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One unanswerable question arises from the parashah of the Egyptian exile, the bondage, the plagues, and Pharaoh’s stubbornness and indecisiveness: why, on what basis? Yosef saved Egypt during the devastating famine, acquired the Egyptian citizenry as servants for Pharaoh as well as one-fifth of all the land’s produce. With the king’s full consent, Yosef brought his seventy-member family over to Egypt. By what right did Pharaoh enslave them? By what right did he force upon them work with bricks and cement, treating them with cruelty and oppression? Quite simply, this is what he decided to do, to oppress and enslave.
If the slaves did not complete the minimum requirement of bricks, a baby was taken and placed in the wall for each missing brick. This is what he decided. “Pharaoh commanded his entire nation saying, ‘Every newborn boy cast into the river.’” This is what he decided.
Following the advice of the royal physicians, he slaughtered three hundred children each day in order to bathe in a tub full of their blood. It was healthful for him. What authority did he have to abduct, drown and slaughter innocent children? Pharaoh has no need to justify his actions. His decision to do something is enough. Who determined that his blood was redder than that of those children? He did, and that is all anyone needed to hear.
Such governmental procedures remind us so much of different times and different rulers. The closer we compare the two, the more similar they appear. We have the good fortune of living in a country of equality, where there exists a law of mandatory, free education. The ultra-Orthodox sector makes up around 13% of the Israeli population, but its portion of the budget - around 3%! Why? Because this is how it is!
Is there any wonder that the general education budget is balanced, while the Torah educational network is accumulating a heavy deficit? Yet, when a request is submitted to cover the expenses, we are considered greedy. And for how much have we asked? To add a tenth of a percent of the budget, while the amount withheld is one hundred times that! For this they have stubbornly and arrogantly scorned, jeered and blocked our efforts with all their strength. But this withholding of funds is but the tip of the iceberg. Have you heard of the “kerav fund”? The Israeli government (which is funded by taxpayers) provides 90% of the budget for this fund, which consists of hundreds of millions of shekels. The Torah educational network schools receive not a shekel from this fund. Equality in all its glory!
Maybe you’ll say, after all, this is a special fund - despite the Israeli government’s covering of 90% of the budget. But what’s there to say about the million shekels that the state spends for the educational expansion program, none of which goes to the Torah schools? Why? Because this is how it is. How much effort did our elected officials invest before they could receive some crumbs without any semblance of statistical proportion! Eight hundred psychologists are set aside for general education. Good - these schools suffer from violence, drugs and crime. But for the “Ma’ayan Hahinuch” schools only part-time workers were provided.
A certain project received over 200 million shekels, none of it given to the Torah educational system.
Out of a one-and-a-half million shekel budget allotted for special education, how much did the Torah educational network receive? Did you guess - .007.
Haven’t we said we have equality?
A budget of 800 million shekels is allocated for pedagogic administration, .0017 of which went to the Torah educational system. They’re not even consistent in their cutbacks!
Next: The state provides hundreds of millions of shekels each year for cultural activities and community center functions. Torah education receives nothing from this, not even in religious and traditional neighborhoods. The budget allocated for the sports authority is over 100 million shekels a year, not one of which is given to the Torah educational network.
Additionally, other institutions enjoy generous funding from local authorities for electricity, water, property tax, rent, security, maintenance and other expenses. With the exception of the municipalities of Yerushalayim and Benei Berak, local authorities throughout Israel do not provide similar funding for the students of the Torah educational network. This is outright discrimination, but somehow it is always the religious who are greedy and draining resources. We hope that this week the discrimination will end. This week, we hope, true equality will begin.
Pharaoh subjugated Benei Yisrael, forcing back-breaking labor upon them without any justification. He subjected an entire nation to misery, men, women and children. He hunted babies and cast them into the river, stuffed them into walls, and bathed in their blood. What cruelty, what savage, inhumane conduct! But for what do Hazal criticize him, what do they emphasize from among all the forms of his corruption? “… who did not know Yosef.” He pretended not to know Yosef, he divested himself of any debt of gratitude towards his viceroy. Indeed, “There is no negative attribute like ungratefulness” (Sefer Hasidim, 665).
