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September 20, 2014 / 25 Elul, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘Moshe Rabbeinu’

Balak: The Attempted Takeover

Friday, July 6th, 2012

We often sit through the haftorah wondering, “Why do we read the haftorah anyway?” Krias HaTorah of the parsha makes sense—we read a portion of the Chumash each week so that we finish the entire Torah over the course of the year. But we’re not reading a portion of Navi each week so that we can finish all of it on some kind of schedule.

The purpose of the haftorah is for us to become familiar with insights and themes from the Navi. The goal of this column is to enhance that familiarity.

Let’s play a bit of word association.

I will mention a word and you will relate (to yourself) the first words that come to your mind.

Micha.

Can I guess what you thought of?

Wicked? Idolatrous? Story of Jews’ failure at the time of the Shoftim?

Something like that, right?

Well, all that is true. There was an idolatrous man during the Shoftim era with a famous idol, pesel Micha, that many Jews worshipped. But there was another Micha as well, the Navi Micha in Trei Asar, the Twelve Prophets. This Micha lived at the time of the more famous prophet, Yeshaya, at the time of the first Beis HaMikdash.

We read from the 5th and 6th perakim of Micha for this week’s haftorah and while sometimes the link between parsha and haftorah is not perfectly clear, here Micha mentions the episode of Balak and Bilaam attempting to curse Klal Yisrael and Hashem thwarting their plans. In fact, Micha helps us understand the true gravity of the threat a potential curse from Bilaam posed.

We may be tempted to read Parshas Balak as a quaint, if not comical story of two classic, almost cartoon-like characters trying to accomplish something and things never seem to go their way. But the way Micha describes the event, Klal Yisrael was in great danger and needed Hashem’s special salvation to escape the wrath of Bilaam.

Micha reports what HaKadosh Baruch Hu told him to tell Klal Yisrael as to why they should strengthen their service to Him. What are the “talking points” G-d wants mentioned? The miraculous splitting of the Yam Suf? The manna? Revelation on Har Sinai? The sun stopping in Givon? Nothing of the sort.

“I brought you out of the land of Egypt and redeemed you from the house of slaves. I sent Moshe before you [to lead you] and Aharon and Miriam with him. My people, please remember the terrible things that King Balak of Moav planned to do. And remember what Bilaam, Beor’s son, answered him. Remember your journey from Shittim to Gilgal. Then you will know [and remember] the righteousness of Hashem.” (Micha 6:4-5)

Apparently, from all the varied events Hashem could have wanted Klal Yisrael to recall the most powerful is the story of Bilaam’s curse.

Why? Aren’t the follies of Balak and Bilaam a harmless and almost entertaining event?

Apparently not.

Though it may not appear this way on the surface, Bilaam had a strong relationship with Hashem. As the midrash writes (paraphrased from Tanna d’bei Eliyahu, Rabbah, Chapter 28): “In one regard, Bilaam’s prophecy had an advantage which Moshe Rabbeinu’s did not. He saw Hashem’s ways more clearly.” In addition, Berachos 7a tells us Bilaam knew how to calculate when Hashem would be “angry” and more susceptible to the midas hadin which could be utilized against Klal Yisrael.

Obviously, the fact that Hashem revealed Himself to Bilaam was not some random act. Think about the following.

The Rambam says (Hilchos Yesodei Torah 7:1): “Prophecy can only be received by one who is extremely wise and learned, has mastered proper character traits, never lets his evil inclination overpower him in any matter in the world, and battles and defeats his evil inclination constantly.”

This must be true for Bilaam as well. Otherwise, he could not have merited prophecy. The Bilaam we know of is post-prophecy. Before Bilaam became a prophet, he was super-righteous, holy, kind, and godly. He would analyze and criticize his own actions and continually work to grow spiritually. However, once granted prophecy, Bilaam was unable to handle it. Prophets are not created in a vacuum; the only reason Moshe became the greatest of all prophets was because the spiritual genetics of the Avos, Imahos, and the entirety of Klal Yisrael produced a Moshe. Lacking a solid spiritual structure, Bilaam was not able to deal properly with prophecy and became corrupt and wicked.

