’s point is well taken. Because while the Torah uses the words “going up” and “going down” when coming to and leaving Eretz Yisrael, Jacob does not. See verse Genesis 45:28 where it says: “And Israel (Jacob) said: It is great that my son Joseph is still alive. I will go (Hebrew “ailcha”) and see him before I die.” So we see that when Jacob speaks of going to Egypt he himself uses the word “to go.” And not “go down.” Thus Rashi’s focusing on Jacob’s use of the word “go down” in our verse is correct. So Jacob himself should not have used the word “r’du”, though the Torah itself does. He must have used this word because it had other connotations in this context. His word “going down” has a negative connotation and implied going down into slavery – for 210 years.A LESSONThe Torah’s words as a narrative may be quite different from an individual’s quote in the Torah. There are other instances in the Torah where this is the case. The lesson is to closely examine Rashi’s comments, especially when it seems that he contradicts himself. He was quite careful in his choice of words and in his comments.Shabbat ShalomV’Chanuka SomayachAvigdor Bonchek “What’s Bothering Rashi?” is a product of the Institute for the Study of Rashi and Early Commentaries Rabbi Fishel Todd.

Parashas Miketz (5762)

Rashi makes us aware that we hadn’t fully understood the Torah verse. But first we must understand Rashi!

Genesis 42:23


For the interpreter was between them: RASHI: For when they had spoken to him there was an interpreter between them who knew both the Hebrew and the Egyptian languages. He interpreted their words to Joseph and Joseph’s words to them. Consequently they were under the impression that Joseph did not understand the Hebrew language.

What is your question on Rashi?


A Question:

Rashi seems to be telling us what the Hebrew word “ mailitz” (interpreter) means. He certainly could have told us that in much less words. Why is he belaboring the point? What is bothering him?


Read the Torah sentence again and ask yourself what it says.

“And they did not know that Joseph understood, because the interpreter was between them.”

What question would you ask on this verse? Does that make sense to you?


Your Answer:

An Answer:

Of course it doesn’t make sense! Because the interpreter was between them, they didn’t think that Joseph understood? Quite the contrary, only because the translator was between them, could Joseph understand what they were saying.

Now look at Rashi’s comment and see how he explains away this question. Do you understand?

Your Answer:


An Answer:

By the addition of a word or two, Rashi solves the problem. Rashi says; “When they had spoken to him there was a translator between them.” Rashi conveniently puts the verse in the past tense. Meaning that since in their previous conversations with Joseph, the translator had been present, they assumed that he didn’t understand Hebrew. But now the translator wasn’t present (for they weren’t speaking to Joseph) so they could freely speak among themselves.

In his effortless manner, Rashi points out the correct meaning of the verse.

Rabbi Fishel Todd

Parashas Miketz

Rashi makes us aware that we hadn’t fully understood the Torah verse.
But first we must understand Rashi!

Genesis 42:23

For the interpreter was between them: Rashi: For when they had spoken to him there was an interpreter between them who knew both the Hebrew and the Egyptian languages. He interpreted their words to Joseph and Joseph’s words to them. Consequently they were under the impression that Joseph did not understand the Hebrew language.

What is your question on Rashi?



Questioning Rashi

A Question:

Rashi seems to be telling us what the Hebrew word “ mailitz” (interpreter) means. He certainly could have told us that in much less words. Why is he belaboring the point? What is bothering him?


Read the Torah sentence again and ask yourself what it says.



And they did not know that Joseph understood, because the interpreter was between them.

What question would you ask on this verse? Does that make sense to you?



What Is Bothering Rashi?

Your Answer:

An Answer:

Of course it doesn’t make sense! Because the interpreter was between them, they didn’t think that Joseph understood? Quite the contrary, only because the translator was between them, could Joseph understand what they were saying.

Now look at Rashi’s comment and see how he explains away this question. Do you understand?



Understanding Rashi

An Answer :

By the addition of a word or two, Rashi solves the problem. Rashi says; “When they had spoken to him there was a translator between them.” Rashi conveniently puts the verse in the past tense. Meaning that since in their previous conversations with Joseph, the translator had been present, they assumed that he didn’t understand Hebrew. But now the translator wasn’t present (for they weren’t speaking to Joseph) so they could freely speak among themselves.

