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by Daneal Weiner

We’ve spoken about the special potential of this year for the Mashiach to come and, remarkable as it is, according to the churches count it “just so happens” their special year 2000 falls out in our year 5760. So in addition to a couple million Jews who are waiting for the Mashiach to come we can add 1.5 billion x’tians to the list, l’havdil eleph havdalos. What makes it remarkable to me is that their count is total fiction! Yesh’u wasn’t born when they claim he was and they didn’t start counting from one and they still hit 5760!

Shabbos was January 1, 2000. The Hebrew date was 23 Teves, 5760. In Hebrew it would be spoken out as, “Yom Chof Gimmel Teves, Sh'nas Tav Shin Samech.

The gematria: Yom = 56, Chof Gimmel = 23, Teves = 411, Sh'nas = 750,

Tav Shin Samech = 760. Total = I’ll give you two thousand guesses! Thank you Moshe Teren for that gevaldik gematria! As our great King Solomon said, “There is nothing at all new under the sun.”

Speaking of sun, this past Shabbos was hot and sunny! It was terrible!!! We need rain!! The middle of this week the temperature dropped 25 degrees and it began to rain. And it kept raining. And the winds… whoooo wheeeee! Everyone is wet and slipping on the Jerusalem stone and chilled to the bone and we smile at each other and say, “Baruch Hashem!” Such welcomed suffering!

And speaking of welcomed suffering, some of you may be wondering why

Parshas Va'ayra

is always read at the end of the month of Teves as we welcome in the new month of Shvat? Glad you asked. From previous weeks we learned a little about Teves.

Teves is a month of Din- judgment. It's a month when the forces of Tuma- impurity are strongest. This spiritual reality is manifest in nature by way of Teves being the coldest month with its nights the longest. Shvat, then would be the month which takes us out of this. The month which relieves us of the hold Tuma has over us. It is only appropriate that the parsha welcoming in Shvat is one where Hashem begins to render our enemies powerless and brings us relief from one of our darkest times. Unfortunately, it was just a relief and not extrication.

When we speak of our exiles we most often speak of the 4 kingdoms but the exile of Egypt was the precursor of all exiles. We see a hint to this early in the parsha when we find the 4 expressions of redemption for which we drink the four cups of wine on Pesach. The 4 expressions parallel the 4 kingdoms yet they are spoken out here, foretelling the exodus from Egypt. The lessons we learn from the exodus from Egypt we should take to heart because in them lie the keys to free ourselves from remnants of that exile and of every exile which still plague us to this very day.

In Rav Moshe Wolfson’s inimitable fashion, he tells us the message of Shvat, using gematria ribua. Gematria ribua is one of 7 methods of gematria and is calculated by going through the word adding the 1st letter to the 1st + 2nd letters and adding that to the 1st + 2nd + 3rd letters, etc., till the completion of the word. For Shvat- made up of the three letters shin, bais, tes- it's gematria ribua means three passes, the shin plus shin + bais plus shin + bais + tes. That's (300) + (300 + 2) + (300 + 2 + 9) = 913. Remembering that Shvat represents Hashem taking us out of our suffering, Rav Wolfson explains the three passes alludes the three Temples. The first two incomplete passes represent the first two Temples which were destroyed. The third, final and complete pass represents the Third Temple which will be built soon, may it be in our day. That’s when we will not just have relief from our suffering but we will be extricated for all suffering, we will defeat all the forces of Tuma, within and without. In other words, we will once again reach a level of the Garden of Eden prior to the sin of Adam and Chava. The world will be like it was back in the beginning. The gematria ribua of Shvat = 913 = Breishis- In the beginning. Bimhayrah biyamainu!

From Moshe to Moshe there was no other like Moshe! Words of praise used in epitaph of our great Sage Rav Moshe ben Maimon, zt’l. An expression I’ll respectfully borrow, l’havdil be chaim l’chaim, as we go from the Torah of Rav Moshe Wolfson, shlit’a to a contemporary, Rav Moshe Shapira, shlit’a and his insights into a message of the exodus from Egypt.

Hashem gave Moshe and Aaron a miracle to perform before Pharaoh. Hashem then allowed Pharaoh’s chartumim- magicians to perform the same miracle. Even though Pharaoh didn’t hear the message, we need to. What was the message Hashem wanted Pharaoh to hear EVEN with his chartumim being able to duplicate Moshe’s miracle?

The Torah says the chartumim turned their staffs into snakes b’lahatayhem- with their lahat. Rashi translates lahat according to the Targum Onkelos, an Aramaic translation of the Torah passed down from Mount Sinai who says it’s with their whisperings. ArtScroll embellishes for context and says with their incantations. Rashi then adds, “There is no other word like this in scripture but you can compare it to the lahat by the spinning sword at the entrance to the Garden of Eden, that it spins by way of whispers.”

