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Haftarah: Yirmiyahu 7:21-8:3, 9:22-23

MARCH 26-27, 2010 12 NISAN 5770


"And you shall tell your son." (Shemot 13:8)

On the Passover holiday we have a special misvah of telling our children the story of the Exodus from Egypt. We get all geared up to perform this exciting misvah. However, little do we realize that we have a misvah to learn with our children all year round. When we go to shul to pray or to learn, we feel we spent time doing a worthy misvah and it was time well spent. Why is it that sometimes a father has to be convinced by his wife that he needs to spend time learning with his son? Why is it that when a father learns a half hour of the Gemara with his son, it's as if he took out time from his own learning? Just because the learning with his son is perhaps not on the level of his own learning, that is not a reason to keep watching the clock so he can return to his own learning. One doesn't watch the clock when he prays Shaharit or Minhah; nobody times his meals on Shabbat. Learning with one's son is a misvah like all others; we read in the Shema every day, "Veshinantam lebanecha, And you shall study with your son."

Rabbi Shimshon Pincus z"l explains that this is like feeding your child. We all know that we must feed our children healthy food, and we can't leave them to grow up on junk food. If we do, we know it will affect their health in the future when they grow up. It is exactly the same thing when it comes to the spiritual food that we feed them. We should never think, what difference does it make, that fifteen minutes of learning?

The Talmud (Baba Batra 21.) states that in the old days a boy who had a father, he learned with his father. If a boy didn't have a father the boy didn't learn. Then came Rabbi Yehoshua ben Gamla who made a law that every city had to set up a teacher to teach the children. In the beginning there was no such thing as a yeshivah. There is no substitute for a son learning with his father. Take the opportunity at least on Fridays, Shabbat afternoons and vacation time. Feed him good food instead of candy. Shabbat Shalom and Happy Holiday. Rabbi Reuven Semah

"In every generation it is one's duty to regard himself as though he personally has come out of Egypt."

The Peninim Haggadah quotes Harav M. Gifter Shlita who explains that all the events which occurred to Bnei Yisrael were not singular, transitory events that were meant to be immediately forgotten. Every miracle, every incident bespeaks eternity. The events are eternalized in such a manner that when that date on the calendar arrives, the Jew must relate to "then" as if it were "now." Indeed, as the Haggadah says, one must regard himself as though he came out of Egypt. This is not an event of the past; it is occurring in the present. Consequently, one is obligated to recite Hallel even at night, since it is viewed as if the miracle occurred to him personally.

In a similar vein, Rabbi E. Dessler z"l observes that time is not a line that passes above us, but rather a circle through which we travel. Periodically, we return to those events which have been eternalized as a result of the spiritual values with which they have been suffused. During these unique periods, one has the opportunity to interface with the experiences which have consecrated these moments in time. Thus, at the specific time of the year when we remember zeman herutenu, the time of our liberation, we are infused with the spiritual concepts that highlight that moment in time. We are inspired by the kedushah, holiness, of the moment; we are elevated by the experiences as we relive yesiat misrayim.

May we merit to truly experience these feelings during this holiday season and may we be privileged to celebrate Pesah in Jerusalem with the Mashiah speedily in our days, Amen. Happy and Kosher Pesah to all. Rabbi Shmuel Choueka


Hannah's parents had just returned from their first trip to the United States. Filled with curiosity, the young girl bombarded her mother and father with question after question about the lifestyle of those who lived in the far-away place she had heard so much about.

"What do people in America do for fun?" she asked.

"They go shopping," replied Ima.

"And what else do they do?" the little one persisted.

"Shopping, shopping, shopping - Americans are always shopping," was the patient reply.

We might not realize it, but this mother was speaking the truth about our American way of life. We are constantly comparing products, services, medical treatments, and educational opportunities. We pay attention to a myriad of details when we shop around, in order to make the best decisions we can about every aspect of our lives.

Would you pick a doctor because he had a pleasant smile?

Would you buy a car because your brother-in-law's attorney bought that model?

Would you choose a school based on the color of its walls?

Certainly not!

Your decisions are based on detailed research, expert analysis, and reliable ratings. Choosing a doctor, a car, or a school is, after all, an important decision.

Our Sages advise us to "acquire a friend" (Pirkei Abot 1:5). There are many who make this important "buy" based on looks, financial status, and social skills. These criteria may be factors, but we should understand that they don't measure up against the true yardstick of a good friend. Friends must be loyal to fill the needs of their fellows in good times and in bad. Friends must be honest to direct colleagues who may be swerving off the track. Friends must be kind to support others when the going gets tough.

