Archive for March 2015

Simply Thank You

Simply Thank You


We can learn a very interesting deep meaning of thank you from the seder night. There are different levels of appreciation. Ever wonder why prayer of Hallel is smack in the middle of the seder?

Lets examine one of our important prayers which is recited a number times daily. For all blessings in the Shmoneh Esrei we can have an agent. For ‘Heal Us’, for ‘Bless Us with a Good Year’, and so forth we can have a messenger — the Shliach Tzibbur-Chazzan can say the blessing for us. However, there is one thing that no else one can say for us. We must say it for ourselves. That one thing is “Thank You”. Hoda’ah has to come from ourselves. No one can be our agent to say ‘Thank You’.

 “Todah” (thanks) comes from the word “Hoda’ah”, meaning giving thanks. However, the word “Hoda’ah” also means to admit (as in the expression Hoda’as ba’al din k’meah edim dami).

Rabbi Yissachar Frand says that it is no coincidence that the word for thanking and the word for admitting are one and the same. In order for a person to give thanks, he has to be able to admit that he needed help. The first step in being grateful to someone for doing something for you is the admission that you needed help and that you are not all powerful. Therefore the Hebrew word for thanks and for admission are the same.

How do we know whether the word “Hoda’ah” means admission or thanks? Rabbi Yissachar Frand says that we need to look at the preposition that comes after the word. The word “Hoda’ah” — meaning admission — is always followed by the Hebrew preposition ‘”sheh…” (that). The word “Hoda’ah” — meaning thanks — is always followed by the Hebrew word “al …” (for).

In davening [prayers] we have a Blessing of Modim, called the Blessing of “Hoda’ah”. How does it read? “Modim anachnu lach sheh…” This indicates, that the first thing we have to do is not thank G-d, but admit to G-d that we are dependent on Him. Once we come to that understanding, then we can come to the end of the blessing where we say “Nodeh lecha… …al…” — We thank You for… Birkas HaHoda’ah is thus a two-stage blessing. It is a Hoda’ah of admission at the beginning which climaxes with a Hoda’ah of thanking at the end.

When the words of thanks finish, though, and we want to appreciate more, our thanks automatically is elevated to song. Singing is the language of the heart. For this reason we instill Hallel smack in the middle of the Seder. Hallel is a lofty level of appreciation and is often sung on holidays. When it comes to singing, if its sincere from the heart, the two definitions of hoda’ah is automatically combined.

We thank G-d for freedom; we thank him for taking us out of Egypt and making us his ambassadors. Living in a country that advocates freedom we sometimes take it for granted that we are free. Sometimes we have to appreciate that which we have. The seder night is tailored for us to say thank you in a special way


Question: Why do we hide the second piece of Matzah that we break? If the goal of our breaking the Matzah was merely to pique the curiosity of the children etc., wouldn’t breaking the Matzah and leaving both pieces untouched on the table until later be enough of a diversion from our normal course to accomplish the same goal?

Answer: The Vilna Gaon (a.k.a. the G”ra), gives a reason why we hide the piece of Matzo that will be used for the Afikoman and remove it from the table until after the meal. He says that the reason is very similar to the one given for why we cover the Challah when we say Kiddush, that being to prevent the “embarasment” of the Challah which is being passed over in favor of the wine. {Normally, bread is considered the most distinguished food, and the blessing on it comes before anything else. On Shabbat, we need to make Kiddush over wine before we begin the meal. Therefore, we cover the Challah bread, so it will not be “ashamed” that a blessing is being made on another food before it.} Similarly, when we later make the Brachot on different pieces of Matzah, we cover and remove the Afikoman from the table, to prevent it from embarrassment as it is being looked over, as it is not eaten until after the meal.

A very important hidden message in the seder

This article was constructed with the help of either writings, lectures or shiurim of  Rabbi’s,Yisschar Frand, Yehuda Prero, Berel Wein, Yossi bilus,

  Many of us wait, in anticipation all year round to sit at the Seder table. The once a year fancy silverware and china, the prop games for the children are all part and parcel of an action pact, amazing evening. Interestingly, one of the first things we do when we participate at the Seder is proclaim our freedom (Ha lachmah anya). In a poignant moment each individual, dressed in their formal attire, holds the 3 matzos (the middle broken,The piece that remains on the Seder Plate is the “poor man’s bread” over which the tale of our slavery is said. Poor people only eat a small part of their bread — they need to save the rest in case tomorrow there is none. ) placed in a white special made covering with the letters of matzos embroidered on it, and recites, as it is passed around the table, a declaration. “This year we are here, next year (May we be) in the Land of Israel. This year we are slaves, next year (May we be) free!”  The proclamation, by each person attending, if one is made aware of the important meaning of the words, enables them to “feel” being free. A special gift given by G-d!   It also forces the individuals attending to be a part of the evening Seder. It’s funny, some have a phobia to speak in front of large gatherings, shy away and reluctantly refuse the invitation to say the Ha-lachma’anya.  The slightly more bold ones recite the proclamation with a trembling low voice. However, some seem to cherish the spotlight and are unwilling to let go of the matzos so quickly. One sees all the personalities emerge in a night where everyone is scripted into the evening program.

 The Seder, though, is never perfect like the ideal Pesach Seder.  What is a proper Pesach?  THE Seder should include the Pesach and Festival offerings. But “this year” it is not that way.

 If we examine the Haggadah more closely, we discover that the Seder also ends with this same theme. “L’shana haba b’Yerushalayim – Next year in Jerusalem.” The reason why our Pesach Seder will not include a Pesach offering this year is because the Beis HaMikdash [Temple] was destroyed. Our Sages teach us that the Second Temple was destroyed because of ‘Baseless Hatred’ (Sinat Chinam). We are taught that the Bet HaMikdash will not be rebuilt until we somehow correct the defect of baseless hatred toward each other. If that is the case, why are we not prompted somewhere during the Pesach Seder to address this sin? If the Seder in fact includes the request that next year we should be in the Land of Israel and in Jerusalem, why are we not told exactly how to take corrective action to make that happen? We should be explicitly taught to remedy our behavior of Baseless Hatred at the Seder!!


   Rabbi Yissachar Frand quotes the Ben Ish Chai (Yosef Chaim (1 September 1835 – 30 August 1909) authority on Jewish law and master kabalist) states that indeed there is such a notion in the Hagaddah. He says that this is alluded to by the question which we (for the most part, children) recite at the MA NISHTANA- “Why is it that on all other nights we do not even dip once, and on this night we dip twice?” The Ben Ish Chai suggests that the first dipping on the night of the Seder-KARPAS (into the salt water) reminds us of the first place that “dipping” is mentioned in Jewish History: “And they dipped (Yosef’s) coat into blood” [Bereshis 37:31]. This is the prototype of the sin of Baseless Hatred, which has plagued us throughout the generations and started the spiral down leading to slavery. The second dipping at the Seder (into the Charoset) corresponds to a second dipping that we find mentioned in the Chumash: “And you shall take the bundle of hyssop and dip it into the blood” [Shmot 12:22]. Hyssop is an herb in the mint family with cleansing, medicinal, and flavoring properties, was prolific in the Middle East and was used in a variety of ways. This pasuk [verse] refers to the dipping into the blood of the Pesach offering. That dipping was the first step of painting the door posts and lintels of their homes with the sign of blood — in order to save them from the Plague of the First Born on the night of their deliverance from Egypt. It is no coincidence, says the Ben Ish Chai, that the Torah uses the language of Agudah [bundle (of hyssop)] regarding the second dipping. The word Agudah comes from the root word Igud, which means Unity. Thus, the dipping of unity, which took place at the end of the Jewish Nation’s stay in Egypt, was a remedy for the dipping of Baseless Hatred, which had triggered their descent into Egypt. Perhaps, for this reason, it is why the Sephardic and Central Asian custom is to have the second dipping in the sweet Charoset.  This concept symbolizes that we too will emerge from our current exile — which was also triggered by Baseless Hatred — with unity and harmony amongst ourselves.

 “French police officers stand guard outside the Hyper Cacher kosher supermarket near Porte de Vincennes”


 Anti-Semitism is real!!! It existed then and it exists now. The make-up, attitudes, outlooks of our entire family changed because the Anti-Semitic Bolsheviks threw my grandfather out of a moving train for the one and only reason that he was Jewish. Every family has to deal with their share of this particular grief.  Rabbi Frand mentions that Rav Elchanan Wasserman (1874 – July 6, 1941) was a prominent rabbi and rosh yeshiva in pre-World War II Europe. He was one of the Chofetz Chaim‘s closest disciples and a noted Torah scholar) expressed amazement that of all the slanders that the anti-Semites have used against the Jews over the centuries, one of the most recurrent lies has been the ‘Blood Libel’. This is a claim that is not only patently false, but that makes absolutely no sense as well.

