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Parashat Va'era


Dear Brothers,

The sacred sadik, Reb Elimelech of Lizensk zs"l, addressed the following pasuk from our parashah: "Hashem said to Moshe and Aharon saying: When Pharaoh speaks to you saying, perform for yourselves a wonder. '" Hashem orders Aharon to cast his staff onto the ground, and it will turn into a serpent. Why, however, does Hashem here use the statement, "perform for yourselves a wonder"? Should not it have said, "Perform for me [i.e. Pharaoh] a wonder"? Indeed, we find such an statement later in Humash, in the context of the Torah's discussion of false prophets: "Should there arise from among you a prophet or the dreamer of a dream and he performs for you a sign or wonder. " It appears that the false prophet performs a wonder for others, whereas the true prophet performs wonders for himself. What does this mean?

He offers a beautiful explanation. A false prophet does not have the power to bring about miracles, as he prophesies in the name of false forces that have no truth to them. Then wherein lies the source of his wonders? They are but optical illusions and tricks. For example, he may calculate the arrival of an eclipse and then claim that they result from his powers; indeed, such things have happened in the past. There, the miracles and wonders are "for you," for everyone but the false prophet himself. He, however, knows full well that they are sheer nonsense.

This is not the case regarding a prophet who brings about a miracle in the Name of Hashem; these are true, genuine wonders. When the staff turns into a serpent, even the prophet himself is marveled. Thus, "perform for yourselves a wonder" - even in the eyes of the prophets themselves it's a wonder!

We know that the Torah is eternal, as are its lessons. Here, too, we learn a critical lesson. Many people flock to all types of miracle workers who guarantee wondrous and supernatural cures and solutions. We can say with confidence that there is no more convincing sign of their trickery than these promises. If the prophets express wonder and awe at the miracles, understanding that Hashem, not they, performs the miracles, then how can a person obligate himself in Hashem's Name? He can bless and pray, but how can he issue a guarantee? Do they know Hashem's calculations, the roots of souls and their destiny, the paths of Providence that were concealed from even the greatest of all prophets?

The only promise we have is, "He who lives innocently lives safely" (Mishlei 10:9). The prayer of an ill patient for his own recovery is greater than even the prayer of a prophet on his behalf! (Rashi, Beresheet 21:17)!

Moreover, this approach of guaranteeing salvation borders on lack of faith. According to the Sefer Misvot Katan, there is a misvat aseh from the Torah of "You shall know with your heart that just as a person punishes his son, so does Hashem your G-d punish you." This requires one to accept punishments with the knowledge that Hashem issues them with love. One must always pray and appeal for compassion; prayer during times of crisis also constitutes a Biblical commandment. However, to bound the hands of our Father who lovingly punishes - this may never enter one's mind!

The story is told that the Ba'al Shem Tov zs"l once went to visit a sick patient and found the angel of death over the patient's head. He scolded the angel and it fled. At that moment, he heard it announced in the heavens that he has no share in the world to come because he drove away Hashem's messenger. The story continues that the Ba'al Shem Tov expressed his joy over the fact that from that point he could truly serve Hashem purely for the sake of Heaven without anticipating any reward. He was then informed that because of this preparedness, his share in the world to come was returned. He explained that since he knew that the patient would live, and never expected to see him on the brink of death, he was shocked upon seeing the angel. This is why he did what he did. But he never even considered interfering with Hashem's decree - Heaven forbid for someone to claim to force his will, as it were, upon Him!

Shabbat Shalom

Aryeh Deri


The Forest of Giant Seaweed

Along the length of the shore of the Pacific Ocean there is a forest of giant seaweed. This seaweed grows in the depths of the ocean and is considered the largest in the world. Their height from the ocean floor reaches one hundred-twenty feet, a length it achieves at very impressive speed - an adult seaweed can grow at a rate of 20 inches a day. This giant seaweed begins its life as a microscopic bud that emerges from sprouts that landed on a solid surface in a place that receives enough light to enable its growth. From these very humble beginnings the seaweed develops very rapidly in both directions simultaneously. A flat structure resembling a leaf pushes its way upwards in search of a source of light, while at the same time an expanding area of cells spreads across the ocean floor and attaches itself to it. The soft leaf develops into a long, flexible stalk growing in the direction of the sun. Its flat leaves grow from its sides, and within them the process of photosynthesis occurs, by which carbon dioxide and water create, through the rays of light, carbohydrates that nourish the plant. The leaves produce at the stalk's base a type of float filled with gas, which serves to raise them upwards.

