Posted on | April 17, 2014 | By Guest Contributor | Add Your Comments
By Yakov Spil
From my earliest memories, Pesach was special. I remember my mother a’h making her own chicken soup (which she did a few times a year) and watching her make chopped liver. I watched. I couldn’t eat that, then at least. My taste buds matured and have come to enjoy it and all the memories associated with it.
When I was in Yeshiva, I had a rebbe who I spent many sedorim with. His minhag was to eat only what was made at home. In Yiddish, this is called not to “mish”. Later on, I had friends who only squeezed their own juices and sauces for the duration of the chag. I must admit how enchanted I was this purist approach to Pesach. As much as it is an expression of one’s zehirus in kashrus for Pesach, I feel that this minhag is a confession of “I don’t want to possibly subject anyone else to my own kashering shortfalls, should there be any.”
But not having grown up with this minhag and only observed it, albeit for quite a few years, I confess my inadequacy in having adopted it the past few years and worry about winging it.
Of course, right away the question should be asked, “is your wife on board?” To that I say, yes, but. The but is, she didn’t grow up this way either so even though it’s unfamiliar to her, we are navigating it together. That makes me proud.
When we were discussing this change, because when we were first married we ate by our friends since it was unfeasiable to make our own, I told her how I was moved by a particular argument against the eating out or hotel scene. All fine and good to make Pesach a little easier, but we all know what happens to the next generation! We saw what happened to our grandparents or parents as they were the next generation, and what was lost. What would or could be watered down by not making our own Pesach from beginning to end? We decided that we wanted our son to see us work hard to “make Pesach.”
Of course, everybody works hard to make Pesach, either through the hard earned money saved up to go away or to make Pesach at home, a considerable expense as well. But what would our imprint be on our son when he sees us making as much as we can from scratch? We hoped it would be excitement and a willingness to contribute to the family effort. We were right, boruch Hashem. He is quite into it and we hope we added that extra hislahvus, fervor for mitzvos for Pesach and in general. We think it carries over.
The reason I wrote was to elicit your thoughts about the strength of a mesora that we ourselves don’t have, and trying to keep to it, when it’s just as easy to say, “hey, we’re making this up, so we can fudge it here and there.” But we all know that’s not mesora nor would it carry the weight of responsibility to a mesora had we both adopted a traditional mesora from previous generations and the ability to hand it over with as much detail as possible to the succeeding generations we raise.
Now, please your thoughts. No one need feel cast aside in any way that you personally make Pesach. To those who don’t “mish”, make Pesach from scratch, how do you do it and what do you avoid? Or do you go all the way? To those who do mish, how does the idea of mesora impact your Pesach as you keep it and absorbed from your families?
Posted on | April 14, 2014 | By Mark Frankel | Add Your Comments
The Events of the Exodus
The process of the Exodus began when our forefather Jacob, the son of Isaac and grandson of Abraham, and his family settled in Egypt as the honored guests of the Pharaoh at that time. The process continued through the Jewish enslavement by the Egyptians; the 10 nature-defying plagues prophesized by Moshe and activated by G-d over a period of 12 months; the subsequent release of the approximately 3 million Jews to freedom after the plague of the death of the first born; the splitting of the Red Sea 7 days after their release; and the receiving of the Torah at Mount Sinai 7 weeks after their release.
The Centrality of the Exodus
The centrality of the Exodus in Judaism is predicated on the fact that the Jewish people were freed and separated as a unique nation through the clear actions of G-d Himself. Besides the physical freedom achieved, G-d chose us to be the world’s spiritual leaders by giving us the mitzvos of the Torah at Mount Sinai The mitzvos free us from a purely animal-like physical existence, to one in which we can elevate all our actions to be spiritual and G-d connected. Passover is a time where we commemorate the Exodus and renew our spiritual focus.
The Seder with its centrality of the telling of the story enable us to experientially reconnect with the slavery and freedom of the Exodus and express our appreciation to G-d for our redemption and selection as His chosen people. The salt water in which the green vegetable is dipped and the bitter herbs are associated with our bondage. The four cups of wine and the festival meal help us relive our freedom.
The Holiday of Matzah
The Matzah is the central component of both the Seder and the 8 days of Passover. Matzah, consisting of just flour and water was our no frills food when we were slaves in Egypt. It’s also a symbol of our freedom because we hastily left Egypt without time to bake bread.
On a spiritual level, the leaven in bread makes it more digestible and flavorous. This is appropriate for the rest of the year when our main challenge is to integrate the physical into the spiritual. On Passover, we eat only Matzah and abstain from the physically oriented leaven. This allows us to keep spiritually focused as we recharge our spiritual mission and focus during the holiday of Passover.
Posted on | April 13, 2014 | By Mark Frankel | Add Your Comments
The purpose of this guide is to highlight the structure, Mitzvos and some insights to the Passover Seder. The halachos and measurements were mostly culled from the Kol Dodi Haggadah by Rabbi David Feinstein.
Mitzvos of the night
Biblical Mitzvos are mitzvos that are found in the Torah (five books of Moses)
Rabbinic Mitzvos are mitzvos that our Sages enacted. There is a Biblical Mitzvoh that the Rabbis can enact Rabbinic Mitzvos and we follow them just as if they were Biblical Mitzvos
In the times of the Talmud and before (before the year 500 C.E), there was a Sanhedrin composed of 70 of the leading Rabbis of the time. Every Rabbi had to be ordained by a Rabbi who had been previously ordained with the chain going back to Moses and the giving of the Torah by G-d at Mount Sinai. To be ordained, the Rabbi had to know all the laws of the Torah. After the period of the Talmud, this ordination process ended, mostly due to the dispersion and persecution of the Jewish People.
The Biblical Mitzvos on Passover are:
– Eating Matzah – “In the evening you shall eat unleavened bread”.
– Relating the Story of the Exodus from Egypt – “And you should relate to your son (the story of Pesach) on this day”.
The Rabbinic Mitzvos on Passover are:
– Drinking four cups of wine
– Eating Bitter Herbs
– Reciting the Hallel – Songs of Praise
– Three Matzahs – two normally required for Yom Tov and Shabbos in remembrance of the two portions of Manna that fell before Yom Tovim and Shabbosim in the wilderness. The Middle Matzah is for the Biblical Commandment of Eating Matzah.
– Karpas – Dipping foods and the eating of greens before a meal was the sign of wealthy men in the past. Another reason we eat it tonight is that it is not a normal procedure and children will notice the difference and ask questions.
– Maror – Two types. Romaine Lettuce and Horseradish; Romaine Lettuce – bitter taste symbolizes our bondage in Egypt. The Romaine lettuce initially tastes sweet and then turns bitter like the life of our forefathers in Egypt who were first paid workers and then oppressed slaves. Horseradish – sharp taste symbolizes our bondage in Egypt. When we eat the Maror (by itself and in a sandwich) you can use either one.
– Charoses – symbolizes mortar used to make bricks. Also counteracts the taste of the Maror.
– Shankbone – recalls the Pesach Offering. The Pesach Offering was in remembrance of the lamb that was put aside and then eaten on the night of Passover. In the times of the Temples, a major part of the holiday was the eating of the Pesach Offering. Since the destruction of the Second Temple, we no longer bring offerings and the Shankbone represents the Pesach Offering but is not eaten at the Seder.
– Egg – recalls the Festival Offering. On all Festivals there would be a special offering. As mentioned above, since the destruction of the Second Temple we no longer make offerings so the egg represents the Festival Offering. The egg was chosen since it is a mourner’s food and symbolizes our mourning for the Temple and our inability to offer the Pesach and Festival Offerings.
We are required to act as if we ourselves had just been freed from Egyptian Bondage. Therefore, when we dine on the night of Passover, we eat and drink while leaning – in the manner of free men and royalty. We lean when we drink the four cups, eat Karpas, and eat Matzah. Women don’t lean since it was not the practice for most women to lean while eating.
Four Cups of Wine
Symbolizes the 4 terms of redemption mentioned in Torah.
– 1st Cup – Kiddush -I will take you out from the burdens of Egypt.
– 2nd Cup – over the Story -I will save you from their servitude.
– 3rd Cup – over Grace after meals -I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great judgments.
– 4th Cup – over Psalms of Praise -I will take you for Me for a people.
We drink at least 1.7 ounces while leaning to left (women don’t recline). Beverage preference; wine, wine with grape juice, wine with water, grape juice, grape juice with water, raisin wine. People should pour the cups for each other to feel like royalty. We drink it in less than 9 minutes, preferably within 2 minutes.
*The first cup of wine is poured.
1) Kaddesh – Sanctify the day with the recitation of Kiddush.
Leader of the Seder recites Brocha over Wine, Brocha over Kiddush and a Brocha thanking G-d for bringing us to this time.
Boruch Atoh Ado-noy Elo-haynu Melech Ho-olom Boray P’ri Ha-Gofen.
Blessed Are You Hashem, Our G-d, King of the Universe, who creates the fruit of the vine.
Kiddush Brocha – See the Hagaddah
Boruch Atoh Ado-noy Elo-haynu Melech Ho-olom Shehecheyonu V’kiymonu V’higi-onu Lazman Hazeh
Blessed Are You Hashem, Our G-d, King of the Universe, who has kept us alive, sustained us and brought us to this time (season).
* Everyone answers – Amen. Do not talk until you drink at least a half a cup.
* Everyone drinks first cup of wine; men lean to the left.
This is the cup of wine over the mitzvah of reciting Kiddush.
2) Urechatz, – Wash the hands before eating Karpas.
In the times of the Temple, when people were able to observe the laws of spiritual purity in full they washed before eating a vegetable dipped in a liquid that is still moist to wash away spiritual impurity. According to many opinions in our times, we don’t do this since we are unable to reach this level of purity. At the Seder, we wash because it reminds of the times of the Temple and it expresses the hope that we will soon be required to follow it again, with the coming of Mashiach. It also represents a royal custom in keeping with the special dignity with which we dine tonight. It also arouses the curiosity of the children so they should ask questions.
*Pour water over right hand twice and then over left hand twice. Do not make a Brocha. Dry your hands.
3) Karpas – Eat a vegetable dipped in salt water.
