"Thirty days before the festival we ask and expound regarding the halachot of the festival." The laws of Pesah are particularly complex and intricate and their study should begin on Purim. The Hid"a zs"l, in several places, cites his grandfather, Rabbi Avraham Azulai zs"l, who commented that thirty days before Pesah the Al-mighty begins taking the souls of Benei Yisrael from the halls of impurity where they have been residing. One-thirtieth of the process occurs each of these thirty days, so that on Erev Pesah the souls are removed completely. For this reasons, the sacred books teach us that the ultimate eradication of Amalek takes place on Erev Pesah. On the night of the seder, we will therefore sit with sanctity and purity. This is perhaps the meaning of the Haggadah when it says, "In every generation a person must see himself as if he himself left Egypt." Every year we, ourselves, leave the prison of impurity and enter a state of purity, we are freed from the bondage of the evil inclination and become free men.
Thus, these days are particularly conducive for more intensified kedushah, repentance, and an increase in our Torah study. We must properly take advantage of this period of purification so that we can absorb the power of the night of seder and the entire festival of Pesah. With this charge we will then be able to continue growing throughout the days of Sefirat Haomer, reaching Shavuot in a state suitable for the acceptance of the Torah.
This message is particularly critical for yeshivah students. Do not allow the final days before Pesah break to become a time of laxity or fatigue. These are sacred days, whose power and potential must be brought to fruition!
THE IMPORTANCE OF THE "HEVRAH"
The story is told of a king with a single son, the heir to the throne. The prince was the king's pride and joy, everything he lived and hoped for. He looked very carefully after the growth and development of his son throughout his childhood. When the time came for the child's education, the king said to one of his closest advisors, "I want to hire the most experienced educators to develop a special curriculum for my son. He will need a lot of knowledge, he will have to learn proper behavior and protocol, and will need proficiency in various languages and cultures. In the general educational system he will not receive this special training." The king's advisor respectfully kneeled before the monarch and said, "As you wish, my king. I have but one question to ask. Once the best educators are coming into the palace to teach the prince, why should he sit and learn by himself? The palace supervisor has a son the same age. Why not he join the prince so that he, too, may acquire valuable knowledge and expand his horizons?"
The king was very distressed by the proposal. The palace supervisor was a talented general, gifted and accomplished, but not a member of the nobility. His manners were not those of the royal family. The king would not want such a boy as a friend for his dear son. But, he did not object and said, "As you wish, but remember that I am entrusting with you the education of my son, my precious treasure, the future of the kingdom!" The advisor's intentions were certainly sincere - he wished to allow for another youngster to receive an enriched education. Why shouldn't the supervisor's son join the prince in his studies? To the contrary, it would be boring for the prince to sit by himself. Surely he would need the friendship and company of another boy his age. But, tragically, the king's worst fears came true in the most severe fashion. The supervisor's son was, indeed, influenced by the brash conduct of his parents, by his older brothers and their friends, from their frightening stories of crime and gluttonous partying. These incidents sparked the prince's imagination far more effectively than any of his classes in the palace. He would listen to the stories with his curiosity peaked, and in his free time he would roam the streets, looking for the boys on the street his age whose world had caught his attention. One day, the king's advisor was called to the palace. The king handed to him a detailed description of an intense curriculum for his son, carefully designed to ensure that the prince would receive the best training and acquire the knowledge necessary for his future of royalty. As they were talking, the chief of police appeared in the doorway. The placid look on his face stood in sharp contrast to the devastating news he brought. "What is it?" asked the king. The chief approached the throne, kneeled and whispered into the king's ears. The king's face turned white.
The chief of police kneeled and silently left the room. The king turned to his advisor and said, "Remember how you suggested that the supervisor's son study together with my son?" "Yes," answered the advisor, already sensing trouble. "Well, he was arrested tonight for stealing," continued the king. At this point the advisor's face, too, turned white. But the king was not finished: "That is not all - he persuaded my son to participate. They were both caught." The advisor's eyes darkened. The story was told as a parable by Rabbi Moshe Alshich zs"l in his commentary to our parashah, in the context of the sin of the golden calf. The king in the story represents the King of Kings, and the prince is the Nation of Israel, the children of the Al-mighty. The advanced education, obviously, symbolizes the Torah and its beautiful misvot. The son of the palace supervisor is the "erev rav," the other nations which Moshe, the close advisor to the King, asked Hashem to include in Yessiat Misrayim. It was they who brought out of Egypt the idolatrous culture which was ingrained in their heritage, and it was they who introduced these practices to Benei Yisrael. The Al-mighty said to Moshe, "Go down, for your nation which you brought out of Egypt has become corrupt," referring to the erev rav which Moshe had insisted on taking out of Egypt. "They made a metal calf, and they bowed down to it and sacrificed to it." But this is not all - "They declared, 'This is your god, Israel!'" They dragged My son with them, telling them that this is their god. This cannot be forgiven!
This story occurred some thirty-three hundred years ago, but its destructive results affect us to this very day. Hazal tell us that no calamity befalls Am Yisrael which does not involve some form of punishment for the sin of the golden calf. All this has transpired because of a bad "hevrah," a corrupt influence on our people. Around this time of year, parents begin the process of registering their children for the upcoming academic year. Our children are our most precious treasures. We know that in the Torah educational systems they will receive the best education, including a superior secular education as well as religious education which connects them to our rich, ancestral heritage of Jewish learning and tradition. Moreover, parents must consider the influence of the crowd in which their children will interact. The religious schools are those without the knives and fist fights, without foul language, physical violence among the students, and other phenomena all too common in other schools. For this reason alone, Torah education is the better choice!
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