17 January, 2019
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Who does not want to do the right thing? We all do. But sometimes we find ourselves in situations where we cannot resist. In a sense we lose control over ourselves. What is the solution?
When the Jewish people came out of Egypt, there was a danger. The easiest route to Israel was via the land of the Philistines. But this itself was the danger. When they would be faced with the threat of war, the Jewish people would maybe change their minds and would want to return, on the easy route, back to Egypt. Therefore G-d did not allow them to travel on the easiest route and instead the Jewish people traveled on a more difficult route making returning to Egypt a harder option (13:17-18).
From here we see a solution to potential pitfalls – avoid the danger! Do what you can to stay far away from a situation that you know that you may not be able to pass the challenge (Rav Dessler – quoted).
In physical matters we can all relate to this. Obviously, when we are waiting for the train we don’t stand right at the end of the platform next to the train tracks. Why not? Because we may get pushed or fall. We are all very particular to keep medicine out of the reach of young children. Why? Because they do not hold themselves back. So too we should do what we can to avoid dangers in moral and spiritual matters.
16 January, 2019
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This week’s parsha, Beshalach, opens with Hashem seemingly “thinking out loud” as to how best to guide the Jewish nation towards their destination, the land of Israel. Should he take them on the shorter route, through the land of the Pelishtim or should he direct towards the longer route, through the desert.
The commentators offer the following insight as to what may also have been the underlying factors which formed the basis of G-d’s “quandary” and thereby leave us with a very important life lesson.
On the one hand, taking the Jews through the land of the Pelishtim was a more rational option, they would be traveling through human civilization with all the amenities that a very large group, numbering somewhere in the region of 2 million people, would need. There would be food and water available for them to buy, shelters for them to rest in etc. However, on the other hand, the Pelishtim were an idol worshiping morally bankrupt society, and perhaps they would be a negative influence on their passing guests. The desert however, posed no spiritual threat but was an extremely uninviting environment through which to guide such a large group.
Hashem’s final decision was that it was worthwhile to take on the physical challenge rather then put running the risk of putting their spiritual growth in jeopardy.
The message is clear: physical advancement should never come at the cost of spiritual decay, it’s simply not worth it- we only get one go!
R’ Ezer Pine
15 January, 2019
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One of the fundamentals in Jewish belief is the belief in Divine Providence – Hasgacha Pratis. The entire world is lead through the laws of nature that Hashem installed in His creation, but the Jewish people is placed above, or beyond, those powers and Hashem deals with us and guides us through Hasgachah Pratis.
The “Chovos HaLevavos” writes that he who trusts other than Hashem, such as in natural events and the “power” of nature, removes from himself the Hasgacha Pratis and he too lives only by the laws of nature.
Rav Dessler points out that this is what the term “Once permission is granted to the destroyer to kill, it does not distinguish between the righteous and the wicked” means. Since many people do not see Hashem in every “natural” occurrence, they only see the “messenger”, they do not have the merit to have special Divine conduct and therefore, regarding them, the “messenger” does not distinguish. Our task is to understand and acknowledge that the messengers are all Hashem, He does not need any messenger. The reason He does act through messengers (such as angels and the laws of nature) is because of us, since we have difficulty in seeing beyond nature.
R’ Adam Philip
14 January, 2019
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We know that there is a concept of beautifying mitzvos – hiddur mitzvos, such as to use a nice lulav. The source of this comes from a verse in parshas Beshalach, that can be understood as, “This my G-d, and I will beautify Him.” Interestingly, Rashi (Bava Kamma 9b) gives as an example of hiddur mitvzah a nice tallis. This example is not mentioned in the gemara (Shabbos). Seemingly, the lack of mention is understood. The tallis itself is not the mitzvah, rather the tzitzis on the tallis are the mitzvah. Therefore it would seem that the concept of hiddur mitzvos, to beautify mitzvos should not be relevant to the tallis, only to the tzitzis (Dvar Avraham – quoted)!
