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Haftarah: Yirmiyahu 46:13-28

JANUARY 30-31, 2009 6 SHEBAT 5769

Pop Quiz: Which unkosher animal's first born has to be redeemed?


"And it shall be that when your children say to you, 'What is this service to you?'" (Shemot 12:26)

As we know, every year during our Passover Seder we read in the Haggadah about the four sons, the wise son, the wicked son, the simpleton son and the son who doesn't even know how to ask. The verse quoted above is the verse that is attributed to the wicked son. However, the wording of this verse, as well as the others, are so similar that many commentators of the Haggadah wonder why the wicked son is so terrible for asking his question. Rabbi Aharon Kotler z"l writes that the wicked son actually tries to hide his true intentions. The only way to understand his true intentions is to look deeply into his words. The Haggadah says "Hacham mah hu omer," which translates, "What does the wise son say." However, it also can be translated to say, "The wise son says what he is," meaning, if you study closely his words you can see he is the wise son. Similarly, if you study closely the words of the wicked son, you may detect his wickedness.

Rabbi Frand quotes the Shemen Hatov who points out that although there is not much deviation in the words used by the three children, there is a deviation in the timing of the question. The Torah says that the wise and simple sons ask their questions "mahar- tomorrow." In the verse regarding the wicked son, on the other hand, we do not find the word "mahar." This seemingly slight discrepancy is very significant. Knowing when to ask questions is a definitive trait of the Jewish nation. Jews perform misvot first, even if we do not understand them, and then we examine them. The Torah predicts that Pesah preparations will arouse curiosity in our children. The wise and simple sons will obediently perform their chores and share in the Pesah preparations. They will have questions, but they will realize that first we fulfill the misvot and then we can ask our questions. The questions can wait until "mahar." One child is not willing to wait until tomorrow. He wants his answers now. If you can't answer his questions now, he is not willing to go along and perform the misvot. He is missing one of the basic tenets of Judaism, the ability to fulfill misvot without understanding them.

This sounds pretty serious, but is he a rasha for this? R' Moshe Feinstein adds an additional observation. Notice in the verse for the wise and simple sons, the wording is singular, but the rasha is in the plural. The wise asks for himself because he has an honest question. The rasha bands together many before he asks in order to cause others to be wicked like him.

As we said above, it is imperative to listen as children speak. We can discover their true nature and intentions. This will enable us to help them to develop and grow on the right path. Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Reuven Semah

One of the most important aspects of Judaism is remembering the Exodus from Egypt. Indeed many misvot were given to us just so that we can remember the redemption, as we say in many of our prayers, "zecher lisiyat misrayim - a remembrance of the coming out of Egypt." But we must remember not only the actual Exodus, but also the technical aspects which Hashem did to make the miracle more complete. The perashah tells us that during the plague of the first born, when so many Egyptians died, there was no barking of any dogs that night. The Rabbis say that when the Angel of Death comes to a city, G-d forbid, the dogs sense it and bark furiously. But here, Hashem made a miracle and didn't allow the dogs to bark, which was a natural consequence. The reason is so that the Jewish people should not be scared by a sudden bark. Did you ever walk near a house when all of a sudden a dog barks and frightens you for a moment? The Jewish people were spared that small discomfort

As we remember the Exodus from Egypt, we should always remind ourselves of the many kindnesses Hashem did to make our journey more pleasant. Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Shmuel Choueka


"And Hashem gave the people favor in the eyes of Egypt so that they lent them [the gold, silver and garments], and they despoiled Egypt" (Shemot 12:36)

Rabbi Ya'akov Kanievsky, the Steipler, commented that this serves as a lesson that Hashem determines people's finding favor in the eyes of others. Logic would dictate that after the Egyptians suffered so much because of the Israelites, they would never lend them anything, especially not precious vessels of gold and silver. Nevertheless, the Egyptians were willing to lend their prized possessions without any arguments or negotiations. The Israelites clearly saw that it was solely because of Hashem that they found favor in the eyes of the Egyptians.

There are people who are hesitant about asking others for favors. They are afraid that the other person might refuse. They would consider this refusal a personal rejection and a blow to their self-esteem. Because they evaluate someone's refusal to help them as a major problem, they are filled with anxiety about the thought of making requests. This prevents them from assertively asking for things they need for themselves, and they are unable to approach others to ask them to contribute to worthy causes. But once you internalize the awareness that whether or not you find favor in the eyes of another person is dependent on the will of Hashem, your whole attitude changes. You will no longer fear asking any person for anything that is considered proper according to the dictates of the Torah. Especially when you are asking someone to help a worthy cause, you will feel comfortable. You know that even if there seems to be no chance that the person will give you what you ask, Hashem might still cause him to agree. Of course, you will not make requests that will cause others pain or discomfort. But when it is proper to make a request, fear will never stop you. (Growth through Torah)


"And you shall tell your son on that day, saying, 'It is because of that (which) Hashem did for me when I went out of Egypt'" (Shemot 13:8)

A father has the holy obligation to educate his child, as well as to serve as a paradigm of guidance and inspiration to his child. Just as parents are required to provide for their child's physical needs, they must also be vigilant in sustaining them spiritually. Various techniques have been developed for the appropriate manner in which to educate children.