The Punishment Of The Mekoshesh

Thursday, June 14th, 2012

At the conclusion of this week’s parshah, the Torah writes about the mekoshesh eitzim – the individual who desecrated Shabbos in the midbar by gathering wood. The pasuk says that since it was uncertain what the halacha was concerning one who is mechallel Shabbos, the mekoshesh was placed in custody until Hashem gave instructions as to what to do. Hashem then told Moshe Rabbeinu that the man is to be put to death by stoning; and so he was.

The Gemara in Sanhedrin 78b says that it was certain that one who desecrates Shabbos deserves death – as the pasuk states earlier: “mechallelehah mos yumas” (Shemos 31:14). The only uncertainty was the form of death he should receive.

Tosafos in Sanhedrin asks why Moshe was uncertain as to what form of death the mekoshesh deserved. Since the Torah previously said that one who desecrates Shabbos should be put to death, the general rule is that unless otherwise specified the Torah refers to chenek (strangulation) when ordering death. Tosafos answers that Moshe reasoned that one who desecrates Shabbos in public is likened to one who does avodah zarah, since by desecrating Shabbos in public one denies that Hashem created the world (Chullin 5a). Therefore Moshe thought that perhaps the punishment for desecrating Shabbos in public should be by stoning, which would follow the same punishment for one who does avodah zarah. However, Hashem answered that one who desecrates Shabbos deserves stoning for the aveirah of desecrating Shabbos alone.

Reb Akiva Eiger asks a powerful question on Tosafos. According to Tosafos there is room to say that one who is mechallel Shabbos is punished in the same way as one who does avodah zarah. How then can we learn from this incident that one who is mechallel Shabbos in private deserves death by stoning? Perhaps Hashem agreed with Moshe’s logic that when one is mechallel Shabbos in public it is comparable to doing avodah zarah (which is punishable by stoning), and thus it was for that reason that the mekoshesh was stoned. But one who is mechallel Shabbos in private is not compared to one who performs avodah zarah and therefore should not deserve death by stoning – but rather by strangulation – since the Torah did not specify the form of death he deserves.

Reb Elchanan Wasserman, Hy”d (Kovetz Shiurim Baba Basra 356), based on Tosafos in Baba Basra 119 (d”h shenemar), explains that Moshe Rabbeinu understood that the halacha of a mechallel Shabbos in public must be the same as one who does it in private, since they are both derived from the aforementioned pasuk, “mechallelehah mos yumas.” He questioned whether both (public and private desecrations of Shabbos) deserve strangulation, in compliance with the general rule that death is by strangulation unless specified otherwise, or since regarding chillul Shabbos in public there is reason to assume that it deserves stoning. (Stoning is more stringent and likened to avodah zarah; therefore the entire pasuk refers to stoning.) Hence, even a mechallel Shabbos in private would deserve stoning.

Rabbeinu Bichaya, on this parshah, says that when Hashem informed Moshe as to what to do with the mekoshesh the pasuk repeats the fact that he was deserving of death, for as it says, “mos yumas ha’ish; ragom oso ba’avanim – the man shall be put to death; stone him.” Why does the Torah reiterate that the mekoshesh deserved death? After all, the Gemara says that Moshe was certain about that and only questioned the form of death. Rabbeinu Bichaya explains that the extra words, “mos yumas,” were written in order to connect this pasuk to the earlier pasuk, “mechallelehah mos yumas.” In other words the Torah is explaining that it was earlier referring to stoning, when it wrote “mos yumas” regarding the halacha about one who desecrates the Shabbos.

I want to suggest that even a mechallel Shabbos in private is comparable to avodah zarah. The Gemara that states that the act of chillul Shabbos done only in public is referring to when one becomes a mumar for all of the Torah. However, even in private the aveirah of desecrating Shabbos is comparable to avodah zarah. Rashi, in Chullin 5a, explains that one who does avodah zarah denies Hashem’s existence. One who is mechallel Shabbos denies Hashem’s actions, for he is testifying that Hashem did not rest by ma’asei bereishis. This should apply to one who desecrates Shabbos in public – as well as in private.

