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Yessi'at Misrayim both began and ended with the element of faith. In the very beginning of the process, we read, "The nation believed that Hashem remembered His nation." Later, after the splitting of the sea and drowning of the Egyptians, "They believed in Hashem and in Moshe, His servant." In Sefer Bemidbar we read of Benei Yisrael's complaints against Hashem and Moshe, described by the pasuk with similar terminology: "The nation spoke against Hashem and against Moshe." This teaches us, writes the Ba'al Haturim, that whoever trusts in the sages demonstrates his belief in the Al-mighty, whereas one who disputes them is like disputing the Shechinah! In every generation, one must see himself as having personally left Egypt. Correspondingly, there exists a "Moshe Rabbenu" in every generation, a leader who implants faith within the hearts of the people and brings them to redemption. We have merited in our generation the Torah giant who works to restore the glory of Torah to its proper place and imbue the nation with faith, Rav Ovadia Yossef shlit"a, who nourishes us from the fountains of his Torah and stands at the head of the massive spiritual revolution. Let us express our reverence and appreciation, the feelings of gratitude that fill our hearts, at the great assembly where we will greet our rabbi. We will all merit his blessing as we all hope and pray to Hashem with one heart, "Add days onto the days of the king, his years like generation after generation," that our great rabbi shall see the fruits of his labor with the coming of the complete redemption speedily, that we may greet our righteous Mashi'ah with our leader in front of us, Amen!
The mishnah (Pesahim 116b) teaches us, "In every generation, one must see himself as having personally left Egypt." This obligation is derived from the pasuk, "for what Hashem has done to me when I left Egypt." It likewise says, "He took us from there." Now let's be honest with ourselves: although we rejoice at the sacred night of the seder, we commemorate our festival of freedom by observing the holy Yom Tov, and we retell the story of Yessi'at Missrayim - who sees himself as having personally left? Who senses the emotion of having actually left Egypt? The Saba of Kelm zs"l already exclaimed, this is an explicit obligation, but who could so arrogantly claim to have fulfilled it?!
Allow us to suggest a new outlook on the exile and redemption, by which one can perhaps fulfill this obligation to it fullest. As we know, our nation experienced oppression in Egypt on two levels. First, we suffered the slavery and bondage. Each Jew was to produce six hundred bricks a day; if one was missing from the final count, one of his children was taken instead to fill the empty space in the wall - this also gives us some indication as to the size of each brick! No, we cannot possibly comprehend the concept of slavery or appreciate that kind of lifestyle. Certainly we have no sense of the type of labor to which Benei Yisrael were subjected, where they would build and then be forced to destroy the final product - brutality for the pure sake of brutality!
This was one form of bondage. But additionally, Benei Yisrael experienced spiritual bondage, a campaign of cultural strangling that was launched against them: "He took us from the iron crucible, from Egypt." As Hazal put it, we were "like a fetus in an animal's womb." The fetus has no life of its own; it eats the same food consumed by the mother and even breathes through its mother. The Egyptians did not only perpetrate evil against us; they made us evil. We deteriorated to the forty-nine "gates of impurity" to the point where the angels wondered, "How are these [Benei Yisrael] different from these [the Egyptians]?"
Moshe Rabbenu then comes as an agent of the Al-mighty and demands, "Send My nation so that they may serve Me!" Pharaoh refuses and suffers plague after plague. Eventually, he breaks and Yisrael's pride is raised high. The Egyptians feared us, they untied the chains, and, finally, "On Rosh Hashanah servitude ended for our patriarchs" (Rosh Hashanah 11a). We lived for the next half a year as masters, enjoying freedom, observing the Egyptians' punishment and watching the revenge.
At the end of that winter Moshe Rabbenu called our attention to the imminent redemption. We were to follow Hashem into the wilderness to receive the Torah, occupy the holy land and build there the Bet Hamikdash. At this point the nation split into two factions. Part of the nation said, what's wrong with our lives here? If the workload has been eliminated and we now enjoy freedom, why should we go out into the desert, and why should we accept upon ourselves the yoke of misvot? Why not just remain here, free from both physical and spiritual bondage? Indeed, there they remained, only to die during the three days of darkness. The Haggadah alludes to their fate in the response to the question of the wicked son: "If he had been there" - he would certainly have preferred freedom from misvot, and therefore, "he would not have been redeemed."
