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Shabbat Hol Hamoed Pesah


The Exodus from Egypt, commemorated on Pesah, was merely the means to the ultimate goal of "I am Hashem your God Who took you from the Land of Egypt, to be for you a G-d." The ultimate purpose is "When you [Moshe] take the nation from Egypt, you will serve G-d on this mountain," referring to Mount Sinai. The goal of Yessi'at Misrayim was the receiving of the Torah and its misvot, the declaration of "Na'aseh venishma!" ("We will do and we will hear!"). There is no true meaning to freedom without spiritual redemption, as we thank the Almighty at the seder, "for our redemption and the redemption of our souls."

The "El Hama'ayan" movement in Israel, under the inspiring guidance and leadership of Rav Ovadia Yossef shlit"a, works through a wide array of programs towards that end. It involves itself in the work of completing the freedom that we have merited to see in our day, through forwarding the cause of spiritual redemption, the restoration of the Torah to its former glory, the return to the fountains of faith and our heritage, the many Torah youth programs and adult-education seminars, the mass assemblies of spiritual elevation, halachah exams conducted throughout Israel, summer camps for children, Torah pamphlets, and so many other activities. In this way, we come closer to the ultimate redemption - "Return to Me, and I will return to you!"


The festival of Pesah is the festival of redemption: "In Nissan they were redeemed, in Nissan they will be redeemed in the future." As the ultimate redemption unfolds, speedily and in our days, we will see miracles similar to those witnessed during the Exodus from Egypt. The final night of redemption from Egyptian bondage, the night of "makkat bechorot" (plague of the first-born), was preceded by the ninth plague, darkness. Hazal tell us that during the days of darkness ninety-eight percent of the nation perished, as the pasuk towards the beginning of Beshalah implies that only one out of every fifty left Egypt. What must have the survivors felt after such a devastation? Unquestionably, they felt discouraged, hopeless and on the brink of despair. But then, just several days later, the tides turned and they were delivered from darkness to brilliant light, from bondage to redemption, from mourning to festivity.

Rabbi Nahman of Breslov zs"l told a story whose lesson is so critical and so contemporary. Once a Jew and gentile traveled together to see the world.

They journeyed from country to country and kingdom to kingdom, had many memorable experiences and were awe-struck by the beautiful scenery and tourist-spots that they encountered. Along the way, however, their money ran out. They were forced to beg for donations and hire themselves out for odd jobs. As they walked through the Jewish neighborhood in a certain town, the Jewish youngster smelled a familiar aroma - the smell of baking massot.

He spoke with one of the local inhabitants and his eyes lit up. He turned to his companion and said, "We're in luck. Today is the day before Pesah, the festival when Jews invite guests to their table. Come with me to services tonight, and I will find us proper accommodations." They came to Bet Kenesset and stood out quite obviously as strangers. The young Jew walked over to the "gabbai" of the Bet Kenesset and said, "Hello. We are foreigners, and my friend here is totally ignorant with regard to Judaism." The gabbai did not flinch. "Do not worry, we are indiscriminate with our guests. You will eat in so-and-so's home, and your friend will be hosted by so-and-so." The youngster went back to his friend and said, "After the services we will be split up, and each of us will be eating somewhere else. Afterwards, though, we will meet back here." The prayers concluded after the lengthy singing of Hallel, all the while the gentile waiting patiently. "It's worth waiting through all this for a good meal," he thought to himself. After the services, the rabbi offered the community his blessing, and the host came over to the friend to invite him to walk home with him. He tried striking up some conversation and quickly realized that he is an "am ha'aress," knowing nothing about Judaism as if he was a gentile...

The house was lit with an ornate array of lamps, the table was set with silver dishes, and the gentile's stomach ached from hunger - he had eaten othing all day. The host recited the "kiddush" and everyone drank. As we know, a taste of wine simply intensifies one's hunger. Afterwards, they served him a small piece of parsley with salt-water, as if they were making some kind of joke. They then shoved a book in his hands and everyone started singing, his stomach growling throughout. Then the children tarted asking questions and the father answered them slowly and patiently.