Rabbi Fishel Todd

In his effortless manner, Rashi points out the correct meaning of the verse.


Parashas Miketz



The suspenseful story of Joseph and his brothers is reaching a fever pitch in this week’s sedra. On Verse 42:23 it says:

“And he (Joseph) turned away from them and wept and he returned to them again and spoke to them and then took Shimon from them and he bound him up in front of them.”


“Shimon”: Rashi: He had thrown him into the pit etc. See the full comment there.

Of course the big question is & this is what Rashi is dealing with: Why suddenly did Joseph grab Shimon of all brothers to put in jail? Notice that the Torah mentions Shimon by name. It wouldn’t do that unless it had significance. In the whole story of Joseph and his brothers no brothers are mentioned by name except Joseph, Reuven and Yehudah. And now Shimon! Rashi’s answer as to why Shimon was singled out is that he was the one who threw Joseph into the pit.

But we can confirm this by seeing the verses immediately prior to this. It says that the brothers bemoaned their guilt for what they had done years ago to their brother, Joseph. Then Reuven says “Didn’t I tell you then ‘don’t sin with the boy’ but you didn’t listen!” All the years Joseph was in Egypt he had blamed Reuven for all that happened to him. Because Reuven was the first born, he was the leader and responsible for the brothers’ actions. Why hadn’t he stopped them? he wondered. Now that he overheard Reuven’s remark he realized that he had blamed Reuven unjustly. At that point Joseph looked to the next in line. Who was that? Shimon, the second oldest. why hadn’t he backed Reuven’s protest? So he chose him and threw him in jail. See how beautiful this logic is. See verse 27 where it says “one opened his saddle bag to feed his donkey” etc. Rashi says it was Levi. Why Levi?

Let’s begin with another question: Why only did only this brother find his money in his saddlebag? Didn’t the others also have donkeys to feed? They did eventually find their money at the bottom of their bags when the got home to Jacob. see that only “the one” (who Rashi says is Levi) found his at the opening of his bag and not down beneath as the others did. Why was his at the top of the bag and the others at the bottom?

Answer: Levi is brother number 3 !!! Joseph was going down the line of brothers. He made Levi worry longer than the others, because why hadn’t he who was the third oldest brother spoken up on his behalf years ago and stopped the sale into slavery? The story isn’t over. The next accusation about the stolen chalice seems to wake Yehuda up and he is number four!! Therefore “And Yehuda drew near” (next week’s sedra).


Rabbi Fishel Todd


CHANUKAH 2020 Rabbi Fishel Todd

Rabbi Fishel Todd

Three gifts were created in the world. Anyone who merits  any one of them takes all the delight in the world. They are wisdom, strength and wealth.

Of these three gifts wealth is the most external to a person, since it is not actually a part of him, but rather an appendage and thus most visible to others. Strength is a little less external, since it is not possible to determine a person’s might with a superficial glance.  Indeed, there are small, weak-looking people who are in fact very strong.

Strength does nevertheless reveal itself outside the person.

Of the 3 WISDON is the most personal and concealed.

The intellect resides in the deepest recesses of the person and is completely obscured from others.

The 3 early exiles to which the Jews were subjected correspond to those three gifts. In each case, the oppressing was able to suppress a particular aspect of the Jews identity.

Paras and Madai were known for their wealth. In fact, at the beginning of the Purim story we find that the Persian king Achashverosh, as we read in Megelas Esther where Achashverosh showed them the glorious wealth of his kingdom and the majesty of his royal greatness.

Rabbi Fishel Todd
Rabbi Fishel Todd

The Greeks were known for their outstanding wisdom, their philosophers and their ideas have been tremendously influential.

Thus when they oppressed Israel, they were even able to reach the wisdom of the Torah and enslave it to their own ends. Oil in Torah thought expresses wisdom [The Menorah in the Beis Hamikdash represents the light of TORAH radiating to all corners of existence].

So when Chazal, in our original quote, say that the Greeks defiled the oil, they mean that they were clever enough to subjugate the very heart of the nation, to contaminate their Torah wisdom, the oil of the Jews, and to defile it with Hellenism.

