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Shvi'i Shel Pesach


The saintly Rebbe of Sochochov zs"l, the author of "Avnei Nezer," conducted his Yom Tov table on the night of the seventh of Pesah, the night during which the Red Sea split, allowing Benei Yisrael to walk safely in its midst. Suddenly, his ears caught the whisper of one of his guests: "If only the rebbe could grant us the wealth which Benei Yisrael seized at the Red Sea!"

The rebbe glared at him and said, "If you will grant yourself the fulfillment of the verse, 'They believed in God and Mosheh His servant,' the belief which Benei Yisrael achieved at the Red Sea, you will be granted the spoils, as well."

This story presents us with a critical lesson. We are all familiar with the Gemara's comment that finding a spouse is as difficult as the splitting of the Red Sea as is our sustenance and livelihood. We often fail to realize, however, that the splitting of the Red Sea was "difficult," impossible, until the people girded themselves with absolute faith, until the Almighty ordered Mosheh, "Why are you crying to Me? Tell Benei Yisrael that they should travel [into the sea]!" - until they traveled into the sea with total confidence in Hashem's power. We need only to rely on Him, the One Whose force and majesty fills the world, at Whose word everything transpires, and nothing is beyond His capability.

Pesah is the festival of faith. The Zohar refers to the massah as, "food of faith." On the first night we tell of the miracles of the Exodus and on the last night we commemorate the wonder of the splitting of the Red Sea. On Pesah we have the ability to strengthen and solidify our faith, and to use this faith to prepare for the days that follow. With this strength we will merit the blessing of Hashem throughout our lives, with health, happiness, prosperity, "nahat," and joy.


What is the essence of song in the Torah? Writing about a song is a bit like the comedy routine of the mime who wouldn't stop narrating his own actions, or the great playwrite who, when asked his intentions in a certain play, replied that if he were capable of explaining he would not have had to write the play! In pedestrian life we speak in prose such as "how was your day?", "what's for dinner?" or "there's a phone call for you!" etc.

When is song expressed? Imagine an individual who has just learned that his Lotto ticket was the $80,000,000.00 winner. When he calls home to his wife will he express himself in prose or poetry? Will he say "dear, we won the Lotto today!"? To this she'll reply "and I made your favorite eggplant Parmesan for dinner tonight". "It was $80,000,000.00 dear" he'd insist, and she'd calmly wish him a safe trip home from the office.

Who would imagine that style of dialogue!? More likely he would begin with some stuttering to hold back the sudden cascade of emotion. At once he would blurt out almost incomprehensible combinations of words, that could only and be understood by those who knew the true context. After years of financial struggle and hardship, the wildest fancy has come true. Those standing nearby will surely discern that something wondrous has occurred. "Dear, it happened...I can't believe it..80 big ones and it's all ours...all ours...just what you hoped...just what we dreamed ...and do we begin? can we begin to ever?...oh my G-d, I can't believe it ....$80,000,000.00!!" His wife would probably join in echoing some refrain from his spontaneous burst of original poetry, repeating "where do we begin? do we begin? absurdium.

What is song? Rabbi Sampson Raphael Hirsch defines it as "an inspired or rapturous expression of what some external event has revealed to the inner self, that which the physical eye can not see, but what has become clear to the mind's eye".

Perhaps this helps to explain why "The Song" of the Jewish nation by the sea is written in a block form with intermittent open spaces. Sometimes the silence of what is not said is often more profound than what is actually expressed. The "bank account" of emotions and ideas is an ocean compared to the few drops of ink scrawled on the tiny "check". When the inner world of feelings swells beyond what the mouth can express, the result is

What was the depth of emotion which expressed itself as the Song at the Sea? What was revealed to the inner-self in the collective soul of the Jewish Nation?

There is a controversy recorded in the Talmud regarding the scriptural book "Song of Songs", written by King Solomon. There were those who did not want to include it in the scriptures because its content can be misunderstood. The book is an analogy of the love between G-d and the Jewish People in terms of the love between man and woman. The Talmud quotes the great Rabbi Akiva who spoke in defense of the inherent holiness of King Solomon's "Song of Songs". He said that all of "Ketuvim" are holy and "Song of Songs" is the holy of holies.