Finally, finally, after the discussion finally came to an end, they drank the second cup of wine. They stood up to wash and the child asked, "Father, why do wash our hands now?" "This is for the meal," responded the father.

Finally!! The gentile was overjoyed, as his hunger will finally be resolved. He washed his hands with the rest of them and sat down, peering uncomfortably at the strange crackers on the table. The host recited the berachah and gave each of them a piece - a "kezayit," that was it! Was this another joke? He comforted himself thinking that they just don't want to fill up on this, as many delicacies are soon to come. And, sure enough, they served him a spoon full of some white, ground-up vegetable - the food has finally arrived! He devoured the spoonful and, after just a brief moment, his breathing stopped, his eyes streamed with tears, and he started choking uncontrollably. He barely managed to get out the words, "Shame on you! This is how you treat your guests!" He raced out of the house in a fury and headed towards the Bet Kenesset to wait his friend. He waited for around an hour or two. Finally, a little after midnight, his Jewish friend arrived, full and content. "How was your meal?" he asked pleasantly. The gentile immediately started venting his anger and frustration. The Jewish friend answered, "You fool - you left just before the meal was about to begin! If you would have waited just another five minutes, it would have all been worth it!"

This is how we must relate to every "piece of marror" that we are served. We simply have to realize that this is the final stage, and believe that after the darkness comes the light of redemption. Everything merely leads up to that final moment of brilliant light.


Rav Yehonatan Eibshiss became the rabbi of the capital city of Prague at the young age of eighteen years old. Despite the presence of many leading Torah scholars in the city, his greatness and knowledge outshone them all, as the sun outshines the light of a candle, and he was appointed to this most distinguished position.

However, several of the younger scholars in the community, who studied under the older rabbis in Prague, saw Rav Eibshiss's appointment as an >insult to their mentors. They therefore decided to come up with a complex question of halachah, whose answer seems obvious on the surface but, after further inquiry and research, becomes far more complicated. They sat together for two full weeks studying all the pertinent sections of Gemara and considered all the various possibilities and considerations relating to the issue. They then approached the newly appointed rabbi, greeted him warmly, congratulated him on his new position, and presented their query. He heard the question, thought for a brief moment with his genus mind, and presented his answer.

His answer was the wrong answer.

Just as the response left his mouth, he noted the sparks of glee in the faces of his guests. Immediately he continued, "This is how it would seem at first glance, based on such-and-such 'sugyot' and such-and-such halachot.

However, upon further analysis one can differentiate between the different cases, as indicated by such-and-such sugya. Such a distinction could resolve the problems raised by such-and-such sugya..." In short, he reviewed all that they had studied over the course of two weeks, thus demonstrating his lightening-speed mind and the breadth of his knowledge. They shuddered in his presence, now having witnessed first-hand his greatness in Torah. Before they left, he asked them, "I was wondering, were you asking for practical purposes, or just for the sake of discussion?" "We were asking theoretically, for the sake of discussion," they replied. "How did you know?"

"We are guaranteed by the Almighty," he explained, "that a Bet Din ruling in accordance with Torah law has divine assistance to ensure that it does not make a mistake, as the pasuk states, 'for judgment belongs to God,' and as the Ramban elaborates in his commentary (Shemot 21:6). Thus, were this to have been a practical question, I would not have made the mistake at first and answered incorrectly, being that I was issuing an actual ruling of halachah. But, since it was just a theoretical question, it is possible to at first give the wrong answer as part of the discussion."

This divine assistance is guaranteed only to judges who rule according to Torah law, about whom the pasuk states, "God stands among the congregation of K-el, among judges He will adjudicate." For this reason, there is no such thing as an appellate court in the Jewish legal system. (In fact, when the British mandate asked Rav Kook zs"l to establish an appellate court, he was awfully hesitant.) The secular court system, however, does allow for an appellate court, thus testifying to the its own recognition of mistakes. Since it issues rulings of human beings, without divine assistance, there cannot be the same guarantee. How strange it is, then, that the same Israeli press that ceaselessly criticizes the decisions of prime ministers, officers, generals and politicians, unconditionally places its trust on the decision of three judges...

