Friday, January 27, 2017

Mussar Drosha: Va'eira

Mussar Drosha: Va'eira:

Baruch Hashem, we have the privilege to continue with the story of the Jews in Mitzraim - and Hashem taking us out.  Towards the end of last parsha, things got worse actually; but it was actually part of the Geulah, as well - and we must realize that. (The Mizrachi zt”l explains that it actually brought the Geulah faster!)  Even though things can get tough sometimes, Rachmana Litzlan, we must always remember that that too is part of a ‘Geulah’ for us (see Rabbeinu Bachya zt”l on the end of Parshas Shemos).  

 

But that is not the topic that I would like to discuss in this Dvar.  B’Ezras Hashem, I would like to talk about something different:  

 

The Sages tell us in the Midrash that we were redeemed from Mitzraim in the merit of three things:  We kept our Jewish clothing - and didn’t dress like the Mitzrim; we kept our Jewish names - and didn’t change to having Mitzri names; and we spoke Hebrew - and didn’t change to speaking Mitzri.  This means that we somewhat kept our Jewish identity and did not totally assimilate - which is just so important.  

 

And this is especially an important lesson for our times – as it is one of our big problems today:  Rebbe Avraham J. Twerski M.D. shlita writes on this Midrash (Four Chassidic Masters; p. 99) “Even today, there is a misconception that Jews should not stand out as different.  Unfortunately, such ideas have resulted in the catastrophic assimilation of our times.” (See the Netziv zt”l in HaEmek Davar on last Parsha for one of the reasons of the slavery).

                                          

Hashem has set us apart as His People, and we are supposed to elevate ourselves and not, Chas V’Shalom, try to act like the Goyim (not to say that all of them - or even close - are bad, but we are still supposed to be different than them).

 

If a Jew doesn’t make Kiddush; the Goy will make Havdalahsaid the great HaRav Chaim of Volozhin zt”l, powerfully.  Meaning that if, Chas V’Shalom, a Jew does not elevate and sanctify (Kiddush) themselves and separate themselves from the ways of the Goyim, then Hashem will have to make the Goyim separate us from them (Havdalah) – sometimes in a way that won’t be so pleasant - so we do not, Chas V’Shalom, assimilate and join them.  

 

But; unfortunately, we all might have a little of this problem:  Even though we are Frum Jews, Baruch Hashem (may we continue in that way – the true way - forever, Amein vi’Amein), sometimes we might forget ourselves and act just like the Goyim do (without breaking the Commandments, of course, but perhaps not doing what we should be…).  We completely forget ourselves!  But what is a way to fix this?  How can we remember and not lose ourselves?  The way has been given to us:  Hashem has given us things to remind us and to help us maintain our Jewish identity - always.  


Such as Lashon HaKodesh, Jewish names, special clothing, etc. (The things which, when we kept them in Mitzraim, were the merit for our Redemption).  And when we keep distinctive Jewish things - that helps to remind us who we are and what we are supposed to be doing. We wear Tzitzis (as we have been commanded), we wear Yarmulkes, etc.  

 

These help to remind us of the truth always.  And I would like to, B’Ezras Hashem, share with you a beautiful story with you on this topic:  

 

A man once came, heartbroken, to the Belzer Rebbe - Rebbe Yehoshua Rokeach zt”l - crying uncontrollably.  Reb Yehoshua waited until the man was calmer and was able to tell his story.  The man told him that he had an only son whom he cherished and loved ever since the day he was born.  But, unfortunately, he had gotten mixed up with bad people and now he was engaged to a Goyishe girl!  He (the father) had been so upset that he had kicked his son out of his house.  

 

The man began to cry again and until a few moments later, couldn’t continue.  He asked the Rebbe whether it was the right thing or not to have kicked his son out of his home.  

 

The Rebbe replied that it was not the right thing, in fact, and that he should go and find him and bring him back.  

 

The man returned home and then went to find his son.  He found him in tattered clothing and looking disheveled.  He offered to take him home and the son accepted.  The father did not mention anything about the girl, though.  

 

Sometime later, the father told his son that he was going to visit the Belzer Rebbe and asked if he wanted to go with.  The son - being very grateful to his father - accepted this simple request.  The father and son talked a lot during the journey there - even about the girl and her family - the father suggesting that perhaps her family were bad people, but the son refused to rethink his decision and the father dropped the subject.  

 

Soon, the two reached Belz and were admitted to the Rebbe’s presence.  Reb Yehoshua zt”l spoke to the son at length until he felt that he had won over his confidence and then offered him a small Tallis Katan (pair of Tzitzis).  He asked him to wear it under his shirt at all times and told him that it would protect him. The son accepted the request; at least the Rebbe was not trying to dissuade him from marrying the girl he wanted! 