The Torah is filled with many harsh rebukes and criticisms of the Jewish people and it's leaders. We are called a "stiff necked" people, and almost no one, not even Moshe escapes sharp and scathing criticism for a seemingly slight error. One might wrongly conclude, that somehow we are the least-favored nation in the A-lmighty's world. King David reminds us in his book of Psalms: "Praiseworthy is the man whom G-d disciplines etc." The superficial appearance is that the one who is haunted with difficulty and criticism is despised. That is the superficial mask. What is the heart of the matter, however? The Song of Songs tells us that an intense love exists deep down. The caring teacher drives the promising student to fulfill his or her potential. Loving parents correct their child's imperfections for the sake of the child. More love is contained on the inside than can ever be understood by those who do not see the true context."Song of Songs" is the expression of the inner world of feelings between G-d and the Jews. It is the world behind the mask. That is what makes it "Holy of Holies".

The Jewish nation stood by the Sea of Reeds in the surprising repose of safety, only a short time earlier escaping for dear life. They expressed in exalted song their clearest cognition that the pain and suffering of the Egyptian exile was truly not punitive, but in fact, rehabilitative. The dawning recognition of divine love instantly eclipsed 210 years of physical and spiritual privation. This resulted in spontaneous song. This is the essence of the song in the heart of hearts of the Torah!


Based on the Rulings of Rav Ovadia Yossef shlit"a
Taken from "Min Hamaayan" by Rav David Yossef shlit"a

Laws of Doubts and Errors Which Arise During Sefirat Haomer

Regarding the common case of an individual who forgets to count sefirat haomer one night and does not remember until the next night, the rishonim are in dispute whether or not he can continue counting from the next night on with a berachah. Some maintain that since the seven weeks of counting must be "temimot," whole and complete, one who misses a day may not resume his counting with a berachah. Rather, he continues counting without a berachah. This is the ruling of the Mehaber in the Shulhan Aruch.

Nevertheless, if there is another factor which may be introduced as a reason to be more lenient, the individual may continue with a berachah. For example, if one remembers during the day that he forgot to count the previous night, there is a dispute among the rishonim whether or not he can count during the day. The halachah is that he counts during the day without a berachah, and from that night on he may count with a berachah, for this is a case of a "double doubt," perhaps the halachah follows the opinion that each night constitutes an independent misvah and one can continue with a berachah even if he forgets a day. This is the ruling of the Shulhan Aruch.

Similarly, if one counts the wrong number on a given night, and remembers during the next day, he may count the correct number during the day and then resume his proper counting that night and so on with a berachah, since he counted properly during the day. Furthermore, one who, during the day, cannot remember whether or not he counted properly the previous night, should count the proper counting that day without a berachah and should then continue his counting that night with a berachah. However, if one counted the incorrect number at night and did not realize his mistake until the following night, he may no longer continue to count with a berachah.

Some communities have the custom to recite the omer counting in the morning after shaharit, in case someone in the community neglected to count the night before or counted the wrong number, he may now count with the congregation in the daytime and then resume his normal counting that night, with a berachah. Communities of Sefaradim and those of Middle-Eastern descent have adopted this minhag, and it is, in fact, a commendable custom.

One who forgot to count at night and did not remember until twilight the next day (the period in between sunset and nightfall), he should immediately count the counting of the previous night, without a berachah, and may count with a berachah that night after nightfall and continue accordingly. He should then ensure that for the rest of the omer that year, that he will not count until after dark (even though we generally rule that when there arises a need one may count during twilight, before dark). The reason for this is that once he counted during twilight for the previous day, he thus considers it daytime, and he therefore cannot contradict himself by counting the nighttime counting during twilight for the rest of the omer period.

If one forgets to recite the omer on a Thursday night and remembers on Friday before sunset, he may count the omer for that day (Friday) even if he has already accepted Shabbat, but in such a case where he did accept Shabbat, the omer should be counted without a berachah. Later that night he may resume his normal counting with a berachah.

If late at night someone cannot remember whether or not he counted the omer, he should count without a berachah, and the next night he resumes his normal counting with a berachah.

