January 9th, 2021

25th of Tevet 5781


The Secret of Am Yisrael's Existence Depends on the Extent of Their Separation from the Gentiles

Rabbi David Hanania Pinto

"A new king arose over Egypt, who did not know of Yosef" (Shemot 1:8)

How can it be that Pharaoh, king of Egypt, did not hear about Yosef who, in his great wisdom, saved Egypt from utter destruction during the years of the great famine, ruled over Egypt, and managed all its affairs? This difficulty is directed mainly towards the opinion that maintains that it was the same Pharaoh who appointed Yosef as his second-in-command but then made out as if he didn't know him. How could he forget the person who saved him and his kingdom and revived his nation? Pharaoh felt sincere respect and admiration for Yosef, to the extent that he appointed him overseer to his kingdom and by his command, every matter in the country was carried out. How did this change of heart towards Yosef and his people come about?

Another interesting point is why the Torah found it necessary to once again mention Yosef's death, "Yosef died, and all his brothers and that entire generation". Yosef's death was already noted at the end of Sefer Bereishit (ibid 50:26). Besides, what is the Torah trying to point out by mentioning that all the tribes and that entire generation died? The Holy Ohr Hachaim suggests an answer and with Hashem's help, we present a different explanation.

Chazal say on the verse "'The Children of Israel were fruitful, teemed…and the land became filled with them' (Shemot 1:7): The theatre houses and circuses became filled with them, so the Egyptians immediately decreed that there be no connection with the Jewish people" (Yalkut Shimoni Shemot 162). We are told that before the period of the enslavement, Bnei Yisrael's spiritual level had already begun to drop. They abandoned the Batei Midrashot that Ya'akov and Yehuda established and went to roam the land, rubbing shoulders with the gentiles and learning from their ways.

According to this, we can say that with these verses the Torah is describing the chain of events in the history of Am Yisrael in Egypt, and their spiritual decline that led to the bondage. "Yosef died, and all his brothers and that entire generation", the holy and pure generation that lived in close proximity to Ya'akov Avinu, died and departed from the world. Together with this, the exclusiveness of Am Yisrael also departed and they fell from their level. A new generation arose who did not hold onto the ways of their forefathers. They abandoned the Batei Midrash, frequented circuses and mingled with the gentiles. The Midrash HaGadol also brings that the verse repeats the mention of Yosef's death since when Yosef and his brothers died, all Ya'akov's offspring followed the Egyptians, going astray and violating the mitzvah of Brit Milah, except for the tribe of Levi. This explains the continuation of the verse, "The Children of Israel were fruitful, teemed… and the land became filled with them", as we explained above according to the Midrash.

The Torah continues describing the chain of events that caused the Egyptian bondage. "A new king arose over Egypt who did not know of Yosef". The word 'knowing' implies connection and contact. Pharaoh recognized and knew Yosef, even treated him with respect and admiration, but did not see any connection or association between Am Yisrael who lived in this period to Yosef who was his second-in-command. He did not see that this generation showed any sense of connection and continuation to the previous generation, to Yosef and his brothers.

Pharaoh recognized Yosef's holiness and knew him as someone upon whom the Divine Spirit rests. He became acquainted with Ya'akov Avinu and felt that he was standing in the presence of a holy man whose blessings come to fruition, in whose merit the famine disappeared, and with whose blessing the Nile overflowed. He saw Am Yisrael confining themselves in Goshen, far from the world of the Egyptians, hidden away in their Batei Knessiot and Batei Midrashot. And now Am Yisrael are teeming and filling the land, abandoning Jewish practice, straying after the Egyptians and becoming like them. From this Pharaoh inferred that "a generation goes and a generation comes", and Bnei Yisrael are no longer connected to their heritage. Indeed, their fathers were holy and righteous people and Pharaoh respected them for this. But their offspring changed their perception and way of life, becoming like the rest of the nations, and with this, the chain of heritage came to an end. This is the meaning of "who did not know of Yosef", Pharaoh saw no connection between the present status of Am Yisrael and Yosef and his generation. And this is what brought him to devise evil plots of enslavement and annihilation, G-d forbid. Since he felt no admiration for the generation of Am Yisrael that followed the generation of Yosef, he did not feel obligated to act kindly towards with them and treat them as he regarded the rest of his nation.

The same Pharaoh "who did not know of Yosef" enslaved and afflicted his offspring. He gave pardon and freedom to the tribe of Levi, exempted them from the bondage and allowed them to assiduously study Torah. Pharaoh regarded the tribe of Levi as a continuation of Yosef and Ya'akov and did not lift his hand against them. Seeing the tribe of Levi engaged in Torah showed a clear connection to Yosef and Ya'akov whom he regarded with admiration and respect. So he left them alone and they were not part of the bondage.

