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Posts Tagged ‘Simchas Hachaim Foundation’

Bo: That You Should Know

Thursday, January 26th, 2012

“For I have made heavy his heart and the heart of his servants in order that I should put these signs of mine in his midst and in order that you should relate in the ears of your son and your son’s son how I dealt with Egypt, and you should know that I am Hashem” (10:1-2).

That great generation was mandated with the mission of serving as eyewitnesses who would testify to all future generations. This is a key statement that explains the reason for all the wonders that took place in Egypt and at Sinai and in the wilderness: this generation was privileged to be eyewitnesses in order to testify for all future generations.

Why were they considered such good witnesses? Because they were “a stiff-necked people,” which means highly intelligent people of independent minds who had learned from Avraham and from Yitzchak and from Yaakov to discount the superstitions of the nations among whom they had sojourned. This was the reason Moshe had said to Hashem: “They will not believe me” (4:1).

Hashem performed miracles for these trusty eyewitnesses that were never again shown to any generation in order that all subsequent generations would benefit by the lessons these miracles teach. Thenceforth the laws of nature decreed by the Creator would no longer be disturbed, for the lessons of the miracles are available to all who wish to study them as they are related in the Scriptures.

From these words (“In order that you should relate in the ears of your son and your son’s son…”) it is apparent that such wonders would not be performed in the future. The time of open miracles would pass, because the Creator desires that His laws of nature should prevail. But these laws of nature are actually stupendous miracles that men fail to recognize due to the regularity of their occurrence, which lulls the mind into lethargy.

Now, in that era the great open and unusual miracles were performed so that men would remember them forever learn from them that Hashem performs miracles of equal magnitude every day: “A man’s food is as difficult [i.e. as miraculous] as the splitting of the Sea of Suf” (Pesachim 118a).

The plagues were chiefly intended not as punishment upon Egypt but to bestow on the sons of Israel the everlasting gift of awareness of Hashem and of His election of the nation of Israel forever: “I am Hashem” and “Israel is My firstborn son” (4:22).

When the later generations fail to utilize properly the lessons of these wondrous events, it is considered a frustration of Hashem’s plan, and as if Hashem punished Egypt in vain and abrogated His laws of nature in vain.

“That which l performed in Egypt and My signs which I put upon them” were for the purpose that “You should know that I am Hashem,” which refers to Israel.

This verse foretells that such wonders will not recur because Hashem does not wish to abrogate His laws of nature. Forever we shall look back to the great past.

The second verse should have stated “And you shall know that I, Hashem, have performed this wonder.” But to know that He is Hashem means that and much more, for the word Hashem signifies the “source of all that exists” and therefore He alone is the doer of wonders and of all that transpires.

“You shall know” – did the first seven plagues not cause them to know? But here we learn that to “know Hashem” is an unending effort that should be continued always, because His greatness is endless. Thus Moshe requested, after Hashem had revealed Himself so abundantly to him, “let me know You.”

Compiled for The Jewish Press by the Rabbi Avigdor Miller Simchas Hachaim Foundation, a project of Yeshiva Gedolah Bais Yisroel, which Rabbi Miller, zt”l, founded and authorized to disseminate his work. Subscribe to the Foundation’s free e-mail newsletters on marriage, personal growth, and more at www.SimchasHachaim.com.

For more information, or to sponsor a Simchas Hachaim Foundation program, call 718-258-7400 or e-mail info@SimchasHachaim.com.

Va’eira: The Names Of Israel

Friday, January 20th, 2012

“And Amram took Yocheved…. And she bore to him Aharon and Moshe” (6:20).

The names that were given in Egypt were not repetitions of previous names but were original expressions of genuine devotion to Hashem. These names were usually chosen by the mothers, demonstrating their intense loyalty to the G-d of their fathers. Amram denotes “People of the Most High,” and Yocheved means “Hashem is my glory.” It is thus understandable that from such a union there would result very great offspring.

The character of the women certainly reflects the nobility of the men; but, as we shall yet see, the Israelite women were possessed of an exceptional spirit. “By the merit of the righteous women of that time, our fathers were redeemed from Egypt” (Sotah 11B).

