Back to Parsha Homepage | Previous Issues

Parashat Yitri


"You saw that which I did to Egypt; I carried you on the wings of eagles, and I brought you to me" (Shemot 19:4). The great Tanna, Rabbi Yonatan ben Uziel, explains that "You saw that which I did to Egypt" refers to the slaying of the first-born. He continues, "I carried you upon the Clouds of Glory, I carried you out of Egypt and I brought you to the place of the Bet Hamikdash to perform the korban pesah, and that night I returned you to Egypt, and from there I brought you to receive my Torah." Amazing! In miraculous fashion the entire nation was brought to Yerushalayim, they offered the korban Pesah in the place of the Bet Hamikdash, and they were transported again to Egypt. The question begs to be asked: why didn't they just stay in Israel? They could have avoided the entire trauma of being chased by the Egyptian armies, the sin of the golden calf, the sin of the spies, the incident of "Kivrot Hata'avah," and forty years of exhausting travel through the desert. The answer is written explicitly and contains therein a critical lesson.

Hashem wanted to teach us that there is no value to settling and inhabiting the land unless the settlement is preceded by the acceptance of the Torah. Even if we were to distribute Eres Yisrael to the various tribes with Moshe in charge, the Bet Hamikdash standing in all its glory, this would not have been enough. We would still have to turn around and go back to receive the Torah. Only thereafter can we turn our attention to the settling of Eres Yisrael.

Let us engrave this lesson onto our hearts. In our generation we have merited the resettling of the Land of Israel. But this cannot be accomplished without one prerequisite - the acceptance of the Torah.

The Sadik and His Clone

One hundred and fifty years ago there lived a saintly sadik, a leading authority of halachah as well as master of Kabbalah, the author of "Divrei Hayim," zs"l. His prayers stirred people's hearts, his Torah was flawless, his rulings were accepted by all, and his blessings were not returned without accomplishing their goal. Masses thronged to his home to receive his blessings for various needs, and barren women conceived, sick patients were cured, and the rays of success shone on the impoverished.

The "Divrei Hayim" had a son named Rabbi Baruch, who was the rabbi of Goreliss. Rabbi Baruch tells that when the "Sitra Ahara" (the prosecutor against us in the heavens) saw the masses converging to the residence of the Divrei Hayim to receive his blessings, he trembled in fear. The obvious miracles performed by the sadik in the merit of the Torah would surely lead the hearts of the people to teshuvah. The Satan therefore stood before the Divine Throne, as it were, and argued, "Master of World! Man's capacity of free will is one of the principles by which the world is conducted. A person always stands at the crossroads, having to decide which path to take - the right one or the wrong one, to choose blessing or curse. But now free choice is being taken away, the balance has been disrupted, and this foundation of free choice is being undermined!" The argument seemed strong, so the Sitra Ahara was authorized to present its own "sadik." This sadik was a perfect replica of the Divrei Hayim, a "clone" of the great sadik. He also prayed with amazing intensity, he also learned Torah diligently, he also greeted crowds and bestowed blessings upon them. The Sitra Ahara granted him supernatural powers so that his blessings would be carried out completely. And so, by his word, as it were, sick patients were cured, infertile parents had children, and countless other wonders were performed by the impostor. From this point on, the masses split into two groups: one went to the sadik, the other went to the other man.

Indeed, free choice was restored. What was the difference between the two men whose blessings were sought?

After all, they both wore beards and "pe'ot," they both immersed themselves in the mikveh regularly, carried themselves with the distinction of religious leadership, and both gave the impression of being true dignitaries. So what was the difference between them? There was one critical difference between them. When a Jew would come before the Divrei Hayim to discuss his crisis - a sick child, an unsuccessful business, slanderous rumors circulating about him, whatever the situation was - the Divrei Hayim would ask him, "Does your business close on Shabbat? Do you observe the laws of family purity? Where do the children go to school? Do you set aside time for Torah study?" If it turns out that one of these basic tenets is being violated, the sadik would say, "How can I beseech the Al-mighty on your behalf if you violate his commandments and ignore his statutes? Let's make the following arrangement: you accept upon yourself to improve your behavior, in the observance of Shabbat, family purity, and Torah education, and I will intercede on your behalf that Hashem bestow his blessings upon you." With the other man, however, things worked a little differently. People would come, present their problem, pay some money, receive their blessing, and leave to continue their lives with no move towards self-improvement. Truth be told, this story finds its roots in this week's parashah. Yitro questions Moshe why people line up to speak with him all day. He asks Moshe, "What are you doing? About what are you talking to them?" Moshe answers, "For the nation would come to me to seek out the Al-mighty, and I will tell them the laws of Hashem and His Torah." The Ramban zs"l explains that "to seek out the Al-mighty" refers to, " pray for their ill, or if they lost something, they would come to me and I would tell them with divine inspiration where to look. Furthermore, that I judge any argument which would arise among them." Moshe continues, "I will tell them the laws of Hashem and His Torah." Meaning, Moshe took advantage of this opportunity to strengthen their observance of the Torah. That is why the conversations took such a long time, and the people stood over Moshe from the morning until the evening.