Shavuos: Torah, Shabbos and the Jews

Wednesday, May 23rd, 2012

Shavuos. How unremarkable a name for a Yom Tov that celebrates the very foundation of our existence. Actually, Shavuos is one of five names designated for this holiday, the others being Atzeres, Yom HaBikurim, Chag HaKatzir and Z’man Mattan Toraseinu.

The prominence given to “Shavuos” arises from the seven-week interval (shivah Shavuos) – the duration of time it took us to reach an apex of purity that would enable us to receive the holy Torah. This seven-week count cleansed us of defilement and prepared us to stand under the “chuppah” at Har Sinai.

As we say in each successive daily count of the Omer, “May it rectify our nefesh, ruach and neshamah from every baseness and defect, and may it purify and sanctify us with Your supernal holiness.” Here we are taught that the name Shavuos also connotes that Torah must be learned b’kedushah uv’taharah – with a holy and pure spirit.

The significance of that lesson is highlighted by the historic occasion that takes place on a Shabbos, the seventh and most coveted of days, one that God blessed and made holy and presented to us as a “special gift hidden in My treasure house” (Shabbos 10b).

Our spiritual essence is made up of three elements: nefesh – the basic animal part of the soul that drives our material inclinations; ruach, resting on a somewhat higher plane and associated with our emotions, and the neshamah, which is solely spiritual in nature and centers on the intellect.

The ruach tends to dwell with the nefesh on weekdays, whereas on Shabbos – when we divest ourselves of mundane thought and activity – it attaches itself to the neshamah, the loftiest part of our soul. This hones our spiritual awareness, further enhanced by the additional soul given to us on erev Shabbos – the neshamah yeseirah – that inculcates us with that special capacity to perceive and absorb the aura of Gan Eden that Shabbos allows us to sample.

Week after week after week it keeps us going. We look toward it and live for it – not merely for its respite from our daily grind aspect, but for the tonic effect that revitalizes all our senses, physically and spiritually, and impacts our quality of life for the coming week.

The countdown already begins on the first day of the week. Hayom yom echad b’Shabbos… Today is the first day of the Sabbath; Hayom yom sheini b’Shabbos… Today is the second day of the Sabbath, etc.

The tempo builds with each new day, by the evening of the fifth reaching a crescendo that charges the atmosphere of every Jewish home as preparation for the holy Shabbos is in full swing. By the sixth day, an ethereal sense of transformation is palpable. Heaven and earth are in sync, as all of creative work above and below wind down to a standstill.

Har Sinai and all other mountains trembled violently. The waters of lakes and rivers sought to escape their confines as the Holy Presence began to descend to the top of the mount. With the first word of God, the tumult ceased. Not a sound could be heard – from the bird’s trill to the fluttering of its wings, all was still. The angels halted their songs of praise, the ocean their rippling waves, the sun stopped in its rotating tracks as the Master of the Universe declared Anochi Hashem Elokecha, I am Hashem your God.

The Torah is literally our life force, for had we not agreed to receive it at Har Sinai, the world would have ceased to exist. Since our faith lies at the core of the holy Torah and the fundamental premise of our belief system is rooted in the holy Shabbos, it is easily discerned how keeping the Shabbos holy is akin to adhering to all of the 613 mitzvosin the Torah.

* * * * *

When the Chofetz Chaim once visited the city of Petersburg, all of its Jewish residents came to greet him at the train station. An affluent citizen in the crowd who had come with the hope of eliciting a berachah from the Chofetz Chaim handed him an impressive sum of money as contribution for the yeshiva in Radin.

Where Are The Gedolim Today?

Wednesday, March 14th, 2012

These are the reckonings of the Mishkan, the Mishkan of testimony, which were reckoned at Moshe’s request. – Shemos 38:21

Parshas Pikudei begins with a detailed accounting of all of the gold and silver that was collected for the Mishkan. A cursory reading would lead us to assume that while of course a man as great as Moshe was above question, he must have asked for this calculation because public leaders must remove any suspicion no matter how farfetched.

