One of the old time questions that one has to scratch his head and ask, why did Pharaoh, after getting beat up with all the plagues, choose to reconsider and chase after the Jews. If that’s not the ultimate HELLO!! Then try this – he sees the sea split! Yes, that’s right; G-d accommodates the Israelites big time and rolls out the red carpet in the middle of the sea for them to pass. Now, if I’m not Jewish and I see those events before my eyes, I would call up, or look up on the internet the nearest mohel, because I’m sold. Nevertheless, Pharaoh, with all his force, with all his firepower, pursues the Jews and still thinks he can beat them; go figure.
If we look at the events more carefully, we’ll be able to see the measure for measure, which G-d dictates on this world. Although sometimes G-d’s measure for measure requires more then one lifetime, but that’s for a different discussion.
In essence, the message to Pharaoh “you threw and killed Jewish babies at sea, I’ll kill you (the Egyptians) at sea!” We know the reason why Pharaoh was motivated to instruct his soldiers to do such a monstrous act because of his horoscope advisors who warned him of a threat. An Israelite born at a certain juncture in time will have the power to destroy you, and his demise will be from water. Therefore, Pharaoh chose the method of destruction for the Jewish babies, who were born at a certain time, through the Nile River, water. After the death of the first born, the last plague, Pharaoh was ready to finally give up on the Jews. However, when his sources informed him that the Israelites were in course, en route towards the sea, he figured the horoscope was coming into fruition. This is where Moshe, the Jewish leader, was destined to die and he, Pharaoh, will have the glorious task to finish him off at sea. The horoscope, however, was correct though, but Pharaoh’s calculation of time was premature, indeed; Moshe’s demise was water. When G-d told him to speak to the rock and Moshe, instead, hit it and water came out. For this reason, he was punished by not entering the Promised Land, Israel.
Archive for January 2015
This article was constructed with the help of either writings, lectures or shiurim of Rabbi’s Akiva Grunblatt, Baruch Dopelt, Yossi Bilus, Yitzchak Aminov, Dr. Abba Goldman
Regret was eating him up as his critics approached Pharaoh with disapproval, snickering gestures and complained “How can you let the Jews go?” Human nature is such that that it allows peer pressure to seep through the armor of logic. Although, it was just yesterday that the Egyptians were removing frogs out of their soup. It seems like one tends to forget these minor annoyances. When it was known, a little while later, that the Israelites are heading toward the sea and appear lost, all eyes turned to Pharaoh. “Nu? What’s now?” as the generals relishing an opportunity.
There are two interesting questions pertaining to the Jews leaving Egypt. Firstly, one would think that when leaving Egypt, the Parsha would start off with trumpet-like-fiesta introduction. After all, it’s been two hundred and ten years under slavery and now the Jews are free; free to serve G-d, free to keep Shabbat, free to do all the mitzvot, free to have nice kiddushes on Shabbat!! Instead the Parsha begins with the word VAYEHI, which connotes negativity. WHY ARE WE NEGATIVE? WE JUST LEFT SLAVERY!!!
The second question is, if one notices, in all our prayers we say ZECHER YITZIAT MITZRAYIM – “remembrance of the exodus out of Egypt”. However, that translation is not correct. It should say YETZIAT MEMITZRAYIM – “going out from Egypt. Why do we say YETZIAT MITZRAYIM?
The answer is that Pharaoh was a wicked man and Egypt was the most impure country in the history of the world. In fact, the Rambam, Maimonides, who lived in Egypt, mentions in his Introduction to his books that “I am sinning every moment that I’m residing here”. Pharaoh purposely escorted the Israelites out of Egypt. In the process, he put a seal of the impurity that was the essence of the evil empire. That’s the reason why it starts off with the word Vayehi – bad. The impurity, the negative energy, continued into the nation of Israel. Most of the Jews who left Egypt died in the desert. It was only the next generation that entered the Promised Land.
When we say YETZIAT MITZRAYIM, that means that Egypt should go out of you, the impurity shall depart. We should be free and clear of the impurities of that evil empire and we shall be the pure souls that will achieve greatness as the chosen Jewish people.