Others, however, understood that freedom from slavery and subjugation alone, lives of empty idleness, are not the purpose or destiny. There were those who realized that spiritual freedom is of no less importance than the physical, that redemption from the subjugation of slavery constitutes merely a stage that allows us to live as servants of Hashem, attached to the Creator and fulfilling His commandments. Only then, "Fortunate are you in this world, and it will be good for you in the world to come." These were the ones who left Egypt with pride, these were the ones who merited the miracles at the sea and Matan Torah, the clouds of glory, mann and quail. They earned lives of goodness and light, and both physical and spiritual prosperity.
This decision presents itself before each individual in every generation. Will one strive for only economic success, for good conditions and a life of luxury, will he yearn for this and stop there, or will he sensibly realize that these are but the means and not the goal? Will he understand that the main thing is our becoming Hashem's nation who observes His commandments and follows Him with absolute trust, thereby earning His blessing?
In this regard, everyone can and must see himself as having personally left Egypt. Each and every person can and must choose spirituality, the path following the Creator. One must realize that those who preferred to remain "there" ultimately forfeited both worlds, whereas those who followed their Creator earned both!
Pesah, Massah and Marror
"Rabban Gamliel says, whoever did not mention these three things on Pesah did not fulfill his obligation. They are: pesah, massah and marror." Meaning, one must explain at the seder why we eat these three items at the seder. Rabbi Moshe Pizanti zs"l, in his treatise, "Hukkat Hapesah," writes that even those who don't know how to read the Haggadah must read or hear at least this piece, the explanation of these misvot. Therefore, if someone is away from the table at that moment during the seder, or if one had become distracted by conversation of sleep, care must be taken to ensure that everyone is present and attentive. Similarly, if someone at the seder does not understand the text of the Haggadah, it must be translated for him in the language he understands.
Pesah, Massah and Marror
Rabbi Yehiya Salah zs"l writes that for these three missvot one could have offered different reasons from those presented in the Torah. We slaughter a sheep in commemoration of our having left Egypt, whose inhabitants worshipped sheep. Additionally, the astrological sign of Nissan, the month of Yessi'at Missrayim, is a sheep. The Al-mighty took us out in the middle of the month, when the astrological power of the sheep was at its height, demonstrating His unlimited rule over everything. We could have likewise claimed that we eat massah to symbolize our bondage, during which we were fed this food which, unlike hamess, is not digested quickly and can therefore sustain the slave for a longer period of time. In fact, the Ibn Ezra zs"l told that when he was in captivity in India, he was fed massah for specifically this reason. We eat lettuce (as marror) because the Creator had compassion for us ("hassah," the Hebrew word for lettuce, also means compassion) and redeemed us. The "hazeret" symbolizes Benei Yisrael's going around to beg (in Hebrew, "mehazer al hapetahim") for food. We therefore ask with regard to each of the three misvot, "al shum mah" ("for what purpose?") and then proceed to say the main reason, the one mentioned in the Torah, indicating that the other reasons are only secondary.
Pesah, Massah and Marror
The sacred Rabbi Abdallah Somech zs"l, in his work, "Kibbuss Hachamim," notes that the author of the Haggadah here also provides the answer to an obvious question one may have raised. How could it be that we eat massah in commemoration of Benei Yisrael's dough not rising, if we were commanded to eat massot already before leaving Egypt? Rabbi Yishmael therefore lists pesah before massah. The commandment regarding pesah, too, came before the event it serves to commemorate. The command was issued in anticipation of the Al-mighty's "passing over" our homes. The same applies to massot. We were commanded in Egypt to eat massah in anticipation of the expected rush which prevented the dough from properly rising. Someone may still ask, why did we leave so quickly, before the destined four hundred years of slavery, before our descent to the fiftieth "gate of impurity"? The answer is seen through the marror: the bitterness of the bondage rendered its duration equivalent to four hundred years.
Pesah, Massah and Marror
Rabbi Yossef Ben Nayam zs"l of Fez, in his work, "Maggid LeAdam," explains that marror is mentioned here last to teach that even if after the redemption from Egypt a period of exile and bitterness comes upon us, we must remember how we left at the last moment from darkness to brilliant light. We must realize that Hashem will show us wonders like the days when we left Egypt!
