Friday, April 18, 2008

Chag Sameach!

At each of our Sedarim we have many unique opportunities. One of them is that we get to see friends and family who come from a variety of backgrounds and likes.

As the seder progresses we will begin to realize that the Exodus from Egypt was not simply something that happened to "ME" but that it was experienced by myriads of Jews from different walks of life.

Enhance your Seder with an eclectic collection of Divrei Torah (link)

And Remember that this isn't just a Story but that it happened to the greater YOU!



"V'Tzivanu Al Achilas Matzah"
"We were commanded on the Matzah"

The Rokeach commenting on these words in the Bracha during Motzei Matzah adds that everyone who eats Matza according to Jewish Law becomes a partner with G-d in the creation of the world.

The reason for this is because our Exodus from Egypt was the completion of the creation of the world. The ten makkos uncovered the ten maamaros of creation. Therefore one who eats Matzah, which symbolized our freedom is aiding G-d in the creation of the world.

On this note, R' Mordechai Elon explains the words, (Shemos 7) "You shall eat matzos for seven days". Following this pattern of seven days was also the days of creation. For while one eats the matza he becomes more cognizant of the days of the week thus appreciating creation.

We Were Slaves - Don't We Know That Already?

"Avadim Hayinu L'Pharaoh B'Mitzrayim..."
"We were slave to Pharoah in Egypt"

An explaination of the above verse was once given over by Rav Yechiel Michel Epstein, author of the Aruch HaShulchan. He explained that the entire idea that can be deduced from yetzias mitzrayim is that we are now obligated to be the servants of hkb"h. This is known from the Torah when it says, "Ki Li Bnei Yisrael Avadim, Avadai Heim Asher Hotzeisi Osam MeiEretz Mitzrayim" "Fore Bnei Yisrael are slaves to me, my slaves who I took out of the land of Egypt."

Almost immediately after reading "Ki Li..." one should realize the apparent redundancy that appears towards the end of the verse when the Torah says "Avadei Heim" - didn't we JUST acknowledge earlier in the verse that we are G-d's servants?

In Shulchan Aruch (Y.D. 267:5) the matter of acquiring a servant is described. More specifically the Halacha is that a person may not acquire a servant against the man's will.[The same is mentioned in Yivamos (12b)] This law only applies however, when one is acquiring a person who was previously free. If however, they were previously servants then one may acquire then even against there will.

Therefore when the we were in Mitzrayim we were not allowed to say to Hkb"h that we didn't want to be his servants and that He had no right to acquire us against our will because we were not free men! We were slaves to Pharaoh!

This is what the Pasuk means when it said "Ki Li Bnei Yisrael Avadim". Why? "Avadai Heim" Because Hkb"h took us out of Mitzrayim where we were previously slaves!

Keep Talking!

The Imrei Emes from Gur has an alternative explanation as to what Chazal meant when they said, "Lechem Oni - Lechem Sheonim Alav Harbei" (bread that matters are extensively discussed over). The Imrei Emes makes an emphasis on our obligation to discuss matters that relate to Passover.

The pasuk says,"For seven days you shall eat matzos, lechem oni." It can be derived from here that we are supposed to continue our Pesach discussions even after the sedarim are over and continue then through the whole seven days of the holiday.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Zichira Vs. Sippur

The Gri"z, Harav Yitzchak Zev HaLevi Soloveitchik, used to say that every year on the night of the seder, his father, HaRav Chaim HaLevi M'Brisk, used to explain to all of the children of the house the uniqueness of the mitzvah of Sippur Yitzias Mitzrayim in comparison to the mitzvah of Zechiras Yetzias Mitzrayim which one has on every day of the year.

He listed three differences:

A. In order to fulfill the mitzvah of zechira one only has to remember the yetzias mitzrayim whereas the mitzvah of sippur requires one to tell over the story to other people (in the form of questions and answers).

