A SHEEP TIED IN THE HOME
Not every do we have the privilege that we have this year, to experience
the process of "Yessi'at Misrayim" in the same order of days as the year we
left Egypt. This year, as it was the year of the Exodus, the tenth of Nissan
- the day when the sheep for the "korban Pesah" was to be prepared - occurs
on Shabbat. Thus, the night of the seder falls on Wednesday night, the same
night on which "Yessi'at Misrayim" took place. This special occurrence
intensifies the experience and contributes the sense of "in each generation,
a person must see himself as if he, himself, left Egypt."
Regarding this special Shabbat, "Shabbat Hagadol," the question arises: why
were the people commanded to take the sheep and prepare it four days in
advance? Furthermore, why were they instructed to take the sheep home and
keep it tied to the bedpost for four days? It's not so pleasant to live in
the same room as a sheep for four days. Why weren't they allowed to keep it
outside with the other animals?
The answer relates to a fundamental principle regarding the human reality:
the concept of preparation and "building up." True inspiration requires a
period of gradual development. Without proper, advanced preparation, a
spontaneous moment of elevation will quickly lose its effect. For good
reason Hazal instituted a process of education for the child before he
becomes obligated in the misvot, just as the period of "erusin" precedes
marriage. Already in the Torah, the process of the "milu'im" (consecration
ceremony) preceded the inauguration of the mishkan, and three days of
preparation were established in anticipation of the giving of the Torah.
"On Rosh Hashana, the labor came to an end for our forefathers in Egypt."
This occurred in the middle of the devastating plagues, as the taskmasters
were preoccupied with their personal crises caused by the "makkot." The "Ben
Ish Hai" zs"l explains that this began the gradual process of emancipation,
as a person is incapable of adjusting to such a drastic change so quickly.
In a similar vein he explains the halachah that on the "yovel" (jubilee)
year, the slaves stop working on Rosh Hashanah, though they do not actually
become free until Yom Kippur. Ten days of adjustment are necessary before
the indentured servant truly becomes free. The "Ben Ish Hai" continued that
the Jews will require an adjustment period prior to the ultimate redemption.
During this period, they will achieve their independence from foreign
oppressors, and eventually they will behold the Mashiah and the accompanying
Even before the actual departure from Egypt, as the night of the seder
radiated with supernatural brilliance, when the people tasted the spirit of
Gan Eden in the meat of the korban Pesah, we experienced the revelation of
the "Shechinah." We were carried as if on the wings of eagles to the
greatest heights, surrounded by the Clouds of Glory, led by the pillar of
fire, with Moshe marching ahead, accompanied by Aharon and the seventy
elders, carrying the booty of Egypt in our bags. As we ate the meat of the
sacrifice, Pharaoh drove us out and miraculously, the entire nation gathered
and departed within a short period of time. How could we possibly have
internalized these experiences properly, for all time? These lessons are
eternally binding and we must remember them each day. We can integrate these
experiences into our beings only if we prepare ahead of time, if we "plow
before we sow," if we gradually build up to this momentous occasion.
Indeed, the sheep served this function. It was tied to the bedpost, so that
the individual saw it constantly for four days and was reminded at all times
that the day of redemption is imminent.
Today, as well, the night of the seder is replete with uplifting
experiences, critical lessons for our lives; it is a night of light and
spiritual radiance. The sacred books teach us that on this night, the gates
of revelation and deeper understanding open before us; we are afforded the
opportunity to achieve the forty-nine "gates of wisdom." But one who is too
preoccupied at work or at home until Erev Pesah will not be able to absorb
the sanctity of the seder night. Therefore, let's begin our process of
preparation on Shabbat Hagadol, studying the Haggadah and its commentaries,
and thus we be able to properly incorporate the lessons of the seder into
our daily lives.
FROM THE WELLSPRINGS OF THE PARASHAH
"Command Aharon and his sons, saying"
The Hid"a zs"l explains this pasuk based on the principle that the "olah"
sacrifice (burnt-offering) atones for one's having neglected a positive
commandment. Now one positive commandment applies at every moment, and its
violation is among the most common of all sins. That misvah is, of course,
the commandment to study Torah, which one fulfills with each letter studied.
The Torah commands us, "You shall speak of them [i.e., words of Torah]," not
in other, mundane matters. Thus, every moment in which a person talks about
wasteful matters, he has nullified this commandment of studying Torah and
must bring an "olah" sacrifice as atonement. This is the meaning of our
pasuk - "Command Aharon and his sons - saying," meaning, with regard to sins
of wasteful speech, "this is the law of the 'olah'..."