The idea behind the example of tallis for hiddur mitzvah
is that it refers to a tallis used for davining. Since it is worn for the sake of fulfilling the mitzvah of tzitzis, it has the status as an item of a mitzvah and therefore hiddur mitzvah
is appropriate. (Iggros Moshe – quoted)
13 January, 2019
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The matzah, the bread of slavery, is at once the symbol of our slavery and the symbol of freedom. In the Pesach Haggadah it is both “poor bread” and the symbol of how Hashem redeemed us in an instant.
It could be asked why a richer, more tasty cake was not chosen as a symbol of our redemption from the bitter slavery of Egypt. The answer is that we did not cease to be slaves with our redemption. As the Gemara (Megillah 14a) says, commenting on the verse (Tehillim 1131), “Praise God, give praise, you servants of Hashem:” “Originally we were slaves to Pharaoh; now we are slaves to Hashem.” We did not emerge from slavery to freedom; we remained slaves with a new master.
The Jew is not free. “Frei” is the password of alienation from Judaism. The Jew is the model slave, accepting the yoke of the kingdom of Heaven, and unequivocally yielding to his master, the Master of the Universe, Who he serves with unswerving dedication. After our redemption, we continued to dine on the bread of slavery to emphasize that our status as slaves had not changed.
Our freedom is the freedom to be God’s slaves. And it is this servitude which is the ultimate freedom. Freedom is total immersion in Torah, total dedication and obedience to God Himself. Only when the Jew is able to express his deepest inner will, the thirst to do God’s will, is he truly free. He is no longer a slave whose inner will is suppressed and stifled by the “se’or sheb’issa“-literally, the yeast in the dough, and figuratively, the yetzer hara with its infinite array of desires and lusts that wrench one from submission to God’s will.
Subjugation to the nations of the world, whether physical or cultural subjugation, is enslavement, for it suppresses our ability to express our inner will, to come close to Hashem.
(Rabbi Zev Leff)
11 January, 2019
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ברוך אברהום בן מרדכי
The endgame is almost in sight. Pharoah’s persistent refusal to emancipate the Jewish people would soon come to an end. The relentless destruction of this great nation of Egypt would soon reach its zenith, but not before three last plagues would descend upon Egypt. Three last manifestations of Hashem’s absolute power and dominion over all of creation. The plague of locusts was about to engulf the land and Hashem reveals that He will harden Pharoah’s heart so that he will not grant the Jews freedom. Moshe is given a message to transmit to Pharoah, warning and rebuking him saying “Until when will you refuse to be humbled before Me?” And it is here that we come to the question. For if at this point Pharaoh was acting due to the hardening of his heart by Hashem, how could Pharaoh be blamed for lacking humility? His free will was removed. He had no choice in the matter!
How Hashem deals with us is a direct response to the decisions we make. And if we choose to create a new set of circumstances, by making choices that change us, Hashem will affect our lives according to those choices. The hardening of Pharaoh’s heart was not a reaction to one crime performed, but was rather the culmination of years of malevolence that led to this moment. Hashem taking away his free will was due to Pharaoh’s repeated and resolute rejection of Hashem and anything other than his own divinity. But were Pharaoh to make a change, were he to subjugate himself to G-d, this new state of affairs could lead to a ‘softening’ of his heart and a possibility of atonement. This path was still open to him and this was the admonition that was directed at him. “When will you come down from your throne and admit to My true dominance of everyone and everything? Were you to do that, the gates of repentance may yet be open and the calamity that lay ahead perhaps averted.”
There are many roots within our soul that cause us to sin and prevent us from changing, but none perhaps as prevalent as pride. Be it an arrogance that will not allow us to admit our faults when highlighted by other, or the egotism that stops us admitting we were the ones to have done wrong, when we know deep down that it is entirely our fault. Pride has the powerful ability to grab hold of our reasoning and mold it according to the will of our own self-importance. If we cannot concede that we are the ones to blame, we must look deep within ourselves to determine if this is because we truly believe in the integrity of our claim, or are we simply unable to tolerate a blow to our self-esteem. We may be held back from our true potential simply because of a lack of humility and a blindness to our own conceit. So tragic when the thing impeding us is solely ourselves.