In this sense, the Greeks polluted “all the oil in the Temple”; that is , their twisted form of wisdom seized of all areas of Torah wisdom.

The Torah subtly hints at the Yom-tov of Chanukah, says the Ba’al Rokei’ach, by virtue of the juxtaposition of the Parshah of olive oil for the Menorah immediately following the Yomim-tovim in Parshas Emor.

The Torah actually concludes the Parshah of Mo’adim with the words “And Moshe told the Mo’adim of Hashem to the B’nei Yisrael”, and continues “Command the B’nei Yisrael and they shall bring you pure olive-oil”. And as we know, the ideal Mitzvah of Chanukah lights is with olive oil.

In fact, he goes on to explain, there are a number of points in this paragraph that are connected with Chanukah. To begin with, he points out, the words “Tzav es B’nei Yisrael” has the same numerical value as ‘bi’Yemei Matisyahu ben Yochanan’ (including the ‘kolel’ [the phrase], which is perfectly acceptable in terms of the rules of Gematriyos, and which he then explains at great length).

Rabbi FIshel Todd


The reason that the miracle took place with oil, the Rokei’ach explains, is based on the fact that the Greeks attempted to negate the light of Torah and to replace it with their own Chochmah (Greek culture). So the miracle took place with oil, which represents Chochmas ha’Torah, for so Chazal have said in Menachos (85b) ‘Wherever olive-oil is found, there one will find Chochmah. They based this on a Pasuk in Shmuel, where Yo’av sent to Teko’a to fetch a wise woman (to convince David to accept his son Avshalom back into the fold). And ‘Teko’a is the supreme place for oil’ (see ‘Why? Because’ in Parshah Pearls).

Moreover, the miracle ocurred with the Menorah, which represents Chochmas ha’Torah, too. For it is in connection with the Menorah that Chazal declared ‘Who wishes to be wise should turn to the south’ Because it was on the south-side of the Heichal that the Menorah stood. This can be understood by bearing in mind the connection between light and Chochmah (did Chazal not say that the original light of the creation was not for the use of the Resha’im, so Hashem hid it – according to the commentaries, in the Torah? Note also, the juxtaposition of the B’rachah of Torah to that of light, before the Shema at Shachris). And the south represents Chochmah, because, due to the fact that the sun shines there all year round, it is the brightest of all the directions.

Incidentally, the original light shone for thirty-six hours, say Chazal, before it was hidden, and correspondingly, we kindle thirty-six lights on Chanukah.

Rabbi Fishel Todd


What’s more, the Rokei’ach adds, the dual expressions “le’ha’alos Ner Tamid” (singular) and “ya’aroch es ha’Neiros” (plural) hint at the Mitzvah of Hadlakas Ner Chanukah, one light on the first night, and a number of lights on the subsequent nights. In addition, says the Rokei’ach, the numerical value of “kosis la’ma’or” is equivalent to that of ‘Zera” (children), a hint to what Chazal say in Shabbos (23b) ‘Someone who observes the Mitzvah of ‘Lights’ meticulously, will merit children who are Talmidei-Chachamim’, and which many commentaries ascribe to Chanukah-lights Rabbi FIshel Todd.

He also extrapolates from the fact that Chanukah comes immediately after Sukos, that it had to be eight days, and helps to answer the Beis Yosef’s Kashya, why Chazal fixed eight days and not seven, seeing as the jar contained sufficient oil for one day, and the miracle therefore, lasted only seven.

Finally the first letters of the words “Zayis Zoch Kosis La’mo’or, Le’ha’alos”, the Rokei’ach points out, are equivalent to that of ‘be’Hallel ve’Hodo’oh’, the very words used by the Gemara in Shabbos, in describing the essence of Chanukah.


The very fact that the Torah chooses to hint at Chanukah using the medium of oil with connotations of wisdom, provides us with an insight into the deeper meaning of Chanukah. For the battle with the Greeks may have ended on the battlefield, but it began and, for the major part was fought, as a battle of cultures, of truth against falsehood, and of G-dliness against secularism. And this is indeed hinted in ‘Al ha’Nisim’, where we say – ‘You delivered strong men into the hands of the weak, many into the hands of the few, impure into the hands of the pure, wicked into the hands of righteous and slanderers into the hands of those who study Your Torah’.