In olden days, banquets were started with such appetizers. The custom was preserved to make the children ask questions and to serve as a sign of freedom.
The dipping of the food is also a sign of comfort and indulgence.
The salt water represents the tears of the Jewish People in their suffering.
The vegetable is dipped in salt water and everyone takes a piece. (Don’t eat it yet.)
*The leader says the Brocha or you can make your own Brocha:
This Brocha is intended to also include the Maror that we will eat later and the person making the Brocha should have that in mind when making the Brocha.
Boruch Atoh Ado-noy Elo-haynu Melech Ho-olom Boray P’ri Ho-adomah
Blessed Are You Hashem, Our G-d, King of the Universe, who creates fruits of the earth.
*Everyone eats the green vegetable. Eat a small amount so that there is no requirement to say an after Brocha.
4) Yachatz. – Break the middle Matzah. Put away larger half for Afikoman.
We are about to recite the story of our Exodus and the Torah tells us to do this when Matzah is before us. The Matzah is often referred to as the bread of poverty and affliction and a poor man does not feast over a whole loaf since he is never sure he will have food for the next meal.
We hide the Afikoman to insure that it will not be mixed up with the other Matzahs and inadvertently eaten and not to shame it, so to speak, since it will not be eaten till the end of the meal.
Hiding it keeps the children awake by encouraging them to try and steal it.
The leader breaks the middle Matzah and puts away the larger half for the Afikoman.
5) Maggid – Tell the story of the Exodus from Egypt.
The central mitzvah of the night is telling about the Exodus from Egypt.
We are supposed to remember the Exodus from Egypt everyday, but at the Seder we must tell the full story from bondage to deliverance, in the form of question and answer with as much elaboration as possible.
Bread of Affliction – Draws attention to the bread of poverty over which the Hagadah is to be told.
This paragraph does not appear in the earliest sources but was composed after the destruction of the Second Temple. In exile, we can not fulfill the Torah commandments of Pesach and Maror so that Matzah is left as the preeminent obligation of the evening. But Matzah is special since it symbolizes both freedom and bondage, with the hasty departure of our forefathers from Egypt, it became a symbol of freedom. Originally, however it was their food when they were slaves and therefore it is a symbol of bondage. We stress the bondage aspect of the Matzah at this point so that it will trigger the recollection of the events in Egypt, and help us to project ourselves into the situation of our forefathers so that we can better feel the relief and joy of deliverance. This is the goal of the Seder, to fell like we personally were redeemed from Egypt.
*Second Cup of Wine is poured to stimulate the asking of questions.
*Four Questions are asked by youngest child, if there are no children an adult asks, if a person is alone he asks the questions to himself. Only someone who is bothered by a question is really interested in the answer. We are particularly eager to pass on the message of Pesach because the assurance of our national continuity lies within this passing on from one generation to the next.
There are four questions, two about Biblical commands (Matzah and Maror) and two about Rabbinic commands (dipping and reclining) to show the equal validity of both types of commands. Another reason for these four questions is to highlight the paradox of the evening in that it reflects both a sense of enslavement (Matzah, saltwater, Moror and Charoses) and freedom (beautiful table selling, while kittel. wine, reclining and dipping).
According to the Malbim the structure of the narrative portion of the Haggadah is based on the verse in the Torah from which the obligation to tell the story is derived:
And you shall relate to your child on that day, saying “It is because of this that Hashem acted for me when 1 came forth out of Egypt.”
This source verse is broken up into six parts corresponding to the six sections of the story in the Haggadah.
– And you shall relate to your child
– on that day
– It is because of this
– Hashem acted for me
– when I came forth out of Egypt.
And you shall relate to your child…The first eight paragraphs correspond to this verse and teach us about this obligation to tell the story
– “We were enslaved unto Pharaoh and G-d freed us”– tells us we should relate this to our children who would also still be enslaved had G-d not taken us out.
– “It once happened that Rabbi Eliezar..” –shows that our greatest sages told the story, since the main function is to recount it for our children.
– “Rabbi Elazar, son of Azaryah, said…” –shows the duty to do so at all times.
– “Praised be the Ever-Present, praised be He…” –shows how every type of child is to be instructed at the Seder.
– “What does the wise son say…” –shows how to teach the wise son
– “What does the wicked son say…” –shows how to teach the wicked son
– “What does the naive son say….” –shows how to teach the naive son
– “And regarding the one who does not know how to ask a question…” –shows how to teach the son who can’t ask a question
–“on that Day…” –The next paragraph tells us when the obligation to tell the story applies
– “One might think that the obligation to talk…” –explains when the special duty applies.
–“saying…” — The next paragraphs contain the actual saying of the story of the Exodus
– “In the beginning our fathers were worshippers of idols…” –shows the deeper roots of the exile and the Exodus as the way to spiritual redemption.
– “Blessed is he who keeps His promise…” –shows that G-d kept His promise to Abraham that we will be enslaved and redeemed
– “It has stood firm…in every generation there are those who rise against us..” –shows that G-d continually redeems us
– “Go and ascertain what Lavan the Aramite intended to do…” –describes the beginning of the Exodus when Jacob went down to Egypt
– “And he went down…And he sojourned there…With few people…And he became there a nation…” –Great, mighty…And formidable…describes how we became a great nation in Egypt
– “And the Egyptians made evil of us…” –And the tormented us…And laid hard labor upon us…describes how the Egyptians enslaved us
– “And we cried out unto G-d… And G-d heard us…And He saw our distress… And our travail… And our oppression…” — describes how G-d heard our pleas
– “And G-d took us out of Egypt…With a strong hand…And with and outstretched arm…And with great terror…And with signs…And with wonders…” –describes how G-d redeemed us
– “Blood, and fire and smoke…An alternative explanation…These are the ten plagues…Rabbi Yosi the Galiliean says…Rabbi Eliezer says…Rabbi Akiva says…” –describes the miracles and wonders G-d did for us during the redemption
– ‘How indebted are we…How multiple, then is our debt to G-d…” –describes additional accounts of G-d’s benevolence which were not yet mentioned
–“It is because of this…” –can be read this is because of…Rabban Gamliel reads it this way…this refers to Pesach, Matzah and Maror
– “Rabban Gamliel used to say…” –explains the concrete Mitzvos ordained for the Seder: Pesach, Matzah and Maror.
– Pesach… Matzah…Maror…explains the reason for these Mitzvos
–“Hashem acted for me…” –The next paragraphs describe how we should consider it as if Hashem took us out of Egypt
– “In every generation, one is obliged to regard himself…” –emphasizes that, in celebrating the Seder, we must see ourselves as having gone out from Egypt.
–“when 1 came forth out of Egypt.” — The next paragraphs are the introduction and recitation of Hallel songs of praise, similar to the songs of praise that were recited when we left Egypt.
–“Therefore it is our duty to thank, praise…” — since Hashem took us out from Egypt, we praise Hashem for his kindness ending the Haggadah with a Bracha.
–“Praise G-d…” — When Israel went out of Egypt…is the beginning of Hallel which describe the going out from Egypt
This is the first part of Hallel, which are Psalms of Praise, and declarations of our faith in Hashem.
We will say the second part of Hallel after the Seder. Hallel is not normally said at night. It is normally said in the Morning Prayer service on Yom Tovim and Rosh Chodeshim (the first of the Jewish Months). Daylight is normally the time when we see G-d’s kindness in action and sing His praises. Night usually stands for trepidation and calls for faith rather than jubilation. The night of Pesach is different from all other nights of the year. In the 132nd Psalm it says that on Pesach G-d ‘lit up the night like the day’ through his great self-revelation (with the last plague and our redemption) so it is appropriate that we should say Hallel at night
The first part of Hallel deals with the deliverance from Egypt and therefore belongs to the part of the Seder preceding the meal.
The second part looks ahead to the Days of the Messiah and our ultimate redemption, which is the theme of the Seder after the meal.
Also, by bracketing the Seder meal between hymns of praise of G-d, we mark it as a Divine service, rather than an ordinary supper.
*Leader of Seder recites blessing of Boray Pri Hagofen.
Boruch Atoh Ado-noy Elo-haynu Melech Ho-olom Boray P’ri Ha-Gofen.
*Everyone answers – Amen. Do not talk until you drink at least a half a cup.
*Everyone drinks the second cup of wine, men leaning to the left.
*This is the cup of wine over the mitzvah of telling over the Haggadah.
6) Rachtzah – Wash the hands prior to the meal.
Whenever we eat bread (or Matzah) at a meal we wash our hands.
*We wash by pouring twice over the right hand and then twice over the left hand.
*Before we dry our hands we say the Brocha, then we dry our hands.
Boruch Atoh Ado-noy Elo-haynu Melcch Ho-olom Asher Kidshonu B’mitzvosov V’tzivonu Al N’tilas Yodoyim.
Blessed Are You Hashem, Our G-d, King of the Universe, who has sanctified us with His commandments, and has commanded us concerning the washing of hands.
*We do not talk until we eat the Matzah.
7) Motzi – Recite the blessing, Who brings forth, over Matzah as a food.
Before we eat any food we say a Brocha, but before we eat bread (or Matzah) at a meal we say the Brocha ‘Hamotzi’ which covers all foods we will eat at the meal.
At meals on Shabbos and Yom Tovim (Holidays) we always use two loaves of bread (or Matzah) to commemorate the double portion of Mannah that fell before Shabbosim and Yom Tovim when the Jews were in the Wilderness.
The stringent amount of Matzah is a piece measuring about 6” by 7” (2/3rds of a round Matzah). The lenient measurement is 4” by 7”. Measure out the proper amounts for all participants at this point.
*The leader of the Seder says the Brocha while holding the two Matzahs and the broken Matzah between them.
Boruch Atoh Ado-noy Elo-haynu Melech Hamotzi Lechem Min Ho-oretz.
Blessed Are You Hashem, Our G-d, King of the Universe, who brings forth bread from the earth.
*Everyone answers – Amen. Do not talk until you finish eating the Matzah. Do not start eating until the Matzah brocha.
8) Matzah – Recite the blessing and Eat the Matzah.
The Matzah represents both our bondage (bread of poverty) and our freedom (hasty departure from Egypt). We say an additional Brocha over the Mitzvoh on this night to eat Matzah.
