JANUARY 18-19, 2002 6 SHEBAT 5762
"And they could not delay" (Shemot 12:39)
The Jewish people throughout history eat matzah on Pesah. As we know, this reminds us that the Jews had to rush out of Egypt and didn't have time to bake bread, so they made matzah. What was the rush? Our Sages teach us that Hashem was rushing us out, because the Jews had descended to the forty-ninth level of impurity and were about to be lost as Jews. The Jews were about to blend in with the Egyptian society, to become part of their immoral society. Hashem had promised to take the Jews out, so He had to take them out now, while they were still Jews.
Many ask the obvious question: What is the situation of the Jews in our exile? Have we reached the forty-ninth level? Is there a danger that we might descend to it? Our Sages tell us that today we have a safety net to prevent this. The great protector is the Torah. The Jews of Egypt didn't have the Torah; this was before the giving of the Torah on Mount Sinai. However, we have the Torah.
It is interesting to remember that the Jews in Egypt were great. They didn't change their Jewish names. They didn't change their Jewish language. They didn't change their Jewish style of clothing. Their level of national identity as Jews was at the highest possible level. However, after two hundred and ten years in Egypt, this was about to change and all were about to assimilate into the Egyptian society. Today we talk about assimilation in our exile. We are being drawn into the American melting pot. What is keeping us as Jews? Some say, since we eat Jewish foods, we remain separate as Jews! Some say it is because we have a Community Center to play basketball together! The Jews in Egypt had much more than that and were almost lost. The answer is that we have the Torah, we study the Torah with intensity and we support the study of Torah. This is our guarantee! Shabbat Shalom.
Rabbi Reuven Semah
"And let a man ask his friend for gold and silver" (Shemot 11:2)
The Jewish people were commanded to "borrow" gold and silver from the Egyptians to be able to serve G-d with these ornaments. Hashem willed it so in order that the Jews should be paid back for all their hard work which they contributed to Egypt. The question is: The Torah says they should ask their friends - "re;ehu"; were the Egyptians our friends? At best, they were our hosts, albeit very cruel and vicious ones to say the least. Why call them our friends?
One of the commentators says a novel idea. The Jews were first told to borrow from among themselves any gold and silver jewelry they might own. When they had done each other the kindness of lending to someone what they needed, then the Egyptians would be more amenable to doing the same thing. The word "re'ehu" - friend refers to the Jews themselves, that they should lend each other and then the Egyptians would follow suit.
The lesson is a truly powerful one. If we want to create a spirit of giving or sharing in the world, then we, the Jewish People have to act in that same way, and that will influence the nations to do the same. When we ask that Hashem show us mercy and tolerance and forgive us our faults, we have to be ready to do it first. That will cause that same spirit to be created in this world which in turn will cause Heaven to answer us measure for measure. We hold all the keys to Divine intervention. Let's use the right ones as often as we can. Shabbat Shalom.
Rabbi Shmuel Choueka
"...I shall place these signs of mine in his midst;... so that you may relate in the ears of your son and your son's son..." (Shemot 10:1-2)
In the above verses, Hashem clearly states that the Makkot, the ten plagues, were not brought merely as a punishment for the Egyptians, but also as a lesson for the Jewish people, a lesson meant to be imparted to their descendants for all generations. What is that all-important lesson?
When Hashem brought Makkat Sefarde'a, the plague of frogs, upon Egypt, Pharaoh pleaded with Moshe to bring an end to it. He promised that he would allow the Jews to leave Egypt if only the plague would cease. However, the Torah relates: "Pharaoh saw that there had been relief, and he kept hardening his heart." (Shemot 8:11) The Midrash Rabbah (10:6) elaborates and says thus is the way of the reshaim (evildoers): during a crisis, they cry out to Hashem, but once relief and comfort arrive, they return to their evil ways. When Pharaoh felt Hashem's heavy hand afflicting him, he recalled Him; once all was well, he quickly and conveniently forgot about G-d.
Unfortunately, this is all too often the nature of man. When a person is desperate, he remembers about Hashem, the all-merciful G-d, and he cries out to Him. We certainly know where to find Hashem when we need Him. (This is not to say that one who does not regularly pray should not do so in time of need; to the contrary! The time of need may be Hashem's reminder to him!) But when all is going smoothly, sometimes we tend to forget Him. Why do we not feel obligated to thank Hashem when all is good? Why do we not recognize that all the good comes from Him and it is He whom we must beseech for continued success?