The Rambam cites Abraham Abinu's unique approach to reaching out in order to educate the members of a pagan society concerning belief in Hashem. Abraham had the ability to relate to each person according to his individual level of understanding. The Rambam expands on this idea in regard to the misvah of telling the story of the Egyptian exile and exodus. First, he emphasizes the importance of "vehigadta, telling" your son, and not waiting for the child to "ask." Second, one should focus on the "l'bincha, your son," in accordance with his particular aptitude. In closing, the Rambam states, "Everything is dependent upon the son's level of understanding."

Another aspect of Abraham's unique approach to education was his preemptive involvement in the educational process. We find that Abraham and Iyob were both great sadikim. Although Iyob's attributes were impressive, they were nevertheless insufficient to render him the Patriarch of our nation. We may suggest that the difference between them may be derived from the Torah's characterization of their distinctive relationship with their offspring. Regarding Abraham it is stated, "For I have known him to the end that he may command his children" (Beresheet 18:19). Abraham's attitude towards his children's education was to direct them in the correct way of life from the onset, before they had the opportunity to deviate from the prescribed path. In contrast to this orientation, we may note the pasuk's description of Iyob's attitude, "Perhaps my sons sinned and cursed Hashem in their hearts" (Iyob 1:5). He offered sacrifices and penance for his sons' misdeeds only after they had deviated from the prescribed path.

Education must begin at home at a tender age. As it says in Tehillim (127), "As arrows in the hands of a warrior so are the children of the youth." Just as an archer carefully adjusts his aim prior to releasing the arrow, so too, should be the educational process of children. Prepare them before they are independent, make the necessary adjustments before it is too late. As the archer doesn't foolishly claim a lack of time or patience as an excuse for the lack of preparation, neither should parents use this apologetic to absolve themselves of their ultimate responsibility. (Peninim on the Torah)


Penal codes around the globe vary when it comes to sentencing convicts. Which punishment is appropriate for which transgression? It depends. The severity of a verdict is generally matched to the crime, based on the mores and sensibilities of a particular society.

Once criminals are places within the penal system, jail keepers and wardens are authorized to impose penalties on inmates who do not comply with prison rules. The one punishment that heads the list in severity worldwide is solitary confinement. Second only to capital punishment, isolation - being cut off from human interaction - is the severest of all disciplinary actions. The Talmud says, "Either a study partner or death" (Taaneet 23a). The Gemara emphasizes the human need for companionship and interaction by stating that a person who does not have a study partner might as well not be alive.

We like interaction with others.

In today's fast-paced, wireless society, contact with others is a constant. The need to be in touch with people and information has been satisfied by a variety of ingenious gadgets, from beepers to cell phones to wireless Internet devices that can fill you in on late-breaking stories in the world of news, weather and sports. You are never out of touch, and never alone.

Constant interaction, however, is not good. During a typical day filled with unwelcome intrusions, you barely have time to think. You cannot plan a simple schedule and follow it without interruption. Whatever the hour, wherever you may be, there is someone calling your number and clamoring for your attention. Private time - a minute with yourself - is a rare commodity.

The Mesillat Yesharim suggests that you spend a few minutes each day evaluating self-improvement. "How am I doing?" is a question you must ask yourself each and every day. But you must find some private time to answer the query.

You may not realize it, but very often you prevent yourself from cashing in on valuable time alone. How often do you get in a car and instantly invite a radio personality into your life to occupy your mind and pass the time? How impatient do you become while waiting for a bus or train? Does time spent sitting in traffic get your goat? Do you give up free-thought time in a doctor's waiting room by reading a newsmagazine that is six months old? If you answered yes to any of the above, you are wasting the most valuable time of the day - your time in "solitary confinement."

Next time you are free of outside intrusions, use the time for productive self-evaluation and concrete planning. There is nothing as valuable as a minute with yourself. Don't waste it! (1 Minute With Yourself - Rabbi Raymond Beyda)

Answer to Pop Quiz: The donkey's.

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.

Call to 646-279-8712 or email (Privacy of email limited by the email address)

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