B. During the Zechira which we are required to do during the rest of the year we have to specifically remember yetzias mitzrayim (B'Klal). On Pesach night we have a mitzvah to talk about every detail which occured during the Exodus. "LiHaschil BiGenus U'Misayeim B'Shvach - Starting with our sorry and ending with our exalted state."

C. Zechira is on the Yetzias Mitzrayim itself. In addition to the the mitzvah of Sippur Yetzias Mitzrayim requires for one to explain and understand all of the reason for the mitzvos which we perform on the eve of Pesach.

The Aruch LaNer adds, in Messeches Sukka (28a)it is recorded that "on the night of Pesach it is not enough to take part in zechiras yetzias mitzrayim but that one also has to go a step further and take part in the mitzvah of Sippur Yetzias Mitzrayim. This is accomplished through 'V'Higadita L'Vincha' as well as through the in depth discussion of Pesach, Matzah and Marror.

Why Don't We Make A Bracha on the Mitzvah of Sippur Yetzias Mitzraim?

A question which is often brought up at the seder is, why don't we say a bracha on the mitzvah of sippur yitzias mitzraim?

The Ritva on Messeches Pesachim (7b)adds that the reason the Rabbanan established that one should make a bracha before taking part in a mitzvah is to make it known that the reason we are preforming the mitzvos is because of our belief in the Ribbon Shel Olam. The Rosh while commenting on this Ritva says that there are some mitzvos that do not require a bracha because they, in their essence, serve the same purpose as the Bracha itself.

(Brief Tangent: A similar question is asked when discussing the topic of why there is no Bircas HaMitzvah before Krias Shema. The Avudraham elegantly answers that the entire purpose of a bracha is to be mikabel ol malchus shamayim. There is no reason to do this before taking part in Shema because being mikabel ol malchus shamayim is the who purpose of its mitzvah!)

Another answer to this famous question is offered by HaRav Dovid Oppenheim, Av Beis Din of Prauge. The Gemara in Megilla (18a) says that a person should not participate in praising Hkb"h more than normal. The Marsh"a while commenting on this offers his explanation of the Talmud Megilla by saying that this only applies when it is in the context of a Bracha. (proof: Gemara Brachos 25a - we ask a person who says too many praises of Hkb"h, "Have you said enough?!?!") From this it is implied that if one excessively praises the Ribbono Shel Olam without the context of a bracha then it would be alright.

For this reason we do not say a bracha at the beginning of the Seder. The following discourse may occur at your Seder:

Head of the Seder - "We have a mitzvah to discuss Yitzias Mitzraim

Member of the Seder- "Why don't we precede this mitzvah with a bracha, like my all other mitzvos?"

Head of the Seder - "V'Chol Hamarbe Lisapper B'Yitzias Mitzraim Harei Zeh Mishubach - It is praiseworthy for one to be plentiful in the telling of the Exodus from Egypt." Therefore we cannot say a bracha, fore when we say a bracha we are not allowed to say an excessive amount of praise to Hkb"h. For this reason the Rabbanan never established that there would be a bracha on the mitzvah of sippur yetzias mitzraim. So that we can spend an entire seder singing out praises to the Ribbono Shel Olam for taking us out of Egypt!"

Still Pure

One might think that the order in which we list the first two stages of the Seder should be reversed. The Seder should start with Urchatz so that we can remove our impurities and then we should drink the wine.

Admor Rebbe Avraham From Sokotzov the author of the Avnei Nezer answers that in Yetzias Metzrayim we were redeemed even though we weren’t worthy.

For this same reason we start the seder with the Kadeish and not Urchatz. To show that regardless of the shameful things that we take part in during the year, we are still holy and fit for the redemption.

OUR Holidays and Their Holidays

“Asher Bachar Banu MiKol Am…V’Titein Lanu…BiAhava Moadim LiSimcha Chagim UZmanim LiSason”

“Who Blessed us from all other nations….and gave us…with love the festivals for happiness and holidays to celebrate”

Why is it that specifically during Kiddush and Bircas HaTorah we remember that Hashem chose us from all other nations? Shouldn’t we be doing this for all other mitzvos as well (after all, the other nations weren’t commanded to do the other mitzvos either?!)

