Thursday, January 17, 2019

My God

The parsha has an amazing contrast.  The storyline continues with the completion of the Exodus involving all the miracles of the yam suf.  Right after these open miracles Klal Yisroel are complaining about a lack of water, food etc.  How is this possible?  The possuk records the complaint of Bnei Yisroel as if they were possibly denying God,  וְעַ֨ל נַסֹּתָ֤ם אֶת־יְהֹוָה֙ לֵאמֹ֔ר הֲיֵ֧שׁ יְהֹוָ֛ה בְּקִרְבֵּ֖נוּ אִם־אָֽיִן.  How could they deny the very God they just saw at krias yam suf?
The Chassidic books (I think its in Sfas Emes,) say that of course BneiYisroel knew of Hashem's existence.  The question was that they had seen Hashem perform miracles of major proportion, however they were wondering is there an I - Though relationship with Hashem, is Hashem בְּקִרְבֵּ֖נוּ, within us.  Can we have a personal connection to Hashem?  Is he just a great God, or is he also my God?  Bnei Yisroel wanted to know would God take care off all there  personal needs or was that too small for God.  Is He concerned with the issues and troubles of every individual or not.  That is the question they had, and its a question everyone must deal with in their life.   

A Good Deed Never Goes Unpaid

תבלעמו ארץ: מכאן שזכו לקבורה בשכר שאמרו (לעיל ט כז) ה' הצדיק.  Why is Pharaoh worthy of meriting burial because of an insincere statement made under duress?  My great-grandfather zt"l explains that we see from here that any good thing a person does, even if it is completely insincere or done for an ulterior motive, it will still have a positive effect on the individual.  If Pharaoh said ה' הצדיק it must have aroused some feelings deep within himself that the statement carried some form of validity and it is for those feelings that he merits burial.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Song of Thanks


The Gemorah Megillah (10b) says that the angels wanted to sing shira after Bnei Yisroel made it safely to the other side. Hashem said my handwork is drowning in the sea and you feel its time to sing?  The question is asked (see Maharsha,) so then why did Bnei Yisroel sing shira?  The Briskor Rav (quoted in Rav Eliyahu Baruch,) answered that the recipients of the benefit must say shira as hakaros hatov for the benefit s/he received.
The Chanukas Hatorah has a different interpretation of the Gemorah.  He explains that the angels wanted to kill the Egyptians via their holy words of praise, just as what happened to the army of Sancherev.  Hashem responded the punishment must be meted out accordingly.  My handywork was drowned, meaning the Egyptians drowned the Jewish babies; they must be killed via drowning as well.  
The Gemorah (ibid 16a) records how Mordechai told Haman that only when it comes to Jewish enemies, we assume בנפול אויבך אל תשמח.  However, when it comes to gentiles, we rejoice over their downfall.  Possibly, this is also because of hakaros hatov (though I am aware that there are sources that may indicate it is a hate against evil.)
It is well known the Shibaley Haleket says the aforementioned Gemorah is the reason as to why there is no complete hallel on the seventh day of Pesach.  Why is it different than the shira of Bnei Yisroel?  It would seem that he holds our hallel is merely to give praise for the past, its not an expression of personal hakaros hatov, hence it would be akin to the shira of the angels.
The general rule is that we don’t sing the praises of Hashem because it will automatically be unfitting for one can’t finish praising Hashem.  The Maharal Ch. 1 of Gevuros Hashem asks if that’s the case, why is the rule of the haggadah המרבה לספר הר"ז משובח?  How can one continue to praise Hashem, it will diminish His honor?  The Maharal answers that such a rule is true in regard to listing praises, however when it comes to hakaros hatov, you must express your gratitude to the best of your ability. 
See more about the primacy of hakaros hatov in the Exodus on my mother’s blog here.