When we hear of one of the Al-mighty's creatures which such gigantic dimensions, we would expect that they originate in large sizes, too, like the elephant, for example. Wonder of wonders, this giant seaweed begins its life as a microscopic bud barely visible to the human eye. It attains its size through its incredible, rapid growth process by which it grows nearly two feet a day. We can learn so much from this phenomenon, as it has much to say to a person who claims that he cannot progress in Torah and misvot because of his modest stature and lack of family background. We may refer such a person to this wondrous precedent in nature, to the tiny size of the seaweed that can be seen only through a microscope and eventually becomes a huge plant - the fastest growing among all plants! Desire, consistency and diligence are the tools allowing even one who sees himself as small, even one without a rich family background, to reach, like the seaweed, giant dimensions. Indeed, we have learned that the Torah "sits in a corner," and whoever wants to come take it is invited to do so.


A Match Made in Heaven (8)

Flashback: Tuvia, the orphan who makes a respectable living off his beehives, heard the story of Havah Devorah, the orphan girl who works in a tavern under the ruthless, oppressive charge of the couple who owns it. She has no one else in the world who could help her escape her life of misery. Tuvia went to the esteemed Rav Moshe Yafeh, the rabbi of Pinsk, and asked to allocate his charity money for the marriage of an orphan girl.

The rabbi asked to hear about the girl's story, and Tuvia related the tragic, heart-wrenching story. As he described the orphan girl's plight, his eyes welled up with tears and his voice choked. "Rabbi," Tuvia warmly cried, "I am not rich, but, thanks to the Creator, I have more than what I need, I am single, and I have few expenses. Won't the rabbi please find her a proper spouse, and I take it upon myself, without making a vow, to provide her with a respectable dowry, purchase a residence and worry for all the couple's needs."

The rabbi was overcome by emotion upon hearing the young man's words and promised him that he will deal with the issue at once. After all, "the bet-din are the fathers of the orphans," and the rabbi bears full responsibility in this regard. The rabbi immediately summoned the tavern owner and instructed him to bring with him the orphan girl working under him. He first spoke with the girl and was amazed by her strength of character. She refused to say anything negative about her cruel, insensitive employer, repeating her claim, "Do not despise an Egyptian, for you were a foreigner in his land." She said, "I asked the young man" - she did not even know his name - "not to say anything. I do not want to cause my employer any harm or fail to show my appreciation." It was enough for the rabbi to throw a glance at her red eyes surrounded by thick, dark rings, her withered hands and tattered clothing, to understand the "appreciation" she owed her employers.

She left the rabbi's office and then he called the tavern owner. As soon as the man entered the office, he announced, "Rabbi, I am ready to swear that everything she said is absolutely false, criminal slander that this girl is spreading against me and my wife! There is not a word of truth in anything she said!"

"You do not need to swear," the rabbi replied. "I believe this, as well."

The innkeeper's face shone with joy, and the rabbi then continued: "She said that you treat her well, and I indeed believe that there is not a bit of truth to it." Before the innkeeper could regain his composure, the rabbi asked him in a scolding tone, "Tell me, how long has this maid been working for you?"

"Oh, around three years, I believe."

"And how much money has she received for her three years of backbreaking labor?" the rabbi continued.

"What do you mean? She was part of the family; she received food, clothing and shelter!"

"I see. Well, the Bet-Din will determine her salary. In the meantime, a messenger of the court will go to you and you will give him thirty rubles towards the purchase of a proper change of clothing for her. And from today, from this very moment, this girl is leaving your premises."

"What do you mean - " the innkeeper protested. He was silenced, however, by the rabbi's glare. "I have already found for her a warm home where she will stay for a period of recovery," the rabbi informed him.

To be continued


"See, I am of impeded speech; how then should Pharaoh heed me?"