Indeed, we must always remember that there are sadikim of purity and sanctity, and there are impostors who have been established to deter the people away from the proper path. If the sadik attempts to bring the hearts of the people closer to their Father in Heaven, to bring them closer to the misvot and the path of our patriarchs, to increase sanctity and holiness, Shabbat observance and Torah education, then his righteousness is one of kedushah, continuing the legacy of Moshe, and his wonders are not those of the Sitra Ahara, Heaven forbid.

Parents tend to split into two groups, as well. Clearly each parent wants only the best for his/her children and longs to give them what they want. However, do these parents just give continuously and without discretion, or do they also concern themselves with the spiritual necessities of the children, combining blessing with instruction and guidance, fulfilling the children's wishes together with educating them along the ideals of the Torah?


Based On the Rulings of Rav Ovadia Yossef shlit"a
Arranged by Rav Moshe Yossef shlit"a

The "Berachah Me'ein Shalosh" for Several Different Species

Someone who eats a "kezayit" of cake and, before he recites a berachah aharonah, eats a "kezayit" of fruit from the seven special fruits which require a berachah me'en shalosh, and, furthermore, he drinks a "revi'it" of wine in one sitting, regarding such a case the Shulhan Aruch writes (208:12) that the person recites just one berachah me'en shalosh and mentions in the blessing all three items. Thus, he does not have to recite an individual blessing for each item which he ate/drank. He opens the berachah with "al hamihyah" for the grain, then he says, "al hagefen" for the wine, and finally, "al haperot" for the fruits. Similarly, at the end of the blessing, he follows this order. The Turei Zahav explains that the mentioning of the grain product comes first because the blessing of "borei minei mezonot," which is recited on grain products, is considered more important and clearer. Furthermore, in the pasuk which mentions the seven special species of Eres Yisrael, grain products are mentioned first, implying that they are considered more important than the other species. Next in importance is wine, as evidenced by the fact that Hazal instituted a special berachah for wine (borei peri hagefen). And thus, "al haperot" is mentioned last.

The Magen Avraham writes that since the halachah is that one who accidentally recites "al haperot" instead of "al hagefen" for wine he has still fulfilled his obligation as wine is included in "al haperot" (it, too, is a fruit, as we have explained in early issues), therefore, when one eats fruit of the seven species and drinks wine, he should not recite "al hagefen" at all, but should simply mention "al haperot," for, as we have seen, the wine is included in "al haperot." The Mishnah Berurah (208:61) writes that since common practice is not in accordance with this ruling of the Magen Avraham and most authorities argue on his position, one should recite both "al hagefen" and "al haperot." However, if one erred and recited only "al haperot," he does not need to recite a new berachah. In summary, one who eats a kezayit of cake, a kezayit of fruits from the seven special fruits, and drank a revi'it of wine, he incorporates all three into a single berachah me'en shalosh, mentioning all three items in the berachah. However, if one forgot to mention "al hagefen" he has still fulfilled his requirement and does not need to recite a new berachah.


Rabbi Moshe Galanti zs"l

The 21st of Shevat marks the anniversary of the death of one of the saintliest of our leaders, Rabbi Moshe Galanti zs"l, known as the "Magen," who died in Yerushalayim in 5449, three hundred and nine years ago. In a publication in Yerushalayim it is told of a terrible drought during which there was no rain and the ground yielded no produce. The water in the wells was used up and Yerushalayim was suffering from thirst. A delegation was sent to the Magen declaring that if no rain fell in the next three days all the Jews would be driven out of the city, for, it was believed, because of them the drought has occurred.