This idea runs parallel with the inherently spiritual nature of Chanukah at all levels, which contrasts so greatly with the physical nature of Purim. This in itself, is well-known. It is however, worth adding that in this context, the word ‘shemen’ (oil) also contains the main root-letters of Neshamah. For you see, just as the seat of desire is the heart, so too, is the seat of wisdom in the brain, which is also the part of the body that one associates with the Neshamah.


Parshah Pearls

(Adapted from the Ba’al ha’Turim)

The Seven Cows

Paroh dreamt about cows, explains the Ba’al ha’Turim, because Yirmiyah described Egypt as “Eglah Yefefiyah” (a beautiful calf [46:20]).

And why seven?

Well, he says, the Pasuk in No’ach (10:13/14) lists Mitzrayim’s six sons: Ludim, Lehovim, Naftuchim, Pasrusim, Kasluchim and Kaforim – plus Mitzrayim itself, makes seven.

And also because of the seven nations of Cana’an, which were sustained by the Egyptians during the time of the famine.


Rabbi Fishel Todd

All on One Stem

” … and behold, seven ears came up on one stem (be’koneh echod)” (41:5).

The words “be’koneh echod” appear three times in the Chumash, twice here (in connection with the good years), and once in Vayakhel (37:19), because the good years are like light to the world. And Par’oh saw the ears of corn on one stalk, only by the good years but not by the bad ones. It hints to the fact that, unlike the bad years, which got progressively worse, the good years were all equal in their goodness.


It’s In the Hands of the Interpreter

“Ka’asher posar lonu kein hoyoh (just like he interpreted them, so it was)” 41:13.

Our sages have taught us that dreams follow their interpretation. In that case, the Ba’al ha’Turim’s comment, that the words “ka’asher posar” has the same numerical value as ‘she’chalomos holchim achar ha’peh’ should hardly come as a surprise.


The Reward of Nice Words

” … ve’al picho yishak kol ami (and all my people will be sustained by your word)” (41:40).

The word “yishak” appears also in Mishlei (24:26) “Sefosayim yishak meishiv devorim nichochim (lips will kiss the one who responds with correct speech” (even though the meaning of the word is quite different in both cases).

This teaches us, says the Ba’al ha’Turim, that Yosef merited to sustain the entire Egyptian nation because he responded correctly to Paroh.

Bearing in mind that he was exiled for improper speech, we see both from here and from other instances throughout the current Parshiyos, how Yosef had rectified his original mistake.


Believe It or Not

“va’Yikro Paroh shem Yosef Tzofnas Pa’nei’ach” (41:45).

“Tzofnas Pa’nei’ach” means ‘the revealer of hidden things’, as Rashi explains, and what’s more, it has the same numerical value as Megaleh Nistorim, which also happens to mean ‘the revealer of hidden things’ (Ba’al ha’Turim).


And Tzofnas Pa’nei’ach, he says, also forms the first letters of ‘Tzadik Pitpet Nefesh So’eivah, Potifar Inah Nafsho Chinam’ (a Tzadik fought a desirous soul, Potifar afflicted his soul, for no reason), as well as ‘Tzofeh, Fodeh, Navi, Somech, Poser, Anav, Navon, Chozeh’ (One with foresight, redeemer, prophet, supporter, interpreter, humble, wise and seer).


Beyond Recognition

” … ve’heim lo hikiruhu (but they did not recognize him)” 42:8.

And the same word is used in connection with Iyov (2:12) “me’rochok ve’ lo hikiruhu (from afar they could not recognize him)”, only the former is missing a ‘Yud’, whereas the latter is not.

Just as Iyov’s friends could not recognize him because he had changed so drastically on account of his suffering, so too, could Yosef’s brothers not recognize him because of his change from a slave to a great prince.

The difference between them was that, when Iyov’s friends came closer, they recognized him, whereas Yosef’s brothers did not.

