Shabbat Hol Hamoed Pesah
THE END AND THE MEANS
The Exodus from Egypt, commemorated on Pesah, was merely the means to the
ultimate goal of "I am Hashem your God Who took you from the Land of Egypt,
to be for you a G-d." The ultimate purpose is "When you [Moshe] take the
nation from Egypt, you will serve G-d on this mountain," referring to Mount
Sinai. The goal of Yessi'at Misrayim was the receiving of the Torah and
misvot, the declaration of "Na'aseh venishma!" ("We will do and we will
hear!"). There is no true meaning to freedom without spiritual redemption,
as we thank the Almighty at the seder, "for our redemption and the
redemption of our souls."
The "El Hama'ayan" movement in Israel, under the inspiring guidance and
leadership of Rav Ovadia Yossef shlit"a, works through a wide array of
programs towards that end. It involves itself in the work of completing
freedom that we have merited to see in our day, through forwarding the
of spiritual redemption, the restoration of the Torah to its former glory,
the return to the fountains of faith and our heritage, the many Torah youth
programs and adult-education seminars, the mass assemblies of spiritual
elevation, halachah exams conducted throughout Israel, summer camps for
children, Torah pamphlets, and so many other activities. In this way, we
come closer to the ultimate redemption - "Return to Me, and I will return
"THOSE WHO WALKED IN DARKNESS NOW SEE THE BRILLIANT LIGHT"
The festival of Pesah is the festival of redemption: "In Nissan they were
redeemed, in Nissan they will be redeemed in the future." As the ultimate
redemption unfolds, speedily and in our days, we will see miracles similar
to those witnessed during the Exodus from Egypt. The final night of
redemption from Egyptian bondage, the night of "makkat bechorot" (plague of
the first-born), was preceded by the ninth plague, darkness. Hazal tell us
that during the days of darkness ninety-eight percent of the nation
perished, as the pasuk towards the beginning of Beshalah implies that only
one out of every fifty left Egypt. What must have the survivors felt after
such a devastation? Unquestionably, they felt discouraged, hopeless and on
the brink of despair. But then, just several days later, the tides turned
and they were delivered from darkness to brilliant light, from bondage to
redemption, from mourning to festivity.
Rabbi Nahman of Breslov zs"l told a story whose lesson is so critical and
so contemporary. Once a Jew and gentile traveled together to see the
They journeyed from country to country and kingdom to kingdom, had many
memorable experiences and were awe-struck by the beautiful scenery and
tourist-spots that they encountered. Along the way, however, their money
ran out. They were forced to beg for donations and hire themselves out for
odd jobs. As they walked through the Jewish neighborhood in a certain
the Jewish youngster smelled a familiar aroma - the smell of baking massot.
He spoke with one of the local inhabitants and his eyes lit up. He turned
to his companion and said, "We're in luck. Today is the day before Pesah,
the festival when Jews invite guests to their table. Come with me to
services tonight, and I will find us proper accommodations." They came to
Bet Kenesset and stood out quite obviously as strangers. The young Jew
walked over to the "gabbai" of the Bet Kenesset and said,
"Hello. We are foreigners, and my friend here is totally ignorant with
regard to Judaism." The gabbai did not flinch. "Do not worry, we are
indiscriminate with our guests. You will eat in so-and-so's home, and your
friend will be hosted by so-and-so." The youngster went back to his friend
and said, "After the services we will be split up, and each of us will be
eating somewhere else. Afterwards, though, we will meet back here." The
prayers concluded after the lengthy singing of Hallel, all the while the
gentile waiting patiently. "It's worth waiting through all this for a good
meal," he thought to himself. After the services, the rabbi offered the
community his blessing, and the host came over to the friend to invite him
to walk home with him. He tried striking up some conversation and quickly
realized that he is an "am ha'aress," knowing nothing about Judaism as if
was a gentile...
The house was lit with an ornate array of lamps, the table was set with
silver dishes, and the gentile's stomach ached from hunger - he had eaten
othing all day. The host recited the "kiddush" and everyone drank. As we
know, a taste of wine simply intensifies one's hunger. Afterwards, they
served him a small piece of parsley with salt-water, as if they were making
some kind of joke. They then shoved a book in his hands and everyone
started singing, his stomach growling throughout. Then the children
asking questions and the father answered them slowly and patiently.