*The leader of the Seder says the Brocha while holding the upper Matzah and the broken Matzah.
Boruch Atoh Ado-noy Elo-haynu Melech Ho-olom Asher Kidshonu B’mitzvosov Vtzivonu Al Achilas Matzah.
Blessed Are You Hashem, Our G-d, King of the Universe, who has sanctified us with His commandments, and has commanded us concerning the eating of Matzah.
*Everyone answers – Amen. Do not talk until you finish eating the Matzah.
Everyone eats the required amount of Matzah, men lean to the left. Take a piece from the upper two Matzahs.
9) Maror – The Maror is dipped in Charoscs and eaten.
The Maror represents the bitterness of our enslavement. The charoses represents the mortar with which we built bricks. The Maror is dipped in charoses but the majority is shaken off so as not to mask the taste of the Maror.
The amount of Romaine Lettuce required for this eating is an 8” by 10” piece if you are eating the full leaf and 3” by 5” if only eating the stalks. If using Horseradish, the amount is 1 ounce of a grated Horseradish, equal to a full plastic shot glass.
*The leader says the Brocha or you can make your own Brocha:
This Brocha is intended to include the Maror that we will eat in a sandwich.
Boruch Atoh Ado-noy Elo-haynu Melech Ho-olom Asher Kidshonu B’mitzvosov Vtzivonu Al Achilas Maror.
Blessed Are You Hashem, Our G-d, King of the Universe, who has sanctified us with His commandments, and has commanded us concerning the eating of Maror.
* Everyone eats the Maror dipped in Charoses. Do not lean for this Mitzvah since the Maror symbolizes bondage and not freedom
10) Korech – Eat the sandwich of Matzah and Maror.
The reason we eat the sandwich is because the great sage Hillel (Who said: ‘Do unto others as you would have them do unto you’) took the view that the Pesach offering, Matzah and Maror must be eaten in a sandwich rather than separately. The rest of the Sages ruled otherwise but the Talmud, which was written after the destruction of the Temple, does not rule on who we follow. This is because after the destruction of the Temple, the Pesach Offering was no longer made and the Maror is now a Rabbinic command instead of a Biblical command. Matzah is still a Biblical command. To preserve a reminder of Hillel’s practice during Temple times we eat Matzah and Maror together even though we already ate them separately.
The amount of Matzah for this eating is a piece measuring about 4” by 7”. The amount of Romaine Lettuce required for this eating is an 8” by 10” piece if you are eating the full leaf and 3” by 5” if only eating the stalks. If using Horseradish, the amount is 1 ounce of a grated Horseradish, equal to a full plastic shot glass. Measure out the amounts and include a piece from the bottom Matzah
We will use part of the bottom Matzah for this Mitzvah. The Maror is dipped in charoses but the majority is shaken off.
*The leader (or everyone) recites the paragraph- In remembrance of the Temple…
*Everyone eats the sandwich of Matzah and Maror; men lean to the left.
11) Shulchan Orech – The Festival meal is served.
*Everyone eats the Festival Meal.
It is a custom to start with a hard boiled egg because it is a symbol of mourning. It has no opening or mouth, just as a mourner is struck silent by his fate; at the same time it offers encouragement: it signifies the turning of the wheel of destiny which hopefully will bring joy instead of sadness. The absence of the Pesach Offering evokes a sense of mourning for the destroyed Temple, which hopefully will be rebuilt in our time. Roasted meat is not served, since the Pesach Offering was roasted.
The meal must end by Halachic Midnight in time for the Afikoman. One should not overeat. We must have some appetite leftover for the Afikoman.
12) Tzafun – Eat the Afikoman which had been hidden all during the Seder.
There are two opinions about the Afikoman. One is that it is a memorial to the Pesach Offering which was eaten at the end of the meal. The other view is that the Afikoman represents the Matzah that was eaten with the Pesach offering and it is this Matzah which represents the actual Mitzvah of eating Matzah.
The eating of the Afikoman completes the eating of the Middle Matzah which represents the “Bread of Affliction” and therefore symbolizes our ultimate redemption from all affliction and oppression. This in effect introduces the second part of the Seder which is dedicated to the redemption to come, that of Mashiach.
The stringent amount of Matzah for this Mitzvah is a piece measuring about 6” by 7” (2/3rds of a round Matzah). The lenient measurement is 4” by 7”. Measure out the proper amounts for all participants at this point.
*Everyone eats the Afikoman; men lean to the left.
We don’t eat after the Afikoman except for water, tea, or the like.
*Third Cup of Wine is poured.
13) Barech – Recite Birchas Hamazon, the blessings after the meal.
It is a Biblical commandment to give thanks to G-d after we eat a meal. There are several blessings, the first is thanks to G-d for giving food to all and was composed by Moses; the second is for the gift of land and was composed by Joshua; the third is to Jerusalem and Israel which gives the land special goodness and was composed by Kings David and Solomon. The text of the third was changed after the destruction of the Temple. The Sages added a fourth blessing when the Romans permitted the burial of the victims of the Bar Kochba rebellion in the third century. It teaches us to be grateful, even in bitter times and for favors that might not evoke rejoicing.
*Everyone should read the Blessings out loud in a low voice.
*Leader of Seder recites blessing of Boray Pri Hagofen.
Boruch Atoh Ado-noy Elo-haynu Melech Ho-olom Boray P’ri Ha-Gofen.
*Everyone answers – Amen.
Do not talk until you drink at least a half a cup.
*Everyone drinks third cup of wine; men lean to the left. This is the cup of wine over the Birchas Hamazon.
*Fourth Cup of Wine is poured. The extra cup for Elijah is poured.
14) Hallel – Recite the Hallel – Psalms of praise and declarations of our faith in Hashem
As mentioned above (at the end of Maggid) we now recite the second part of Hallel. This part of Hallel deals with our ultimate redemption with the coming of Moshiach.
*Everyone recites Hallel out loud. At the part “Thank Hashem for He is good” we recite it responsively. At the part of “Hashem save Us”… we recite it responsively.
*Leader of Seder recites blessing of Boray Pri Hagofen. Boruch Atoh Ado-noy Elo-haynu Melech Ho-olom Boray P’ri Ha-Gofen.
*Everyone answers – Amen. Do not talk until you drink at least a half a cup.
*Everyone drinks fourth cup of wine; men lean to the left.
This is the cup of wine over the Hallel.
15) Nirtzah – Pray that G-d Accept our observance and speedily send the Messiah.
We ask G-d, that just as we were worthy to perform the Pesach service this year so may we be worthy to perform it in the future.
Sing the songs of the Seder.
Posted on | April 10, 2014 | By Administrator | Add Your Comments
Posted on | April 9, 2014 | By Mark Frankel | 14 Comments
Some people want to have a very fast seder. This guide is for them.
A few years ago a non-observant friend asked if I could put together a five minute seder. I pared down the Beyond BT Guide to the Seder and produced the instructions below. Pass it on to anyone for whom it might be helpful.
1) Kaddesh – Sanctify the day with the recitation of Kiddush
*Leader says Boruch Atoh Ado-noy Elo-haynu Melech Ho-olom Boray P’ri Ha-Gofen and 2 other blessings whose text can be found in the Hagadah
*Drink the 1st cup of wine. Lean to your left while drinking.
2) Urechatz, – *Wash your hands before eating Karpas.
3) Karpas – *Eat a vegetable dipped in salt water.
*Leader says Boruch Atoh Ado-noy Elo-haynu Melech Ho-olom Boray P’ri Ho-adomah –
*Everybody eats the vegetable Lean to your left while eating.
4) Yachatz. -* Break the middle Matzah. Hide the larger half for Afikoman.
5) Maggid – *Tell the story of the Exodus from Egypt
Here is a summary of the story. (Alternatively go around the room reading in English from a translated Haggadah.)
The main mitzvah of the night is telling about the Exodus from Egypt.
*Pour the 2nd Cup of Wine
*Four Questions are asked
*The answer to the four questions is given.
It’s broken up into 6 parts based on the verse in the Torah which describes the mitzvah of telling the story at the Seder:
“And you shall relate to your child on that day saying: it is because of this Hashem acted for me when I came forth out of Egypt.”
a)– And you shall relate to your child – four types of chidren/people with different belief levels
b)– on that day – explains when we should tell the story (the answer is on Passover night)
c)– saying – the actual story:
Our ancestors were idol worshippers;—– through Abraham;—– Egyptian Enslavement;—– We cry out;—– G-d hears our cries
G-d saves us with the 10 plagues;—– We express our thanks for G-d saving us
Dip your finger in the wine for the 10 plagues
1) Water, which turned to blood and killed all fish and other aquatic life
4) Wild animals
5) Disease on livestock
6) Incurable boils
7) Hail and thunder
10) Death of the first-born of all Egyptian humans and animals. To be saved, the Israelites had to place the blood of a lamb on the front door of their houses.
d) — It is because of this — “Rabban Gamliel explains why use the Passover offering, Matzah and Maror.
The Passover lamb, represented in our times by the roasted bone, recalls the blood on the doorposts and the terror and anticipation of the night of the plague of the first born.
Matzah is what we ate in the morning when Israel was rushed out of Egypt with no time to let their dough rise.
Maror captures the bitterness of the enslavement.
e) — Hashem acted for me…” – “In every generation, we should see ourselves as having gone out from Egypt.
f) – when I came forth out of Egypt.” –We recite 2 songs of praise to G-d similar to the songs recited when we left Egypt.
*Leader of Seder recites Boruch Atoh Ado-noy Elo-haynu Melech Ho-olom Boray P’ri Ha-Gofen.
*Drink the 2nd cup of wine. Lean to your left while drinking.
6) Rachtzah – *Wash the hands prior to eating Matzah and the meal.
*After washing and before drying say
*Say Boruch Atoh Ado-noy Elo-haynu Melcch Ho-olom Asher Kidshonu B’mitzvosov V’tzivonu Al N’tilas Yodoyim.
7) Motzi – *Recite the Hamotzi blessing over eating Matzah before a Meal
*Say Boruch Atoh Ado-noy Elo-haynu Melech Hamotzi Lechem Min Ho-oretz.
