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Shabat Chol Ha'Moed Pesach

April 11th, 2020

17th of Nisan 5780

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Hashem Desires Prayer from the Depths of the Heart

Rabbi David Hanania Pinto

On the seventh day of Pesach, great miracles were performed for Bnei Yisrael while they faced the Yam Suf. I came across the following question in the sefer 'Arzei Halevanon', asked by the Gaon Rabbi Avraham Yaffen zt"l: The Midrash (Shir Hashirim Rabba 2:35) quotes the verse, "let Me hear your supplicating voice, for your voice is sweet" and compares this to a king who had an only daughter. Since he desired to hear her voice what did he do? He said that every day they should take a walk. What did he do when they went out? He signaled to his servants and they fell on her unexpectedly like bandits. She started screaming, "Abba, Abba, save me!" He said to her, had I not done this to you, you would not have cried out Abba save me.

So too, when Bnei Yisrael were in Mitzrayim, the Egyptians cruel enslavement caused them to cry out and lift their eyes to Hashem, as it says, "and the Children of Israel groaned because of the work and they cried out". Immediately, "G-d heard their moaning". Hashem heard their prayers and took them out with a strong hand and with an outstretched arm. After they left Mitzrayim, Hashem desired to hear their voices yet they were not prepared to cry out.

What did Hashem do? He strengthened Pharaoh's heart and he chased after them… When Bnei Yisrael saw him approaching, they lifted their eyes to Hashem and cried out to Him like the cry that they cried in Mitzrayim. When Hashem heard He said to them, had I not done this to you, I would not have heard your voices. About this incident, it says, "At the sea, He said to me, "O My dove, trapped at the sea as if in the clefts of the rock…let Me hear your supplicating voice". It does not say 'let me hear the voice', rather, 'your voice', the one I already heard in Mitzrayim.

When Bnei Yisrael cried out to Hashem by the sea, immediately "On that day, Hashem saved Israel from the hand of Egypt".

The Gaon Rabbi Avraham Yaffen zt”l wonders how it is possible to make this comparison! The voice with which they cried out in Mitzrayim was one driven by the insanity and bondage. Mitzrayim was full of their idolatry, they were naked of mitzvot and sunken in the forty-ninth level of impurity. But since then things had changed. They had experienced the revelation of Hashem's Hand during the Ten Plagues, as the verse tells us "with great awesomeness" which refers to the revelation of the Shechina. They also merited observing the commandment of the Pesach-offering with great sacrifice and fulfilling the mitzvah of brit milah. They left Mitzrayim with an outstretched arm and "Hashem went before them by day…and by night". So how is it possible to say that by the sea Hashem did not demand from them a new, more elevated and lofty voice, and instead only expected from them "let Me hear your voice", the same voice that He already heard in Mitzrayim?!

Harav Yaffen zt"l clarifies this difficulty yet I would like to suggest a different answer, through asking another question: Why did the Egyptians need to be punished with ten forceful plagues and only after that Am Yisrael were granted salvation? Why could one hard-hitting plague not have been enough? The reason is that when Hashem punishes the nations it contains a message for Am Yisrael. It is supposed to cause us to search our souls and realize that we too really deserved to receive this blow, for in what way are we different? "These serve idolatry and these serve idolatry." But Hashem in His great kindness and mercy, made a distinction between Am Yisrael and the Egyptians and redeemed His people in the merit of the Holy Torah that they were going to receive. From the potency of these plagues with which the Egyptians were smitten with great wrath, Am Yisrael will understand that "kingship belongs to Hashem and He rules the nations". They will understand that if a person requires salvation, he should know clearly that he has no one to rely on but his Father in heaven, for the power to smite whoever He wishes is in His hands and the power to heal and bring salvation is in His hands.

When Bnei Yisrael were in Mitzrayim it says about them (Shemot 2:23), "the Children of Israel groaned because of the work and they cried out. Their outcry because of the work went up to Hashem". This groaning and crying arose from a pure heart. They shouted out and cried to Hashem from the depths of their hearts, for they knew that there is no other savior who can deliver them from their distress besides Hashem. This was a pure cry stemming from a pure heart, without any subjective leanings at all.

There is prayer and there is prayer. A person may pray to Hashem and turn to Him with his request, but really deep in his heart, he does not trust Him completely. Immediately following his prayer, he starts planning how he can increase his efforts to achieve his goal and heart's desire. This kind of prayer is not a prayer that flows from the heart. On the other hand, we can have someone who understands that "There is none besides Him". He distinctly feels that his entire salvation is totally dependent on Hashem and he has complete trust in Hashem Yitbarach. Therefore, when he prays his prayer flows from the depths of his pure and sincere heart.

