subscribe.gif (2332 bytes)


Back to this week's Parsha | Previous Issues

Parashat Bo


Once a young religious Jew from Switzerland who wanted to study Torah traveled to Lithuania, where he studied and grew in the famed Mir Yeshiva. Upon completing his term of study, he prepared for his trip back home and decided that along the way he would stop by the city of Radin to receive the blessing of the elderly ssadik of the generation, the Hafess Hayyim zs"l.

He embarked on his trip in the middle of the snowy winter. The train reached the station of Ston, near Radin, at midnight. Two men got off at the station into the bitter, bone-chilling cold - the young student with his packages and a warm, friendly man who graciously offered to help the boy with his luggage. A wagon-driver came out of the darkness and offered to drive them in his sleigh to the city, a thirteen-kilometer ride. They set off into the snow, their bones trembling from the cold, the snowflakes coming down like a carpet of feathers. His teeth chattering, the student asked his companion his name. "Tsvi Levinson," he answered. The young student was amazed - this is the son-in-law of the great sage and ssasdik, the Hafess Hayyim, the Rosh Yeshiva of Radin! He told Rav Tsvi that he was going to receive the revered ssadik's blessing. Rav Tsvi responded, "It will be three o'clock in the morning when we get to Radin; everyone will be sound asleep. Come with me to my home and be my guest, and tomorrow we will go see my father-in-law.

The youngster appreciatively accepted the offer. Rav Tsvi offered him his bed and a warm blanket. Slowly but surely, his body warmed from the cold. Suddenly, as he lie in bed, he realized that he hadn't recited arbit! He thought to himself, let me stay here and warm up a little, and then I will get up to pray. But he was very weary from his trip, and the moment his eyelids came together, he fell into a deep, sound sleep.

In the morning, everything had faded from memory. He woke up refreshed, washed his hands and proceeded towards the yeshiva for shaharit. He returned to his host's home and found a robust breakfast waiting for him. He then took out the piece of paper on which he had listed all the questions he wanted to ask the Hafess Hayyim. He made his way through the deep mounds of snow and reached the Rosh Yeshiva's home.

The ssadik raised his glowing eyes, nodded gently and said, "I remember many years ago during a period of prosperity in the time of the Czar, when a copper coin wasn't worth anything, given the abundance of gold and silver. People disregarded their copper coins to the point where they wouldn't bother to pick them up from the floor when they fell. Now, however, we live in a period of hunger and deprivation, and even the copper coins are considered of significant value. Each coin adds up towards the purchase of a loaf of bread! Certainly, if we would see a copper coin in the street, we would bend down to pick it up."

The young boy wondered why the Hafess Hayyim saw fit to bring this up. The ssadik continued talking, as if speaking to himself: "In the past there were many Torah students and G-d-fearing Jews, great sages and ssadikim. I remember the generation saturated with Torah and tefila, full of missvot and overflowing with good deeds. The wealth of missvot was so immense that it perhaps would not have been such a travesty were one to have fallen asleep before reciting arbit and lose the missva of keriyat shema and tefila.

Now, however, in our orphaned generation, in an age suffering from a dearth of Torah and tefila, even a single arbit prayer is of immense significance." The young student's mouth opened wide in shock, as he stood in amazement on the ru'ah hakodesh speaking from the ssadik's mouth.

The Hafess Hayyim continued: "When Benei Yisrael were in Egypt, they had no missvot in merit of which to be redeemed. The Al-mighty therefore gave them two missvot - the korban pesah and circumcision. The question begs itself, given the fact that Benei Yisrael had fallen to the forty-nine gates of impurity, would two missvot suffice to render them worthy of redemption from bondage to eternal freedom?

"The answer is that to the contrary, precisely because of this they were worthy of redemption. In such a generation, each missva shines brilliantly.

Each small missva in our generation purifies and elevates the individual to the same extent as the sacred performance of missvot of the previous generations!"

The boy was astounded and left the Hafess Hayyim without asking a single question - it was enough what he saw and heard!