8) Matzah – *Recite the blessing over eating Matzah
*Say Boruch Atoh Ado-noy Elo-haynu Melech Ho-olom Asher Kidshonu B’mitzvosov Vtzivonu Al Achilas Matzah.
*Eat the Matzah. Lean to your left while eating.
9) Maror – *The Maror is dipped in Charoscs
*Say Boruch Atoh Ado-noy Elo-haynu Melech Ho-olom Asher Kidshonu B’mitzvosov Vtzivonu Al Achilas Maror.
*Eat the Maror.
10) Korech – *Eat a sandwich of Matzah and Maror.
*Eat the Sandwich.
11) Shulchan Orech – *Eat the festival meal
Find the Afikoman.
12) Tzafun – *Eat the Afikoman which had been hidden all during the Seder.
*Pour the 3rd cup of wine
13) Barech – Recite Birchas Hamazon, the blessings after the meal
*Leader of Seder recites blessing Boruch Atoh Ado-noy Elo-haynu Melech Ho-olom Boray P’ri Ha-Gofen.
*Drink the 3rd cup of wine. Lean to your left while drinking.
*Pour the 4th cup of wine;
*Pour the cup for Elijah
14) Hallel – Recite the praises of G-d
*Leader of Seder recites Boruch Atoh Ado-noy Elo-haynu Melech Ho-olom Boray P’ri Ha-Gofen.
*Drink the 4th cup of wine. Lean to your left while drinking.
15) Nirtzah – Pray that G-d accepts our praise speedily sends the Messiah.
Sing the songs of the Haggadah
Posted on | April 7, 2014 | By Guest Contributor | 30 Comments
Rabbi Mordechai Scher
Sometimes it’s worth knowing someone has been here before me. So many of us, as hozrim beteshuvah, want to share the light of Torah with family and friends. Pesach is one of those prime times. We may be the first for generations to do a complete, traditional seder. We want to offer the opportunity to family or neighbors. We enter into this with mind and heart. What will be interesting? How do get a message across? The logistics in place – seats, pillows to lean on (if you use them), haggadot (all the same? or varied, on purpose? with explanations? without?) ,enough food? We all know the idea.
The anticipation and trepidation builds up as Pesach approaches. People are invited; more places added. Then, the big night and ‘big show’ arrives. And what happens?
Well, that often depends on the invitees.
My first such experience, while a young student at Bar Ilan in the late seventies, was to help make seder for soldiers on reserve duty at Neot Hakikar, by the Dead Sea. The truth is, I didn’t know what I was getting into. As it was, many of the soldiers knew more than me, and we had a great though quick seder with a nice atmosphere. That entire Pesah was really enjoyable. Later, I spent Pesach on reseve duty myself several years in a row. Despite the field conditions and dangers, everyone always took it in good spirit and made it as good a holyday together as we could, no matter what sort of lives we had back at home.
I didn’t do anything like that again for a few years. Then we had my parents once or twice for seder when we came to work in America. They were thrilled to be with their kids and grandkids, and polite about it all; but clearly the whole seder night thing was a bit much. Much longer than during my childhood when every year we met for an extended family joint-effort meal where the haggadah occupied a short and fast part of the evening, and everyone got home at a late, but still decent hour. What’s with this two in the morning stuff?
Next, I had to do a community seder at least one night for our shul. I put a lot of thought and effort into preparing interesting explanations and ways to engage the congregants (about 50 people) in learning something during the seder. About 30 minutes into the seder, on of the older participants loudly inquired ‘when are we going to eat? People are getting hungry!
The last time we tried this was about eight years ago. My wife and I had come to a new community for her work. Still here. There are almost no traditional households in the entire town. So, of course we decided to make Pesah at home and invite people for seder. (My approach is to keep one seder night just for family. We need it for our sanity, and to enjoy a seder without pressure.) We invited my mother in from the East Coast (my father had died the year before), and some people who were marginally involved in our marginally functioning (since defunct) shul. About 30 minutes into the seder, you guessed it; one of the guests asks ‘when are we going to eat.’ Although Jewish, and originally from the New York area no less, he (a gentleman probably in his 50s or maybe 60) had no idea that there was much more than kiddush and a meal. He had come emotionally and physically unprepared for even a moderate length seder before getting to some real food. That, with the fact that my elderly mother (may she live, be well, and have much satisfaction from her children) was fading, led us to speed things up quite a bit. One more reason we were glad to have the next night to ourselves.
So, the seder is a big part of the Jewish experience; and making seder with challenges is a part of the teshuvah experience. I suspect that some of us have had greatly rewarding and enjoyable times; and some of us have found it to be a bit more challenging and even frustrating.
Originally Published March 18, 2009
Posted on | April 2, 2014 | By Guest Contributor | 11 Comments
These notes are based on the responsa of Rabbi Chaim Pinchas Scheinberg, Zt”l, Rosh Yeshiva Torah Ore, to questions posed by women attending his regular chizuk talks. They have been compiled by a group of his Talmidim.
In former times, wealthy people who had large houses also had many servants who did their every bidding, while poor people, who could not afford servants, lived in small homes with one or two rooms. Understandably, the pre-Pessach chores of the rich were performed by the servants, while the poor, who had only their one or two rooms to clean, a few pieces of furniture, a minimum of utensils, and some clothing, took care of their needs themselves. In those days, the cleaning was hard. Tables were made of raw wood, requiring them to be scrubbed or even to be shaven to ensure that no pieces of food were hidden in the cracks. Earthen or wooden floors also needed to be thoroughly cleaned and scrubbed.
Today, we seem to be caught in a trap. The average modern home is larger than formerly. Furniture, utensils and clothing are much more plentiful. The average home today could compare with the more affluent homes of previous generations. However, we do not have the servants that they had, so that, today, all the chores fall on the housewife. At the same time, she feels obligated to clean and scrub as they did formerly, even though she has laminated furniture and tiled floors, making this type of cleaning unnecessary.
As a result of this, the pressure of pre-Pessach cleaning has reached unnecessary and overwhelming levels. The housewife often becomes overly nervous, unable to enjoy the Simchas Yom Tov of Pessach and unable to perform the mitzvahs and obligations of the Seder night.
Pessach, like every other Yom Tov, must be enjoyed by every member of the family, including women. This is an obligation clearly defined in the Torah as explained by Chazal zt”l. We can understand a person dreading Tisha B’Av but Pessach is to be looked forward to and anticipated with joy. Every woman should be well rested, relaxed, and alert at the Seder table so that she can fulfill all the Torah and Rabbinical obligations and follow the Hagadah with the rest of the family. Clearly, the performance of her pre-Pessach duties must be balanced against her Pessach obligations.
Pre-Pessach cleaning is required to avoid the danger of transgressing any Torah or Rabbinical prohibition of having chometz in the house on Pessach. It is evident from the responsa of the Rosh HaYeshiva, shlita, that this need not be excessive.
It is not the intention here to abolish Minhagim which have been passed down by Klal Yisroel from generation to generation. Nevertheless, some practices adopted by women in the Pessach cleaning today, are not an actual continuation of the old Minhagim. For example, if a person does not sell his chometz, of course it is necessary to check his utensils and to wash off any chometz left on them, or render the chometz inedible. But, if the chometz is sold, then washing the pots and pans and dishes which are going to be locked away is not necessary. One might be tempted to insist on doing the extra work anyway-to be “machmir” (stringent). However, in these stringency’s lies the grave danger of causing many laxities and brushing aside many mitzvahs completely, Torah and Rabbinical obligations which women are required to do on Pessach and particularly during the Seder. Many women like to do more “cleaning” than the bare minimum, to such an extent, that some even incorporate their general “spring cleaning” into the required Pre-Pessach chores. These extra exertions should not prevent them from fulfilling their obligations on Pessach, and particularly, on the Seder night.
A. All property and possessions must be cleaned and checked to make sure that they are free of all chometz, except in the following cases:
B. If, during the year, chometz is not brought into a place, that place does not have to be cleaned out or checked for chometz.
C. Any article which is not used on Pessach does not need to be checked for chometz provided it is put away properly and the chometz is sold.
D. Crumbs which have been rendered completely inedible to the extent that they are not fit to be eaten by a dog are not considered chometz.
E. The general obligation to check for and destroy crumbs does not apply if the crumbs are less than the size of an olive (kezayis) and are dirty or spoiled enough to prevent a person from eating them.
F. The household cleaner mentioned below must spoil the crumbs slightly to the extent that people would refrain from eating them.
1. CLOTHING CLOSETS: If there is some significant possibility that chometz went into them, they should be checked for fully edible crumbs of chometz, besides large pieces of chometz foods. If the probability that chometz entered these places is remote, a Rav can be consulted to clarify the conditions under which they do not have to be checked. This includes chests, dressers, basements, and all other similar cases (See General Note E).
2. FLOORS: In our times we don’t have earthen floors with deep cracks in them. It is sufficient for tiled or covered floors to be swept and washed with a household floor cleaner. The small cracks do not have to be checked if the cleaning solution reaches into them.
3. FOOD CABINETS: If the cabinet is not going to be used on Pessach see General Notes C & E above. If the cabinet is going to be used on Pessach, take out all of the food, and wash it with a rag soaked in a household cleaner. Be sure the cleansing agent reaches into all the cracks and soaks into any crumbs that might be left there. The usual practice is to line the cabinets.
4. REFRIGERATOR: Take the food out, and wash it with a rag soaked in a household cleaner. The racks are usually covered. (It is advisable to leave holes for air circulation.)
5. KASHERING SINKS: Clean the sinks, and pour a kettle of boiling water into them and on their sides. Some people pour hot water mixed with bleach down the drain. The usual practice today is to line the sinks (e.g. aluminum foil, contact paper) or to use an insert—if not difficult, this practice should be followed.
6. FAUCETS (TAPS): Cleaning, without any other kashering procedure, is sufficient.
7. MARBLE AND STAINLESS STEEL COUNTERS: If they were used for hot chometz they should first be cleaned well. Then either boiling hot water should be poured on them, or they should be completely covered so that nothing Pesach’dik touches them. Some people do both.
