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Moreinu v'Rabbeinu Maran Rosh Hayeshiva
Rav Chaim Ozer answered with his famous parable: "as long as the grandfather sits at the head of the table, all the children and grandchildren seated at the table acts and behaves differently." The grandfather does not need to raise his voice or threaten "I'm going to send you to your room." The mere presence of the grandfather at the head of the table has an effect on everyone. Rav Chaim Ozer told the Chofetz Chaim, "we need you in Europe -- not to speak, not to write, not to give classes, but we need you to sit at the head of the table." As long as the grandfather is seated at the head of the table, all the children act differently.
This is our situation today. As long as we saw the grandfather sitting at the head of the table, we all acted differently. Of course there were times when he saw things happening and he acted to correct what needed correcting. But even his last years when he was mostly confined to his house, still we had our grandfather sitting there keeping everyone in line. Just seeing him sitting there had a tremendous influence and everyone acted accordingly. Now that our grandfather is no longer with us, we must sit and contemplate how we should proceed. We must study his ways and see what we can take from him. A little of his conduct, his instructions, a little of what he taught us, so we can take from it for the future.
Let us try to understand who this great grandfather of ours was. Two luchos habris were given to us. Each luach was attached to the other, and they were given together as one. Bein adam lechaveiro and the bein adam lamakom. The maggid in Beis Elokim tells us a tremendous chiddush. Both luchos were written on both sides and the words filled the entire luach. If you study the words you find that the side reflecting the bein adam lamakom had more words than bein adam lechaveiro. In order that both luchos be equally full, the side with the bein adam lechaveiro was written in large letters. This remarkable fact contains a very important allusion for us. There is a very important message for us. Bein adam lechaveiro must be big! Large letters! Additionally, the bein adam lechaveiro cannot be separated from the bein adam lamakom, and the bein adam lamakom cannot be separated from the bein adam lechaveiro. Of course one needs the bein adam lamakom first in order that the bein adam lechaveiro be entirely according to daas Torah and halacha. There is no new invention of bein adam lechaveiro. It is entirely included in the bein adam lamakom. This is what we must strive for. To make our bein adam lecheiro solidly enrooted in the bein adam lamakom. Not to do favors for people because "what can I get out of it." But to realize that bein adam lechaveiro is just as great, if not greater (larger letters), than bein adam lamakom.
Tangible EmunaCiting the Ramban above, R. Shlomo Brevda, shlita, (Leil Shimurim, p. 10, and in several lectures) comments that the Ramban's source is the Gemara (Makkos 23b) "R. Simlai explained, 'Moshe was given 613 mitzvos on Mt. Sinai.... Chavakuk came and summarized them all in one - "A tzaddik lives in his emunah."'" The Vilna Gaon (Mishlei 22:19) explains that this is referring to bitachon. Moreover, he comments that the main reason the Torah was given to the people of Israel was that they put their trust (bitachon) in Hashem.
"A tzaddik lives in his emunah." This means that a real tzaddik is not someone who believes with his heart and announces with his mouth. Rather it is one who lives his whole life with emunah.
The purpose of the Exodus from Egypt was to enable Israel to receive the Torah. But not, of course for an imaginary freedom allowing a life of unrestrained debauchery. Rather the goal was the dominion of the soul over the body. Torah supplies true freedom.
The fundamental basis of all 613 mitzvos is bitachon - active faith. Without active faith Torah and mitzvos cannot endure. Therefore Hashem came to the Children of Israel in Egypt, where they were sleeping (a state of potential faith), to awaken them into active faith - man's purpose in this world. This was the only way they could receive the Torah and insure that it would have any permanence.
Each year we celebrate the Pesach Seder. The role of the Seder is to study the Exodus and reawaken the same faith within us. In order to accomplish that, one must clearly visualize the Exodus, and truly see that Hashem is master of the world. Of course all of us have emunah. But it is more of an intellectual or potential emunah. It hasn't yet reached the point where it is internalized to the extent that we live it! Visualization is a very powerful tool to create active emunah. I remember when I was a young bochur. The Mir Yeshivah had just come to America from Shanghai. They allowed in only a few American boys, as they weren't yet sure whether they were staying in America. I was one of about 15 young boys they allowed in. The older talmidim were all well versed in the Talmud and Halachah. R. Yechezkel Levenstein was the mashgiach. He was totally steeped in yiras Shamayim, through and through. The alter Mirrers (the old-timers from the Mir) were used to his vivid style, but for us Americans it was, to say the least, new - if not a shock. I remember when he lectured us. "Do you know what kind of an avodah you have to do right before the seventh day of Pesach? Tonight is the splitting of the sea!" Then he proceeded to detail the whole event. When he retold how the Jews were boxed in from all sides, and the sky opened up and they saw Heaven waging war against them, we all shuddered in fear. That was the way to instill emunah - make it alive! Let us relate a few examples of a very concrete elucidation of the Exodus:
What was so bad about the plague of frogs? Most of us think it was because they were everywhere. People couldn't get away from them. They were in their beds, in their shoes, in their... everywhere. When they baked bread, the frogs jumped in. They even jumped into the Egyptian's mouths - and down into their stomachs.