However, the Baalei Tosfos explain things a bit differently. It seems Moshe was in fact suspected of stealing money from the Mishkan. There were 16 Shekalim that were unaccounted for, and Moshe was suspected of having taken them. Therefore, Moshe asked for a formal accounting to remove the suspicion. At which point it was discovered that those 16 Shekalim were actually used in the construction of the hooks of the Mishkan.

The difficulty with this Baalei HaTosfos is understanding how anyone would suspect that Moshe Rabbeinu of stealing. The Mishkan was to be the dwelling place of Hashem on this earth. Monies that were separated for the Mishkan were consecrated and holy. How could anyone suspect Moshe of pilfering those monies? Even more perplexing is that these people knew who Moshe Rabbeinu was. They saw him go up to receive the Torah. They heard the sound of Hashem’s voice speaking through him. From the time he came down from Har Sinai his face shone like the sun. They understood him to be the greatest human ever created. How is it possible that they suspected him of petty thievery?

This question becomes even more difficult when we take into account the circumstances of those times. This was the generation of the midbar – all their daily needs were taken care of. They ate manna that fell from the heavens, drank water from a huge rock that followed them through the desert, etc. – in short, all their needs were taken care of. Their entire focus and occupation was to grow in learning and Yiras Shamayim. It was the ultimate kollel community. If so, what possible motivation would Moshe have to steal the Shekalim?

The answer to this question is based on perspective.

Appreciating Gedolim

The story is told that one day a poor man came to the Chofetz Chaim’s door asking for tzedakah. The Chofetz Chaim invited him in, and offered him a full meal. When the man was finished eating he left. As the Chofetz Chaim was cleaning up, he realized this man had stolen a spoon. The Chofetz Chaim ran into the street after him calling, “Wait, wait, don’t forget the spoon is fleishig.”

While this is a beautiful illustration of the giving nature of a tzaddik, there is as subtle message here: the man stole a spoon from the Chofetz Chaim. How was that possible? The Chofetz Chaim! The revered sage. The teacher of generations. Can we imagine anyone today being lowly enough to steal something from such a holy man?

The answer is that no one today would act that way to the Chofetz Chaim because we have an appreciation of who the man was. But in his generation they didn’t. That stature was something he acquired long after he died. For most of his life, he was viewed as a regular man – maybe a talmid chacham, but nothing extraordinary. And even when the world began hearing of the Chofetz Chaim, it wasn’t as some huge, towering, historic figure. A gadol maybe, but not someone who would shape history.

This seems to be a quirk in human nature. When we live in proximity to greatness it is hard to appreciate the size of the man and we tend to minimize the magnitude. It is far easier to lump him together with other people of the generation and assume he can’t be that much greater.

This seems to be the answer. While the people living at the time of Moshe Rabbeinu knew of his greatness, they still viewed him as a man of their generation. Granted, he went up to the heavens and received the Torah, but he was a human being like everyone else, so who is to say he didn’t just pocket some of the Shekalim? While later generations wouldn’t in their wildest dreams suspect such a man, to those living in the times, such historical perspective wasn’t there, and they couldn’t see him for the lofty giant he was.

This concept has particular relevance to us as we look at the leaders of our generation and say, “Where are the gedolim today”? But we aren’t the first to utter that cry; it has been expressed by every generation since Har Sinai, and will continue through the generations. What we see from the Baalei Tosfos is that this sentiment was expressed even with regard to Moshe.

Parashah Terumah: The Placement Of The Mishkan’s Planks

Wednesday, February 22nd, 2012

In this week’s parshah the Torah discusses many of the various aspects of the mishkan. The Torah dictates in detail the manner in which the walls of the mishkan were to be erected. At the instructions’ conclusion, the pasuk says, “Vahakeimosa es hamishkan, k’mishpato asher har’eisa bahar – and you shall erect the mishkan according to its laws, as you will have been shown on the mountain” (Shemos 26:30). The Yerushalmi in Shabbos (12:3) asks what the Torah was referring to when it said the “laws” of the planks of wood. The Yerushalmi explains that the pasuk is teaching us that the planks that were positioned on the north side must remain on that side every time the mishkan was to be erected. And the same applied for the planks of wood on each side of the mishkan.