8. TABLETOPS: Wash them with a household cleaner. The usual practice is to cover the tables.
9. KASHERING RANGE/OVEN/STOVE-TOP: Wash the top and side surface areas with a rag soaked in a household cleaner. Some people cover it with aluminum foil. Old grates can be kashered by first cleaning them and then lighting all the burners, raising them to their maximum heat, and preferably putting on a “blech” while the burners are on. This spreads the heat over the whole top and intensifies the heat on the grates. Let it burn for 5-10 minutes.
OVEN: If the oven is going to be used:
(A) Wash out any edible chometz with a rag soaked in a household cleaner. If you suspect that there are any inaccessible crumbs or particles of chometz, then clean the oven with any of the regular oven-cleaners (e.g. Easy-Off). (After using the oven-cleaner, there is no need for further cleaning). Then heat the inside of the oven by turning the oven on the highest temperature for about one hour. (On electric ovens it should be determined whether the highest temperature is on “roasting” or “broil” (“Grill”). However, if a closed oven insert for baking and roasting is available, this would be preferable. In this case, only washing and cleaning are necessary.
(B) Do not use the chometz-dik oven racks for Pessach. If this is too difficult, then one can kasher the racks with the same procedure as for the oven.
(C) Chometz-dik baking and roasting pans should not be used for Pessach. In a case of extreme difficulty, where one can not obtain Pessach-dik pans, the procedure for kashering an oven (see (A) above) may be used on the pans if they have not been used for 24 hours. However, care must be taken to clean any chometz which may be embedded under the lip or rim, etc. If the oven is not going to be used: None of the above is necessary. Just make certain that there is no edible chometz inside, tape it closed well and see below #10.
10. POTS, PANS, DISHES, & SILVERWARE (CUTLERY): Whatever is not going to be used for Pessach should either be locked up, or put away and sealed in a manner which will remind you not to use them on Pessach. If there is a possibility of actual chometz in them, the chometz should be sold (See Gen. Note C.). If you do not sell chometz, then they should either be washed or soaked in a household cleaner; it is not necessary to scrub them. (Concerning Kashering utensils for Pessach consult a Rav.)
11. FOOD PROCESSOR/MIXER: A Rav should be consulted.
12. DISH TOWELS: If one does not have a Pesach’dik set of dish towels, then one’s regular dish towels may be used if they are washed with detergent and no food remains attached to them. (It is customary to have a set of Pesach’dik dish towels).
13. PESACH TABLECLOTHS: These can be ironed with the same iron as is used during the rest of the year.
14. CLOTHES, BLANKETS, POCKETS, ETC.: If they have been washed in detergent or dry cleaned, then there is no need for them to be checked (see General Note E). Otherwise, they need to be cleaned and checked thoroughly by brushing or shaking them out well. However, if there is a possibility of crumbs between the stitches or in a hidden crevice which cannot be shaken out, then they must be wiped with a rag which has been soaked in a detergent. Clothes which will not be worn on Pessach do not have to be checked, but they should be put away and the chometz in them sold ( see General Note C. And Sec. 10 on Pots and Pans).
15. SIDDURIM, BENCHERS, SEFORIM, & BOOKS: If there is a chance that they contain chometz crumbs, then they should either be put away and sold with the other chometz utensils (See General Notes C.), or cleaned and checked well.
16. TOYS: If there is edible chometz, then it should either be removed, or rendered inedible (See General Notes E). There is no need to scrub them.
17. TECHINA AND OTHER KITNIYUS: May be used after the house has been cleaned for Pessach. They should not be cooked in utensils that will be used on Pessach, and certainly not on Pessach itself ( according to the Askenaz Minhag).
18. CHECKING THE ROOMS: If it is too difficult to check all the rooms on one night, then the work may be divided and done on other nights (according to all the Laws of Bedikas Chometz). No chometz should be left in any room that has been cleaned and checked properly. Since the brocha is not recited before the night of the l4th, therefore, at least one place that has chometz should be left unchecked. Then, the mitzvah of Bedikas Chometz can be performed with a brocha on the night of the 14th on that area. If the whole house has already been completely cleaned before the l4th, then the l0 pieces of chometz (according to the Minhag) should be hidden by somebody else so that proper bedikah can be made.
19. FOOD THAT FALLS onto a chair or onto the floor on Pessach should be washed off for hygienic reasons. The food does not become chometz even if the food is hot.
20. LAST MINUTE PREPARATIONS: For example, setting the table, etc., should be completed early enough in the day, so that you will be able to rest a little bit. Be ready to start the Seder immediately after Maariv, to ensure that the children won’t fall asleep at the Seder.
21. ENJOY PESACH! Try to make the Pessach chores easy for yourself. Don’t do unnecessary hard work. Don’t do unnecessary cleaning. YOU can be like a Queen and you must enjoy Pessach.
BASIC LAWS OF THE SEDER
Some women have a habit of taking a bite of matzo, then running back and forth to the kitchen taking a few more bites in between. In this way, it takes them too long to eat the matzo, and they do not fulfill the mitzvah properly. The same is true about the wine, maror, korech, and afikomen. Therefore, do not leave the table until you have finished eating the required amount. Sit like a Queen! Relax and be calm while eating and drinking the matzo and wine within the time limit. The cooking can be checked after completing the mitzvahs. Remember..these are mitzvahs that can be done only once a year, so enjoy them and enjoy the whole Seder.
There are many laws about which there exist numerous opinions. It is beyond the scope of this pamphlet to encompass all of the opinions. Many people choose to be more stringent on various issues. Much can be written about each and every detail. The laws contained herein are the basic requirements to fulfill the Halachic obligations. If this is difficult, a Halachic authority should be consulted.
MATZOH AND MAROR:
SIZE: The size of a kezayis is a measurement in volume equal to the volume of half an egg. There is a difference of opinion if our eggs are smaller than those at the time of the Talmud. According to the Chazon Ish zt’l the size of kezayis d’oraisa is 45-50 cc. And according to the Hagaon Harav A. Chaim No’eh zt’l it is 25.6-28.8 cc. According to the Mishna Brura for a Mitzvah d’Oraisa we should measure according to the larger shiur (size) and for a Mitzvah d’Rabbonon it is permissible to rely on the smaller shiur.
It is very hard to give an exact standard shiur for the amount of hand matzo that one has to eat for a kezayis d’Oraisa and a kezayis d’rabbonon; therefore a Rav should be consulted. However, one can rely on the fact that by breaking the matzo into small pieces an then filling up one’s mouth with as much as possible (remaining relaxed) leaving minimal room for chewing afterwards, one will have eaten enough to fulfill one’s obligation of the Mitzvah of eating Motzei Matzo.
It should be noted that:
1. Hand matzo should be used for Motzei Matzo, Korech, and afikomen. If this is impossible then a Rav should be consulted.
2. Korech is a Mitzvah d’Rabbonon and requires a kezayis of matzo and a kezayis of maror.
3. Elderly people or those unable to meet these requirements should consult a Rav.
4. Afikomen is a Mitzvah d’Rabbonon and requires a kezayis of matzo. It would be preferable to eat 2 kezaysim.
1. If possible it is preferable to try and swallow one kezayis at one time. Otherwise, it is preferable that the kezayis for the Mitzvah d’Oraisa of Matzo should be eaten within two minutes, or at least four minutes.
2. 5-6 minutes is acceptable by some Rabbinical authorities.
3. Relax, chew well and then begin swallowing. The time limit starts from when you begin swallowing.
4. Under very exceptional circumstances, 9 minutes is also acceptable.
5. If one encounters difficulty, a small amount of water may be sipped while chewing.
THE FOUR CUPS:
WHAT TO DRINK:
1. Red wine is preferable.
2. If one cannot drink wine he may use grape juice.
3. Those allergic to wine and to grape juice may use a “Chamer Medina”, for example tea and coffee.
SIZE: 1. The cup used must contain at least a revi’is.
To avoid drowsiness: (a) use a cup that does not exceed a minimum shiur (size). (When the Seder falls out on Friday night, a larger shiur or revi’is should be used for the First Cup. (B) One may drink a glass of water immediately after swallowing the wine. (The water should be on the table at the time that one says the brocha of Borei Pri Hagafen so that the water is included in the brocha on the wine.
2. Preferably, one should drink the entire cup.
3. If this is very difficult, then drinking most of the cup is sufficient.
Under exceptional conditions, drinking most of the revi’is is acceptable, even if the cup is much larger than a revi’is.
TIME LIMIT: Preferably, two swallows. If this is difficult then up to 4 minutes is acceptable. If necessary 5 or 6 minutes is also acceptable by some Poskim.
HAGADAH: The proper time for starting the Seder is right after tzeis hakochovim. Upon arriving home from Maariv one should start the Seder promptly in order that the children should not fall asleep before eating the Matzo and Maror and the meal. Therefore, one should say the Hagadah as quickly as possible, and save the commentaries for later on.
LEANING: The mitzvah of “Hasaivah”, is to give one a feeling of freedom; one must lean on the left side, however, one should not lean in an uncomfortable manner. The Minhag is that women do not lean.
This document may be copied and distributed freely.
Posted on | April 1, 2014 | By Azriela Jaffe | 2 Comments
By the time this column posts, the drama will be over. My daughter, Elana, now a high school senior at Reenas Beis Yaakov in Edison, NJ, will know which seminaries have accepted her, and she will have made her choice.
It’s a tumultuous experience, the seminary application, interview, and selection process. Elana has enjoyed being with the same group of friends since second grade. They light up my house with their positive energy and laughter on Shabbos, and I have watched all of them develop into lovely young women ready to venture out into the next chapter of their lives. Our house will be very quiet next year, not just because of Elana’s hoped for departure for Israel, but also, the loss of all of her friends parading through the house, studying with her, chilling with her, and giving me joy, nachas and envy, as Elana has enjoyed close friendships the likes of which I have never known. I send her off into her life after Reenas with lots of pride, and encouragement, and a big sigh.
I also send her off with prayer. This is something that any frum woman reading this column would have an. . . of course. . . response to. But an awareness struck me recently that every baalas teshuvah can relate to.
I drove Elana to her first seminary interview, held in a high school, which gave over a classroom to the Rabbi who was conducting the interviews. Since we hadn’t attended the open house, he graciously allowed me to watch a seminary video with Elana, and to receive a summary overview of the seminary from his perspective. And then he excused me outside of the room so that he could interview Elana without her mother sitting on the couch behind her.
