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Parshas Yisro

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Rav Feiner continues to explain a mystical practice. Rav Chaim Pelagi, in Kaf HaChaim (288:66), cites a practice mentioned in the Rabbeinu Ephraim and the Rokeach, both commenting on Vayishlach (32:25), who say that one should be careful not to place one’s hand on the gid hanashe, the sinew on the hip-socket, while sleeping. They write that such an action allows the “ba’alei chalomos,” those angels in charge of dreams, to frighten the sleeper with horrifying nightmares. Apparently, these angels can only hurt someone when he is sleeping and not growing, while he is being an “omed” and not a “holeich.”

Rav Yitzchak Hutner, in Pachad Yitzchak on Purim (maamar 28), also cited by Rabbi Feiner, gives a fascinating explanation for why Purim should be a day of dancing. Eisav’s malach was able to damage Yaakov in his leg. On Purim, we succeeded in overcoming Amalek, Eisav’s grandson, and returned our leg to its original state of perfection. We specifically use our legs to celebrate to demonstrate our new completeness, thus showing that we continue to be “holchim,” moving up in our service of Hashem.

However, we now need to deal with the following question. If we are saying that it is not good to be like the malachim and that even they are ashamed of their standing feet which is why they cover them, why then do we stand with our feet together for Shemoneh Esrei?

Rav Feiner quotes Rav Shimon Schwab (Siddur Commentary, page 411) who quotes Rav Samson Raphael Hirsch, who says that when we put our feet together, we are expressing the desire to be like the malachim and not have free will. We would rather not sin as often as we do. While it is true that we can grow spiritually and the malachim can’t, we tell Hashem during our tefillos that having free will is not worth it if we don’t utilize it properly.

This is what we say in the last bracha of Birchas HaShachar, “Vechof es yitzreinee l’hishtabed Lach” – we ask Hashem to force our evil inclination, our yetzer hara, to submit to His will. We know that Hashem gave us free will for a great purpose; however, we wish that we would never sin. In a sense, we are offering our very selves as a sacrifice before Him and, in so doing, performing the single greatest act of our free choice – that of willingly surrendering that choice to Hashem Yisbarach.

And these are some of the happenings in this week’s haftarah.

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