The last thing a Jew would ever eat is blood. The Torah has numerous prohibitions distancing a Jew from blood or anything that is mixed with blood. How could it be that we have always been accused of this specific charge?
Rav Elchanan Wasserman suggests that this is a Divine punishment that corresponds to the sin of “they dipped (Yosef’s) coat into blood”. When the brothers dipped Yosef’s coat into blood, that act did something to the system of Heavenly Justice which caused Jews in future generations to be susceptible to the slanderous libel that as if we bake our Matzahs with the blood of Gentile children, G-d forbid.
Unfortunately, Pesach has many reminders of Baseless Hatred. Rav Mattisyahu Solomon points out the irony that the Blood Libel always emerged before Pesach. (The libel claimed that as if the Matzahs were baked with blood; as if the 4 cups of wine actually contained blood, G-d forbid, etc.) Why specifically Pesach? Why did they not say that we dip our Lulavim (palm branches, used on Sukkot) in blood?
The answer is because Pesach is the Festival of Redemption. It is the holiday of “In Nissan they were redeemed and in Nissan they are destined to be redeemed” [Rosh Hashanna 11a]. As long as we have not rectified the original sin that led to the slavery — Yosef’s brothers – Baseless Hatred, which caused them to dip his coat in blood, the blood libel rears its ugly head around the time of Pesach.


The Haggadah speaks about the famed “Four Sons:” The Wise son, the Evil Son, the Simple Son, and the Son who does not know how to ask. The dialogue of the evil son is particularly interesting. The Haggadah Says: “The Rashah (The wicked son) – What does he say? ‘Of what purpose is this service to you?’ To you (he said), (implying) and not to himself. Because he took himself out of the community, he has denied the basic principles. Therefore, you should strike his teeth and tell him ‘Because of this, G-d did this for me during my departure from Egypt.’ For me, and not for him. And if he was there, he would not have been redeemed. “

Why is the evil son so bad? Why his comments are considered “heretical?” Furthermore, what is the unusual response of striking his teeth supposed to accomplish? In order to get a fuller appreciation of this dialogue, it is necessary to understand the true meaning of the conversation. Therefore, a little background information is needed.

 Interestingly, the Seder rides on the shadow of the episode of Yosef and his brothers. Our forefather, Yaakov, was the father of the 12 Tribes of Israel. We find in the Torah that Yosef, Yaakov’s favorite son, was not liked by his brothers. Yosef had dreams about how he would be in an elevated position over his brothers, which he related to his brothers. These revelations combined with other factors that our Sages discuss caused a large rift between Yosef and his brothers. Yaakov was not oblivious to this rift. Indeed, he knew that Yosef distanced himself and was distanced from his brothers, and he attempted to ameliorate the situation.

We find in Bereshit (37:11-14) that the brothers were tending to their father’s flocks in the city of Shechem. Yaakov sent Yosef to check on his brothers. The language that Yaakov used to request this of Yosef is odd. He told Yosef “To check on the peace of your brothers and the peace of the sheep.” Why did Yaakov give this lengthy order, when he could have simply stated “Check on the peace of your brothers and the sheep?” Why a separate sentence for each?

The answer is that Yaakov was telling something more to Yosef than to just check on his brothers’ well being. There are two types of “peace.” There is a type of peace which is merely an absence of war. People do not necessarily get along, nor care for each other. However, as long as one does not bother the other, all is well. This is contrasted to a vastly different type of peace. It is a true peace, where people care for each other. People more than just co-exist with each other: They live together as a community, a collective whole, where all are concerned for each other’s benefit, and where cooperation is the norm, not an exception, not a burden. Sheep are a perfect example of the former type of peace. One sheep does not necessarily care for the others in the flock. As long as any specific sheep gets its food to eat, it will not bother any other sheep. Sheep co-exist with each other. The brothers of Yosef, on the other hand, demonstrated the latter type of peace. They lived together in a unit, caring for each other’s needs, concerned for each other’s welfare. The brothers lived in a harmonious unit, a unit which typified the peace we long for.

Yosef, by acting in the ways he did, was distancing himself from his brothers. His relationship with his siblings was like that between sheep: as long as Yosef did not bother his brothers, they did not bother him, and vice versa. Yaakov knew that it was of utmost importance that this needed a change. Yosef had to realize that he had to make himself a part of the whole. He could not be content with his status as an individual, separate from his brothers. He had to realize how important unity was, and act on this realization. In order to point out to Yosef that his behavior was not as it should be; Yaakov told Yosef “Go, and look at the peace of the sheep. See how they act towards each other. That is how you are acting towards your brothers, and it is wrong! How should you act? Go see the peace of your brothers! They are truly a unified group, where care for each other is of utmost concern. That is how your relationship should be with your brothers!”

 The first night of Pesach always falls on the same day of the week as the night of the following Tisha B’Av.  5 months from now we will commemorate another Tisha B’Av (hopefully not, may Moshiach come before than and it would be a happy holiday instead), it is because we did not properly learn the lesson of Pesach. We forget the lesson of the “two dippings”. We can only remedy the sin of Baseless Hatred, symbolized by the dipping in salt water, through the unity symbolized by the bundle of hyssop.
There are many reminders of the connection between Destruction and Redemption. The way that we can emerge from the Destruction that we are experiencing, and merit the Redemption that we so desperately need, is by once and for all remedying “dipping (Yosef’s coat) into blood” by creating its antidote of “dipping with the bundle of hyssop – through one common bundle of unity.” 

Why slaves, chomets, kitniyot?

 Why slaves, chomets, kitniyot?   
This Dvar Torah was taken from a conversation I had with Rabbi Illan Feder of Yeshivat Chafetz Chaim.

We Jews come from royalty. Avraham, Yitzchak and Yaacov, our forefathers, were not only well respected members of society, they were also materialistically wealthy. Avraham was tall and charismatic. Yitzchak was looked upon as quiet but very spiritual, as he had been the one chosen to be the sacrifice. Yaacov had the twelve tribes. Our forefathers were blessed with good Mazal, and whatever they touched turned to gold. This was the result of their wholehearted belief in G-d.
So it’s puzzling how their descendants would be tortured, humiliated, and victims of genocide as a result of being taken as SLAVES!!
How did that happen? Why slaves? Why that particular punishment? What happened to the royalty that our forefathers enjoyed?
It seems like us children were so remotely distant from the lifestyle of our forefathers.
We allude in the Hagadda to the descent of our ancestors to Egypt. Yaacov and his sons, the twelve tribes, packed their bags and headed towards Egypt because that’s where Yosef resided. Yosef, who was sold by his jealous brothers many years before, was now second in command of a superpower country. It was because of Yosef’s advice that Egypt became the “caretaker” of the world. He promised to take care of his brothers during the famine years.
One of the prime directives of our Torah is to make us master and refine our natural character traits. An angry or jealous person, or whatever other bad traits one has, has no place in G-d’s world. One has to work on himself to eradicate bad traits and thereby better himself.
The brother’s jealousy of Yosef was a trait that bothered G-d tremendously. For this reason, they were punished by being converted into slaves. Slaves have no say, no opinion. They don’t own anything so no one slave can be jealous of the other. They are all equal. This is the kind of mindset G-d wanted his chosen people to have. “We are equal!!”. There is not one Jew who’s better than the other, and one cannot be jealous of his fellow.
The Seder is set up so that the first half, until the meal, discusses the slavery period. During this time, there was no jealousy among the Jews. The second part of the seder, after the meal, discusses the redemption. It’s a period of tremendous spirituality, closeness to G-d, and a unity among Jewish brethren that also contains no jealousy.
G-d is teaching us the importance of unity, of caring for one another. It was a painful and costly lesson- one that absolutely had to be conveyed.

picture found by Boaz Davidoff


What is chametz?
To begin, let’s introduce SEOR- leaven, which is an ingredient used in making bread which creates the pores one sees in bread loaves. Leavening agents spread throughout the dough by releasing gases that causes the entire batch of dough to rise.
A leavened product is called CHAMETZ. The Torah describes SEOR as being a lump of old dough which was left to reach a high level of fermentation called yeast. When a peace of yeast is kneaded together with a mixture of flour and water, it accelerates the rising process and creates chametz. Today’s yeast is SEOR. So is chametz the same as SEOR? Well, Chametz is edible, while seor is not.
The Torah declares that no chametz shall be eaten for a full seven days starting from the 15th of Nissan through the 22nd of Nissan (Shemot 12:15-18, 34:18)
Enough of biology, what is the Torah’s perspective about chametz?
Chametz, we believe, is considered an evil force. Its task is to manipulate the purer element. Similar to the lump of leaven in the batch of dough. Chametz is the evil in us. The bad traits including pride, desire, lust etc. are chametz. Therefore, we eradicate it, every speck and crumb, from our midst during the eight days of Pesach
The prohibition of chametz is not limited to the holiday Pesach. It was also banned from the meal offering -the Mincha


It seems like we have tremendous respect for bread, especially on Shabbat. We even cover the bread so we shouldn’t hurt its feelings, since the kiddush on the wine is recited first. Some have the custom that if they see bread on the street, they turn it over if it’s upside-down and move it gently to the side. If bread was so evil why do we give it such respect?