Why is that? Because Iyov’s friends knew the identity of the person they were visiting, but Yosef’s brothers did not.


Missing One

“We are all sons of one man” (42:11).

The word for ‘We’ ought to have been “Anachnu”. Yet here the Torah misses out an ‘Alef’, and writes “Nachnu”. The brothers were referring to themselves, and indeed, says the Ba’al ha’Turim, bearing in mind that ‘Alef’ is equivalent to one, there was literally one missing – Yosef.

Or perhaps, without realizing what they were saying, they were hinting that all those present (Yosef included) were sons of one father, and the missing one was – Binyamin (absent because his father had not sent him with his brothers).


Three for Three

“And he placed them under arrest for three days” (42:17).

The three days, explains the Ba’al ha’Turim, corresponded to the three things that his brothers did to him: 1. They stripped him of his shirt; 2. They cast him into a pit: 3. They sold him into slavery.


Kill My Two Sons

” You may kill my two sons (es Sh’nei bonai tomis), if I don’t bring him back to you” (42:37).

This was Reuven’s strange guarantee to his father that if he would entrust Binyamin to him, he would return him safe and sound.

The word tomis appears in one other place (Iyov 5:2) “u’Foseh tomis kin’oh (for jealousy kills the fool)”, which the Medrash connects with the congregation of Korach, who were jealous of Moshe. The Masores here, hints at Dasan and Aviram, who were descendants of Reuven. They were the two sons who would die by the pronouncement of their own grandfather Reuven.

And that will also explain why the numerical value of “es sh’nei” is equivalent to ‘Eilu Dasan va’Aviram” (if one spells ‘Eilu’ with a ‘Yud’).


Six for Six

“And bring the man a gift; a little balsam, a little honey, some gum, resin, pistachio nuts and almonds” (43:11).

Six different kinds, explains the Ba’al ha’Turim, for each of the sons of Leah (one of the main wives) to carry one species as a gift for Par’oh. For obvious reasons, Rachel’s children were out of the picture.


(Adapted from the Ta’amei ha’Minhagim)

Rabbi Fishel Todd

Ups and Downs

It is customary to play Dreidel on Chanukah, whereas on Purim, there is a Minhag to wield a gregor.

The fact that the Dreidel is spun from the top and the gregor is rattled from the bottom symbolises one of the most fundamental differences between the two festivals.

Purim, as is well-known, followed a tremendous turnabout on the part of the people. As the Megilah itself informs us, the entire nation fasted for three days and wore sackcloth and ashes. This is known as ‘Ita’arusa di’Letata’ (an awakening from below), and that is why we hold a gregor from below and rattle it.

Chanukah on the other hand, was not the result of any such effort on the part of Yisrael as a whole (although one cannot deny the Chashmona’im’s self-sacrifice, which certainly contained great merit, but they were a minority group). In that case, the miracle of Chanukah was an ‘Ita’arusa di’le’Eila’ (an awakening from Above instigated by G-d in his Mercy), and explains why we spin the Dreidel from the top.


And this idea also explains a change in text from Chanukah to Purim. On Chanukah, we say in ‘Al ha’Nisim’, ‘You quarreled on their behalf, You judged their judgements and You avenged them’. Whereas on Purim, we say ‘who quarrels our quarrels, judges our judgements and avenges our vengeance’.

This is because on Purim the miracle was the result of Yisrael’s Tefilah and fasting, so it is appropriate to use the first person plural, since Yisrael were personally involved. On Chanukah on the other hand, where Yisrael did not play a major role in the miracle, they are mentioned only in the third person.


Pure Beginnings

Another reason for the eight days of Chanukah (see ‘Why? Because’, down the page) is given by the Beis Yosef. The people, he explains, were all Tamei meis, in which case they required seven days to become tahor, and one more day in order to produce the oil.


Lighting in Shul

The reason that Chazal instituted lighting the Menorah in Shul as well as at home, says the Levush, is because of guests from out of town, who do not have their own home (and the Mitzvah of Chanukah-Lights is ‘Ish Ner u’Beiso’). It is similar to the Takanah of reciting Kidush in Shul, which they instituted for the same reason.