You spend a great deal of time shopping for many of the things you need. When you are in the market for a friend, use your skills to get the product with all the right ingredients. This will lead to a beneficial relationship for everyone concerned. (One Minute With Yourself - Rabbi Raymond Beyda)


"This teaches that the Jews were distinctive there." (Haggadah)

The Ben Ish Hai asks in what way the Jews were distinctive.

The Gemara (Sotah 11b) tells us that the Jewish women would go out to the fields and give birth to several children at a time. Hashem sent angels that raised these children who, after they grew up, returned to their parents' homes. Now, after such a prolonged absence, how did the parents know for sure that these were their children? And later on, how could anyone be certain that brothers and sisters were not marrying each other unknowingly?

The Ben Ish Hai explains that G-d miraculously crafted the faces of the children to resemble exactly those of their parents, in a manner similar to the way in which He fashioned Yitzhak's face to look precisely like that of his father, Abraham.

For this reason, continues the Ben Ish Hai, the verse states that the Jewish people were "distinctive there." We should understand "sham" there, as if it were read "sam", a siman (identifying mark). Hashem in His great wisdom put a distinctive identifying mark on every child so that each parent would know which child belonged to him.

This, then, was the nature of the "distinctiveness" of the Jews in Egypt. (The Sephardic Heritage Haggadah)


"Rabbi Yehudah abbreviated them by their Hebrew initials: D"tzach, Adash, B'ahab." (Haggadah)

According to Rabbi S.R. Hirsch, R' Yehudah's opinion is in contradistinction to "another explanation" earlier in the Haggadah, which grouped the plagues in five groups of two plagues each; R' Yehudah groups them in three, and not five, groups. He points out that the first plague in each group (blood, wild beasts and hail) humbled the Egyptians to the point where they felt the insecure existence of strangers in their own land. The second plague in each group (frogs, pestilence and locusts) deprived them of their possessions and their sense of superiority, reducing them to lowly submission. And the third plague in each group (lice, boils and darkness imposed actual physical suffering upon them. This arrangement of the plagues served as retribution for the Egyptians' oppression of the Jews, which had taken these same three forms, as G-d had foretold Abraham: "They will be aliens in a land not their own. They will enslave them and oppress them.

After the three sets of three plagues, their punishment reached its climax with the tenth plague, the slaying of the firstborn.

Ritva suggests that each group of plagues came to teach the cynical Pharaoh - and the rest of the world - one of the three fundamental principles of belief in G-d. The first set of plagues was intended to establish the existence of G-d the Creator; these three plagues were introduced by the warning "You shall know that I am Hashem" (Shemot 7:17), countering Pharaoh's audacious declaration (5:2): "I do not know Hashem!" This first series of plagues achieved its purpose when, at their end, Pharaoh's magicians were forced to admit, "It is a finger of G-d" (8:15). The second group was to demonstrate G-d's guiding hand in the everyday affairs of man; here the introduction is, "You will know that I am G-d in the midst of the land (8:18). The third group was to show the truth of prophecy; in connection with this group the Torah specifies those "who did not take G-d's word to heart" (9:21).

Within each group of three plagues, only the first two were preceded by warnings to Pharaoh. When he ignored them, the two plagues became "witnesses" that established the intended point, as noted above. The third plague in each series was not preceded by a warning; since the point had been made and proven, the third plague came as a punishment to Pharaoh and his people for not heeding the message of the previous two plagues (Malbim).

R' Bahya notes that the first warning of each set was delivered at the River and the second warning was in the royal palace, because those were the symbols of Pharaoh's arrogance. He regarded himself as the master of the River, which was the source of agricultural like in arid Egypt, and when he was buffeted by a plague, his resistance would be stiffened by the palace, the seat of his power. Therefore, G-d chose those two places to proclaim Pharaoh's downfall and show him that he was powerless to defy the Divine will. (The Sephardic Heritage Haggadah)


"Rabbi Akiva says…two hundred and fifty plagues." (Haggadah)

The Ben Ish Hai asks why there were so many more makkot (plagues) at the sea than there were on dry land, since there were only ten plagues on the land but the equivalent of 250 at the Sea of Reeds.

He answers that the plagues at the sea served midah keneged midah, measure for measure, as a punishment for the extra severity of the labor that the Egyptians imposed upon us toward the end of our exile in their land. Pharaoh had denied his Jewish slaves the free straw that they needed to make the bricks with which they had to construct the storehouses at Pithom and Raamses. On top of all the extra effort that they would now be required to find their own straw, they still had to produce the same number of bricks as before!