The interview was very early in the morning so I had brought my siddur with me. As she and the Rabbi continued their conversation, I opened my siddur and proceeded with morning blessings, Shema, and Shomonei Esrei. Whenever I could, I tucked in special prayer for Elana, that she should be relaxed and confident and be able to impress the Rabbi with her special qualities.
There I was, standing outside of her interview room, siddur in hand, eyes closed, praying for my daughter. This was not an unusual sight for any of the other religious teenagers walking the hallways between classes. They’d seen their moms do the same for years.
For a moment, when my prayers were finished for the time being, tears sprung to my eyes.
My mother has never prayed for me. I don’t believe so, anyway. She doesn’t have a religious life or a relationship with our Creator, one that I am aware of. She doesn’t own a siddur, and she doesn’t ever go to shul. She is a worrier, so perhaps all of the worries she has sent up to heaven over the years have been received as prayer. I’d like to think so.
I stand outside of Elana’s interview room wanting the best for her. I stand outside of that room knowing that it’s in Hashem’s hands, and asking Hashem to help her. I stand outside that room sending another prayer, one of thousands, that I have said for her over her lifetime. I have prayed for her friendships, and her health, and her love of Torah, and her success on any number of tests. I have prayed for her happiness, and her refuah from sickness, and so many details of her life, she would probably be surprised to know. I have no doubt, if she goes to Israel next year, I will stand with siddur in hand and plead with Hashem to watch over her.
A baalas teshuvah mourns the loss of many things, and accepts that the path is sometimes a lonely and trying one. I miss something I never had, and probably never will – a mother who prays for me.
If you pray every day for your children, don’t think, “of course.” It is a gift, one your children may never fully appreciate until they are standing with siddur in hand, praying for their own children. And then they will understand a mother’s prayer.
Posted on | March 31, 2014 | By Rabbi Dovid Schwartz | 2 Comments
Today, 29 Adar Sheini is the yuhrzeit-anniversarry of the death of the great Polish Chassidic Master Reb Shloimeleh Rabinowicz; zy”a, the first Radomsker Rebbe, as well as other tzadikim and talmidei chachamim-Torah sages. The following Devar Torah is adapted from his work on the Torah and Holidays, Tiferes Shlomo, and is dedicated l’iluy nishmas –for the ascent of the sou,l of
Mrs. Lottie B. Valberg who shares the same yuhrzeit by her grandson lhbc”c Mr. Simcha Valberg, sponsor of the weely Izhbitzer Torah.
אָדָם, כִּי-יִהְיֶה בְעוֹר-בְּשָׂרוֹ שְׂאֵת אוֹ-סַפַּחַת אוֹ בַהֶרֶת, וְהָיָה בְעוֹר-בְּשָׂרוֹ, לְנֶגַע צָרָעַת–וְהוּבָא אֶל-אַהֲרֹן הַכֹּהֵן, אוֹ אֶל-אַחַד מִבָּנָיו הַכֹּהֲנִים.
If a person (Adam) has a white blotch, discoloration or spot on the skin of his body and it [is suspected] of being a sign of the leprous curse on his skin; he should be brought to Ahron the Kohen or to one of his descendants; the kohanim…
זֹאת תּוֹרַת, אֲשֶׁר-בּוֹ נֶגַע צָרָעַת, אֲשֶׁר לֹא-תַשִּׂיג יָדוֹ, בְּטָהֳרָתוֹ
This is the Torah governing he who has within him the leprous curse…
Comparing and contrasting these two pesukim we find that there are two distinct types of metzoroim; one whose tzaraas-leprous curse is superficial; no more than skin-deep and the other whose tzaraas is described as being “within him”; at the core of his being. Moreover the first type of metzora is described as being an adam, the word in lashon kodesh –Torah Hebrew, that connotes human-beings at their highest level.
Reb Shloimeleh Radomsker, echoing the Ramban, (Vayikra 13:46 D”H v’habeged) reiterates the concept that the entire spectrum of negaim –skin ailments that exude tumah-ritual impurity, and their purification has nothing to do with physical maladies nor are the kohanim mandated by the Torah to deal with negaim dermatologists.
Negaim are HaShems way of disciplining the afflicted person and affording him the opportunity to cast his sins aside and return to HaShem where he will find mercy and healing. Read more
Posted on | March 27, 2014 | By Administrator | Add Your Comments
Posted on | March 26, 2014 | By Rabbi Dovid Schwartz | 4 Comments
A SPECIAL REQUEST: Please do not begin reading this devar Torah unless you intend to learn it thoroughly and reach the disclaimer at the very end. To do otherwise could prove hazardous to your spiritual development and health.
How can it be that a small spreading of the white nega-tzara’as rash causes ritual impurity but that if the rash spreads over the entire body it then becomes a sign of ritual purity?
Why is it that on a Sanhedrin tribunal judging capital offenses a mere majority of two voting for guilt is sufficient to execute capital punishment but that if the Sanhedrin votes for guilt unanimously that the accused is declared innocent and “walks”?
But if the white mark increases in size on the skin after it was shown to the Kohen, who purified it, the person must again show it to the Kohen. If the Kohen observes that the rash on the skin has increased in size he shall declare the person impure, it is the leprous curse.
[This is the law] if the leprous area flourishes over the skin so that it covers all the skin of the afflicted person from head to foot wherever the Kohen can see: When the Kohen sees that a leprous discoloration has covered all the [person’s] skin he must declare the afflicted person pure. It has turned completely white [and so] he is pure.
Rabi Kahana said: If the Sanhedrin unanimously found [the accused] guilty, he is acquitted. Why? —Because we have learned that final sentencing must be postponed till the next day [after the completion of the trial] in the hope of finding new points in favor of the defense. But these [judges who voted unanimously] will no longer [be capable of] see[ing anything exonerating or meritorious] for him
Rabi Yochanan said, “Yehudah wanted to pass by [Tamar], but God sent the angel who is appointed over lust. The angel said to him, ‘Yehudah! Where are you going? Where will kings come from? Where will great men come from? Where will redeemers come from?’”… “And he veered towards her on the road” (Bereshis38:16)—Coerced against his will [not in his best interests
—Bereshis Rabbah 85:8
Belief in human Free-Will is a fundamental of our faith. In Hilchos Teshuvah (chapters 5,6) the Rambam argues spiritedly and convincingly for the veracity and reality the human Free-Will refuting the arguments and beliefs of the determinists and incompatibilists, even the ones who attempt to support their contentions by quoting pesukim from the TeNaC”h. Later commentaries point out that the eleventh Maimonidean article of faith is Divine Reward and Punishment and that such a belief is untenable unless human Free-Will is real and not a myth.
That said it is equally important to remember that our Free-Will is limited and not absolute or all-encompassing. In his treatise on Free-Will, Rav Elya Lazer Dessler uses the following allegory to illustrate this point: When two neighboring countries are war with one another in theory the potential exists for the absolute victory of one country or another. In this scenario country “A” would conquer and annex every last acre of enemy country “B”s land, raising their national colors and imposing their laws and governmental system over every inch of what was formerly enemy territory. But in practice, on any given day during any given battle of the war only a small portion or, in a multiple front war, several small portions of territory are actually being contested. Armies advance and retreat and what was firmly under the control of one country or another last week, last month or last year may be in enemy hands today. Nevertheless, in a long wars ebb and flow the actual current battlefronts comprise a relatively small to tiny portion of the combatant countries total land mass. Read more
Posted on | March 25, 2014 | By Mark Frankel | Add Your Comments
Rabbi Welcher gave a shiur last week about “Thirty Days Before the Chag” and three ways that Gemora is understood. Go download it and give it a listen when you have the chance.
Pesach is the holiday which requires the most preparation, has the most mitzvos, and affords us the opportunity to make significant spiritual strides. Like most valuable things in life it requires preparation and right now we’re at the 21 days mark and counting.
Spiritual growth requires effort, but if we put in the effort, the connection and growth will come. The main thing that prevents us from making smart efforts is the world of distraction that we live in. Even if we can’t overcome all the distractions, we can choose to gather some moments and invest them in learning and preparing for Pesach.
Amazon has a great selection of Haggadahs, that can be delivered to your door this week. Why not pick one up and start your Pesach spiritual preparation today.
Posted on | March 24, 2014 | By Bracha Goetz | Add Your Comments
Ever get the sinking feeling that your efforts don’t really matter? Like you really can’t make a difference?
When feelings of futility hit, we can now watch the Shloshim observance for Reb Meir Tzvi Schuster, of blessed memory, which was held yesterday in Yerushalayim. Then we will quickly remember what one person can do. It can be viewed at the website: www.rebmeirschuster.org.
As explained in one of the hespedim given, Reb Noach Weinberg, of blessed memory, who was the Rosh Ha Yeshiva ofAish Ha Torah said, “If one person can destroy 6 million Jewish people, one person can save 6 million Jewish people.”
Reb Meir Schuster – from an ordinary background like you or me – developed the clarity, the caring and the perseverance to help tens of thousands of Jewish people return to a Jewish way of life. And from all of these returnees are already coming hundreds of thousands of children and grandchildren who could have lost their Judiasm otherwise. This is not even counting all the schools, programs, books, articles, etc. already made by all these baalei teshuva (and their offspring) which have helped so many other Jewish people come to value their heritage. From the exponential ripple effect created, 6 million does not seem far off at all.
For decades, day and night, Reb Meir Schuster ran after each neshama he could find at the Kotel and the Central Bus Station in Yerushalayim, bringing each diamond in the rough to a Shabbos meal or a center for Jewish learning . He founded the Heritage Houses so that at last there would be Jewish hostels in the Old City of Yerushalayim and later, he started the Shorashim Outreach Centers for Israelis that are also flourishing. Without self-interest, he simply and consistently devoted himself to doing what he saw needed to be done. And then he just kept at it.
Perhaps what can inspire us most of all is remembering that Reb Meir Schuster was not charismatic and he was not a master salesman. He was a shy and sweet man of few words, but every Jewish person was extremely dear to him, and that is what came across.