If one is sensitive and smart enough, he will realize that man is here on earth for a very brief time and is given opportunities to accomplish his mission. While he’s working on fulfilling his goals, he is provided with nourishment to sustain himself. The sustenance which G-d provides should be appreciated. We show appreciation by saying brachot before and after we eat. Food is the fuel that keeps us going. As a matter of fact, perhaps the appreciation we demonstrate for the food might be part of man’s mission.
The Sages enacted Bircat Hamazon-Grace after Meals, so that we can thank G-d for that pastrami sandwich. It says in the Torah “VE-ACHALTA VE-SAVATA UBERACHTA” – “one eats then he’s satiated then he blesses”. This is the main biblical source for the grace after meals.
Looking carefully at Bircat Hamazon, one realizes that we mention how G-d took us out of Egypt. The exodus was a miracle and it showed His mighty hand. However, what is the purpose of mentioning this in Bircat Hamazon? Yes, I quenched my desire and am now able to perform the duties which HE placed on me, but what does the exodus from Egypt have to do with thanking HIM for my meal? What does my pastrami sandwich have to do with the price of tea in china?
In order to understand, we have to learn a fundamental Jewish concept. There are four types of life in the world. The lowest level is an inanimate object, called DOMEM. DOMEM consists of rocks, earth, a table etc. Next level up is TZOMEACH which is vegetation, for example, flowers. A step higher is CHAI which consists of animals. The highest level is us, Humans, we are called MEDABER. The literal translation means to speak.
Let’s examine the main biblical source of Bircat Hamazon. It is important to understand what the root of the word ACHILA- to eat, is. ACHILA could come from two roots, let us explore both.
One meaning is to break down, to devour. The root word in Hebrew is KILAYON. For instance, an animal tears apart its prey.
Another root that ACHILA can be derived from is the word KALAH, which means complete, perfect.
The Sages found two roots of the word ACHILA-to eat. We see with our own eyes how both roots of ACHILA are correct and it depends on us as to how we utilize and “label” it.
Let’s take soil, which is the inanimate object of DOMEM, and plant seeds in it. Within a short period of time after planting the seeds, plants and vegetation will grow. This is called TZOMEACH. The animals, CHAI, then proceed to eat the vegetation. Man, MEDABER, then captures the animal, slaughters it, and then consumes it. Now man has nourishment to complete his mission in life and be perfect. This is what ACHILA is intended for, to reach perfection.
We can also use the other definition and eat like an animal by tearing apart the food for pleasure only without reaching any goal and without reaching perfection. Clearly, the choice and power is ours.
G-d kept on telling Moshe to tell Pharaoh, “let my people go so that they shall serve me”. Hashem was demanding, “Let them go so that they can be complete in their mission”. This is the only reason why the Jews were let go, to achieve perfection.
The essence of BIRKAT HAMAZON is chiefly to bless and appreciate G-d for what he gave us. The only way to bless Him is to have our freedom. For this reason G-d took us out of Egypt. Secondly, and equally as important, to fuel us so that we can complete our mission in life and truly attain perfection
This article was constructed with the help of either writings, lectures or shiurim of Rabbi’s Pinchas Winston Yossi Bilus and Paysach Krohn
In 2011, a group in San Francisco opposed to male circumcision has collected enough signatures to put the issue to a vote in the November elections; violators would be subject to a year in jail and a $1,000 fine. In Europe, “human rights” groups have mounted a grass roots campaign opposing circumcision, comparing it to the brutal mutilation of African women. The Netherlands Institute of Human Rights wants to outlaw Brit Milah.
WHY AVRAHAM AND WHY THE FORE SKIN?
The first man, Adam, was created circumcised, as it says, “God created man in His image …” (Bereishis 2:5). Avot d’Rav Nossat 2:5
Rav Yitzchak said, [Adam] caused his foreskin to be extended [and cover his circumcision]. Sanhedrin 38b
Adam made a mistake with the growth of the Orlah (foreskin).. For, whether we are talking about “Orlat HaLeiv” (uncircumcised heart), “Orel S’fataim “(uncircumcised lips), or “Orlah” from a tree (fruits of the third year), the word Orlah always implies a spiritual “barrier” between man and G-d which has to be removed.