 

Soon, the father and son returned home.  The date of the son’s wedding was approaching and it was to be a lavish affair with lusty singing and rowdy dancing.  As the Rebbe had advised, the father attended as well.  The day finally arrived and the unhappy father sat alone at a small table heaped with Kosher food, but he had no appetite.  He was disgusted by the drunken Goyim there and wept inwardly to see his own son seated at the head of the table.  

 

The room filled with smoke and heat.  It was soon so oppressive that people began to take off their coats, etc.  The “Chasan” himself even began perspiring and took off his jacket - then even his shirt!  

 

At first, he didn’t realize why people were staring at him.  But when he looked down, however, he discovered that he was still wearing the Tzitzis that the Rebbe had given him!!  

 

“Hey, look!” one of the people cried out, pointing at him. “That’s Jew-clothing.  The groom is wearing a Jew-garment!  The groom is a Jew!”

 

The other guests took up the cry and angrily fell on the groom. “Why did you tell us you were a gentile like us?” they shouted. “How did you dare deceive us?!” The people attacked him and started to hit him.  He was unable to defend himself, but was able to, Baruch Hashem, flee to safety.  

 

When he was finally alone, he remembered what his father had said about the bride’s family possibly being evil - what he had denied - how true those words had been!  

 

The son returned to the father’s home – much wiser than before (the father, of course, returned from the wedding as well).  He became a sincere Baal Teshuva, justifying his father’s love and the Rebbe’s faith in him. (From Tales of Tzaddikim; Sefer Bamidbar, p. 101-104).

 

We see that the Jews were redeemed out of the merit of keeping their Jewish identity and maintaining certain Jewish values.  We must take this lesson and always remain true to our faith.  And if we were redeemed from Mitzraim in that merit - then certainly if we all try to maintain our Jewish identity always, we will be redeemed from this Galus as well.  May exactly this happen, Amein vi’Amein.  

 

I wish you and your family a wonderful Shabbos full of Kedusha.



Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Parshas Shemos 5777


Parshas Shemos:


Now, B’Ezras Hashem let us get on to the parsha:  The first passuk is ‘Vi’eileh Shemos B’nei Yisroel habaim Mitzraimah, eis Yaakov, ish u’veiso bau/And these are the names of the Sons of Yisroel who came down to Egypt, with Yaakov, each man and his household came.’  

So, this year we will use some of the same commentaries as last year - but, Baruch Hashem, we also have some beautiful “new” comments:  

1) Tells us the holy Chofetz Chaim (HaRav Yisroel Meir HaKohen Kagan zt”l):  It appears that the entire reason why Yaakov Avinu’s sons (perhaps referring to everyone but Yosef HaTzaddik - or his grandkids, but either way….) came down to Mitzraim is because Yaakov Avinu came down with them!  Because, look at the verse:  It emphasizes ‘eis Yaakov/with Yaakov’!  

And he says that this exactly the case:  Yaakov Avinu, he explains, was their “spiritual leader”, i.e. their Rebbe, so to speak, and they would not have been able to go down to Egypt unless he was with them.  

And he continues and explains just how important a spiritual leader (Rebbe, Rav, etc.) is.  For example, he is in the “center” of the nation - and a lot of things that are important are in the center of things.  Such as the heart - in the center of our body.  (From Sefer Chofetz Chaim Al HaTorah)  

And, based on what Reb Yisroel Meir zt”l said, we may infer another thing from this verse: ‘eis Yaakov ish u’veiso bau/with Yaakov each man and his household came’ - this can teach us that ‘each man and his household’ took a little of Yaakov Avinu inside of them, so to speak.  They went ‘with Yaakov’, as the verse says - meaning that even after he had passed away, they took his spiritual lessons, etc. with them - and maybe, we could say, that was one of the ways they could survive the Exile.  

2) The Tosher Rebbe (Rebbe Meshulam Feish Lowy zt”l) comments on this verse as well:  And he explains that if you look, the word ‘habaim/who came’ is actually in the present tense!  So it wouldn’t mean ‘who came’ - it would mean ‘who are coming’!  

An he explains that this teaches us that during these weeks of Shovavim (the weeks of Shemos, Va’eira, Bo, Beshalach, Yisro, and Mishpatim), we are just like the Jews who went down to Mitzraim.  Just like they went down there and elevated holy sparks trapped there - so too in these weeks (and in our lives overall) we must try to find and elevate the holy sparks trapped in our Galus/Exile. (From Sefer Avodas Avodah)  

Back to the parsha:  The Torah lists the name of the sons of Yaakov Avinu, and Rashi HaKadosh quotes from Midrash Tanchuma and Midrash Shemos Rabbah, which explain that the reason why Hashem counted them again after their death when He had already counted them when they were alive is to let everyone know how precious they are to Him.  

But, anyway, the Torah talks about how much the Jews increased and then it talks about how a new king arose, who didn’t know Yosef HaTzaddik, and Rashi HaKadosh quotes a debate between Rav and Shmuel (both zt”l):  One says that this was a new king and one says it was the same king just with new decrees.  