Even the names we are not able to explain were certainly abbreviated forms of exalted expressions. It is thus evident that this generation (and their following generations) lived and breathed in an atmosphere of intense devotion to Hashem, coupled with an awareness of the distinctive excellence of their people.

Today, after 2,000 years of exile, we look back and are able to understand one of the chief purposes of the sojourn in Egypt: to provide a test whether Israel could survive in an alien environment, and to provide a model for the major part of Israel’s history. We perceive now that our nation was created for a destiny of exile. Even the period of Israel in its land was a preparation for the much longer period of exile.

Because our fathers succeeded in the bitter test of exile in Egypt, even before they possessed a Torah and the other sacred scriptures, and they refused to yield to the customs of the powerful and wealthy people among whom they dwelt as despised aliens, they were therefore deemed worthy by Hashem to be chosen for their career as a persecuted minority.

The experience of 210 years in Egypt, during which period they did not alter their names or their language or their traditional attitudes and practices, provided a historic pattern for the many centuries of exile among the nations. Because of the merit of their resistance to the environment, Israel was spared from the sword of the Destroyer who has wiped out one nation after the other in the course of history.

The clue to Israel’s permanence was to be found in their names (Shemos Rabbah 1:33): “Because of four reasons Israel was redeemed from Egypt: 1) they did not change their names 2) and their language 3) and they did not engage in slander 4) and none of them were guilty of immorality.”

But we read the words of Yecheskel the prophet (20:6-10): “I said to them: Let each mean cast away the abominations…and not defile yourselves by the idols of Egypt…. And they rebelled against Me and were not willing to hearken to Me…. They did not cast away the abominations of their eyes, and they did not forsake the idols of Egypt.”

We might accept Yecheskel’s words literally, but even in the matter of idolatry we perceive Yecheskel spoke only of a very small minority. This is clearly evident from the prophet’s denunciation of the generation of the Wilderness: “And the house of Israel rebelled against Me in the Wilderness, in My statutes they did not walk…and My Sabbaths they profaned very much” (Yecheskel 20:13). But we know of only two such instances. 1) “And it was on the seventh day some of the people went out to gather (the mann) and they did not find” (Shemos 16:27). 2) “And the sons of Israel were in the Wilderness and they found a man gathering wood on the Sabbath day” (Bamidbar 15:32).

The first instance involved only some of the people, and they actually performed no act of desecration of the Sabbath. If they would have found mann, it would have discredited Moshe’s admonition. The second instance involved but one individual who was thereupon put to death. In a nation of millions, and in the space of forty years, these were the sole instances of Sabbath desecration; this therefore should serve as a monument of supreme glory for that nation.

Compiled for The Jewish Press by the Rabbi Avigdor Miller Simchas Hachaim Foundation, a project of Yeshiva Gedolah Bais Yisroel, which Rabbi Miller, zt”l, founded and authorized to disseminate his work. Subscribe to the Foundation’s free e-mail newsletters on marriage, personal growth, and more at www.SimchasHachaim.com. For more information, or to sponsor a Simchas Hachaim Foundation program, call 718-258-7400 or e-mail info@SimchasHachaim.com.

Vayigash: Kindness Amid Suffering

Thursday, December 29th, 2011

Hashem’s kindness is limitless, and even when He administers judgment, it is tempered with kindness. The reasons Jacob and his family were to descend to Egypt were many, as Rabbi Avigdor Miller, zt”l, explains. And in all, we are able to discern Hashem’s love and kindness to the nation of Israel, despite its suffering at the hands of the Egyptians.

“I shall go down with you to Egypt” (46:4). The center of the universe is wherever Israel is found. Even when the family of Jacob forsakes the chosen land and is exiled to Egypt, Hashem, Who is the cause of the universe, states not merely that He will protect them but also that He shall go down with them to Egypt. Thus the history of Israel is the true history of the world; all else is background and scenery.

However, despite this promise of “I shall go down with you,” Israel must fear to go anywhere unless full circumspection is employed. Jacob did not go until Hashem commanded him not to fear; and Hashem did not command him until Joseph had become the ruler of Egypt.

