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"It is the Finger of G-d"
Does anyone understand Paroh? He enslaves an entire nation with no justification, with a lack of gratitude. With shameful abuse. He is required to free them, and he refuses. Fine. But the redeemer informs him that he comes with the power of the Creator of the World, warning him that his life, and the life of his nation, will turn into a nightmare. And Paroh: "Who is G-d that I should listen to his voice?" Fine, they will show you who is G-d. The Nile, the lifeblood of Egypt, turns into actual blood. The fish die, rot and poison the water. What is Paroh's reaction? He calls for his magicians, who also, through their wizardry, turn a little bit of water (which they bought at a high price from the Jews) into blood. And this is enough for Paroh to ignore, to turn his back and to harden his heart. All of Egypt is flooded with frogs, in the plates, in the clothes, and in the mattresses - disgusting. What is Paroh's reaction? The magicians are invited and they add a few frogs onto the tremendous amount, and Paroh is calmed. Moshe Rabbeinu gives his instruction, and the Egyptians' bodies turn black with lice, the ground turns into a carpet of lice. Only the Jews are clean, them and their animals. The magicians shrug their shoulders and what do they say? They claim that "this plague has not come on behalf of Israel, so that they should be freed. It is a natural disaster, according to the constellations of the stars arrayed against the land of Egypt." A natural disaster or bad luck, the main point is: to ignore…
How can they, to that extent?
But this is not a question. Man is trapped by his worldview; he creates for himself a perspective on events, and he is unable to waver, to understand otherwise. Everything fits in to his viewpoint and his perspective.
There is a story of a village Jew who came to the Rabbi, to receive a parting blessing. He had a matter to take care of in the big city, and he wanted a blessing for success. Where will you lodge, asked the Rabbi. The Jew answered: Our fellow Jews are very hospitable. I will certainly find a generous lodging.
The Rabbi, who knew that not all of the city Jews were so strict about the commandments, warned him to carefully check the ways of the household. Are they careful about the laws of kashrut?
Two weeks later, the Jew returned. He told that the Rabbi's blessing had helped him, and his matter had turned out as well as possible, through the assistance of Heaven. He had even found a fantastic lodging. The kashrut - was beyond any shred of doubt! "Truly amazing," he said. "At first, I thought that they were irreligious. They did not cover their heads, and they did not have mezuzot in their house. But about the kashrut, it was beyond words!"
The Rabbi was crushed. If a Jewish home did not have a mezuzah, how could he be sure about the kashrut in the kitchen? "How did you know that they were careful about kashrut," he wondered.
The Jew smiled glowingly. "Do not worry, Rabbi! I was also suspicious at first. But then I saw that by each diner they placed a spoon, a knife and a scratcher. I immediately understood that kashrut was at the forefront of their mind!" "A scratcher?" wondered the Rabbi. "What is that?"
"Ah, a wonderful invention, the stuff of the wealthy! You have to understand, Rabbi, that they are worried that someone might have to scratch in the middle of the meal, and he might defile his hands. Therefore they placed a small pitchfork by his side so that his hands will not touch his flesh!…"
The Rabbi was heartbroken. He understood that the villager had seen a fork for the first time in his life, and that he had not understood its use. He thought that it was a scratcher for those especially stringent, and he had enjoyed their kashrut.
But the villager was not guilty, not at all. He had interpreted what he had seen into his own concepts. Fortunate is the one that those are his conceptions and that is his world.
And Paroh, if his is captive to a worldview that is devoid of G-d. If his world is one of magicians and wizards, nature and chance, then he naturally understood everything in terms of his worldview.
But why should we be surprised about Paroh? If the Egyptians absorbed ten plagues, then how many more have we absorbed? From the security perspective and from the economic perspective, the political and medical, the educational and moral. Have our captains opened their eyes, have they said "It is the finger of G-d," or have they blamed it all on nature and chance… And why should we surprised about our leaders? How have we ourselves reacted to the events in our lives? When will we say: "It is the finger of G-d!"