Yesterday, privately, Rebbetzin Schuster shared some thoughts on what she learned in the past month about how Reb Meir succeeded with all the young people he reached. She put it this way, “Reb Meir saw into their souls…and they saw into his heart.”
In case anyone would like to contribute to the wonderful endeavors that Reb Meir Schuster began, in his memory, I am providing their links here:
Women’s Heritage House http://www.rebmeirschuster.org/DONATEhh.php
Men’s Heritage House http://www.heritagehouse.org.il/donate/
Shorashim Outreach Centers http://www.shorashimcenters.org/Donate.html
Keeping Shul Kitchens Kosher; A Foreign Land – The Torah World; Be Transformed; Ode of Praise to Charedi Jewry
Posted on | March 20, 2014 | By Administrator | 1 Comment
Posted on | March 19, 2014 | By Rabbi Dovid Schwartz | 6 Comments
How does Jewish sin differ from sin in general?
Why do we read Parshas Parah only at this time of the year?
I have recorded a homiletic interpretation … of R. Moshe Hadarshan … And have them take for you: … just as they took off their own golden earrings for the calf, so shall they bring this [cow] from their own [assets] in penance. A red cow: This is comparable to the baby of a maidservant who soiled the king’s palace [with fecal matter]. They said, “Let his mother come and clean up the mess.” Similarly, let the cow come and atone for the calf.] … [Midrash Aggadah and Tanchuma Chukath 8]
A Kohen who converted to an idolatrous religion should not “raise his palms” in the priestly blessing. Others say that if he repented then he may perform the priestly blessing.
–Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 128:37
But if he actually worshipped an idol, even if he was forced to do so and even if he subsequently repented, he may not perform the priestly blessing.
–Be’er Heitev ibid footnote 63
Approach the altar: [The salient corners of the altar reminded Ahron of the juvenile horn-buds of the Calf] because Ahron was embarrassed and frightened of approaching [the altar] Moshe said to him: “Why are you ashamed? You have been chosen for this [role]!”
- Torath Kohanim on VaYikra 9:7
Fire came forth from before HaShem and consumed them [Nadav and Avihu], such that they died before HaShem. Then Moshe said to Ahron, “This is precisely what HaShem meant, [when He said], ‘I will be sanctified through those near to Me (Shemos 29:43) … “
מוֹצִיא מִזָּלוֹת יְקָרוֹת. מַתִּיר מֵאֲסוּרוֹת מֻתָּרוֹת. נוֹתֵן מִטְּמֵאוֹת טְהוֹרוֹת
HaShem brings forth the priceless from the worthless, He allows the permissible from the prohibited, He produces the pure from the impure.
Piyut-“Yotzros” for Parshas Parah
The mei chatas-the waters whose main ingredient were the ashes produced from immolating the carcass of the Parah Adumah-the Red Heifer, are the only means to gain purity after contracting impurity through contact with the dead- tuma’as meis. A person who has become tamei meis may not consume the korban Pesach-the Passover sacrifice. (Or, for that matter, any consumable sacrifices.) When the Bais HaMikdash-the Temple in Jerusalem, stood those who were tme’ei meis would undergo the mei chatas purification process required to enable them to offer their korban Pesach. Nowadays, as the Bais HaMikdash lies in ruins, the four special parshiyos/ maftir readings that precede Pesach are all meant as a preparation for the holiday. So we can easily understand that it is apropos to read Parshas Parah at this time of the year.
However, during each of the shalosh regalim-pilgrimage holidays, multiple offerings had to be sacrificed and consumed in a state of ritual purity. This being the case, the Biskovitzer asks: Why is the reading of Parshas Parah limited to pre-Pesach preparation? Logically, we ought to be reading it before Shavous and Sukkos as well. The insights that he and other members of the Izhbitzer school provide by way of answering this question reveal a profound and deep-seated difference between Jewish sin, and sin in general.
Posted on | March 18, 2014 | By Mark Frankel | 2 Comments
We’ve just finished developing a video and a graphic to introduce people to a famous productivity system called Getting Things Done® (GTD®). Having just finished Purim and with Pesach right around the corner, we all have many more tasks than time. While GTD® won’t kasher your oven, it will help you schedule that task at the right time.
We’d love your feedback on two questions in particular:
1) After looking at the graphic, watching the video, and reading the text, do you feel that you have a decent understanding of GTD®?
2) Which of the three formats (graphic, video, text) did you find most helpful?
We recommend that you
1. Download the graphic here.
2. Watch the video
3. Read the text
4. Repeat steps 2 and 3 to help install the concepts in your long term memory.
GTD® is a 5 step system for collecting, processing, organizing, reviewing and doing your tasks and projects.
These 5 steps will get all your files, papers, projects, tasks & ideas into an organized set of lists and files.
This process gets your stuff off your mind and into a system that promotes effective and efficient task/project execution.
Here are the five steps of GTD:
1. Collect all of your files, papers, projects, tasks and ideas.
2. Process each inbox item and determine if it is actionable in the short term or not.
3. Organize each list and file in a manner that will facilitate performing the items they contain.
4. Review your lists and files regularly and keep them up to date.
5. Do your actions using your lists and files.
The lists and files of GTD® fall into two major categories:
Those containing items that are actionable in the short term.
Those containing items that are not actionable in the short term.
“Short Term Actionable” Items
Waiting For items require somebody else to work on them.
Next Actions are single action items to be done as soon as possible.
Calendar items are single action items due on specific dates.
Projects are items with multiple actions.
Project Plans are the key ideas, vision and outcomes of your projects
“Not Short Term Actionable” Items
Trash items are not needed at all.
Tickler items are filed and will be used or re-examined at a specific future date.
Someday/Maybe items might be needed for a future action.
Reference items might be useful for a future purpose.
Now let’s discuss the steps.
Step 1: Collect
Step 2: Process
Step 3: Organize
Step 4: Review
Step 5: Do
Let’s Review the 5 steps:
1. Collect all of your files, papers, projects, tasks and ideas.
2. Process each inbox item and determine if it is actionable in the short term or not.
3. Organize each list and file in a manner that will facilitate performing the items they contain.
4. Review your lists and files regularly and keep them up to date.
5. Do your actions using your lists and files.
Posted on | March 17, 2014 | By Azriela Jaffe | 23 Comments
“I’m a BT.” This statement has an air of finality to it, doesn’t it? Like, “I’m a graduate of Harvard Med School”, or “I’m a doctor”, or “I’m a mother”. “I’m a BT” could be right up there with the other descriptors that apply to me: Jewish, female, wife to Stephen, age 47, professional author, mother of three. “I’m a BT.” I like the ring of it. I don’t have to give over the long complicated story of how I journeyed for twenty years as an adult before committed to a Torah way of life. This is the thirty-second elevator speech: “I’m a BT.” Then, the person to whom I’m speaking can nod his or her head in an understanding way. “Ah, I get it. You’re a BT!” Now we understand each other. . .
After I mastered the art of announcing myself as a BT without stumbling over the words, or feeling embarrassed about it, it came as a bit of a surprise to me that the label can be quite misleading. I AM a BT makes it sound like I have graduated from BT school, and I can now pronounce myself as holding a Masters in BT’dom. I AM a BT makes it sound as if I traveled down a road, picked up this identity along the way, and now I am, forever more, a fully formed BT, with all the credentials. I AM a BT is a bit of a cop-out, an easy way to size up a complex journey that is impossible to reduce to an elevator speech. More accurate would probably be this: “I am growing and learning in Torah.” But of course that expression isn’t as jazzy sounding, doesn’t quite sum it up in a few easy to remember initials.
I now find it more accurate to use the expression “I am a BT” to identify the direction to which I am moving — closer towards Torah and the Torah ideals of my long-ago ancestors who stood at Mt. Sinai and pronounced themselves ready to follow Hashem’s commandments. I am no longer moving away and disowning my Jewish heritage, I am embracing it. I am no longer focused on successful assimilation for my children, but rather, successful indoctrination of my children into the yeshivas way of life. I am no longer satisfied with just knowing enough Jewish learning to get by — I want to learn something new every week. I am a BT, growing in Torah, and trying not to be discouraged by how far I have to go, but rather, looking back at how far I’ve come.
My seventh-grade daughter is studying the laws of Shabbos in school. I’ve been fully shomer shabbat for about six years, and to my knowledge there isn’t anyone in our Highland Park community who won’t eat in my home. I pass the test, so to speak. I can hang the BT kashrus certification on my fridge. But just the other day, my daughter came home from school and told me — nicely, because that’s how she’s been trained to speak to her Ima on such sensitive matters — that I was opening the black olive can wrong on Shabbos. I knew not to use the electric can opener. I knew not to tear off any letters from the label. I didn’t know that before I opened the top of the can, I was supposed to puncture a hole in the bottom, so that I would be rendering the vessel unusable. News to me. I’ve opened about 200 black olive cans the wrong way. Please forgive me, Hashem. I am a work in progress.
The longer I am a BT, the longer the road ahead of me appears to be. Way in the early days, I worried about such basics as separating milk from meat, and wearing a hat on Shabbos. I was figuring out how to say the right thing on the Yom Tovim, so that I didn’t just say “Good Shabbos” to everyone when it was a Tuesday. I felt like I was at the bottom of Mount Everest ( or should I say, Mt. Sinai), and the top seemed out of sight. But then, as I started climbing, with the help of some very special teachers, I started feeling more confident. I CAN DO THIS! I can keep a kosher home that even the Rabbi will eat in. I can wear a sheitle and a long skirt and look every bit the part of an FFB. I can go to classes and learn, and learn, and learn, and then practice, and practice, and practice, and I can DO this. I can raise my children to be frum yidden who will also choose to raise their children to be frum yidden. I have returned.
Funny thing about climbing this mountain. I’ve discovered that it’s somewhat comforting to keep looking “down” – it reminds me, when I get discouraged, of how far I’ve come. And I’ve also discovered that there really is no summit to reach when, should I get there, I can just kick back and enjoy the view. Thank G-d, I have three children, ages 8, 11, and 12 1/2, who keep teaching me how much more I have to learn. Thank G-d.