Why did Hashem choose Egypt instead of Canaan as the birthplace of the nation of Israel? Among the reasons we discern the following:

1) Israel needed the bondage of Egypt to provide the benefits that resulted from that experience. Canaan was not able to enslave Israel because it was a land of small city-kingdoms and did not possess the power of a mighty nation ruled by one king. Among the benefits of bondage were: the great lessons of the Ten Plagues which were visited on the oppressors, the sympathy for the slave (Devarim 5:15) and for the ger (ibid. 10:19), and the great gratitude for the deliverance from Egypt which was the preface for the acceptance of the Torah.

2) Israel needed the protection of Egypt while the family of Jacob increased so rapidly. Had they been in Canaan, Eisav’s seed would not have looked on complacently as Jacob’s offspring multiplied and filled the land. Other predator-nations, and even the Canaani, would have taken action.

3) The gratitude for the gift of the land of milk and honey would have been lacking had the nation come into being in that land. The great happiness of the blessed land, coming after the exile in Egypt and the 40 years in the wilderness, created a gratitude to Hashem, which was difficult to forget.

4) Because Egypt was a united nation under one king, Joseph’s power enabled him to maintain his influence over his family for 71 years. This extremely important factor, which helped shape the character of the nation, would have entirely been absent had they grown into a nation in the land of Canaan.

5) Egypt abominated sheepherders (43:32, 46:34). Therefore they were less likely to mingle with the sons of Israel. Even when Egypt enslaved the Israelites, we find no mention of Israelite women violated by Egyptians; for the national abhorrence of sheepherders was a wall between the two nations.

6) Because the family of Jacob settled in the very fertile province of Goshen, they were there able to be fruitful and to multiply much more than would have been the case in Canaan. They remained in Goshen for the entire 210 years. Although Eisav was reconciled with Jacob, his family was hostile to the house of Israel and they bore a bitter grudge that might have erupted explosively if not for the fact that Israel was secure in Egypt.

Even after 210 years, when Israel came forth from Egypt amid G-d’s open miracles, “Amalek [the people of Amalek, Eisav’s grandson] came and fought with Israel at Refidim” (Shemos 17:8). The hatred of Eisav’s seed against Jacob was so intense that it continued to burn violently long afterward, even in the days of Mordechai and Esther, when Haman ben Hamdatha the Agagi (descended from Agag the king of the Amaleki – I Samuel 15:8) attempted to destroy all the Jews. All of Eisav’s seed were bitter enemies, and therefore the security of Egypt was a gift from G-d to allow the house of Israel to increase and become a great nation.

Compiled for The Jewish Press by the Rabbi Avigdor Miller Simchas Hachaim Foundation, a project of Yeshiva Gedolah Bais Yisroel, which Rabbi Miller, zt”l, founded and authorized to disseminate his work. Subscribe to the Foundation’s free e-mail newsletters on marriage, personal growth, and more at www.SimchasHachaim.com. For more information, or to sponsor a Simchas Hachaim Foundation program, call 718-258-7400 or e-mail info@SimchasHachaim.com.

Mikeitz: The Greatness Of Joseph

Thursday, December 22nd, 2011

“And Joseph went out over the land of Egypt” (41:45). This was one of the greatest tests he underwent in his career. Wearing the king’s ring (41:42), clothed in royal linen with a golden chain around his neck (ibid.), riding in the second royal chariot with runners before him (41:43), having full power over the land (41:44), having an Egyptian name and an Egyptian wife the daughter of a priest, he had every reason to disown his family which had so wronged him, and he could have without any effort become a full Egyptian in heart and soul.

Hashem here is planning a twofold achievement: Joseph was made the all-powerful ruler over Egypt for the benefit of the future nation of Israel that would develop under his exceptional guidance, and therefore Hashem granted Joseph very great authority. But parallel to this purpose was another very important purpose: to develop the greatness of Joseph himself.

Great individuals are also extremely important to Hashem, just as are multitudes of righteous people. Therefore Joseph was tested by opportunities to become arrogant; but he became even more perfect than ever, because he continued to fear Hashem always and to bear humility in his heart. Additional tests of perfection were afforded to him by means of his great power, because he utilized his authority to deal kindly with the people of the land, and all that he did was for justice and mercy to all men.

Elsewhere in the Chumash we also find examples of the principle that the lives of individual righteous men are especially important in the eyes of Hashem; and in order to produce such individuals and to encourage them, Hashem takes extraordinary action similar to that which is done for an entire nation or for all nations.

