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Parashat Bo


The Pesah Haggadah enumerates the questions posed by the four sons: the wise son, the wicked son, the simple son, and the son who does not know to ask. In the Haggadah we read the proper response to each son, which teaches us an important principle regarding educating children and students: we must address each one individually. We must listen to each one's question carefully and attentively, and assess the questioner so as to offer a response corresponding to his level and character. A satisfactory answer for one is not satisfactory for another. What an immense responsibility rests on the shoulders of the parent or teacher, to recognize the unique character of the child and respond accordingly!

It is worth noting that the questions of three of the sons - the wicked son, simple son and son who does not know to ask - are written in our parashah. The wise son's question, by contrast, appears only much later, in Sefer Devarim (6:20). Our parashah describes Benei Yisrael still in Egypt, submerged in the forty-nine "gates of impurity." They were preoccupied primarily with instilling faith and transmitting the fundamentals of our heritage to these three. Only in Sefer Devarim, after forty years of learning Torah under Moshe Rabbenu, the father of the prophets, did a generation of "wise sons" grow and flourish!

The Or Hahayyim Hakadosh (Shemot 3:8) writes that before the redemption Benei Yisrael will reach the fiftieth "gate of impurity" - a level beneath that reached by the generation of Egypt! Therefore, our primary goal must be to teach faith and our heritage to these three sons. This is the responsibility of this generation, and this is the function served by the sacred "El Hama'ayan" movement, led by our great leader, Rav Ovadia Yossef shlit"a, until a wise generation is raised, and we reach the level of the "wise son"!


The mishnah in Masechet Eduyot (2:10) writes that the punishment against the Egyptians lasted twelve months. Rashi in our parashah (7:25) explains that each plague lasted for one-quarter of a month, while Moshe warned about the plague for the other three-quarters. We can only wonder, Benei Yisrael's cries reached the heavens and aroused Hashem's compassion such that He prepared to redeem them. "'The voice of my beloved - behold, it comes, skipping over the mountains' - that He skipped over the destined termination [of the exile]" (Shir Hashirim Rabbah 2:21). He decided to bring redemption quickly, and yet He delays it for a full year. Why? If the Al-mighty wanted to release His nation from bondage, who would prevent Him from doing so? Moshe Rabbenu personally experienced this, after Pharaoh sentenced him to death and even brought him to the gallows, as alluded to in Hashem's comment to him, ". who makes the mute?" This referred to Pharaoh's having failed to finalize the execution order. Hashem continued, "or the deaf," referring to Pharaoh's servants' having become deaf, unable to hear the orders issued. "Or the blind" - the hangman turned blind, and thus did not notice when Moshe fled (Rashi, Shemot 4:11). Surely, then, Hashem could take His nation from Egypt and paralyze their oppressors. This would have been neither the first nor last time that Hashem performed a miracle of this sort. The generation of the flood sought to prevent Noah from entering the ark, and Benei Yisrael sought to prevent Moshe from ascending Har Nevo to die. In the end, of course, it was Hashem's plan that ultimately succeeded. Why, then, were ten plagues necessary?

The answer is that, unquestionably, these plagues were not needed as a means to take Benei Yisrael from Egypt. Hashem has many ways in which he could have achieved this end. Rather, He wanted to teach Benei Yisrael important lessons of faith and divine providence, guidelines that will accompany them throughout their long journey for generations to come. For good reason we are commanded to devote the seder night to discussing yessi'at Missrayim and recall it as well every morning and evening in our recitation of shema - as all the fundamental principles of our faith are found in it and derived from it!

This is stated in a pasuk towards the beginning of our parashah: "And in order that you may recount in the hearing of your sons and your sons' sons how I made a mockery of the Egyptians and how I displayed My signs among them, and you shall know that I am G-d."

Yet, the question remains. Could we not have learned all these lessons from the first plague? If the water held by the Egyptian turned to blood while that in the Jew's hand was water, and when both drank together one would drink blood and the other water, then clearly Hashem controls over nature. He changes it as He wishes, He handles it as a craftsman works with his materials. What was added by the plagues of frogs, vermin, wild beasts, etc.?

