THE BUSH AND ITS MESSAGE
The redemption of Benei Yisrael began unfolding through the vision of the
burning bush. The "seneh," as this bush was called, is the smallest of all
bushes, full of thorns and thistles. Specifically this "seneh" was chosen
as the site of Hashem's historic revelation to Mosheh, in the spirit of the
pasuk "I [Hashem] am with him in crisis." Thus, a critical piece of
information was transmitted through this prophetic vision: even if the
Jewish people are mired in the forty-nine proverbial "gates of impurity,"
they can elevate themselves to the level of divine revelation, as transpired
during the Egyptian bondage.
On the other hand, however, this vision presents a stern warning, as well:
even one who merited a divine revelation should remember that, when all is
said and done, he is still but a "seneh," humble and vulnerable, and very
easily he can slip and fall, even worship a golden calf!
Rabbi Avraham Yafhan zs"l commented that although, as we know, "Even the
sinners of Israel are full of missvot like a pomegranate," a person should
still realize that he could be "full of missvot like a pomegranate" and
nevertheless be considered a "sinner of Israel"! A person can be a "burning
bush," ablaze with the fire of Torah study, prayer and fulfillment of
missvot, and still, "...but the bush was not being consumed." The thorns
are not consumed - they remain where they are. An individual can be "from
his shoulders up, taller than the rest of the people," but shorter than them
from his shoulders down. It is quite an exalted level when one reaches the
stature of "He crouches, lies like a lion," that the "lion" quality has
taken over his entire being, down to the lowest levels of existence, until
the person has reached the status of "Fire from above, its glory like the
lion"! Only a select few reach this level, and everyone must stand guard,
fueling the fire and reacting accordingly to the divine revelation, but, at
the same time, watching out for the thorns - protecting himself from the
clever tactics of the evil inclination!
THE SATAN'S CREW
A story was told by a Holocaust survivor, a woman who escaped
Auschwitz-Berkenau after having lived in the shadows of the gas chambers and
crematoria. The war was reaching its end, the inmates of the camp could
hear the canons fired by the Russian armies, but the Nazis refused to
surrender easily. They ordered the survivors on a "death march," during
which anyone who tripped or stumbled was shot to death. "The wicked - even
as they stand near the entrance of Gehinnom they do not repent." Their
defeat was certain, their downfall was imminent. To wherever they could
escape, wherever they would meet their end - either way they were determined
to bring the remnants of their prisoners with them so that not a single Jew
would survive. However, the Russians were faster than the Nazis were. As
the opposing army approached within firing range, the woman told, the Nazi
general organized the final line-up. Everyone stood silently as the general
gave his final speech: "The Fuhrer wanted to eliminate the Jewish nation
from the face of the earth," he said. "We started the project, but we were
not able to complete the work. But I am not worried, as I know you quite
well. Whatever we were unsuccessful to do to you, you will do one to
another. This is my consolation!"
"I am afraid," concluded the woman, "that he is right."
Since time in memoriam the Jewish people had been divided into tribes.
There have always been different factions, even bitter differences of
opinions. But there wasn't hatred, animosity wouldn't break out towards the
other, towards the opposing parties. The school of Hillel had many, many
debates with the school of Shamai with regard to both halachah as well as
philosophical issues. "Even though they disagreed - they dealt with one
another with love and fraternity, in fulfillment of what was stated, 'Love
truth and peace'" (Yevamot 14b). Each was confident that truth lay in his
position and the other was mistaken. Yet, this attitude did not affect
their love for, and pursuit of, peace, showing warmth and affection towards
Benei Yisrael realized their redemption from Egypt on account of four
merits. One of them was their having refrained from slander (Mechilta, Bo,
28). They wouldn't hurt one another with their tongues. When one Jew
threatened Mosheh that he would spread gossip about him, Mosheh cried,
"Indeed, the thing has now been known," meaning, now he understood the
reason behind the length of the Egyptian exile.
Remember, that was just one Jew prepared to speak evil against another.
