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APRIL 3-11, 2015 15-22 NISAN 5775


"What is the reason behind the matzah which we eat?" (Hagadah shel Pesah)

What is the precise answer to the question above, why do we eat matzah? If one would look up the pasuk in Debarim (16:3), one would see the exact reason, "Seven days you shall eat matzah, the bread of affliction, because you left Egypt in haste, in order that you will remember the day of your leaving the land of Egypt all the days of your life."

Note that matzah does not commemorate only liberation - liberation is not even mentioned here - but it is to recall the haste, the rush in which we left. What was the rush? Rashi's commentary explains: "The haste was not yours, but Egypt's, as it says, 'and Egypt pressed the people, to hasten to send them out'" (Shemot 12:33). The Egyptians pressed us to leave before they all died from the plague.

This is something that perhaps many of us never thought about. The Torah is saying that the essential point of matzah, more than freedom and more than miracles, is that it is to remember Egypt's haste, and this is something to remember "all the days of your life." Why is this haste the most important thing to remember?

Rabbi Yisrael Miller answers our question with a remarkable insight. We celebrate Shabbat and celebrate Pesah. Shabbat teaches us that Hashem created the world. But Pesah teaches us that Hashem runs the world. But, once we know Hashem runs the world, why do we still need Shabbat to teach us He created the world?

Sometimes a person who believes in Hashem could have the following attitude. "Yes, Hashem can help me find a job - but there are no jobs to be found." Or another might say, "Yes, Hashem can help, but He cannot make my wife love me." Or, "I do have faith that Hashem could help me meet a marriage partner, if I lived in Jerusalem or Brooklyn. But since I am stuck here in the 'sticks' even Hashem does not make something out of nothing!" But that attitude is selling Hashem short. Pesah teaches us that Hashem actively controls. Once we know He controls, then Shabbat teaches us: if the necessary raw materials are absent, He creates. He can make a new solution out of nothing.

On Pesah we eat matzah to recall not only that He liberated us, but to recall how the same Pharaoh who had said, "Never," Pharaoh who had warned Moshe, "Do not come to see me again," it was the same Pharaoh who ended up running through the streets yelling, "Where is Moshe? Moshe, Aharon, leave, go, just as you said, and bless me too." The haste of the Egyptians, the ones who swore they would not let us go, it was they who hastened to comply with the word of Hashem. Hashem, the Creator and the Controller, not only freed us, but He transformed the Egyptian will.

And the Torah commands us to remember this all the days of our lives. Hashem, Who can create a new attitude in Pharaoh, can surely change the attitudes of our employers, and our neighbors and relatives.

In Israel today, no one seems to have an answer as to what Israel should do with its Arab neighbors. The great Rabbis don't seem to come out with a solution. The real answer is that we need Hashem to create a new solution where the Arabs will love us. Something like it used to be many years ago. That's easy for Hashem to do. It's all up to us to return to Him and Hashem will do His part, just like He did in Egypt. Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Reuven Semah

We say in the Haggadah "Arami Oved Avi" - that Laban the Aramite wanted to destroy my father [Ya'akob] and Ya'akob ultimately went down to Egypt. How did Laban try to kill Ya'akob, and what is the connection with Ya'akob going down to Egypt?

We can understand this by remembering that Laban was a very effective sorcerer, steeped in all forms of tum'ah (impurity). The Rabbis tell us that not only did Laban want to hurt us physically, but even spiritually, using magic and impurity, did he attempt to destroy us. He was able to affect us through his daughters Rachel and Leah, Bilhah and Zilpah, because some of his impurity was passed on to us through his children. Hashem, with His infinite wisdom, saw that the only way we would be cleansed from Laban's influence was to go to Egypt and work for all those years, thereby eradicating any trace of impurity from Laban. The Torah calls Egypt kzrcv ruf, the Iron Furnace, and the Rabbis say that the word kzrc (barzel) is an acronym for vtk vpkz kjr vvkc (Bilhah Rahel Zilpah Leah), thereby hinting that the furnace of Egypt was to purify us from any effect passed down to our matriarchs from Laban.

