The Centrality of Appreciating Hashem’s Hashgachah

The Rambam’s 13 principles of faith can be grouped into three:
– Belief in G-d
– Belief in Prophecy
– Belief in Hashgachah
The Ramchal structures the first three sections of Derech Hashem along these lines with the fourth section emphasing Serving G-d.

The famous Ramban at the end of Parshas Bo details how Yetzias Mitzrayim provides clear evidence of these three principals:
“The supernatural wonders indicate the world has a G-d who created it, knows all, oversees all and is all powerful. And when that wonder is publicly declared beforehand through a prophet, the truth of prophecy is made clear as well, namely that G-d will speak to a person and reveal His secrets to His servants, the prophets, and with acknowledgment of this the entire Torah is sustained.”

In his Shabbos Hagadol shiur, Rabbi Welcher pointed out that after the Hagadah focuses on Hashem’s Hashgachah, we thank Hashem with 2 perakim of Hallel and continue with the Matzah which according to some Achronim is representative of the Todah offering. The meal can be considered part (or subservient to) the “Matzah Offering” and this is perhaps why it is not considered an interruption of the Hallel.

Rabbi Welcher also pointed out that the Hodaah in Tefillah makes Hashem’s presence more real than the more abstract Shevach and Bakosha components.

Although Yetzias Mitzrayim illustrates all three principals it our thanks for Hashem’s Hashgacha which is our focus and our primary means of connecting to Hashem.

It might be instructive to focus on the Hodaah of the seder with the intent of using that as a springboard to uncover and focus on Hashem’s Hashgacha through out the year. In this way we can continually increase our Hashem consciousness, which the Ramchal points out is the root purpose of all the mitzvos.

Wishing the entire Beyond BT community a Chag Kosher V’Someach.

Structure of Maggid According to the Malbim

According to the Malbim (although there is a dispute whether it really is 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 I came forth out of Egypt.” (Shemos (Exodus) 13:8)

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
— saying
— 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 I 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

How Do You Make The Most Out of Pesach?

It’s the greatest night of the year with the potential for tremendous growth.

How do you get the most out Pesach?

a) Share lots of vorts on various parts of the seder.

b) Focus on performing the mitzvos of the night in the best possible manner.

c) Read the Hagaddah with praise and thanks for Hashem.

d) Keep everybody interested by props, questions, stories…

– For your non-observant guests, how have you been successful in maximizing the evening for them?

Do you mo

Goodness More Than Gracious

By: Rabbi Yehuda Horowitz,
Mashgiach Ruchani, Mesivta Ateres Yaakov

In last week’s parsha we are taught the halachos of a metzorah. The tzoraas was a skin disease which wasn’t due to the physical deficiency of the body, rather it was a heaven sent message of the spiritual shortcomings of the one who was tamei. He would have to leave the entire camp of Bnei Yisroel and remain alone until he was purified. Our Chazal relate that tzaraas was due to the aveirah of lashon harah and that since this person separated people through his behavior, he must now remain isolated.

Rav Avraham Pam zt’l would comment that Baruch Hashem our generation has made great strides in shemiras hadibur. The campaign against lashon harah has educated us to be careful of speaking improperly. However, we should actually focus more on the root of this aveirah. The person who speaks lashon harah is perceiving things in a negative fashion and his heart is filled with bad feelings. We must train our eyes and heart to see the good in everyone we come into contact with, so that the battlefield will never come to our lips.

The Nesivos Sholom explains that a metzorah sees things in a negative manner, as the word metzorah implies “ERWCM,” everything is found to be bad. Therefore, the metzorah can’t go to just any rabbi to determine his status. Only a Kohen can rule on the tzoraas. The tendency of Aharon HaKohen was to love peace and harmony, and to see the goodness in every Jew. He can teach the metzorah how to be an optimistic, positive person who radiates joy and encouragement to others.

Rav Yitzchok Hutner zt’l would say that our face is actually for others and therefore without a mirror we cannot even see our face. It has enormous potential to bring cheer to everyone else. HoRav Binyomin Kamenetzky shlit”a adds that it’s interesting to note that the main thrust of our heart’s ability to pump life and warmth into our bodies is on the left side of a person. Being that our right side is always considered to be more vital, this seems surprising. He explains that we must utilize our hearts to warm and encourage others and therefore our heart is situated facing the right side of those that we encounter.