When Pharaoh's servants insisted that he free Benei Yisrael, warning that otherwise Egypt will be destroyed, Pharaoh calls Moshe and Aharon and says, "Let please the males go and serve G-d." He refused to set the children free. He consented to allow the adults and elders go and worship Hashem, while the youth remain in Egypt as Pharaoh's slaves.

But Moshe responded forcefully, "We will go with our young and with our old, with our sons and with our daughters!" As if to say, you Pharaoh will not succeed in your attempt to separate the generations, to break the chain, the differentiate between our young and our old, to still the young ones!

The Rambam zs"l taught us that Pharaoh represents the evil inclination, and this indeed has always been the yesser hara's tactic. It tries to drive a wedge in between the generations, to separate parents from children, to send the parents to Bet Kenesset and the children to youth groups. We must respond with the same pride with which Moshe Rabbenu answered Pharaoh: "We will go with our young and with our old, with our sons and with our daughters" - and as one person we will be redeemed, speedily and in our days, Amen!

The Wonders of the Creator


Within the red caves the Al-mighty hid all the minerals and related materials indispensable for the existence and development of plants, animals and humans. One of the important chemical materials, phosphorus, received from the Creator a very special quality - that it glows in the dark. In Hebrew this element is called "zarhan," which is related to the Hebrew word for "shine." In the past, phosphorus was used to light fires on the tops of matches. However, as it is very poisonous, people stopped using it for this purpose. Phosphorus can cause serious burns should it come into contact with human skin. Therefore, whenever it is used it comes in the form of a chemical mixture that contains other, less dangerous elements. Within the human body phosphorus helps in building and strengthening one's bones. It is also instrumental in the body's processing of the various ingested materials, as it easily absorbs fat and sugar. One gram of phosphorus is enough for a person. It is found in milk, eggs, meat, fish, nuts and other foods.

Plants also require phosphorus for their growth. Year in and year out planting and harvesting cause a gradual deterioration of the phosphorus level in the ground, which results in the ground's inability to produce the same amount as in the past. This is why the ground needs to be fertilized, in order to restore its lost nutrients. How does phosphorus assist in the growth of plants? It helps the roots develop quicker, thus quickening the growth process. Secondly, it hastens the ripening process, significantly increases the produce, helps the fruits reproduce and increases the number of seeds. Phosphorus also strengthens the plants so that they can withstand drastic changes in weather.

Interestingly, phosphorus shines brightly despite its having originated from the dark ground. For us Jews, this phenomenon teaches us a critical and fundamental lesson. Throughout Jewish history, there have been times when it seemed as though a thick darkness enveloped the Jewish nation, a darkness that expressed itself in various forms of detachment from missvot and Torah study. Nevertheless, the fact remains that the Jewish nation is referred to by the other peoples of the world as the "eternal nation," since it is has not been destroyed despite the attempts of many great empires. Am Yisrael lives and survives in the merit of the great light it carries within it. This is the light that outshone the even the thickest darkness during difficult times, that overpowers the darkness through each Jew's approach towards his Father in heaven - this is the light of the Torah and missvot.

Fortunate is the one who forms a part of the revolution that helps the great light overpower the darkness.

The Faithful Student

A continuing saga

(Part fourteen)

Flashback: Rabbi Hayyim Simhah, the faithful student of the "Saraf" of Brisk, Maharil Diskin zs"l, staged a robbery attempt in order that he be sent to jail and thus given the opportunity to be with and serve his great rebbe, who was imprisoned by the authorities on false charges. Rabbi Hayyim Simhah now stood trial, and a guilty verdict would result in a fourteen-year prison sentence. Representing him was an assimilated Jewish defense lawyer who had just been released from jail where he was imprisoned on charges of assisting the Polish underground. Reb Nechumke, who had supported the attorney's family during his absence, had urged him to take on the case.

Rabbi Hayyim Simhah pleaded innocent, claiming that the wallet found in his pocket was really his. The prosecutor scornfully jeered the defendant, asking him to explain what a yeshiva student was doing walking around the city with four hundred rubles, an enormous fortune, in his wallet.