We have to be aware of a few points in order to understand the answer. Firstly, the power of the Seder night is such that, without much effort, we can accelerate to the 49th level of kedusha. Once achieved, we have the ability to request from G-d whatever we desire. The high spirituality, although diminishes over the Yom Tov, is still powerful throughout the eight days. Secondly, it’s funny how things are. Against our will we are brought down to this world. (Some say that this is why the baby cries at the brit; he doesn’t want to be in this world. Similarly, when a person dies, the relatives cry, however the soul, is happy).
Why in actuality doesn’t the soul want to come down to this world? Simple. It is because he has to co-exist with the lowly body. Therefore, his spirituality is limited.
So we are presented with a quandrary, we don’t want any physical motivations, but still we are told that “chametz” -our bad traits, are not always prohibited? To resolve this. we must realize that indeed chametz has a time and place as well. In order for humans to function, one needs both the spiritual and the physical. Humans cannot function without the chametz, our evil side. Therefore, G-d said refrain from chametz for seven days and that will be sufficient for the whole year. These are the seven days from 15 Nissan to 22 Nissan when G-d displays a special kindness towards us.
It is no coincidence that this auspicious time occurred when we were first redeemed and led out of our bondage. Hashem specifically granted us this time when we needed it the most to draw close to Him and ask for whatever our heart desires.
So we see that although, yes, “chametz is inherently bad and must be eradicated, we unfortunately are faced with the reality that we cannot survive without it. Therefor chametz is only prohibited for one one week period throughout the year, for the duration, we need the chametz.
Interestingly, the only sacrifice that has chametz is the one offered on Shevuot, when we celebrate receiving the Torah. We are not concerned by the intrusion of the chametz as the tremendous infusion of Torah deems the chametz insignificant and will not influence us.

One of the items that are controversial on Passover is whether kitniyot is permissible. Let’s mention some fundamental concepts before explaining what kitniyot are. The Torah forbids us to eat chametz (leaven) on Pesach. Something becomes chametz when flour and water mix together long enough for the dough to rise. The sages explicitly state and rule that chametz can be produced only from certain grains: wheat, barley, rye, spelt, and oats. The Rabbis imposed a stringency on kitniyot as a prevention to violating the Torah law of chametz. Kitniyot are also cooked in a manner similar to the way the grains are cooked and that could be confusing. In addition, in many locales, kitniyot are made into bread and people who are not well versed in Torah law might get confused.

Another concern is that kitniyot are mixed with grains that have the ability to become chametz. For example, spelt is often mixed with rice. That is why in many communities our mothers and grandmothers clean rice before Pesach. Much has been written about which items are included in the minhag (custom) of kitniyot. Four issues are usually explored. Is the item defined as kitniyot (legumes, such as beans, lentils, rice, soy, kidney beans, lima beans, peas, corn), or at least similar to kitniyot? Can the item be ground into flour in the same manner as grain? Does the item grow near a field of grain? Various communities have different customs and define what is and is not allowed. Some customs allow eating kitniyot; some just allow rice, and some none at all. My family custom permits rice with the exception of the first Seder night. There is no generality except what the Talmud explicitly states what is chametz which we mentioned above. Therefore, when going to a kosher supermarket for Pesach shopping, look at labels and ingredients to be in accordance with you family traditions.
The most important advice is to follow one’s rich traditions and customs, as long as they don’t violate any Jewish law. Minhag avot (the custom of our fathers) is the leading indicator to proceed in various functions of every day Jewish life. It is vital to consult with a Rabbi who is well versed in Torah and is also familiar with your family traditions.

Pesach power of speech-the Jewish voice

Rabbi’s Ilan Feder, Dr Abba Goldman and Rabbi Akiva Tatz all helped in consructing this article


Malcolm Hoenlein, Executive Vice Chairman, of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations and Rabbi and Dr. Akiva Tatz inspirational speaker 
HAKOL KOL YAACOV- The voice is the voice of Yaacov (our forefather) The voice is what defines our essence as a nation and also our individuality.  Speech is our power. Perhaps this is the reason the holiday is called PEH-SACH-the mouth that tells. Most important theme of the seder night is just that; it is to discuss the experience with this most powerful tool we have, our mouth.


 We read in the Haggadah V’YASEM L’GOY GADOL- I will make you into a large nation.  We know us Jews were never a threatening number in any time in our history. The commentaries expound on the words METZEYUANIM SHAM-they stood out like a large nation. How did the Israelites stand out?
There were four distinct traits which stood out in our ancestors when they were slaves in Egypt. 1) They didn’t change their mother tongue 2) They didn’t intermarry 3) They didn’t change their names; Schwartz, Borochoff and Hakimi were still prominent. Lastly they did not speak bad about their fellow comrade. (No Lashon Harah). This is what defined them as the Israelites. This is what the Egyptians and the world looked at and said ” Hey, their different then us!!”.


There is question many ask. We can understand the first three that are on the list. In essence, it makes sense. The Egyptians dressed  in jeans and a t-shirt while the Jews wore the black hat and the tzitzit; that’s a clear distinction. The same goes with different language and last names. However how does not speaking bad about their fellow Jew stand out?  It really doesn’t seem one can make a distinction about one not speaking bad about someone or not. What did the Egyptians notice that made them feel different? There are two examples given that have to be presented for us to shed some light and see what defined a Jew in Egypt.


Growing up in TV America one is aware of the many detective shows that have been spawned over the years. So in a sense we can relate to the Orchat Tzadikim example of a chacham and a friend walking by a certain street where a crime took place and there was a corpse lying with a bullet hole in his head and his mouth wide open.  The chacham asked the friend “What did you notice about the victim”?. The friend replied back “The bloody spot in the dead person’s temple”. The Chacham then said “You failed to make a positive observation; the deceased had nice teeth”.
Let’s give another example and then perhaps we’ll be able to understand what the Egyptians saw in us in the last defining category.  Rabbi Faider of the Chaffetz Chaim Yeshiva high school wanted to test his student’s observational skills. One day each student received a color picture of a tree in a garden. On the tree was a paper bag. He then asked the students what they noticed about the picture. Almost all said the paper bag. Only a few mentioned the beautiful garden.


Granted by not speaking bad about a person one refrains from negativity. The flip side of not speaking bad is that it makes a person look positive. That positive energy is more pronounced as one furthers himself more and more from being negative and critical about people. This is what the Egyptians noticed that was different. The Jews were very positive. Speech is powerful and it can be lethal. It can be used to build empires in this world leading to rewards for eternity. One can also build with speech an evil empire and destroy himself and others that cross his path. For this reason the tongue has two coverings, the teeth and cheeks. This is to protect it from being too spontaneous and to hopefully cause us to be more thoughtful before we speak.


Why is the seder night so powerful?


On the seder night one can basically ask and receive a favorable response more so than on any night. The reason is G-d had mercy on the Jews  that night even though we didn’t deserve it. It says USHMA TZA’AKATAM-he heard our screams and he had mercy.


Speech is a gift given to humans that thereby differentiates them from other species. It connects the heavens (spiritual) to earth (physical). In essence this is how we communicate with G-d. Anyone who understands the laws of prayer is aware that without verbalization our prayers are not as potent.  Speech connects the world of thought to world of action. We then have to ask a basic question – If speech is essential for prayer to reach the  eavens, how then did G-d just,hear our screams and respond?  Didn’t we say verbalization is required? We see how clever Pharoah and the Egyptians were. They worked the poor Jews to exhaustion till they couldn’t think and express themselves. This was done by design. They knew the power of the Jew is through his mouth and they planned to stifle that weapon.


Now we see what a merciful night the seder is. Even without the speech, without the bridge between heaven and earth, G-d still listened and released us from bondage. However, today is our chance to correct, or perhaps one should say, fill the void, of not having speech that night. On the seder night we use our speech as a vehicle that transcends our prayers, our love, our commitment to G-d.  We use the seder as a platform to accomplish the power of speech. The fifth step of the haggadah “Maggid-to tell over” so we can V’HEGADEDA L’BINCHA-tell our children. We arouse our children’s curiosity and encourage them to ask questions. Any child would automatically ask question after they recite the MA NISHTANA. How many fathers have come to me and asked me “What do I answer my son when he recites the 4 questions?  This night is a night where everything is open for disscussion. Apparently the section following the MAH NISHTANA is the response by the patriach of the family, answering the child.

Even the Matzah hints and arouses conversations. One definition of MATZA SHONIMBO means matzah that is answered to. The Haggadah gives strict instructions “if one does not utter these three words PESACH, MATZAH, MARROR, he does not fulfill the commandment of eating at the seder. That’s a pretty powerful statement. If you’re into the gift of gab, the seder is the place to be.