The answer is that, indeed, there are those whose perspective is shallow and limited, to whom we may refer as having a "square head." Sure, they may say, Hashem can turn water to blood, but what about frogs - could He make them arise out of the river? Obviously, if He can turn water to blood He can produce frogs. But go tell that to a fool! And then, when he sees the frogs, he asks, "And vermin, can He do that too.. "

Does this sound strange? Let's read the pesukim in Tehillim 78: "He split the sea and took them through it; He made the waters stand like a wall. He led them with a cloud by day, and throughout the night by the light of fire. He split rocks in the wilderness and gave them drink as if from the great deep. He brought forth streams from a rock and made them flow down like a river." What else must He do to prove that He is all-mighty? Let us continue reading in that same chapter in Tehillim: "But they went on sinning against Him, defying the Most High in the parched land. To test G-d was in their mind when they demanded food for themselves. They spoke against G-d, saying, 'Can G-d spread a feast in the wilderness? True, He struck the rock and waters flowed, streams gushed forth; but can He provide bread? Can He supply His people with meat?'"

What can we say? There are no words; it is irrational, and that's all.

So now let us be honest with ourselves. Are we any better? We know that Hashem is capable of everything, we know that all powers are in His hand, we mention the Exodus every morning and evening. We realize the our very lives depend on Him, as do health, livelihood, "nahat," everything. Sure, we know all this, with genuine sincerity we know and believe.

We know that we must prepare know for our eternal journey, and that there is no greater misvah than Torah study, every word of which constitutes its own misvah - not to mention a full Torah class together with a large group. Let us therefore reach the proper conclusion: let us close our business an hour earlier and go participate in a Torah class. After all, our livelihood depends on Hashem, and He will certainly not punish us for this. If we begin with excuses and demand proof, this will testify to our shallow perspective, of which we spoke so derisively earlier.


Rabbenu Yaakov Ben Haviv zs"l

Rabbi Yaakov Ben Haviv zs"l was among the great Torah giants who were exiled from Spain. He was the rabbi of Semora, a city in northern Spain, and a student of the great Rabbi Shemuel Valansi and Mahari Abuhav zs"l, who were themselves students of Mahari Kupenton zs"l. Rabbi Yaakov was banished from Spain and left together with his youngest son, Rabbi Levi zs"l (who was later known as the "Maharalbach") to settle in the city of Salonika. He was an incredible scholar and corresponded on matters of halachah with several of the leading authorities of his time (see Teshuvot Hare'em, 3). He is described in "Shu"t Haradach" as "the complete scholar, the wonder of the generation and its glory, singular in his time, a 'Sinai' and 'grinder of mountains,' the shining mirror. "

>From the great heights of his brilliance he observed the spiritual poverty of his generation. He therefore composed the well known work, "Ein Yaakov," in which he collects all the "aggadot" in the Talmud. In so doing he fulfilled Hazal's saying (Shir Hashirim Rabbah 2:15), "Before a person takes ill, he eats whatever he finds; once he takes ill, he seeks to eat all types of delights. Similarly, in the past Torah was accessible, and people came with a desire to learn mishnah and Gemara. Now, that Torah is not being studied, people look to study about Tanach and aggadah. In the past when people had money, a person would desire to learn mishnah and Gemara. Now, when money is not available, and what more, people are ill from the subjugation, they seek to hear only words of berachot and consolation."

The Bet Yossef zs"l mentions the work, "Ein Yaakov" in Orah Hayyim 496, and many works have been composed on it. Throughout the generations, large crowds of Jews have gathered to hear lectures on Ein Yaakov.

A Treasury of Halachot and Customs of the Festivals of Yisrael Based on the Rulings of Rav Ovadia Yossef shlit"a
by Rav David Yossef shlit"a

The Procedure for Kiddush on Leil Shabbat

Kissing Parents' Hands and Blessing the Children After Kiddush

There is a misvah to kiss one parents' hands on Leil Shabbat, and the custom is to do so after kiddush and before hand washing. If one recites kiddush and eats in a different location, it is proper for a child to kiss his parents' hands before going home to recite kiddush. The Ar"i was particularly meticulous in this regard, making a point of kissing his mother's hands on Leil Shabbat. The custom is for parents to place their hands on their children's heads and bless them, particularly the younger children who have yet to reach the age of misvot.