Conversely, there is no more exalted, human or basic characteristic than proper expression of gratitude.
How enormous a debt of gratitude we owe to the founder of the sacred movement and the one who bears its burden, the one who established the glorious educational network and the “El Hama’ayan” movement, restoring the glory of Sefaradi Judaism to its previous stature and lifting it to newer heights, our father and shepherd, Rav Ovadia Yossef shlit”a! How can we even begin expressing our profound sense of appreciation?
If we obey his instructions and bring about equality for Torah education and culture, thereby alleviating some of his burden and worries, we will be able to pay back at least some of our enormous debt of gratitude!
THICKNESS OF TREES
Climate conditions, temperature and sediments all contribute to the thickness of trees, though local environmental factors also play a role. Take, for example, the spot where a given tree grows. A tree situated on a properly drained incline receives less water than does one lying along a brook in a valley. The tree growing on an incline will lie in the shade for certain hours of the day, while a tree lying in an open area remains exposed to the sun for longer periods of time.
Another contributing factor to the thickness of a tree is the nature of the ground upon which it grows. In trees growing on soft, chalky ground, which can contain large quantities of water, we will find a thicker annual ring than in trees growing in similar climate conditions on harder surfaces, which cannot contain as much water.
The tree does not always expand evenly in all directions. Studies conducted in Finland found that the southern side of the trees examined thickened more than the northern side. It turned out that in this location, wind direction had a direct impact on the trees’ growth. Namely, the side exposed to the wind grew less, while areas protected from the wind did not encounter this phenomenon. Incidentally, when checking and comparing the annual rings of different trees, one must take into account other factors, as well, including attacks by harmful insects or mushrooms and fires and the like. These can often affect the rate of expansion. We should add that certain trees are more sensitive to climate changes than others. A less sensitive tree will expand more or less the same amount each year.
Trees are affected by changing climates, sediment, location and treatment. Remarkably, the same is true regarding people. After all, the pasuk tells us, “For man is like the tree of the field” (Devarim 20:19). At the end of its life, the tree provides a record of everything it has gone through in its life, including the external influences that had left their mark thereupon. Similarly, the human being must pay careful attention to the environment in which he lives, the friends with whom he becomes close and the kashrut of the food he eats. All of his actions and what occurs around him leaves an imprint upon him, one which directly affects his conduct in this world and yields substantial repercussions for the world to come.
Rabbi Yis’hak Yihyeh Halevi zs”l
There was once a person who grew in his courtyard a magnificent hen with beautifully colored feathers, which marched among its friends with pride and grandeur. Its owner, too, felt an enormous sense of pride over this specific hen. He fed the hen generously, giving it seeds constantly, and he would often pride himself over the hen to his friends. At night he would lock the coup with a special key that he hid in a secret place. One morning he went out to take his beloved hen to the courtyard, when he was suddenly struck by terror: the coup was broken into - and the hen was missing! His shrieks brought out his neighbors who scoffed at his bitter mourning: is it really worth getting all distraught over a single missing hen? Others tried calming him and restoring his emotional stability.
“Relax,” they said sympathetically, “your cries will not bring the hen back. Think rationally - who coveted the hen, who could have taken it?”
He was totally baffled. Who coveted the hen?! Everyone! After a moment, however, he realized that one individual loved the hen more than the others. He recalled how his neighbor followed him and even secretly intruded onto his premises waiting for the right moment. Unquestionably, he is the thief! The neighbor heard the accusation and was insulted. He outright denied the allegation. They decided to come to a court hearing according to Torah law before Rav Yis’hak Yihyeh Halevi zs”l.
The sage heard the accusation and denial and immediately detected the truth. He turned to the accuser with an obvious look of rebuke and said, “Tell me, did you see him steal the hen? No, you are just speculating. And on the basis of your conjecture you put to shame an upright citizen. You are publicly humiliating a fellow Jew - shame on you!”
He then turned to the defendant and said, “I imagine that you found the hen running around the area and took it with the intention of returning it to your neighbor. His shrieks, however, prevented you from doing so. Well, now you can give it back to him peacefully, just as you had planned.”