This shows us that when Bnei Yisrael hold onto the Torah and engage in it, even the wicked Pharaoh who is considered as the head of the klippah and represents the Satan, recognizes and acknowledges holiness and is subdued by it. Even more than this, against his will he permitted the existence and proliferation of holiness in his land. On his own initiative, Pharaoh set aside the land of Goshen for Bnei Yisrael, where they could dwell in peace and tranquility, devoting themselves to Torah and the service of G-d. When holiness is present in its full strength and purity, the Satan automatically fades away and disappears. On the other hand, when Am Yisrael abandoned the correct path and began following Egyptian culture, power was given to the Satan and the team of Destroyers, through the hand of Pharaoh, to afflict and enslave them.

This is a solid principle and cornerstone of Am Yisrael's existence for all generations. Even when we find ourselves in exile as a sheep among seventy wolves, if we hold onto the Torah and are particular about fulfilling the mitzvot, our enemies will make peace with us and the mouths of our accusers will close. Against their will, they will honor and protect us. But as soon as we try to draw close to them, to intermingle and learn from their ways, they will immediately rise up and devise various decrees to distance us from them.

This is actually a great kindness that Hashem performs with us. It serves to guard our eternality and exclusivity as the G-dly nation also while in exile. "For Hashem will not cast off His people, nor will He forsake His heritage" (Tehillim 94:14). Even when our level is that of 'people', Hashem does not cast us off, by returning us to Him and redeeming us speedily in our days.

Walking in Their Ways

A Promise Between Man and His Creator

On the tenth of Adar 5755, I had the merit of officiating as sandek in Paris, at the brit of the son of my devoted disciple, Rabbi David Cohen. At that event, the mohel, Dr. Attias, stood up and related the following tale:

"Two weeks ago, my friend came to Rabbi David Pinto shlita, to ask for a blessing. The line to the Rav’s office was very long and my friend had to literally wait for hours.

When he finally entered, before even saying a word, Rabbi David turned to him and said, “If you want to see success in your personal matters, you must keep your promise to Hashem of reciting the Parsha twice and once with the Targum, each and every week.” After that, the Rav blessed him with success and wished him well.

My friend left the room in a stupor. He hurried over to me and said, “Dr. Attias, only Hashem and I know about the promise I made regarding the review of the weekly Parsha. Before I went into the Rav, I promised that if Hashem helps me with my personal matters, I would begin reading the weekly Parsha as our Sages have recommended. How in the world did the Rav know about this? Is he a mind reader?”

This was the story that Rabbi Attias told over.

On hearing his tale, I remembered the exact details of the incident. But I know that I never did have, and never will have, ruach hakodesh. All I profess is having a strong desire to help my fellow Jew rectify his spiritual and physical worlds. Therefore, I have the merit of my ancestors beside me, inserting the right words into my mouth. This is how I know what to say to each Jew who comes my way and have the insight to offer sound advice.

The Haftarah

The Haftarah of the week: "The words of Yirmiyahu the son of Chilkiyahu" (Yirmiyahu 1,2)

Ashkenazim read from Yeshaya 27, "[Days] are coming when Ya'akov will take root", and Babylonians and Yemenites read from Yechezkel 16, "Son of man, inform".

The connection to the Parsha: The Haftarah tells about Yirmiyahu who at first refused to perform the mission that Hashem requested from him by saying that he doesn’t know how to speak for he is just a youth. In the Parsha, Moshe Rabbeinu tried to absolve himself of Hashem's mission by saying that he is not a man of words.

Words of the Sages

The Extent to Which One Must Toil to Uproot Jealousy

When Moshe Rabbeinu a"h left Pharaoh's palace, he came face to face with the way people lived their lives, a revelation of their ideas and characteristics. He noticed two Hebrew men fighting. The sight did not allow him to ignore what was going on and he said to the wicked one, "Why would you strike your fellow?"

The root of evil, as Chazal teach us, is very often embedded in the trait of jealousy, one of the traits that removes a person from This World.

In one of his speeches, the tzadik Rabbi Eliyahu Lopian zt"l told over a compelling mashal concerning the trait of jealousy. This is what he related: "After spending time in a certain place, I travelled to Poland by train. I then hired a wagon driver to take me on the rest of my journey home. The journey was long and the wagon driver wished to take a short rest in the middle of the way. He parked the wagon at the side of the road and released the horse from its harness. There was a river just a short distance away from this spot. The horse went over to the river to quench its thirst. However, the horse first kicked at the water with its hooves, turning the water into a murky marsh, and only then did he begin to drink.

I asked the wagon driver in surprise: "Why should the horse wish to transform clean water into mud before drinking? Why does it not drink while the water is still clear?"

"You must understand", the wagon driver patiently replied, "that on the surface of the water the horse can make out the shadow of another horse standing by the river bank. He is so strongly consumed with jealousy that he begins to grow wild and violently kicks at the water. It appears that he cannot calm down until he kills the horse that has violated his space… He completely forgets about his great thirst."

There is nothing in the world that does not serve to demonstrate the ways of Hashem. Our role is to find the ways of Hashem in everything that exists."

Rabbeinu explained the moral of this incident to his talmidim, "This is the nature of animals. When we witness this kind of behavior, we can understand the extent to which a person is obligated to toil in order to wipe out feelings and acts of jealousy."