*May this Shabbos reveal where are true motives lie*
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10 January, 2019
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When the Jewish people were about to leave Egypt, they did not even have time to allow their bread to bake. They rushed out and could not delay at all (12:29). On a deeper level it has been explained that the Jewish people were on the 49th level of impurity. Any further exposure to the Egyptian lifestyle would have caused the Jewish people to drop to the 50th level – the point of no return! There would be no distinction between a Jew and an Egyptian. Redemption would then not have been possible.
Lets investigate a little. The Jewish people in Egypt were distinct in their language, their names and their clothes. They spoke a different language, they had Yiddishe names and they dressed differently; and they were only in Egypt for 210 years! Despite this, their Yiddishkeit was in serious jeopardy. It was about to die. After the Jewish people received the Torah, they have been in exile for close to 2,000 years and yet they are still alive! The Torah is the protection. (Oznayim L’Torah)
9 January, 2019
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This week’s parsha, Bo, contains the continuation of the story of the Jew’s exodus from Egypt.
Verses relating to this episode are famously quoted by the author of the Pesach haggadah with regards to the section of the “4 sons”.
Many of the commentators raise the difficulty that at first glance, the comment of the rosho– the wicked son and that of the chochom, the wise son, appear almost identical! Why is a reprimand appropriate?
After closer inspection a difference of significance can be found.
There is one word which can be found in the questions of each of the sons with the exception of the rosho, “mochor”- tomorrow.
The Torah prefaces the chochom‘s question with the introduction ” when your son asks you tomorrow, saying…”.
The chochom has questions which is fine, more than fine, questions are great…. but as long as the questions are tomorrow, that is to say that his questions are not a prerequisite to his Torah observance.
We are a nation who were singled out and chosen by Hashem because when offered the Torah, we exclaimed ” we will do” before “we will hear”. We recognized that whether we understand or not, one thing is clear- G-D loves us and only wants what is best for us, therefore we can be confident that practice of His Mitzvos is the correct thing for us to do.
The rosho doesn’t have questions, he has an agenda.
Questions have answers, answers don’t have answers.
R’ Ezer Pine
( Based on the sefer ” shemen hatov “)
8 January, 2019
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The Rebbe of Klausenberg suggests to learn Orach Chaim siman 231 during the days of Shovavim (Shefa Chaim, letter 48/24). This siman teaches that all our daily activities should be with the intention to serve Hashem. The Shefa Chaim writes to study this siman very carefully, and make the words penetrate our heart. For example, the Mishnah Berura writes that he has seen people who would verbally announce before they ate, that they wish to eat and drink in order for them to be healthy and strong for the sake of serving Hashem. According to that, writes the Piskei Teshuvos, that every mundane activity that we preform, if we have in mind that we do this in order to better serve Hashem, everything becomes a mitzvah and causes heavenly shefa (abundance) of life to descend into the world, and the holy Zohar writes that all the commandments, both Torah and rabbinic (DeOraisa and DeRabanan) are ways to reach connection (dveikus) with Hashem through our actions. R' Adam Philip
7 January, 2019
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“My retzuah shel yad (strap of the hand tefillin) is somewhat stretched and curled in the spot where I tighten the strap to my arm. Is this a problem?”
The required width of the strap is approximately 1cm (9mm according to R’ Chayim Naeh, 11mm according to the Chazon Ish). You say that your strap is “stretched and curled.” Well, there is a great halachic difference between the two. If your strap is stretched, and less than 1cm wide, it is now too narrow. A new one should be purchased. If, however, the strap is curled in such a way that one could , with his fingers, uncurl the strap to a width of 1cm or more, the strap is kosher and need not be replaced.
(Inside םת”ם – A Complete Buyer’s Guide by Rabbi Reuvain Mendlowitz)