As bad as that was, that wasn't the worst. The Zohar relates that the real torture came from the noise. Every house had tens of thousands of frogs. The croaking was unbearable. It was enough to make anyone crazy. A man would stand two feet away from his wife, yet he could not hear her! He told her to make supper and she started yelling back, but he couldn't hear her. They yelled at each other, throwing plates and pots and pans, but nothing surpassed the tremendous sound of the croaking. Next door lived two Jews, with only a thin wall separating them from the Egyptian couple. Yankel said to his wife, "You know dear, it's so quiet and peaceful tonight. Wouldn't it be wonderful if every night could be as quiet as this?" "Yes," she answered. "I hope that when we get to Eretz-Yisrael it will be as peaceful as this." And next door the dishes were crashing, the husband and wife were yelling, and the frogs were croaking nonstop.
Then came the lice. A Jew sat on a bench, between two Egyptians. The Egyptian on his right was scratching from head to toe; he was going mad from the itching. "What are you scratching so much for?!" asked the Jew. The Egyptian replied, "Five thousand lice are crawling all over me. Are you jealous?" The second Egyptian pipes up, "I've got ten thousand!" Now if you were sitting between two people who were scratching away because of thousands of lice, you'd probably start scratching too. But the Jew sat there, and... nothing. Absolutely nothing! Now the Jews saw without a speck of a doubt that there is a Ruler over this world. All their five senses gave loud and clear testimony.
For the Egyptians, the plague of darkness was so tangible you could touch it with your hands. However they were positioned when the darkness started, that's how they remained for three days. Whether sitting or standing, or leaning over, they were locked in place for three days and three nights. And at that very moment of total and absolute darkness, if a Jew walked into the room, he saw everything brilliantly lit up. The Jews used those three days to snoop around, totally undisturbed, and unbeknown to the Egyptians who were caught in total and absolute blackness. When it came time to leave, the Jews went to their Egyptian neighbors and asked them for all of their private belongings. "What are you talking about," came the answer. "I don't have any of that." And with what seemed like supernatural insight the Jew told the poor Egyptian exactly what he had and where it was. The Egyptians couldn't hide anything, and had to hand everything over.
On Rosh Chodesh Nisan, Hashem instructed Moshe to tell the Jews to prepare the Pesach sacrifice. Four days before Pesach they all were to take sheep and tie them to their bedposts. So, on the 10th of Nisan, all the millions of Jews living in Egypt took sheep - the Egyptian god, the holiest of all animals in the Egyptian religion - and brought the animals into their bedrooms and tied them to their beds. Can you imagine how courageous they had to be? The Egyptians stood by and watched the mass procession. They came into the Jews' homes, and they asked, "What's going on?" And the Jews answered: "Oh, sure. In four days we're going to take these sheep and slaughter them as an offering to Hashem." The Egyptians fainted on the spot. But they couldn't reply. Hashem had tied their tongues.
When the time came for the Jews to leave, everyone was already prepared. All of the Jews left Egypt: Millions of men, women, and children, with no provisions for the journey. Oh, they had a few matzos they had baked at the last minute. But that would only last a few meals. Basically, they left with no food. There was no car trunk packed with sandwiches and bottles of soda and water. Nothing. They left with only their faith that Hashem would provide for several million people in a total wilderness.
When Pharaoh came to his senses, he became not angry, but incensed (see Ramban)! He gathered all of his people and they ran after the Jews crying, "I will pursue, I will overtake, I will divide the plunder; I will satisfy my lust with them, I will unsheathe my sword, my hand will impoverish them" (Shemos 15:9). Every one of them had an argument with his friend over how many pieces a Jew could be cut into - 60 or 65.
The Jews saw the Egyptians running after them, and immediately looked for a way to escape. They turned toward the desert. But Hashem suddenly assembled a convention of snakes and scorpions. The desert was ruled out as an avenue of escape. They turned toward the sea. But instantly a fierce storm broke out. The waves roared and beckoned to the Jews, "We dare you to come in!" They were caught in a triangle (according to one midrash; another midrash states that they were boxed in from four sides, since all the wild animals of the desert decided that their supper that night would be fresh Jew).
