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JANUARY 15-16, 2005 5 SHEBAT 5765

Pop Quiz: What was the first misvah given to B'nei Yisrael as a nation?


"This month shall be for you the beginning of the months." (Shemot 12:2)

In our perashah, the Exodus from Egypt reaches its climax as Hashem brings the plague of the firstborn. However, the Torah interrupts the narration and presents a number of misvot. The first is the misvah to sanctify the new moon, which means to declare Rosh Hodesh, the first day of the month. Since this is the first misvah for the new nation, it is a clear indication of its great importance. The Jewish calendar is based on the moon, and it is regulated by the sun. The Torah requires that Rosh Hodesh, the first day of the month, can be proclaimed only by the Rabbinical court. The court declares it on the basis of two witnesses who testify that they observed the re-appearance of the moon. Since the lunar month is only 29 and a half days, the lunar year is eleven days shorter than the solar year. In order to keep the holiday of Pesah in the spring season, the Rabbis add an extra month seven times every nineteen years. This year (5765) has such an additional month.

The great Sephardic sage, Rabbi Hayim Palagi writes that if one is able, he should make a great feast for the hachamim on Rosh Hodesh. It is such a great thing to do that the result will be to merit a month of great financial success. We need to understand this idea. Why is it such a great thing to do? The answer is that it says, "Hahodesh hazeh lachem ??this month shall be for you." This means that the Rabbis were given the control over time and nature. This means that if the Rabbis add a leap month to the year, the year will not conclude until thirteen months have passed. So if a young boy or girl is waiting for their physical maturity to arrive at their birthday, it will be delayed due to the ruling of the Rabbis. So therefore it is a great thing to honor them on the day of Rosh Hodesh which reflects the great power given to them. We make such a meal to show that we believe in that great concept.

One may add that the reason that the hachamim have control over nature is because they themselves rise above their own nature. They give over completely to Hashem all of their desires in order to serve Him. May the one who nullifies his own nature come and control nature. Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Reuven Semah

"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. Rabbi Shmuel Choueka


"And you shall tell your son on that day saying: It is because of this that Hashem did for me when I went forth from Egypt. And it shall be for you a sign upon your order that the law of Hashem may be in your mouth" (Shemot 13:8-9)

We may wonder why, particularly in the chapter dealing with consecrating the firstborn, the "children" would question our spiritual practice. Indeed, there were other misvot which they could have found enigmatic. Rabbi Nissan Alpert offers a homiletic appreciation of this pasuk. The "children" questioned the need for the firstborn to be consecrated from birth, to be immediately inducted in Hashem's service. Would it not have been more appropriate for them to mature both emotionally and spiritually before choosing to serve Hashem? The response to this question is, "It shall be for you a sign upon your hand." As Rashi explains, this refers to the left hand which is weak.

Rabbi Alpert applied this concept as an analogy to the young child who is still spiritually weak and deficient. The educative process should begin when the child's mind is impressionable. This is the Torah's message. The spiritual development of a Jewish child begins immediately at birth and is an ongoing process which continues throughout his whole life. This process is a sublime endeavor in which parents are involved by consecrating their children, inducting them into a noble heritage, and charging them with carrying out Hashem's mandate.

A child is born with a multiplicity of strengths and weaknesses, tendencies and aspirations, proclivities and impulses, which are already integrally etched into his little mind and heart. Any one of these attributes can develop either into a tower of life and happiness or into an abyss of curse and ruin. It depends greatly upon the moral training and guidance he receives at home and later on at school.

The most fortunate children are those whose parents care about their own spiritual and moral development. The respect we show for our own spiritual and moral concerns serves as the most effective incentive for our children to aspire to reach higher goals. (Peninim on the Torah)


Question: Why do we mention the rains (Mashib Haru'ah) in the berachah of the Amidah that discusses revival of the dead?

Answer: Just as the revival of the dead gives life to the world, so too does the rain bring life and sustenance to the world. (Sefer Ta'amei Haminhagim Umkorei Hadinim)


"You will then be able to tell your children and grandchildren my miraculous signs that I have performed among them, and you will know that I am Hashem." (Shemot 10:2)

There seems to be an inconsistency in this pasuk. It starts out saying that you will tell your children about all the miracles that Hashem performed for us in Egypt, and it then concludes by saying that you will know that I am Hashem. Shouldn't it say that they, the children, will know that I am Hashem?

The Torah is teaching us an important message. When a parent teaches his child Torah, he is not only helping his child but he is also benefiting himself. Firstly, by speaking words of Torah to his child and explaining them in a clear and concise manner, he elevates himself and reaches new levels of understanding. Also, the child will often ask questions or often insights that will open up new avenues of wisdom and knowledge of Torah. This is what the pasuk is implying. If we relate to our children the story of the ten plagues and our exodus from Egypt, aside from the fact that we will be teaching our children to recognize the greatness of Hashem, we will also bring ourselves to a greater level of understanding and appreciation of Hashem.

Question: How much time a week do you spend learning or discussing Torah subjects with your children? Do you find that, when explaining it to them and responding to their inquiries, you yourself gain a clearer comprehension of the subject?


This week's Haftarah: Yirmiyahu 46:13-28.

In this haftarah, the prophet Yirmiyahu is sent by Hashem to tell Nebuchadnesar, 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.

Answer to Pop Quiz: To sanctify the new moon (Rosh Hodesh)

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.

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