Some things one can not say in words 


Sometimes its very hard to describe an experience. We, many times, say “I guess you just had to be there”.As a matter of fact, the chassidim, on their special occasions, would sing a tune for about 20 minutes and it would be so deep, profound and meaningful; funny thing is it had no words. In the concluding games of the 1986 Baseball World Series (game 6, the Mets won in game 7) Vince Scully, the announcer, did something unusual but smart. After the climatic hit, he did not say a word. For 10 minutes we saw images of celebration. He then came back on the air and said “words can not describe what you just saw”.


Rabbi Simcha Siesal waited 25 years to share a profound Torah idea. He was concerned if he would have spoke about it to soon he would lose it. A thought enters our inner being and becomes part of you. If one, however speaks to soon he will risk losing the true meaning of the thought. So we see speech has its limits, its finite.


When I think of the power of speech that many of our brethren possess, I think of the late 70’s and early 80’s solidarity rallies in midtown Manhattan for Soviet Jewry. It was quite impressive hearing  some of those eloquent and fire and brimstone speakers using their freedom of speech and screaming “let my people go”. Ironically, I didn’t think of it then,  but I ended up marrying a nice girl from the  Soviet Union. This was freedom of speech at its best.
At Madison Square Garden many years ago, where the Siyum Hashas -the celebration of finishing a 7 year cycle in the Talmud- was it was quite impressive hearing some of our Torah giants address and inspire the audience. An orator can give a lasting and impactful impression.


A few profound statements in history that come to mInd as I’m pressured to finish this article:
“My father bit you like a snake, I’m going to bite you like a scorpion” – King Rechavam making a negative impression as the new king of Israel
 “Ask not what the country can do for you but what you can do for this country” – President John F. Kennedy
” Give me Liberty or give me death” is a quotation attributed to Patrick Henry from a speech he made to the Virginia Convention in 1775 which made a strong impact on Americans


The pain that the Jews experienced in Egypt was indescribable and could not be put in words. Although words, speech is an easier way of communicating with G-d, a good scream now and then can go a long way. Perhaps the Egyptians underestimated that capability. Or perhaps G-d loves the Jewish nation so much that every so often on a good day or night he shows his love  owever we express ourselves. Well guess what –  one of those good nights happens to be the seder night. Let’s communicate talk, scream, ask questions, make statements, cry, laugh, sing, bless and enjoy the freedom of expression, the freedom and gift of speech as long as it’s expressed in a positive way….then we’ll be positive.


Key to success is be yourself

Rabbi’s Baruch Dopelt, Yossi Bilus,  Yissachar Frand, Dr. Robert Goldman, Y Nachshoni, Gadalia Shorr
 Why do we recite the Kaddish for a deceased loved one?  Out of all the prayers, why was this prayer chosen? Even a person who is non-observant will make it their business to recite the prayer. Its up there with the Shema as the most popular prayers.  The Sages say  that the recitation is a tremendous benefit for the soul that passed away. Therefore if one wants to honor their loved ones to the utmost he should make the effort to recite Kadish for their sake.

What’s in  it?  Well, the Kadish starts with  YITGADAL which means “great” and
YITKADASH which means “holy.”

In order to understand the importance of the prayer, we must start with a little story that will then shed some light.


Working for a boss can be quite challenging and frustrating at times.  Sometimes we have to walk on egg shells in order not to make the employer upset. Sometimes even that doesn’t help. There were 2 individuals who had the monotonous task of being water carriers for a very difficult man. The job was to carry  buckets of water  from one end of the field to the pool. The boss assigned each individual their own personal bucket. However one of the bucket had a hole in it and for the most part the un-lucky employee, as one could imagine,  was never able to deliver the full amount of water in the bucket. It reached a point where the other fellow would tease him of the useless task he was assigned with.
“Why is this lunatic trying to humiliate me” the employee said, about the boss, frustratingly. One day after being needled one time to many, by the fellow worker, he marched up to the bosses office up the hill demanding an explanation for the fruitless work.

The boss listened to his complaints and after a pause motioned the employee to follow him to the field where the employee had the dubious task of carrying the holy bucket. ” Recognize this route” the owner pointed to the ground. “This route which you carried the holy bucket is now full of flowers”.” Every day as you carried the bucket and the water leaked on the very same spots, the ground was absorbing its nourishment. You see there was meaning to your hard toil after all. However your friends route has no plants and flowers because his bucket did not leak. So the task wasn’t useless after all.


One may think that someone  is inadequate, that his life is useless, however everyone has a unique task in life. Unfortunately, with the pressure of today’s America one may point the “useless” finger not just at his friend but at himself as well. We see this lesson the valuable lesson in this weeks parsha.

“All meal offerings brought near before G-d should not be prepared leavened for you shall not cause to go up in smoke from any leavening or any honey as a fire-offering to G-d” [Vayikra2:11]. The lesson of this pasuk is that the Mincha offering must be pure flour — no foreign ingredients can be added to enhance the basic requirement of the meal offering. Although honey was held in great esteem, there is a strict prohibition in the Torah against bringing an offering of honey on the altar of the Mizbeach. In this respect honey was treated like leaven, which was also forbidden. Even the incense (Ke’toreth) -which was composed of eleven kinds of spices, all of them with the exception of one-sweet-smelling and fragrant; to which, if only a drop of honey were added, the perfume would have

Clarity: Pro’s and Con’s in the Jewish family

This article was constructed with the help of either writings, lectures or shiurim of  Rabbi’s, Berel Wein, Yossi bilus, Ozer Alport also contributing Dr. Mirriam Adahan  a psychologist, therapist, author and founder of EMETT (“Emotional Maturity Established Through Torah”)-a network of self-help groups
This week’s parsha marks another new beginning in our public reading and personal understanding of the Torah. Whereas the first two books of the Torah are mainly narrative in nature and content, with personal stories of our forefathers, the book of Vayikra is mainly a book of laws and commandments and of the nature of purity and impurity, sacrificial offerings and priestly obligations.
   An interesting question arises as to why the book is called “Vayikra”= “And He called” (And G-d called Moshe). Perhaps, it would be best to call it “Sacrifices” or “Atonement”. It doesn’t make sense that the book is named “And He called”.
For the almost 40 years in the desert G- d had spoken only to Moshe. Moshe would then deliver G-d’s words to the people accurately without additions or deletions. Following the delivery of the exact words G-d had spoken, Moshe would then elaborate and explain the meaning and application of G-d’s words. Matan Torah (Revelation-when we received the Torah) was the single exception. Matan Torah was the only time the nation heard G-d speak without the human buffer of Moshe’s ministry. This meant that for the better part of 40 years the Jews had to extend to Moshe absolute trust. They had to trust that the words he delivered to them were absolutely the same as the ones G-d had spoken to him.
It seems like there is a strong reliance of important information that had to be presented to the children of Israel. Therefore, it might be a splendid idea to explore the importance of the power of communication.
When one voices his opinion, is he understood?  It’s frustrating at times, when one expresses himself and he’s not being conveyed correctly. I believe, many of us have gone through that experience at one point or another. Perhaps, not being understood with mundane matters is simply, just an annoyance; however one can only hope, that the more important feelings are expressed fully to the highest degree. This is a frequent problem when there is a culture gap between parents and children or teachers and students.  However, even with one’s “own kind”, misunderstanding can be a dilemma.
Interestingly, one of the most famous routines, in American culture, by the 1940’s-50’s comedy team of Abbot and Costello, called “who’s on first”, involves misunderstanding. It was so popular; the routine was performed in front of the president of the United States, at the time. In the routine Abbot gives instruction how to play the game of baseball, by describing the position players.  He starts off by saying “who is on first, what’s on second and I don’t know is on third”. It seems like he’s not familiar with the players’ names however, Abbot is, in actuality really mentioning the names of the players. The name of the first basemen is indeed “Who”; the name of the second basemen is indeed “Whats”; the third basemen name is “Idontno”. It frustrates Costello to no end.
 It’s one of the most brilliant comedy routines ever made but, in reality, it is not a laughing matter. In essence we are laughing at ourselves. Perhaps, that is the reason for its popularity; it’s too close to home. We spend pain staking time and money, by taking courses, to make ourselves clear so we should not be misunderstood. It is said: “whoever has clarity, he possesses a gift!”
 We see from the Torah how a misunderstanding can be detrimental to our existence.
This communication gap is demonstrated very sharply when Rachel, Yaakov’s beloved wife, sees that her sister Leah keeps delivering one child after another, she turns to him with an impossible request:
“Grant me children or I will die.”
The enraged and perplexed Yaakov answers:
“Can I assume G-d’s role? He is the one who prevented you from having children.”
Rachel then goes on to offer him her maidservant as a surrogate mother and the issue seems to have been settled, but the Midrash (scriptures from our Sages) does not let Yaakov off the hook that easily:
G-d told Yaakov: “Is this a way to answer a woman in distress? I swear that one day your sons are going to plead for their lives from her son!”
The Midrash is based on the reappearance in Bereshit(50:19) of Yaakov’s three first words, this time said by Yosef, his son from Rachel, to his sons from his other wives:
This conversation took place after Yaakov’s burial. The brothers feared that now that Yaakov is gone, Yosef is going to take revenge for the suffering they inflicted on him, to which he answered: “Fear not! Can I assume G-d’s role?”