HaGaon Rav Avraham Erleinger Shlit”a answers that the other nations of the world also have yomei menucha (rest days). They also have rules and laws that dictate the way that they live. Therefore we say “Ashar Bachar Banu…” to show that there is no connection between our laws and their laws, our days of rest and their days of rest. Our laws come specifically from the fact that we are Hashem’s people. To us the Torah is not just a book of laws; on the contrary it is a living Torah which allows us to live our laws vicariously through it. We don’t have a rest day that we call Shabbos. We have Shabbos that happens to be a day of rest. Our holidays are “Mikra Kodesh” specifically to separate us from the other nations of the world.

What is the reason why is it that we specifically say “Asher Bachar Banu….” On Yom Tov? Because it is on these days more than on any other that we have to proclaim, “Ki Vanu Bacharta ViOtranu Kiddashta MiKol HaAmim UMoadei Kodsheicha, BiSimcha Uvisason Hinchaltanu.”

- From "Bircas Avraham" - On Messeches Pesachim (Kuntris Al HaHaggada)

Friday, April 11, 2008

Parshas Metzora - "When Speaking Is Chirping"

QUICKIE/FUNFACT: *Regarding the Korban tof a wealthy person the Torah says, "The Kohen brings him atonement. (14:20) Regarding the offering of the poor person the Torah states, "To bring him to atonement before G-d." (14:29) Why does the Torah word it so differently, especially with a slight implication that the wealthy person receives complete atonement while the poor person is on his way but not completely there yet?

The Meshech Chochma points to the fact that according to our Sages, Tzaaras comes as a result of haughtiness. The haughtiness of a wealthy person, while wrong, is at least somewhat understandable. The Torah itself describes people becoming wealthy and haughty. (Devarim 8:13-14) However if a person is acting conceited, there is no explanation for this other than bad character. Thus, the Torah indicates that his atonement is not yet complete with the oil being placed on his head.

* From R' Dov Lipman Shlit"a

(14:4) "Then upon the priest's instructions, one bird should be slaughtered (allowing its blood to fall) into an earthenware vessel (containing) spring water."

Commenting on this Pasuk, Rashi describes the messeges behind each of the objects used to purify the person with tzaaras. The birds and the wood are symbolic of the causes of tzaaras; gossip and haughtiness. The crimson wool and the hyssop are metaphoric for the remedy to tzaraas, humility.

Rashi when talking about the birds emphasizes that by the fact that the Torah says that the birds must be "tahor" it means that they must be kosher birds. It seems rather odd however that Rashi decided to tell us this. Isn't there a Kal VaChomer (one of R'Yishmael's 13 characters of learning) that can be applied here. If we can't eat non-kosher animals than it takes a tremendous amount of chutzpa to offer a non-kosher animal to Hashem. There must be a different reason as to why the Torah says that a person must bring a "tahor" bird. That reason is "because lesions of tzaraas come as a result of gossip, which is done by chattering. Therefore this person is required to bring birds for his ritual purification, which twitter constantly with chirping sounds."

The Torah therefore uses the terms, "live" and "pure" to tell us about two aspects of gossip that bring tzaraas.

a.) The content of the gossip. Gossip is impure speech which maligns another person. Therefore, to remove tzaraas, a pure kosher species of bird must be brought, hinting that the person's speech from now on must be totally pure.

b.) The manner of the gossip. In addition to the content of the gossip, the manner in which gossip is carried out is also sinful. For a person tends to gossip incessantly, with energy and enthusiasm.

For this reason, the only sacrafice that could be brought to purify and cure the gossipmonger is a bird that is not treife, i.e a bird which is not terminally ill and thus lacking energy. This hints to the person that his sin was not only that of gossip, but furthermore, that of "twittering constantly." And furthermore, his gossip was with energy and enthusiasm - "with chirping sounds."