Rabbi Refael Hamalach Birdogo zs"l
Rabbenu Refael Hamalach Birdogo zs"l of Makens was a sacred Torah giant, who descended from Jews who came to Morocco after being banished from Spain. This distinguished family (their name in Portuguese means "golden scepter") produced several rabbis and Torah scholars, as well as devoted community leaders. Included in this family were Rabbi Moshe and Rabbi Yehudah, friends of the Or Hahayyim zs"l, Rabbi Mordechai, author of the "Divrei Mordechai" and other works, and his sons, Rabbi Yekutiel of Makens and Rabbi Refael, author of "Mei Menuhot" and "Rav Peninim" on "derush" (homiletics), "Torot Emet" on the Shulhan Aruch, "Sharvit Hazahav" on the Gemara, "Mishpatim Yesharim," a collection of his responsa, and "Mesamhei Lev" on Tanach.
Rabbi Refael was once asked at the beginning of Pesah, what does Rabban Gamliel mean when he says, "Whoever did not mention these three things on Pesah did not fulfill his obligation. They are: pesah, massah and marror"? Did he mean that one does not fulfill his obligation to eat pesah, massah and marror? How could this be? We find no other misvah whose fulfillment is contingent upon awareness of its underlying reason, certainly not one that requires verbal expression of such! And if he refers to the misvah of telling the story of Yessi'at Missrayim, why have we not fulfilled this obligation with everything we have recited up until this point?
The rabbi, resembling an angel, answered by reading this halachah in the Rambam: "Whoever did not mention these three things on the night of the fifteenth has not fulfilled his obligation. They are: pesah, which we eat because the Al-mighty passed over. as it says, 'You shall say, it is a paschal sacrifice to Hashem, who passed over the houses of Benei Yisrael in Egypt when he smote Egypt, but He saved our homes.'" This passage indicates that the Torah itself requires verbal recollection to this effect: "You shall say. " Massah and marror are compared by halachah to the korban pesah, as it says in reference to the korban pesah, "with massot and marror you shall eat it" (see Tosafot, Pesahim 116a). Herein lies the source of Rabban Gamliel's halachah!
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 Procedure For the Tefilot of Pesah Eve
The widespread custom among Benei Yisrael is to conduct the Yom Tov service with pleasant singing, and this involves the misvah of rejoicing on Yom Tov.
The custom is to recite the chapter of Tehillim (107), "Hodu l'Hashem ki tov" before arbit. This recitation is followed by half-kaddish and "barechu." "Vehu rahum" is omitted. If Pesah eve occurs on Shabbat, then the custom is to recite "Kabbalat Shabbat," including "Lecha Dodi," before reciting "Hodu." "Bameh madlikin" is omitted.
We conclude the berachah of "hashkivenu" with ". hapores sukkat shalom." The custom is to then recite the pasuk, "Eleh mo'adei Hashem mikra'ei kodesh. " Others have the practice of reciting a different pasuk: "Vaydaber Moshe et mo'adei Hashem el Benei Yisrael." The custom of the Babylonian communities is to recite both pesukim. When Pesah falls on Shabbat, then before reciting this pasuk (or pesukim) we first recite, "Veshamru Benei Yisrael et ha'Shabbat. "
In the Amidah for Yom Tov we conclude the middle berachah (which begins, "Atah behartanu mikol ha'amim. ") with "Baruch Atah Hashem mekadesh Yisrael vehazemanim." If one accidentally recited only, ". mekadesh Yisrael," he has fulfilled his obligation. When Yom Tov falls on Shabbat, one must mention Shabbat in the middle of the berachah of "Atah behartanu" and conclude the berachah with, "Mekadesh ha'Shabbat veYisrael vehazemanim." If one recited only "Mekadesh Yisrael vehazemanim," omitting the reference to Shabbat, then if he catches his mistake within the time it takes to say, "Shalom alecha rebbi," then he may correct himself right there and then and recite the proper text. If, however, he catches his error only after a longer period of time, then he does not go back, since he already mentioned Shabbat earlier in the berachah. The same applies to a case where Yom Tov fell on Shabbat and one recited only, "Mekadesh ha'Shabbat." If he did not catch his mistake until after the aforementioned period of time had elapsed, he does not go back, since he mentioned Yom Tov already in the middle of the berachah.