So, this “new Paroah” said that they should act wisely with the B’nai Yisrael, because they were more numerous than them, and he was afraid that if a country would come and wage war with them, the Jews would join the nation, and go up from the land. So he put tax masters over them, and enslaved them with very, very hard work.  
Now, the language the Torah used when talking about the Jews increasing was ‘U’Vi’nei Yisroel paru, vayishritzu, vayirbu, vayaatzmu bi’mi’od mi’od, va’timalei haaretz osam/And the Sons of Yisroel were fruitful and swarmed and increased and became very, very strong - and the earth was filled with them.’

And the Netziv (HaRav Naftali Tzvi Yehuda Berlin zt”l) comments and he explains that that verse it teaching why the Egyptians got upset and enslaved us:  The verse talks about how we spread out and filled the earth.  

And this teaches us, he explains, that we mingled with the Egyptians.  We left just living in Goshen - with other Jews - and we went out and mingled in Egyptian society.  
There, we were very vulnerable to taking their examples and assimilating, Chas V’Shalom.  And this is why the Egyptians enslaved us, he says:  Because we were almost to the point of becoming part of their nation - so Hashem had to make sure that we were separated from them so we would not become totally assimilated.  And this would come through the slavery, etc. (From Sefer Ha’Emek Davar)

Back to the parsha:  Paroah put tax masters over them, and enslaved them with very, very hard work.  However, the more they enslaved them, the more they continued to grow!  Rashi HaKadosh gives the Midrashic interpretation (from Gemara Sotah 11a) that says that the Holy Spirit (Hashem) said “You i.e. the Mitzrim/Egyptians, say ‘lest they increase’ and I say ‘so it will increase.’”

So, Paroah told the Jewish midwives, Shifra and Puah, to kill the Jewish baby boys, and to let the girls live.  And Rashi HaKadosh quotes from Gemara Sotah 11b, which says that Shifra was Yocheved, and Puah was Miriam.  Also he says that they - instead of killing the babies - cooed at them and Davened/prayed for them.  And their names are reflections of these things - as there meaning is like what they did for the babies.  

Asks HaRav Yerucham Levovitz zt”l; why are Yocheved and Miriram called these names?  They’re called after the little things that they did for the babies?  

And he answers; yes.  Because “big people” - i.e. righteous people take “little” things and make them big. “Little” things such cooing, beautifying,  and crying for babies are actually big.  And he adds a beautiful thing:  He says that there is no such thing is a “little thing” - it is only up to a person whether they make it “big” or “little”.[1]  

Okay; back to the parsha:  Shifrah (Yocheved) and Puah (Miriam) did not listen to Paroah; they feared Hashem.  What courage and devotion!  In fact, HaRav Chaim Ephraim Zaitchik zt”l says a beautiful thing on this:  

He asks; how these two people could have acquired such fear of Hashem?  He answers with the Chachamim/Sages’ answer that they adorned themselves with the deeds of the Avos/forefathers.  

They said “Our father Avraham opened an inn and fed uncircumcised wayfarers,and we will kill Jewish babies?! We will help them live!” So, he explains on the midwives adorning themselves, that from here we learn that so bold a decision requires ‘adornment’ that is, a sharpening and polishing of one’s thoughts until it becomes illuminated by the deeds of our Avos/forefathers.

He explains how powerful it is to think about what the Avos/forefathers did, how they acted and how they served Hashem. We can do this with great Rabbis also, and see what they did to serve Hashem, and hopefully, B’Ezras Hashem/with the Help of Hashem, we will be able to see how all the great people acted, and learn from them and get their example, and may we be zocheh/have the merit to serve Hashem like they did.  

This, he explains, is why it is worthy to read about great Rabbis, and try to get examples from them. Then, we can learn from them as if we were in the same generation as them!  (From Sparks of Mussar - original, HaMeoros HaGedolim)

Back to the parsha:  Hashem rewarded the midwives and gave them good.  Then, afterwards,  the Torah talks about that a man from the Tribe of Levi married a daughter of Levi. Now these people are Amram and Yocheved. Yocheved became pregnant and had Moshe.  

She hid him for as long as she could before the Mitzrim/Egyptians would know that Moshe was alive, and try to kill him.

Rashi HaKadosh brings from Gemara Sotah (12a), which explains that she had him only after 6 months being in the stomach rather than 9 months like usual. So the amount of time that she could hide him for was around 3 months. So, after that time, she put him in a basket and put it in the reeds at the bank of the river. Miriam watched it, to see what would happen.  And Gemara Sotah 12b – 13a explains that Miriam knew through prophecy (because she was a Naviah/a girl prophet) that Amram and Yocheved would have the baby that would lead the Jews out of Mitzraim/Egypt, and she knew that Hashem would save him, but she wanted to see how Hashem would save him.