Azriela Jaffe is the author of “What Do You Mean, You Can’t Eat in My Home, A Guide to How Newly Observant Jews and their Lesser Observant Relatives Can Still Get Along”, which can be purchased at Barnes and Noble and other online booksellers.
Originally Published Feb 27, 2007
Posted on | March 13, 2014 | By Administrator | Add Your Comments
Posted on | March 12, 2014 | By Rabbi Dovid Schwartz | 2 Comments
Tzav-Parshas Zachor 5774-An installment in the series of adaptations
From the Waters of the Shiloah: Plumbing the Depths of the Izhbitzer School
For series introduction CLICK
By Rabbi Dovid Schwartz-Mara D’Asra Cong Sfard of Midwood
Remember what Amalek did to you on your way out of Egypt. When they encountered you [lit: cooled you off] on the way, you were tired and exhausted … they did not fear Elokim.
When they encountered: Heb. קָרְךָ, an expression denoting a chance occurrence (מִקְרֶה) … Yet another explanation: an expression denoting heat and cold (קוֹר). He “cooled you off” and made you [appear] lukewarm, after you were boiling hot, for the nations were afraid to fight you, [just as people are afraid to touch something boiling hot]. But Amalek came forward and started [waging war with you] and showed the way to others. This can be compared to a bathtub of boiling water into which no one could immerse himself. Along came a reckless man and jumped headlong into it! Although he scalded himself, he [succeeded in] making others think that it was cooler [than it really was]. [Tanchuma 9]
Our Rabbis taught: [vis a vis parents] What is [i.e. how does one fulfill the mitzvah of] ‘fear’ and what is [i.e. how does one fulfill the mitzvah of] ‘honor’? ‘Fear’ means that he [the son] must not stand nor sit in his [the father's] place, לא יסתור דבריו, nor contradict his words, nor tip the scales against him. ‘Honor” means that he must feed and hydrate him, clothe and cover him, lead him in and out.
The relationship between the Jewish people and HaShem, and even between individual Jews and HaShem, is multifaceted. Two familiar facets are those of our being subjects in G-ds Kingdom and of our being His children. On every public fast day, most recently on Taanis Esther, we beseeched Avinu Malkenu- our Father/ our King. To our detriment, true kings are very hard to find in contemporary society and, as such, we lack one of the primary role models for our relationship with HaShem.
Thankfully, at least fathers are ubiquitous and our relationships with our fathers can serve as ready metaphors from which we can draw relevant lessons in how to relate to HaShem. And while, for many of us, the child-father relationship falls short of the ideal, if not being utterly dysfunctional, at least we have concrete, black on white parameters for what the ideal relationship ought to be as set down in Shas and in Shulchan Aruch in Hichos kibud av v’eim-the laws of honoring and being in awe of parents.
We are not permitted it to be soser the words/ matters of our fathers’. This word, soser, is conventionally translated as “contradict.” But Rav Laibeleh Eiger reveals another layer of meaning in this word that impacts our understanding of the eternal war that we wage against Amalek:
Moshe Rabeinu was instructed to deliver this message at his first meeting with the Egyptian pharaoh as HaShem’s ambassador and as His agent to redeem His people from slavery: “this is what HaShem says: ‘Israel is My son — my firstborn. I’ve told you to send My son away [out of Egypt] to serve Me. If you refuse to let him leave I will ultimately kill your own firstborn son.’”(Shemos 4:22,23) As a result of the Exodus from Egypt HaShems Paternal relationship with the K’lal Yisrael-the Jewish People, became manifest and obvious for all the world to see. Moreover, it revealed the fact that HaShem was a very involved Parent; a “helicopter Dad” kivyachol -if you will, who was very concerned about his son’s welfare and insinuated himself directly into the sons affairs in order to relieve the sons suffering and to liberate him.
After the Exodus from Egypt K’lal Yisrael was cognizant of the special relationship that they enjoyed with HaShem. However, around the time of their being attacked by Amalek, perceptions began to change. For the nations of the world who were awestruck by the plagues of Egypt, the slaying of the firstborn and the utter destruction of the Egyptian military at the Sea of Reeds, it was not merely that the bloom was off the rose; it was that K’lal Yisrael had lost their air of invincibility. Although Amalek had gotten its collective nose bloodied and had been “weakened” by Yehoshua; in launching their unprovoked attack on K’lal Yisrael they had blazed a trail and set the precedent for all future attacks, wars, ethnic-cleansings and genocides perpetrated by all future Jew-haters.
But, more significantly, doubts began creeping into the collective consciousness of K’lal Yisrael. The Jews themselves internalized the implied message of Amalek’s attack. “If this could happen” the reasoning went “perhaps we are not really the apple of HaShem’s eye, maybe we are not so much different from the balance of humanity. Who can still claim with confidence that we are His son and that He is our Father?” While the facts on the ground such as the manna bread from heaven and the miraculous cloud pillar should have eased these anxieties, nagging doubts remained. They reasoned that HaShem must have some “hidden” agenda, something that is characterized by hester Panim-a concealment of the Divine Countenance.
Even before encountering Amalek the seeds of doubt had been planted in the national consciousness. When K’lal Yisrael arrived at Rephidim there was no water readily available for them to drink. Although Moshe Rabeinu worked the miracle producing the nomadic wellspring that would travel with K’lal Yisrael throughout their sojourn in the wilderness until death of Miriam; the upshot of that particular episode was this: “Moshe named the place Testing-and-Argument because the people had argued and had tested HaShem. They had asked ‘is HaShem within us or not?’” (Shemos 17:7).
Chaza”l provide a biting, acerbic characterization of K’lal Yisrael’s ambivalence and under-confidence. “This can be compared to a man who carried his son on his shoulders and set out on the road. Whenever his son saw something, he would say, ‘Father, take it and give it to me,’ and he [the father] would do so. They met a man, and the son said to the man, ‘Have you seen my father?’ So his father said to the boy, “You don’t know where I am?” He threw him [his son] down off him, and a dog came and bit him [the son]. (Midrash Tanchuma, Yisro 3; Shemos Rabbah 26:2). The boy in question never doubted whether or not he had a father. He merely asked “do you see him … because I can’t!” The boy thinks that his father is out of sight — concealed.
The episode of Rephidim is the immediate preamble to the preemptive, unprovoked, initial attack of Amalek. Amalek’s “chilling effect” did not merely cool down K’lal Yisrael in the court of public opinion but in their own self-perception and in their perception of HaShem as well. While they still believed that they had a heavenly Father in the abstract, they were no longer able to “see” Him. His administration of their affairs was now being orchestrated long-distance from behind a curtain, as it were.
In Lashon Kodesh-the holy tongue, there are many words synonymous with a contradiction; listor-to demolish/deconstruct, l’chalek-to argue/separate, l’hakchish-to deny/thin-out, l’hitnaged-to oppose. Yet the verb that our sages chose to impart the lesson of not contradicting ones father is the verb in that is etymologically related to hiddenness and concealment; לא יסתור דבריו. Rav Laibeleh Eiger maintains that one of the subtextual messages of this halachah is that a son is prohibited from characterizing his father’s words/deeds as being covert and clandestine. The prohibition can be translated “he should not hide his father’s words/matters.” On a national level as a result of the chilling effect of Amalek’s onslaught, this is precisely the prohibition that K’lal Yisrael contravened in their relationship with their Father in heaven.
Rav Laibeleh teaches that part and parcel of our mitzvos to remember and to wage war against Amalek is to fight and suppress our own internal Amalek; the self-sabotaging a voice within our individual and collective psyches that mitigates and that dilutes the unique son-Father relationship that we enjoy with HaShem. We need to scrap and claw to move beyond an abstract philosophical recognition of HaShems Administration of our affairs. Knowing that we have a Father in heaven is insufficient. We must fight the good fight to achieve a visceral awareness that we are riding on His shoulders and that He is always carrying us. We need to develop the vision to see that our merciful father is directly and intimately dealing with us; His firstborn son. As the prophet thunders “O Why Yaakov do you say, and speak, O Israel: ‘My way is hidden from HaShem, and my justice is passed over by my G-d’”? (Yeshaya 40:27)
We must always remember and never forget that while our King may be remote and inaccessible and may be conducting a clandestine foreign policy or waging a covert military operation our Father is loving, merciful, intimate and directly involved in our affairs. Parshas Zachor would be a great time to start remembering this and, while listening to Megillas Esther is something that we do with our ears, in order to truly vanquish Amalek we needed to sharpen our eyes to abide by the halachah of לא יסתור דבריו, do right by our Father in heaven and do our own personal Megillas Hester-revealing of the concealment.
~adapted from Toras Emes Zachor/ Tetzaveh 5628/1868 D”H Amru
Please note: I was at unable to provide an online link to the original Hebrew source material. If anyone would like a scanned copy of the pertinent page please email me at SfardClasses@gmail.com. It should be available by tomorrow
Posted on | March 11, 2014 | By Mark Frankel | 5 Comments
I went to the Tefilla Gathering on Sunday in the Wall Street area. It was a tremendous Kiddush Hashem as 40,000 Jews gathered peacefully to pray. The next day a friend emailed me this Voz Iz Neias link with my picture and the following caption:
Ultra Orthodox men in downtown Manhattan protesting the plan to require the ultra-Orthodox to serve in the army. The Atzeres Tefillah was attended by thousands form across the tri-state region.
There were a few problems with the caption:
1) There’s a misspelling in it.
2) I wasn’t there to protest, but rather because I understood this as a prayer gathering for a better resolution of the problems facing the Jewish people in Israel, specifically in regard to the draft issue. That’s how my Rav framed it.
3) Coming from an Orthodox publication, I probably did not fit in to their understanding of the word Ultra.
But then I thought a little more about the definition of Ultra. If it means people who believe in the primacy of Torah as the guiding force in our lives and our communities, then I’m definitely Ultra. And the Ultra (primacy of Torah) label also fits a lot of Rebbeim I have had the pleasure to learn from and grow with, who were educated in Yeshiva University and other Modern Orthodox yeshivos.
In todays parlance Ultra is a dividing word, but just beyond the term is the uniting concept of Torah defining and driving our collective lives. We certainly need to discuss potential solutions to problems that exist in our communities, but when we are Torah centered we can remain united in our search for solutions.keep looking »