“And he said, G-d should favor you, my son” (43:29). Why should a blessing be said in the presence of the recipient? Would the blessing not be just as effective if it were said when he was not present? It seems the blessing is more sincere when said without the knowledge of the recipient. Yet we see that Yitzchak blessed his sons to their face (27:27, 27:39), Jacob blessed Menasheh and Efraim to their face (“Take them to me and I shall bless them” – 48:9), and he blessed his sons in their presence (“Gather together…” – 49:1-2).

One purpose of the face-to-face blessing is to encourage the recipient with the love of the one bestowing the blessing and with the knowledge that he was blessed by him. Another purpose is that the personal encounter enhances the love of the bestower for the recipient; and a more heartfelt blessing results, which G-d hears more readily. Further: “He who bestows a gift to someone should let him know – [Shabbos 10b] – to cause him to love the giver” (Rashi, ibid.). By hearing the blessing personally, the recipient comes to love the bestower.

And Yehudah said: what shall we say, and what shall we justify ourselves; G-d has found the sin of your servants (44:16).

Judah is speaking to the Master of the World with these words to Joseph. Hitherto the brothers had spoken much to themselves and to each other to justify their behavior to their younger brother. This process of self-justification had continued for 22 years, during which time the brothers had covered their original feelings and thoughts with heavy layers of sound logic and righteous motivation, so that any wrong that may have been committed should be buried too deeply for Hashem to see.

It is the nature of men to attempt to conceal their true motives from G-d: “And the man and his wife concealed themselves from before Hashem.” Now Judah is saying the Viddui confession: “G-d has found the sin” which had been so long and so deeply concealed. This means: Now G-d has caused us to find.

This was said by Judah. Judah now comes to the fore as the spokesman and the leader, as he had previously begun.

Compiled for The Jewish Press by the Rabbi Avigdor Miller Simchas Hachaim Foundation, a project of Yeshiva Gedolah Bais Yisroel, which Rabbi Miller, zt”l, founded and authorized to disseminate his work. Subscribe to the Foundation’s free e-mail
newsletters on marriage, personal growth, and more at www.SimchasHachaim.com.
For more information, or to sponsor a Simchas Hachaim Foundation program, call 718-258-7400 or e-mail info@SimchasHachaim.com.

Vayishlach: Joseph’s Rise To Power

Thursday, December 8th, 2011

The story of Joseph’s rise to power is striking. Each facet of Joseph’s life was a preparation for his grand career as one of Israel’s foremost leaders. In this episode, Rabbi Avigdor Miller, zt”l, found Hashem’s providence to be strikingly evident and saw in each incident of his life the future benefit for Israel.

“And they bowed down to my sheaf” (37:7). It is noteworthy that the element of power is so prominent. Joseph dreamed the brothers would bow down to him, and they said “Shall you rule over us?” Pharaoh said to Joseph: “Without you, no man shall raise up his hand or his foot in all the land of Egypt” (41:44). The brothers came “and fell down before him, and they said: Behold, we are slaves to you” (50:18).

But Joseph’s extraordinary power was intended for a very great purpose: “And G-d sent me to make for you a posterity in the earth and to cause life to you for a great deliverance” (45:7). “G-d intended it for good, in order… to keep alive a numerous people” (50:20).

These words do not refer merely to the deliverance from famine. There was another deliverance Joseph achieved by his exceptionally great power – the deliverance from being lost in Egypt. This family was destined to sojourn in Egypt for a period of 210 years, during which time they were expected to continue in the ways of their fathers. A little group of shepherds, in a powerful and affluent society like Egypt, could not maintain its identity and survive. But Joseph, who was feared by all of Egypt, utilized his absolute power to guard his family from assimilation.

He said: “When Pharaoh will call you” and will offer you high office, “You should say: Your servants were livestock men from our youth… in order that you dwell in the land of Goshen.”  Joseph, whose motto was “I fear G-d” (42:18), was the influence that caused the family to maintain their names, their language, and even their garb. Under the 71 years of his strict surveillance, the sons of Israel began to develop from a small group into a nation, and the reason the nation clung so loyally to their fathers’ G-d and to their fathers’ ways was the supreme power wielded by Joseph.