King David writes in Tehillim (Psalms, 116:3-4): "...I meet up with sorrow and pain, and I call out in the name of Hashem..." Only a few verses later (116:13), he writes: "I raise a cup of victory, and I call out in the name of Hashem." King David is teaching us to take out a Tehillim not only when we want to pray for the sick, but also when all is well; to come to shul not only when we need to make requests for salvation, but also when we feel secure. As Jews, we must constantly keep in mind that everything, both the bad and the good, is dealt to us by the same loving hand. We must be forever grateful to Hashem and thank Him for the blessings He bestows upon us. We should have the words "Baruch Hashem," "thank G-d," always on our lips. The Mishnah (Abot 4:1) instructs us to learn from every person. From good people we learn what behaviors to emulate, and from bad people we learn what behaviors to avoid. From Pharaoh we can learn not to forget Hashem in times of good, but rather to thank Him for His kindnesses.
May we be worthy of the ultimate kindness of Hashem, the coming of Mashiah, speedily in our days, Amen. Rabbi David Maslaton
"And the locusts came up on the entire land of Egypt and they rested on the entire boundary of Egypt. It was very heavy, before this there were never as many locusts and afterwards there will never again be as much" (Shemot 10:14)
Rashi raises the question that in the days of the prophet Yoel there was such a strong plague of locusts that the verse (Yoel 2:2) states that there were never as many. How could our pasuk here also state that there were never as many?
The Hatam Sofer replied: it is true that in the days of Yoel there were more locusts than there were in Egypt. But that is only in actual numbers. In Egypt they were already devastated by other plagues that destroyed much of the vegetation, such as by the hail. The relative damage done by the locusts in Egypt was greater than at any other time, even though the amount destroyed by the locusts was greater in the time of Yoel.
The underlying idea expressed by the Hatam Sofer gives us some insight into understanding the difficulties that others are suffering. Or better still, it shows us how we can never completely understand the suffering of another person. When someone suffers because of some event, the actual pain is subjective rather than objective. This means that the pain suffered because of anything that happens is proportionate to what the situation means to the person who is suffering. When someone reacts to a situation with more suffering than you think is justified, there is always the possibility that this situation represents for that person "the straw that breaks the camel's back." Because of things that already happened to this person, what occurred caused him much more pain than you would have experienced if you were in the same situation. When someone reacts very strongly to some matter, ask the person, "What does this mean to you?" This empathetic question will help you understand that person better and possibly help him. (Growth through Torah)
"Do not eat of it partially raw, or cooked in water, only roasted over fire" ?? (Shemot 12:9)
The meat of the sacrifices may be eaten by Kohanim in whatever manner suits their palates. They may eat it cooked, broiled or roasted, etc. Why did Hashem insist that the Korban Pesah be eaten only roasted with fire?
Partially raw and fully cooked meat hardly have an aroma. Roasted meat, however, can be smelled at a distance.
The Jews slaved in Egypt for many years and were petrified of their Egyptian masters. Hashem's command to offer a sheep, the animal worshipped by the Egyptians, as a Korban Pesah frightened them. In order not to arouse the wrath of the Egyptians, they were going to eat it partially raw or fully cooked in water, hoping that the Egyptians would not notice.
Consequently, Hashem told Moshe to tell the people, "Enough is enough! Stop walking with your heads bowed down. Lift them up and be proud of the fact that you are Jews and free people. Roast the sacrifice on fire, let the aroma be smelled from one end of Egypt to the other, and let the entire country know that you are proudly worshipping your G-d." (Vedibarta Bam)
This week's Haftarah: Yirmiyahu 46:13-28.
In this haftarah, the prophet Yirmiyahu is sent by Hashem to tell Nebuchadnessar, king of Babylon, to attack Egypt. He then describes the complete devastation of Egypt, similar to the theme of this week's perashah.
The haftarah ends with Hashem's assurance that he will save Israel from all their enemies, and although he will punish Israel with justice, he will never wipe them out.
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