This is how Bnei Yisrael felt when they were in Mitzrayim, due to the arduous bondage and the bitter exile that was their lot. They knew that have no other savior and no one to rely on but the Creator of the Universe, therefore their cry for help was a pure shout which emerged from the depths of their heart.

This kind of pure prayer is what the Midrash is referring to when it says that Hashem longed to hear their cry. He said to Bnei Yisrael, it is true that now too you are praying to Me and crying out, but there is nothing like that prayer that you prayed to Me when you were in Mitzrayim, that was a result of the intensity of the bondage. This is the type of prayer that I long for and this beautiful kind of prayer is what I wish to hear once again.

That is why Hashem sent Pharaoh to chase after them while they were standing by the sea. Hashem returned Bnei Yisrael to their previous state of feeling like they were in Mitzrayim and then they once again cried out with the same pure cry, free of any trace of reliance on anyone else, rather an absolute dependence on Hashem alone, since now too at the seashore they realized that they have no one to depend on but their Father in heaven, only He can save them at this difficult moment.

This is the kind of pure prayer that Hashem desires and longs for.

Words of the Sages

Playing with Fire

The Gaon Rabi Noach Yitzchak Diskin zt"l, the brother of the Maharil of Diskin and his successor in Lomza, told of an incident that raised a hue and cry in the town at the beginning of his brother's zya"a Rabbinate.

An elderly scholar approached the young Rav, who was not yet thirty years old and shared with him his innovative Torah insight: When we say "Az Yashir" in the shacharit prayer, we repeat the verse "Hashem shall reign for all eternity" twice, followed by its translation from the Targum Onkelos. The Avudraham writes that the reason for the repetition is since this verse signifies the end of the Shira. Rav Amram Gaon also wrote in his siddur that "The end of the Shira is 'Hashem shall reign for all eternity'".

This scholar pointed out other sources and then concluded: If so, the verse that follows this verse, "When Pharaoh's cavalry came with his chariots and horsemen into the sea…" is not considered as part of the Shira!"

The Maharil explained to him: "Indeed there is an opinion like this. The 'Mordechai' in Perek Lulav Hagazul also wrote that it is customary to repeat the verse "Hashem shall reign for all eternity" at the end of the Shira, just as we have the custom to repeat the verse "Let all souls praise G-d, Halleluyah!" at the end of Pesukei d'zimra. Similarly, the poet Rabbeinu Shimon son of Rabbi Yitzchak, who lived at the time of Rashi, created a hymn for the seventh day of Pesach which follows the order of the verses of the Shira, and he concluded with "Hashem shall reign for all eternity" and not with the verse "When Pharaoh's cavalry came…".

The elderly scholar rejoiced at this backing and said: This being the case, the verse "When Pharaoh's cavalry came…" should not be written in the Sefer Torah as the Shira is written, 'brick on a brick', (with a space between the words, resembling brick formation) since this verse is not part of the Shira… The Rav should pass a ruling to correct this mistake in all the Sifrei Torah!"

Rabbeinu the Maharil was shocked and cried out, "G-d forbid! Just because we think we understand we will act on it?! The Mechilta tells us that this verse is included in the Shira and in Masechet Sofrim it is written that this verse should be written 'brick on a brick'. This is also what the Rambam writes in the laws of Sefer Torah and this is also the opinion of the Ibn Ezra, the Vitri machzor, the Kolbo and the Abarbanel, that the verse "When Pharaoh's cavalry came…" is part of the Shira. Who can dare tamper with the Sefer Torah? Many times we rule according to tradition or Masechet Sofrim, even when they differ in opinion to the words of the Gemara." And Rabbeinu then began enumerating one by one different opinions for when words are written in the Torah with missing letters or extra letters, sections that are followed by a gap in the Sefer Torah which signifies a new section and sections that are considered a continuation as if he were reading them from the text.

The scholar brazenly declared: "The Avudraham's reasoning seems to be the correct opinion and one should act accordingly."

Rabbeinu warned him: "His honor is playing with fire! The Sefer Torah will not forgive this slight to its honor!"

This exchange carried on a little longer, but in the end, the elderly scholar did not listen to the words of the young Rav and went to persuade sofrim who write Sifrei Torah that they should not write the last verse of the Shira as the rest of the Shira is written.