Joseph was in all respects a real king over the house of Israel for 71 years, longer than any other ruler in Israel’s history. Joseph ruled with more authority than any subsequent ruler, and with even more authority than Moshe or David. Pharaoh gave to Joseph the power that “without you no man may lift up his hand or his foot in all the land of Egypt” (41:44). No one dared to quarrel or even to complain, which was not the case in the period under Moshe’s control.

In Joseph’s time the Israelites “were exceedingly fruitful and they multiplied” (47:27), and the nation came into being during his long period as a virtual king and an absolute ruler over them. It was Hashem’s plan that the righteous Joseph should wield absolute power for the longest reign in history, in order to prepare the newly developing nation for the great climax of the receiving of the Torah at Sinai. Joseph was extremely resourceful and capable in everything, as his career demonstrated. When he related these dreams, his brothers saw his firm faith in these dreams, and they greatly feared the consequences of an ambitious and capable younger brother who would attempt to make the dreams come true.

This power was the dream G-d sent when he was 17, for he was then being readied for his future career as the guardian of the family “for a great deliverance” in order “to keep alive a numerous people” that would develop. It was an essential part of Hashem’s plan that Joseph should dream these dreams. Because later, when Joseph became the ruler over all of Egypt and his brothers came to dwell in Egypt, they were not able to deceive themselves into believing Joseph had gained power by chance or by his prowess.

At that time they remembered Joseph’s dreams and were therefore convinced he’d been chosen by Hashem; they therefore willingly yielded to his authority and allowed him to supervise and to manage the family. In this manner, the new nation gained the maximum benefit from Joseph’s tutelage.

Compiled for The Jewish Press by the Rabbi Avigdor Miller Simchas Hachaim Foundation, a project of Yeshiva Gedolah Bais Yisroel, which Rabbi Miller founded and authorized to disseminate his work. Subscribe to the Foundation’s free e-mail newsletters on marriage, personal growth, and more at www.SimchasHachaim.com.

For more information, or to sponsor a Simchas Hachaim Foundation program, call 718-258-7400 or e-mail info@SimchasHachaim.com.

 

Toldos: And They Called His Name Eisav

Thursday, November 24th, 2011

At a thing’s inception, it contains the potential for both good and bad. This applies also to our forefathers. The Torah’s description of the Avos may imply that, for example, Eisav was pre-ordained for wickedness. Rabbi Avigdor Miller, zt”l, explains that to the contrary, Yaakov and Eisav were each born with the potential for good and evil.

“And the first came forth ruddy all over like a hairy garment (25:25).”

This was a remarkable phenomenon. Eisav was covered with goatlike hair (27:16) to foretell one of two prophecies: either that he would have the boldness of a goat in the service of G-d, just as the he-goat is ready for battle and goes ahead of the flock; or that he would choose to behave like an animal that follows its eyes to fill its desires. Isaac believed in the first prophecy. But Eisav chose the second: when he was put to the test, he chose to follow the desire of his eyes rather than to keep the birthright.

The nations, exemplified by Eisav, choose this world; like the creatures that follow their instincts, they live solely to gratify the body. Jacob was entirely unlike the beasts: he was smooth and without hair, to emphasize Israel’s role as the true fulfillment of the human model that lives to serve not his passions but to serve Hashem. It is essential to understand that neither Eisav nor Jacob were born with foreordained righteousness or wickedness, for this would contradict the principle of Free Will which is a foundation of the Torah ideology. All prophetic omens that can be discerned in the birth of these two brothers could have become realized in more than one way. It was only subsequently, when each brother had chosen his way of life, that on looking back we can discern what the birth omens had foretold.

Eisav is derived from asah (“to make”), for Eisav was a made man from the beginning. He was ruddy and hairy, and this was apparently a portent of leadership. But these semblances of maturity were disadvantageous, because together with the birthright they caused Eisav to become overconfident and less amenable to instruction.

The weakness of childhood is intended by the Creator to facilitate the obedience to training, because the child’s dependence on his parents, and his small stature, cause him to be humble and pliable and willing to accept instruction. Eisav’s mature appearance, and also his ability to support himself by hunting (25:27) and his birthright, engendered an unwilligness to hearken to instruction and reproof.