So, Paroah’s daughter (the princess of Mitzraim/Egypt) went down to bathe, and she saw the basket, and she sent her ‘amasah/maidservant’ to go and get it. But, Aggadically, (Rashi HaKadosh quotes this from Gemara Sotah 12b and Midrash Shemos Rabbah) the word means her arm, and it would mean that she sent forth her arm to get it, and miraculously, it became long enough to reach it.  

And The Kotzker Rebbe (Rebbe Menachem Mendel Morgenstern of Kotzk zt”l) says a beautiful thing on this:  He says that we learn a big example from her:  What example is that?  He explains that we learn to never think something is impossible.   Because she reached out her arm, and Hashem let her reach it, and so too, if we reach out to try to do something, Hashem will help us do it. (From the Stone Edition Chumash)

But, anyway, she opened the basket and saw that there was a baby, and it was crying, and she said that it was one of the Jews.  The Holy Writings teach that from the crying of Moshe Rabbeinu, the cries of many Jewish babies could be heard.  Not only this, but Rashi HaKadosh quotes from Gemara Sotah 12b, which says that the cry of Moshe Rabbeinu was the voice of a lad (even though he was a baby).  

And there is an absolutely beautiful insight on this from the Lubliner Rebbe (and founder of Daf Yomi) - Rebbe Meir Shapiro zt”l:  

He explains that; what does it mean that his voice was ‘the voice of a lad’ - and not a baby?  What does this mean?  So, he explains that a baby really doesn’t cry for others (because they don’t understand others’ troubles), while someone older can and often does.  

And this is what the Gemara means, he explains:  Moshe Rabbeinu was crying for all of the Jewish People - and that is the ‘voice’ of someone older.  And that is how the Egyptian Princess knew he was Jewish, says Reb Meir zt”l.  Because Jews are more apt to feel and cry for others. (This is probably the meaning of what the Holy Writings taught - that through the cry of Moshe Rabbeinu, the cry of all other Jews could be heard).[2]  

Okay; now back to the parsha:  Miriam came and asked Paroah’s daughter if she should get a Jewish person to nurse Moshe, and she (Paroah’s daughter) told her that she should. Rashi HaKadosh quoting Gemara Sotah 12b says that Hashem said “Should the mouth that will speak with the Shechinah/Divine Presence drink unclean milk? Should an Egyptian woman boast that she fed the mouth that spoke with the Shechinah/Presence of Hashem?”

And there is a Halacha brought down in Shulchan Aruch that if you can nurse from a goy/non-Jewish person, or a Jewish person, then you should nurse from the Jewish person.  This Halacha seems to have been originated by this case.

Asks HaRav Yaakov Kamenetzky zt”l; should there really be a Halacha like this?  How can we derive it from this case if that was Moshe Rabbeinu!  He spoke straight to Hashem and vice-versa!  

And the answer he tells us is - yes.  Because every day, we too speak straight to Hashem.  Every single person has this ability, Baruch Hashem, and so they should try to keep their mouths holier as well.[3]

Back to the parsha:  Miriam brought Yocheved, and Yocheved nursed Moshe.  The Egyptian princess named the child Moshe, and he grew up, and one time, he saw an Egyptian hitting a Jew, so he killed him, and hid him in the sand so that the Egyptians wouldn’t know what he did.  The next day, he saw two Jews fighting - who Rashi HaKadosh from Midrash Shemos Rabbah says were Dathan and Aviram – and he asked one of them why he was hitting his fellow, and the person asked if he was going to kill him like he killed the Egyptian.

Now, hitting a fellow Jew (without very, very good and valid reason) is not at all a good thing.  It is very bad!  In fact, if you look at Rashi HaKadosh on this verse, he quotes from Gemara Sanhedrin 58b, which says that even someone who just raises their hand to strike another Jew is called ‘wicked’. (Though, of course, if, Chas V’Shalom, we lose ourselves and are about to hit someone, but then hold back - that is a great thing, as we overcame our Yetzer Hara to hit a Jew).  

And there is a great story on this, which I saw:  On the yartzheit of his mother, the Chiddushei Harim (the first Gerrer Rebbe, Rebbe Yitzchok Meir Alter zt”l) wanted to Daven/pray with a Minyan (group of ten men over 13 in his house), and he asked a person to organize the men for him.

The man whom he asked had already Davened/prayed, so he couldn’t be in the Minyan. So, he gathered ten men, but an 11th tried to get in, and the man who was organizing them told him that the Rebbe only wanted ten.  But the man wanted to get in so bad that he tried to push his way in. The organizer lost his wits and slapped the 11th man in the face. The 11th man was very insulted, and walked away.  

At Mincha, the Rebbe wanted to again Daven/pray with a Minyan. This time, the organizer hadn’t Davened/prayed, so he gathered only 9 people and included himself in the count. The Rebbe counted and told the organizer that there were only 9. The organizer counted – including himself – and said that there were 10. The Rebbe looked at the man seriously, and said that he must have counted himself. The organizer replied that he had, surprised at the question.  