Moshe Rabbenu was the perfect person; at his birth, the entire house was filled with light. How, then, was he of impeded speech? The Midrash says that Moshe grew up in Pharaoh's palace, and the king once took him on his knees to play. The boy took the royal crown and threw it on the ground. Pharaoh's astrologers told him, "This is what we told you - he will in the future save Israel and destroy your kingdom!" He consulted with his advisors, including Yitro, Iyov and Bilam. The righteous Yitro said, "He is but a child; he does not know what he is doing." The wicked Bilam said, "He should be sentenced to death!" Iyov suggested conducting a test. They brought a plate with a golden coin and shiny coal. If the child takes the coin, then he knows what he is doing and is thus liable for death. If, however, he chooses the coal, then clearly he does not know what he takes and thus should not be put to death. Moshe sent his hand to grab the gold coin, but an angel came and pushed his hand towards the coal. He quickly brought his scorched hand to his mouth to cool it, and thus he permanently damaged his lip, thus impeding his speech.

"See, I am of impeded speech; how then should Pharaoh heed me?"

The Or Hahaim Hakadosh zs"l writes that initially the Al-mighty wished for Moshe Rabbenu himself to execute all responsibilities associated with his mission. However, when Moshe claimed (in Shemot 4:10) that he was of impeded speech, Hashem had Aharon join him to speak on Hashem's behalf to the people. To Pharaoh, however, Moshe was to personally speak. Moshe once again complained, "See, I am of impeded speech; how then should Pharaoh heed me?" Hashem then answered, "See, I have appointed you a ruler over Pharaoh, and Aharon your brother will be your prophet." Meaning, from that point on Aharon will be the spokesman to Pharaoh, as well. "You will speak everything I command you, and your brother Aharon will speak to Pharaoh." However, the Or Hahaim Hakadosh concludes, "perhaps if Moshe would have performed this misvah by himself, his strength would have been reinforced and he would have entered the land; all the incidents of the wilderness would not have transpired upon Yisrael. Also, if he had entered the land, he would have built the Bet Hamikdash that would have stood eternally." What a vast difference it makes when a more perfect person performs a given act - what a difference it would have made if Moshe had done it by himself, rather than together with his brother, the sacred kohen of Hashem!

Similarly, the more we sanctify and elevate ourselves, our actions will receive greater force and sanctity and yield a more profound effect regarding both the spiritual and the physical!

"See, I am of impeded speech; how then should Pharaoh heed me?"

Rabbenu Yis'hak Aramah zs"l (Akeidat Yis'hak, 35) asks, why did Hashem allow Moshe to develop a speech impediment? He explains based on the comment in the Gemara (Sanhedrin 52b), "What does a Torah scholar resemble in the eyes of the ignorant? Initially he resembles a golden jug. Once he speaks with him [his reverence fades and] he resembles a silver jug." The Al-mighty wanted Moshe's honor and glory to remain in full force, so He had him develop a speech impediment!


Rabbi Yihyeh Yis'hak Halevi zs"l

When the great Rabbi Shelomoh Salah zs"l, who served for many years as head of the rabbinical court in Sanaa, the capital of Yemen, passed away, the city's Jewish leaders and scholars assembled in the great synagogue, "Bet Salah," to discuss the appointment of a new rabbi and leader. This occurred in the year 5662, exactly a century ago. There were many candidates, all of them esteemed scholars with extensive knowledge in Torah and the ability to rule on matters of halachah. Nevertheless, they unanimously decided to grant the position to the youngster among the group, the brilliant scholar, Rabbi Yihyeh Yis'hak Halevi.

Actually, "unanimously" is not an entirely accurate description. Not only did the candidate himself feel unworthy of this honor, but even his father, Rabbi Moshe, who ranked among the leading, influential community leaders, expressed his opposition. He noted the words spoken by Yehoshua Bin Nun to Moshe Rabbenu: "Cast upon them the needs of the community, and they will be automatically destroyed." The rabbinate means endless worries, and his son was very young; he must continue studying unencumbered!

It was therefore decided to conduct a lottery, as the pasuk states (Mishlei 16:33), "Lots are cast into the lap; the decision depends on Hashem." And in order to avoid any problems, they decided to cast the lots between all the candidates and repeat it three times.