The rabbi gathered the community leaders who were seized with terror upon hearing the decree. They decreed a fast for three days during which the community would pray and cry. On the third day the rabbi instructed that everybody come with him to pray at the grave site of Shimon Hasadik. He added that they should take with them their winter clothes, for on their way back it would be pouring rain. As the Jews left Damascus Gate, the guard asked them why there were carrying coats. When they told him that the rabbi had instructed them to do so, he scorned them, approached the rabbi, and slapped him across the face.

The rabbi ignored him and continued. When he arrived at the grave he prayed for salvation, and suddenly a stormy wind started blowing through the branches of the trees. The skies darkened and raindrops started falling. The rabbi did not leave until the rain started to fall in torrents. They all put on their coats and returned to the city amidst joyful singing. When they reached Damascus Gate they were greeted by the guard who asked the rabbi to forgive him for his disrespectful behavior, and he, himself, carried the rabbi on his shoulders to his house so that his feet would not get wet walking through the streams of water which flowed through the city streets. The rain continued unabated for three days non-stop. The Moslem guard came before the rabbi and expressed his desire to convert. The rabbi sent him to Damascus where he converted and became an observant, G-d-fearing Jew.

The Magen died on 21 Shevat, and he is buried on Har Hazetim near the grave of Rabbi Ovadia Mibartenura zs"l.


"Yisrael encamped there across from the mountain"

Rabbenu Yosef Hayim zs"l noted that "neged hahar" (across from the mountain) may be interpreted as the letters which correspond to the letters of "har," which are "dalet" and "kuf" on one side and "vav" and "shin" on the other. When all the letters are combined together they spell, "kadosh." The implication being that when Benei Yisrael encamped at Har Sinai before the receiving of the Torah there were on a high level of sanctity, which must be attained before receiving the Torah and beholding the Shechinah.

"Yisrael encamped there across from the mountain"

Rabbi Yehudah Birdogo zs"l, in his work, "Mayim Amukim," cites Hazal's comment that Moshe was instructed to teach the men separately from the women, as the verse states, "So shall you say to the house of Yaakov" - referring to the women - "and you shall say to Benei Yisrael" referring to the men. Why did the women precede the men in this context? Because, as the pasuk states, "Yisrael encamped there across from the mountain," which refers only to the males. The women, in keeping with the proper observance of "seni'ut," were a little further away. Therefore, to emphasize that their distance was not, Heaven forbid, a demonstration of disrespect towards the women, they were instructed first, to show that this is the proper path of service of Hashem, by separating the genders.

"Yisrael encamped there across from mountain"

The Hid"a zs"l asks, why did Moshe refuse so emphatically when he was charged with the mission to take Benei Yisrael out of Egypt, but yet he did not refuse when he was asked to receive the Torah on behalf of Benei Yisrael? The answer is that he saw that the nation encamped across from Har Sinai, the shortest mountain, and they learned from the mountain the quality of humility so that each person looked up to the other, and they became like one person with one heart. Moshe thus understood that the lowest of people should be the one to receive the Torah on everyone's behalf. That is why Hazal say, "Moshe received the Torah from Sinai" - from this mountain he learned this lesson.


The Repaid Debt (4)

Flashback: The child, Naftali, playfully threw a rock into the officer's chariot and injured him. The furious officer threw him into prison. After much effort he was given to a guard to be taken to the capital city to stand trial. On the way they encountered an intense storm and lost their way. Nightfall was approaching when they suddenly saw a pillar of smoke rising in the distance. They headed toward the source of the smoke.

The path was not an easy one, and it was even worse for these two travelers. Naftali's hands were locked in chains and the armed guard held the boy with one hand and his weapon in the other. They splashed in the mud and hopped around in the huge puddles which formed from the water coming down from the mountains. Meanwhile, the rain continued pouring mercilessly. As they approached, they saw beyond the torrents of rain a small settlement with smoke rising from the homes. They headed toward the village, and, as they walked, night fell. It was pitch black, with only the flashes of lightning to help them see where they were going. After a long hour they found themselves in the outskirts of the village, exhausted and worn out, all their limbs aching. The houses were dark, as the villagers go to sleep at nightfall and wake up at daybreak. "Come," said the guard, "we will knock on the door of the first house. We will wake them up in the name of the king so we can get some food and a place to sleep."

"Wait," answered Naftali, "I see some light!"

Indeed, there was a beam of light visible in one of the homes. A glimmer of hope pounded in the boy's heart. "What villager doesn't go to sleep at nightfall? Who stays awake on such a stormy night?" He guessed an answer and hoped he was right. "Very well," sighed the guard. "Let's go there. Maybe they're having dinner and we can join them." They went and stumbled until they finally arrived at the house. They walked across the yard and knocked on the door. The guard knocked, and Naftali moved his hands along the sides of the door post, celebrating in his heart: he was right, there was a mezuzah on the door post!

to be continued...