The Rebbe told him that he didn’t know how he could be counted in the Minyan/group of ten men over 13, “Did you not raise your hand against a fellow Jew today?” (From Tales of Tzaddikim; Shemos).  

Back to the parsha:  Moshe Rabbeinu saw that it was known what he had done to the Egyptian, and Paroah wanted to kill him, so Moshe fled, and settled in Midian, and sat down by a well.  Now, Yisro had seven daughters, and they came to draw water and water their father’s sheep. The shepherds chased them away, but Moshe saved them from the shepherds, and watered their father’s flocks for them. They came back and Yisro, (called Reuel by the passuk/verse, as that was one of his seven names, see Rashi HaKadosh) asked them how they were so fast today, i.e. to get water and come home, since the shepherds usually chased them away, and it took a long time to get water.

They answered that a Mitzri/Egyptian man (or so they thought) saved them. Yisro told them to get the man and let him eat bread. Yisro gave Moshe Tzipporah as a wife, and they had a son and named him Gershom. The Torah says that in those days, the king of Mitzraim/Egypt died, and the Jews cried because of the work, and Hashem heard their cry, and He knew.

Says Rebbe Shmelke of Nikolsburg zt”l (and the Ohaiv Yisroel - the Apter Rebbe - Rebbe Avraham Yehoshua Heschel of Apta zt”l says essentially the same thing); the Hebrew word for work used here is ‘Avodah’ - which also can refer to our service of Hashem (in this case, Davening/praying).  

And this is the main reason why the Jews were crying, he explains.  Because the hard enslavement, etc. was making it nearly impossible to Daven/pray to Hashem - and that is the worst pain. (From my Rebbe, Rebbe Binyomin Goldstein shlita).

But anyway, Moshe Rabbeinu was shepherding Yisro’s sheep, and he guided the sheep into the wilderness, and he came to Har HaElokim/the Mountain of Hashem, which Rashi HaKadosh explains was Har Sinai. He saw a thornbush that was burning, but the flames did not burn it up entirely.

Teaches us the Noam Elimelech (Rebbe Elimelech of Lizhensk zt”l):  Some people think that they are burning with the fire of Torah and Mitzvos and so holy - when in reality, they, Rachmana Litzlan, haven’t even gotten rid of their bad traits (represented by the thorns not bring burnt up).  We must always take care to constantly rid ourselves of bad traits, and may  Hashem help everyone to do so, Amein vi’Amein.  (Told over by HaRav Elyakim Rosenblatt shlita on TorahAnytime.com).  

So, Hashem spoke to Moshe from the midst of the bush. He told him to not come any closer,and to remove his shoes, because the ground that he was standing on was holy.  
And the Chofetz Chaim (HaRav Yisroel Meir HaKohen Kagan zt”l) explains that there is a great lesson here:  The ground that we are all standing on at each moment is holy - so don’t wait to do a Mitzvah, etc.  No; if the opportunity for a Mitzvah or something like that arises - dont wait until you’re in another place - the ground on which we are standing is holy.  

And part of the way to do this, he explains, is to “remove our shoes”, so to speak - meaning to remove all things in between us and Hashem.  This is very important.  (From Chofetz Chaim Al HaTorah). 

But, back to the parsha:  Hashem told Moshe Rabbeinu that He was the G-d of Avraham Yitzchok and Yaakov. He told him that He had heard the Jews cries, and that He would take them out of Mitzraim/Egypt and He would bring them to a land flowing with milk and honey.

Hashem told Moshe that he would lead the Jews out of Mitzraim/Egypt, but Moshe thought that he wasn’t worthy of doing the job. Hashem gave him a lot of signs, but Moshe doubted that the Jews would listen to him, and Moshe said that he had blocked lips, i.e. he wasn’t good at speaking, especially publicly. Hashem told him that basically, since He gave man a mouth, then if He sent him, he would be okay.  Also, He told him that Aharon was coming, and that basically he could help him with the speaking.

Before Moshe went down to Mitzraim/Egypt, he asked Yisro permission to leave, and Yisro gave it.  But The Alter of Slobodka (HaRav Nosson Tzvi Finkel zt”l) asks; how could Moshe ask Yisro for permission for something that Hashem had told him to do?  He answers that Moshe had to do this to show his gratitude for Yisro’s help. Without gratitude, Moshe could not have been a proper leader. (From Sparks of Mussar - original -HaMeoros HaGedolim).

Back to the parsha:  Moshe Rabbeinu went down to Mitzraim/Egypt, and he told Paroah that Hashem had said to let His People go so that they could serve Him in the wilderness. Paroah didn’t listen to them, and he doubted. He also made the work harder on the Jews, because he said that it was because they were lazy that they wanted to go and serve Hashem in the wilderness (that is laziness?!), when it was actually Hashem Who had told them to.

