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JANUARY 8-9, 2005 27 TEBET 5765

Rosh Hodesh Shebat will be celebrated on Tuesday, January 11.

Pop Quiz: What was miraculous about the hail that fell in Egypt?


"Go to Pharaoh in the morning, behold he is going to the water." (Shemot 7:15)

Rashi tells us that Pharaoh would rise very early each morning to relieve himself in the Nile so that people would think he is a G-d and doesn't use the facilities all day long. Imagine the discomfort he had all day just so he could make an impression! Remember the '60's when people would drive in the sweltering heat without air-conditioning and still have the windows closed so that others thought they had? Of course, this is absurd; we would never do such a thing!

So how come we still make affairs that we can't afford? Why do we put ourselves in debt just so others can comment on our occasions? People always ask, why can't the Rabbis do something? Let's have guidelines for our own benefit. But will everyone listen? Will someone be the first to show that we don't have to impress others and fall behind in our payments to people we owe!

If we read about Pharaoh and say how silly to be uncomfortable just for appearances, shouldn't we take the lesson to heart and really do something about it? Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Shmuel Choueka

"They were the ones who spoke to Pharaoh...this was Moshe and Aharon." (Shemot 6:27)

This verse seeks to convey to us that as Moshe and Aharon rose in stature, their importance did not have a negative impact on their righteousness or humility. Rashi explains that they remained the righteous Moshe and Aharon throughout their mission. In last week's perashah, we mentioned the verse, "and Moshe grew up and went out to his brethren" (2:11). Although Moshe could have pursued a life of honor and wealth, he left it in order to seek out his brothers. Imagine the strength that he gave to the Jewish slaves as he entered the mud pits wearing his royal robes! We find a similar reference to Israel's next leader, Joshua. Following the song Ha'azinu at the end of the Torah in the Book of Debarim, he is called "Hoshea bin Nun." Rashi explains that this was symbolic of his humility. Although his name was changed years ago to Yehoshua, he continued to see himself as Hoshea - the person he was prior to his appointment.

"Ish Lere'ehu" brings this great story: A needy Jew once traveled to Frankfurt to solicit financial help from Baron Shimon Rothschild z"l. When he arrived in town, he asked a man for directions to the baron's house. Eager to help the man who had come all that way to see Baron Rothschild, the man offered to escort him to the baron's residence. As they approached the mansion, the visitor, realizing that his escort was a very helpful person, asked for another favor. "You know, I'm tired and perspiring from the long trip. Perhaps it would be a good idea if I showered and freshened up before my meeting. Would you be so kind as to show me to the nearest bathhouse?" "Of course," replied the man with a smile, and he took him to the bathhouse. Once there, the man even went so far as to help wash the weary traveler, and then left the man to finish on his own.

Feeling clean and refreshed, the needy man made his way back to the mansion, and the doors were immediately opened for him. He was quickly ushered into the baron's meeting room. Sitting in the plush armchair, waiting to greet him, was none other than the man who had escorted him down the street and even helped him wash himself. As wealthy and important as he was, it was not below Baron Shimon Rothschild's dignity to personally help out a needy Jew. Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Reuven Semah


"And I will harden the heart of Pharaoh" (Shemot 7:3)

We are taught that every person has before him two paths: the path of good and life, and the path of evil and death. One of our prime tenets of faith is that we have the freedom to choose between these contrasting paths. Pharaoh was evidently so evil that this opportunity was denied to him. There is a divergence of opinions among the commentaries regarding this denial.

A unique insight offered by Rabbi Simcha Zissel of Kelm sheds light upon this problem. As Hashem delivered the plagues, Pharaoh was slowly developing an intimate and profound understanding of the awesome powers of Hashem. In order to maintain the balance of free-will, Hashem had to harden Pharaoh's heart.

Rabbi Yaakov Kamenetzky expanded on this idea in a lecture to Torah educators. He explained that the Torah's concept of free-will does not give one license to blindly follow his natural instincts, unconstrained by Hashem's protective counterbalancing influence. To have freedom of choice means to maintain a perspective of balanced alternatives. Where man is subject to his inherent passions, Hashem provides a force to counteract this coercion. If man were not to have Divine assistance, he could not resist the constant temptations catalyzed by his animalistic instincts.