The Midrash claims that Yaakov’s punishment for the inappropriate way of speaking with Rachel was the sibling rivalry that tore his family apart and eventually humbled his children from Leah, Bilha, and Zilpa, as they had to bow down to Rachel’s own son, Yosef.

Before Rachel comes to speak to her husband, she is engulfed in feelings of sadness and frustration seeing that she has no children, whereas Leah, the once rejected wife, now has a seat of honor as the mother of Yaakov’s growing family. She feels estranged and alienated and she doesn’t see in her husband’s eyes the same sparkle that was there before.

She decides to let her husband to father a child through her maid, a common practice in the Ancient Near East, already tried by Sarah and Avraham, but first she wants to know that he understands her, that he has compassion for her.
She wants to convey her emotional turmoil to him and does it with full force:
“Grant me children, or else I’ll die!”
Perhaps, she was simply saying that without her husband’s love, and being outdone by Leah, she is as good as dead.

What Yaakov heard, however, was: “You are responsible for my sterility! Solve my problem!”
He cannot solve it, and he says it: “Can I assume G-d’s role? He is the One who prevented you from having children.”
These words hit her like a sack of bricks. Even though he meant that it is G-d, and not him, who is responsible for her situation and there is nothing he can do, no solution he can offer, she heard the emphasis on the word – you. “YOU are the one who has no children” the words explode in her ears “I already have children”. As Rashi puts it:
“I have children, G-d has made YOU, and not me, sterile”.

Yaakov should have said: “I know how you feel.” She would have retaliated with: “No, you don’t. You have your children, and as a man you will never know what it means to be barren.” He would have answered: “You are right, but I remember how my mother’s eyes would fill with tears when she spoke about the twenty first years of her marriage, years of solitude, longing and despair.”
Only after commiserating with a woman, is the man allowed exploring possible solutions. Yaakov might have directed the conversation towards her thoughts on what should be done, and she would probably say that he should pray for her, spend more time with her.

It was a terrible misunderstanding and miscommunication which led to much strife in the family, and possibly even to the exile in Egypt. It is also an important lesson to all of us, to be better listeners and to try first to understand our conversational partner and only then offer, if applicable and necessary, a solution.


We learn much from Yehuda’s ability to be a leader. Immediately before Yosef’s dramatic confession that he is his brother, Yehuda steps up to the plate to confront Yosef.  
In Yehuda’s entire passionate address to Yosef (Gen. 44:18-34), he added no information or arguments which weren’t already known to Yosef. What was his intention in reiterating the information to Yosef, and what did he hope to accomplish by doing so?
The Bet HaLevi explains that Yehuda realized that the brothers’ original interactions with Yosef seemed bizarre and mystifying. They told him that they came to buy grain, and he responded that they were spies. They answered that they were honest, and he told them that now they had proven his claim that they were spies. Since Yosef’s responses didn’t seem to correspond to the brothers’ statements, it occurred to Yehuda that perhaps the miscommunication was due to the translator, who wasn’t accurately relaying to Yosef the content of what the brothers had said, but was instead fabricating statements which they had never made.
In order to clarify whether this was the case, Yehuda asked for permission to review the entire dialogue directly in the ears of Yosef, without the involvement of the translator. In order to preempt Yosef from responding that he didn’t understand the Hebrew language that they spoke, Yehuda stated that Yosef was like Pharaoh. If Yosef would now claim to be unfamiliar with their language, this would imply that Pharaoh didn’t know it as well, an inference which would be disrespectful to Pharaoh and therefore forbidden to make.
 We see the importance, on Yehuda’s part to clarify. One has to take lesson and not let the moment depart without clarity. Here, Yehuda put his foot down and made waves in order to do so. Although, there were different circumstances for Yehuda to do so then it was at a time for Rachel. The common denominator is that they both were under tremendous pressure. Yehuda’s Olam Haba-entrance in the next world was at stake because Benyamin’s, whom he swore to return unscathed, life, was as good as dead if he remained a prisoner in Egypt. Rachel’s pain and anguish, though, of not having children was enormous!!!
So we see the importance to go against the grain of life and to be supersensitive to make sure situations are not clouded.
 In our efforts, though, to clarify and not be misunderstood we can come across some difficulties. Many Psychologists urge people to, “Share your feelings,” and “Talk it out until the problem is resolved.” However, this advice can be disastrous! Not everyone values emotional honesty. Not everyone has time to listen. And a lot of people will use your personal information against you!
The reality is that not everyone is capable of “hearing” and empathizing. In fact, empathy is a rare quality, which depends on one’s personality type.
According to the Myers-Briggs personality system – people are either dominant Thinkers or dominant Feelers. Thinking types (60% of men and of 40% women) have little interest in the world of feelings. They feel no urge to share personal feelings and are irritated and bored by those who do. They often do not even know what they feel and may not care. They are focused on functioning, not feeling. In fact, they feel more powerful and in control when they do not expose their feelings. In contrast, Feeling types (60% women, 40% men) are concerned with their feelings and distressed if they cannot share them. When these two types get together, there is likely to be a lot of mutual frustration, because each has demands which the other cannot meet.
One also has to be aware, when sharing will overwhelm others. It is “immodest” to share strong feelings of grief, fear or rage, especially around children, who need to see adults as a source of security and strength. To expose these feelings is just as immodest as exposing parts of the body which should be kept covered if the other person is incapable of receiving your pain with empathy and compassion.
Therefore we have to balance the ability to clarify without imposing on others, and divulging, information that can hurt us and our loved ones!!
 The Book of Vayikra is called its name because its intrinsic complex laws need one to deliver the proper accurate detail. One person that’s trustworthy, that did not misunderstand G-d’s message and will not be misunderstood is Moshe.
Moreover, was the nation’s response at the time of Matan Torah. “…You (Moshe) speak to us and we will listen and do not let G-d speak, we are afraid that we will die.” In essence, at Matan Torah, the nation willingly relinquished a degree of control they otherwise would have had over the validation of G- d’s word. By asking that Moshe act as the intermediary between themselves and G-d they proclaimed their willingness to trust Moshe to faithfully deliver the word of G-d. Moreover than that was the implicit trust that they would listen to Moshe even if he had chosen to alter the word of G-d.
From that moment and on, because of their choice and because of their eventual sin, the nation did not hear G-d speak again. In its place they were given the prophecy of Moshe and the ongoing manifestation of G-d’s will in the universe through natural law and miracles. In its stead, G-d gave them exactly what they had requested. Moshe would speak and they would hear the word of G-d through him