"I will explain," replied Rabbi Hayyim Simhah. "I am a student of the rabbi of Brisk. When I heard he was imprisoned, I decided to take all my savings and go to Grodna in order to donate all I can towards the efforts on his behalf."

Emotional whispers and stirs were heard from the audience, and the judge had to bang several times with his gavel in order to silence the excited crowd.

The prosecutor regained his composure and said, "I call upon the first witness, Gregor Amdurski, prison-guard." The guard got up onto the stand and, through the direction of the prosecutor, told of how he saw the defendant run and bang into, as it were, the alleged victim, and stole. "I object!" exclaimed the defense attorney. "The witness is mixing his conclusions with the description of the facts. The words 'as it were' and 'stole' are his own opinions!"

"Limit your story to the description of the facts," the judge instructed the witness.

"But these are the facts!" shouted the guard, as laughter overtook the audience.

The judge once again banged on his desk. "Tell only that which you saw," he insisted.

"But this is what I saw," said the guard emphatically. "He pretended to have bumped into the victim."

The crowd erupted once again, and the gavel slammed numerous times on the judge's desk. "If there will not be silence in the audience, I have to order the hall to be emptied. Continue, please." The guard told how the thief grabbed hold of the person as if to introduce himself, and then continued running. The other person began shouting that his money was stolen and chased after the defendant. Eventually, the defendant bumped into someone crossing in his path and they both fell. He was then caught by the guard and the wallet was found in his pocket.

to be continued....

The Golden Column

Rabbi Ssedakah Hussin zs"l

An aura of nobility hovered over the pure, pristine figure of the great Rabbi Ssedakah Hussin zs"l, one of the gedolim of Baghdad around one hundred years ago. He was a fifth generation descendant of the first Rabbi Ssedakah Hussin, who was the head of the rabbis in Baghdad around two hundred and fifty years ago, the author of "Ssedakah U'Mishpat" and the one who rebuilt the community of Baghdad after the devastation of the well-known plague of 5502.

Rabbi Ssedakah (the second) was the student of Rabbenu Yossef Hayyim zs"l, the Ben Ish Hai, and emerged as a remarkable scholar who developed profound expertise in all areas of the Torah.

In 5686 he moved to Eress Yisrael and settled in Yerushalayim, where he established a Bet Kenesset called "Shemesh Ssedakah" that remains in its glory to this very day. In his Bet Kenesset he instituted the customs of the prayer service in accordance with the sacred, hidden wisdom, and insisted upon reciting Shaharit "kevatikin," right at sunrise. All his learning was done in order that he could perform and fulfill the missvot. Once he studied together with a serious young scholar in Yerushalayim who was twenty years his junior. When they studied the laws involving respecting one's parents, Rabbi Ssedakah asked the student if he was careful to stand up all the way when his mother walked into the room. The young student replied that he only stands up just a little bit, not the full way. At that moment Rabbi Ssedakah closed the sefer and said, "That's it - we're finished learning for the day; it is inconceivable that someone would learn without implementing his studies! When you come and tell me that you indeed stand up your full height before your mother, then we will resume our studying!"

The next day the young student came and informed his rav that he has indeed corrected his ways and now stands before his mother his full height. Rabbi Ssedakah Hussin then resumed his regular study with the young scholar.

From the Wellsprings of the Parasha

"Do not break a bone in it [the korban Pesah]"

The Sefer Hahinuch writes the following regarding this prohibition: Among the bases of the missva is that we remember the miracles of Egypt, that we became free man and masters. It is not becoming of officers and kings to pull the bones and break them like dogs; it is not befitting to do so except the hungry, poor ones among the nation.

Therefore, as we first came to become the special one among nations, a kingdom of priests and a sacred nation, as well as every year thereafter at the same time of year, it is appropriate that we conduct ourselves in a manner that demonstrates the great stature to which we rose at that time.

Through this act and recreation that we perform, we will instill this within our souls forever.

