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Vol. 7 No. 27
Dov ben Tuvia z"l
by the Glassman Family - Jerusalem - Efrat - Johannesburg - Edenvale
Reflections on Shabbos Ha'Godol
Adapted from the Roshei Besomim and the Ta'amei ha'Minhogim
Yisroel left Egypt on the fifteenth of Nisan, which fell that year on a Thursday. They shechted the Korban Pesach on Wednesday the fourteenth, and tied it to their bed-posts on the tenth of Nisan, which fell on Shabbos. On that day, writes the Levush, they took their lamb or goat, dragged it on the ground before the very eyes of the Egyptians, and tied it to the legs of the couches on which they would recline when eating, so that they would see it constantly.
When the Egyptians asked them what they were doing (with their gods), they told them that, in four days time, they would shecht them as a Korban Pesach, in accordance with G-d's instructions. Yet the Egyptians (who until then, had had total jurisdiction over Yisroel) were unable to do anything about it. In fact, the miracle lasted four days (from the tenth of Nisan until the fourteenth), reaching its climax on the fourteenth, when the Shechitah finally took place. Nevertheless, the thrust of the miracle was felt most at its inception on the tenth, when the truth first struck the Egyptians and they were utterly helpless to do anything about it. That explains why we only commemorate Shabbos ha'Godol and not the other days leading up to the shechitah.
According to the Kol-Bo, when the Egyptians were told of the Jews' plan to kill all the lambs, they were so infuriated that they immediately took to arms and prepared to attack Yisroel, but to no avail; they were unable to do them any harm, because G-d struck them with terrible illnesses. This occurred on the tenth, and also resolves the difficulty as to why we commemorate the tenth of Nisan, Shabbos ha'Godol, and not the subsequent days of the miracle.
Still More Miracles
Others go even further. They explain that, when the Egyptians confronted Yisroel on the issue of the lambs that they were abusing, they added that, in four days time, they would shecht them and place the blood on the lintel and the door-posts of their houses. This, they explained, would serve as a sign that it was a Jewish house, and that when G-d would smite all the Egyptian first-born, those with the blood on their door-posts would be saved.
The frightened first-born then approached their elders and Par'oh, requesting that they set Yisroel free. When their request was denied, they began a civil war, in which many Egyptians were killed. And that is why Dovid ha'Melech wrote in Tehilim (136:10) "le'Makeh Mitzrayim bi've'chorehem" (to smite Yisroel with their first-born).
Since when do we commemorate the day of the week, and not the date, the commentaries ask? They explain that the miracles were actually sparked off by the fact that it was Shabbos. The Egyptians knew that Yisroel kept Shabbos in Egypt, as the Medrash states, so they found it strange that Yisroel were suddenly seen walking around leading sheep (not a regular Shabbos occupation) and then tying them to their bed-posts (even though tying knots is forbidden on Shabbos). That is what aroused their curiosity, and that, as much as the actual abuse of their gods, is why they queried Yisroel about their actions.
Not To Confuse the Issues
Others explain that Chazal fixed a fast-day on the tenth of Nisan, because that is the date on which (thirty-nine years later), Miriam died. Others again, point out that, on the same date a year later, they crossed the River Yardein, a great day in its own right, due to the miracles that occurred on it. Neither of these however, occurred on Shabbos. So we call it 'Shabbos ha'Godol', to stress that it is the miracles in Egypt that we are commemorating, and not either of the two events that took place forty years later on the 10th of Nisan.
The Big (Long) Shabbos
Yet another reason for Shabbos ha'Godol is offered by the Shivlei Leket. He explains that this Shabbos is memorable due to its 'length'. The people remain in Shul until much later than usual, in order to hear the Shabbos ha'Godol d'roshoh, which normally lasts until close to Minchah - and it is only then that they finally go home. So Chazal referred to it as 'Shabbos ha'Godol', much in the same way as they refer to Yom Kipur as 'Tzom Godol' (Tzomo Rabo), because people are in Shul all day, making the day appear longer than it really is.
The Shabbos of Mitzvos
According to the Pri Chodosh, it is called 'Shabbos ha'Godol' (the Great Shabbos) because it was the first Shabbos that Yisroel, as a nation, was commanded to perform mitzvos.
The B'nei Yisoschor goes further. He refers to the well-known quandary that confronted the Ovos - whether they had the din of a Yisroel or that of a ben No'ach. In the latter case, they would have been forbidden to keep Shabbos fully, since 'a non-Jew who observes Shabbos is punishable by death'. Consequently, they would have been obligated to perform at least one of the Melochos every Shabbos. The first time that they were able to observe Shabbos fully, was the Shabbos under discussion, since they had now officially accepted the yoke of mitzvos (the B'nei Yisoschor himself proves his point from the posuk "Mishchu u'k'chu lochem tzon"). Consequently, the day was truly 'Shabbos ha'Godol' - the first Shabbos that Yisroel observed completely.