Today, tragically, slander is conducted on a much larger scale - one
community lashes out against another. The hatred is expressed not with one
small sentence, but through the mass media, in the form of an ongoing
onslaught against the character of an entire group. This hatred is spread
with no basis in reality or logical consistency, and its entire purpose is
to intensify the feelings of resentment and spite. The budget allocated for
the yeshivot is but a minute percentage of the amount of money poured into
musical productions and plays portraying a soldier kicking a pregnant Arab
woman. The budget given for the settlements is a small drop compared to the
debts of the kibbutzim which are now being erased. The exemption for army
service granted to the yeshivah students - both those suitable and not
suitable - applies to a quarter of the number of secular Jews in Israel who
evade the draft. Once again, one who wants to present arguments in one
direction or another - this is his prerogative, and he should do so. But
why are these deliberations conducted with such venomous hatred and spite,
to strip the "haredim" of their vivacity, to prevent the establishment of
Torah educational institutions, to protest against kindergartens for
commiting the "severe crime" of having the children recite "modeh ani" and
learn "shema yisrael"? Who taught Jewish children in Israel to tear their
Tanachs apart and throw them to the ground, to take down mezuzot and burn
them, to break into an aron kodesh and desecrate the Torah scrolls, Heaven
forbid? Who educated the arm which waves the sign, "Trample all religious
It is frightening how these two worlds stand one opposite the other. On
the one hand stands the community which draws no distinction between the
religious and secular Jew, who helps every Jew - and every person - no
matter who he is. Organizations such as Yad Eliezer, Yad Sarah, Yehudah
Yaaleh, Ezrah L'marpei, and the thousands of charitable institutions which
are run, almost all of them, for some reason, by haredim. On the other side
lies the system which educates their students to hate blindly, to
delegitimize and demonize to the point where they advocate witholding social
security, (as if the haredim don't pay taxes) and hanging them on the
electric poles (yes, this suggestion actually appeared in a respectable
Israeli newspaper), and referring to them as cancer (also in a respectable
newspaper). A cancer cell, as we know, is cut off the body. Was that enemy
of the Jewish people was not correct in his assertion?
Where did this hatred come from, from what poisonous well does this
animosity draw its waters? Why does not a day go by on which some religious
Jew is not hungrily devoured on the radio or television? Why - and this
pains us so much to write - why do some Jews fill the place of our enemies
throughout the generations, with such resounding success?
And why - and this is perhaps the most powerful question - haven't they
learned from the consequences of what our enemies have done to us?
"LET THE ANIMALS LIVE" - AND WHAT ABOUT THE FETUSES?
Nobody knows what causes a group of whales to commit suicide, to leave the
confines of the water and go to the shore to die.
Nobody knows what causes a nation to commit suicide.
On the one hand, our state runs an inflated system of "shelihim" who leave
Israel and go abroad to encourage "aliyah" - many of whom end up staying
abroad or justify their salaries by encouraging gentiles to come on aliyah.
The government is prepared to spend an enormous fortune so that a
seventy-year-old will move to Israel without understanding the language, or
turn a beloved musician into a street-cleaner or move him to unemployment in
order to properly absorb him into the country.
And yet, when an Israeli woman is pregnant with another potential Israeli
citizen - who would speak Hebrew from day one, who would be raised in the
country and ultimately make his contribution, an Israeli citizen being
presented to the nation on a silver platter - not only does the state
refrain from lending a helping hand, from assisting and encouraging the
expectant mother, but, to the contrary, they incite - and there really is no
other word for it - expectant mothers to terminate their pregnancies.
Bruriah will never forget the social worker who convinced her by saying,
"You don't need any more children; the two that you have are enough." And
Bruriah, a healthy woman, not even a poor woman - and who doesn't suffer
from some sort of economic hardship? - almost agreed to undergo an abortion.
She was already in the hospital, and if she hadn't met a volunteer from the
"Efrat" organization she would not have been privileged to the birth of her
"The Jewish nation has decreased over the last few years in a most
frightening fashion," wrote the Rishon Lessiyon, Rav Ovadia Yossef shlit"a.
Not long ago, "Demographic experts predict that the world Jewish population
will decrease by about two million by the year 2000, Heaven forbid. How
disturbing it is that despite this frightful prognosis, about forty-thousand
artificial abortions are carried out in Israel each year, the overwhelming
the majority of which are unnecessary but performed for social or economic
reasons. These abortions compare against approximately seventy-thousand
births. Because of this, tens of thousands of Jewish children are never
privileged to enter the world."
How startling it is - more than a third of the pregnancies in Israel end in
abortion, more than a third of the nation is being destroyed. We have all
learned about the tragic Holocaust which eliminated a third of the world's
Jews. We all wonder how nothing was done to prevent that calamity. What
are we doing to prevent this Holocaust?
It should be emphasized, the national perspective is universal. From the
perspective of halachah, this constitutes murder; from a humanistic
perspective, this is an atrocity - the fetus feels and senses the pain and
suffers terribly. >From a medical perspective, this is corruption.
Emotionally, this is traumatic.