The First Stage of the Redemption
In our parashah, we find the four languages of redemption: "And I shall remove you from the sufferings of Egypt, and I shall save you from their oppression. And I shall redeem you with an outstretched forearm and great judgements, and I shall take you as My nation." Let us evaluate them, starting from the end: "And I shall take you as My nation" at the giving of the Torah. This is the climax. "And I shall redeem you with an outstretched forearm," this is the exodus from Egypt. "And I shall save you from their oppression" refers to the words of the sages, that beginning at Rosh Hashanah, our forefathers' work in Egypt stopped. But then, to what does "And I shall remove you from the sufferings of Egypt" refer? What stage of the redemption is this?
Our Rabbis have taught us: "And I shall remove you from the sufferings of Egypt" is the beginning stage, the stage of awakening. Until then there was capitulation, there was despondence. Shrugging of the shoulders, whatever. A dejected patience, a crushed acceptance. Something similar to our situation today, here. Like the sick person who only wishes to improve his sleeping position. This is not how one is redeemed. The first condition is a desire to be redeemed, a cry of "Return us, G-d, to You, and we shall return." The recognition that there is a need for a change, that something must happen. Only then will the next stages come one after another, physically and spiritually. And as in the days of our exodus from Egypt, so too we will see wonders soon. If only we will awaken from our apathy, If only we will recognize the need for redemption. If only we will shake off our depressing placidity!
Rabbeinu Donash ben Labrat zs"l
Last week we discussed the great grammarian, Rabbeinu Menahem ben Saruk zs"l. It is impossible, then, to not mention his great challenger, from his own generation and place, Rabbeinu Donash ben Labrat zs"l. Our Rabbis who commented on the Tanach, first and foremost Rashi zs"l, mentioned his commentary in many places. Rabbeinu Donash ben Labrat was born in the year 4701 (990 C. E.) in Babylon. "Don" in Arabic means master, and this was the source of his name. (Rabbeinu Avraham Ibn Ezra, in his work "Sefat Yeter" of emendations on the grammar of Rabbeinu Donash, refers to him as: Rabbi, our master, the Levi.) He learned the wisdom of grammar by Rav Saadyah Gaon zs"l, who came from Egypt to Babylon. Rabbeinu Donash migrated from his country to Morocco. From there he moved to Spain, where the great patron of the sages, Don Hidai Ibn Shaprut zs"l supported him at his table and provided him with all of his needs honorably. He dedicated his book on the wisdom of the calendar to his patron. He paved a unique path in grammar, and brought the idea of meter into Hebrew poetry, from Arabic poetry and its rhythm.
When Rabbeinu Menahem ben Saruk published his grammatical dictionary, "Mahberet Menahem," Rabbeinu Donash wrote a pamphlet of sharp emendations. The students of Rabbeinu Menahem, Rabbi Yisshak Ibn Kafron, Rabbi Yisshak ben Giktilia, and Rabbi Yehudah Hiyug disagreed with these emendations.
A student of Rabbeinu Donash, Rabbeinu Yehudah bar Sheshet, disagreed with these disagreements, and so on and son, as is the way of Torah. These responses and emendations were published in the year 5630 (1870 C.E.) with the decisions of Rabbeinu Tam zs"l.
He also authored much religious poetry, the most famous of which is "Deror Yikra." His name appears in the first three verses, at the beginnings of the phrases. May he continue to speak in favor of those who sing his poetry!
The Plague of Blood
The Gaon of our strength, the Hida zs"l wrote (in his book "Zeroa Yamin") in the name of the Rabbi Yidei Mosheh zs"l, that the Nile was the god of Paroh, while the nation worshipped the lamb. Therefore, Paroh gave permission to sacrifice in Egypt, and Mosheh Rabbeinu answered him: "Shall we sacrifice the abomination of Egypt before their eyes, and they will not stone us?" For they worshipped the lamb. At the beginning of the plagues, Mosheh put an end to the divinity of both of these, and therefore the Nile was smitten and turned into blood, which has the same gematria as "lamb" ("èìä"), to show that both of them are nothing.
The Gaon of our strength, the Hida zs"l, also wrote (in his book "Rosh David") that by the plague of frogs, it says "and they shall come into your oven and your dough." When is the dough found by the oven? When the oven is lit. The frogs showed their devotion and threw themselves into the lit ovens to sanctify the name of the Holy One, blessed be He. Not only did they not die, but also when the plague was removed and the other frogs did die, those who had jumped into the oven did not die!