The Shabbos of Kindness
It is well-known that 'Godol' in Kabbalistic terms, refers to the midoh of kindness (which is why the first three 'midos' of Hashem - Chesed, Gevuroh and Emes - are expressed by the posuk in Divrei ha'Yomim (29:11) as "ha'Gedulah, ve'ha'Gevuroh ve'ha'Tiferes"). And that is why, in the Amidah, we refer to 'ho'Keil - ha'Godol, ha'Gibor ve'ha'Noro' - which are synonymous with the midos of the Ovos.
Bearing in mind what the commentaries say - that Yisroel was not really worthy of the Exodus and its miracles, and that it was an extreme act of kindness on the part of Hashem (indeed, the very word "Pesach", according to Targum Unklus, means 'took pity') - Shabbos ha'Godol is a most befitting title for the Shabbos on which the miracles of the Exodus were set into motion.
Death and Life
"From the fruit of the mouth of man his stomach will be satisfied; he will be satiated with the produce of his lips" (Mishlei 18:20).
Shlomoh ha'Melech is informing us in this posuk of the immense power of the tongue, both in a positive and in a negative sense. Because if one uses it to speak words of Torah or to rebuke people and to benefit the community, then he is assured of great reward; whereas if he indulges in tale-telling and slander, then his punishment is forthcoming and "his stomach will be satisfied" from his evil-doing.
In this way, the beginning of the posuk "From the fruit of the mouth of man his stomach will be satisfied" refers to the punishment that he is due to receive for speaking loshon ho'ra, whereas the continuation "he will be satiated with the produce of his lips" pertains to the reward coming to the tzadik for using his tongue righteously, through bringing great merit to the community at large.
Indeed, the following posuk is not only directly connected with it, but also serves to elaborate on it. For Shlomoh continues: "Death and life lie in the hands of the tongue, and he who loves it (his tongue) will eat its fruit (reap its reward)" - meaning that seeing as death and life lie in the hands of the tongue, someone who loves his tongue (i.e. who talks constantly) should make every effort to increase his reward by speaking wise words and words of rebuke, truth and peace. In this way, he will eat the fruit of his tongue and merit much reward, because "life lies in the hands of the tongue". (If he does this, the person who tends to speak more than the average, will amass more reward, commensurate with his excess speech.)
The opposite however, is equally true: if he loves his tongue, and uses it to speak slander and loshon ho'ra, the Divine retribution will be terrible and he will eat the fruit of his punishment. It pays therefore, to take great care in what one speaks, because the stakes - either way - are very high.
And the Torah informs us with regard to loshon ho'ra, that someone who is not careful with his words will end up by being stricken with tzora'as. That is why he is called 'a metzora', whose acronym is 'motzi (shem) ra', so that the name of the punishment describes the sin for which the sinner is being punished. He is required to bring a sacrifice in order to attain atonement for the sin of the tongue, and in addition, he can only achieve it through the services of a Kohen (about whom it is written "For the lips of the Kohen will guard knowledge" - Mal'achi 2:7).
(Adapted from the introduction to the parshah by Rabeinu Bachye.)
As Rich as a Pig, As Poor as a Dog
"This is the law of the Metzoro." Whoever speaks or listens to loshon ho'ra, or whoever gives false evidence in court, deserves to be thrown to the dogs (Pesochim 118a).
With this Gemoro, explains the Gro, we can understand the Gemoros in Shabbos (155b), where Rav Popo states that there is none poorer than the dog, and none richer than the pig.
It is a strange phenomenon, he points out, that even though all the mitzvos were given to us by G-d, not all are viewed in the same light by the people at large. Take for example, the la'av of eating non-kosher food (usually referred to as eating 'chazir') and that of loshon ho'ra. Both are la'avin min ha'Torah, yet look how seriously everybody takes the former (to the extent that most people would not enter into a shiduch with someone who eats 'chazir'); yet those same people would not bat an eyelid at entering into a shiduch with someone who speaks loshon ho'ra.
Bearing in mind what we wrote earlier, that someone who speaks or accepts loshon ho'ra desrves to be thrown to the dogs (because his loshon ho'ra is, in the eyes of G-d, like the barking of dog), that is what Rav Popo means what he says "there is none poorer than the dog' - there is no mitzvah that is looked down upon like that of loshon ho'ra, and none that is richer than (the prohibition of eating) a pig - a mitzvah that everyone respects. (Peninim mi'Shulchan ha'Gro)
The Metzoro's Sin
Of all the 'Mechusrei Kaporoh' (the temei'im who were also required to bring a Korban - a zov, a zovoh, a woman who gave birth and a metzoro), the metzoro had the largest (and most expensive) set of offerings to bring (three lambs, and three tenths of an eifoh of flour), as well as the most complex ritual of them all.