Rabbi Yehiya Saalah zs"l

Friday, 28 Nissan marks the anniversary of the passing of the saintly Rabbi Yehia Saalah zs"l, more commonly known as "the Mahari"s," or by his work, "Pe'ulat Sadik." He was one of the great spiritual giants of Yemen around two hundred and fifty years ago. His father was the renown Rabbi Yosef Saalah and his grandfather was the author of "Peri Sadik." His Bet Midrash featured the "Yeshivah Kelalit" which continued uninterrupted since the beginning of the Jewish settlement in Yemen, before the destruction of the first Bet Hamikdash, except during the period of "Galut Muza" when the Yemenite Jews were exiled to a desert island. As soon as they returned to their land they reestablished their yeshivah, first in the "Alshich" synagogue, and subsequently in the Bet Midrash of the Mahari"s. From that point on the yeshivah was called by his name, and he recorded the "hiddushim" which were said in that yeshivah.

The Mahari"ss was the spiritual shepherd of the Yemenite community and his works on Tanach, halachah, and tefilah constitute the corner stone of scholarship for Yemenite Jewry. His works, "Es Haim," "Pe'ulat Sadik," "Zevah Todah," and "Helek Hadikduk" are fundamental works regarding halachah and minhagim of the Yemenite community. "According to the ruling of the Mahari"s it is worthy to instruct for practice of halachah, for his strength was great, and, as it is known, he was the leader of the entire exile, and from his teaching we should not budge" (from a "teshuvah" of the rabbis of Sina, cited towards the end of "Sh"ut Divrei Hachamim"). "Who is greater than the Mahari"s in his proficiency regarding the customs of Yemen!" (taken from "Sh"ut Ten Tov, 3). "The rabbi, the prodigy of his generation, who uproots mountains with his wisdom, the head of the court and yeshivah of Sina, from whose waters we drink to this very day, who dug countless wells and gave others to drink from the waters of his Torah, his rulings, responsa and commentaries on the prayers according to the tradition of our forefathers, the great rabbis of Sina - there is no one like him in this generation" (Sefer Hamahshavah, p. 131). Recently, Rabbi Yisshak Rassaabi shlit"a arranged the rulings of the Mahari"s according to the order of the Shulhan Aruch with an expanded commentary, in which all Torah scholars can rejoice.


"He Changes the Sea into Dry Land"

Through the plagues in Egypt, the Al-mighty demonstrated that He controls the entire universe, on the land, in space, and in the waters. He changed the waters in Egypt to blood, the dust of the earth to lice, He darkened the luminaries, He showed that everything is in His hands like clay in the hands of the craftsman, as He said, "In order that you know that the world is Hashem's." Apparently, though, all this was not enough. Even after the ten plagues, He brought Benei Yisrael and the Egyptians to the shore of the Yam Suf to show them yet another great miracle - the splitting of the sea. What does this miracle add beyond what was experienced during the ten plagues in Egypt?

Rabbi Yaakov Kaminetzky zs"l offered an interesting answer. The pasuk states, "For in six days Hashem made the heavens and the earth, the sea and everything contained therein." This pasuk seems redundant. Once it already mentions "the heavens and the earth," why does it specify "the sea"? Apparently, the sea constitutes an independent creation unto itself, a world of its own. Indeed, the Gemara states, "Everything which is on dry land is contained within the sea." Hashem placed a limit on how far the waters of the ocean can extend, because each world has its boundaries, and one cannot intrude upon the boundary of the other.

Therefore, during the plagues the Creator demonstrated that He rules over each universe. He turned the waters of the river to blood, and the dust on the ground to lice. Now, at the Red Sea, He showed that the border which sets the ocean apart from the dry land can also be crossed at His command. He changed the waters to dry land and then, once again, changed the land back into a sea. He thus demonstrated beyond any shadow of a doubt that no law of nature is beyond His power. Blessed is He, Who does everything according to His will!


Flashback: The young boy, Naftali,, was on his way to stand trial in the capital city for injuring a general during a game. He and his guard encountered a terrible storm and found refuge in the home of a Jew who managed to save Naftali and kept him in his house so that the boy can study Torah unencumbered. When the boy reached adulthood, the man offered his daughter in marriage. Naftali asked for some time to think about it, and the next day, when the man returned to get an answer, he found the boy crying bitterly, begging from invisible people that they let him agree to the marriage.

"Where are they? Where did they go?" he asked in terror. The boy raised his head. His eyes were red and watery from crying. "Who?" he asked, rising respectfully. "Please, sit," said the man. "Before I came in you were talking to people. Who were they?"