Another reason is based on the Kolbo, who explains that Kidush is recited in Shul so that people who are not conversant with Kidush (at least that’s how it was before the advent of the Sidur) should take their cue from the Chazen in Shul. And it is for that very reason that they instituted Hadlakas Ner Chanukah in Shul.

Yet another reason for lighting in Shul is given by the Rosh. After all, he explains, the Mitzvah is to commemorate the kindling of the Menorah in the Beis-Hamikdash, the location where it was originally lit. So we light it in Shul, which Chazal refer to as a Mikdash me’at (a minor Mikdash).

And based on the same principle, the Seifer Orchos Chayim explains why many communities light in Shul in the morning as well (even though the time to light Chanukah lights is at night-time). It is to accommodate the opinion of the Rambam, he says, in whose opinion, the Mitzvah of preparing the Menorah each morning (‘Hatovas Neiros’) incorporated kindling the lights again. Consequently, since our kindling commemorates the kindling of the Menorah in the Beis-Hamikdash, it is appropriate to commemorate the Mitzvah fully and light them twice, like they did there.

And a final reason for lighting in Shul, again by the Levush, is based on the principle of ‘Pirsumei Nisa’ (the Mitzvah of publicizing the miracle). ‘Because’, he says, ‘reciting the B’rachos communally involves a great publicizing of Hashem Yisbarach, and a sanctification of His Name’, which after all, is the essence of the Mitzvah.

Why? … Because!

Setting the more profound reasons aside, the Avudraham quoting the Yerushalmi, explains that Chanukah had to last for eight days, since the oil had to come from the north of Eretz Yisrael, from a location four days’ journey from Yerushalayim. To be precise, that location was Tako’a, in the territory of Asher, which was known to produce the best oil-growing olives in the country (as indeed the Torah specifically writes in ve’Zos-ha’B’rachah 33:24)

Four days there and four days back make a total of – eight.

Rabbi Fishel Todd

Shulchan Aruch Project

Pearls Rabbi Fishel Todd

Rabbi Fishel Todd

Rabbi Avigdor teaches us that if immorality is uncontrollable, how can we blame society for its descent into wickedness? The fact is that up till recently, and even today, most people are controlling it. The fact is that what’s depicted in the newspapers and in the other media is not a picture of life; it’s a perverted and crippled picture of what’s in the minds of the writers. Actually, many people are living normally; as you walk down blocks and blocks of Irish houses and Italian houses, they’re living more or less normally. They’re living married lives, and they are controlling themselves; otherwise there’d be mayhem, there’d be murder on all sides. Human beings are controlling themselves. Does it mean every Irish man is perfectly perfect all his life? This I wouldn’t say. But in general people are controlling themselves because that is the only way for civilized people to live. And therefore, we can’t say that the world has lost its control. Rabbi Fishel Todd says of course the liberals are doing their best to break down everything. But despite them, human nature abhors disorder; human nature likes a certain amount of decency, and therefore it will continue no matter what they do. Of course we have to try to stop the torrent of wickedness; we have to attempt to abolish pornography and so on, but that doesn’t mean that we’re losing the fight. We’ll never lose that fight; it’s inherent in human nature. There’s no society that ever abolished morality entirely; impossible. The Roman society, even the Greek society, even though they had certain perversions, but they had certain principles; you have to know a society that’s going to break down all the restrictions is going to decay and fall apart. And if America won’t stop this headlong flight into perversion, who knows what’s going to happen. Let’s hope the Italians and the Irish will win out against the Jewish liberals. Jewish liberals are doing the best to ruin America. I say the Jewish liberals – the truth is that the Orthodox Jews should help a little more than they’re doing; the Jewish Orthodox should identify with American scene and they should all join in the fight against pornography, against gays, and against women’s rights which really means immorality; women’s rights mean mixed dormitories in the colleges, mixed barracks in the military. The United States military has already yielded long before the ERA was passed – right now military barracks are mixed. Rabbi Fsshel Todd

And so, it’s up to us to speak up and write letters; we must write to congressmen and protest constantly. And not to vote for liberals! Don’t vote for a liberal! Reagan is running now; it’s an opportunity. He’s a decent man. Of course I’m not going to put an OK on him and say a kosher l’mehadrin min hamehadrin, but as far as goyishe candidates go, everybody should work for Reagan [President Donald J. Trump]. Forget about being a Democrat, forget about your party affiliation, forget about the private deals. Some institutions make private deals with the politicians and they sell their vote or the votes of the Jews; don’t listen to them! Make it your business that the Jewish people should vote for Reagan – he’s more conservative and more decent than the others – because we have to fight for decency. It’s our big job today. Adapted from TAPE # 308 (March 1980) by Yeshiva Pirchei Shoshanim.

