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Parashat Bo


This parashah features the Exodus from Egypt, the wonders and miracles surrounding this pivotal, historic event. In truth, yesiat misrayim never leaves our consciousness. It accompanies us wherever we go at every moment of our lives. We refer to it twice daily, every time we recite kiddush, and we devote to it the entire festival of Pesah, specifically the night of the seder.

Wherein lies the eternal message which we must carry with us after reading these parshiyot?

The Ramban's answer to this question is worth repeating to ourselves time and time again.

"Since the Al-mighty will not perform wonders or miracles in every generation in the face of every sinner or heretic, He commands us to maintain a constant memory of that which our eyes beheld, that we tell it to our children, and our children to their children, until the last generation.

"Just as a person realizes the great, obvious miracles, so must he recognize the concealed miracles, which form the basis of the entire Torah.

For a person cannot fully attain a share in the Torah until he believes that everything which transpires is, in fact, a miracle. There is no coincidental act of nature, be it in private or public. But if he performs the misvot - his reward will bring him success, and he violates them - his punishment will destroy him, everything according to the decree of the King!"

When one takes a closer look into his life, he will be able to testify to this effect. Let him tell all his acquaintances, one does not yield profit from his work on Hol Hamoed, and one does not lose money by giving to charity. We see Divine Providence in every step in life. "Behold, I place before you today a blessing," by observing the misvot, and the opposite, Heaven forbid, by neglecting them. "And it shall be a blessing!"


The saintly tanna, Rabbi Shimon Bar Yohai, reveals many profound secrets in the Zohar regarding the opening pasuk of our parashah. The Zohar writes (vol. 2, 34a), "Rabbi Shimon said, now I will reveal the secrets which are rooted in the heavens and the earth." He asks, what is meant by, 'Come to Pharaoh'? It should have written, 'Go to Pharaoh'! Rabbi Shimon Bar Yohai answers that Hashem asked Moshe to enter into the innermost "chambers" until he reached the forces of impurity and the palace of Pharaoh which is rooted in the source of impurity and wickedness. Moshe, however, was afraid, and wouldn't accept the mission. He was prepared to "go" to Pharaoh, to sit there honorably, but not to "come to him." He did not want to contend with the forces of evil, for even one who cleans filth absorbs some of the dirt.

Even the sacred angels, says the Zohar, refused to involve themselves in this endeavor, and therefore the Al-mighty Himself, as it were, had to descend into Egypt to destroy the source of evil, metaphorically represented by the snake's head, as the verse states, "Behold, I will come upon you, Pharaoh, the great serpent, which lies in the midst of his rivers." These are the swamps of impurity and contamination of Egypt, which result in the deterioration of those residing there into the forty-ninth measure of impurity.

This is not the first time that Moshe ran away from confrontation. When he cast his staff and it changed into a snake, the Torah writes, "Moshe ran away from it." Now, Moshe is not afraid of snakes; the snake doesn't kill - the sin kills. But the "snake" here symbolizes the snake of Gan Eden, which seduced others to sin, and Moshe remembered well the disastrous results of the first human confrontation with that snake. He wanted nothing to do with it. This is the interpretation of the Tikkunei Hazohar (end of Tikkun 60).

The Torah does not simply tell stories - it teaches us lessons. It teaches us to run away from trials, to keep our distance from the snake, to escape from it. But we, as it were, think that we are smarter than Moshe. We will not be affected, we are immune to its venom.

We have already been told that all the awful "abominations of Egypt" about which the Torah warns were committed in private, as the Zohar writes, "A chamber within a chamber." Today, all these abominations are committed in public, on every stage, in every newspaper. There are those who are prepared to play with fire, to fool around with a poisonous snake, assuming that they will be unharmed. Is this possible?

The story is told that Rabbi Hayim of Brisk zs"l was informed that a certain student, who excelled in his studies, had the tendency to read the newspapers and advertisements of the secularists which promulgated heresy. The rabbi approached the student to ask if such rumors were in fact true. The student confirmed the allegations. "How?" asked the rabbi in fear. The young student confidently calmed the rabbi's nerves: "This will not affect me, I am confident in my faith, firmly entrenched in my beliefs. This will not affect me, so I am just expanding my horizons. There is no reason to fear anything."

"Heaven forbid," clarified the rabbi, "I was not suspecting that you would be impacted by such literature. But I was wondering, how can you stand having such filth with you? How do you manage with its foul odor?"

