APRIL 2-3, 2004 12 NISAN 5764
We say in the Haggadah 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 "kur habarzel", the Iron Furnace, and the Rabbis say that the word "BaRZeL" is an acronym for "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
"For a seven day period shall you eat matzot." (Shemot 12:15)
The most important symbol in the celebration of Passover is the eating of matzahs. It reminds us that the Jews didn't have time to bake leavened bread when they left Egypt so they baked their dough into matzahs. Yet, on the other hand, the Haggadah tells us that matzah is the bread of affliction, bread that our forefathers ate in Egypt. The implication is that matzahs were food that the Jews ate during the period of Egyptian servitude. The Ibn Ezra and Abudarham say that it was common for slave owners to feed their slaves matzah because it was cheap and filling. The Maharal asks: Why do we celebrate freedom and redemption with a food that reminds us of our enslavement?! Imagine a man who was in prison for ten years who has been fed only dry bread and water during his stay in prison. He is finally released from jail, and his family celebrates with a party. Would they serve dry bread and water to express their joy?
Rabbi Ephraim Nisenbaum explains that we see here an important principle. True victory does not come only with beating our enemy. In order to overcome the humiliation we have suffered at their hands and in order to restore our self-esteem, we must parade the vanquished enemy with pride. The very matzah used against us is held up for all to see that we overcame our enemy.
This idea helps us understand an interesting Gemara (Megillah 6a), that in the era of the Mashiah, Torah will be studied in the theaters and circuses of Edom (Rome). The places that were used for idolatry, immorality and murder and everything that is anti-Torah will be used as places in which Torah is taught. Why is that? Will there be a shortage of places to study Torah? We can think of many places more appropriate for the pure Torah study. But as mentioned before, true victory means more than just conquering the enemy. In the Messianic era, the conversion of institutions once used to mock and scorn Torah into centers for the spreading of Torah will be the ultimate victory.
The day will come when all the movie theaters which screened the "Passion" movie will be Torah centers. The lecture halls of the universities that taught evolution will become great places to hear a class on the perashah. Last but not least, the little town known as Hollywood, the cradle of immorality and gay rights, will become like a Bnei Brak, a great city of Torah. Can't wait! Shabbat Shalom. Tizku l'shanim rabot! Rabbi Reuven Semah
"This is the offering of Aharon and his sons" (Vayikra 6:13)
The offering described in this and the following pesukim are the Havitei Kohen Gadol, a daily morning and evening offering to be brought by the Kohen Gadol, and the Minhat Hinuch of the Kohen Hedyot, a minhah which every Kohen brought upon his induction to the priestly service. In essence these two offerings were the same, except that the Kohen Gadol brought this offering daily, offering half in the morning and the other half in the evening, while the ordinary Kohen brought it once, on the day of his induction into the priestly service.
We can derive an insight from these laws regarding the necessary attitude for leadership. The nature of a human being is such that upon being appointed to a new and superior position, the individual expresses his appreciation of the new obligations that are now placed upon him. As is unfortunately very common, with the passing of time this individual becomes accustomed to his role and gradually develops a complacent attitude to his position. The Torah, therefore, enjoins the Kohen Gadol to offer daily offerings of induction, in order that he may view his position from a perspective of daily renewal so that he will consistently dedicate himself to Hashem's service. With this thesis we suggest a rationale for dividing this offering into two parts. The Kohen Gadol should sense that only part of his goal has been completed, demanding of himself greater perfection in serving Hashem, and ministering to the needs of Klal Yisrael. (Peninim on the Torah)
Question: Why is Va'ani Tefillati recited when taking out the Torah in Minhah of Shabbat?
Answer: Minhah of Shabbat is a very opportune time for prayer (et rason) according to the mystical teachings of the kabbalah. We remind ourselves of this by saying "Va'ani tefillati lecha Hashem et rason," which means, "As for me, my prayer is to You, Hashem. Let it be an opportune time for prayer." (Excerpted from Siddur Abir Yaacob, published by Sephardic Press)
"If he shall offer a thanksgiving offering" (Vayikra 7:12)
One category of offering from which the owner eats the meat is called the shelamim offering. Within that category, there is the korban todah, the thanksgiving offering. Even though the todah is classified as a korban shelamim, it has unique laws regarding its consumption.
The standard shelamim may be eaten for two days and one night, while the todah is only permitted for one day and one night until midnight. The todah also requires the owner to bring thirty loaves of matzah and ten loaves of bread, while the shelamim has no such obligation. Why the differences? Our Rabbis explain that when a person experiences an event for which he should thank Hashem, he should not keep it to himself. Rather, he should make an effort to tell as many people as possible so that everyone will see the Hand of Hashem and how He
protects us in our daily lives. Therefore, the Torah demands that the entire animal be consumed in a short time span together with the many loaves. Since a person cannot conceivably finish it on his own, he will invite his friends and family to join him in his meal. They will certainly ask him the reason for the feast and he will then proceed to tell them about the miracle that Hashem performed for him.
Question: Name one event in your life where Hashem saved you from a possible tragedy. Did you tell the story to your friends and family members?
This week's Haftarah: Yirmiyahu 7:21-8:3 & 9:1-2.
The custom in many communities is to read a special haftarah for Shabbat HaGadol. However, the custom in the Syrian community is to read the regular haftarah for Parashat Sav, which is from Yirmiyahu, and discusses the korbanot. The message, as in last week's haftarah, is that following Hashem's commandments is more beloved to Hashem than all the sacrifices that we could bring.
"Blessed is the Omnipresent, blessed be He. Blessed is He who gave the Torah to His people, Israel, blessed be He. The Torah speaks of four children" (Haggadah)
What is the connection between the four "Baruch's" and the four sons? Each of the four sons has his unique understanding and way of seeing Hashem's influence in the world:
1) The Hacham, with his great wisdom, sees Hashem as "Baruch Hamakom" - the one who causes the existence of the world.
2) The Rasha knows about Hashem, but views Him as a G-d who is removed from the world and, therefore, he blatantly violates Hashem's will and thinks that he can get away from Him. He uses the term "Hu," which is in the third person (which is usually used to refer to someone not present) to indicate his disbelief in individual Divine providence and to assert that Hashem is not personally involved with the world.
3) The Tam is a sincere person who studies Torah and is growing up to become a Hacham (see Avudraham) just as Ya'akob is referred to as "Ish tam yosheb ohalim - a plain man of integrity dwelling in tents [of Torah]" (Beresheet 25:27). He sees Hashem's greatness through his study of Torah and therefore proclaims, "Baruch shenatan Torah le'amo Yisrael - Blessed is He who gave the Torah to His people, Israel."
4) The She'eno Yodea Lishol views Hashem as something abstract and therefore speaks of Him as "Baruch Hu" in the third person. Since he is illiterate in Torah knowledge and does not comprehend the greatness and glory of Hashem, Divinity is something totally alien and foreign to him. (Ki Yishalcha Bincha)
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