As is recorded in the sefer "The Saraf of Brisk", on erev Shabbat this elderly scholar went to immerse himself in the mikveh as he was accustomed to doing in honor of Shabbat, and while he was immersing he suffered a stroke and died in the water. It was clear to all that this was a punishment from heaven, measure for measure, in accordance with the verse "For in the very matter in which the Egyptians had conspired against them…". They sinned by throwing the baby boys into the water so they were punished with water: "When Pharaoh's cavalry came…into the sea and Hashem turned back the waters of the sea upon them".

Guard Your Tongue

One May Not Believe even in the Case of Complete Silence

A person is forbidden to believe rechilut, even if it was said in front of the person who is being spoken about. This law applies even if the person keeps quiet and does not deny the matter. Even if by nature he would normally speak up in such a situation yet now he is silent, nevertheless one may not believe what is being said.

The Haftarah

The Haftarah of the week: "The hand of Hashem was upon me" (Yechezkel 37)

The connection to Shabbat Chol Hamo'ed: The prophecy of Yechezkel mentions the matter of the resurrection of the dead and the redemption of Yisrael, which is a fitting topic for the festival of Pesach since we are told that "In Nissan they were redeemed and in Nissan they will be redeemed in the future".

Walking in Their Ways

Personal Example and Guidance for a Life of Faith

Engraved in my memories from my youth are my esteemed teachers who personified holiness and noble middot and each of whom left an indelible impression on my character formation.

I absorbed the attribute of bitachon in my father's house ztvk"l right from my earliest days. I literally saw Hashem's presence hovering over the house and the manna falling every single day. The livelihood in our home was of a miraculous nature, way above the laws of nature. Even though my father did not have any money, nevertheless whenever my mother a"h asked for something, Abba would tell her that by the afternoon it will come. And so indeed it would come about, in a most wondrous fashion.

Once late at night, my brother wished to light a cigarette but he couldn’t find any matches. Abba zt"l said to him, in a few minutes you will receive what you are looking for… Suddenly someone knocked on the door and asked for a certain family, it seemed that he had mistaken the address… But what was he holding in his hand? A lit cigarette! My brother was able to light his cigarette… This was all a result of Abba z"l living a life of complete and pure faith and trust in the Creator of the world.

I continued absorbing this way of life from Rabbeinu Gershon Liebman ztvk"l. My master and teacher Rabbeinu Chaim Shmuel Lopian ztvk"l transmitted to me his burning love for Torah. When travelling by train he would ask us to let him know when his stop arrived for he would become so deeply engrossed in Torah learning that if not for our reminder he would continue travelling for another few hours! When he travelled he would take with him a suitcase that held the entire Shas. This is how he spent his whole life, immersed in Torah and delving into it "while you sit in your home, while you walk on the way" and he did not depart from it his entire life.

He was a living example of someone who merited fulfilling with his very being "They journeyed from Rephidim", which as the Sages note, the word Rephidim is an allusion to a slackening of the people's Torah study. He constantly urged himself in Torah study and in this way he journeyed away from laxity in Torah for he knew well that the Torah of Hashem is our life and the length of our days, and anyone who withdraws from it is like withdrawing from life itself.

Treasures

Rabbi David Hanania Pinto

In the Shemone Esrei prayer of the Chag we say, "And you gave us, Hashem, our G-d, with love, appointed festivals for gladness, Festivals and times of joy, this day of the Festival of Matzot, the time of our freedom, a holy convocation, a memorial of the Exodus from Egypt."

The question is, there seems to be a contradiction here. We first mention that the Festival of Matzot is the time of our freedom, meaning that we are thanking Hashem for our present freedom, whereas we carry on to say 'a memorial of the Exodus from Egypt', meaning that the idea of the Festival of Pesach is as a remembrance that our forefathers left Egypt, without the emphasis being on the freedom.

Furthermore, Chazal tell us that a person is obliged to see himself as if he himself came out of Egypt. However, this seems to be unfeasible. How can one obligate a Jewish person to feel like he left Egypt and is now a free man, when he was never enslaved in Egypt?

For a person to achieve a level of steadfast faith and acquire this wonderful perception that had Hashem not delivered our forefathers from Egypt, we and our children would still be enslaved to Pharaoh in Egypt, he must dedicate much prayer to this end. In addition, we must inculcate our children with firm faith from their earliest days. This is why one must spend much time in telling over the story of the Exodus on the night of Pesach, in order to instill firm faith in Hashem Yitbarach in our children's hearts, without any trace of doubts.