Finally, finally, after the discussion finally came to an end, they drank
the second cup of wine. They stood up to wash and the child asked,
why do wash our hands now?" "This is for the meal," responded the father.
Finally!! The gentile was overjoyed, as his hunger will finally be
resolved. He washed his hands with the rest of them and sat down, peering
uncomfortably at the strange crackers on the table. The host recited the
berachah and gave each of them a piece - a "kezayit," that was it! Was
another joke? He comforted himself thinking that they just don't want to
fill up on this, as many delicacies are soon to come. And, sure enough,
they served him a spoon full of some white, ground-up vegetable - the food
has finally arrived! He devoured the spoonful and, after just a brief
moment, his breathing stopped, his eyes streamed with tears, and he started
choking uncontrollably. He barely managed to get out the words, "Shame on
you! This is how you treat your guests!" He raced out of the house in a
fury and headed towards the Bet Kenesset to wait his friend. He waited for
around an hour or two. Finally, a little after midnight, his Jewish friend
arrived, full and content. "How was your meal?" he asked pleasantly. The
gentile immediately started venting his anger and frustration. The Jewish
friend answered, "You fool - you left just before the meal was about to
begin! If you would have waited just another five minutes, it would have
all been worth it!"
This is how we must relate to every "piece of marror" that we are served.
We simply have to realize that this is the final stage, and believe that
after the darkness comes the light of redemption. Everything merely leads
up to that final moment of brilliant light.
FOR JUDGMENT BELONGS TO G-D
Rav Yehonatan Eibshiss became the rabbi of the capital city of Prague at
the young age of eighteen years old. Despite the presence of many leading
Torah scholars in the city, his greatness and knowledge outshone them all,
as the sun outshines the light of a candle, and he was appointed to this
most distinguished position.
However, several of the younger scholars in the community, who studied
under the older rabbis in Prague, saw Rav Eibshiss's appointment as an
>insult to their mentors. They therefore decided to come up with a complex
question of halachah, whose answer seems obvious on the surface but, after
further inquiry and research, becomes far more complicated. They sat
together for two full weeks studying all the pertinent sections of Gemara
and considered all the various possibilities and considerations relating to
the issue. They then approached the newly appointed rabbi, greeted him
warmly, congratulated him on his new position, and presented their query.
He heard the question, thought for a brief moment with his genus mind, and
presented his answer.
His answer was the wrong answer.
Just as the response left his mouth, he noted the sparks of glee in the
faces of his guests. Immediately he continued, "This is how it would seem
at first glance, based on such-and-such 'sugyot' and such-and-such
However, upon further analysis one can differentiate between the different
cases, as indicated by such-and-such sugya. Such a distinction could
resolve the problems raised by such-and-such sugya..." In short, he
reviewed all that they had studied over the course of two weeks, thus
demonstrating his lightening-speed mind and the breadth of his knowledge.
They shuddered in his presence, now having witnessed first-hand his
greatness in Torah. Before they left, he asked them, "I was wondering,
you asking for practical purposes, or just for the sake of discussion?"
"We were asking theoretically, for the sake of discussion," they replied.
"How did you know?"
"We are guaranteed by the Almighty," he explained, "that a Bet Din ruling
in accordance with Torah law has divine assistance to ensure that it does
not make a mistake, as the pasuk states, 'for judgment belongs to God,' and
as the Ramban elaborates in his commentary (Shemot 21:6). Thus, were this
to have been a practical question, I would not have made the mistake at
first and answered incorrectly, being that I was issuing an actual ruling
halachah. But, since it was just a theoretical question, it is possible to
at first give the wrong answer as part of the discussion."
This divine assistance is guaranteed only to judges who rule according to
Torah law, about whom the pasuk states, "God stands among the congregation
of K-el, among judges He will adjudicate." For this reason, there is no
such thing as an appellate court in the Jewish legal system. (In fact,
the British mandate asked Rav Kook zs"l to establish an appellate court, he
was awfully hesitant.) The secular court system, however, does allow for
appellate court, thus testifying to the its own recognition of mistakes.
Since it issues rulings of human beings, without divine assistance, there
cannot be the same guarantee. How strange it is, then, that the same
Israeli press that ceaselessly criticizes the decisions of prime ministers,
officers, generals and politicians, unconditionally places its trust on the
decision of three judges...
