APRIL 11-12, 2003 10 NISAN 5763
"For seven days leaven shall not be found in your home" (Shemot 12:19)
Pesah is right around the corner. Pesah cleaning is the topic of the day. It goes without saying that our wonderful wives put in a great effort to prepare the house and to prepare the food. I would like to take this opportunity to tell the men to lend a real helping hand. It is asking too much of our wives to do it alone.
When one prepares the home for Pesah, attitude is the most important factor. We must remember, it is a blessing to have a home to clean. It is a blessing to have the health and strength to clean it. It is a blessing to have children to mess it up! We shouldn't complain; we should appreciate. There is an attitude today that hard work is a bad thing. People don't want to work up a sweat; people want to relax. If one has a "farah," a bar misvah or a wedding, is it viewed as a blessing or an ordeal? It is all in our attitude.
A great Rabbi, the Bubover Rebbe, once visited the famous philanthropist, Rav Shimon Wolf Rothschild, known as Baron Rothschild. The purpose of the visit was to raise money for his yeshivah. The Baron showed the Rabbi a beautiful, well-kept home, which was locked all year and used only on Pesah. The house had comfortable furnishings and beautiful gold and silver vessels. The Baron was very careful with his misvah observance, and this was the way he hoped to stay away from even the tiniest speck of hamess. The Baron told the Rabbi, "I'm sure, if it was financially feasible, every Jew would wish to have a Pesah house." To the Baron's surprise, the Rabbi was not impressed. "If a separate Pesah house would be halachically superior, I'm sure many people would find the means to do so. The point is not to have a separate house. The pasuk says that leaven shall not be found in your home. Rashi, in the Gemara Berachot says that the leaven applies also to the yeser hara, the Evil Inclination in ones heart. The holiday of Pesah is like a holiday of repentance. In the same house where one lives all year with the hamess, that is the dwelling in which one must take out the hamess and bring in the Pesah. The act of Bedikat Hamess (searching for the hamess) is like driving away the yeser hara, and bringing in the yesert hatob." The Baron was satisfied with the explanation and sent a handsome donation to the yeshivah. Shabbat Shalom and happy holiday. Rabbi Reuven Semah
"G-d has bestowed many favors upon us." (Passover Haggadah)
Gratitude and appreciation are virtues that are not simply praiseworthy, they are essential traits. On the Seder night we are enjoined to recount the many wonders and miracles that Hashem wrought for us. Ibn Ezra contends that appreciation goes a step further. We are to remember how it used to be, how we suffered, the pain and affliction to which we were subjected, the thirst and hunger which accompanied us and the depression and hopelessness that ruled our lives. Hashem rescued us from all that. He took us out of misery, granting us the opportunity to live as free people.
Harav Mordechai Gifter, shlita, explains that one must appreciate and give gratitude where it is due. Does one, however, analyze the good that he has received? Does one ever think about what life would have been like had he not been saved? Do we ever really evaluate the good? Do we simply say, "Thank you," and continue with "business as usual?" One must remember what it had been like; think back to the days of misery and pain, feel some of the frustration and grief that used to be so much a part of his life. Then and only then will he truly understand the essence of the favor he has received. All too quickly we pay our respects to our benefactor and forget about him. If we pay more attention to our past we might more fully appreciate the present.
This, according to Harav Gifter, is the purpose of the Dayenu format of the Haggadah. We must delve deeper into the "good" that we have received, reviewing it, analyzing every aspect of it, so that we will experience greater appreciation at the present time. Let us appreciate all that we have so that we may merit to be blessed continuously. Happy Pesah. Rabbi Shmuel Choueka
"This shall be the law of the leper in the day of his cleansing" (Vayikra 14:2)
According to R' Yehoshua ben Levi in Midrash Rabbah, the word "Torat - law of" is mentioned five times in regard to the leper. This teaches that one who speaks lashon hara commits a grave infraction, equivalent to violating the five books of the Torah.
What is the link between lashon hara and the five books of the Torah? In Humash Beresheet the serpent encourages Havah to eat the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge by speaking lashon hara about Hashem. He tells Havah, "Hashem forbids you to eat the fruits because a craftsman hates competitors. He, too, was able to create the world only after gaining wisdom through eating this fruit (Rashi 3:5).