Not only has nothing been done to stop this phenomenon, but efforts are
being undertaken to increase its dimensions. Instead of asking how the
family can be assisted, how its problems can be resolved, the social workers
encourage expectant mothers to end their pregnancies. When the "Efrat"
organization was established in order to help, instead of receiving at least
the amount of money invested in the "shelihim" abroad, it was granted no
government support. When the organization prepared a pamphlet, not to force
anything on anyone, but merely to inform women of the ramifications of such
a drastic step and how it could affect them physically and emotionally with
no possibility of retracting the decision, the "right of the people to know"
suddenly disappeared. The media jumped all over this "religious coercion,"
when in reality this is not religious nor is it coercion. The Minister of
Health quickly guaranteed that the materials would immediately be banned,
and it would be forbidden for a woman, a mother, to learn what awaits her
throughout this process. Does anyone understand what is happening here?
Under a national government, with a media which represents the freedom of
Does anyone know why the whales commit suicide?
FROM THE WONDERS OF CREATION
Many people tend to think of the octopus as a monstrous, blood-sucking
creature who hides in ambush waiting for its unsuspecting victims in the
depths of the sea, to grab them with its many legs, to choke them and eat
them. It is worthwhile, then, to clear the reputation of the octopus from
its popular, negative association. The octopus is actually quite timid; it
does not start up with human beings or attack them. In fact, when a human
threatens the octopus, it cowardly runs away, while spewing a black liquid
similar to ink which creates around it a layer of smoke which conceals it
from those who wish it harm. In order to increase its speed, from an
opening near its head it secretes a strong stream of water which pushes the
octopus even faster, in the opposite direction from the thrust of the stream
of water. Another contributing factor to the octopus' ability to escape
harm is its capability of changing its color with amazing speed to
camouflage itself in its environment. Its true, original color is red.
There are about one hundred and forty different types of octopuses, all
bearing a similar appearance. The eight arms appear to grow from the head,
and it seems to have no body other than its head and arms. The arms, whose
length ranges from 6 centimeters to 5 meters, work with remarkable
efficiency. They assist the octopus not only to catch its prey but also to
walk along the floor of the sea. Furthermore, the arms help the octopus
swim, acting like oars as it makes its way through the water. Similarly,
the octopus searches for and senses that which is around it with its arms,
as they move in every which direction with amazing flexibility. Along each
arm on the side facing the mouth are found two parallel rows of about three
hundred suction cups which serve as excellent fingers, as well as
facilitating the senses of the octopus, as they contain a large number of
mechanical and chemical cells. The octopus' arms can grow back with
lightning speed. Often, during the course of battle with a foe, the octopus
will lose part of an arm. In a matter of just a few weeks, the missing part
of the arm grows back and resembles identically the original arm.
The scientists stand in awe of this most intriguing creature and marvel at
the sophisticated system of its multi-purpose arms, wishing they could
construct a robot who could work with the same efficiency as the arms of the
octopus. True, man has always proven its superiority over the other
creatures as the crown jewel of creation by galvanizing the forces of nature
and harnessing them for his comfort and interests. However, we must always
remember that all the remarkable advancement in science simply reveal that
which was latent in nature from the six days of creation, waiting for
mankind "discover" them after centuries of hard work and research. This is
what King Shelomoh meant when he declared, "There is nothing new under the sun."
Measure for Measure (23)
Flashback: A year had passed since it was decreed upon the rich miser, who
had caused the death of a righteous pauper, to dress up as an impoverished
beggar, refusing to accept anything from anyone except his own family. His
family humiliated him and when he persisted they gave him stale scraps of
food to eat. His odd behavior earned him a reputation as being mentally
unstable, and his family used him as a jester to help deal with the sorrow
of their missing father. They made him sing and dance and they would play
with him before they would finally feed him some food. The time for the
punishment had now passed, and he was permitted to return him as normal.
The rich man wondered, how can he return home without startling his family?
If he would simply appear at the doorstep, their soul might depart from the
shock and euphoria of seeing him so suddenly. He therefore headed towards a
distant city and, with the money he had collected from donors, he had his
wild, overgrown hair cut and groomed. He went to the bathouse and emerged
as a totally different person. Once again, he was a well-respected,
dignified and wealthy citizen, dressed honorably in luxurious clothing,
carrying a linen bundle in his hand, a bundle which produced a most
offensive odor. He brought the clothing to the launderer who said, "Sir, I
would not use these clothes to mop the floors. Throw them away and forget
about them!" But his instructions were clear: "They are a valuable
souvenir. Please wash them well, and I will pay you generously."