The eldest of the rabbis, Rabbi Haim Korah zs"l, began reciting the 16th chapter of Tehillim, where it says, "Hashem is my allotted share and portion; You control my fate." He pulled out a piece of paper and declared, "The one selected by Hashem is Rabbi Yihyeh Yis'hak Halevi!"

They once again mixed together the papers and again the rabbi pulled out a slip of paper, with the same result. This happened a third time, as well.

They all arose to bless the appointed rabbi, but he was nowhere to be found! He had covered himself with his tallit and left the Bet Midrash, escaping from this honor!

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

Interruptions and Errors in Kiddush

The one reciting kiddush must ensure not to interrupt with speech or action in between the recitation and his tasting of the wine. He should rather immediately sit and drink of the wine. The listeners, too, must ensure not to interrupt until after the one reciting the kiddush tastes from the cup. If they, too, will drink some of the wine, observing the special misvah (as discussed in previous issues), then they must ensure not to interrupt until they themselves drink.

If the one who recited kiddush interrupts by speaking words unrelated to the kiddush or meal in between his recitation of kiddush and his tasting of the wine, he must repeat the berachah of "borei peri hagefen." He need not, however, repeat the berachah of kiddush, "Mekadesh ha'Shabbat." The others who heard the kiddush and did not interrupt with speech need not recite "borei peri hagefen" despite the fact that the one who recited kiddush did interrupt. If, however, they also interrupted before tasting the wine, even if this occurred after the one who recited kiddush drank, they must recite the berachah of "borei peri hagefen" before they drink.

If the kiddush wine spills from the cup before the one who recited kiddush could drink, then if he had in mind to drink more wine from the bottle during the meal, he should pour from that bottle into the cup and drink the minimum required amount. In this situation he need not repeat the berachah, "borei peri hagefen," since he had in mind for his original berachah to apply to all the wine he would drink over the course of the meal. If, however, he had not intended to drink more wine after kiddush, he must repeat the berachah of "borei peri hagefen."

If one mistakenly recited kiddush over vinegar or fruit juice, or other beverages that do not fall under the category of "hamar medinah," thinking that it was wine, he has not fulfilled his obligation of kiddush. He must take wine and repeat kiddush. However, if there was a bottle of wine before him on the table and he had in mind to drink from that bottle during his meal, then he should immediately pour some wine from that bottle and drink the minimum required amount. He then does not have to repeat either the berachah of "borei peri hagefen" or "Mekadesh ha'Shabbat." If he had planned to drink wine during the meal but that wine was not before him when he mistakenly recited kiddush over the other beverage, he should pour from that wine into his cup and recite the berachah of "Mekadesh ha'Shabbat" and drink. (He need not repeat "borei peri hagefen" in this situation, since he had in mind for his berachah recited during his original, mistaken kiddush to apply to that wine.)

The pasuk states that Hashem created the world in "sheshet yamim" (six days), but it does not employ the more common term, "shishah yamim." This comes to teach that one should not choose for himself any six days for work and a seventh for rest; he must rather observe "sheshet yamim" - the same six days of work in which the Al-mighty created the world and rest on the same seventh day on which Hashem rested.


"Pharaoh's heart was hardened"; "Hashem said to Moshe: Pharaoh's heart is hardened." Hazal associate the term "kaved" (hardened) in this context with the other meaning of the Hebrew word "kaved" - a liver. They comment: "Just as the liver becomes angry, so does this one's heart becomes a liver. He does not understand; he is a fool: 'For anger lies in the bosom of fools' (Kohellet 7)" (Shemot Rabbah 9).

In order to understand the Midrash, we must first turn our attention to the Berayta in Masechet Berachot 61a: "The kidneys advise, the heart understands, the liver becomes angry." Each organ of the body has its own characteristics. The liver contains the blood (Bechorot 55a), and it thus controls the emotion of anger. The heart, by contrast, "understands," it controls the quality of wisdom. The wise person knows that there is no worse "advisor" than anger; nobody has ever benefited from it. "The bad-tempered - he gains only his anger itself" (Kiddushin 41a). The heart therefore consults with the intelligence, it uses the brain and heeds its advice. If, indeed, this is the chain of authority, that the brain orders the heart and the heart controls the liver, then we yield the acronym "melech" (king), which consists of the three letters, "mem" (for "mo'ah," brain), "lamed" (for "lev," heart) and "chaf" (for "kaved," liver). If, however, the liver takes control over the heart and silences the brain, then we arrive at the acronym, "kalem," which means destruction, Heaven forbid.