*From the Toras Menachem in the Gutnick Chumash.


Thursday, April 10, 2008

Bridge the Gap

*Courtesy of

Sometimes we tend to ostracize the people closest to us, because of simple differences. We neglect the reality of the situation: we have more in common than we think...Thousands of years together and a shared goal.

The next time that you see one of your brethren on the street. Say hello or smile.

Bridge the gap

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Rabbi Jacob J. Schacter On A Major Element Of The Seder

In the last sugya (topic of discussion) in the fifth perek of Gemara Pesachim it is mentioned that there was a unique manner in which people used to carry home the Korban Pesach from the Beis Hamikdash. They used to take the Korban, wrap it up in the hide of the animal and then sling the hide over their shoulders. Rashi comments in the Gemara that this was specifically reminiscent of the way that the Yishmaelim (Arabs) used to travel.

Rav Shlomo Kluger asks a fascinating question in his commentary, Yirios Dvash, which can be seen in Rav Yaakov Emdens siddur. Why does Rashi feel the need to mention that this was the way the the Yishmaelim used to travel? Is that really something noteworthy?

Rav Kluger answers that when we come to our Seder we spend much time discussing our traumatizing experiences in Egypt and our feelings of jubilation as we left Egypt, but we spend no time talking about how we got to Egypt (the Yosef story!). When Bnei Yisrael brought the Korban Pesach home, they were showing their families, that before one begins a recollection of history they first have to recognize, how it all began.

The question now rises, how do we give over this message at our Sedarim today (we no longer bring the Korban Pesach)? The answer starts with KARPAS. Rashi in Parshas VaYeishev says that Yosef's Kitones Pasim (the coat of many colors [dreamcoat]) was made out of KARPAS U'TICHEILES (some sort of fabric). Therefore today we specifically start off the seder with KARPAS to show that chronologically all journey down to Egypt all started with Yosef.

We need not only analyze the Karpas to reach Yosef, one can also examine the four cups of wine . It is often recorded that the four cups are a direct correlation to the four different types of redemption (Hotzeiti,Hitzalti,Goalti, and Lokachti). The Medrish as well as the Gemara Yerushalmi however answer differently. The reason for why we drink four cups is because of the four times the word "kos [cup]" is mentioned in the story with Yosef and Pharaoh.

Rabbi Jacob J. Schacter Shlit"a however, notes a different understanding of the message that we should take from Yosef and the 4 cups. We should recognize from the story of Yosef, the real story of redemption. Yosef lived a life of many ups and downs. He started off on top in his fathers house. He was then sold to Arab peddlers. He lived in Potifars house. He was thrown in jail. Only after years of uncertainty did he, with the help of Hashem, take the stead of the viceroyship.

The story of Yosef is not linear like the four geulas (Hotzeiti,Hitzalti,Goalti, and Lokachti) but it shows us, Klal Yisrael, that our redemption is a process. A complicated and painful process that requires time and belief. For this reason, we vicariously bring Yosef to our Seder table through the Karpas, the four cups, and the Korban Pesach.

We, as Jews, have experienced an interesting history. One of suffering and triumph. The Passover story reminds us that the road to salvation is jarring. It requires patience and belief. Only through them, with we experience the Geula

*As heard at a Shiur given in the Yeshiva University Beis Medrish by Rabbi Jacob J. Schacter Shlit"a 4/9/08

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

CAUGHT MY EYE: "Geirim/Converts Are Often More Meticulous In Mitzvos"

As I was perusing through my blog roll, a post that was written by R' Micha Golshevsky, relating to Geirim and misiras nefesh caught my eye.

Hat tip: DixieYid

Monday, April 7, 2008


Within the context of the Bircas Hamazon (blessing after meals) there seems to be confusion as to the proper appropriation of the word "Amen" after the Bracha of "Uvinei Yirushalayim."