This, explains the Eishel Avrohom, is because he was guilty of the terrible sin of loshon ho'ra, all the more if his slander took effect and someone was killed (or came to harm) on account of it.
The Lobe of the Ear, The Right Thumb
and the Right Big-Toe
Some of the blood of the metzoro's guilt-offering was placed on the lobe of his ear, his right thumb and his right big-toe, and some of the oil was placed on the same three locations.
The reason for these three locations, explains the Eishel Avrohom, is because the human body is divided into three parts: the head, the most aristocratic part of the body; the middle section, which incorporates the heart; and the lower section of the body, the most mundane of all (symbolising the three sections of the Mishkon [the Kodesh Kodoshim, the Kodesh and the Chotzer] and the three worlds [the world of the angels, the world of the luminaries, and this world]). That is why the Kohen placed the blood and the oil on the ear, one of the major limbs pertaining to the head, on the right thumb, one of the major limbs pertaining to the middle section of the body, and on the right big-toe, one of the major limbs pertaining to the lower part of the body. By doing this, he resanctified the different sections of the body that he had debased through his sins.
No Portion in the World to Come
Three kings and four ordinary people lost their portion in the World to Come. The four ordinary people were Bil'om, Do'eg ho'Edomi (head of Beis-din in the days of King Sha'ul), Achitofel (head of Beis-din in the days of Dovid ha'Melech) and Geichazi (servant of Elisha), and all four, due to having sinned with their tongues: Do'eg for speaking loshon ho'ra about Achimelech, the Kohen Godol; Bil'om for his advice to Bolok to cause the Jews to sin; Achitofel, for his attempt to have Dovid killed through his advice; and Geichazi, for swearing falsely to Na'amon that Elisha had changed his mind and now wanted the silver and the suits (which he had previously declined to accept).
Making Pesach Cleaning Easy
The title has two implications: the obvious one, short of obtaining various wonder-gadgets that will clean and scrub, wash and scrape at the press of a button, implies finding leniencies, looking for ways out of the hard work that preparing for Pesach entails. But that is not the interpretation that concerns me.
The Rosh in Pesochim writes that Jews are holy because they go so far as to scrub the walls, even though they are certainly not obliged to do so. And the Arizal writes that someone who ensures that not even a tiny measure of chometz remains in his domain (although one has not transgressed if one possess less than a kezayis) is assured that he will not die in the forthcoming year. And if these giants have taught us the importance of going beyond the letter of the law when it comes to Pesach, who would deign to say otherwise?
What I am concerned with is getting into the right frame of mind before starting to work. For you see, by adjusting one's mindset, it is possible to transform chores into tasks, and tasks into pleasures. For example, the same task that one detests doing for a slave-driver, one doesn't mind performing for a good, kind boss, and one will even carry it out gladly for someone that one loves.
By the same token, the same person who considers working twelve hours consecutively beyond his capabilities, will not only manage to work eighteen, but will do it gladly - if he is promised a million dollars at the end of the shift.
So here's my three-point plan to make Pesach-cleaning that much easier, and even enjoyable.
Firstly, to realise just how important Pesach-cleaning is in the eyes of G-d, as we brought earlier from the Rosh - Yisroel are holy (as G-d referred to us at Har Sinai "A Kingdom of Priests and a holy nation"). For so Chazal have said: If only Re'uven would have realized that the Torah would record his attempt to save Yosef from the pit (i.e. how praiseworthy it was in G-d's eyes), he would have taken him out of the pit there and then, in full view of the brothers, placed him on his shoulders, and marched him trimphantly back to his father.
Secondly, to be aware of the tremendous dividends that being totally chometz-free pays - just as we quoted earlier from the Arizal; and besides, the reward is commensurate with the effort, as Chazal have stated in Pirkei Ovos. And perhaps we might add, the higher the stakes, the less painful the effort.
And thirdly, to remember that whaever one does in the service of G-d, should be done joyously, irrespective of time, effort or cost, as Dovid ha'Melech wrote in Tehilim "Serve G-d with joy". To take one's cue from the Kohanim, who considered it an honour to slaughter animals, cut them up, sprinkle the blood, burn the pieces on the Mizbei'ach, carry the spent ashes away from the Mizbei'ach and to stand on guard-duty, because they were serving G-d in His holy house. And they would vie with each other to be the first to serve and to carry the heaviest load ... The message is clear - it is a pleasure to serve G-d, no matter what.
It seems to me that someone who enters into the spirit of Pesach-cleaning with this sort of attitude - privileged to be able to serve Hashem, fully cognizant of the tremendous reward that accompanies this mitzvah, and happy in the thought that he is performing a mitzvah, won't have much of a problem tackling what needs to be done - with relish.
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