The student was dumbfounded. "Odor? I don't smell anything!"

"Aha!" exclaimed the rabbi. "I now realize that it has had an effect on you!"

Let us think for a second, if Moshe would have picked up one of the contemporary magazines or papers and flip through the pages, with what fervor would he throw it aside! Why should we go so far as Moshe Rabbenu - if Rabbi Mordechai Sharabi, Rabbi Yehudah Sadkah, or the Baba Sali would take even a slight glance - how many fasts would they observe to atone for even this glance? And us? Perhaps we don't run away. Perhaps we have lived comfortably in the swamps, we have grown accustomed to the foul odor. We have become desensitized.

Let us make an effort, during these days of "Shovavim," to detach ourselves from the quicksand of the swamps, to cleanse ourselves, and we are guaranteed that then we will have no desire to return to it, that we will run away from it!

Based On the Rulings of Rav Ovadia Yossef shlit"a
Arranged by Rav Moshe Yossef shlit"a

The Insertion for Hanukah and Purim in the Me'en Shalosh Blessing

In the previous issue we discussed the halachah that we do not insert "al hanisim" in the berachah aharonah on Hanukah and Purim. The reason we presented is that in birkat hamazon "al hanisim" is inserted as a continuation of the berachah, "nodeh lecha," but in birkat me'en shalosh there is no text of "nodeh lecha," and thus "al hanisim" has no appropriate place where to be inserted. Therefore, it is not recited at all in birkat me'en shalosh.

We should add that although the end of birkat me'en shalosh does feature the text, "venodeh lecha Hashem elokeinu," this phrase corresponds to the fourth berachah of birkat hamazon, "hatov vehametiv," and not to the berachah of "nodeh." However, one who mistakenly thought that this phrase in the berachah aharonah actually does correspond to the blessing of nodeh and, due to this misconception, recited "al hanisim" in birkat me'en shalosh after this phrase, Rav Ovadia Yossef shlit"a (Shu"t Yabia Omer vol. 3, Orah Hayim 36) rules that he has fulfilled his requirement since he did, after all, recite the proper text. Although one may have argued that the insertion of "al hanisim" should be considered an interruption between the end of the blessing and the "hatimah" (concluding berachah), and the hatimah must always thematically relate to that which immediately precedes it, nevertheless this requirement of linking the hatimah to that which precedes is not indispensable for the fulfillment of the obligation to recite the berachah, as concluded by Rav Ovadia Yossef shlit"a. Therefore, after the fact, if the hatimah did not relate to the phrase preceding it, the person does not have to repeat the berachah. This indeed is the ruling of the Hikrei Lev, the Ma'amar Mordechai in the name of the Ritva, as well as other aharonim, and this is the proper practice. Therefore, if someone incorrectly inserted al hanisim after "venodeh lecha," he has fulfilled his requirement and does not have to repeat the berachah. Even if he incorrectly mentioned Hanukah or Purim towards the beginning of the berachah, next to the words, "ve'al eres hemdah," which correspond to the "nodeh lecha" blessing in birkat hamazon, one needs not be concerned about an interruption and does not have to repeat the berachah. (For further discussion, see Shu"t Yabia Omer vol. 3, Orah Hayim 36. There Rav Yossef brings further evidence to support the Mehaber's ruling (208:12) that al hanisim should not be recited in berachah aharonah, rejecting the view which contends otherwise.)

In summary, in birkat me'en shalosh we make reference to the day on Shabbat, Yom Tov, and Rosh Hodesh, but on Hanukah and Purim no reference is made to the day. Nevertheless, if one did mistakenly insert the reference to Hanukah and Purim in birkat me'en shalosh he does not have to repeat the berachah, no matter where he made the insertion.


The Rashash zs"l

The new president of Iran is now trying to put forth a gesture of reconciliation. In a recent interview he claimed that anti-Semitism began in Europe, while under Arab rule the Jews knew no suffering. In a single breath he erased hundreds of years of distress. It was forbidden for a Jew to ride a horse, to wear shoes within the city limits. In Yerushalayim, for example, Jews were forbidden to wear the color green, as this color was reserved for the Moslems. Once, one of the rabbis of the Yeshivah of Kabbalah, Hacham Yis'hak, wove some silk around his turban without realizing that there was a single, thin thread of green. As he walked to the Bet Midrash a Moslem jumped at him, grabbed the turban, and ran to the sheriff. The sheriff was infuriated by the rabbi's audacity, and, rather than imprisoning him, decided to punish the entire Jewish community. He called a meeting of all his officers to decide upon a suitable punishment.