In Humash Shemot Hashem tells Moshe to put his hand into his bosom. When he takes it out it is leprous as snow. This happens to Moshe because he speaks lashon hara against the Jewish people when he says, "They will not believe me" (Rashi 4:6).
In Humash Vayikra the Torah states clearly the prohibition of speaking lashon hara: "You shall not be a talebearer among your people" (19:16). In Humash Bemidbar we learn of Miriam being afflicted with leprosy for talking lashon hara about Moshe (12:10).
In Humash Debarim the Torah warns: "Take heed of the plague of leprosy; remember what G-d did to Miriam on the way as you came out of Egypt" (24:8-9).
Since lashon hara is alluded to in each of the five Humashim, the leper who speaks lashon hara is considered to have violated all five books of the Torah. (Vedibarta Bam)
"There shall be taken for the person being purified two live clean birds." (Vayikra 14:4)
The purification process for a person who had sara'at required him to bring two birds. One would be slaughtered and the other would be set free. The Gemara explains that the birds, which constantly chatter, represent the slanderous speech of the afflicted person. However, no explanation is given as to why two birds must be brought.
Aperion on the Torah teaches that a person should generally make every effort to remain silent in order to avoid the very serious sin of lashon hara. However, this does not apply in regards to the study of Torah. Rather, one should make an effort to maximize his speech in Torah matters. This explains why the mesora had to bring two birds. One bird was slaughtered, representing the need to minimize our improper speech, while the second one was set free, teaching that one should be free and generous with his words of Torah.
Question: In the past hour, were the majority of your spoken words good or bad? What efforts can you take to reduce the amount of lashon hara you speak and hear?
Question: In the Amidah of Arbit, we say, "veyanuhu bah" (feminine). In the Shaharit Amidah, we say "veyanuhu bo" (masculine). In the Minhah Amidah, we say "veyanuhu bam" (plural). Why the changes?
Answer: 1) In the Torah, Shabbat is sometimes referred to in the feminine, and sometimes in the masculine. Consequently, we use the feminine in one Amidah and the masculine in another. The third usage is plural. 2) To symbolize the bride-groom concept which we noted earlier. First, there is the bride (feminine). Then there is the groom (masculine). Then, there is the couple (plural).
3) According to the Kabbalah, the numerical value (in "otiyot ketanot") of bah, bo and bam, is 21. Adding to this the six letters themselves, the total is 27. By the same token, there are 22 letters in the Hebrew alphabet, plus five letters which occur at the end of words, for a total of 27. The message: When one observes Shabbat, it is as if he is observing the entire Torah (represented by the 27 letters of the alphabet). (Excerpted from Siddur Abir Yaacob, published by Sephardic Press)
"And I will place the plague of leprosy upon a house in the land of your possession" (Vayikra 14:34)
Rashi writes that a plague in the walls of a house is propitious for the Jews. The Amorites had hidden treasures of gold in their houses all the forty years the Jews were in the desert, and on account of the plague, the Jews broke down the walls of the houses and found the gold. If a plague is a punishment for sinning, why does it seem to have the character of a reward?
The Torah is teaching us a very interesting lesson. Every Jew has treasures hidden deep within. When a person sins, he is neglecting and forsaking the treasures and resources that Hashem has instilled in him. When a Jew is given a plague, it awakens him to do teshubah, to return and become closer to Hashem and Judaism. Thus, the valuable treasures hidden within him are uncovered.
This week's Haftarah: Melachim II 7:3-20.
The custom in many communities is to read a special haftarah for Shabbat HaGadol. However, the custom in the Syrian community is to read the regular haftarah for Parashat Mesora. This haftarah tells about four Jewish people with leprosy who were sent out of the Jewish camp, as the law required in our perashah.
At the time, the nation of Aram was at war with Israel. However, the four men, displaying the selfishness that put them in this situation in the first place, decided to turn themselves over to Aram. In the end, like the healed leper in our perashah, they learned to put the welfare of their fellow Jews ahead of their own needs, and went to inform the Jews that Aram had fled.
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