When Adam ate from the tree, he plunged mankind into the world of nature. By depending upon the physical world to develop himself and his relationship to God, he in fact created a barrier between himself and God. He hardened his heart (Orlas HaLeiv), he reduced his G-dly power of speech (Orel S’fataim), he made the tree a barrier (Orlah), and abused his creative potential (symbolized by the Orlah removed by Bris Milah).
Avraham was well known for his trait of kindness. The Zohar says the “giving” trait found in cheesed-kindness, if taken to an extreme, would inevitably cause one to succumb to illicit relations. Anyone with that super kindness trait is susceptible. As of matter of fact, Yishmael, Avrahams other son, inherited that trait from his father but was not able to control it.
The Sages say Avraham was shalom (perfect/full/complete.) He perfected all his traits except this one. As one naturally realizes, concentration can be most difficult. By commanding Avraham to perform Brit Milah it now made him perfect. Limitation was set on this organ. There is a certain segula, or spiritual merit, found with the ceremony of brit milan, where one’s understanding of Jewish wisdom is increased. Everytime Avraham looked at his circumcision he would realize the limitation on the trait of chessed. It was not only a sign, a covenant with G-d, but a deterent. This courageous act led to having his one true heir, Yitzchak.
When Avraham melodramatically expressed his complete dependence on God for his physical sustenance, he demonstrated his unwavering commitment to live above nature. As a consequence, he was provided with the means to remove all the Orlot Adam’s mistake had brought to mankind. This is the Brit Milah which is performed on the eighth day (eight always symbolizes the spiritual, supernatural realm, as we see through Chanukah as well).
The Mystics say by having the brit and its ceremony spiritual energies are infused into the boy. These are the tools necessary to be able to comprehend the Torah in a different realm..There are also thirteen times, in parsha Lech Lecha where G-d mentions his covenant with Avraham. This is to offset the thirteen attributes of G-d. The Thirteen attributes of G-d is mentioned on Yom Kippur and is a focal point in our quest for forgiveness. It can only be applied if the Jew is circumcised. Rabbi Pesach Krohn teaches us with the infused energy that the boy gets at the brit comes a name. A name defines the task that this boy will do in life. This is the reason Avraham’s name was changed the day he was circumcised.
Korban Pesach is a Biblical commandment of the highest order, with the command repeated and amplified to us in three different places: Exodus 12, 3-12, Numbers 9, 1-13 and Deuteronomy 16.
Just as circumcision, the first commandment imposed on an individual Jew, our forefather Abraham brought us into the covenant as individuals, the commandment of Korban Pesach, the first commandment imposed on the Jewish People as a collective–obligating men, women and even children–brings us into the covenant as a People.
As I was becoming more interested in learning Torah and exploring the ‘black-hat’ American Orthodox world, I discovered something very interesting. At a friend’s ultra-Orthodox wedding, I overheard someone of importance showing concern at the ‘laibidig’ fast-beat music that was being played. I remember saying to myself, “Man, get real. This is right-wing Jewish music. What’s your problem?” There are no women singers or naughty lyrics; it’s harmless. After doing some inquiries about the subject, curious that I am, I discovered the Rabbis (unofficially) are not in favor of fast-paced music; it makes the individual lightheaded. Although they will not implement any action against the fast-paced music, however, their disapproval is weighed heavily.
I felt that the Orthodox religious authorities were making a big deal out of this and are stifling the ability for the youngsters to let out some steam on the dance floor. Hey! I want to be religious and have a good time as well. Then a number of years later, I read an article in the New York Times about a new fast-beat music called trance, where there was concern on the behavior of the listeners. The rhythm and beat of trance is faster than Rock-n-Roll and R&B; the BPM reaches 140 as compared to Rock’s 120.The article showed reports of people caught speeding because of listening to the faster paced computer-generated music; it seems like it’s harder to produce that kind of speed with the conventional instruments. The response of the offenders was, “I just got carried away with the music and didn’t realize the speed”. Reports show a change of brainwave activities.