“Of course, rabbi!” he cried, and the entire issue was peacefully resolved.
taken from the work, “Hasaraf Mi’Brisk”
Flashback: A woman came to Rav Diskin’s home and told him of her father’s move to heresy and publication of a book for the missionaries containing lies to incite people against tradition. Through the initiative of Sir Montefiore, a response was published that exposed the lies and contradicted the heretical claims. Upon the publication of the response, the missionaries dismissed the heretic from his work for them. He lived in lonely solitude, and eventually he wrote to his daughter asking her to host him in her home.
“Abiding by my husband’s advice, I gave my father our consent, on condition that he accustom himself to the practices of the home: he will grow his beard and wear Jewish clothing, observe Torah and misvot, and not reveal his secret to anyone. We did not want his identity and prior activity to chase us all the way here, where we live. When he expressed his consent in writing, we sent him money for the trip and for fine clothing. I saw him when he arrived and shuddered. He was broken and shattered, a mere shadow of a human being. He had lost all vitality, he stood bereft of any joy of life. We dealt with him devotedly, trying to revive his spirit with his beautiful grandchildren. But despite our efforts, he flickered like a candle. He was completely absorbed within himself, carrying with him a cold, dark silence. The silence would be disrupted from time to time by a heart-wrenching sigh, accompanied by bitter crying as his hunched body trembled. The doctor could do nothing. ‘An inner fire consumes him,’ he would say, ‘he is being devoured by the pangs of conscience that gnaw at him from within.’ Consumed by pain and remorse, submerged in agony and anguish, his candle continued to flicker until at last it reached its final moment.
“‘Bring a minyan of Jews,’ he requested with a quivering voice. ‘But first, allow me to tell you something as a form of explanation, if not a justification… ‘
“I said to him, ‘Please, father, you may not become overly emotional, as it can be harmful for you. Do not torture yourself! We all saw your repentance and sincere remorse, and the gates of teshuvah have not been closed. You will certainly be forgiven and earn atonement!’
“But my words only increased his emotions, and his hands trembled furiously. ‘Do not disrupt me at this point,’ he begged. ‘I know that you have performed great kindness for me, but now please listen to my final request.’
“‘What is it, father?’ I asked with a heavy heart.
“‘I ask that you listen to my words until I have finished, and at the end I will submit a final request. If you fulfill my request, I will close my eyes calmly, quietly and securely. Please listen to my story.’ He then began speaking...
TO BE CONTINUED
“It shall be as a sign upon your arm and ‘totafot’ between your eyes”
Rabbenu Yaakov Ba’al Haturim writes as follows (Tur Orah Hayyim 25), as cited in the Shulhan Aruch: “One should have in mind while placing tefillin that the Al-mighty commanded us to place these four parshiyot, which contain the concepts of the singularity of His Name and Yessi’at Missrayim, on the arm near the heart and on the head near the brain, in order that we remember Yessi’at Missrayim [which came about] through the miracles and wonders that He performed for us, which signify His oneness, that He is singular in His universe, and that He possesses the strength and authority in both the upper and lower worlds to do therein as He pleases.” The Shulhan Aruch adds, “One should subjugate to the Al-mighty the soul situated in the brain, as well as the heart, the main source of desires and thoughts. One will thereby remember the Creator and diminish his desires.”
“It shall be as a sign upon your arm and ‘totafot’ between your eyes”
What and for whom is this sign? The Ramban zs”l, in his commentary to Devarim 22:6, writes as follows: “The tefillin that the Al-mighty commanded to serve as a sign and reminder that Hashem took us out from Egypt with a mighty hand… they are not for the honor of Hashem, but rather as compassion for our souls. It has already been formulated in the Yom Kippur prayer, ‘From the outset you separated mankind and singled him out to stand before You, for who will tell You what You will do, and if one is righteous - what does this do for You?’ It similarly says in the Torah, ‘… for your benefit… for your benefit all the days.’ In all these the meaning is for our benefit as opposed to His. All that we were commanded is so that His creatures will become pristine and pure, without the contamination of bad thoughts and objectionable character traits.” This is what is meant by, “It shall be for you as a sign upon your arm” - this is a sign for us, for our eternal benefit!