The boy turned pale. He kept silent for a moment and then responded, "From the moment you offered your daughter in marriage, I have had no rest. I feel that from Heaven they are warning me not to accept the offer, this is not my rightful partner. They demand that I answer no. But I cannot listen to them, for Hazal say that one who opens who doors for another the beneficiary owes his life to his benefactor. You saved my life, graciously opened your doors for me, and withheld nothing from me. But they insist that I answer in the negative." The boy was torn between expressing his gratitude and the demands he has been hearing.

The man approached the boy, hugged him warmly, and said, "My son, I know that you have a clean, precious soul. It is not for naught that I have chosen you as my son-in-law. I knew that my daughter would find happiness in your home, and that she would inherit both worlds if she builds her home with you. But if in the heavens this match has been disqualified, how can we force it? Do not disobey those who warn you to refuse. Hashem, who finds matches for everyone, will find for each person their appropriate mate.

To be continued...


Datan and Aviram on the Shores of the Sea

Once, the great "maggid" of Yerushalayim, Rabbi Shabtai Yudleviss zs"l, gave a "derashah" in which he cited Hazal's comment that when Benei Yisrael left Egypt, Datan and Aviram were left behind. They separated themselves from the rest of the nation and decided to remain in Egypt, under the care of Pharaoh. To the contrary, when the nation turned around as Hashem had commanded, in order to trap Pharaoh, they interpreted this move as the loss of their trust and advised that Pharaoh chase after them to return them to their servitude. The end of the story is known to all. Pharaoh drafted his army and chased after Benei Yisrael, right into the sea. The walls of the sea descended upon them, and the Egyptians received their due punishment. The eyes of Datan and Aviram opened as they recognized their new reality. They decided once and for all to join Benei Yisrael, the nation surrounded by the Clouds of Glory, led by the pillar of fire, with Mosheh at their head, the glory of Hashem hovering over the people. They left Egypt and arrived at Yam Suf. They stood on one side, the rest of the nation on the other.

The sea, which split before Mosheh and the rest of the people, split once again for Datan and Aviram, the two Jews who turned their backs on their people and then, after defeat, decided to rejoin.

When the maggid finished his speech, one person in the audience turned to him and asked for the source of this story. Rabbi Shabtai remarked that he does not remember. He said that he had heard it once, but does not recall the source. However, he said he would ask his father, Rabbi Shemuel Aharon Yudleviss zs"l, who would certainly know the source. Rabbi Shemuel Aharon answered, "This is cited in the work, 'Sse'enah Ur'enah,' in the section for the seventh of Pesah, in the name of the Midrash."

This Midrash could have easily been written regarding our generation. So many Jews stand opposed to the authentic Judaism and proudly wave the banner of the foreign culture. They prostrate themselves before this lifestyle and virulently condemn the religious community. However, the day is not far in coming, when their idols will be destroyed and they will decide once and for all to join us, to return to our camp. Hashem Himself will pave the road of their return, and we will accept them with love and affection.

excerpts from
Sing You Righteous...
by: Rabbi Avigdor Miller shlit"a

Holy Bodies (part III)

Aaron: According to this concept of physical holiness, it follows that when there are more Jews, there is more holiness.

Mr. Goodfriend: "One who does not engage in the begetting of children causes the Schechinah to depart from Israel; for it is written: 'To be to you a G-d, and to your seed after you' (Beresheet 17:7)....When your seed does not follow, (when you have not begotten children) upon whom should the Shechinah rest? On trees or stones?" (Yebamot 64a). The concentration of G-d's holiness upon this earth depends on the number of Jews. Because of this even the eminently righteous king, Hizkiah, was at first condemmed by G-d to death and to loss of the afterlife: "You are dying, and shall not live." (II Kings 20:1) Because his preoccupation with the dissemination of G-d's Torah had made him to busy to take a wife. The necessity of spreading the Shechinah by means of the sacred presence of Jews is encumbent even on those engaged in the holiest of pursuits. Only when Hizkiah accepted this duty, was the decree retracted (Berachot 10a), because they alone are "A nation of priests and holy people" (Shemot 19:6), they alone are permitted to enter the sanctuary of Shabbat, which they erect every week, by abstaining from the 39 forms of work by which the Sanctuary of the Mishkan was fashioned.

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