Rabbi Avraham Haim Ades zs"l

At the seder, we recite in the Haggadah, "For more than one foe has stood up against us to destroy; rather, in every generation they rise up against us to destroy us, and the Almighty delivers us from their hand."

Rabbi Avraham Haim Ades was one of the great scholars of Aram Soba. Once, he needed to travel to a nearby city and thus had to hire a donkey and join a caravan to ensure his safety along the way. There was an Arab who rented out donkeys and organized caravans, but Rabbi Avraham insisted on renting the donkey from a Jew, as the pasuk states, "your brother shall live among you" (implying that one should preferably give business to a Jew). He thus told the Arab that he already has a camel, and all he wants is to pay for joining the caravan. Just as they left the city, the Arab leading the group turned to the rabbi and said, "You refused to rent from me and you rented from a Jew instead. Very soon you will see our response and you will regret having done so!"

Rabbi Avraham looked at him calmly and said, "You do know that we have an all-powerful God. I am sure you heard what He did to Pharaoh and Egypt. I am not afraid of you; I trust in God that He will save me from your wicked hands and punish you as He did to Pharaoh and his army."

The Arab just laughed. "Soon we will be in the middle of the desert - we will see who will save you there!"

Indeed, the caravan soon arrived in the middle of the barren desert. Suddenly, they heard a shriek. The horse upon which the Arab rode was startled and jumped, throwing his passenger onto the ground. The Arab landed on a sharp rock and snapped his spinal cord, leaving the bottom half of his body paralyzed. The travelers lifted him up upon one side of the saddle, and on the other side they placed a pile of rocks to balance his weight. They continued this way for the rest of the journey, and they all treated the rabbi with great respect, recognizing that his God was with him.


A Series of Halachot According to the Order of the Shulhan Aruch,
Based on the Rulings of Rav Ovadia Yossef shlit"a
By Rav David Yossef shlit"a, Rosh Bet Midrash Yehaveh Da'at

Chapter 4: The Laws of Washing One's Hands in the Morning (continued)

Other Activities Which Require Washing

In all cases mentioned in previous issues, one must wash his hands even if he does not plan on praying or studying Torah at that point. Even if he is involved in some other activity, he must still wash his hands, since many authorities claim that the "evil spirit" rests on his hands in these situations, and one must not allow this spirit to remain on his hands for too long.

One must careful not to touch his thighs or any other part of the body normally covered while praying, studying Torah or eating. Similarly, at these times one should not run his hands through the hair on his head. The reason for these strictures is because of the sweat found in these areas, and Hazal comment (Yerushalmi, Terumot 8:3) that a person's sweat constitutes a dangerous substance, except for the sweat of his face.

However, there is no need to be concerned about touching the parts of the body normally uncovered, such as the face, neck (until the chest) and generally exposed areas of the arms. During prayers, one may touch his arms until his elbows, and he may touch the arm on which he places tefillin up until the place where the tefillin is situated, as it is considered a part of the body generally exposed. However, the part of the other arm above the elbow is considered not generally exposed. In a place where people are accustomed to wear short sleeves, one may touch during prayers up until the part generally exposed. However, even in places where people are accustomed to wearing short pants, and where small children who often wear short pants, one should not touch his legs during tefilah and Torah study, as the legs are always considered concealed parts of the body. The same applies to feet in places where people walk barefoot, that one should not touch his feet during a meal, prayer or Torah study. One may, however, touch his clothing or hat even though they are damp from sweat during prayer or Torah study, and he does not need to wash his hands afterwards.

One who does not have water with which to wash his hands in the morning should wipe them on some material that cleans, such as rock, twig, wall, napkin or some sturdy article of clothing.

In such a situation, one needs not wipe three times, though one who is stringent in this regard is deserving of blessing. He must ensure to wipe both sides of his hands, up until the wrist. However, if he wiped only until his knuckles, such a wiping suffices. Wiping only the fingertips, however, does not suffice.