Hacham Yis'hak was tormented by the knowledge that because of him the entire community would suffer. He rushed to his rabbi, Rabbi Shalom Sharabi, known as the Rashash. The great sadik heard what happened and calmed his visitor's nerves. "Do not worry, Hashem will save us."

Indeed, the meeting never took place. Pitmah, the only daughter of the sheriff, suddenly took deathly ill. The doctor gave up on her, and told the sheriff that there is but one man who can save her - the great rabbi of the Jews. Without any alternative, the sheriff turned to the sadik and asked him to visit his daughter. Just as the sadik entered the room, the patient opened her eyes. He prayed, and she gradually recovered.

"How can I repay you?" asked the sheriff emotionally.

"That you behave mercifully to my people," answered the sadik.

The sheriff understood, and immediately handed him Hacham Yis'hak's turban.

This week, on Friday, we observe the anniversary of the death of the Rashash. May his merit protect us!


"Please speak in the ears of the people, that they ask..."

In the "Berit Bein Habetarim" with Avraham, the Al-mighty promised that after the years of exile Benei Yisrael will leave their bondage with immense wealth. At this point, when they leave Egypt, this promise is fulfilled. But why was the promise carried out by Benei Yisrael asking the Egyptians for their riches? If the plagues were administered to Egypt with force, then certainly the transfer of wealth could have occurred forcefully, as well. The Hid"a zs"l answers that the wealth which Benei Yisrael took from Egypt was actually the property of the first-born who were killed in the final plague, since the halachah is that the property of those who are killed by the order of the king is given over to the king's treasure. Thus, Benei Yisrael borrowed the property from the first-born until after the plague, at which point they acquired it legally, as a gift from Hashem Himself.

"And this is how you shall eat it - your loins shall be girded"

The Alshich zs"l cites the comment by Hazal that Benei Yisrael were redeemed in the merit of their faith. Therefore, on the night of the Exodus, Hashem wanted them to demonstrate their intense faith in the redemption so that they be worthy of its unfolding. He therefore commanded them to publicly take a sheep, the god of Egypt, and slaughter it in full view. Furthermore, on the night of the plague of the first-born, already before the first-born were killed, Benei Yisrael were to gird their loins, put on their shoes, and take their walking sticks in preparation for their departure so that, in the merit of their faith, their redemption will finally arrive.

"You shall take a myrtle-branch and dip it in blood"

Rabbi Yosef Hayim of Baghdad, the Ben Ish Hai, writes that the prerequisite for redemption was that Benei Yisrael repent at least for those transgressions which they violated intentionally. This repentance had to have been complete, with purity of thought, speech, and action. That is why they were bidden to take this myrtle-branch and dip it in blood. "Ezov" (myrtle branch) and "dam" (blood) have a combined numerical value of "mezid" (intentional transgression). The following pasuk states, "You shall affix it to the top and sides of the door post." The top of the door post represents the human head, the center of our thoughts and speech, and the two sides symbolize the two hands, the power of action, which all work together to purify one from his sins.


Thunder and Lightning

During one stormy, winter night, our entire family sat together to warm up from the bitter cold outside. There was hardly a soul walking about outside, and we heard nothing but the drops of rain. Suddenly, a flash of lightning struck and blinded our eyes, and soon thereafter we heard a powerful crack of thunder that shook the walls of the room and our insides. I truly sensed the expression, "The strongest of hearts is broken with fear." Hazal explain that the purpose of thunder and lightning is to straighten people's hearts from their negative qualities and thus do teshuvah. I was then inspired to think about all I need to improve...

What do we know about the development of thunder and lightning? Water vapor which ascends from the earth contains a tiny quantity of electricity. Sometimes the clouds contain a huge amount of water and thus a lot of electricity. When this happens, an electric stream bursts from the clouds to the ground in immense speed and we see the flash of light. The lightning cleaves through the air as it travels at its remarkable speed, causing the air to contract.

The sound waves in the rippled air is heard as thunder. In effect, the lightning and thunder are created simultaneously, but we hear the thunder only after the lightning because light travels much faster than sound.

Although thunder is harmless, lightning can be very harmful should it strike a human or other living organism. Lightning and thunder remind us that there is a Master over the world, who each day controls the forces of nature, and His might and strength fill the world.