Therefore, Hashem repaid Pharaoh in kind: Just as the Egyptian king had magnified the work of the Jews at the end of their servitude, so too G-d magnified the plagues for the Egyptians at the end of the ten plagues. (The Sephardic Heritage Haggadah)


"Whoever has not explained the following three things on Pesah has not fulfilled his duty, namely: Pesah, Matzah and Maror." (Haggadah)

The commentators disagree regarding which obligation is not fulfilled without these words of explanation. Most commentators view this as referring to the obligation to retell the story of the Exodus.

One must explain and elucidate the meaning and reasons for these three commandments in order to fulfill his obligation to tell about the Exodus at the Seder. This is a minimal obligation, even for those who, due to ignorance, are unable to read the Haggadah. According to Ran, the discussion of these three misvot is a necessity in order to properly fulfill one's obligation; however, one fulfills the basic of the Seder even without it.

According to many opinions, these explanations are the conclusion of our answer to the Four Questions. We answer the first question by explaining the significance of the matzah, the second question by shedding light on the important of maror. Originally, as cited by the Mishnah, the third question was: Why is it that we eat roasted meat on Seder night? Thus, the response to this question is, "Pesah". That question was asked when the Temple stood, and the child was questioning why we eat roasted meat on this night. The reply, as given here, was that the Torah commanded that the Pesah offering we eat tonight be roasted.

If this is the case, how do we address the question about dipping that is asked in the Four Questions?

Some commentators say the "Abadim hayinu, we were slaves," section has already clarified the reason for the dippings: We dip in order to remember that we were slaves to Pharaoh is Misrayim.

Until now we explained that the understanding of Pesah, matzah, and maror is a necessity for fulfilling the Maggid obligation. A different approach is taken by Orhot Haim, Abudarham, and others. They explain that Rabban Gamliel teaches that the commandments of Pesah, matzah, and maror themselves are not properly fulfilled without explaining their respective symbolic significance.

Generally, when performing a misvah, one need merely be aware that with his action he is fulfilling the will of G-d, and he need not concentrate on the meaning or purpose of the commandment. Here, however, the Torah states specifically: "You shall say it is a Pesah offering to Hashem, Who passed over the houses of the children of Israel in Egypt, but He saved our households." Thus, the offering and its adjunct misvot must be explained as part of their fulfillment. (The Sephardic Heritage Haggadah)


Hacham Obadiah Hedaya of Aleppo, Syria, gives a beautiful mashal in the Shabbat Hagadol Derashah which appears in Vayikah Ovadiahu.

There once was a king whose only son was captured and imprisoned. The kind did everything in his power to rescue him - and his efforts finally bore fruit, as his son was released. After the prince's recitation of the horrors he had endured, the king decreed that once a year, on the anniversary of his liberation, the prince should make a feast in honor of all that his father had done for him. And so it was - the prince did what his father had bidden him to do.

Years later, the prince set out on a dangerous expedition. Just as before, he was captured, only this time, he was forced to work as a menial laborer in the fields. Many a night he cried when he remembered his father, the king. How he missed him!

As the anniversary of his liberation from the first captivity drew near, the prince found himself in a quandary: What should he do? On the one hand, how could he celebrate this important day in life, being so distant from his father, and now in a new captivity? On the other hand, the king had commanded him to make a feast on the anniversary of the original emancipation day. How could he disobey his father?

He finally decided to honor his father's request and make the commemorative banquet - but that he would begin the affair with a declaration that he was doing so because his beloved father had so commanded him and he would end with the fervent prayer that just as his father had saved him before, so he would save him now.

Eventually the king learned of his son's whereabouts. After inquiring as to the prince's state of mind - whether he seemed sad at not being reunited with his father or was wasting his days in partying and other frivolities - the king was moved to learn that his son did make one large se'udah, only because his father had asked him to. Furthermore, the king was told of his son's solemn declaration and sincere hope for his future redemption and reunification with his father.

Hacham Obadiah concluded that this story is really about us. "Banim atem Lashem Elokechem: You are sons to Hashem your G-d" (Bemidbar 14:1). Hashem, Who is both our Father and our King, took us out of bondage in Egypt. The se'udah that we make on Pesah, even though we are in a new galut, is because the Torah commands us always to remember that Hashem saved us from Egypt. Similarly, we fervently hope that He will rescue us from this galut, quickly in our days.

Only then will our se'udah be entirely filled with the radiant joy of our being together, once more with our Father, our King in Yerushalayim Habenuyah. (The Sephardic Heritage Haggadah)

* * * * *

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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