Hashem told Adam and Chava when they eat from the tree of knowledge they will die. As clear as it is that death was the punishment for the sin, it could also be seen as if Hashem warned them saying, “The way I set up nature, you will live for ever. But if you imbibe of the Tree of knowledge, which will incorporate and integrate it’s essence into your being, then nature will change and you will have to die. Death will be the process which will extract that which you partook of from your essence.”

Once Adam and Chava ate, Hashem expressed a concern that they will eat from the Tree of Life, which now became detrimental to mankind’s ultimate purification. Hashem sent Adam and Chava from the Garden and placed the lahat hacherev hamis’hapeches- the flame of the ever-turning sword l’ishmor es derech aits hachaim- to guard the way to the Tree of Life.

So from Breishis, lahat means a flame. From Shemos, lahat means a whisper. From Rashi I don’t know what it means. To add to the confusion, a few verse later, when Moshe returns to Pharaoh to turn the waters of Egypt to blood, again Pharaoh has his chartumim repeat the miracle, this time b’lataihem- with their lat. Again Rashi translates lat just like he did lahat, with whispers, now he adds information from a Gemorah, “Our Rabbis have taught that whereas lat are the doings of demons, lahat are the makings of magicians.” All this needs to be put on a brief hold.

Rav Moshe Shapira, working backwards, shows that lat is an expression of ‘covering’ as we see in Kings I when Eliyahu “vayilat panav”- he covered his face with his cloak. He then shows lahat to mean the illumination by a great fire as we see in Psalms 97:3, “A fire will go before Him vatilahet and will reveal His enemies around Him.” So, in summary, Scripture uses lat and lahat, both as descriptions of powers of tuma- impure forces via magic or incantation, (the former requires summoning demons whereas the later can be done by skilled sorcerers) and the words mean ‘cover’ and ‘reveal’ at the same time. Rav Shapira explains that the revealing is the covering! The revealing is such that by its very revelation it will be covered, i.e. consumed. Lightening, for example, is just this. Its revealing of itself is its covering/expending of itself. If you look in a Psalms with a translation you will most likely find the aforementioned verse translated as “A fire will go before Him and will consume His enemies around Him.” Contextually it is accurate but it misses out on a tremendous subtlety in our holy language.

Tying it back into out parsha, the power the Egyptians used to make their snakes was the power of something whose revelation of itself is its consumption. Meaning thepowers are passive, fleeting, they are only the appearance of a reality but not real at all. A string of lightning flashes may give one the illusion of daylight but in reality they are in the dark. Moshe represented Hashem, the real force. The real reality. The light which is real and endures. Pharaoh and Egypt is the opposite. Distortions of reality. What Egypt did was inject into the Jews and into the whole world a belief in the unbelievable.

This first confrontation between Moshe and Pharaoh at the begin of events which will lead to the exodus are the synopsis of the very pitfall of mankind which prevents us from getting back into the garden of Eden.

We go for the fake. We run after what is fleeting. We expend time, resource and energy pursuing physical pleasures which are over as fast as they come. Which causes us to chase after another. Rather than reaching for a burning light we wait for another lightning bolt to strike so we can see for another instant.

Adam and Chava existed in a world in which they could see from one end of the universe to the other. They saw via the eternal light of Hashem Who walked with them in the Garden, so to speak. And they mixed into themselves the knowledge of the dark side. A dark side which would show them a flash of light and say, “See, it’s just as bright and warm as it used to be. Oh, wait a second… See, it’s just as bright and warm as it used to be. Oh, wait a second… See, it’s just as bright and warm as it used to be….” And so Hashem kicked us out of the Garden of Eden and set up a flame of a spinning sword at the entrance. Not an eternal flame but a lahat, a flame of whispers, of tuma. That’s what we have to get passed to get back into the Garden. We have to rid ourselves of the our inclination to run after the shadows and instead run after Hashem. King Solomon knew this too as he opened the book of Koheles with, “Hevel hevelim…hakol hevel”-Futility of futilities…it’s all futile!” All the pleasure of this world, without their focus and direction being towards the will of Hashem they are all futile. The Gemorah says there is no pleasure forbidden to Judaism that can not be found within Judaism. There can’t be! That’s the whole point.

Rav Shapira explains with the help of the Maharal that the transgressions and punishments of black magic run parallel to those of Shabbos. Because both are an affront to nature. That which black magic brings into nature is a fake and a mockery of the reality the 6 days of creation brought into nature and improper actions on Shabbos, for work or fun are a fake and a mockery of what that first Shabbos put into the nature of the world.

Rav Shapira notes that it is no wonder the nations of the world celebrate their holidays with a great display of fireworks, a bunch of great flames who’s very revelation is their consumption. That is, indeed, what they have chosen to make of their world.

By the golden calf, after punishing those whom witnesses testified they had sinned, the Clouds of Glory let through rays of sun which shone on the faces of the sinners for which there was no testimony so that they may be punished as well. So too, in the end of days, the Prophet Malachi says, “The day will come, like a great oven, and the wicked will be like straw- v’lihet- and they will be consumed by that day. But a sun of righteousness will shine for those who fear Hashem’s Name.”