When a person contemplates the past and connects himself to the time when Bnei Yisrael were enslaved in Mitzrayim and suffered terrible hardships, if he feels their pain and appreciates how Hashem Yitbarach performed miracles for them and punished their enemies with great afflictions, if he rejoices in feeling their joy, this automatically infuses him with a feeling of freedom. But if not for feeling the pain of his forefather's suffering and also his joy at their redemption, he would be far from appreciating the miracle that was performed for his fathers and himself and will certainly not feel like a free man.

Due to this, the Festival of Pesach is specifically the time of true freedom. This is a result of the freedom which our forefathers merited in Egypt through tremendous miracles, without which we would not be free men today. For when Hashem performed those miracles, He ensured that they should have an effect and draw down forces of holiness for all future generations, who received an abundance of infinite illumination from the holiness of the original Festival and the miracles which accompanied it. When a person arouses himself with great joy, he will undoubtedly feel the great joy that our fathers felt when they left Egypt and became free men.

A Story in Honor of the Chag

Kimcha D'Pischa from Eliyahu Hanavi

The Festival of Pesach envelops us with overflowing feelings of anticipation for the one who will announce the redemption, Eliyahu Hanavi, may he be remembered for the good, since our Sages zt"l instilled in us that "in the month of Nissan they were redeemed and in the month of Nissan they will be redeemed in the future".

Throughout the generations, many stories have been passed down concerning revelations of Eliyahu Hanavi, how he was the bearer of salvation and miracles during times of sorrow and distress. We therefore take the opportunity to tell over a wonderful story that took place in the previous generation, a story that Hagaon Rabbi Yitzchak Zilberstein shlita heard from Maran Hagaon Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky shlita about his grandfather Rabbi Aryeh Levine zt"l, the father-in-law of Hagaon Rabbi Yosef Sholom Elyashiv zt"l.

As is well known, one of Rabbi Aryeh's foremost occupations was collecting money for tzedaka. Considerable sums passed through his hands and were discretionally allocated to widows, orphans and hundreds of needy people. During the month of Nissan Rabbi Aryeh would intensify his efforts in this area for it was a time when he would distribute particularly enormous amounts of charity.

His list comprised many poor and wretched individuals who barely scraped by in normal times, and all the more so found it extremely difficult to provide for their families as the festival of Pesach approached. If not for the tzedaka that they received from him, it could very well be that they would not have had the means to celebrate the Seder like the rest of their brethren. When the envelope containing the money arrived at their house, it was a true moment of salvation for them.

Since Rabbi Aryeh was well known for his charitable efforts and was considered by all as an upright and trustworthy tzaddik, he became the address for many people's tzedaka money and they entrusted him with distributing their charity to the poor.

During the World War when even the very wealthy were affected by the economic difficulties which left their mark throughout, Rabbi Aryeh was unable to collect enough charity to distribute to the poor. Things were so bad that he did not possess even a single small coin. Even after extensive efforts, he did not manage to raise even a small amount of the money that he required.

When Rabbi Aryeh realized how bad the situation was, he went to the Kotel Hama'aravi to pour out his heart to Hashem, beseeching Him to have mercy on His poor and destitute nation. The tzaddik stood by the stones for a long time, praying and crying, asking Hashem to make it possible for him this year too, to distribute the amount of money that he normally distributes every year.

Just as he left the Kotel, Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky told over, an unfamiliar Arab approached him and handed him a big parcel wrapped in newspaper. While Rabbi Aryeh stood rooted to the spot in astonishment, the Arab disappeared, in the same way that he had surprisingly turned up out of nowhere.

Rabbi Aryeh opened the parcel and to his amazement, he found that it contained the exact sum of money that he would distribute to the poor every year…

"Our family is of the opinion," Rabbi Chaim added, "that this 'Arab' was in fact, Eliyahu Hanavi who appeared to our grandfather."

Hagaon Rabbi Yitzchak Zilberstein concludes the story with a wonderful practical lesson: "If we ask how one merits this and where one can find the prescription for such exceptional greatness, the answer is that it was our grandfather's zt"l self-sacrifice for matters of tzedaka that gave him the merit of this revelation."

Timely Topic

The Festival of Pesach is the Festival of renewing our servitude, as the Ramban explains. This is the meaning of what we say in the Hagadah, that in every generation man is obliged to regard himself as if he himself is now being released from the bondage of Egypt.