The ability to have a positive effect on others depends very much on being optimistic and joyful. Rav Yonasan Rosenblum shlit”a relates that at his Shabbos table in Eretz Yisroel he had a couple who were Baalei Teshuvah. The husband was very prominent in the world of Hollywood shows and Rabbi Rosenblum asked him how he was inspired to be chozer biteshuvah.

He responded that on a Shabbos morning in Hollywood he and two Jewish friends were sitting in a restaurant when they noticed a couple and their children walking home with remarkable togetherness and happiness. One of the young men asked, “What’s their secret?” Another one answered that they’re Orthodox and are returning from Synagogue. This really touched him and that night he contacted an organization that offers learning partners on the telephone. Eventually, all three became religious and are raising beautiful families. One is in Yerushalayim spending time in Mir Yeshiva, another is in Baltimore near Ner Yisroel, and the third one returned to L.A. after having studied in Mir Yeshiva. The remarkable thing is that the family that is responsible for generations to come doesn’t even know how much they accomplished by just being so joyful and united!

Let us truly find the good in everyone, and use that as a foundation for friendship and inspiration against the terrible effects of tzoraas. May we be zoche to use this friendship as a path towards the geulah shleimah, bimheirah biyameinu.

Originally Published in Ateres HaShavua, a Weekly Torah Publication from the Students of Mesivta Ateres Yaakov

How High Are Your Fences?

When it comes to dealing with non-Torah influences most families and communities build fences. The basic difference is how high are the fences.

There is probably a continuum of fence heights but the overall policies can perhaps be described as:

1) Let everything in and throw out that which is inappropriate
2) Let almost nothing in to keep out the inappropriate and in the process keep out much that might be appropriate
3) Let in the things that can help bring you closer to Hashem

How would you describe the fence building policies out there?

What have you found that works for you and your family?

Can you see the dangers and the benefits of the other approaches?

Do you think the main problem with high fences, is that they’re a bad idea or because fences are ineffective and can cause backlashes?

What are the major areas that fences are built in your home or community: Internet, TV, Music, Movies, Newspapers, Radio, Fiction Books, Non-Fiction Books?

What are the issues around communal fences as opposed to household fences?

Parshas HaChodesh

By Yered Viders

What’s “new” and why is it so important? So focal that Rosh Chodesh is the very first mitzvah given the Jewish nation? So critical that Hashem could have “cut-and-paste” so-to-speak the opening words of the Torah and in place of “In the beginning,” begun the Eternal Word of Emes with “This month (i.e., Nisan) shall be for you the head of all the month”? Of such magnitude that it ushers in the two-week crescendo to leil Seder and Chag Ha’Pesach? Who ‘knew’ what’s the big deal about ‘new’?

One answer lie in the undeniable truth that the excitement of virtually every experience in life wanes after time. Time, as the Vilan Gaon, put it, has a decaying effect. Relationships cool off. Vacation spots become old hat. Part and parcel of our human hard-wiring is the magnetic draw to newness. And while there is much to be said for being satisfied “with our lot,” the Torah wants us to seek out and incorporate newness (“chiddush”) into our lives. For newness has the capacity to propel us forward. To infuse us with enthusiasm. To galvanize our ambitions. To prevent complacency with what was. To stave off despair that it will always be so.

No, my friends, what the world needs more of (in addition to Boston parking spaces) is inspiration. And while our surroundings and stimuli are constantly providing opportunities for inspiration – be it Beethoven’s Fifth for the ears, a dazzling sunset to the eyes or some friend, mentor, book or locale that can jettison our senses and shake us out of the quiet, lonely and desperate path towards ordinariness. For very, very few (if any) find simcha there.

No says the Torah! What will propel you forward lies within! You are charged with the awesome task of becoming the world’s greatest expert in (of all things) – yourself. Know what makes you tick. Know what makes you ticked off. And, above all, know what inspires. For when you can infuse yourself with enthusiasm. When your get-up-and-go isn’t tied to outside sources (who may very well have gone-up-and-left) then you can tap into deep well-springs of simcha. You can strike that oh-so-delicate balance between contentment and yearning. You can draw on the old and make it new – everything – your relationships (namely with Hashem, with yourself and with your loved ones), your learning, your davening, your profession. For the one with chiddush, with freshness, there lies simcha and for the one with simcha life is one giant, beautiful world for me and you to create.

May we always share good “news”