Reciting a Berachah Over Wine During the Meal

One who normally drinks wine during his meal need not recite the berachah of "borei peri hagefen" over wine during the meal, as the berachah recited during kiddush applies to that wine. One who normally does not drink wine during his meal but on a certain Leil Shabbat decides he would like to, should have in mind that his "borei peri hagefen" during kiddush should apply to all wine drunk during the meal. The berachah of "borei peri hagefen" fulfills the obligation for all beverages drunk so long as the individual drank from the kiddush cup. One therefore need not recite the berachah of "shehakol" over any beverage, even if he drinks them before washing for the meal.

Even those who listened to kiddush and then tasted from the wine need not recite "borei peri hagefen" on wine drunk during the meal. Nevertheless, if they did not taste from the wine during kiddush, then although they fulfill their obligation of kiddush without tasting, they must recite "borei peri hagefen" on wine drunk during the meal. Similarly, if they want to drink other beverages before washing for the meal, they need not recite a berachah so long as they tasted from the kiddush wine. If they did not taste from the kiddush cup, then even though they fulfilled their obligation of kiddush, they must recite "shehakol" before drinking other beverages.

"Berachah Aharonah" Over the Wine

One need not recite a "berachah aharonah" over the kiddush wine, even if he drinks a full revi'it or more, because the birkat hamazon recited at the end of the meal exempts the kiddush wine from a "berachah aharonah".

The Light of One's Eyes

The Gemara in Berachot 43b says that one should not take large steps, as it diminishes 1/500th of one's vision (the "light of his eyes"). If he did, the way to regain the lost vision is "bekiddusha debei shimshi." Rashi explains this to mean that he should drink from the kiddush cup on Leil Shabbat. The Ein Yaakov explains this based on the statement in Masechet Avodah Zarah (25) that one's vision depends on the muscles of the heart. Therefore, the wine of the misvah of kiddush, which rejoices both one's heart and Hashem, strengthens his vision, as well.


The Pheasant

Once upon a time, the pheasant was the symbol of affluence among European noblemen. When people wanted to depict royal grandeur, they would describe a table laden with delicacies, with a beautiful, freshly-hunted pheasant placed right in the center. The pheasant family contains domesticated birds, hunted birds and decorative birds - including the chicken, turkey, quail and others. Similar to the peacock, the pheasant ranks among the most beautiful of birds. There are nearly fifty different species of pheasants. Some reach only a foot and a half in size, whereas others grow to three feet in length, sometimes even six. Their tail is generally as long as their bodies, though at times the tail grows even longer than the body - in some instances twice as long! Male pheasants are larger than the females, and they stand out with their exceptionally long tails and bright colors. After breaking out of its shell, the pheasant becomes particularly active. It runs and jumps very high and acts very differently from the milder, well-mannered chicks. The pheasant is considered a very healthy bird, that is especially strong and lives for around thirty years. The young males stay together for the first year, throughout the entire winter and the following spring. They receive their amazing colors only in their second year. The females have a brownish color that helps them camouflage themselves as they sit on their eggs.

There is no doubt that the sensational colors of the pheasant's feathers, like those of the peacock, constitute its most apparent quality, the one that most prominently catches the attention of those who gaze upon it. What about the human being? Even among human beings, there are those who invest immense effort, thought, time, money and who knows what else to find favor in the eyes of others. It is interesting to note that this statement reads - "to find favor" rather than "to give forth favor." The latter statement ("netinat hen" in Hebrew) refers to something that comes incidentally, not through effort and hard work. We can "find favor," Hazal tell us, only if we first find favor before Hashem: "and find favor and good insight in the eyes of G-d and man."


A Match Made in Heaven (9)

Flashback: Tuvia, the orphan who made a living off his beehives, told the rabbi of the region, Rav Moshe Yafeh, about the suffering of Havah Devorah who was mistreated by the owners of the tavern where she worked. He informed the rabbi that he is prepared to allocate money for her dowry in order for her to build her home and restart her life. The rabbi took the orphan girl from the tavern and sent her for a period of recovery in the home of one of the wealthy people in the city.

The rabbi collected from the owners of the tavern three rubles to purchase a proper change of clothing for Havah Devorah. The wealthy man's wife, who felt genuine compassion for the abused orphan, added more money from her own pocket. Havah Devorah was now dressed like a princess and could rest and indulge as she wished. But time-wasting was against her nature. Her sense of appreciation for the wealthy host and his family knew no bounds, and she therefore volunteered to help out in every way in the home. She cooked, baked, cleaned, straightened up, and ignored her host's protests.