Pharaoh proves this point. What did he gain through his intransigence? One plague after another. What did he gain from his stubbornness and anger? Humiliation and suffering, until his final destruction at the Yam Suf.

The Rambam writes that Pharaoh serves as a symbol of the person guided by his yesser hara. Pharaoh is this a warning to us all, admonishing us: "Look what happens to one who is guided by his anger, controlled by his emotions, and his liver rulers over him. "


A person once came before the Divrei Hayyim zs"l with a complaint. He was a successful businessman, his store was always bustling with customers and he always had plenty of money. Now, a certain Jew came along and opened a competing business right near his. The new competitor brought new, fashionable merchandise, lowered prices and took over the market. From that point on, the first store is empty, its owners' source of livelihood shattered.

The rabbi blessed him with all his heart that his livelihood should once again blossom even more than it had originally.

The man, however, was not content with the berachah: "I want the rabbi to curse my competitors, to smite him with his mouth!"

"Heaven forbid!" shuddered the rabbi. "I have never cursed another Jew! That is a strict prohibition, forbidden by the Torah!"

But the man persisted: "If he will not curse the man, then let the rabbi curse his store, that the customers will avoid it and its merchandise become unwanted and undesirable."

The rabbi smiled and said, "Look, your are a businessman, so tell me, where do you purchase your merchandise?"

The man was thrown off guard by the sudden diversion in the conversation, but he quickly recovered and regained his composure. He replied, "Such-and-such merchandise I purchase in such-and-such city; this other merchandise I purchase in the fair - "

The rabbi then interrupted and said, "And how do you bring the items to your town?"

"In a wagon" grumbled the merchant, "how else would I transport them?"

The rabbi ignored the question and continued his interrogation: "Do you travel together with the merchandise?"

"Yes I do," answered the storekeeper. He explained that out of concern for theft, he must personally supervise all transports.

"And you sit next to the driver," the rabbi figured. The merchant confirmed, wondering more and more as to where this strange conversation is headed.

"What does the driver do when the horse is hungry?" inquired the rabbi. The man explained that the driver always carries with him a sack of oats for the horse.

"And what about when the horse is thirsty?" the rabbi continued. The merchant answered that when they pass by a brook the horse drinks to its heart's content.

"Have you ever paid attention to a strange phenomenon?" the rabbi asked. The man shook his head in the negative.

"No, I have never noticed anything strange."

"Really?" the rabbi asked in bewilderment. "You never noticed that before the horse drinks it kicks its leg in the water? Then only after it kicks does it drink?"

Now that the rabbi mentioned it, the merchant realized that indeed, this is quite strange.

"Do you know why the horse does this?" asked the rabbi. The man replied in the negative. "Allow me to explain," the rabbi continued. "The horse lowers its head to drink and sees it reflection in the water. Seeing a horse before it, it thinks that there is a competitor who vies for the same water. Just as the horse drinks from this side, the horse underneath plots against it and approaches to drink its water. It therefore kicks hard with its leg and beholds an incredible thing - the horse disappears! The enemy has apparently retreated, and now it can enjoy all the water for itself."

The merchant smiled, and the rabbi then concluded his presentation: "Obviously, though, the horse is foolish. Even if there was a competitor, there is more than enough water in the stream for both of them. All the more so that this is all just a vision. So what did it accomplish by kicking? It just makes the water dirty.