With this, there was a measure for measure conduct. The midwives had been commanded, in their time, to kill the babies, and if not, then Paroh would kill them. This was before the giving of the Torah, when their status was of non-Jews, and a non-Jew is not required to give up his life for this. But they did not only ignore the command of the king of Egypt, but they also provided the mothers with food and water. What did G-d grant them in return? Not only that they were not harmed, but also that they merited above and beyond all of Israel, to found the houses of the priesthood and the royalty. At the time of the redemption, the frogs behaved like them, and they gave up their lives to jump into the ovens. Therefore, not only were they not harmed, but they even lived longer than the other frogs.
In the name of Rabbeinu Mahara Migermaiza zs"l, he wrote (in his book "Zeroa Yamin"), that at first it says "And there was lice (written without the letter "yud") in all of the land of Egypt." Later on it says, "All of the dust of the land was lice (with the "yud") in all of the land of Egypt." This is to teach, that the lice multiplied so much, that ten kavim gathered on each Egyptian!
About the plague of wild animals, our Rabbi the Hida zs"l wrote (in his book "Geulat Olam") that the Egyptians deserved burning because of their abominations. It is known that in the claws of animals, there is a poison which burns like fire (Hulin 3b). Also, in Hebrew, the word "arov" (wild animals) has the same letters as the word "bo'er" (burn).
From the verse, "He did not exclude their souls from death, and He gave over their lives to pestilence," (Tehillim 78) our sages learned that pestilence came along with each plague. However, they were not commanded not to leave their homes during each plague, because in the land of Goshen, there was no pestilence. Only during the plague of the firstborn, when the Egyptians came to find a hiding place in the homes of Israel, and the plague needed to be in the land of Goshen too, were they commanded not to leave the doorways of their homes until the morning.
Our master, the Hida ("Nahal Eshkol," Kohelet 4), brings down the midrash of our sages that the plague of the firstborn was greater than the plague of boils, for through it came the redemption. It is curious why we would have thought that the plague of boils was greater than the plague of the firstborn. This is because our sages said that the plague of boils remained with all of the Egyptians all of their lives, unlike the plague of the firstborn, from which the others recovered! Therefore, if not for the fact that the redemption occurred after the plague of the firstborn, it would have been logical to say that the plague of boils was greater than it!
According to the Order of the Shulchan Aruch, Based on the Rulings of Rav Ovadia Yossef shlit"a
By Rav David Yossef shlit"a
If he said "atah honantanu" in both prayers, then he has still fulfilled his obligation. Also, if he did not say "atah honantanu" in either prayer, he has still fulfilled his obligation, since even on a normal Saturday night, one who forgets to say "atah honantanu" is not forced to repeat his prayer, for he can always say havdalah over a cup of wine. However, if he said "atah honantanu" in the second prayer and not the first, he has revealed his intent that the second prayer be for arvit, and the first prayer be a make up prayer for minhah. Therefore, he has not fulfilled his obligation of a make up prayer, and he must once again pray a make up prayer for minhah. If he had explicit intent that the first prayer is for arvit, and the second prayer is a make up prayer for minhah, then he has fulfilled his obligation, even if he only said "atah honantanu" in the second prayer.
At any rate, as a first choice, if he forgot to say "atah honantanu" in the first prayer (which he prayed for the sake of arvit), he should not say it in the second prayer, and he should rely on the havdalah which he will make over the cup of wine.
If he said "atah honantanu" in both of them and had explicit intent that the first be a make up prayer for minhah, and the second be for arvit, he must pray the make up prayer again. It is good for him to make the condition that it be voluntary (see above) before he prays the make up prayer again.
The Frogs of the Nile
We read in this week's parashah about the plague of frogs, "and they shall arise, and come into your homes and into your bedroom and your beds, and your ovens and your dough." Try to imagine. To step on frogs, to sit on frogs, to rest your head on frogs. And they jump into one's mouth, and go down into one's stomach. Ah, vengeance against those who hate Israel.
And to think all this, only reduces the plague. Not to mention the opinions of the ancient ones (brought down in the commentary of Rabbi Avraham Ibn Ezra zs"l) "Many say that it was the crocodile, which rises from the river and preys on people." Think about a plague of crocodiles. They crawl on the floor, they rise onto the table, the hide under one's blanket and pillow. One's teeth begin to chatter, this is truly horrific, terrible fear, danger to life.