The sefer Tov Yerushalayim, in the commentary on Yerushalmi, asks why the Torah deemed it necessary to write an additional pasuk to teach that the planks of wood erected on each side be re-erected in their original places. Why would we not have known this from the rule of malin bakodesh v’ein moredin – regarding kedushah we only move higher and not lower? Based on this rule one would not be allowed to move the planks that were on the north side, which were in a position of a higher- level kedushah, to a place of a lower level of kedushah i.e. the south side. So what is the need for the pasuk in this parshah?

Some Achronim suggest that the Yerushalmi is indeed referring to the rule of malin bakodesh v’ein moredin. The Yerushalmi is stating that this pasuk, teaching us not to switch the places of the wood’s planks, is the Torah’s source for the rule of malin bakodesh v’ein moredin.

Rashi, in his commentary to Megillah, quotes a Tosefta that says that the source for the rule of malin bakodesh v’ein moredin is from a different aspect of the mishkan. The Tosefta says that we learn it from the fact that Bezalel made the mishkan and Moshe Rabbeinu, who was greater than him, erected it. Additionally, we learn that one may not move to a lower level of kedushah due to the fact that the frying pans that were used by Korach and his congregation needed to be kept holy. (They were sanctified, and thus unable to be discarded.)

One can infer from this that Rashi and the Tosefta (that he quoted) believe that the source for the rule of malin bakodesh v’ein moredin is from a different source. Thus the question returns: Why did the Torah need to write another pasuk to teach us that one was not allowed to move a plank to a place of lower kedushah?

Other Achronim suggest that the Yerushalmi is not teaching us the halacha of malin bakodesh v’ein moredin; rather the Yerushalmi derives from this pasuk that each plank acquired its place and therefore had to be returned to its place during the erections of the mishkan that followed. This was not because moving places would violate the rule of malin bakodesh v’ein moredin, but because the planks acquired their places. Perhaps there was not even any more kedushah in the place on the north side over the place on the south side.

One can infer from the Yerushalmi that it is indeed not referring to the rule of malin bakodesh v’ein moredin at all. This is because the Yerushalmi includes the halacha that the planks from the south wall cannot be moved to the north wall. If there was more kedushah in the place of the north wall, why would one not be allowed to move the south wall to the opposite wall, since it is of a higher kedushah? This implies that the Yerushalmi is not referring to the rule of malin bakodesh v’ein moredin, and that the north side does not contain more kedushah than the south side.

The Elyah Raba (Orach Chaim 630) quotes a Maharal that says that his rebbe would mark each of the walls of his sukkah in order to be able to arrange them in the same order the following year. He cites the Yerushalmi regarding the planks as the source for this custom. Additionally, the Chasam Sofer (Teshuvos Orach Chaim 28) rules that once the bimah of a shul has been placed in one area it may not be moved to another area.

It is evident from these parallels (a sukkah and the bimah in a shul) that these Achronim draw the following perception of the Yerushalmi: it is teaching us that once something is placed, it acquires its place and cannot be switched to another place (unless the circumstances dictate otherwise). However, they do not believe that the reason that the planks could not switch places was because there was more kedushah in one place over another – thereby contradicting the rule of malin bakodesh v’ein moredin.

Women And Bris Milah

Wednesday, January 11th, 2012

After Moshe had agreed to go to Pharaoh to beseech him on Klal Yisrael’s behalf, he began traveling to Mitzrayim with his wife Tziporah and their sons – including the newborn. The Torah tells us that they stopped to lodge, and a malach tried to kill Moshe Rabbeinu. Tziporah understood that this was because Moshe had not yet performed a bris milah on their younger son. So she performed the bris milah, and Moshe was saved.

The Gemara in Nedarim 31b explains that the reason that Moshe Rabbeinu had not performed a bris milah on his son was because he was caught in the following dilemma: Hashem had just commanded him to go to Mitzrayim; if he were to perform the bris milah immediately, prior to his departure, he would not be able to depart right away since it would be dangerous for the baby to travel immediately following the bris milah. Also, if he were to wait the necessary time until the baby was fit for travel (three days), he would have prolonged the fulfillment of Hashem’s commandment to go to Mitzrayim.