If Pesah occurs on Mossa'ei Shabbat, then we add "Vatodi'enu" in the berachah of "Atah behartanu." If one forgot and remembered later in the berachah, he should go back and recite it. If, however, he remembered only after concluding, "Mekadesh Yisrael vehazemanim," he does not go back, since he will say "havdalah" later anyway. Women who forgot to add "Vatodi'enu" in arbit should recite, "Baruch Hamaavdil ben kodesh lekodesh" before lighting candles before the seder.
The Second Plague - Frogs
A single frog in a lake or field can be quite pleasant and harmless. However, a massive bombardment of frogs that fill the entire house, "and in your ovens and in your storehouses," destroying all food supplies - this is already a different matter entirely. Besides the devastating damage wrought by these "garrisons" in Egypt with their loud, deafening croaking, one can easily imagine how Egypt looked at the end of the seven days of the plague, when the frogs suddenly died. They were piled up in huge heaps under the tropical sun that beat down mercilessly upon the countryside. Ultimately, the stench of the frogs was everywhere. Experts have discerned over 2,000 species of frogs of various sizes and colors. The largest is a giant frog that lives in Western Africa. Its length extends to 66 cm and it weighs as much as 4.5 kg. The smallest of all frogs is a tiny creature that lives in swamps. It is 2.5 cm long and resembles a locust. The frog sees only things in motion. It therefore hides in ambush by the riverbank, and when it notices a flying creature it thrusts its tongue that works as a lasso, trapping the victim onto the tongue's sticky surface. The food then makes its way down to its final destination. The frog lives around water, but when it swims underwater it must come up every few moments to breathe some air; otherwise, it would choke to death. So what does the frog do during the winter months, when it hibernates in a swamp or in underwater rocks or foliage? During these months the frog is in a state of total weakness, such that it does not even need to breathe. As the summer months set in, the frog is "rejuvenated," as it were, and it leaps from the water as if nothing happened.
As mentioned, the frog has a double life, living in both water and dry land. Some may think, how wonderful it is to live this way, a foot here, a foot there! This creature can spend some time in the water, some time on land, however it wishes, without having to obligate itself to anything. However, the frog must adopt this unique lifestyle in order to access food, protect itself from enemies and, quite simply, remain alive. By contrast, history has shown that a Jew cannot live this way, a little Jewish and a little resembling the other nations. A Jew is one who marches without compromise exclusively along the path of Judaism and misvot.
One Who Separates Himself From the Community (6)
Flashback: The Jewish heretic who converted and became a Christian priest, Martin, incited the gentiles to riot against the Jews of Barcelona. His fiery incitement reached its peak when one thousand gold coins were robbed from the church's treasury. The wealthiest Jew in the community, Yaakov Philo, quickly liquidated his assets, hid the money near his grandfather's grave, and fled to Portugal. Meanwhile, the young Yaakov Banbanishti experienced torment and distress over the looming crisis. When he went to the cemetery to visit his grandfather's burial site, he found the wealthy man's ledger and unearthed the treasure. He took a thousand gold coins and buried them in the dark of night in the Christian cemetery. He then wrote an anonymous letter presenting himself as a gentile who left his home as a result of a fight and went to spend the night in the cemetery to rest without being spotted. There he found the priest hiding the money from the Church's treasury. He continued the story by claiming that the priest made him swear that he would not divulge this secret and even bribed him with some of the gold coins. His conscience now compelled him to expose this information.
The letter was publicized and created a storm. The judge showed it to his colleagues who assembled several priests to discuss the matter. They went to the cemetery, proceeded to the oak of which the letter spoke, and, sure enough, they found one thousand gold coins underneath the tree. They went to the second tree and found underneath the ten gold coins of the bribe that had been returned. They quickly called over Martin and asked, "Who hid these gold coins here?"
"I have no idea!" he exclaimed.
The judge slapped him on both cheeks and led him with an armed guard to his home. They conducted a series of searches and discovered money acquired through theft and embezzlement. They hung him in the town square, and the Jews were saved.
In the meantime, Yaakov Philo, the wealthy businessman who had abandoned his community during their time of need, became a merchant in stolen goods. Much to his misfortune, he had purchased stolen merchandise and the thieves were caught. They falsely pointed their fingers at the merchant, claiming that he sent them to commit the crime. The authorities ransacked his home and found among his belongings a golden crucifix that was stolen from their house of worship. He was accused of participating in theft and desecrating sacred property, and his entire family was imprisoned. His wife and children died from the horrid conditions of prison life. He went insane and ultimately committed suicide, Heaven forbid.