The Maggid Rabbi Baruch Rosenblum shlita explains the meaning behind this, saying that in fact, the festival of Pesach is one of our greatest challenges in avodat Hashem.

There was once a Jew who poured out his heart saying, I remember how it was in my parent's home on Pesach, what did we have to eat?! Matzot, potatoes and eggs! We drank water that had been previously boiled. We would buy three new bottles which we would fill up with soda. What was there to eat in those days?! Today, baruch Hashem, besides baked products, we have everything! There are even certain opinions that permit baking. Baruch Hashem, today we enjoy an enormous variety of foods with assorted tastes. In previous generations, by the time it came to Pesach you would know exactly how it feels to be a 'servant'. Two weeks before Pesach, people would sit and eat their meals off in a corner, inside a plastic bag, so that no crumbs should fall. Yet today one spends 'Shabbat Hagadol' in a hotel - end of all the chaos!

The (preparations for the) festival of Pesach are a great challenge to our avodat Hashem. How much of a servant do you consider yourself to Hashem? How well do you try to serve Him?

This is the challenge that Pesach brings! Hashem is trying us to see to what extent we are His servants! Shlomo Hamelech tells us (Mishlei 1:9), "For they are an adornment of grace for your head and a chain for your neck". This refers to the mitzvot that are considered like jewelry that adorns the head and neck.

The holy Alshich zya"a, brings a wonderful mashal that clarifies this idea:

It can be compared to a public dignitary who transgresses a tax law and is given a prison sentence of one year. On top of enduring the embarrassment of someone of his stature being imprisoned, as soon as he arrives he is handcuffed with iron chains. Every time he lifts up his hands he is lifting ten kilos of iron. We can only imagine how difficult it is for him to move his hands and feet, we should not know of such suffering.

He decides to try and use his connections to ease his situation. His friends turn to askanim and plead, "Listen, you have connections in this prison. Try and get them to agree to remove the handcuffs". "There is no such thing as removing handcuffs," was the reply from 'inside'. "This prison is closely surveilled with cameras. Such a thing would immediately be spotted in the control room. But if several thousand dollars make their way to us, maybe we will be able to exchange his handcuffs for plastic ones."

The prisoner agreed to the deal. "Give them the money," he said, "the main thing is to relieve this suffering!"

The holy Alshich asks what happens when a mother-in-law tells her daughter-in-law, listen, baruch Hashem my husband earned a good profit from a recent business deal. He therefore wishes to give a substantial gift to each of his daughters-in-law. Each one should go to the most expensive jewelry store and choose jewelry for herself, whatever she wants! Would the daughter-in-law go to the jewelry store and ask the salesman to please show her the thinnest bracelet that he has, weighing twenty-two grams? Or will she say, excuse me, can you show me a heavy piece of jewelry? I am looking for a bracelet with six strands. This is how she will ask! Why?

This woman is thinking, "if my mother-in-law is already giving me a gift, I'll go all the way, in a big way".

The holy Alshich continues: Why should she want to take a heavy piece of jewelry? Won't she feel the weight on her hand or around her neck? She will end up with a crooked back! Shouldn’t she rather take something small, why such an expensive piece?

And he explains that in fact, it is very simple. From burdensome handcuffs, people try to run away, but on the other hand, one wants jewelry to be heavy! Why? Because one is a piece of jewelry and the other is a handcuff!

The nimshal is clear:

There are people who feel that the mitzvot are like six-hundred and thirteen handcuffs for them. He will try to run away from every type of mitzvah. Tell him about giving terumot, this is handcuff number one. Tell him about the mitzvah of tzitzit, he will cut off the corner of the garment! Wherever he can he will seek to shake off the mitzvot. Why? Because who wants six-hundred and thirteen handcuffs?

Hashem says, "Then you will return and see the difference between the righteous and the wicked, between one who serves G-d and one who does not serve Him" (Malachi 3:18). This is the Haftarah that is read on the Shabbat preceding the festival of Pesach and this is the challenge that the festival of Pesach presents! I want people who will be My servants, Hashem declares! Not people who just observe the mitzvot, but people who will be true servants of G-d! People who will serve Me with a full heart!

This is the message that the prophet Malachi is telling us. The difference between "one who serves G-d" to "one who does not serve Him" lies in understanding the Alshich's penetrating mashal and it will come to expression in the way that we observe the festival of Pesach with all its commandments.

 

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