The Gemara in Avodah Zarah 27a says that there is a machlokes as to whether a woman is allowed to perform a bris milah. The Gemara asks how anyone can say that a woman is unfit to perform a bris milah when the Torah tells us that Tziporah performed a bris milah on her son. The Gemara suggests two answers: 1) that Tziporah did not actually perform the bris milah; rather she arranged for a man to perform it. 2) Alternatively, Tziporah started performing the bris milah and Moshe finished it. (Everyone agrees that a woman may initiate a bris milah. The dispute only regards its completion.)

Even according to the opinion that holds that women are fit to perform a bris milah, the Gemara in Kiddushin 29a derives from a pasuk that women are exempt from the obligation to perform a bris on her son. Tosafos (Avodah Zarah 27a) explains that according to the opinion that a woman is unfit to perform a bris milah, the pasuk is only needed to exempt a woman from the obligation to arrange and ensure that her son has a bris milah performed on him.

The Rishonim in Kiddushin 29a ask the following question: Why did the Gemara deem it necessary to derive from a pasuk that a woman is exempt from the obligation to perform a bris milah on her son? After all, bris milah is a mitzvas assei she’hazman grama (time-sensitive mitzvah), and she should be exempt due to the general rule that women are exempt from all mitzvos assei she’hazman grama.

Tosafos answers that although the mitzvah does not begin until a specific time (the eighth day), since from the time that one can begin performing the mitzvah (from the eighth day forward) it can continuously be performed at all times. It is not considered a mitzvas assei she’hazman grama. Tosafos adds that this answer is only applicable in accordance with the opinion that a bris milah can be performed even at night; otherwise it would not be continuous and thus it would be considered a mitzvas assei she’hazman grama. According to the opinion brought in Yevamos 72 that a bris milah can only be performed during the day, Tosafos still asks why it is necessary to make a drasha to exempt women from the obligation to perform a bris milah on their sons – since in accordance with that view, bris milah is considered a mitzvas assei she’hazman grama.

The Ramban and several other Rishonim write a different reason why the rule that generally exempts women from mitzvas assei she’hazman grama does not apply to this mitzvah. They say that the rule only applies to mitzvos that pertain exclusively to the individual, such as tefillin and lulav. The obligation regarding this mitzvah is to ensure that someone else (her son) has a bris milah performed on him. In such circumstances we do not apply the rule to exempt women from the obligation, and therefore it is necessary to derive it from a pasuk.

The Shulchan Aruch paskins in Yoreh De’ah 264 that a woman is fit to perform a bris milah. There is a discussion as to whether a woman performing a bris milah should recite a berachah, since the pasuk excluded them from this mitzvah.

I think that it is imperative from the abovementioned Rishonim that she would recite the berachah. By a mitzvas assei she’hazman grama, in which women are exempt, most Rishonim opine that a woman who is performing the mitzvah should recite the berachah even though she is exempt. The reason for this is because even though they are exempt from performing the mitzvah, they are nonetheless included in the mitzvah (they are simply not obligated to perform it).

Pesach Gifts To Take With Us

Wednesday, May 4th, 2011

My father of blessed memory, HaRav HaGaon HaTzaddik Avraham HaLevi Jungreis, would tell me that when I speak or teach I should always ask myself what message the listener will take home that will infuse him with strength and help him cope throughout the year.

I would like to pose that question to all of us. We just celebrated the anniversary of our nationhood, and now that the glorious Yom Tov has passed, what are we taking with us?

Allow me to share a few thoughts.

Telling The Story: The Haggadah teaches us that in every generation we must look upon the bondage and exodus from Egypt as though we ourselves experienced it. But is that a realistic expectation? How can we convey that which happened so very long ago and which we never experienced?

Obviously, there are many beautiful teachings on the subject – teachings that demonstrate to us that the bondage in Egypt, the terrible suffering of our people, has been a constant throughout the centuries, and that, in the end, Hashem always saves us.