“It shall be as a sign upon your arm and ‘totafot’ between your eyes”
The sadik Rav Aryeh Levin zs”l, “the father of the prisoners,” was invited to speak before day school students. He told that when the British authorities sentenced to death two members of the Jewish underground, the martyrs Barzany and Feinstein Hy”d, they dressed them in red clothing and transferred them to the prison cell for those on death row. Only Reb Aryeh, the rabbi of the prisoners, was granted permission to enter their cell to provide encouragement. They asked him to place tefillin with them for the last time in their lives. He said, “One cannot describe the immense emotion that gripped them when they lifted their sleeves to place tefillin for the last time in their lives!” His audience was awed and inspired as they imagined the remarkable scene.
“Now, please tell me dear friends,” continued Reb Aryeh with his sweet, pleasant voice, “because Hashem grants us many years of life - is this any reason for our emotion and joy while wearing tefillin to be any less?!”
“It shall be as a sign upon your arm and ‘totafot’ between your eyes”
Rav Eliyahu Lopian zs”l, the “mashgi’ah” of the yeshivah “Kenesset Hizkiyahu,” once saw a man holding a small box close to his ear and listening with utmost concentration and attentiveness. It was a transistor radio, a relatively new invention in those days. The rabbi wondered, is it really possible to activate an electronic device without attaching it to an electric outlet? It was explained to him that inside the radio are small batteries and a sensitive device capable of picking up sound waves.
“What would happen,” he asked, “if a contact between two pieces loosens or if a tiny screw is missing?”
They explained to him that should this happen, the device will no longer work. The scientists and technicians labored to ensure the device’s minimal size, and therefore every tiny screw and minuscule component is indispensable for the proper operation of the radio.
“Indeed!” he exclaimed. “But why are there people who do not understand that tefillin, too, is a delicate, complex device that picks up frequencies of sanctity and emanation from the heavens above, through the parshiyot written inside them. If even the edge of the letter ‘yud’ is missing, the tefillin will become unoperative, Heaven forbid, and the powerful spiritual force will no longer be generated!”...
A Letter of Encouragement from Rav Aryeh Deri shlit”a
The First Zigzag
There is nothing new under the sun. That which was will continue to be, and what happens here and now has always been. If we wonder about ourselves, whom the Torah calls “an intelligent and wise nation,” how we appointed over ourselves such a disappointing leader, who managed to crash before he could take off, we can find consolation in the fact that we are not the only ones nor the first. If we wonder about his inconsistency, his dizzying zigzags and about-faces, we should remember that even in this regard he is not original. This phenomenon has always existed. Pharaoh was the patriarch of all “zigzaggers,” as he started with his defiant declaration, “Who is Hashem that I should heed His voice?” and ended by acknowledging, “Hashem is the righteous One, while my nation and I are the wicked ones.” He passed through the stage of “I do not know Hashem, nor will I set Yisrael free” and eventually arrived at “Arise and leave from the midst of my nation!” The same mouth that uttered the words, “Forgive please my sin just this once and pray to Hashem your G-d, that He may remove from me just this death” later said to Moshe Rabbenu, “Go away from me; make sure never to see my face again, for on the day you see my face you will die.” This is the same person who ran from his palace in the dark of night searching for Moshe Rabbenu, pleading, “Go serve Hashem as you spoke… and you shall bless me, as well!” Do you think it ends here? Not at all! Not three days pass before he conducts an urgent draft to chase after them and bring them back… Is this it? Not exactly: “Egypt said, I will flee from Yisrael, for Hashem fought on their behalf in Egypt.” If the walls of the sea had not collapsed upon them and drowned them, putting an end to the zigzag, it would have simply continued to this very day.
We laugh, but in truth there’s some logic behind the madness. Pharaoh was no fool. He zigzagged in response to the reality around him, to the force of the plagues. If not for the plagues, he would have certainly remained consistent all throughout, just as he had been throughout the years of slavery, resolute in his conviction to enslave them all, to torture and oppress until the end.