And do not think, my son, to question my comments by asking, why would Hashem command us to do all these things in commemoration of that miracle? Wouldn't one commemorative act suffice to instill the matter within our consciousness and ensure that it never be forgotten from our progeny? You should know that this question is not asked out of wisdom. Now, my son, listen and understand, pay attention and hearken, as I teach you that which is beneficial regarding Torah and missvot. You should know that a person is affected by his acts; his heart and all his thoughts are always affected by the actions in which he engages, be it for good or for bad. Even a totally evil-hearted person, whose thoughts in his heart are only sinful all day long, should his spirit be awakened that he apply effort and energy into constant involvement in Torah and missvot, even if not for the sake of Heaven, he will immediately be drawn towards the good, and from [his involvement] not for its own sake he will come to [perform] for its own sake. Through the power of his actions, he will eliminate the evil inclination, for the hearts are drawn after the actions.

Likewise, even if one is a complete ssadik and his heart his straight and complete, he is driven after Torah and missvot, if he constantly engages in senseless matters, for example that the king forced him into a position involving improper work, then truly if all his involvement all day is in this work he will after some time turn away from the righteousness of his heart and become a complete rasha! For it is well known and true that every person is affected according to his actions, as we said.

Therefore the Sages said, "The Al-mighty wanted to bring merit upon Benei Yisrael; He therefore gave them much Torah and many missvot" (Makkot 23b), in order to channel all our thoughts through them, that all our involvement be in them so as to benefit us in the end. Through the good actions we are affected to become good, and we thus merit eternal life.

Hazal alluded to this when they said, "Whoever has a mezuzah on his door, ssissit on his garment and tefillin on his head is guaranteed not to sin" (Menahot 43b). These are constant missvot, and we are thus affected by them always.


The Torah tells us that the korban pesah is to be offered "bein ha'arbayim", at twilight, as the sun begins to set. In actuality, however, the daily "tamid" sacrifice is offered six-and-a-half hours into the day (a half-hour after noon) and immediately thereafter the korban pesah is sacrificed.

This schedule presents us with a critical lesson. Although the sun is still shining brightly, the first steps towards sunset have been taken. The sun has already moved towards the western sky, and after the first step comes the second and then the third; before you know it, evening has already begun.

Perhaps we may compare this phenomenon to a ship sailing in the middle of the ocean. The captain knows that if he steers in a specific direction according to the compass, assuring not to move off the charted path, he will arrive at the port of destination. He therefore instructs his sailor to grab the wheel tight and ensure the maintenance of a straight path of travel, as he goes to rest. He returns and finds that the compass' needle had moved a fraction a degree from where it had been. He goes into a frenzy and demands that he be informed how long the ship had been sailing along this mistaken route.

The sailor just doesn't understand what all the fuss is about. Why all the excitement? The needle moved only a tenth of a degree!

The captain can't contain himself in his fury. "Don't you understand? Even a hair's breadth deviation from our route, if continued over the course of the journey, could ruin the entire trip - instead of arriving at our port of destination, we could end up in some desolate wilderness!"

Indeed, every mistaken route begins with just a slight, often unnoticed deviation. The first wrong step resembles almost precisely the previous one, it follows almost exactly the straight path. The second step then deviates a little more, and the gap widens continuously until an absolute loss of direction occurs.

Let us therefore appreciate the efforts of the gedolim of every generation, the "eyes of the nation," who, with their keen spiritual vision, identify the mistaken steps, understand immediately to where these steps are headed, and warn the people to return to the straight path.

Although we speak here primarily on the general scale, this applies as well on the individual, personal level. "Like arrows in the hand of the mighty, so are the children," King David says. A child's education rests in the hands of his parents like an arrow in the hands of the skilled warrior. Just as the arrow is released and sent along its way, so does the youngster head out into the big world, where he will chart his path and follow a direction set out before him. Just as the warrior determines the direction and path of the arrow, so does the education provided by one's parents determine the child's future. All this is well-known.