A 197 feet long table, with room for more the 300 participants, was assembled by the Bnei Brak-based Coca Cola Israel company, in what is said to be the longest Shabbat dinner setting ever. Arranged on it was the traditional Shabbat fixings, including china plates, crystal goblets, Kiddush wine, challa bread, and, of course, dozens of Coca Cola bottles.
Many of us have dealt with people who are never satisfied. These people often complain and are critical about everything. They’re not happy with anyone, including themselves for that matter. I guess it’s impossible to not be subjected to this kind of negative energy of these personalities. Perhaps it comes with the territory; territory called – LIFE. Does this sound familiar?
           Rabbi Simcha Bunim (1767-1826) was a beloved Chassidic Rabbi whose many disciples would flock to be with their Rebbi. They would see him during the week or make arrangements to spend a Shabbat with him. One such devoted chassid, a very bitter and critical individual, traveled to see Rabbi Simcha but he arrived after Shabbat was over. When the Rebbi asked  where he had been, he replied with an attitude that he had actually been detained so many times that he had to spend Shabbat elsewhere. The Rebbi listened to this harsh man’s story and told him the following: “Shabbat is actually a very kind and gracious host and it treats its guests with dignity. For example, when Rosh Chodesh (1st day of the New moon) comes on Shabbat, Shabbat is kind enough to give up both the regular reading of the MAFTIR (Torah portion) and the MUSAF prayers to its guest – Rosh Chodesh. When YOM TOV (holiday) occurs with all its joy and splendor, Shabbat not only steps aside for the reading of the MAFTIR and its recitation of MUSSAF, it also gives a way for the reading of the Torah itself.
When Yom Kippur comes and brings with it the wonderful opportunities of pardon and forgiveness, not only does Shabbat give a way to the Mussaf prayer and Torah reading, but even the Shabbat meals themselves are set aside in Yom Kippur’s honor. However, when the somber Tisha Be Av with its unwelcome sadness and depression tries to come on Shabbat, a different attitude prevails. The Shabbat says: “No, you wait and come after Shabbat!! Perhaps you’re not making it here this Shabbat is a message from above! Unhappiness, and those who bring it are not welcome until the joy of Shabbat is over. Change your ways and Shabbat will welcome you as well!”
What’s all the hoopla that the day of Shabbat should be happy, special and relaxing? What about Sunday? Perhaps, with one’s hectic schedule, make the day of rest every other week? Why must we have the constraints of not turning on the lights or going for a drive?
The answer is that it is physically installed within us to Relax on Shabbat!
       Augustus the emperor of ancient Rome wanted to improve the economic conditions in his time. So he implemented 10 days a week instead of our customary 7. The Roman emperors operated on chutspah and lunacy. (By the way, ever wonder why August has 31 days, as opposed to 30?- it ruins the sequence of every other month having 31 days?! This is because Augustus was jealous of  Julius Ceaser (July), who got 31 days in his month while he, Augustus, would only have 30. After some time of the 10 day work load, the authorities saw – the efficiency rate decreased! They realized that it’s built in in every human the propensity to rest every seventh day!
Let’s ask another question found in the Zohar about Shabbat and then we’ll be able to shed some light on the topic of Shabbat…
It says VAYEH’VARECH HASHEM ET YOM HASHEVI’EEY-G-d blessed the seventh day. If we go out to work from Sunday to Friday – shouldn’t G-d bless the workdays instead? Why is He blessing the day of rest?
In this week’s parsha is the focal point of not performing work on Shabbat. It’s interesting because the language the Torah uses is MELACHA-work. The reason why  the other, more popular word – AVODA is not used is because, linguistically, although in English they both mean “work”, they translate differently in Hebrew. Any act can be called AVODA, even if it involves no skill and changes or improves nothing. Such acts include carrying stones or running.
By contrast, by and large, MELACHA applies only where change is effected for the purpose of improvement. Such acts include building, destroying in order to rebuild and erasing in order to write. Study and knowledge must proceed MELACHA. We must know – when and with what tool to work. It includes every means of improving the world!
One should know, there is a very important fundamental concept in Judaism. The Torah writes VEH’HALACHTA BEDRACHAV-and we should follow in (G-d’s) ways.  Therefore we can deduce,  to the area of creativity as well: G-d is a Creator and therefore each of us must be a creator like Him. G-d said, “Let there be light,” and so we have to bring light where there is darkness; He created a world, so too must we summon all our powers of creativity to advance civilization – be it in medicine, engineering, technology or any other human endeavor. We must use our creativity and ingenuity to improve the world for the benefit of all humankind. In so doing, we imitate G-d; just as He is the Creator, we become creators as well.
       We learn – the Torah forbade on Shabbat, by and large, only creative work.
      Rabbi Yehuda – the prince, who was the author of the MISHNA, happened to be good friends with Mark Anthony, the Roman High in command. One Friday night Anthony made a spontaneous surprise visit to Rav Yehuda. Rav Yehuda said: “Please, come, join me for Shabbat dinner”. Anthony was amazed and delighted at the delicious soup that he had at the meal. He asked Rav Yehuda: “This is the most delicious soup I had ever tasted. What’s  the recipe?
       Rav Yehuda replied:  “If you’d like – my chefs will give over to your chefs the recipe after Shabbat”.
       After Shabbat Rav Yehuda’s chefs did exactly as instructed. Six Months later, though, Mark Anthony visited Rav Yehuda, however he was very cold and distant. Rav Yehuda asked: “What’s wrong?” Anthony replied: “I could not duplicate the delicious taste of the soup. Even though my chefs duplicated the exact  instructions, it didn’t come out the same. What was the missing ingredient?” He was almost demanding!
      Rav Yehuda smiled and said: “The missing ingredient is Shabbat!”

      Let’s try to understand – why we should be happy on Shabbat and what is so special about the foods.  The Torah says -SHABBAT VAYINAFASH. Shabbat means to return! Where are we returning to? We are returning to the ROOTS! What is the meaning of the ROOTS?  At the Roots – WE ARE UNITED WITH OTHER SOULS!

      What does the word –  VAYINAFASH mean?  VAYINAFASH means – to REVIVE! We revive – what is important in life!
Let’s explain: the key word is creativity! There are two kinds of creativity, external and internal, and both are important. Sometimes we need to stop the external activity so that we can be internally focused. The internal creativity is to create a bond to our family and brethren. It’s a chance for unification and understanding.
       Judaism is all about the family! Our busy schedules, in hectic New York, doesn’t allow us to communicate properly with the ones we love.  If one ever notices a family sitting together at the dinner table during the week, it’s rare that they’re all together to begin with, everyone is in their own world. One is entranced in the laptop that’s placed on the table; one is talking on the cell phone to his friend. HELLO!! Is this Family Time? No, its just a bunch of individuals eating at a table!
       At the Shabbat table, if done properly, there are no electronic gadgets. One is forced to look at the person next to him. As a matter of fact, he might even listen to what he or she has to say. WOW!! On Shabbat we are not tied to a schedule, therefore, prone to connect to the family!
       We learn – when our forefather, the newlywed Yitzchak, brought his bride, Rivka, into his deceased mother’s tent, the candles in the tent were re-lit once again! It was lit from one Friday night to the next! The Torah hints – the “family” was re-established and revived through the building relationships of Shabbat!
       The Shabbat table is all about love! We read,  before the beginning of the meal, ESHET CHAIL, woman of valor, written by King Solomon (Shlomo). Shlomo took excerpts from the eulogy recited by Avraham to his wife Sarah. The tradition is 4000 years old! We see again, it’s designed  to enhance the love between husband and wife!
       Shabbat, though, is not the end means. If one communicates at the Shabbat table with his children and gives them the proper CHINUCH-education, then the family lineage, the Torah Mesorah, the Torah message continues!
      Once, when I was a senior in high school, many of my friends were planning on going to the Billy Joel concert. Many were planning to attend including a few girls of interest. This artist was the hottest ticket back then. The problem was it was on a Friday night! I was Shommer Shabbat! I knew – my father wouldn’t approve of me going, however, he was not the type to force me to stay home. He was not like that. During the moment of making a decision, I kept on envisioning my father with a disappointed look if I went. I decided to STAY HOME and have a Shabbat dinner with the folks! Nevertheless, I was upset, to say the least, and it showed a bit. I felt miserable in the beginning of the night. However, as the night progressed, with my parents loving warmth and good food, I began to applaud my decision!
       Shabbat table has that effect –  if done right!

What is a woman’s role in Judaism?

This article was constructed with the help of either writings, lectures or shiurim of  Rabbi’s Yissachar Frand, Yossi bilus also contributing Marina Goodman, Esther Matmon and Dr. Abba Goldman
Bnos Malka Academy – girls school located in Queens
Dr. Jessica Jacob is an obstetrician-gynecologist in New Hyde Park, New York and is affiliated with North Shore University Hospital. She received her medical degree from NYU School of Medicine and has been in practice for 31 years. Dr. Jacobs balances marriage, children and grandchidren, successful practice and a very strict orthodox life
Hillary and Bill Clinton stopped by a gas station to fill up their tank for their long journey back to New York. The gas attendant smiled and shmoozed with Hillary as if he knew her from the past.  After leaving, Bill asked Hillary “how do you know him?” Hillary replied “I once dated him”. With a snicker, Bill said to Hillary “you see, picking me was the right choice…..I became a President”.  Hillary countered back “if I would have married him, he would have been a President”.
 It’s a cute joke as a matter of fact, interestingly, the Gemara teaches us that women were born with a BINA YETERA-an extra intelligent sensory, where she can see what men can’t and man needs that. Rav Chaim Volozhin has a beautiful interpretation of the verse EZER K’NEGDO-man’s helper. An expression found pertaining to Eve, who helped man, her husband, Adam, to build the world. However, the literal meaning of K’NEGDO doesn’t mean “helper”, in fact quite the contrary; it could imply “against him”. Rav Chaim is emphatic in his interpretation. She should not be afraid to voice her opinion and on many occasions it very well can be the opposite opinion. A wife is not supposed to be a “yes lady”.   Men are from Mars and women are from Venus and each come to the table with a different perspective of how to achieve the goals set out by the couple.
 We see G-d telling Avraham to listen to his wife Sarah and confront his other son, Yishmael asking him to leave the house because Sarah saw him as a bad influence on her son, Yitzchak. It seemed like Sarah had a greater vision of the situation at hand.
Rivka, Yitchak’s wife, daringly orchestrated that the brachot should be given to the younger son- Yaakov as appose to Eisav. Rivka knew he was the right choice to be the air-apparent.
The question asked is what exactly is the BINA YETERA-an extra intelligent sensory and how do women use it to improve the world?
Dr. Goldman says women are more deeply inspired then men; they are unwilling to switch gears, while men did switch gears by fluctuating between believing in G-d one moment, and turning to Golden Calf the next.
This explains Rabbi Yissachar basis perspective on the verse in this week’s parsha.    After Moshe called the people together and urged them to donate to the Tabernacle, the people started bringing the material. “And the men came upon the women (al haNashim)” [35:22].  The commentary Da’at Zekeinim m’Baale HaTosfot, provides an interesting interpretation. The pasukim [verses] reveal that the donated items were various types of women’s jewelry. The Da’at Zekeinim comments “and nevertheless the women participated and were meticulous to contribute in the Service of Heaven”. The pasuk is teaching us that the men took the women to donate the gold from their jewelry to the Mishkan, thinking that the women would be reluctant to do so. However, in actuality, the women gave willingly. Therefore, the Da’at Zekeinim adds, the women were given a reward that they were excluded from having to do work on Rosh Chodesh. This is a custom cited in Shulchan Aruch, that women do not do work on Rosh Chodesh [The new moon (beginning of a new lunar month)] [Orach Chaim 417:1]. At what point in time did the women receive this holiday? They received this holiday at the time of the building of the Mishkan, when they distinguished themselves through their willing donation of their jewelry to the Service of G-d.
The Da’at Zekeinim explains further that during the incident of the Golden Calf, the men took their wives’ jewelry by force. The women had refused to contribute to the Golden Calf. In contrast, by the building of the Mishkan, the women wanted to donate their jewelry. According to the Medrash, the contrast is even starker. The Medrash records that in relation to the Mishkan, there were in fact many men who were reluctant to give their money, while the women were universally enthusiastic.
The Da’at Zekeinim theorizes that because the Mishkan was erected on Rosh Chodesh Nissan, it was specifically Rosh Chodesh Nissan which was originally given to the women as a work-free festival. The Da’at Zekeinim concludes that the custom to refrain from work on every Rosh Chodesh was a derivative of this original holiday.