But even if the meaning is the frog, we must know that there are different species of frogs. We know of the small one, tiny, that can fit in the palm of one's hand. Even this is no pleasure, we think disgustedly. But here we are talking about a different species, something different. For the Creator promised, "Only in the Nile they will remain," that this species will not stir from the Nile. On the banks of the Nile live the horrible crocodiles, which threaten man, and a unique species of frog, called the "Nile frog." This frog is the size of a loaf of bread. It is not a "cute, little frog," but a giant one, which generates disgust and fear. Think, there was not only one, but hundreds and thousands and tens of thousands. An unending river, a big wave of green, hideous monsters. Their croaking is not one of scratchy chirping, but a loud, deafening roar, which was temporarily heard from the thousands of disgusting mouths. Now we have a concept of what happened there three thousand three hundred years ago: "So that you should tell in the ears of your children, and your children's children, how I plagued Egypt." So too let there be vengeance on all of our enemies, and may we be redeemed soon!
From the Book, "And Mosheh Was a Shepherd"
Summary: Rabbi Mosheh Pardo, a textile merchant from Tel Aviv, took the helm of an "institution" for sixteen girls from the periphery, who learned in Benei Berak. Under his administration, the institution became an independent school, with more than a thousand girls enrolled. He built an educational center for them, and later, an entire educational campus. Near it were built a non-dormitory high school and a middle school. And with all that, he did not say "Enough."
With all that, he did not say "Enough," for his motto was: "I am the servant of the Holy One, blessed be He," and I am working in his agency. When he traveled to Mexico to raise funds for his institutions, he saw that the education of the girls there was abandoned. He immediately set to work to build a "Bet Yaakov" there, himself donating the first sum. He collected from the wealthy people there, and remained there to see to the establishment of the character and the administration of the institution. Today, there is a school there with more than a thousand students!
He saw that there was no Talmud Torah in Mexico that was worthy of the name, and he worked to establish one. One can say that through his efforts, he saved the young generation there. Thousands of children were educated in these institutions towards Torah and commandments. They established an exemplary Torah community, with a kollel for young scholars, alumni of the Talmud Torah that he had established, who married the girls from the "Bet Yaakov" that he had established!
There is a story of an important Talmud Torah in Benei Berak, which became trapped in a financial crisis. Its administrator traveled out of Israel, but reaped only disappointment. They did not recognize him there, they did not assist him. At that time, Rabbi Pardo was also outside of Israel, and the administrator came to him to ask advice. What did Rabbi Pardo do? He got up and went with him from donor to donor, testifying about the Talmud Torah and its high level. With warm words, he spoke of the need to come to his assistance. He asked for donations from the supporters of his own institution, for another institution. For what is the difference, they are both institutions of the Creator, for His name with love!
When he heard that a well-known Rosh Yeshivah was about to travel outside of Israel to collect for his yeshivah, he sent him detailed instructions and intelligent advice. He gave him the addresses of donors, and even searched in his albums and found their pictures, so that he would know from the start what they looked like and where he must go. When he separated from him, he even gave him a generous personal donation to the yeshivah! He traveled to France to collect for the "Or Hahayim" institutions, which had fallen into deep debt which threatened their continued existence. He found there, tremendous religious infidelity from those who had immigrated from North Africa. Businessmen got together and established a national educational system called "Ossar Hatorah." Rabbi Mosheh was excited and gave them all of the funds that he had collected for his institutions. Not only that, but he continued on his trip, with one cry in his mouth: "Save the youth of your country! Donate to Ossar Hatorah!" And with all that, he did not say "Enough!"