When the sad news reached Barcelona, Yaakov Banbanishti understood that the treasure he had found no longer had any owner. He took several gold coins and left the country. He sent a letter to his mother informing her of his success in business and acquisition of a huge fortune. The news quickly spread around the community. He then returned home and took the fortune from its hiding place. He became the community's patron and the father of the poor, and he generously supported yeshivot and Torah scholars. His work grew and flourished to the point where he became the leader of the community. He married a woman from the family of the Rashba z"l and they raised their children in the ways of the patriarchs. In his older years he emigrated to Eress Yisrael and recorded the entire incident in writing. This teaches us the fate that meets one who separates himself from the community: he sees neither their consolation nor his own. This is the answer given to the question of the wicked son in the Haggadah: "Because he removed himself from the rest - if he were there, he would not have been redeemed!"
The Difference Between Exile and Redemption
The festival of Pesah marks the festival of freedom. At first glance, these terms are clear: everyone knows what freedom and subjugation are, who is a slave and who is a free man. In truth, however, a person can sit in a dungeon as the freest man on earth, while another can walk unencumbered through the streets as the most enslaved individual alive. Let us first and foremost ask ourselves, does man's inability to fly render him a prisoner on earth? If boat and air travel would suddenly come to a standstill, would we see ourselves as prisoners on dry land, incarcerated in our country? Of course not. The fact that limits exist does not turn people into slaves.
We do not feel subjugated by the air we need to breathe or to the sleep that we need. The true subjugation, the oppressive slavery, is the one that limits one's ambition. If a person wants to work on behalf of his family but his master enslaves him, he is a slave. He wants to go to his family, but instead he must work.
Thus, if one sees Hashem's Hand in everything, if he sees within everything a divine challenge and responsibility, as the pasuk testifies about Yosef during his stay in prison - "Hashem was with Yosef, and He extended kindness to him. because Hashem was with him, and whatever he did Hashem made successful," if one senses that he is sent by his loving Father, and that everything Hashem does is for good, and that it has been decreed that he go there to work on behalf of the sanctification of Hashem's Name - then he is no prisoner!
Now consider an apparently free man who thinks he can go further, that he can secure a more lucrative job with easier work and greater prestige, who views his current place of occupation with contempt, who feels unhappy and unsatisfied - then he is the prisoner, he is subjugated! If one knows that he should be more careful when it comes to misvot but he cannot muster up the strength to do so, he cannot overcome his tendencies or forego on his luxuries - is this not subjugation? Can he be considered a free man, free to do as he wishes? Our sacred sages said that when one commits an "averah," it becomes tied to him like a dog until he repents (Avodah Zarah 5b). Often, however, it turns out that the individual is himself tied to the sin like a dog, barking and scurrying but unable to shake himself loose. Is this freedom or servitude?
For good reason, Maharil Ashlag zs"l, author of "Hasulam," a commentary on the Zohar Hakadosh, wrote that the words "golah" (exile) and "ge'ulah" (redemption) contain the same letters, except for the letter "alef" in the latter. The "alef" alludes to the single G-d ruling over heaven and earth. If Hashem resides within a person, then no matter what the situation, he is a free man. He is happy with his lot and satisfied with himself, he exercises control over his character and realizes his ambitions - to do what it pleasing to the Creator, as the pasuk states, "Kindness and justice I will sing - to You, Elokim, I will praise." Be it kindness or justice - I will still sing.
If, however, the "alef" is dropped, if Hashem is not with the person, then he becomes miserable, in exile as far as he is concerned. He suffers bitterly, whether in times of "kindness" or "justice," for he will always be lacking something. He will always yearn for more and feel frustrated over his situation.
Therefore, on Pesah, the festival of freedom, we must try to become true freemen, by infusing the Shechinah into our hearts and making our will the will of Hashem. We will then merit the complete redemption, when Hashem's Glory will fill the entire world and His light will shine upon all the hearts. We will serve Him wholeheartedly and earn eternal freedom!
Shabbat Shalom, Hag Samei'ah,
Rav Aryeh Deri
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Shlomo Ben Liza
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