What is the significance of Rosh Chodesh that it was seen as a fitting holiday to give to the women?
Rabbi Frand saw a beautiful interpretation in the sefer [book] Shemen Hatov by Rabbi Dov Weinberger, which answers this question. Later in the parsha, the pasuk says, “And he made the Kiyyor of copper and its base of copper from the mirrors of the legions [women] who massed by the entrance of the Tent of Meeting [Shmos 38:8]. There is a beautiful Rash”i here that elaborates: “The women of Israel had used these mirrors when beautifying themselves.”
Rash”i explains why these mirrors were so precious to G-d. When the Jews were enslaved in Egypt, the men gave up hope. They did not want to live with their wives. They did not want to have children. The thought of fathering children who would be born into and live and die in slavery was overwhelmingly depressing. As the Medrash in Shir HaShirim describes, the women went out into the fields and beautified themselves in front of their mirrors and convinced and persuaded their husbands to live with them and to have children. Those mirrors represented Klal Yisroel. Had it not been for those mirrors and that makeup and the beautification efforts of those women, there would not have been a Jewish nation. Consequently, G-d insisted that those precious mirrors did in fact belong in the Mishkan.
We see that those women exhibited the attribute of faith in redemption. When all seemed bleak and full of despair, when no future seemed to exist, when there appeared to be no purpose in having children, the women retained a hope in the future. The women kept the dream of rebirth alive. When the men were feeling down and were ready to give up, it was the women who insisted “We must go on.” When the time to build the Mishkan arrived (according to many Rishonim this was after the sin of the Golden Calf), the men said, “We don’t want a Mishkan”. The Mishkan represented a great descent from spiritual heights for the Jewish people. Had there not been a sin of the Golden Calf, there would have been no need for a Mishkan. The Shechinah [Divine Presence of G-d] would have permeated the entire camp.
There would have been no divisions — such as “The Camp of the Divine Presence”, “The Camp of the Levites”, “The Camp of the Israelites” — within the Jewish people. The entire camp would have been a “Camp of the Divine Presence”. We would have been on such a high spiritual level that G-d would not have had to confine Himself to a single Mishkan [Tabernacle].
But after the sin of the Golden Calf, G-d said that He could no longer dwell among the entire camp. He needed a special place — the Mishkan. Consequently, to the men, the Mishkan represented, not a spiritual height, but spiritual compromise and descent. The men lost their enthusiasm for contributing to the Mishkan. They were reluctant to donate their gold and silver.
The women, however, again prevailed. They came forward enthusiastically saying, “We must go on; do not despair; do not dwell on the negative; there must be a future; there must be rebirth; there must be renaissance”. This is a unique attribute of women! They demonstrated this attribute in Egypt, they demonstrated it by the Golden Calf, and they demonstrated it by the Mishkan, and it says in the Torah that in the merit of righteous women – Moshiach will come with its redemption!
This spirit, our Sages say, is most appropriately rewarded through the festival of Rosh Chodesh. Rosh Chodesh represents rebirth, renaissance, and renewal. “This month for you is the beginning of all months…” [Shmos 12:2]. In a homiletic sense, the word haChodesh (this month) is related to haChidush (this renewal). The moon drifts further and further away from the sun, becoming smaller and smaller, until we think it has disappeared. And yet, it comes back, renewed and refreshed. Our righteous women symbolize this power of renewal in the Jewish people. Therefore, it was only right that the women be given Rosh Chodesh as their own private holiday.

One can take this concept further; the whole physiological make up of a woman is based on renewal. Their monthly cycle is testimonial to this. At a certain time of the month they are able to mimic G-d and create. When opportunity is missed, the body rejuvenates itself and they try again. This power to create was not trusted upon men; it was the women that have the power physically and in all the other aspects that comes with it.


Lubavich headquarters gathering of women teachers all over the world
Women were given the privilege of being the makers of Jewish homes. The Hebrew word for “homemaker” is “akeret habayit”.
“Akeret” is the feminine version of “ikar”, which is the “central aspect”, or “the essence of something”. “Bayit” usually means “house” or “home.” The Temple that stood in Jerusalem was called the “Beit HaMikdash”, “beit” meaning “house of” and “hamikdash” literally meaning “holiness”. Often, it is referred to simply as “HaBayit,” “the House”. Thus, in Hebrew the same word is used for both a “home” and “the Holy Temple”. In fact, the purpose of a “home” is to be a “mikdash me’at,” a “miniature sanctuary”.

For an akeret habayit, there is no contradiction between valuing her central position in the home and developing her interests outside of it. A traditional Jewish woman who works outside the home considers herself every bit an akeret habayit as a woman who stays home. There is no “housewife” versus “career woman” dichotomy… In “Eishet Chayil,” the prayer that is recited at theFriday night Shabbat table-the ideal woman is described as an expert businesswoman.

Over thousands of years, girls were educated at home, by their mothers. However, the western world proved to be difficult to maintain the spiritually enthusiastic Eshet chail. It wasn’t until Sarah Schenirer, who was a pioneer of Jewish education for girls. In 1917 establishing the Beis Yaakov school network in Poland. She saw girls being uneducated in basic Torah knowledge to an extent that they desecrated the Sabbath. Schenirer started to give classes in her workshop (she was a seamstress).  The main goal of the schools was “to train Jewish daughters so that they will serve the Lord with all their might and with all their hearts; so that they will fulfill the commandments of the Torah with sincere enthusiasm”.

How important it is for a Jewish girl today to have a strong Torah education. If today’s women only knew the important role they have in maintaining the Jewish home, if they only knew their lone role to renew, to reinvigorate hope, they would approach life with a strong vigor. Rosh Chodesh is the Jewish woman’s holiday; it’s a time for her to celebrate the unique qualities she has, the unique qualities in maintaining the bait-house of G-d and raise banners by giving it over to the future generations by properly raising children in Torah environment who will continue the strong chain of our nation to continue to serve G-d and thus merit even more of G-d’s love and protection!