Several weeks passed, and the hostess was called in to see the rabbi. He inquired about the guest, Havah Devorah, to hear what she was like.

The hostess could not find the words to adequately praise the girl, her fine qualities, readiness to help out, sense of gratitude, and pleasant countenance. She pointed out in particular her remarkable yirat Shamayim - her emotional berachot, intense prayer, attendance in the Bet Kenesset on Shabbat and careful attention to the Torah reading - and her amazing knowledge of Tanach. "And to hear her recite Tehillim," she added, "rabbi - it melts every heart."

"Rabbi," the woman remarked, "if we were dealing with someone else I would say that if she had any faults, she does a good job of hiding it. But with Havah Devorah it is so obvious, I cannot imagine that she hides any fault at all. "

The rabbi thanked her and blessed her for the beautiful act of kindness that she was performing.

"This misvah," the woman said, "is truly a pleasure, a great gift and precious treasure!"

Several weeks later, Tuvia came to the rabbi's house to donate more money to charity from his tithes that he had saved. The rabbi began speaking with him about his business and lifestyle. His lived a routine life, taking care of the estate and beehives, selling his honey and managing the finances.

"And Torah study?" the rabbi asked.

"What can I do?" Tuvia asked. "I do not know how to learn; I can barely read from the siddur!"

"And what about building a family?" the rabbi continued. "After all, 'it is not good for a man to be alone.'"

Tuvia had no answer.

The rabbi said, "I once told you that the rabbinical court serves as the father of orphans. You, too, are an orphan, so permit me to ask if I may suggest a match for you." Tuvia agreed. The rabbi handed him an address and told him to go there that night after tefilah.

Tuvia went to the house, walked in, and met Havah Devorah.

To be continued


Dear Brothers,

Nuts are sold by the pound. Nobody cares if there are a few ounces more or less. If the bag includes a shell, stone, or rotten pit, it doesn't matter; this is how these purchases are made. It is to be expected and hence ignored. But a diamond - this is a different story entirely. The diamond is measured in fractions of karats. There is no such thing as "approximately" or "more or less." The weight must be determined with exact precision. If there is a slight blemish, a black spot that can be seen only with a magnifying glass and identified only by the experts, its value sinks. The color and shine can change the entire picture; a blue diamond is nothing like a yellowish diamond.

Indeed, diamonds are not nuts!

Towards the end of our parashah we are commanded with regard to the misvah of tefillin. This is an especially precious misvah that binds the individual with his Creator. There are many detailed laws relevant to tefillin, including ten halachot transmitted orally to Moshe at Sinai. There are people who do not realize the immense value of this misvah; for them, it is like nuts, "lehavdil." What difference does it make if the strap is black or "more or less" black, with white cracks? So what if it had contracted in several places and no longer has the minimum required size? Why does it matter if the writing is not of the highest quality, if there are cracks in the letters, if there are crowns missing over some letters?

But those who truly understand know that tefillin are like a diamond - and even more precious! One must ensure absolute perfection when dealing with them - with regard to the parchment, the parshiyot, the boxes and the straps.

The story is told of Rav Eliyahu Dushnisser zs"l, the mashgiah in the Lomza yeshivah, who walked in the street and saw a young man holding a tiny black box close to his ear. Transistor radios were still new at that time. It was amazing - a radio without any wires!

"How does this work?" the rabbi asked the boy.

The young man explained that there are batteries and other components inside the box.

The rabbi asked, "If already they made the radio so small, couldn't they take out the batteries and make it even smaller?"

The boy smiled. "Rabbi," he replied, "the experts already worked long and hard to make it as small as they could. If it would be missing even a single screw, the radio would not pick up the waves and it couldn't work at all!"

The rabbi said, "So why don't people understand that tefillin works the same way! If just a single letter is missing or written incorrectly, the tefillin do not work."

This is precisely what we have been talking about - they are like diamonds, not nuts!

Let us now move from tefillin to another treasure, perhaps the main treasure, the one that Hashem has entrusted in our hands: our children, who are more precious to us than gold. We want to educate them properly, to give them all that is good. All this is agreed upon by one and all. Let us now honestly ask ourselves: this education that we give them, which will determine their character and establish their values and conduct - how do we relate to it, like diamonds or like nuts?