The Jews were upset because of the extra work. But at the end of the parsha, Hashem tells Moshe Rabbeinu that now he will see what He would do to Paroah.  It is a very encouraging  ending to the parsha, as we also know that He will rescue us from this Galus/Exile and show His Wonders to the nations of the world very soon, as well.
There are 124 pessukim/verses in this parsha.  I wish you and your family a wonderful week, full of Kedusha!

Monday, January 23, 2017

Mussar Drosha: Shemos


Mussar Drosha: Shemos




Baruch Hashem, we have the privilege to begin a new Sefer of the Torah - Sefer Shemos.  It’s such an experience going through the Torah – such a gift!  And we need to try to begin each new Sefer with as much passion and enthusiasm as when we began the Torah – and we should know that each Sefer is like a new beginning.  With these thoughts in mind, let us, B’Ezras Hashem, begin: 

 

Towards the end of the last Sefer, we discussed the events that led up to the Egyptian slavery, and now we are going into the slavery itself.  

 

Now, the Exile and slavery must have been very hard, and we can but imagine (maybe!) it.

And actually, I want you to try to do just that:  Try to imagine how it was for the Jews in Mitzraim:  Each morning, having to wake up early - knowing that you must work extremely hard under terrible conditions - the burning sun of Egypt etc. - again that day.  

 

And then you must actually start with the back-breaking work, getting whipped or hit likely all the while.  But it doesn’t stop there - you must work like that essentially all day! And that is just a mild description - we don’t even know quite how hard it was!  It must have been very hard to get through that!!  So how did we?  

 

So, many of our Gedolim note that the Sofei Teivos of the first words of the parsha
 ‘ואלה שׁמוֹת בּני ישׂראל הבּאים(if you mix them up a bit) spell תּהלים.  And some say that this teaches us that the Jews were able to get through the hardships because they kept on to saying Tehillim - still holding on to Hashem.  Hashem was there with us, holding out a “Hand” - we just had to grab onto it!!

                                                                                                                                                      

And, my dear friends; does this not apply to every hardship we might, Rachmana Litzlan, have in our lives?  Sometimes things get tough, may Hashem save us all, but He is always there with us and He is always stretching out His “Hand” for us to grab, as He was with us when we were in Mitzraim.  And if we can, with His Help, hold onto it (spiritually) – then we can get through even the toughest positions.  But the only way we are able to do that is because Hashem is always with us – even in the hardest positions – such as the slavery in Mitzraim. 

 

And this theme is actually taught to us later in this very parsha:  Hashem tells Moshe Rabbeinu (in Aliyah Revii) that he should tell the B’nei Yisroel that ‘I Will Be What I Will Be’ sent him.  And Rashi HaKadosh comments and quotes from Gemara Berachos (9b) which says ‘I will be” with them in this predicament “what I will be” with them in their subjugation by other kingdoms.

 

We are in the Galus of another kingdom and Hashem is still with us as He was in Mitzraim!  Through all these years He has stuck with us - even with all of our aveiros too!  Think about that…..

 

However, unfortunately and Rachmana Litzlan, we often don’t realize that He is with us and we feel very despondent.  This then leads to sadness, etc. (This feeling can come from many things).

But, what we must realize is that He is not just with our People as a whole - but with all of us individually!  No matter what is going in your life - a difficult test (in school, in life, you name it), the Yetzer Hara attacking you, Rachmana Litzlan, or anything - He is there with you!!  This is something very important to remember.  When we realize that Hashem is always with us, things don’t seem as dark at all (see the Tiferes Uziel zt”l on the opening verse of Parshas Vayigash).  We don’t feel alone in our pain anymore - and it brings happiness to our hearts!  Think about it:  One is always with you - holding your hand and walking with you, so to speak.

 

And this is perhaps one of the big lessons we can glean from the story of the slavery in Mitzraim:  If He was with us there - in the terrible, terrible, suffering and when we were on such a low spiritual level (as our Sages teach) - then certainly He is always with us in our lives!  We must remember this.

 

And before we finish, I would like to, B’Ezras Hashem, share with you an incredible, inspiring story that I saw that really illustrates our point. (The following is taken straight from Nikolsburg.org):  

 

‘There is a moving story about one such survivor. A religious Jew was traveling to Eretz Yisroel, and found himself seated in the airplane next to a secular Jew who spoke bitterly about the holocaust. “My parents, wife and children were all murdered,” he complained. “They were completely innocent. How could G-d allow such terrible things to happen?” He concluded that there could not possibly be a G-d if this is what happened to the world. The religious Jew tried to change his companion’s perception of the holocaust, but to no avail. After landing in Israel, they each went their separate ways.

 

The religious Jew was in Israel for the High Holidays. On Yom Kippur, during the short recess after Shacharis, he took a walk around the block of the shul. As he was walking, he noticed an obviously secular Jew walking on the other side of the street, carrying several packages. It pained him to see someone desecrate Yom Kippur. And then he suddenly recognized the person as his flight companion.