One who knows that this is how we should look at that zigzag understands how to apply the same method in analyzing the contemporary zigzag: the quivering of one who wants to but can’t. He wants to attain peace, but he finds no partner on the other side. He is prepared to give up everything, but he has no coalition. He wants to eradicate any form of Jewish character from “the state of all its citizens,” but he needs the political support of the religious parties. He tries, then backs out, tries again, and then falls apart. But what he really wants is to destroy everything - Judaism and education of Judaism, Torah study and the sacred yeshivot, if only he had the strength, if only he could.
We must therefore ensure that he will not have the strength, that we will not be able to, for this matter directly affects us.
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
The Halachot of Tefillin (cont.)
One must exercise extreme care not to entertain any thoughts of desire for women while wearing tefillin. Some authorities maintain that one who cannot control his mind in this regard should preferably not wear tefillin at all. According to the Bet Yosef, however, one is not exempt from the misvah of tefillin on this account. He should not, however, wear tefillin throughout the entire day, but only for the recitation of shema and tefilah.
A single man, who is more likely to engage in improper thoughts, should wear only tefillin Rashi, not tefillin Rabbenu Tam.
One must force himself to engage in words of Torah in order to distract his mind from matters that harm both his body and soul, and should resolve in his heart to accept upon himself the yoke of the kingship of Heaven.
One who lost, Heaven forbid, one of the seven relatives for whom mourning is required (father, mother, brother, sister, son, daughter, and spouse) is exempt from the misvah of tefillin before the burial, just as he is exempt from all other misvot. Additionally, even after the burial, the mourner may not fulfill the misvah of tefillin on the first day of mourning. Hazal derive this halachah from Hashem’s command to Yehezkel when he was a mourner (Yehezkel 24:17), “Your glory shall be fastened upon you.” Meaning, his tefillin, which are considered his “glory,” shall remain on his head. The implication is that other mourners may not don tefillin. Some have explained the reason why a mourner may not wear tefillin on the first day of his mourning as relating to the respect for tefillin. It is considered disrespectful for a mourner to wear tefillin at this point, whereas a mourner’s head is in the dust, as it were.
This prohibition applies only on the first day of mourning, because it says, “its end is like a bitter day” (Amos 8:10). This pasuk implies that the main period of mourning lasts for just a single day. Therefore, already on the second day of mourning the mourner wears tefillin. He should not, however, don tefillin on the second day of mourning until after sunrise.
If one of the seven relatives passed away at nighttime and was buried either that night or the following day, such as if the death occurred on Sunday night and the burial took place that night or on Monday, then the mourner does not wear tefillin for that entire day, whereas this day marks the first day of mourning. He does not put on tefillin until after sunrise Tuesday morning. If, however, the deceased was not buried until the day following the death or thereafter, such as if the death occurred on Sunday by day and the burial on Sunday night or Monday, then according to some views the mourner wears tefillin on Monday after the burial. Whereas that day is the day of burial but not the day of the actual death, it is not considered the first day of mourning on which the exemption from tefillin applies. Others, however, disagree, maintaining that the day of the burial is always considered the first day of mourning, regardless of whether or not the death occurred that same day. Therefore, even if the relative dies on Sunday but is buried only on Tuesday, the mourner does not wear tefillin on Tuesday. He begins wearing tefillin only Wednesday morning after sunrise.
As for the final halachah, it would seem that one should be stringent and wear tefillin on the day of the burial if it took place on a day other than the day of the death. However, he should do so privately and without a berachah.
If the death occurred by day and the deceased was buried that day after sunset but before nightfall, the mourner should wear tefillin the following morning with a berachah. If the death took place on Shabbat and the deceased was buried on Mossa’ei Shabbat or Sunday, then the mourner does not wear tefillin at all on Sunday. He rather puts on tefillin on Monday morning after sunrise.
If one mistakenly put on tefillin on the first day of mourning, he must remove them immediately upon realizing his error.
Eliyahu Ben Masudah & Yaakov ben Senyar
Produced by Cong. Bnai Yosef and the Aram Soba Foundation - translated from Ma'ayan Hashavua in Israel
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