In O.C. Siman 188 S' 1 the S'A says that after finishing the bracha of Uvinei Yerushalayim one should answer Amen (after his/her own bracha) because it is the end of the sequence of brachos which are Deoraisa (Commanded from the Torah). This Amen should be said quietly, in order that passer byers should give the same amount of respect to the next bracha (hatov vihmeitiv) as they did to the uvinei yirushalayim.

The Sefer Piskei Teshuvos ascertains that the aforementioned law only applies to Sfardim and that Ashkenazim are encouraged to say Amen with a normal tone [1][2].

The Mishna Brura adds on this topic that one should not say "Bonei Birachamav Yirushalayim, Amen" in one breath. Rather he or she should wait a little bit after saying the word Yerushalayim and then follow it with the word Amen. The reason for this is to separate the Amen from the Bracha. However one should be sure[3] not so pause for more than the shiur of Toch Kidei Dibbur (the amount of time that it takes a person say, "Shalom Alecha, Rebbe U'morei").

1. There are Ashkenazic Poskim who support the psak of the S'A as seen in the Shulchan HaTahor S' 2, in the Orach HaShulchan S'3.
2. Ba"Ch [Sham]
3. PM"G 48 S"K 1 - others who are listening along may answer Amen immediately.

Sunday, April 6, 2008


Click here to see an unbelievable movie clip that brings Yetzias Metzrayim to life.

* Sent to me by R' Dov Lipman Shlit"a

Friday, April 4, 2008

Parshas Tazria - "The Beauty At The Bottom Of The Barrel"

QUICKIE/FUNFACT: The Torah describes the three kinds of Tzaraas as SEIS, SAPACHAS, AND BAHERES. (13:2) How do these words relate to this spiritual disease?

Rav Moshe Sternbuch Shlit"a teaches that these words allude to three types of people who speak lashon hara, the sin which leads to tzaraas. SEIS is related to the Hebrew word for UPLIFT. This refers to people who put down others in order to increase their own importance and lift themselves up. SAPACHAS is related to the Hebrew word for ATTACH. This refers to people who speak lashon hara, not as part of their nature but simply as a result of attaching themselves to the wrong people who do speak this way. BAHERES is related to the Hebrew word for "clear." This refers to people who think they have complete clarity and know everything. This gives them the right to speak about others and their flaws. Regardless of the reason for the person speaking lashon hara, it still makes the speaker impure.*

* From R' Dov Lipman Shlit"a

There is a novelty in Halacha that is recognized in this week's Parsha when discussing the topic of the Metzorah (loosely translated as a leper, I believe that it has been proven that this is not the proper translation anymore). The Torah states that after a Metzorah has been afflicted with Tzaraas on every inch of his/her body, instead of being considered tainted, they are considered to be entirely pure! This seems to be nothing short of a phenomenon that only makes sense within the context of Judaism. How can something so tainted really be pure?!

While discussing this topic Rav Shimon Schwab Zt"l says in his Sefer Me'in Beis HaShoeva, that Tumah does not have a life of its own, it 'survives' off of purity. If there is no purity to feed off of the impurity can no longer live. In this manner the person whose body has been totally taken over by the tzaraas is considered to be pure. Throughout the time that his/her affliction was growing it could only survive because of its ability to continue in growth. At the point when it has used up all of its potential and it can no longer grow, the person is pure.

It is also said, in the (Gemara Sanhedrin 97a) "R' Yitzchak says, 'The Messiah will come only when the entire kingdom has switched to heretics'. We can properly explain the Gemara in Sanhedrin that speaks about the kingdom full of heretics bringing the Messiah. If the town has any signs of good, there is still room for negative influence, thus stunting the growth of anything positive. On the opposite side of the coin, if the town is full of heretics there is no more room for evil to grow thus sparking the beginning of the Geula.