To be continued, G-d willing, next week…
A Summary of the Shiur Delivered on Mossa'ei Shabbat by Rav Ovadia Yossef shelit"a
The Laws of Marriage
1. First, I would like to bless Dr. Eliyahu Schussheim, Chairman of Agudat Efrat, who works with all of his energy to influence pregnant women who wish to abort the fruit of their belly, that the should not do so, has veshalom. To our dismay, there are women who are checked by doctors during their pregnancy, and the doctors tell them that the child in their womb will be sickly or blemished, has veshalom. They believe the doctors, and return to them to have an abortion. One must know that it is forbidden for a woman to believe the doctors about this, and I have already proven to several women that the doctors' words about this are incorrect, and that they should not listen to them. Thank G-d, they gave birth to healthy, whole children, whom everyone can see are children blessed by G-d. Therefore, even if a woman goes for a check-up by a doctor during pregnancy, she should not believe everything that he tells her about the future health of the child, and she should have faith in G-d, from whom life and health come to all.
There are also women who are wary of bringing children to the world because of financial reasons, for how will they support another child in the house, when even now, they live modestly, with little sustenance. One must know that the opposite is correct, that the Holy One, blessed be He, supports every living thing, and the opposite, from then on, they will have abundant bread and even greater blessing than in the past. Our sages said: May His name be praised and His memory be blessed, that He supports and sustains that whole world, from the horns of the re'emim, to the eggs of lice. What are the horns of re'emim? They are kosher animals, of which there are only two in the world, a male and a female. One lives in the East and one lives in the West and they only mate, once every seventy years. After mating, the female turns and bites the male and kills him. The female is then pregnant for twelve years. For eleven years, she walks on her feet, grazing and drinking water. During the twelfth year, she falls on her side, and can no longer stand, and the Holy One, blessed be He, supports her through his mercy. The spittle flows from her mouth and grass grows here and here, from which she feeds during the twelfth year. If so, then why should a person worry about bringing a child into the world because of a need for sustenance, when it says: "And you should remember Hashem, your G-d, for he is the one who gives you energy to be strong." They must have faith in G-d who supports all life, as it says: "The One who gives life, gives sustenance." It also say: From where do we know that the key to sustenance is in the hands of the Holy One, blessed be He, and that he does not give it over to an agent? As it says: "You open Your hand, and satisfy the desire of all life." Therefore, has vehalilah, to have an abortion for reasons of lack of sustenance, which comes from a lack of belief and faith in G-d. Fortunate is one who has faith in G-d, who supports and sustains all life, as it says: "Blessed is the man who has faith in G-d, and G-d is his faith." It is a tremendous commandment and holy obligation upon every person who hears that one of his relatives or neighbors wants to have an abortion, to influence them through the ways of pleasantness and sweetness of the lips, to not do so, and he shall receive a blessing from G-d.
It says in our parashah: "And the midwives feared G-d and they did not do what the king of Egypt had commanded them, and they kept the children alive." Our sages explained: If we know that they did not do what he commanded them, do we not know that they kept the children alive? But there is praise within praise here, that not only did they not kill the children, but also they added goodness upon that. There were some who were poor and the midwives would collect water and food from the houses of the wealthy, and they would give it to the poor, and sustain their children. This is why it says: "And they kept the children alive." What was the reward of the midwives? "And G-d was good to the midwives and the nation multiplied and became strong." This was the wish of their hearts, that the nation of Israel would multiply, and that they should not avoid doing so because of the decree of Paroh. G-d was good to them and gave them the request of their hearts, and the nation multiplied and became very strong.
Truly, one does not know about any child how he will grow and what will become of him. For all the geonim of the days before us were no different when they were babies from any other baby, and they became leaders of Israel.
Therefore it is a tremendous commandment and a holy obligation for every person to assist and help with all his ability to Agudat Efrat, which creates souls in Israel. It is all for the sake of Heaven, not for the sake of reward, and he will receive a blessing from G-d.
2. Before one marries a woman, he makes a blessing. This is just like other blessings one makes before a commandment, and therefore must be made before the commandment is fulfilled, that is, before the giving of the ring to the woman. Technically, the hatan should make the blessing himself, but since there are ignorant hatanim and much nervousness at the time of the wedding, the custom is that the Rabbi who is organizing the wedding makes the blessing, and fulfills the hatan's obligation. The Rabbi should tell the hatan beforehand that he is fulfilling his obligation and the hatan should have intent to fulfill his obligation through this blessing. Even the kalah should have this intent, since according to some opinions, she too should be making the blessing. She should especially have intent to fulfill her obligation in the blessing of "borei peri hagafen," since she will be drinking wine afterwards.