 

He ran across the street and greeted the non-religious Jew. “We are about to say Yizkor in shul,” he explained. “Won’t you do this much for the departed souls of your dear parents, wife and children? Won’t you come inside and say Yizkor in their memory?”

 

At first the non-religious person refused to hear of it, but it wasn’t long before he conceded. As he entered the shul, the friendly gabbai (sexton) welcomed him warmly and patiently helped him through the Yizkor prayer. He asked for the exact Hebrew names of the stranger’s martyred father, mother and wife. Then he asked him for the names of his children. Crying openly, the stranger said the name of his eldest son. The gabbai paled and asked him to repeat the name. The stranger repeated the name once more. The gabbai exclaimed: “That’s my full Hebrew name!”

 

The shul erupted in pandemonium. It turned out that the gabbai was a young child during the Holocaust. He managed to escape deportation and hid out in the woods until he finally reached a safe haven. After the holocaust, he came to Eretz Yisroel, thinking that he is the only surviving member of his family. After asking a few more questions, it became clear that the middle-aged secular Jew was none other than the gabbai’s father.

 

After witnessing the open Hand of Providence, the father turned around completely and became fully religious. He now firmly believed that there is a G-d who plans everything that transpires, although His Face is sometimes painfully hidden.’


Hashem was with us always and He is with us now.  Even in the darkest situations He is our Light.  That is for sure.  But the question is; are we with Him?  
I wish everyone a wonderful week!

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

A Rebbe Story: The Wandering Storyteller


A Rebbe Story: The Wandering Storyteller:



It has been a while since I last did a 'Rebbe Story' post, and I thought that this would be a good time.  Some time back, I had seen an absolutely beautiful story on Chabad.org that I would love to share with everyone. (The following - with a couple minor editing adjustments - is taken straight from Chabad.org):

The founder of Chassidism, Rabbi Israel Baal Shem Tov zt"l (called the Baal Shem Tov, or “the Besht” for short), was well-versed in the secrets of the Torah and of creation. But also knew the greatest secret of all: what each man’s purpose is in this world.

Those who believed this completely and followed his directives were called his Chassidim. To each of his chassidim the Besht revealed his task in life, and one, who is the hero of our story, he instructed to become a wandering storyteller. He should travel from town to town and from village to village and tell people stories about the Baal Shem Tov.

“You will know when your mission is achieved,” the Besht added.

Shortly thereafter the Besht passed on to his eternal rest. For the next ten years the chassid diligently and joyously carried out his assignment, wandering from town to town telling the “Baal Shem Tov stories” he had witnessed or heard about.

One day, someone told him that there was a rich Jew in Vitebsk who actually paid money for such stories: ten rubles (at that time a huge amount) for every new one, and five for those he had already heard, plus traveling expenses. It was a two-day journey, but to our hero it seemed like minutes. He knew many stories and he really needed the money!

When he arrived at the rich man’s plush home, it was already late Thursday evening, and he was so tired from the road that he wanted only to sleep. But there would always be tomorrow.
But he woke late on Friday, and by the time he finished praying, it was already time to get ready for Shabbat. But there would be Shabbat.

Unfortunately, that evening at the Shabbat dinner, try as he could, he just couldn’t remember any stories, not even one. He thought that after a good night’s rest his mind would be sharper, but it wasn’t. And the next day it was the same thing: he would begin a story, and suddenly his mind would go completely blank.

He thought that perhaps he was going mad. No matter what he did, he had no results. He even remained for another two days, but it was obvious that something very strange was going on: he, who knew hundreds of stories about his great teacher, having witnessed many of them himself, and having told and retold them countless times over the years, could not remember anything! He had forgotten everything; he had no other choice than to shamefacedly give up.

The wealthy man was very disappointed, but nevertheless, against all hope, he accompanied the chassid in the carriage ride to the train; perhaps at the last moment some story would pop into his mind—but it didn’t.

They got out of the carriage and walked to the station, where the rich man bought the chassid’s train ticket, slipped a few silver coins in his pocket so he wouldn’t feel completely broken, and escorted him to the train.

Then, as he put his foot on the first step going up to the car, he remembered . . . “A story!!! I remember a story!” he shouted.

“Come, come back to my carriage,” said the rich man excitedly. “Please, let’s not waste a moment!” They returned, entered, sat facing one another, and the chassid began:

“Once the Baal Shem took ten chassidim (I was one of them) and told us to get in his carriage shortly before Shabbat. We didn’t ask any questions, being used to such journeys. We entered and sat down and, as usual, we immediately felt as though the carriage was flying in the air. Moments later, we landed.

“We got out and found that we were in a place we had never seen before. It was a large town square that was completely deserted. Even the stores were all closed, and off to one side stood a stage or pulpit, that looked recently built, surrounded by several large crosses and flaming torches, as though there was about to be some sort of large outdoor church ceremony.