A special gift any spouse would love

This article was constructed with the help of either writings, lectures or shiurim of  Rabbi Yissachar Frand
How wonderful it would be if our wise human nature can be intuitive enough to appreciate what life’s gifts are. It’s sometimes a shame that one realizes after the fact. What often happens, when we pursue that what we rejected and then afterwords try to reconnect again, however, by then it’s too late.
After hearing this fascinating story from Rabbi Yissachar Frand, I realized something about myself and my family and realized how the Torah is the Emet. The two stories main message, I believe,  are the essence,  of my personal existence.
Rabbi  Yissachar Frand found this particular story from the Sefer  Otzrot HaTorah:
A Jew named Rav Simcha Kaplan was a Rabbi in Tzfat. When he was younger he studied in the Mir Yeshiva in Poland and he recalls the following story. He used to board by a couple who lived near the Mir Yeshiva. One Friday morning, he heard the wife repeat to her husband several times “Make sure you come home early for Shabbos. When Simcha arrived later in the day, he saw that the wife was waiting by the window and she was full of anxiety. He asked her, “What are you so worried about?” She says “I’m worried about Shabbos!” He said, “It is not going to be Shabbos for another 4 hours, what are you so worried about?”
She responded with the following story: We were childless for many years. Finally, we had a child. We raised the child, but he was sickly. He did not grow, he did not eat, he was weak, he did not walk until he was much older. He was very frail. We consulted with the doctors here in Mir. They sent us to a specialist in Vilna who told us that the child had a heart problem. The specialist said “There is nothing I can do for this child. He will only live a couple of more years. There is nothing more anyone can do for this child. Do not waste your money. Do not waste your time. You will only have the child for a couple of more years.” They were heart-broken. Someone advised them that on the way back from Vilna to Mir, they should stop in Radin and ask the Chofetz Chaim for a blessing. This was late in the life of the Chofetz Chaim. He was already very weak and was not seeing people. They were not able to arrange a visit at first, however, with some difficulty they finally were able to see him. They told the Chofetz Chaim their situation about their son and begged him to do something for them. The Chofetz Chaim said “There is nothing I can do for you. I am very sorry.” The person who arranged the meet, who had accompanied them, then yelled out, “but it is their only child!” The Chofetz Chaim said”, “It is an only child? Then I will tell you what to do!” He spoke to the mother and said “I want you to accept upon yourself from this day on that every Erev Shabbos by noon you will have the table already set for Shabbos and have the candles ready to be lit. I want that from the time you light Shabbos candles, nobody in the house will do any melacha [forbidden labor].” (Even though according to the strict law, when a woman lights candles 18 minutes before sunset, other members of the household can still do melacha until sunset.) The woman readily accepted this proposal.
By the time they arrived back in Mir — a two day journey from Radin – the child was already showing signs of improvement. He started eating, he started gaining weight, and so forth. They brought the child back to the doctor in Mir and he was astounded by the improvement. He insisted they go back to the specialist in Vilna to show him the child and paid for their journey. The specialist saw the child’s improvement and refused to believe that it was the same child.
But this story is somewhat perplexing. Why is it that the Chofetz Chaim only seemed to have mercy for the child when he heard that it was an only child? What if she had 10 other children? Would the Chofetz Chaim not have been sympathetic to the plight of the parents and the sickly child in that situation? Furthermore, what kind of “segulah” is this business of being ready for Shabbos at mid-day, several hours before the halachic arrival of Shabbos? The whole story requires explanation!
Rabbi Frand heard an explanation of what this story is all about from Rav Mannis Mandel. Rav Mandel said the Chofetz Chaim was not a Chassidic Rebbe and he was not a miracle worker. But the Chofetz Chaim understood the meaning of a pasuk in Chumash. “And the Children of Israel shall observe the Shabbos (v’Shamru), to make the Shabbos an eternal covenant for their generations (l’Dorotom)…” [Shmos 31:12]
Rav Mannis Mandel explains that the word “v’Shamru” has two meanings. It can mean – you have to OBSERVE it (meticulously) or it can mean – you have to ANTICIPATE it (as in the pasuk “And his father SHAMAR et haDavar” [Bereshis 37:11]). The Chofetz Chaim interpreted: You want “l’Dorotom” – the preservation of your generations (through this only child). If this child will not live, then you will not have future generations. But the Torah says that if there is – v’Shamru- to observe and anticipate Shabbos, there will be l’Dorotom – future generations. Therefore, fulfill “v’Shamru” according to both meanings. The simple interpretation of v’Shamru is observing it. When you light candles, no one in your house should do any more melacha. But beyond that, v’Shamru also means to anticipate it. From noon on, I want you to expect and anticipate the Shabbos. Therefore, the table must be set and the candles need to be ready.
This is why the woman stood at the window. It was 12:00 o’clock and sunset was not until 5:00 o’clock. She was anxious — where is my husband? What was her problem? The answer is because she accepted upon herself to do more than merely observe the Shabbos. She needed to anticipate the Shabbos as well. That is the interpretation of the story: She fulfilled both aspects of “v’Shamru.” Therefore, they saw in their family “l’dorotom” (future generations).
After reading this story, I’m compelled to inform the readers of my personal story.
One of the reasons my parents settled in the United states arriving in 1960 is because they had difficulty in having children. They were married for ten years before they made the  pilgrimage to New York. After a year they went to see the Lubavitcher Rebbe for a bracha. The Rebbe said to my parents “commit to be total Shabbat observers right at this very moment and you’ll have a baby boy in nine months.”.  My parents committed. A month before I was born my father visited 770, the Lubavitch head quarters, motzei Pesach-end of Pesach, where the custom is to celebrate, where the Rebbe called out in the crowd my father’s name, signaling him to come over. He then, assured my father everything is progressing well and that my parents will have, G-d willing, a baby boy next month.
Although, at times, one is guided by messengers, in the right path, and in this case it was, a great tzadic, the Lubavitcher Rebbe, who pushed my parents to be Shabbat observers, however, it could, very well be others. Nevertheless, the message is clear, Shabbat is powerful!! Shabbat is a game changer, Life changer!!

I found a very interesting observation by the Sfat Emet-Yehudah Aryeh Leib Alter (1847-1905)
We are focusing here on the word “shamor”. The pasuk that “shamor” calls up in our minds is: ‘Shamor et yom Ha’shabbot…’ That is: ‘Take proper care of Shabbot’.) (Devarim, 5, 14).
The Sfat Emet reacts to this idea with astonishment. He asks: Why does Shabbos need special care? He replies by alluding to a classic Medrash (a body of exegesis of Torah texts along with homiletic stories as taught by Chazal (Rabbinical Jewish sages of the post-Temple era) that provide an intrinsic analysis to passages in the Tanakh.). Although This Medrash may seems a bit corny and not very understandable, however, after seeing this definition, it brought an entirely new perspective of the Medrash. The Medrash describes how, after the first week of creation, all the days of the week paired up with each other. Yom Rishon paired with Yom Sheini (Sunday with Monday), and likewise all the other days of the week — except Shabbot, which could find no mate. When Shabbot

 told  G-d how unhappy she was for lack of a mate, G-d replied: “Klal Yisroel-the Israelites will be ben zugeich (your marriage partner).” Thus, the Sfat Emet is telling us that just as a wife is given to her husband to provide her with proper care, (“husband” actually means “to take care of”), so, too, does Shabbot need us to take proper care of her. And, continues the Sfat Emet, our relationship with Shabbot is reciprocal; i.e., it goes in both directions. Thus, we are commanded (Shemot, 35: 3) to observe Shabbot wherever we live (“be’chol moshe’votei’chem”). So, too, Shabbot has stuck loyally with Klal Yisroel in all of our distant dwellings. Further, Shabbot gives chiyut (vitality; vibrancy) to all creation.  It is the source of all the brachot in the world and especially those who observe it amongst the Jewish people. In other words it’s like a marriage where each partner takes care of the other.
Interestingly, a marriage has to have its loyalty between the spouses. The Mechilta in Parshat Ki Sisa states that the words -Baynee u’bein Bnei Yisrael (which is also recited in the kiddush and prayer) imply that Shabbos is a covenant between G-d and the Jews, to the exclusion of being a covenant between G-d and idolaters. Now, this seems peculiar. We do not need a special drasha [exegesis] to teach that a Gentile is not commanded to observe the Sabbath. We know that there are 7 Noachide laws, none of which involves a Gentile keeping Shabbot.
In fact, by Shabbot – there is a unique prohibition. The Talmud [Sanhedrin 58b] teaches that not only is a Gentile not commanded to observe Shabbot, but on the contrary, a Gentile is not permitted to purposefully keep Shabbos! So the question is, why does the Mechilta find it necessary to marshal a special pasuk “Baynee u’bein Bnei Yisarel” to tell us that the mitzvah of Shabbot only applies to the Jewish people?

  The Rambam  writes in his Mishna Commentary that a Gentile who performs any of the commandments, receives some reward as one who “is not obligated but nevertheless fulfills”. In other words, if we were to see a Gentile putting on Tefillin, he has fulfilled a mitzvah and gets “some reward”.
However, the Brisker Rav points out, Shabbot is not like that. Shabbot is two things: It is a mitzvah [commandment] and it is a matanah [gift]. The Talmud [Shabbot 10b] quotes the Almighty telling Moshe “I have a wonderful present in my Treasure House and its name is Shabbot”. The present was given to the Jewish people. Any nation that was not a recipient of this present is not able to observe Shabbot and even if they go through the motions of observing it, they have not fulfilled any mitzvah.
Tzitsit is not a present. Matzah is not a present. Tefillin is not a present. Shabbos is! The novelty of the idea of the Brisker Rav is that in order to fulfill the mitzvah of Shabbot, one needs to be included among the recipients of the present. This idea is  emphasized in the  portion of the Shachris Amidah on Shabbot.
It is for this reason that a Gentile may not observe Shabbot. He is taking something that doesn’t belong to him!
Rav Moshe Shapira suggests that this is precisely what the above referenced Mechilta means. Baynee u’Bein Bnai Yisrael means “it is my present to you” — to the exclusion of a Gentile who is not even eligible to receive a reward as one who is not commanded but observes.

The matana – present is the bride!! She is given as a wedding present by G-d to the chattan (Jewish people) and only the chattan!!. A wife is not shared. Both Israel and Shabbot have to be loyal to each other. No outsider is allowed; loyalty in the marriage is expected. Both spouses have to take care of each other. Both infuse their input into the marriage and both have to commit to each other.
Rabbi Simcha Kaplan’ landlords commited to take care, to anticipate the Shabbot; they commited. In turn, Shabbot committed to them and revived their child. My parents also committed to Shabbot and in return Shabbot committed to them, G-d willing, for generations! Amein!