Still, you might wonder how we can actually feel what our forefathers and their children felt at that first Seder following the exodus.

But here too, the path was paved for us. While all those who celebrated the first Seder after the exodus had vivid memories of their bondage and the miracles that ensued, there was one father among them whose children never experienced it and had to absorb it through hearing the story. That father was Moshe Rabbeinu himself. When he, the loyal shepherd of Israel, was on his way to save his brethren, his brother Aaron came forth to greet him and advised that he send back his sons with Tzipporah, his wife, for the jungle of Egypt was no place for them.

Nothing happens by coincidence. Surely G-d, who is capable of everything, could have arranged for Tzipporah and the lads to be safe, even in that hellish place – so there must be a deeper meaning here.

It has often occurred to me that it was Moshe Rabbeinu who was destined to relate the story to those who did not see it with their own eyes – so that throughout the centuries we might be able to tell the story to our children and enable then to see that which they did not see or hear. Nevertheless, they would hear it with their hearts and see it with their neshamas.

Moshe paved the way for us so that in every generation we might relate the story and make it come alive for our children and our children’s children. Indeed, we find this lesson reinforced time and again. Everything in Jewish history is replay – there is a precedent for everything. We are never left to stand on our own. Our Torah GPS system is always working, provided we know how to access it. “That which occurred to our forefathers is a sign to the children.”

It is not only our story we must relate that night; we must also review the values and principles that guide and shape our lives.

Chesed: At the very beginning of the Seder we invite all those who are hungry and needy to come join us. At first glance, this is puzzling. After all, who would come in at this point? So why extend the invitation now? But chesed is our raison d’etre. We are a nation of chesed, committed to extending goodness and loving-kindness, and that commitment must characterize our lives. So let us be careful that the words we proclaimed on Seder night, “Let all those who are hungry or in need join us,” were not just empty platitudes.

Education: The education of our children is paramount to our people, so we invite our little ones to ask questions, for questions awaken the mind and the heart. These questions are asked not only at the beginning of the Seder but throughout the night. One of the concluding prayers is also in the form of questions: “Who knows one?” “Who knows two?” and so on. But it is not only children who must ask – we must also ask. We must probe our souls and examine the depth of our Jewish knowledge and commitment. Ask yourself, “How well can I answer the questions?” “What do I really know about my Torah, my faith, my G-d?”

Let us all make a commitment to study more this year, to make Torah study the priority of our lives. We at Hineni invite you to study with us, but whatever you do, wherever you are, study. You owe it to yourself, to your people and to your G-d.

Gratitude: One of the favorite songs at the Seder is “Dayenu.” But “Dayenu” is more than a song. It represents the ultimate in hakaros hatov – thanksgiving. As Jews, we dare not take anything for granted, but must express appreciation for all the blessings as well as the challenges that come our way.

“Dayenu” details every gift G-d has showered us with. It is more than just a generic “Thank you,” which is meaningless. For example, when a bar mitzvah boy says, “I would like to thank my parents for everything they’ve done,” the words are hollow. Not so, however, when he takes the time to enumerate all the kindnesses shown to him by his parents – “I would like to thank my mom for sitting at my bedside night after night when I was ill”; “I would like to thank my dad who patiently sat with me for hours on end, helping me with my homework”; “I would like to thank my parents for saying the bedtime Shema with me and never allowing me to go to sleep without planting a kiss on my forehead.”

A critical lesson for a generation that feels entitled but never indebted.

Unity: Finally, let us bear in mind that every Jew must be included in our peoplehood. Even the so-called wicked son must be given a place at the Seder table. In his heart, every Jew wants to connect with his Heavenly Father, with his roots, with his people. We need only show him the way, and we can do that by inviting him to “join” us at the table – meaning that we must reach out to him with warmth and love and make him a part of us.

I could go on, but I suggest we once again review the Haggadah and take its lessons into our hearts. It will show us the way. It’s our compass that will lead us to the purpose of our lives.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/judaism/rebbetzins-viewpointrebbetzin-jungreis/pesach-gifts-to-take-with-us-2/2011/05/04/

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