They turned their eyes toward Heaven. Hashem opened their eyes and they were able to see what was going on up there. They saw the guardian angel of Egypt, a huge creature, running after them. And if that weren't bad enough, that angel had gathered six hundred accusing angels. Each one was standing before the Heavenly court and detailing how each and every Jew (except for those from the tribe of Levi), had worshipped idols in Egypt. "Yeah! That Reuven, he thinks he's a tzaddik. What about the time when the Egyptian gave him a glass of tea? The Egyptian promised to give him a pass so that he could have one day off from work. And the Egyptian told him, 'You don't have to bow down. You don't have to burn any incense. All you have to do is stroke the idol's cheek! That's all!' And this Reuven, do you know what he did? He looked all around, he looked behind the doors and out the windows, to make sure no one was looking. But he forgot to look in one place - up! That's the great tzaddik who's going into the sea! An idol-worshiper! And You want to save him and drown my poor Egyptians?" And the poor Jews had the "good fortune" to hear these conversations. The whole of Heaven was waging war against them!
So what did the Jews do? They cried out. They let out one tremendous shriek to the Creator. That was when Hashem told Moshe Rabbeinu, "Tell the Children of Israel to go!" So the Jews turned to their children and told them, "Yankele, Sarale, we're going." "Daddy, where are we going? There's only water in front of us." "That's okay, Yankele. Moshe Rabbeinu told us to go, so we're going." "But Daddy, Sarele, and Itzick and I don't know how to swim!" "That's okay, Yankele. I also don't know how to swim. But Moshe Rabbeinu told us to go, so we're going!"
Has there ever been a stronger expression of emunah and bitachon than what occurred during the Exodus? That's our obligation on the night of the Seder: to visualize all the miracles and to see with a deep emunah that Hashem is the ruler over everything in Heaven and on earth.
Wishing everyone a Chag Kosher v'Sameach!
Shvi'i Shel Pesach
Bitachon Creates Miracles(Excerpts from Trust Me! and Chizuk!)
And God said to Moshe, "Why are you crying out to Me? Tell the Children of Israel to go." (Shemos 14:15)
(Based on the Or HaChaim's commentary on the Torah)
Imagine the scene: The Jewish People are gathered at the edge of the sea. Behind them is the mighty Egyptian army, relentlessly advancing on them. The situation is getting more desperate by the minute, and there is nowhere to turn. At this dark hour, Moshe turns to Hashem in heartfelt supplication. The Almighty's startling response is, "Why are you praying to Me?!"
Incredible! To whom should one pray if not Hashem - and especially at such a difficult time as this?! And if one's prayers are not answered, he should continue to pray until he sees some sign that his prayers have been accepted. Logically, we would have expected God to answer Moshe's prayer by instructing him to lift up his staff and split the sea. Instead, He told him to stop praying! What is the meaning of this?
Furthermore, what did God mean by His pronouncement: "Tell the Children of Israel to go"? Go where? Behind them were the Egyptians, and in front of them was the sea, which had not yet split open.
In answering these questions, the Or Ha-Chaim teaches us a very important principle in life. Chazal tell us that when the Jewish People were standing before the sea, they were on trial in Heaven. The prosecuting angels claimed that the Children of Israel were not worthy of being saved. While in Egypt, they had begun worshiping idols just as the local inhabitants did. "These [the Jewish People] are idol-worshipers, and these [the Egyptians] are idol-worshipers!" (Zohar, Terumah, 170b). Moreover, the Jews had just shown their lack of faith in God by saying that they would rather go back to Egypt than die in the desert.
How does one win a case in the Heavenly court? Normally, the side of rachamim (mercy) is strengthened by the good deeds one performs. However, the Jewish People's idolatry had just the opposite effect, and gave strength to the side of din (strict judgment) instead. Hashem wanted to judge Israel favorably, but He saw that the power of Heavenly mercy was very weak. In order to bolster Israel's Heavenly standing, Hashem gave Moshe a potent piece of advice: "Why are you crying out to Me?" It's not in My hands. Even though I want to perform a miracle, the force of strict judgment is preventing Me because they are not worthy. Therefore, "tell the Children of Israel to go." This is My advice to strengthen the side of rachamim. Speak to the Jewish People and tell them to rely on their emuna by going into the sea even before it splits. Tell them to have faith with every fiber of their being so that I will perform a miracle for them, to match their willingness to endanger their lives. By doing so, they will strengthen the side of rachamim. Because of their actions, the sea will miraculously split. Such is the power of emuna and bitachon to tip the scales to the side of merit; they are such tremendous forces that they can overturn midas ha-din.