Some say that after wiping one's hands he should recite the berachah, " nekiyut yadayim" ("...on the cleaning of hands"). Although this is the view of the Shulhan Aruch, since many authorities argue on this ruling and contend that this berachah should not be recited, one should preferably not recite the berachah, since one should never recite a berachah unless its requirement is certain. Wiping one's hands in such a manner suffices only for praying, but it does not remove the "evil spirit'' from the hands. Therefore, if he chances upon water he should wash three times in alternating fashion in order to remove the "evil spirit" from his hands. However, a berachah should not be recited over such a washing.


The Eight Plague: Locusts

The Torah testifies about the plague of locusts that devastated Egypt that such a phenomenon had never previously occurred, nor will such an occurrence ever take place again. However, to a significant - albeit smaller - degree, plagues of locusts do cause considerable damage from time to time. For good reason, this plague led Pharaoh to ask Moshe to remove "this death." The locust is a glutton by nature, and has the ability to eat in one day a quantity that exceeds its total body weight. True, a locust is not very big - it seldom exceeds the size of a human finger. However, when one takes into account the number of locusts that can affect a single field - millions upon millions - it becomes clear the magnitude of destruction this plague can cause. A swarm of locusts is capable of devouring a year's worth of produce in a single day, thus causing severe famine. The baby locust is "born" the moment it cracks from its egg, the egg being one of about hundred laid by the mother locust and hid in the ground.

After the forty days of incubation, small, black locusts, each containing three pairs of feet, crawl from the eggs. These small insects can crawl on their stomachs or walk with their legs. For the first few weeks, the insects crawl together in large groups at a very slow pace. Afterward, the creature's color becomes reddish and it grows a pair of wings. In its final stage of development, when it becomes physically mature and capable of reproducing, its color changes once again, this time to a shade of yellow.

At this point, the locust becomes ever so dangerous. An inquisitive individual may ask, if locusts are so destructive, why were they created in the first place? As Jews, we know that the Creator "looked at the Torah and created the world." In other words, He created the world to fit the Torah; not the opposite. Thus, since the Torah writes about the plague of locusts unleashed against Egypt, Hashem had to create locusts.

As proof to the fact that the plague of locusts in Egypt occurred through divine intervention, the swarm affected only the lands of the Egyptians, not those of Benei Yisrael, just as Moshe had predicted. Understandably, this plague led Pharaoh to confess, "I have sinned."

Father and Son (9)

Flashback: Two brothers supported their families by managing the store they inherited from their father, until their families grew too large. The younger son - a Torah scholar - thus set out with his family to find a position in the rabbinate, but could not find one. Their wanderings brought them to an inn hosted by a generous man who treated them for a few days free of charge. Just before their departure, the brother asked the host how he could bless him.

The old innkeeper answered, "I had but one request, but I have already given up on ever seeing it granted. I am childless, and my wife and I are already old. I have come to accept the fact that I will leave this world with no children." The brother then recalled that when he left his brother to manage the store, his brother told him that the power of blessing will be granted to him. Confident in his brother's righteousness as well as the merits of the innkeeper who welcomes guests so generously and his trust in the Almighty, he pleaded with the old man, "Please, do not lose hope! I bless you and your wife that a year from now you will be embracing a child!" "Amen," answered the old man, and they blessed each other farewell.

The brother got into the wagon and took hold of the reins. The week of recuperation drastically improved his appearance, and the fresh clothes he received from the innkeeper were quite impressive. As we know, "In my own city, my name is enough for people to recognize me. But outside my city - my clothing represent me." He reached a distant city and asked permission o deliver a sermon. His audience was impressed and after his speech they approached him to ask him all types of questions in matters regarding both halachah and aggadah. He answered each question adequately, and he dazzled them with his remarkable breadth of knowledge. "Please stay with us for a while," they requested, "and guide us, as we have no rabbi or spiritual mentor." He agreed, and he remained there, teaching them the ways of Torah and its misvot. He established regular Torah classes for children and adults alike. He set up important policies for the management of the community and all communal manners passed through him. He was treated with honor and respect, and in his new position he found consolation for all the hard times he had experienced. He spent his days and nights engrossed in Torah study and leading his community competently. He was grateful for what he had, and gradually forgot the difficult times of the past, including the old innkeeper and the blessing...

to be continued

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