He therefore became “a man of the field” (ibid.) in order to avoid being subjected to restraint and rebuke, unlike Jacob’s humble readiness to dwell in the tent and to be subject to his parents’ tutelage. There was another intention in the name Eisav: he was expected to be a man of action who would accomplish great achievements. His appearance as a “made” man inspired hopes that he would “make” great achievements (see 27:10). Had Eisav utilized his life properly, this meaning of his name would have come true.

One additional insight: Edom, and especially Amalek, were always bitter foes of Israel. The fact that the Torah reveals that Eisav the progenitor of Edom was derived from Yitzchak and Rivkah and was their firstborn, is a great monument to the truthfulness of the Torah. No Israelite would willingly have admitted such information had it not been so dictated by a divine Author. Therefore, despite Edom’s animosity toward Israel (as in Bamidbar 20:14), the facts of Eisav’s lineage and of his birthright were never erased from the Torah.

Chayei Sarah: The Blessing Hashem Wished To Impart

Thursday, November 17th, 2011

Hashem has many agents who do His bidding and bring about in the world the ends He desires. Sometimes the agent is rather unlikely, as when an evil person’s deeds bring about something beneficial. Rabbi Avigdor Miller, zt”l, explains that such was the case when Rivkah’s family bestowed upon her a blessing that in fact alluded to Israel’s ultimate elevation over the other nations, and Hashem’s ultimate kingship over all the world.

“Our sister, be you to thousands of ten thousands, and your seed should inherit the gate of his enemies” (24:60).

These words were put into the mouth of the speakers; they are really the words of G-d. We note they did not bless her with wealth or happiness or good health or even long years. G-d’s greatest blessing is children and children’s children forever. When one`s descendants cling to the service of G-d, the progenitor is considered as if he were alive forever, continuing to serve Hashem in this physical life.

This is the blessing G-d gave to Abraham (“be you to thousands…”; 13:16, 15:5, 17:20), and to Yitzchak (26:4) and to Jacob (28:14). For similar instances where G-d put His words in the mouth of ordinary men, see 23:6, 24:30. We note the similarity between this verse (“thousands of ten thousands”) and the verse “ten thousands of thousands of Israel” (Bamidbar 10:36). Thus we see that this blessing upon Rivkah was that she would  become the mother of all Israel.

Hashem blessed Abraham similarly (“your seed should inherit…”; 22:17), and Rivkah’s kin extend this blessing to her. We see here that Hashem puts His words into the mouths of ordinary persons (23:6, 24:31, 24:60). We understand that this blessing was not intended for all the seed of Rivkah, including Eisav, but for the seed of Jacob alone concerning whom it was said: “Come to rest, Hashem, upon the ten thousands of thousands of Israel” (Bamidbar 10:36).

Eisav would have benefited from this blessing had he remained with the family, but by deserting them he forfeited his benefits. However, a minor reflection of blessing came upon him; just as after Isaac’s blessings upon Jacob, Eisav gained some minor blessing from his father (27:39-40). As it turned out, Rivkah’s true seed was Jacob, and he eventually conquered Eisav and had dominion over the land of Edom (II Samuel 8:14). But the enemies of Jacob were many (22:17) and in all eras; Jacob would overcome all of them in the end.

We should note that this blessing upon Rivkah is the same as the blessing upon Yitzchak (22:17). This prophecy that Hashem put into the mouth of Rivkah’s kin certainly includes the conquest of Canaan. But chiefly it refers to the final victory over all the ideologies of the nations, when all the cities of the world will acclaim Hashem as the true G-d and they will acclaim Israel as His people and the sole bearers of Hashem’s truth.

Even more: it foretells that “All Israel has a share in the World to come,” meaning that the seed of Rivkah (which is Israel), and no one else, is guaranteed eternal life on a national scale (i.e. not merely for chosen individuals). Thus Rivkah was given a blessing parallel to the prophecy of Isaac’s name: “He shall laugh” (21:3). Her seed shall inherit the final and eternal “gate.”

Compiled for The Jewish Press by the Rabbi Avigdor Miller Simchas Hachaim Foundation, a project of Yeshiva Gedolah Bais Yisroel, which Rabbi Miller founded and authorized to disseminate his work. Subscribe to the Foundation’s free e-mail newsletters on marriage, personal growth, and more at www.SimchasHachaim.com.

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