R. Chaim Volozhin in Nefesh HaChaim (section 1, ch. 7-9) explains this episode in a slightly different manner:
First, we have to give a short introduction to the first section of Nefesh HaChaim. Rav Chaim Volozhin, elaborates on a basic precept in the foundation of the world: Man's partnership with Hashem. The possuk says: "God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him" (Bereishis 1:27); "…for in the image of God He made man" (Bereishis 9:6). What is the meaning of "in the image of Hashem"? Do we really look like Him? Or does He look like us? That, we know, is utterly absurd. He has no image. And anyone who ascribes a material image to the Almighty is guilty of the heresy of anthropomorphism. Hashem is totally spiritual, and has no material form. All characteristics associated to Hashem are metaphors and figures of speech for our benefit to enable us to relate to Him. The commentaries tell us that all we can know about HaKadosh Baruch Hu are the attributes with which He relates to us, such as lovingkindness, mercy, justice, etc. But we can have absolutely no concept of Him Himself. He is beyond that. So what is this image of God?
The Nefesh HaChaim explains that the term used to denote Hashem in that possuk is Elokim. This term indicates Hashem's total control of the universe. He is the ultimate power ruling over millions upon millions of forces that influence every detail of this world. When He created Man, God gave him the ability to rule (so to speak) over those millions of forces. Man controls the world together with Hashem. By his good deeds, the world is influenced toward good; by his bad deeds toward the opposite. Thus, Man has been made a partner (so to speak) with Hashem. And therefore, Man was the only creature given free will. It is this quality of freedom of choice that enables Man to spiritually improve himself or lower himself. Angels and animals are compelled by their nature and cannot decide anything based upon free will; Man is the only creation with this ability. And because Man is partner with Hashem, through his actions he controls the world to add or detract from its spiritual perfection.
It says in Shir Hashirim, "I compare you, O my love, to a horse of the chariots of Pharaoh" (1:9). This is a very strange possuk. Imagine saying to your wife you're like one of Pharaoh's horses, what would she think of you? Not very romantic.
So Rav Chaim Volozhin explains that we have to understand that Shir Hashirim is a love poem between Hakadosh Baruch Hu and Klal Yisroel. In this possuk Hashem is describing His great love for Yisroel and one of the remarkable gifts He gave us. Normally a rider controls the horse. The horse is guided by the rider; where the rider wants to go, that is where the horse goes. By Krias Yam Suf the tables were turned. The Egyptians had chased Klal Yisroel into the open sea-bed. All of a sudden the water, which had been upright like a wall, started falling. The riders pulled the horses to retreat and escape. But the horses all decided to go straight ahead, into the water. In this instance nature reversed itself and the horse controlled the rider.
This is the moshol the Ribono Shel Olam tells his beloved Klal Yisroel. When I created the world I was the ruler. But then I put you in charge. Instead of Me directing you, you have control over Me! This is the marvelous aspect of ???? ?????. Hakadosh Baruch Hu put Klal Yisroel in charge of all the powers of the Universe. We, so to speak, act like Elokim controlling the Universe.
And so it all depends upon us. The nature of the Universe reflects Klal Yisroel. If we are acting properly, then the entire Universe, spiritual and physical, follows accordingly. All of nature does what it is supposed to do. But if we are acting improperly, then the entire Universe acts accordingly and everything is tarnished and imperfect.
This is the meaning of ?' "Hashem is your shadow by your right side" (Tehillim 121:5). A shadow does whatever the person does. If the person moves right, the shadow moves right. So too does Hakadosh Baruch Hu act with Klal Yisroel. In whatever direction Yisroel go, so acts Hashem. It is, so to speak, as if He is guided by our actions. This is the moshol of Shir Hashirim. You might think that Hashem is the rider and we are the horse and so He guides us. No, says Shlomo Hamelech. Even though He is the rider, we guide Him.
With this Rav Chaim Volozhin explains the possuk by Krias Yam Suf: "Why are you crying out to Me? Tell the Children of Israel to go." This possuk is telling us that everything depended upon them. If they were to display perfect emuna and bitachon by fearlessly going into the sea, then the sheer power of their faith would cause the waters to split before them. Their faith alone would arouse Heaven to perform a miracle for them. This was the message that Hashem told Moshe Rabbeinu, standing there by the Yam Suf. Why are you crying out to me? It doesn't depend upon me, it depends upon you! If you show such strong faith and bitachon that you are willing to jump into the sea, then I will conduct Myself accordingly and split the sea. It all depends upon you. Bitachon has the power to create miracles.
I heard in the name of one of the Masters of Chassidus a pshat the coincides with this Nefesh HaChaim. We say in Adon Olam: "Master of the World Who ruled before any creature was created." Simple pshat (and it is correct) is that this is an expression of Hashem was King, is King, and will be King forever. But we can also detect a deeper pshat: Master of the Universe, You ruled before Man was created. But once Man was created, now Man rules.
Wishing everyone a Gut Yom Tov!
Shema Yisrael Torah Network