Rabbi Fishel Todd

Shulchan Aruch Project

Parsha Vayishev Rabbi Fishel Todd


Rabbi Fishel Todd

Everything Is Planned Above

These are the generations of Ya’akov Yoseph was seventeen years old. As a lad he would feed the flock with his brothers the sons of Bilhah, and the sons of Zilpah, his father’s wives; and Yoseph brought evil reports [about his brothers] to his father. (BERESHIS 37:2)

A valuable coat was once stolen from the Rebbitzen of the famous author of the Chemdas Shlomo. It was subsequently discovered that the thief was one of the people who received a monthly charitable stipend from the Rabbi. Later, the stolen coat was returned by a merchant who admitted that he had bought it from the thief.

When the matter became known, one of the wealthy people of the town spoke with the Rabbi saying, “You see, you always tell us to contribute to charity, and now we see that one of those people who we give to is none other than a lowly thief.”

The Rabbi sighed deeply, called to his secretary and asked, “Do you know where the thief lives?”

“Of course I do,” answered the secretary.

“Well then,” said the Rabbi, “Do not forget to go out to find him next month so we can give him his monthly stipend from the tzedakah fund, since he will probably be too embarrassed to come on his own.”

Just as the Rabbi suspected, the following month, all the other poor people came to get their stipends, but the thief did not show up. The Rabbi reminded his secretary to go call the thief, and promise him that nothing would happen to him if he appeared before the Rabbi. The secretary gave over the message. The thief came, because the Rabbi was known as a tzaddik who would keep his word.

When the thief arrived, the Rabbi said to him, “How could you have transgressed an explicit prohibition of the Torah? I know that you did it because you were in dire need, but still, how could you have committed such a sin? It would have been much better if you had come to me and told me of your plight, rather than committing this sin. I want you to promise me that you will never again do such a thing.”

Rabbi Fishel Todd

After the poor man promised, the Rabbi gave him his regular monthly stipend, and added a bonus to it. (K’TZESHA-SHEMESHBI-GVURASO, p. 154)

The Rabbi viewed the theft as a test designed to determine whether he would become angry, or would recognize that the poor man was in dire straits. Similarly in marriage, many difficult instances arise that are trials for us, to see if we can control our behavior with our spouses.

“These are the generations of Ya’akov, Yoseph.” These generations were born only in the merit of Yoseph. Because of Yoseph, Ya’akov went to Lavan, to marry Rachel. These events were all in anticipation of Yoseph, as it is written, aAnd it was when Rachel gave birth to Yoseph.”2

Who brought Ya’akov down to Egypt? Yoseph. Who sustained them in Egypt? Yoseph. The sea split only in the merit of Yoseph, as it is written, “The waters saw You and they shuddered; You redeemed with Your powerful arm Your nation, the sons of Ya’akov and Yoseph.” 3 Even the Jordan River was split only because of Yoseph.

(YALKUT 140 par. Kesiv)

The midrash is telling us that when the Torah says, “These are the generations of Ya’akov, Yoseph,” 4 the idea is that Yoseph was the reason behind everything that happened to Ya’akov. How is it possible that the most important things that happened in Ya’akov’s life only came to be because of his son? What does it mean that these events were all in anticipation of Yoseph? What do the splitting of the Red Sea and the Jordan River have to do with Yoseph, who had died a long time before either event occurred?

A Jew must understand that he is a link in a chain of generations that began long before his birth and that will go on long after his death. It is very important for him to do the right things, since otherwise he is not only harming himself, but also causing a break in the chain.