"Command Aharon and his sons, saying"
Hazal comment that the expression "sav," "command," implies "ziruz," zeal
and enthusiasm. The Alshich zs"l explains that the zeal in this context is
particularly necessary, because of the continuation of the pasuk: "This is
the law of the 'olah,' it is the 'olah' [that remains] on the fire on the
altar all night, until the morning." The limbs of the sacrifice must be
offered before the kohanim may partake of the meat. Since the meat may be
consumed throughout the night, the kohanim may have been tempted to be lax
and not offer the limbs of the sacrifice until near dark. Therefore, the
Torah urges that they make the effort to offer the limbs earlier, by day,
the time of kindness and blessing, rather than nighttime, the time of strict
"Command Aharon and his sons, saying"
Hazal comment, "The term 'sav' is an expression of zeal, for that moment
and for all generations." The "Kaf Hahayim" zs"l asks, how can this zeal be
required for all generations, if we do not have the opportunity to offer the
"olah" sacrifice in the absence of the Bet Hamikdash? He answers that Hazal
established that when there is no Bet Hamikdash, we are to recite the
parshiyot dealing with the sacrifices each morning. The Gemara recounts that
the Almighty informed Avraham that in the merit of this recitation his
progeny will merit survival through the exile. Since there is also an
obligation to recite the prayers together with a "minyan," one who comes
late to tefilah must skip the recitation of the "korbanot" in order to pray
together with the congregation. Therefore, one requires "ziruz," extra zeal
and exertion, to attend services on time to be able to properly recite the
"Command Aharon and his sons, saying"
Rabbi Refael Moshe Elbaz zs"l explains the term "lemor," (literally,
"saying,") as associated with the word "amir," a treetop, an expression of
greatness and prestige. How does one reach this peak? Through "sav," through
zeal, effort and enthusiasm.
THE GOLDEN COLUMN
The Hid"a zs"l
The Hid"a zs"l was once asked regarding Hazal's comments that the wisdom of
an arrogant person leaves him, and that the Torah remains with only one who
thinks of himself as low. (For this reason Torah has been compared to water,
which always leaves the high-ground and descends to the low-ground,
symbolizing that one must lower himself to acquire Torah knowledge.) Why is
this so? Why can't the knowledge of Torah stay with a haughty person?
He answered that by citing the Midrash about a certain individual who once
met Eliyahu Hanavi as he was walking. The two passed by an odorous carcass.
While the individual placed his hand on his nose, Eliyahu had no reaction
whatsoever. Later, they came across an arrogant, stuck-up person, and
Eliyahu immediately placed his hand on his nose, unable to withstand the
arrogant man's presence. Thus, explained the Hid"a, arrogance is vulgar from
a spiritual perspective, and its odor is more powerful than a putrid
carcass. Now the halachah prohibits one from studying or even thinking about
Torah in filthy streets, as the sanctity of Torah demands a clean and
respectable environment. Therefore, since arrogance is more filthy than even
a animal's carcass, quite obviously Torah cannot reside within an arrogant
The Hid"a added that this explanation has an allusion in this week's
parashah: "This is the law of the 'olah,' it is the 'olah...' "Olah" is
associated with the term "la'alot," ascent. Thus the pasuk may be read,
"This is the law" - one who possesses Torah, "of the 'olah'" - but his
personality "rises," i.e., he is arrogant, than the Torah, too will ascend -
"it is the 'olah'" - it will automatically leave him, as it cannot remain
within an arrogant person.
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 sources and explanations behind these halachot will appear in a major
work which will soon be publushed, Be"H.
Chapter 4: The Laws of Washing One's Hands in the Morning (continued)
Other Activities Which Require Washing
One should be stringent and wash his hands after touching the body or hands
of a gentile. One should likewise be stringent with regard to touching a Jew
who has attained the status of a "mumar" (heretic). The same applies to
touching an object of idolatry.
One should also be stringent and wash his hands after touching ritually
impure animals, such as a dog or cat. One should also wash after touching
ritually pure animals, unless he knows that they were clean.
One who checks his hair for lice must wash his hands, even if he found no
lice. The custom is to be lenient and not wash one's hands after touching
his beard. One who touches a louse must wash his hands, even if he did not
kill the louse. One should be stringent and wash his hands after touching a
fly or mosquito, or at least to wipe his hands on some material, such as a
rock, dirt, a twig, a wall, a beam, sheet, tablecloth or clothing.
One must wash his hands after engaging in marital relations.
One whose hands touched sweaty parts of the body that are generally covered
must wash his hands. However, one who washed his entire body, washed his
hands, and then again touched parts normally covered, does not need to wash
One need not wash his hands after touching saliva. However, one must wash
his hands after touching the secretions of the nose or ear. While learning
Torah, one should be careful not to touch the secretions of his nose or ear.
Regarding all aforementioned instances, one must wash specifically with
water. Some require washing three times in alternating fashion, while others
require only one washing, as explained in each case.