The Jewish Rabbinical authorities were concerned about the light- headedness that some music can cause. There is an argument among the Rabbis over the last 500 years when listening to music. Although they say it’s therapeutic, however, it has to be listened to at appropriate times. Judaism emphatically believes that the intellect should always be in control of emotions. Perhaps there should be some regulations or at least awareness of the affects of music.
In criminal law, entrapment is when a law enforcement agent induces a person to commit an offense that the person would have otherwise been unlikely to commit.
1) Moshe does not strike the Nile river with his staff to bring on the first plague of blood, but designates his brother Aharon to do so. The basket with baby Moshe was placed in the Nile. The waters helped conceal the newborn preventing the Egyptian monsters from killing him.
2) The pattern continues; Moshe does not hit the ground initiating the plague of Keenim-gnats (3rd) because the ground helped him conceal the Egyptian guard that he killed protecting a fellow Jew. Again, his brother Aharon hit the ground instead.
Even though the Mitzrim enslaved us, our ancestors, we can’t shun their offspring totally because they housed us during famine. Even more so, for an amazing host like America that not only takes care of our physical needs but also enables our religious institutions, making it easier to practice and enhance our Torah education.
What is the significance of Amon and Moav? The Torah says if an individual comes from Amon and Moav, and wants to convert, we are forbidden to take him in. The reason for this is when the Jews were in the dessert Amon and Moav did not allow them to pass through or even give them any food. A tremendous flaw in common decency considering our ancestor and forefather Avraham raised, housed, protected and even put his life on the line for their ancestor Lot. Where is the appreciation?
Perhaps one can put things in perspective with a very significant symbolic occurrence in last week’s parsha pertaining to the burning bush. If one reads the pasuk carefully one realizes the bush was not in the midst of the fire. (Shemot 3:2) The fire appeared within the bush. Moshe saw the fire within the bush. We also see in the last parsha of the Torah, VEZOT HABRACHA, where Yosef’s blessing is referring to this very incident of Moshe’s first encounter with G-d and the bush.
There is a incredible explanation from Rabbi Oelbaum pertaining to the burning bush phenomena which can be understood better with a famous story. The Romans were afraid to enter the Kodesh HaKokoshim – the holy of holies – after conquering our holy Temple. So they said “Whoever will volunteer to enter can take whatever he wants for himself.” The rebellious Jew Yosef Mishteh said defiantly “I will”. He proceeded to take out the beautiful golden menorah only to be taken away by the Romans. “This is to beautiful for a Jewish commoner. This should be given to the Emperor instead. We’ll let you go in again and take out whatever you want. However this time he refused. I will not desecrate my G-d a second time ” he said. Even after they threatened death he still refused. They executed him. The question the Sages asked what transpired within the period of time between the first time he went in and the second? Why the sudden change of heart? Why did he now care about his creator when before he didn’t?
The burning bush, which is the first thing G-d introduced to Moshe, represents that each Jew has a fire within him that is waiting to come out. Yosef was blessed for the fact that he maintained that fire throughout his lonely diaspora. Fire begets fire; when Yosef Mishteh walked into the Kodesh hakadoshim he was enamored by the majestic holiness of the place. That brought out the fire within him. It’s a fire we all have and protects us from the emotional aspect that connects us to the seductive diaspora.
A United States Marine was taking some college courses between assignments. He had recently completed missions in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The lecture room fell silent. You could hear a pin drop.
Ten minutes went by and the professor proclaimed, “Here I am God. I’m still waiting.”
It got down to the last couple of minutes when the Marine got out of his chair, went up to the professor, and cold-cocked him, knocking him off the platform. The professor was out cold.
The Marine went back to his seat and sat there silently. The other students were shocked, stunned, and sat there looking on in silence.
The professor eventually came to, noticeably shaken, looked at the Marine and asked, “What is the matter with you? Why did you do that?”
The Marine calmly replied, “God was too busy today protecting American soldiers who are protecting your right to say stupid stuff and act like an idiot. So, He sent me”.
This article was constructed with the help of either writings, lectures or shiurim of Rabbi’s Noach Isaac Oelbaum, Baruch Dopelt, Yossi Bilus,Yissachar Frand, Yaakov Menken Dr. Abba Goldman.