This answers another very fundamental question. We celebrate Pesah as the time of our freedom from Egypt, and thank Hashem for it profusely. However, didn't He bring us to Egypt in the first place? If so, why such gratitude for taking us out? According to the above, Hashem brought us to Egypt so that we would be purified and cleansed from Laban's influence, thereby allowing us to become His nation, untainted by any negative influence. We therefore celebrate Pesah with gratitude to Hashem both for bringing us down to Egypt and for taking us out. We should likewise have full appreciation for everything Hashem does for us, even if we do not see the good in it. Happy Holiday and Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Shmuel Choueka


The surplus of matzah, which has become a way of life for us, is a modern-day wonder. One hundred years ago, when Europe was in midst of a world war, whole communities went without matzah for Pesah. Food was at a premium, and the Jewish community was always at the bottom of the totem pole for receiving aid. As a result, observant Jews often made do with alternative foods for Pesah to replace the precious matzah, which was unobtainable.

One year, the community leaders were able to obtain a small amount of matzah shemurah. What, today, would supply a small family for the Seder night, was to provide an entire community with matzah for Pesah. The community leaders were in a quandary concerning how to divide the pieces. Who would be included, and who would be excluded? As in all venues, each individual had his "people." Finally, after some discussion, they arrived at a consensus: those Jews who, sadly, had waned in their observance would be left out. The reasoning was simple: They were going to eat hamess, leavened products, regardless of the few morsels of matzah that they would receive. So, why bother? Why go to bat for someone who was not even playing?

Nonetheless, they decided to "share" their decision with the saintly Hafess Hayim, z"l. How shocked they were to discover that, after the venerable Sage had listened to their question/decision, he totally blew away their resolution. He said that specifically those unfortunate Jews who were not yet observant - they should be given the precious morsels of matzah! It was expressly their lack of religious observance that made them prime candidates for the matzah. The reason he gave was quite practical: Every kazayit, olive measurement, of matzah which they ate would prevent them from eating a kazayit of hamess! Thus, the more matzah available to them meant that these Jews would eat less hamess on Pesah. The observant Jew, however, would never touch hamess - even if he did not have any matzah. So, they will not have matzah! - nu! Hamess for sure they would not eat.

A number of lessons can be derived from here. First, one does not go to the Gadol last. If one has an issue, he should present it to the Rav/Rosh Yeshivah first, so that he can hear what da'at Torah has to say. The mere fact that the Hafess Hayim 's solution was totally diametrically opposed to theirs is indicative of their faulty approach to the issue.

Second, we see how a true Gadol, Torah leader, thinks. His thoughts, and, thus, his decisions are always about Klal Yisrael, the entire nation - not just the Torah world. Every Jew, regardless of his affiliation - or rejection thereof - is precious. No one may be rejected. No one may be left out.


It seems that when we look forward to a big event we count down towards it in excitement. So why is it that we count up to Shabuot, aren't we excited?

When people are counting down to an anticipated event, it is in the hope that the time in-between disappears; like the engaged couple who are desperately looking forward to their wedding day wish the interim engagement period would disappear. However, the Omer provides us with a special opportunity to spend forty-nine days working on our negative character traits in the build-up to Shabuot when we receive the Torah anew each year. Each day of the Omer is a precious gift and comes with special Divine assistance to help us reach great heights that we would not be able to reach on other days. Therefore, we count up towards Shabuot, because every day is a new opportunity to attain a higher level in our connection with Hashem, as Rav Pincus explains in the following analogy:

If someone were to tell his friend that he was going to give him one million dollars after one hundred days, his friend would be elated. During this waiting period he would become increasingly impatient and think only of the date when he was going to collect the money. However, if the deal was that he would get ten thousand dollars each day for one hundred days until he accumulates the million dollars, then each day would be a day to look forward to. Each day he would be exhilarated as he adds up his earnings and gets closer to his final goal.

The same is true of the Omer, where each day is worth even more than ten thousand dollars; it is worth a stronger connection with the Creator of the world - something that one could never put a price tag on. (Short Vort)

* * * * *

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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