THE GOLDEN COLUMN
Rabbi Avraham Haim Ades zs"l
At the seder, we recite in the Haggadah, "For more than one foe has stood
up against us to destroy; rather, in every generation they rise up against
us to destroy us, and the Almighty delivers us from their hand."
Rabbi Avraham Haim Ades was one of the great scholars of Aram Soba. Once,
he needed to travel to a nearby city and thus had to hire a donkey and join
a caravan to ensure his safety along the way. There was an Arab who rented
out donkeys and organized caravans, but Rabbi Avraham insisted on renting
the donkey from a Jew, as the pasuk states, "your brother shall live among
you" (implying that one should preferably give business to a Jew). He thus
told the Arab that he already has a camel, and all he wants is to pay for
joining the caravan. Just as they left the city, the Arab leading the
turned to the rabbi and said, "You refused to rent from me and you rented
from a Jew instead. Very soon you will see our response and you will
having done so!"
Rabbi Avraham looked at him calmly and said, "You do know that we have an
all-powerful God. I am sure you heard what He did to Pharaoh and Egypt. I
am not afraid of you; I trust in God that He will save me from your wicked
hands and punish you as He did to Pharaoh and his army."
The Arab just laughed. "Soon we will be in the middle of the desert - we
will see who will save you there!"
Indeed, the caravan soon arrived in the middle of the barren desert.
Suddenly, they heard a shriek. The horse upon which the Arab rode was
startled and jumped, throwing his passenger onto the ground. The Arab
landed on a sharp rock and snapped his spinal cord, leaving the bottom half
of his body paralyzed. The travelers lifted him up upon one side of the
saddle, and on the other side they placed a pile of rocks to balance his
weight. They continued this way for the rest of the journey, and they all
treated the rabbi with great respect, recognizing that his God was with
ASKING AND EXPOUNDING
A Series of Halachot According to the Order of the Shulhan Aruch,
the Rulings of Rav Ovadia Yossef shlit"a
By Rav David Yossef shlit"a, Rosh Bet Midrash Yehaveh Da'at
Chapter 4: The Laws of Washing One's Hands in the Morning (continued)
Other Activities Which Require Washing
In all cases mentioned in previous issues, one must wash his hands even if
he does not plan on praying or studying Torah at that point. Even if he is
involved in some other activity, he must still wash his hands, since many
authorities claim that the "evil spirit" rests on his hands in these
situations, and one must not allow this spirit to remain on his hands for
One must careful not to touch his thighs or any other part of the body
normally covered while praying, studying Torah or eating. Similarly, at
these times one should not run his hands through the hair on his head. The
reason for these strictures is because of the sweat found in these areas,
and Hazal comment (Yerushalmi, Terumot 8:3) that a person's sweat
constitutes a dangerous substance, except for the sweat of his face.
However, there is no need to be concerned about touching the parts of the
body normally uncovered, such as the face, neck (until the chest) and
generally exposed areas of the arms. During prayers, one may touch his
until his elbows, and he may touch the arm on which he places tefillin up
until the place where the tefillin is situated, as it is considered a part
of the body generally exposed. However, the part of the other arm above
elbow is considered not generally exposed. In a place where people are
accustomed to wear short sleeves, one may touch during prayers up until the
part generally exposed. However, even in places where people are
to wearing short pants, and where small children who often wear short
one should not touch his legs during tefilah and Torah study, as the legs
are always considered concealed parts of the body. The same applies to
in places where people walk barefoot, that one should not touch his feet
during a meal, prayer or Torah study. One may, however, touch his clothing
or hat even though they are damp from sweat during prayer or Torah study,
and he does not need to wash his hands afterwards.
One who does not have water with which to wash his hands in the morning
should wipe them on some material that cleans, such as rock, twig, wall,
napkin or some sturdy article of clothing.
In such a situation, one needs not wipe three times, though one who is
stringent in this regard is deserving of blessing. He must ensure to wipe
both sides of his hands, up until the wrist. However, if he wiped only
until his knuckles, such a wiping suffices. Wiping only the fingertips,
however, does not suffice.