This same idea was realized during the time of the Meraglim. (Bamidbar 13:27) Before the spies said anything negative about the land of Israel they introduced their observations with an inkling of truth about the land. With this they were believed by the people. Without this inkling of truth they had no credibility.

It sometimes seems that we have reached the bottom of the barrel and that we can no longer go any deeper in sin. We feel that we are forever abandoned by our creator. It is at this point however, when we are most susceptible to do Teshuva and to be the purest that we have ever been.*

*Imrei Baruch by R' Baruch Simon Shlit"a


Thursday, April 3, 2008

The Greater Picture

It happens that sometimes we look at some of our friends who have been more successful than we have and we wonder, "how is it possible that they have attained so much, while I have attained so little?"

Rabbeinu Bachayei says in Chovevos HaLevavos that at this point one should introspect and come to the realization that just as I wish to serve the Ribbono Shel Olam so does my dear friend.

When it comes to situations like these we should realize that as we suffer though trials and tribulations, we are part of a greater nation that G-d loves.

In and Out of Your Mouth

By: R' Dovid Schechter Shlit"a

Why is the parsha of 'negaim' right after the parsha of 'ma'achalos asuros' (the end of Parshas Shmini which deals with kosher and non kosher species)?

The Baalei Musar explain that this is to teach us that it isn't enough to be careful with what goes into our mouth, that it should be kosher but also with what comes out of our mouths it should clean and kosher.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

New Blog! - Know The Words

It has happened far too often, that I have danced at weddings, bar mitzvahs, and other celebrations and have found myself not knowing the words of the song that is being played by the band. Nevertheless, in the spirit of the simcha, I continue dancing and muttering random sounds that seem to somewhat flow well with music.

After discussing the matter with a few of my friends they too have confessed that they often find themselves in this same situation.

My good friend CR has answered our silent outcry and has set out on a mission to correct this problem. He has constructed a blog that methodically goes song by song, writing out the words of the songs and their translations. He then follows with a beautiful anecdote that explains and adds meaning to the words of each song.

I very much encourage that everyone check out his blog. Not only will it enrich your simcha but it will also bring more meaning to the songs (

Kol HaKavod CR! And I anxiously await your every post.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Washing With Rings

The following is a piece of Torah that is Halacha Limaaseh for most woman and many men...

Q: Are men or women required to remove their rings before washing their hands for the morning netilas yadayim (negel vasser)?

A: L'chatchila, (O.C. 4:7) all the rules that govern netilas yadayim for a meal apply to the morning netilas yadayim as well. Just as a chatzitza (halachic obstruction) invalidates netilas yadayim for a meal, so, too, it invalidates negel vasser, l'chatchila. Generally, a ring is considered a chatzitzah since the water cannot easily touch all parts of the finger when a ring is on the finger. Even though a loose-fitting ring does allow the water to reach all parts of the finger, the poskim maintain that it is difficult to assess what, exactly, is considered loose and what is considered tight(Igros Chazon Ish 1:4). All rings, therefore, should be removed before washing negel vasser. But b'diavad, a chatzitzah does not invalidate the morning netilas yadayim and a woman (or man) who forgot or failed to remove her rings need not repeat the washing(Eishel Avraham, O.C. 4). Moreover, if a person has a hard time removing the ring from his finger, he may leave it on when washing netilas yadayim in the morning.

A ring is considered a chatzitzah only for men or women who sometimes, even on rare occasions, remove it from their finger. The occasional removal signifies that the person is sometimes particular about having the ring on his/her finger, rendering it a chatzitzah. But men or women who never take their rings off, even when kneading dough, swimming, or performing manual labor, may l'chatchila wash their hands while wearing a ring (MB 161:19 and Aruch HaShulchan 161:6 - a woman who removes her ring only when immersing in a mikvah may still wash with a ring on her finger).

* Taken from R' Neustadt's Diyunei Halacha - The Daily Halachic Discussion
**Please consult your Local Rabbi on the matter before coming to any Halachic Decisions

You are Sorely Missed!

You are Sorely Missed!