Rav Kaminetzky stated that Torah educators are Hashem's vehicle for providing Jewish children with this counterbalance. Jewish education provides the opportunity for a Jewish child to study Torah and live a Torah way of life, enabling him to experience the balancing alternative to base instincts. Jewish education provides a necessary assurance of a child's spiritual freedom. To deprive a Jewish child of his right to a Torah education is tantamount to withdrawing his freedom of choice. (Peninim on the Torah)


"The wheat and spelt were not damaged, for they were late ripening" (Shemot 9:32)

Rashi explains that since they were late ripening, they were soft when the hail struck and were able to bend with the wind. This flexibility on their part enabled them to bounce back and they were not uprooted.

This idea has practical applications. We find in the Talmud (Ta'anit 20b) the statement that a person should always be as soft as a reed and not as hard as a cedar tree. In Abot D'Reb Natan, we find an elaboration of this theme. When a strong wind comes, a reed bends in the direction of the wind. Because of this ability, although it bends it does not become uprooted regardless of how strong the wind is. A cedar tree, however, does not bend at all. A soft wind which moves the reed has no effect at all on the mighty cedar. But when there is a powerful wind, the cedar breaks and falls.

Rabbi Chayim Mordechai Katz, Rosh Yeshivah of Telz said in the name of Rabbi Yosef Leib Bloch, author of Shiurai Da'at and Rosh Hayeshivah of Telz in Lithuania: A person needs to be very strong in his principles and ideals - so strong that no power on earth should make him veer from the truth. Nothing should uproot him from his values. But the way to do this is to be like the reed. A person needs softness and flexibility when talking to others. Talk in a kind and gentle manner. This flexibility in approach should be in conjunction with a firm base in Torah values and ideals. A person who is obstinate and inflexible when talking to others might seem to be stronger. But that is an illusion. Such a person can be broken easier. His lack of flexibility will cause that if he is moved he will be entirely broken. His apparent strength is really a weakness. Softness and gentleness combined with persistence in keeping one's principles is the approach that will be victorious in the end. (Growth through Torah)


"The river shall swarm with frogs which shall go up and enter your home...and into your ovens." (Shemot 7:28)

During the second plague, the frogs swarmed all over Egypt. The frogs were everywhere, even in the ovens of the Egyptians. The Gemara (Pesahim 53b) teaches that the frogs that entered the ovens sanctified the name of Hashem by showing that they were prepared to burn in the ovens simply to fulfill His command.

The Darchei Mussar points out that the frogs were commanded not only to go into the ovens, but all over Egypt. No specific frog was commanded to jump into the oven, so technically any frog could have said, "No way! Not me! Let some other frog jump into the oven! I'll hang out here in Pharaoh's bed." But still, some of the frogs took it upon themselves to see to it that Hashem's word would be fulfilled.

When a chance to perform a misvah arises, we should seize the opportunity rather than delegate it to someone else. By accepting the responsibility upon ourselves, we show Hashem that we are happy to perform His misvot. This will bring us special berachah from Hashem. When the plague ended, all of the frogs died except for the ones that had jumped in the ovens. Hashem allowed those frogs to live. Ironically, the action that would have been expected to kill the frogs actually gave them life. Who knows which misvah will do the same for us?

Question: When a sedakah case comes up, do you feel the need to pitch in or would you be satisfied if someone agreed to cover the entire expense? Do you actively take part in your children's upbringing or do you delegate it to the yeshivah and to the housekeeper?


Question: Why do we put our feet together when reciting the Amidah?

Answer: 1. It is taught in Yehezkel that angels stand on one leg. When praying the Amidah, we should remove all outside thoughts from our minds, and stand before Hashem like angels.

2. This demonstrates that we have no desire to run after anything that is contrary to Hashem's wishes. (Sefer Ta'amei Haminhagim Umkorei Hadinim)


This week's Haftarah: Yishayahu 66:1-24.

The haftarah begins by saying that Hashem will gather all of Israel from the nations among whom they are scattered. It then goes on to prophesize about the downfall of Egypt in Nebuchadnesar's time. Pharaoh, who claimed to be a god, will be conquered by Nebuchadnesar, and all the wealth of Egypt will be looted. In our perashah, Hashem also says that he will take B'nei Yisrael out from under the burdens of Egypt. It also begins to tell of the retribution to Pharaoh and Egypt. The first seven of the Ten Plagues occur, and the process which will lead to Egypt's downfall and Israel's redemption begins.

Answer to Pop Quiz: It was a ball of ice with fire inside.

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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