Some say that after wiping one's hands he should recite the berachah,
"...al nekiyut yadayim" ("...on the cleaning of hands"). Although this is
the view of the Shulhan Aruch, since many authorities argue on this ruling
and contend that this berachah should not be recited, one should preferably
not recite the berachah, since one should never recite a berachah unless
requirement is certain. Wiping one's hands in such a manner suffices only
for praying, but it does not remove the "evil spirit'' from the hands.
Therefore, if he chances upon water he should wash three times in
alternating fashion in order to remove the "evil spirit" from his hands.
However, a berachah should not be recited over such a washing.
FROM THE WONDERS OF CREATION
The Eight Plague: Locusts
The Torah testifies about the plague of locusts that devastated Egypt that
such a phenomenon had never previously occurred, nor will such an
ever take place again. However, to a significant - albeit smaller -
plagues of locusts do cause considerable damage from time to time. For
reason, this plague led Pharaoh to ask Moshe to remove "this death." The
locust is a glutton by nature, and has the ability to eat in one day a
quantity that exceeds its total body weight. True, a locust is not very
- it seldom exceeds the size of a human finger. However, when one takes
into account the number of locusts that can affect a single field -
upon millions - it becomes clear the magnitude of destruction this plague
can cause. A swarm of locusts is capable of devouring a year's worth of
produce in a single day, thus causing severe famine. The baby locust is
"born" the moment it cracks from its egg, the egg being one of about
laid by the mother locust and hid in the ground.
After the forty days of incubation, small, black locusts, each containing
three pairs of feet, crawl from the eggs. These small insects can crawl on
their stomachs or walk with their legs. For the first few weeks, the
insects crawl together in large groups at a very slow pace. Afterward, the
creature's color becomes reddish and it grows a pair of wings. In its
stage of development, when it becomes physically mature and capable of
reproducing, its color changes once again, this time to a shade of yellow.
At this point, the locust becomes ever so dangerous.
An inquisitive individual may ask, if locusts are so destructive, why were
they created in the first place? As Jews, we know that the Creator "looked
at the Torah and created the world." In other words, He created the world
to fit the Torah; not the opposite. Thus, since the Torah writes about the
plague of locusts unleashed against Egypt, Hashem had to create locusts.
proof to the fact that the plague of locusts in Egypt occurred through
divine intervention, the swarm affected only the lands of the Egyptians,
those of Benei Yisrael, just as Moshe had predicted. Understandably, this
plague led Pharaoh to confess, "I have sinned."
Father and Son (9)
Flashback: Two brothers supported their families by managing the store
inherited from their father, until their families grew too large. The
younger son - a Torah scholar - thus set out with his family to find a
position in the rabbinate, but could not find one. Their wanderings
them to an inn hosted by a generous man who treated them for a few days
of charge. Just before their departure, the brother asked the host how he
could bless him.
The old innkeeper answered, "I had but one request, but I have already
given up on ever seeing it granted. I am childless, and my wife and I are
already old. I have come to accept the fact that I will leave this world
with no children."
The brother then recalled that when he left his brother to manage the
store, his brother told him that the power of blessing will be granted to
him. Confident in his brother's righteousness as well as the merits of the
innkeeper who welcomes guests so generously and his trust in the Almighty,
he pleaded with the old man, "Please, do not lose hope! I bless you and
your wife that a year from now you will be embracing a child!"
"Amen," answered the old man, and they blessed each other farewell.
The brother got into the wagon and took hold of the reins. The week of
recuperation drastically improved his appearance, and the fresh clothes he
received from the innkeeper were quite impressive. As we know, "In my own
city, my name is enough for people to recognize me. But outside my city -
my clothing represent me." He reached a distant city and asked permission
o deliver a sermon. His audience was impressed and after his speech they
approached him to ask him all types of questions in matters regarding both
halachah and aggadah. He answered each question adequately, and he dazzled
them with his remarkable breadth of knowledge. "Please stay with us for a
while," they requested, "and guide us, as we have no rabbi or spiritual
mentor." He agreed, and he remained there, teaching them the ways of Torah
and its misvot. He established regular Torah classes for children and
adults alike. He set up important policies for the management of the
community and all communal manners passed through him. He was treated with
honor and respect, and in his new position he found consolation for all the
hard times he had experienced. He spent his days and nights engrossed in
Torah study and leading his community competently. He was grateful for
he had, and gradually forgot the difficult times of the past, including the
old innkeeper and the blessing...
to be continued