The Crane

The crane has earned a special place among the family of birds.

The crane distinguishes itself by being a fantastic shouter, as its shrieks can be heard several kilometers away.

Its windpipe is exceptionally long and part of it extends into the chest cavity. This is why its voice is so unusual.

Why does the crane yell? This bird is widely known for its beauty, which attracts many hunters. Whenever it senses that its life is in danger it shouts deafening cries, causing the hunter to leave the hunt, thereby saving its own life by shouting.

We are all familiar with the prohibition of causing unnecessary harm to other creatures, so a Jew does not need to hear these or any other cries to keep us from hunting. Knowledge of the prohibition should suffice. We must be exceedingly careful in this matter. The story is told of Rabbi Yehudah Hanassi who was staying in Sipori. A calf ran out from a nearby slaughter house and hid inside the rabbi's jacket. Rabbi Yehudah told him, "Go, as for this you were created." Because he did not show enough compassion for this animal it was decreed that he would suffer from a disease of the teeth, which he endured for no fewer than thirteen years, until he was cured through a miracle.

And what about us?!


"I Have Brought You To Me"

"I carried you on the wings of eagles." Rashi cites the Midrash which explains this pasuk as a metaphor: "Like an eagle which carries its young on its wings. Other birds put their young in between its legs, since they fear other birds which fly overhead. But the eagle is not afraid of other birds; only from men who shoot arrows, as no other birds fly higher than it. Therefore, it puts its young on its wings. It says, better the arrow goes through me and not my children. Similarly, the Al-mighty does this, as the pasuk says, 'The Angel of Hashem who was walking in front of the camp traveled and went behind them, and he came in between the camp of Egypt and the camp of Yisrael.' The Egyptians would hurl arrows and stones, and the cloud would catch them."

This explanation, itself only a metaphor, requires further elucidation. The cloud which caught the arrows certainly did save Benei Yisrael, but it is quite clear that the Glory of Hashem, as it were, is beyond any physical qualities. What, then, is the comparison between Hashem and the eagle which takes the arrow through its body to protect its young? Indeed, a deep message is being conveyed here. The Egyptians were not the only ones chasing Benei Yisrael. "Benei Yisrael raised their eyes, and behold Egypt is chasing after them." In this pasuk, the verb form is in the singular. The Zohar explains that it refers to the angel of Egypt in heaven. The angel in charge of the Egyptian nation chased after Benei Yisrael and fired arrows at them. These arrows are spiritual ones, accusations against Benei Yisrael that they were not worthy of redemption, for they, too, were sinners who had sunk to the forty-nine "gates of impurity," contaminated by all the idolatry and other abominations of Egypt. These arrows are truly lethal, and had the potential to withhold the advent of Yesiat Misrayim. The Al-mighty said, as it were, "Better that the arrows go through me." Meaning, I am prepared to have the accusations against Me and the way I conduct the world, rather than have the arrow penetrate My children! Why? As the pasuk concludes, "I carried you on the wings of eagles - and I brought you to Me."

Even if they weren't worthy at that point in time, soon they would stand at the foot of Har Sinai to accept His Torah, to declare in unison, "We will do and we will hear!" The coming redemption, too, will be like the Exodus from Egypt: "Like the days you left Egypt I will show you wonders." Even with all the accusations against us the redemption will unfold, so together we could accept upon ourselves the yoke of Heaven with love and joy.

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

Five Kinyanim (part II)

"Five Kinyanim did G-d makein His world: Torah, heaven and earth, Abraham, Israel and the Bet Hamikdash" (Avot 6:10). Kinyanim are acts of attaching objects to the personality (ownership) by these five ways, the Presence of G-d rests upon the world. They all have in common the ability to cause Da'at, the True Knowledge and awareness of G-d; and it is this True Knowledge which brings the Shechinah closer. The heaven and the earth, when viewed by men cause them to recognize the Creator. "The heavens relate the glory of G-d" (Tehillim 19:2); "and G-d made so that they should fear Him" (Kohelet 3:14).

Back to this week's parsha | Previous Issues

This article is provided as part of Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Permission is granted to redistribute electronically or on paper,
provided that this notice is included intact.
Jerusalem, Israel