When we left Egypt, we left with an Eirev Rav- a mixed multitude. The Eirev Rav was not just a group who joined us. It represents us we well. WE left Egypt mixed up as well. Mixed with that tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. Mixed with the pursuit of momentary pleasures. Hashem took us out of Egypt to get back to the Garden of Eden. The flame of the spinning sword is at the entrance. Paralleling it is what Egypt represents. The exodus from Egypt was a relief. We have to work and pray towards a complete extrication from the mixture.

And speaking of mixtures, last week I hoped to include this week some insights into the measure for measure revealed behind the plagues exacted on Egypt.

Frogs. Frogs, frogs, frogs. FROG! Four times the Torah uses the plural form until the actual plague. Then it says a frog came out of the Nile and covered all Egypt (verse 8:2). Rashi says the Torah means the frog-infestation so the singular works. He then adds the Midrash that says one frog did emerge and as the Egyptians whacked it, it splattered into swarms of small frogs. Like the world’s first living pinata. There is a bit more to the Midrash that Rashi left out.

Rashi’s frog and a stick was the opinion of Rabbi Akivah. The Midrash brings Rabbi Elazar ben Azaria who retorts, “Rebbe Akivah! Dabbling in Aggaditah? (non-jurisprudent matters- implying Rebbe Akivah was out of his field of expertise) Go back to teaching Ohalim and Negaim! (The two most difficult fields of Jewish law where R. Akivah’s was tops. In Aggaditah, R. Elazar ben Azaria claimed superiority. Putting Rebbe Akivah in his place he said...) One frog came out and whistled for his friends.”

Going from Moshe to Moshe and back to Moshe, Rav Wolfson starts with Pharaoh wanting the midwives to kill the new born males. Pharaoh had plans for what would have been a generation of husband-less Jewish women. The Egyptians would take them! Our Sages place our merit of redemption on the women. To intermarry with the Jewish women would have destroyed the last vestige of hope the Jewish people had. Buried kedusha- sanctity is still tahore- pure. Mix kedusha with tumah and the kedusha is lost. To this very day our greatest guardians of the sanctity of Israel, our Torah giants and leaders stand uncompromising and unwavering against any attempt to mix the lahat- the self consuming flames of secular society in with the sanctity of religious institutions. Pharaohs decree to kill the males was just half a greater plan to mix the tahore with the tamay (same as tuma) by taking the Jewish women as Egyptian wives.

There is a Gemorah in Avodah Zarah which says that every creation on land has an opposite spiritual counter-part in the sea. A cow, which is a tahore animal (this time tahore = kosher) it has a tamay counterpart somewhere out there in that wide blue yonder. A cat, an animal which is tamay, has a tahore counterpart in the sea. No, not the catfish! That is also tamay. The name ‘catfish’ is how the first guy who ever saw one labeled it. Not necessarily what Hashem in mind. Ok, there are two exceptions. Chicken and Chicken-of-the-Sea which are both kosher, and sharks and lawyers which are both tamay. (Woops. There goes another sponsor.) There is a Torah true exception to this Gemorah which is our friend the frog. Perhaps manifest by its amphibious nature, it is its own counterpart. The frog is a mixture of tahore and tamay!

Moshe told Pharaoh the frogs will be all over AND “into you and your people will the frog ascend.” The Sages of the Midrash knew the Torah wasn’t merely presenting the first ever served entree of frogs legs. The Midrash says the frogs entered the Egyptians and sterilized them! They descended into their kishkes and destroyed their reproductive organs! (Try not to dwell on this too long.) Measure for measure, against Pharaoh’s intention of mixing kedusha and tuma through relations with the women, Hashem sent a creature which was a mixture of kedusha and tuma and sterilized the Egyptians!!!!!!!

Getting deeper into the Midrash, Rebbe Akivah said that one frog came out of the Nile. One which was the embodiment of two forces. Rebbe Elazar said back to him, “Rebbe Akivah! You are expert in Ohalim and Negaim! Two fields dealing with kedusha and tumah! Both those Gemorahs start with the word TWO! True we want to express the idea of a mixture in one but the reality is they are two separate forces. One frog emerging symbolizes a mixture in one but the second frog and his friends were already existing and waiting in the wings! He emerged, told his message and whistled for his friends.”

Whistling, in Hebrew is shirik. There are 7 vowels in Hebrew. And if there are 7, you can bet your lucky charms they parallel the 7 prominent s’firot. The vowel which parallels thes’firah Yisode is the shuruk! Shirik and shuruk share the same root word! Furthermore, The 2nd plague (broken up, 7 this parsha[!] and 3 the next) also parallels the s’firah Yisode! What ever that means, the Chumash, Midrash, Gemorah, Kabbalah, even the vowels of the aleph-bais, it’s all one big happy inseparable picture!

Speaking of one big happy inseparable picture, image that right now every Jew the world would be celebrating the reality of and basking in the eternal light of a Shabbat Shalom!

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