3. After the Rabbi makes the blessing of borei peri hagafen, he should drink some of the wine, so that it should not be an unnecessary blessing. Then he should give it to the hatan to drink, who then gives it to the mother of the kalah, who gives it to the kalah to drink. During the cup of wine for sheva berachot though, the hatan may give the cup directly to the kalah, since she is his wife in all matters then.
4. He must say to the kalah: "Harei at mekudeshset li betaba'at so kedat Mosheh Veyisrael," before he places the ring on her finger. If he places it on her finger while he is in the middle of saying it, she is not married, for it is not apparent that the placing of the ring was for the purposes of marriage.
5. The Rabbi must appoint two kosher witnesses, who will testify that the marriage was done properly. They are not only witnesses for future testimony, as by a loan, but they create the status of marriage. If these two witnesses are not kosher, the marriage did not occur.
Careful… A Prohibition of Karet!!!
After the recent series of articles about the basic concepts in kashrut of meat and chickens, we were surprised by the wave of responses and the great interest that there is in the community of Torah Jews about these topics. Therefore we will continue, with the help of G-d and we will detail more of these important topics.
One of the things that separates between the regular or mehadrin kashrut of the Rabbinate, and the kashrut of those who fear G-d and wish to be sure that there is no doubt or question about the product before them, is the speed of the slaughtering of the chickens, turkeys and cows, and the caution with which they are checked for signs of mortal wounds. In a slaughterhouse which has uncertified kashrut, the speed of the slaughtering is tremendous, to be able to manage as much as possible during the working hours of the slaughterhouse. This causes tremendous pressure on the checkers, for they must check for everything within a set amount of time, when the next lung is immediately arriving to be checked. There is no possibility of holding up the checking for any amount of time, despite the fact that we are talking about essential matters of Torah, like the checking of the lungs for any lesion or mucus, which according to the Bet Yosef, makes the food prohibited to eat with a prohibition of karet.
To understand the stringency of the matter, we must explain that because of these checkings, the vast majority of animals are disqualified from the certification of "halak Bet Yosef." In a line where the speed is so great, how can the checkers, even if they are the greatest experts, tell so quickly what is on the lung before them, every mucus and every lesion, to save us from the stringent prohibition, punishable by karet!
If this is true by beef, then in the slaughterhouses of chickens and turkeys, the problems are no less, where there are slaughterhouses where the checking of the lungs and the tendons is done only on a sample basis (one out of several chickens) and not on an individual basis, one by one. We must realize that the checking of these chickens in our days is necessitated by reality, and it is not a mere stringency and glorification of a commandment. Experience shows that the raising of chickens is no longer done in a natural manner, but through artificial means, such as through the giving of vitamins and nutritional supplements which cause the chicken to develop many times the norm. The chicken reaches the slaughterhouse at any age of only forty-five days, when without a doubt, its fast, unnatural development substantially affects the health of the chicken. Therefore, we must check each chicken individually and not just on a sample basis. This is in addition to the crowdedness in the coops, where the chickens are raised in great numbers, so much so that in one coop there may be 60,000 chickens! This gives the chickens very little room to move, so that the tendons of their legs are damaged, which may cause the bird to be treif. If so, how can we rely on checking on a sample basis only?…
At "Zoglovek", marketed under the tag "Zoglovek Mehadrin Bet Yosef," the Rabbis of the Bedass Bet Yosef have instituted in their visits to the slaughterhouse, an individual, unhurried checking of each chicken, both in the lungs and the tendons. To get a picture of what this leads to, we should know that the average amount of questions and problems in the birds every day is more than twenty percent!!! In many cases, when the percent of questions is high, we were instructed by our master, the Rishon Lessiyon shelita, to disqualify the slaughtering on that day completely. Only when the percentage of questions on a given day is reasonable, does the Bedass permit the slaughtering in the slaughterhouse of "Zoglovek."
The conclusion is that all those who have fear of G-d in their hearts and do not want to be false in their souls, had better be stringent and use only a known and certified hashgahah, which is led by the deciders of the generation and its leaders. They appoint the best experts in every realm, and instruct them and oversee them carefully on every detail and custom in the pathways of kashrut.
Gamliel Ben Nizha and Yosef Ben Hanom
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