JANUARY 23-24, 2003 1 SHEBAT 57644
The second plague to befall Egypt was the plague of frogs. As the children's song goes, "Frogs here, frogs there, frogs were truly everywhere." The amazing thing about this plague was that at the outset, Hashem brought upon the Egyptians one huge frog. When they began hitting the frog in anger and frustration, it multiplied again and again, until they were everywhere. The Steipler Rebbe Z"l asks the obvious question; Why didn't they stop hitting it when they saw the results of their actions?
He answers with a very profound truth about human nature. When a person is angry and does something in his anger, although he sees that no good will come out of it, he can't help himself. His anger carries him further to do what he knows intellectually he will regret later on. How often do we get into an argument and begin saying things we know we will have to take back. At the time, we feel that we just "have to" do this regardless of the consequences. Later on we realize how foolish we were and wish it never happened.
We should realize that the majority of the time getting angry does more harm than good. Although the Rabbis tell us that there are certain times we are allowed to act angry if we are truly calm inside and there is good reason for it, nevertheless, experience has shown that this is difficult to rely upon. Next time we think about losing our temper, let's remember the big Egyptian Frog, and think about the consequences. This will help us find alternatives to solve our problems without losing our temper. Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Shmuel Choueka
"Hashem said to Moshe, 'Now you will see what I shall do to Pharaoh' " (Shemot 6:1)
The last verse in last week's perashah records Hashem's response to the complaint of Moshe. Moshe was sent to tell Pharaoh to let the Jews leave Egypt. Instead, Pharaoh refused to let them go and responded by increasing the work load on the Jews. Moshe returned to Hashem and complained that the situation is now worse than before. Hashem responded that now you will see what I will do to Pharaoh. Our Rabbis interpret this to mean (see Rashi) that Hashem reproached Moshe for complaining and told him that he would merit to see the punishment of Pharaoh, but not, what would happen to the thirty-one kings in the land of Canaan when the Jews conquered the land. Moshe would not see it, but his student, Joshua, will take them into the Promised Land.
The Hafess Hayim wonders, was it right for Hashem to respond to Moshe's anguished cry, "Why have You done this to Your people?" - which came from a broken heart, by telling him he will not live to bring his beloved people to the Promised Land? Therefore, the Hafess Hayim offers another way of looking at Hashem's response. It was not a rebuke but a consolation. According to the prophesy said to Abraham, the slavery was to last 400 years. However, Hashem decided to move up the time of redemption and take out the Jews 190 years earlier. In order to do this without contradicting the original plan, Hashem caused Pharaoh to increase the work. This way 400 years of labor will be done in 210 years. Therefore, Hashem tells Moshe, don't complain about the work, for now the redemption process is accelerated. If the redemption had to wait another 190 years you would not be able to witness the great redemption. Hashem was comforting Moshe and saying ?atah tir'eh" - now you will see the great redemption.
The Hafess Hayim points out that in Jewish history events that may seem to be tragic and destructive are ultimately seen and appreciated as being positive. We hope that day comes soon, Amen. Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Reuven Semah
'Go to Pharaoh in the morning. Behold he is going out to the water, and you should stand to greet him upon the edge of the Nile" (Shemot 7:15)
Rashi comments that Pharaoh used to go early each morning to the Nile to relieve himself. He claimed to his people that he was a god and did not have normal bodily needs.
Rabbi Chayim Shmuelevitz used to comment on this that we see how people who seek honor do so even though it leads to much irrational, almost insane, behavior. One can imagine how much discomfort Pharaoh suffered to keep up this facade of being a god. Each day he suffered physically. What was his actual gain? Very little. He was an absolute monarch and had unlimited power. There was not really any practical difference whether people considered him a human powerful ruler whose slightest word could bring death to an insubordinate subject or whether they considered him a divine being. All he got was a little more honor and approval. But at a very costly price. When one suffers, it is much more difficult to appreciate the good things in one's life.
When we view Pharaoh we can see how ridiculous it is to cause oneself so much pain for such an illusory gain as a bit more approval. Introspect and find ways in which you personally cause yourself needless suffering by seeking honor and approval. (Growth through Torah)
"And Hashem spoke to Moshe and Aharon and commanded them to B'nei Yisrael" (Shemot 6:13)
Hazal explain that the special commandment at this time was the dictate concerning the laws of setting one's slaves free. It seems peculiar that Hashem deemed it necessary to enjoin them with this specific misvah at this particular time. We may explain this in the following manner. At various times every individual experiences a moment of such import that it has the potential to transform one's entire life. When such an experience takes place, it is necessary that he immediately immortalizes those fleeting moments and incorporate them into his outlook on life. This concept does not only apply to an individual in a personal context, but it also embraces all of Am Yisrael and spans the eternity of the Jewish people.
As Am Yisrael was on the verge of redemption from the Egyptian bondage, Hashem suddenly told Moshe to charge the people with a particular misvah. This misvah was the mandatory freeing of Jewish slaves after a specific period of time had elapsed. Why was it appropriate at this moment to transmit this particular misvah, which was not to become applicable for almost half a century?
The answer lies in the understanding that in order to internalize the extreme pain of enslavement and yearning for freedom, one must previously have experienced slavery. Since it is difficult for an owner to empathize with the sufferings of a slave, he cannot easily give up a slave whom he views to be an intrinsic part of his property. The only way to convince an owner of his obligation is to employ the emotions felt by the Jewish people on the day that they themselves were freed. Thus, on the very day that they experienced the joy of freedom, they were charged to immortalize this moment with the misvah of freeing Jewish slaves at the appropriate time. One must always strive to preserve the elevation attained at those occasional moments of spiritual awareness in order to constantly apply them to his daily endeavor. (Peninim on the Torah)
Question: Why do we read the haftarah (a selection from the Prophets which follows the Torah reading) each Shabbat?
Answer: The haftarah originated at a time in Jewish history (the exact time is not agreed upon - one opinion places its occurrence at the time of the Hanukah miracle) when a decree was made which prohibited us from reading the Torah. The Sages therefore replaced the Torah reading with the reading of a portion from the Prophets. This is why the haftarah usually relates to something in the perashah which it follows. (Excerpted from Siddur Abir Yaacob, published by Sephardic Press)
"And the years of the life of Levi were 137 years." (Beresheet 6:16)
Levi was the last of Ya'akob's sons to die. As we know, the tribe of Levi (and the Kohanim who were from their tribe) became the ones who served in the Mishkan and in the Bet Hamikdash. Rabbi Avigdor Miller suggests that the fact that Levi lived longer than his brothers was a major factor in the success of his family. In those extra years, he certainly supervised his family's spiritual development. That additional support and encouragement was what gave his children and grandchildren the desire dedicate their lives to serving Hashem.
It should be noted that in order for a parent to be successful in creating this enthusiasm in his children, he must feel and express the same enthusiasm in his own service of Hashem. A child senses what is truly important to his parents, and will usually follow their lead. A parent can unwittingly teach his children the wrong priorities if he is not properly focused himself.
Question: What would you say is the most important lesson or character trait that you learned from your parents? How do you think your children would answer this question when they grow up?
This week's Haftarah: Yishayahu 66:1-24.
The regular haftarah for this perashah begins by saying that Hashem will gather all of Israel from the nations among whom they are scattered. In our perashah, Hashem also says that he will take B'nei Yisrael out from under the burdens of Egypt. The haftarah then goes on to prophesize about the downfall of Egypt in Nebuchadnesar's time. Pharaoh, who claimed to be a god, will be conquered by Nebuchadnesar, and all
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