Ya’akov realized that everything in his life was part of a chain that had a clear connection with his son Yoseph. This did not minimize his own tasks in life in any way, since if he had failed to perform his own special tasks there would not have been a continuation through to Yoseph. This was not just an incidental connection; rather it was very clear that everything in Ya’akov’s life was intimately tied to the next link in the chain, which was Yoseph.

Our Sages say that the events were put in place in anticipation of Yoseph. This means that everything in Ya’akov’s life was set up by G-d, but the only person who could make these acts ultimately meaningful was Yoseph. From this we learn, that it is not the events of a single lifetime that are of ultimate importance, but rather a Divine plan controls all events throughout the generations.

A person’s life is not in his own hands, rather it is planned down to the most minute detail by G-d. A person thinks that he, alone, is deciding where to work, or where to travel, but in reality all these thoughts and opportunities are implanted in his mind by G-d. That is what our Sages mean when they say, “Everything is in the hands of Heaven except for fear of Heaven.”5 G-d plans all the things that happen to you in your life, except for the choices you make between doing good and evil. Only these decisions are a product of your own free choice.

Who sustained the whole Jewish nation in Egypt? Yoseph. The splitting of the Red Sea was associated with Yoseph, even though he had died a long time earlier. The remains of Yoseph were with the Jewish people when they needed to cross through the Red Sea, and it was the merit of Yoseph that allowed the miracle of the splitting of the Red Sea to occur. The tremendous piety he exhibited when he was alone with Potiphar’s wife, caused such a stir in Heaven, that this merit had the power, generations later, to split the sea. We can learn from here what great power good deeds can yield. Even though Yoseph had died many years earlier, his merit still brought about the redemption of the Jewish people by enabling them to pass through the sea. We should never underestimate our actions, as they can have effects for generations to come.

In the midrash, our Sages say that even the miracle of crossing the Jordan River when the Jewish nation entered the land of Israel, was in of Yoseph’s merit. This is not very well-known information. When Israel passed through the Red Sea the verse says, “And Moshe took the bones of Yoseph with him.”6 But there is no mention of Yoseph in the account of Israel crossing the Jordan River.7 Our Sages however, understood that his merit was the reason for that miracle.

Our Spouses Bring Us Spiritual Tests

Just as Yoseph was linked to all the things that happened to Ya’akov during his lifetime, so too, many things that happen during our lifetimes come about through our relationship with our spouses. We are constantly brought into all sorts of situations that are designed especially for us, to see if we will respect our spouses and treat them with honor. Many such situations are tremendous tests for us, since it is quite easy to criticize or become angry at one’s spouse. Therefore, the trial is much greater than we can imagine and the reward for controlling ourselves is equally great Rabbi Fishel Todd.

The next time your wife is late or dinner is not ready, reflect upon the idea that the whole reason this happened is because Heaven is waiting to see what your reaction will be. The next time your husband is not paying attention to what you are saying, consider that perhaps it is because G-d wants to see if you can control your temper and not become angry. Everything that occurs in life, especially between spouses, happens because G-d wants to give us an opportunity to prove ourselves in order that He can reward us when we succeed. Of course, He will have to punish us if we choose to behave inappropriately.

The trials that confront us at home are much more subtle than trials that we face outside the home. At home, a person feels that he has the right to act any way he wishes. We feel we have the right to be angry at our spouse, since this is not a stranger to whom we must behave courteously. But this erroneous way of thinking stems from the yetzer hara which is constantly trying to trick us. In reality, being at home with our spouses actually requires that we retain at least the same spiritual standards that we strive for when we are away from home. Behaving properly with our spouses is a tremendous responsibility, and we must take it seriously.

A wife’s tears are taken very seriously in G-d’s eyes, and it is a terrible sin to cause one’s wife aggravation. If we realize that all difficulties which we face in life, whether inside the home or out, are trials that were intentionally placed before us by Divne plan, we will be more able to respond correctly. This decision to act properly is what G-d anticipates from us.

Rabbi Fishel Todd

1. Bereshis 37:2
2. Bereshis 30:25
3. Tehillim 77:17,16
4. Bereshis 37:2
5. Bereshis 13:19
6. Shemos 13:19
7. Yehoshua Ch 4