One who does not have water in the aforementioned circumstances and wishes
to recite a berachah or pray, may wipe his hands on some clean material, as
listed above. Afterwards he may pray or recite a berachah. In all these
cases, one does not need to wash specifically from a utensil, but one who is
stringent in this regard is deserving of blessing. One should wash until the
wrist, but if he does not have enough water he may wash only until the
knuckles of his hands.
Hazal say that if one does not wash his hands in these instances, "his ways
will be distorted and his prayers will not be answered." If he is a Torah
scholar, his learning will be forgotten. If he is not a Torah scholar, then
he will "lose his mind."
The reason why the Torah scholar who does not wash his hands accordingly
has his learning forgotten is because the Torah demands the highest
standards of sanctity and purity, and so long as he is impure the Torah must
leave him. And that which was stated that one who is not a Torah scholar
will "go out of his mind," this means that he will come to do a sin, for one
commits a sin only when a "spirit of folly" penetrates into his being.
FROM THE WONDERS OF CREATION
Pearls are not made of the same substance as other precious stones. Whereas
precious stones such as diamonds and sapphires are hewn from deep areas
underground, the pearl is not a stone, nor can it be found even in the
deepest parts of the ground. Rather, it is found in the stomach of a most
intriguing creature, which becomes the "mother," as it were, to the pearl
that develops inside it: the oyster. The oyster lives in the sea and is
protected by a solid shell, whose material resembles marble. The oyster
lives inside its shell and has no bones. In fact, its body generally has no
shape and no limbs. Among the various types of oysters is one species of
snail that produces the pearl. When a foreign object, such as a grain of
sand, accidentally penetrates into the oyster, the oyster becomes irritated.
As a reaction to the unpleasant feeling, the snail covers the grain with a
thin layer of material, and then it continues to add one layer on top of
another. Eventually, the beautiful pearl emerges. One who thinks that it is
enough to collect a few dozen snails to collect pearls makes a serious
mistake. Very rarely can a pearl be found in a snail, and it can take days
or weeks to find one. In fact, it requires many days in the depths of the
sea to find pearls in oysters. A hundred years ago, a Japanese man came up
with a way to artificially produce pearls. He implanted a piece of a broken
oyster into a living oyster and, within a year or two, a pearl developed.
Thereafter, the Japanese launched a mass operation of producing artificial
In everyday speech, the word "pearl" is used as referring to something
precious. The fact that such a magnificent and precious item can be produced
by such a small, modest creature, stresses the value of "seni'ut," humility,
as specifically through this quality one finds greatness. Mount Sinai, the
smallest mountain in the region, was chosen as the location for the giving
of the Torah, and Moshe, the greatest of all prophets, was known for his
exceptional humility. Even the most simple Jew possesses a pearl - his
divine soul, whose value far exceeds gold and any other precious material in
Father and Son (8)
Flashback: Two brothers inherited a store from their father, but it could
not support them both. The younger brother left with his family to find a
position in the rabbinate, but could not land a job. He ended up in an inn
run by a gracious, charitable old man who insisted that the brother and his
family stay with him for a while.
The family remained in the inn, and their stay offered them an opportunity
to get to know their host and learn about his conduct. They discovered that
he does not work at all in business, but his agent gives him regular reports
as to the status of his assets. The man speaks to his agent once a day and
gives instructions; the rest of the time he is occupied in the misvah of
bringing in guests. He personally runs the kitchen and serves the food. He
also makes a point of conversing warmly with his guests and ensuring proper
bedding, linens, hot baths and laundry service. He, himself, eats nothing
more than dry bread and clear water, reserving the fine foods for his guests.
The family enjoyed the warm hospitality, but after a week they felt
fully-rested and ready to move on. The guest approached the old man and
said, "How much longer will we stay here, doing nothing? Perhaps we should
leave now, and maybe the Al-mighty will send me some form of livelihood."
The host managed to convince him to stay until after Shabbat.
After Shabbat, they packed whatever belonging they had and the host
prepared them a most generous package for their trip. They slept over in the
inn, in fulfillment of Hazal's dictum that one should always embark on his
journey specifically in the morning, and after the morning services and
breakfast the old man loaded their wagon with goods and went to escort them
as they departed.
As the family was about to leave, the guest turned to the old man and
asked, "Is there anything that you are missing, so that I may bless you that
you wishes are fulfilled?"
"As you saw, with the help of the Almighty I am lacking nothing," answered
But the guest continued, "Is there anybody who has not a single request?"
The host sighed deeply and said, "I had one request, but I already gave up
on ever seeing it fulfilled."
The guest replied insistently, "One may never lose hope; there is no such
thing as giving up. The Nation of Israel was created after Avraham had given
up on ever having children, teaching us that in our nation there is no such
thing as giving up."
He stood, waiting to hear his host's request...
to be continued