“The Besht told us to follow him as he quickly left the square, walked quickly through some winding streets, and in just minutes went through the gates of what was obviously the Jewish ghetto. He stopped before one of the houses and began pounding on the door, until a small peephole opened up and someone frantically whispered from inside.

“‘Are you mad?! What are you doing out there?!’ Several bolts and locks clicked and slid until the door opened and the owner frantically motioned for all of us to enter, slamming it shut behind us.

“‘Tonight is one of their terrible holidays! The worst of the worst!!’ he said, short of breath, as he was reclosing the bolts and locks as fast as possible. ‘You’re lucky I let you in! In another few minutes the entire town square is going to be filled with bloodthirsty Jew-haters from all around, and the devil himself, Bishop Thaddeus, yemach shemo (may his name be blotted out), will give his annual Easter speech. It’s full of venom against us. Come, follow me—we will make place for you in our underground shelter. Come! We mustn’t waste an instant! Before they start going wild.’

“But the Besht turned to one of his pupils and calmly said, ‘Go back to the square, and when the bishop begins to speak, go up to the stage, pull on his robe, and tell him that I wish to speak to him urgently.’

“The owner of the house was shocked! He watched in wide-eyed astonishment as the chassid actually began to reopen the bolts, open the door and slip outside. He didn’t know if he should lock them again or not; he’d never seen anything like it in his life! It was like seeing someone walk into a burning furnace!

“The chassid, once outside, made his way back through the winding streets ’till he reached the square. It was already filled with thousands of people, and more were silently arriving from all sides. A strange, cold silence hung in the air, and it was beginning to get dark.

The bishop strode to the front of the stage, as if from nowhere, and stood imposingly before the crowd in his bright crimson robes and high pointed red hat. The torchlight danced weirdly in his eyes and made the huge golden cross hanging around his neck gleam diabolically. To make matters worse, the fires and huge crosses surrounding the stage reminded the chassid of the stories he had heard of the Inquisition. But he pushed all these thoughts from his mind, waited for the bishop to begin, closed his eyes for a moment, whispered Shema Yisrael, and with his head down, began gently pushing his way to the podium.

“Amazingly, no one even noticed him. They were so transfixed by the bishop that they just moved out of the way, and before he knew it, he reached the front. He took a deep breath, said another Shema Yisrael, grabbed the robe of the bishop and pulled twice.

“The bishop was just beginning his tirade when he felt the tug at his garment and looked down. He was startled, outraged, his face became livid with anger; but before he could utter a sound the chassid looked him in the eyes and said, ‘My master and teacher, Rabbi Israel Baal Shem Tov, wishes to see you, and he says you should come urgently.’

“Suddenly the bishop’s face became pale and his eyes opened wide, as though he was afraid. ‘Not now!’ he whispered after a few seconds of confusion. ‘Tell him that I can’t come now. Later! Tell him later. Go away!’

“Miraculously, the entire crowd was all still standing like statues, as though hypnotized, and noticed none of this. So the chassid backed his way out and returned alone to the Besht, convinced that he had fulfilled his mission.

“But the Besht wasn’t pleased. ‘Go back and tell the bishop that if he doesn’t come now, it will be too late.’

“Without hesitation the chassid turned and did as he was told. He left the house, returned to the town square, pushed his way through the crowd, and pulled on the bishop’s robe just as before.

“But this time, when the bishop heard the Besht’s message, he was really stunned. He took a few steps back, put his head in his hands, and then, turning his face to heaven, he yelled to the crowd: ‘I’m receiving a message from the Lord!! I must be alone!’

“He motioned the chassid to leave, watched him as he walked toward the Jewish section, and then he himself descended from the back of the stage and headed in that direction, holding his hat under his arm.

“Minutes later he was standing with the chassid before the house in the Jewish quarter. ‘Tell him to remove his crosses before he enters,’ said the Besht from inside. The bishop did so, and as he entered the house and saw the face of the holy man, he fell to the floor and began weeping like a baby!

“The Baal Shem turned to the others and explained. ‘This man was born a Jew. He even had a bar mitzvah. But shortly thereafter he was lured to the Church and eventually became the anti-Semite he is today. I saw in heaven that now was a propitious time to bring him to his senses.’

“After the bishop stopped weeping, the Besht told him to stand and follow him into a side room, where they closed the door and spoke for several minutes. No one knows what they said in there, but after a while the bishop came out dressed in different clothes, left the house, and no one has seen him since. And that is the end of the story.’”

The chassid looked at the rich man and saw that he was smiling with contentment; he liked the story. He liked it so much that he put his hand over his eyes and tears began rolling down his face. He was crying, weeping from sheer happiness.

“That is the story I’ve been waiting for,” he said.

He dried his eyes, looked at the chassid and continued. “I am the bishop in your story. The Baal Shem Tov told me in that side room to live a life of repentance until someone came and told me my own story. Now I know my prayers have been accepted by G‑d.”

(Told by Rebbe Tuvia Bolton shlita)

A Guten Tog all!