But how great is the responsibility that rests on the shoulders of the one shooting the arrow, as he knows full well that any slight deviation from the right direction will cause him to miss the target! An archer can never excuse himself by saying, "Well, I directed the arrow more or less in the right general direction. Could I be blamed for the fact that it hit a person instead of a deer? The direction was all right, and that's enough for me." Needless to say, nobody would ever accept such a claim, and he would be punished accordingly.

Education constitutes a heavy responsibility. We are very fortunate to have a magnificent educational system that charts the youngster's path and provides him with proper morals, manners and good qualities. The Torah educational network and their spectacular institutions help parents with the good, in-depth and enriching education with which they want to provide their children. It will do them only good to seek this assistance, and they will then merit to see "nahat" and happiness from their children!

Halacha Berurah

A Series of Halachot
According to the Order of the Shulhan Aruch

Based on the Rulings of Rav Ovadia Yossef shlit"a

by Rav David Yossef shlit"a, Rosh Bet Midrash Yehaveh Da'at

Chapter 25: The Halachot of Tefillin

Interruption In Between the Tefillin Shel Yad and Tefillin Shel Rosh

If after one put on his tefillin shel yad and before having placed the tefillin shel rosh he finds himself in doubt whether or not he recited the beracha over the tefillin shel yad, then if he generally follows the custom of the Sefaradim and Eastern communities not to recite the beracha of "al missvat tefillin" over the tefillin shel rosh, then here, too, he recites no beracha. He simply places the tefillin shel rosh without reciting a beracha, since we never recite berachot whose requirement is uncertain.

Those who wear "tefillin Rabbenu Tam" should be careful not to interrupt with speech in between the placing of the tefillin shel yad and tefillin shel rosh, even though they put on the tefillin without reciting any beracha. Similarly, those who are accustomed to wearing tefillin on Hol Hamoed without a beracha should ensure not to interrupt with speech in between the placing of the tefillin shel yad and tefillin shel rosh.

If one hears someone else reciting the beracha "lehani'ah tefillin" and has in mind to thereby fulfill his obligation to recite the beracha, and the one reciting the beracha likewise has in mind to fulfill the listener's obligation through his recitation, then if the listener speaks in between the placing of the tefillin shel yad and tefillin shel rosh, he must recite the beracha "al missvat tefillin" on his tefillin shel rosh, even though the one who recited the beracha did not speak and even finished placing his tefillin shel rosh before the listener spoke.

If the one who recited the beracha spoke in between the placing of the tefillin shel yad and tefillin shel rosh and the listener did not, then the listener does not need to recite a beracha over the tefillin shel rosh. If one interrupted in between the tefillin shel yad and tefillin shel rosh with matters related to tefillin, he does not require an additional beracha over the tefillin shel rosh. This applies even if the interruption occurred after the recitation of the beracha and before the placing of the tefillin shel yad itself.

Optimally, however, one should not interrupt in between the placing of the tefillin shel yad and tefillin shel rosh even for matters related to the tefillin. Only if one must may he interrupt for these purposes. If one hears kaddish or kedusha in between the placing of the tefillin shel yad and tefillin shel rosh, then he should preferably not respond but listen silently and concentrate on what is being said. If, however, he did respond, he does not recite the beracha "al missvat tefillin" on the tefillin shel rosh.

If after reciting the beracha on the tefillin shel yad one hears that the congregation will soon recite kaddish or kedusha, and he sees that if he takes the time to wrap the strap around his arm he will be unable to put on his tefillin shel rosh in time to answer, then he may proceed without wrapping the strap. (Generally, of course, one must first wrap the tefillin around his arm seven times before placing the tefillin shel rosh.) In such a situation one should fasten the tefillin shel yad on his upper arm and then quickly place the tefillin shel rosh on his head, at which point he may respond to kaddish and kedusha. Afterwards, he should complete the customary wrappings around his arm.

Back to this week's Parsha | Previous Issues

This article is provided as part of Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Permission is granted to redistribute electronically or on paper,
provided that this notice is included intact.

For information on subscriptions, archives, and
other Shema Yisrael
Classes, send mail to

Jerusalem, Israel