Do we truly ensure to provide a pure education, one without any "black spots," without the intrusion of any filth or immodesty, without any violence or heresy sneaking in? Or do we take a more complacent stance, without concerning ourselves with the dangers that threaten the souls of our young ones? So what if they become victims of violence, so what if their pure soul is tainted? So there will be a rotten pit or small stone - so long as more or less it's fine.

If we relate to education as we do to nuts, than indeed, there is no need to send our children to Torah schools.

Shabbat Shalom,

Aryeh Deri

A Summary of the Shiur Delivered on Mossa'ei Shabbat by Rav Ovadia Yossef shlit"a

The Halachot of "Borer" on Shabbat

One may not separate "ochel" (edible food) from "pesolet" (unwanted matter) on Shabbat unless three conditions are met: 1) that one take the ochel from the pesolet, and not vice-versa; 2) that one separates the ochel in order to eat it immediately; 3) he separates the ochel with his hand, not with a utensil. We will now elaborate on these conditions.

If one had before him on Shabbat ochel and pesolet mixed together, such as nuts with a stone among them, he may not separate the pesolet from the ochel - meaning, he may not take the stone away from the nuts. If he does, he has violated the Biblical prohibition of "borer." He must rather take the nuts and eat them, leaving the stone. When we speak of a mixture of ochel and pesolet we refer as well to two types of food mixed together and the individual wants one and not the other. The one he wants is considered the ochel, and the other food that he does not wish to eat now is considered pesolet. One must therefore take the one he wants to eat now, rather than moving away the food he does not want to eat.

If one squeezes a lemon onto a salad and seeds fall into the salad, he may not take out the seeds. One should therefore squeeze the lemon into an empty cup, wait for the seeds to sink to the bottom, and then gently pour from the cup onto the salad, thus avoiding the prohibition of borer.

If a fly falls into a cup of wine or water, then strictly speaking one may remove it on Shabbat with his hand or spoon in order to throw it away. This does not involve the prohibition of borer, as this prohibition does not apply to liquids. Nevertheless, it is proper to take the fly out of the cup with a spoon together with a little bit of liquid such that he is not removing the fly alone. One may drink a liquid into which a fly fell even if it was hot; since the fly emits a foul taste, it does not render the liquid prohibited.

A tea kettle with a filter near the spout to block the tea leaves from going into the cup may be used for pouring on Shabbat, since most people do not care if several leaves would fall into their cup. If, however, the tea leaves had floated towards the top, one should wait a bit until the leaves sink to the bottom before pouring.

One may peel garlic, onions, pomegranates, other fruits and hard-boiled eggs in order to eat them immediately, but not to leave them to be eaten later. But pears, apples and cucumbers, whose peels are attached to the fruit, may be peeled even to be eaten later (on Shabbat), and the prohibition of borer does not apply to them at all.

If one mistakenly removed pesolet from ochel, or removed ochel from pesolet in order to be eaten later, according to some authorities the ochel may not be eaten on Shabbat. One should preferably conduct himself stringently in this regard. One may, however, eat it on Mossa'ei Shabbat immediately after Shabbat goes out, even if he had separated the foods intentionally. By contrast, one who cooks intentionally on Shabbat may never eat the cooked food.

One may separate ochel from pesolet with his hand for immediate consumption on behalf of others, even if he will not be eating with them. He may not, however, separate more than he figures the guests will eat, even if he intends to fill the plate for aesthetic purposes.

Some authorities maintain that cutting vegetables into small pieces violates the Biblical prohibition of "tohen" (grinding) on Shabbat. The halachah, however, follows the view that one violates this prohibition only when he slices a vegetable that cannot be eaten raw with the intention of cooking it. One may, however, cut edible fruits and vegetables. Nevertheless, as we deal here with a dispute concerning a Biblical prohibition, one should preferably conduct himself stringently in this regard. However, this applies only if one cuts in order to eat later; no prohibition is involved in cutting fruits or vegetables for immediate consumption.

By immediate consumption we mean right before the meal. One should not perform these activities, therefore, until after services have concluded and the people are ready for the meal. One may crush a banana or cooked vegetables to feed a baby right away, but not while the baby is sleeping.

Gamliel Ben Nizha and Yosef Ben Hanom

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