"You must understand," the rabbi added, "that a person's resources are allocated already on Rosh Hashanah. Nobody can intrude at all on that which is designated for someone else. We learn this message most powerfully from the plagues of Egypt. Hashem exhibited clear and overt supervision, such that each individual received what he deserved. The Jew drew water and the Egyptian drew blood. If they placed two straws in the same cup, the Jew would drink water and the Egyptian sipped blood. If the cups changed hands, the beverage inside them instantly switched, as well. It has already been explained that the plagues of Egypt were 'signs and wonders to this very day' (Yirmiyahu 32:20), as they convey an eternal message relevant for all times. Just as the frog knew where it must go and where it was forbidden to go, as was the case regarding the vermin, wild beasts, pestilence and boils, so does one's livelihood know where it must go. If one wants to make it grow and prosper, the only way he can do it is to appeal to the King of the world, who feeds us and the entire world in His goodness, with grace, kindness and immense compassion!"

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

The Halachot of Cooking on Shabbat

One who bakes bread or cooks food or dyes on Shabbat violates a Torah prohibition. The same applies to one who boils water or milk, roasts meat over coals, melts wax or animal fat, smelts metals or warms metal to the point where it becomes a coal. One violates this prohibition even if he cooks fruit that can be eaten raw.

A "keli rishon" is the utensil in which the food was cooked over the fire, such as a pot or frying pan. It is considered capable of cooking the food placed into it even after it is taken off the fire. Pouring from a keli rishon into another utensil cooks the outer layer of the contents of that utensil. Therefore, one may not pour from a keli rishon onto food in another utensil. That second utensil, however, is not capable of cooking. Therefore, after pouring into the second utensil one may place another food item in the second utensil to be warmed. Nevertheless, one may not place an egg into the second utensil if the liquid in that utensil is hot enough that one's hand immediately recoils on contact. One may place mint leaves into one's tea on Shabbat, even if the tea is very hot, since the second utensil is not deemed capable of cooking. One may not, however, place the leaves into the cup and then pour the hot water from the keli rishon.

Although there is a dispute in this regard, the halachah follows the view that even solids are incapable of cooking once they are transferred into a second utensil. Therefore, one may, for example, pour cold soup onto hot rice in one's plate (i.e. after the rice has been transferred from the original pot in which it had been cooked).

One may warm a dry, cold food item on Shabbat if it had been fully cooked before Shabbat. Liquid foods, however, such as soup, may not be reheated on Shabbat after it has cooled, for with regard to liquids halachah forbids cooking even after the item has already been cooked.

One may not, however warm solid foods directly on the fire, as this resembles actual cooking. One may place the food on a pot over the fire or on a thin, perforated, metal sheet over the fire. One may likewise reheat solid food on an electric hot plate ("plata"), as a hot plate is not used for cooking. Placing food on it to be warmed thus does not resemble actual cooking.

One may tell a gentile on Shabbat to place on a hot plate a liquid that had been previously cooked before Shabbat and since cooled off.

According to authorities among the Ashkenazim, one may warm on Shabbat (though not directly on the fire) even liquids so long as they have retained some of their heat, even if they are not hot enough that one's hand would recoil on contact. We, however, follow the ruling of the Shulhan Aruch that so long as the liquid has cooled to the point where one's hand would not recoil on contact one may not reheat it. A Sefaradi may ask an Ashkenazi to place a liquid dish that has cooled past this point but has retained some of its heat on a hot plate on Shabbat. Since he follows the view of the Ashkenazi authorities, the Sefaradi is not considered as asking the Ashkenazi to do something forbidden.

One may not pour hot water on tea leaves on Shabbat to make tea essence; this must be done before Shabbat. When making tea on Shabbat, one may not first pour the essence into a cup and then pour the hot water; he must rather do the opposite. One may not place tea leaves into one's cup of hot water on Shabbat. Instead, he may pour the water from its original utensil (keli rishon) into another utensil, and then pour from that utensil into one's cup with the tea leaves.

One may cook in water on Shabbat a solid food item that has been previously baked or roasted or fried. One may therefore place baked items such as bread and the like into hot soup, even in a keli rishon. One may likewise pour boiling water from a keli rishon onto coffee powder or instant coffee, or sugar.

The authorities among the Ashkenazim, however, forbid pouring from a keli rishon onto an item that had been previously roasted or baked. Nevertheless, an Ashkenazi may ask a Sefaradi to do this for him on Shabbat, as according to the Shulhan Aruch no prohibition is involved. It goes without saying that an Ashkenazi may ask a gentile to do this for him.

Senyar Bat Mazal, and Yaakov Ben Senyar

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