An Update And More On Hiddur Mitzvah


Last week we mentioned what appears to be the opinion of Tosfos and Rambam that hiddur mitzvah isn’t a din in the cheftzah of the mitzvah, rather it is measured by the appearance of the object.  This idea is challenged by the Chelkas Yoav from the Gemorah in Sukkah (11b) that there is hiddur mitzvah to tie together the lulav with the other species.  The אגד, the tie isn’t seen for it is covered in the person’s hand, so why is it considered hiddur?  The Avnei Nezer (Orach Chayim 433) answers that there are two forms, two denim in hiddur mitvah.  There is hiddur that enhances, beautifies and adorns the object.  That hiddur only applies to that which is seen.  However, there is another kind of hiddur.  That is an enhancement in the מעשה מצוה.  By adding the tie, it helps grasp together all the species which facilitates a better לקיחה.  Based upon this principle we understand why this tie has denim, halachos attached to it.  Rashi Sukkah (33b) holds it must be a real knot and the Shulchan Aruch (651:1) rules one must have a knot on top of another, not a bow in this tie for we find in the laws of shabbas that it’s not defined as a knot.  Asks the Chasam Sofer (Sukkah 36a) why is there a need to have a halachik kesher, what ever looks nice should suffice?  However, based upon the Avnei Nezer we understand that this isn’t a “look nice” tie, it’s a halachik tie, one that serves to make it a better lekecha and that is accomplished only via a tie bound by law.
The Torah Temimah wants to infer from the Gemorah that doesn’t mention שרטוט as one of the means of hiddur, that it’s a הללמ"מ  and not a halacha of hiddur.  
The Gemorah in Shabbas (133b) has two derashos on the word ואנוהו if it means התנאה לפניו במצות or הוי דומה לו מה הוא חנון וכו'.  Rabbi Sacks (R.Y. Landers) liked to say (at least in his שיחה,) that the two derashos aren’t arguing, one is built on the other.  The yesod of hiddur mitzvah isn’t just to enhance the cheftza.  As Rashi says in Yoma (70a) it’s שטרח להתנאות במצוהתפארת בעליה , its an enhancement of the gavra, the person demonstrates his attachment to Hashem by going above and beyond the call of duty.  That’s the drasha of hiddur.  Abba Shaul comes to add that its not just true in fulfillment of mitzvot, but it’s a mandate for daily life.
After writing this, I found much of this elucidation written (in English) by Rav Sacks here
The question is why hiddur mitzvah, learnt from זה קלי ואנוהו spelled out in az yashir?  Why is this the time and place to teach such a law?  See a nice peshat here, reminiscent of what we wrote from Rav Chaim Shmulevetz here
The actual verse itself needs explanation.  Why switch from קלי to אלקי אבי?  And why switch from ואנוהו to ארוממנוThe Malbim explains first they said this is my God, the God that I can see and grasp through open miracles, ואנוהו, and I can make for Him a house, a tangible Beis Hamikdash.  He will dwell amongst us.  However, אלקי אבי, when there were no open miracles, then  ארוממנו, it is a God that is beyond grasp, he is מרומם, above us.

Professional Prayer


Rashi (14:10) explains ויצקעו בנ"י אל ה' as תפסו אומנות אבותם בידם.  Why does Rashi call their prayer an אומנות and what is he explaining, we already encountered prayers of Bnei Yisroel in previous chapters?  The Rebbe explains (Likutay Sichos volume 11) that the difficulty in the verse is why Bnei Yisroel were praying.  They were already promised to be brought to Eretz Yisroel, so if they believed, then there is no danger, and if they don’t believe, then why bother to pray?  Rashi answers that yes, they believed.  They weren’t praying because of the danger in front of them, rather they prayed because that was there practice, their אומנות.  Rashi cites proof from pesukim of the avos where Chazal derive that they prayed.  Why didn’t he cite open pessukim where we find the avos prayed?  Because that is a prayer out of need, Rashi is proving the prayer of אומנות, that it was a regular activity and the proof of that is a derash. 


Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Yosef Essence

 וְהַֽעֲלִיתֶ֧ם אֶת־עַצְמֹתַ֛י מִזֶּ֖ה אִתְּכֶֽם.  The meforshim ask why is the detail of Moshe carrying the bones ofYosef mentioned here, it should have been recorded last week as part of the description of the exuit from Egypt?  What kind of person says take my bones, a person would say carry me to Eretz Yisroel? Yosef was saying take my עצמיות, my essence together with you.  Klal Yisroel was about to enter a new form of existence, life in the desert.  A place with dangers both in terms of gashmious and in terms of ruchnious.  וַיַּסֵּ֨ב אֱלֹהִ֧ים | אֶת־הָעָ֛ם דֶּ֥רֶךְ הַמִּדְבָּ֖ר יַם־ס֑וּף, it would be a long, roundabout journey.  What would give Klal Yisroel the power to survive through this arduous journey?  It is by clinging to the power of Yosef Hatzaddik.  He is called Yosef because Rachel prayed יֹסֵ֧ף יְהֹוָ֛ה לִ֖י בֵּ֥ן אַחֵֽר.  The Tzemack Tzedek explained Yosef has the capability of making from an אחר a בן.  Even one who is in a situation where he seems distant from Hashem, or he is in a hard predicament, feels that he is a אחר, he still remains a בן to Hashem.  That's why its Yosef who can go into the strange land of Egypt and retain his pure faith.   This is the essence, the power of Yosef to help Klal Yisroel through their journey into the difficult times of the desert.  
Today is the yom helula of the Riyatz, Yosef Yitzchak.  He was the Yosef of the generation leading the Jews through the spiritual desert of the Soviet Union.  By establishing underground yeshivos, mikvaos and chaderim, he made sure even those living in times of אחר could remain a בן (based on Likutay Sichos volume 26.)
The michelta asks on the possuk וַיַּֽאֲמִ֨ינוּ֙ בַּֽיהֹוָ֔ה וּבְמשֶׁ֖ה עַבְדּֽוֹ that its a kal v'choma, if they believed in Moshe, for sure they believed in Hashem, why does it have to say they believed in Hashem?  It answers that by believing in the "faithful shepard" its as if one believes in Hashem.  How do we know how to have proper faith in Hashem?  By clinging to "the faithful shepard," the leader of the flock, by having proper faith in their words that is how a person will have proper faith in Hashem.
May we merit to have faith in the leadership of the Riyatz and learn from his ways.
                                                    

Song of the Future


Rashi says that the verse says az yashir is said in the future tense to allude to the resurrection of the dead.  Why is this the place to hint to this idea?  Rashi says that when Bnei Yisroel saw the miracle they thought to say shira.  What is the חידוש here, obviously one thinks before they speak?  Chazal interpret the praise מי כמכה באלם as me chomocha ba’ilmin- that Hashem is great for he can make himself silent against those that embarrass Him.  Why was this praise said now when Hashem wasn’t silent rather He destroyed those that stood against Him?  Why does the shira include the building the Beis Hamikdash, מקדש ה' כוננו ידך if it only occurred years later?
Klal Yisroel at this point realized that all the years of slavery were for their benefit.  They were able to realize that the silence of Hashem throughout their years of hard labor wasn’t a sign that he was ignoring their plight, but rather it was for a greater purpose.  They were able to understand the hashgacha of Hashem’s presence in everything.  This is akin to the revelation that we will experience by the coming of Moshiach.  All the events of world history, all the trials and tribulations will be recognized as part of the process of getting to the end.  We will understand how the events of dayan ha’emes are really events of hatov ve’hatamatev.  Klal Yisroel thought to sing shira, the shir chadash of yemos hamashiach.  They didn’t just want to sing shira, but rather to sing the ultimate shira of yemos hamashiach.  That’s why the idea of techias hamasim is alluded to here.  That is why they sang about the building of the Beis Hamikdash for they saw (through prophesy) how things would be in the future.  However, there was still something lacking in their realization of the hashgachas Hashem.  Chazal say that if they said Hashem melech in the present tense then Moshiach would have come.  However, their realization was incomplete, and they were only able to say Hashem yimloch in the future tense.
The midrash says that Moshe sinned by complaining to Hashem (at the end of Shemos) with the word az, “ma’az baasi el Pharoa” etc. and he fixed it with the az of az yashir.  What is the connection?  How does the az of the shira correct his complaint?  The Bes Halavi explains that now Moshe was able to appreciate how the additional hard work was necessary for Klal Yisroel to get out of Egypt.  The shira wasn’t just a praise for the redemption, but it was a praise for the slavery as well.  Moshe was now able to recognize how all the events were for the betterment of Klal Yisroel.  This is hinted to in the word az itself.  The Maharal (Gevuros Hashem chapter 47) explains the word is made up of a alef and zayen.  The zayen represents all the power of the world (according to Maharal the number 7 is always the completion of the natural order like 7 days in a week).  The alef represents Hashem, אלופו של עולם.  The word exemplifies Hashem’s dominance over the world and everything that happens in it.    
This Shabbos is called Shabbos Shira.  That would indicate that there is a connection between Shabbos and shira.  What is this connection?  The day of Shabbos is the day when we are able to recognize Hashem’s hand throughout creation.  This was the point of yitzias mitzraim as well.  Shabbos is also a remembrance to leaving Egypt (as we say in Kiddush).  Klal Yisroel was able to have an understanding of this at the time of krias yam suf.  The seventh day of Pesach also shares this aspect of Shabbos and is therefore, it’s called Shabbos (Or Gedalyahu.)  (Based upon Or Gedaylahu and Sifsai Chaim.)