He found several golden coins in the pockets of his new/old clothing, and
with this money he rented a room in an inn and enjoyed some delicious,
wholesome food. Gradually, his cheeks filled out and his face regained its
color. Only his gray hair told the story of the difficult year which had
Upon arriving in the inn he composed a letter to his family. He wrote that
his business responsibilities forced him to travel from one region to
another with little notice and no time to inform anyone. He understands
that they were worried about him, and he requests their forgiveness. He was
now on the way home and he will inform them when he approaches the city.
Needless to say, the news created quite a stir. His family was overjoyed
and celebrated emotionally. In the city, too, the news aroused great
interest which led people to forget the strange disappearance of the
A month later, after the period of relaxation of calm, he sent a message
that on the following Monday he was to arrive home safely. The house was
prepared and decorated elaborately for his return. Everyone dressed
themselves in their Shabbat clothes, lit candles, and waited anxiously for
the return of the head of the household, who had been missing for over a
year and was assumed dead. The hours passed by and, ultimately, the sounds
of the children's joy and laughter was heard...
to be continued...
FROM THE WELLSPRINGS OF THE PARASHAH
"I will please turn and see this great sight"
What did Moshe mean, "I will please turn"? The "Ssuf Devash" zs"l explains
that Moshe worked as a shepherd for Yitro, but nowhere is it written that he
worked for a salary. Nevertheless, he cared for the sheep responsibly, and
they were kept together, in one place, in the wilderness, where there no
other people. No danger could befall the sheep there in the desert.
Suddenly, Moshe beholds a frightening sight, a bush that burns which nobody
could have set on fire. This bush - dry and full of thorns - was not
consumed by the fire. Moshe wanted to get to the bottom of this most
intriguing vision, and the Midrash writes that he walked only four cubits
towards the bush. Nevertheless, Moshe said, "I will please turn," as he was
hesitant to take even this brief glance which perhaps constituted an
abandoning of his responsibility towards the sheep. May we all learn this
lesson of dedication and devotion to one's work!
"I will please turn and see this great sight"
What did Moshe mean, "I will please turn"? Rabbenu Behaye zs"l explains
that here the Torah alludes to the process of one's spiritual growth. We
cannot possibly imagine Moshe's level prior to this encounter, but clearly
this incident marks a new chapter of prophecy, which culminated in Moshe's
becoming the father of all prophets. One who wishes to grow and develop
must do so gradually, as every jump runs the serious risk of falling
afterwards. Therefore, the development begins with "I will please turn,"
approaching closer, and only afterwards does one merit to hear the angel's
voice. Then comes the ultimate level, of hearing the voice of the Almighty
directly. This may be compared to one who leaves a dark room towards bright
light who runs the risk of blindness unless he exposes his eyes to the sun
gradually. Our ultimate redemption, too, will unfold step-by-step so we can
be ready for the final stage. Fortunate are those who work and wait for
"I will please turn and see this great sight"
What did Moshe mean, "I will please turn"? The Alshich zs"l explains that
Moshe knew that before him stands a wondrous sight - a dry bush full of
thorns was set ablaze but was nevertheless not consumed. Furthermore, a
furious flame of fire raged in the upper part of the bush, but yet it could
not take control of the bush at all. Rather, it surrounded the upper
branches, never reaching the heart of the bush itself.
Moshe thus understood that this vision must serve as some symbol. He
realized that in order to successfully decipher the riddle he must
concentrate all his intellectual efforts intensely. This is why he said, "I
will please turn," meaning, turning his attention away from all outside
distractions, concentrating exclusively on the phenomenon in question.
Indeed, Moshe did understand the message behind the burning bush: the fire
symbolized the raging flames of the impurity of Egypt. The bush signifies
Benei Yisrael. In the lower part of the bush, meaning, the wicked among the
people, a little of the fire was able to burn, but "it was not consumed,"
the fire could not destroy the Jewish centerpiece. And in the upper level
of the bush - the fire could not even touch!!
THE GOLDEN AGE
Rabbi Yossef Ohayon zs"l
Just recently, the works "Likkutei Avkat Rochel" and "Imrei Yosef," by
Rabbi Yosef Ohayon zs"l, were published. Rabbi Yosef was one of the great
scholars and judges in Itzrar and Tiznit, Morocco.
The sacred scholar ensured that his Torah study was his predominant
occupation while his work as a merchant would remain only his ancillary
preoccupation. Upon his return from the market he would immediately sink
into his studies, like a thirsty person who suddenly comes upon a spring of
cool, refreshing drinking water in the desert. His power of concentration
in his studies was remarkable, to the point where he would be unaware of his
surroundings. There were even incidents where expensive objects were stolen
from his home without the sadik noticing the entrance or exit of the thief.