The Repaid Loan (2)

Flashback: The young Naftali, just seven-years-old, hurled a pebble into the officer's chariot and injured him. The infuriated officer had the boy thrown into prison.

For a long time the youngster sat in his prison cell, in the cellar of the city jail. The word of his imprisonment aroused quite a stir. His parents, rabbi, and local leaders allowed themselves no rest. They pleaded with the officer to forgive the young boy, to have compassion, not to follow through with the sentence. They exerted their influence in the capital city, and their pleas reached even the king and queen. Naftali knew nothing of these efforts. He was confined to his small cell, the cold, damp air of the cellar, eating stale bread and drinking the small jug of water he was given each day. He saw the fulfillment of the pasuk, "If your Torah was not my delight, I would surely have been lost in my distress." His memory was fantastic, and all that he had learned was engraved in his mind in its original form. His talents were remarkable, the power of concentration and the sharpness and quickness of his thought were widely acclaimed. He became known as a genius and he lived up to his reputation adequately. As he sat in prison he reviewed all that he learned, he went over the pages of Gemara and delved deeper into the concepts, asked questions to himself, established important principles and paved new paths for understanding difficult topics. In this way he forgot the rest of the world. He forgot about his hunger, his thirst, he forgot the cold and dampness surrounding him. "This is my comfort in my distress, for Your Word has sustained me."

In the meantime, the activities on his behalf intensified. They tried to invoke mercy, to offer money for his release, until finally the ruling was passed: the boy would be brought to the capital city where he will stand trial. However, the danger had not yet subsided. Human life was not respected in those days, and death sentences were issued haphazardly, all the more so against Jews.

And so, one day the door to his cell was opened, and the boy was given over into the custody of a guard who would take him to the capital.

To be continued...

The Wellspring of Education

The Infiltration of Locust

The Alshich zs"l developed a most insightful and thought-provoking approach to the development of the plague of locust. Moshe said in the name of Hashem, "Behold, I will bring tomorrow locusts throughout your boundaries.

They will cover the face of the land and one will be unable to see the land, and they will consume the rest of the produce which was left by the hail.

They will fill your houses, then houses of your servants and the houses of all of Egypt." The Alshich comments that the plague began with a miraculous overcrowding of locust, one level on top of another, until the locust themselves were unable to see the land around them. They ate everything and left over nothing.

In Goshen, however, where Benei Yisrael resided, everything was quiet, there were no locusts. Generally, when a swarm of locusts consumes all there is to eat in one field, they proceed to the next piece of land on which to live. These locusts, however, went into the Egyptian homes, filling them to capacity.

We have a tradition that the plagues in Egypt contain important lessons which need to be learned. The plague of locusts reflects the spiritual plague of Egypt which destroys everything. It begins outside, as the house still remains safe. But once the corruption outside has been completed, it infiltrates into the homes and causes terrible damage.

This process is so familiar to us. Once they would go to the movie or show. Today, however, the channels come into the home. The corruption has found a place in the family nest, and lives are conducted in the dark room, around the remote control, as the young people are swept away by the filth and disgust.

Who will take these locusts and drive them into the Red Sea?

When will we be smart enough to leave the plague-infested "Egypt," to be like the land of Goshen, the residence of Benei Yisrael, where everything is quiet and secure, both inside and outside?

excerpts from
Sing You Righteous...
by: Rabbi Avigdor Miller shlit"a

Three Sanctuaries (part IV)

Just as the Sanctuary is made for the purpose of providing a dwelling-place for the Shechinah, (Shemot 25:8), so also is the Shabbat day a Sanctuary for the Shechinah, and so is the Good Mind a dwelling-place for G-d's Presence.

Concerning the noble generation of Israel in the Wilderness it is stated:

"All the congregation are holy, every one of them, and G-d is in their midst." (Bamidbar 16:3), meaning in every one, for this was the generation of Deah.

Aaron: Thus the Sanctuary, the Shabbat and the True Knowledge (Deah) caused the presence of G-d to dwell among men and Israel is required to erect these three Sanctuaries.

Mr. Goodfriend: But even the Sanctuary and the Shabbat are greatly enhanced by the application of the Good Mind. The lack of proper understanding coulod cause men to regard the Sanctuary as a cattle-slaughter house where the Kohanim eat there portions of meat. Such men are better off without a Sanctuary.

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