His proficiency in Torah acquired him a great reputation and many students
gathered around him to anxiously drink his words. They arranged a system by
which different students would receive Torah from his mouth in all areas of
Torah, in both the revealed and hidden. His house became a true haven for
Torah scholars, and he would involve himself in Torah study even as he left
his house to the market, rejoicing in every moment to hear words of Torah.
Fifty years ago, he published his work "Avkat Rochel," a commentary on the
Midrashim of Hazal, every word of which may be likened to flames of fire.
This is the only one among his many works which was published. We know from
his introduction to that work that his files were replete with manuscripts,
including a work on the Shulhan Aruch which was lost, as well as a
comprehensive work on the Siddur.
The "Od Yossef Hai" foundation, which was founded in his memory and for the
elevation of his soul, together with his great-grandson, Rabbi Yaakov Kohen
shlit"a, was privileged to publish the sacred work, a copy of the Humash of
the highest quality, arranged according to the parshiyot of the Torah,
Nevi'im and Ketuvim, together with sources and indexes to assist those who
learn the work. The lips of the great sadik shall thus continue spewing
forth his words of Torah and thus serve to bring merit to those who
eternalize his memory and study his Torah and to all of Am Yisrael, for
salvation and comfort.
ASKING AND EXPOUNDING
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
The halachot with an elaboration of their sources and explanations will
appear, please God, in a major work soon to be published.
Chapter 4: Washing One's Hands in the Morning
(Continued from last week)
The Blessing of "Al Netilat Yadayim"
One must recite blessing of "al netilat yadayim" after washing his hands in
the morning. Optimally, the blessing should be recited prior to drying
one's hands. Nevertheless, the berachah may recited afterwards if it had
not been recited prior to drying. Similarly, if one cannot recite the
berachah before drying, for example, if the room in which he is located is
unclean and thus unsuitable for the recitation of a berachah, he may recite
the berachah after drying his hands. Even one who recites the berachah in
the Bet Kenesset for this reason has authorities on whom to rely.
Nevertheless, one should try to recite the berachah as close to the drying
as possible. (This applies only to the washing of the hands in the morning.
Regarding washing one's hands before eating, one should not recite the
berachah after drying his hands if he had not done so beforehand, as we
never recite blessings whose obligation is in question.)
One who cannot wash both hands in the morning or before eating, such as one
who has a cast or bandage on one hand and he cannot get it wet, or one who
has only one hand, recites "al netilat yadayim" nonetheless, both in the
morning and prior to eating.
Washing One's Face and Rinsing One's Mouth
The Berayta in Masechet Shabbat (50) says that one should wash his face,
hands and feet each day for his Creator, as the pasuk states, "Everything
Hashem has done for His sake" (Mishlei 16:4). According to the Rambam
(Hilchot Tefilah 4:3), this means that in the morning before praying one
must wash his face, hands and feet. Nevetheless, it would seem that
according to the actual halachah one does not need to wash his feet each
morning. It is advisable to wash one's face in the morning after washing
his hands, before shaharit. One should also rinse his mouth after washing.
The Blessing of "Asher Yassar" in the Morning
According to the custom of the Sefaradim and the Middle-Eastern
communities, one who does not perform his bodily functions in the morning
does not recite "asher yassar" at all. Some Ashkenazim have the custom that
in the morning, when one wakes up, he recites "asher yassar" together with
"al netilat yadayim" whether or not he actually performed his bodily
functions. After waking up, however, such as one who simply washes his
hands before praying, one does not recite "asher yassar" unless he performs
his bodily functions.
Even according to the practice of the Ashkenazim, one should perform his
boldily functions in the morning in order to be able to recite "asher
yassar" according to all opinions and thus avoid a situation of doubt.
Similarly, the Sefaradim and Edot Hamizrah, who do not recite "asher yassar"
in the morning unless they had performed their functions, should try to
perform their bodily functions in the morning so as to avoid a situation of
doubt and recite the berachah according to all views.
The Water and Utensil Used for Washing
One should preferably be stringent with regard to all matters when washing
his hands in the morning as he would when washing before eating. Namely, he
should use a utensil without holes, the water should be of a quantity of a
"revi'it," the water should be clean that its color has not been distorted
and no work was done with it, and the water should be poured through the
effort of a person, etc. In fact, according to the Zohar and several
rishonim, without these requirements one has not fulfilled the requirement
of washing his hands in the morning.