Guard Your Tongue

Preferable to Restrain from Unnecessary Negative Speech

It is a Torah prohibition to speak lashon hara about the living. But our Sages added the prohibition of disgracing and cursing the dead, and the Rabbinic Authorities write that there is an ancient regulation and ban not to slander and speak untruths about the dead.

It is also forbidden to speak negatively about the Holy Land, Eretz Yisrael. The Torah tells us that the generation that came out of Egypt were punished with remaining in the wilderness for forty years, during which period they died, for speaking negatively about Eretz Yisrael.

In truth, it is preferable to abstain from any unnecessary negative speech. It is told about a pious Sage who passed by the foul-smelling carcass of a dog. His talmidim said to him: "This carcass has such a foul smell!" And he replied: "How white are its teeth!" which caused them to regret speaking ill of the carcass. Since it is considered derogatory to speak ill of a dead dog, all the more so is this true about a live human being.

From the Treasury

Rabbi David Hanania Pinto

Light and Water Played a Role in Moshe Rabbeinu's Rescue

"The woman conceived and gave birth to a son. She saw that he was good and she hid him for three months" (Shemot 2:2)

The open miracles and miraculous events that surrounded Moshe's birth and rescue, demonstrate the great future that was in store for him, and how the qualities that he was blessed with were necessary for his role as leader and savior of Am Yisrael, who later became the one who transmitted the Torah to them.

Chazal expound (Sota 12a) on the words "She saw that he was good": "When Moshe was born the entire house was filled with light. It is written here 'She saw that he was good' and it is written there (Bereishit 1:4), 'G-d saw that the light was good'." The light that shone in Amram's house at the time of Moshe's birth is termed "good" and it is comparable to the light that was created during the seven days that is also called "good".

This special light, 'the light of the seven days', is actually the light of Torah. As it says in the Gemara (Chagiga 12a) "With the light that Hashem created on the first day, Adam HaRishon could see from one end of the world to the other. Since Hashem looked at the Generation of the Flood and the Generation of the Dispersion and saw that their deeds were corrupt, He hid the light from them… For whom did He hide it away? For the righteous in the World to Come."

Where is this light hidden? The Holy Zohar explains that Hashem hid this light inside the Holy Torah and it refers to the hidden secrets of the Torah. The Zohar also says that this specific light, the light of the first day of creation, Hashem gave to Moshe when he was born and he used it for three months until he was taken to Pharaoh's palace when it was taken from him but later returned to him at Har Sinai. From then on he drew upon it throughout his life. This is why he had to wear a mask on his face. This is another proof that the light of the seven days is the light of Torah that lit up and shone once again when Moshe Rabbeinu, the transmitter of the Torah, was born and given to him once again at Har Sinai at the time of the receiving of the Torah.

An additional detail concerning the beginnings of the child Moshe, instructs us about his future. "She could not hide him any longer, so she took for him a wicker basket…she placed the child into it and placed it among the reeds at the bank of the River". To our eyes, abandoning a young baby at the bank of the River seems like an act which would certainly lead to his demise. As long as he remained at home, he faced the danger of Pharaoh's decree and his officers who were searching for him. But now he was put in public ground, besides the added danger of placing him in the water. Yet since we are talking about Moshe Rabbeinu the transmitter of the Torah, and Torah is compared to water, for just as water is life for eternity, so too the words of Torah are life for eternity, as it says, "For they are life to he who finds them" (Sifri Devarim para 48,22), therefore, concerning Moshe Rabbeinu, water constituted life and rescue. As Rabbi Akiva replied to Papos ben Yehuda with the parable of the fox who told the fish to come and live with him on dry land to escape the nets of man. The fish replied, if we are afraid while in the water, the place that gives us life, all the more so must we be afraid on dry land, the place of our death. So too Rabbi Akiva explained that if now when engaged in Torah, 'our life and the length of our days', we are in danger, all the more so if we abandon the Torah.

Indeed, eventually, it became clear that Moshe's rescue came about specifically because his mother placed him in the river, where Batya came and noticed him and took him as a son.

Pearls of the Parsha

Cooking the Egg Symbolizes this Concept

"But as much as they would afflict it, so it would increase" (Shemot 1:12)

Since we are talking about what occurred in Egypt, it would seem more appropriate to use the past tense "as much as they afflicted it, so it increased"?

Rabbi Meir Shapira, the founder of Yeshivas Chachmei Lublin, was once asked by a certain Polish gentile why Jews eat a hard-boiled egg on Seder night?

He replied: In contrast to all other foods where the longer you cook them, the softer they become, the longer you cook an egg, the harder it becomes.

This is what this verse come to hint. In the future too, the more the enemies will persecute and pursue the Jews, the more they will increase and multiply. This is the reason why we eat a hard-boiled egg on Seder night.

The Place Where You Find Yourself is an Opportunity for Growth

"For the place upon which you stand is holy ground" (Shemot 3:5)

Chazal say "Do not say when I am free I will study", for man thinks that when Hashem will send him relief and his situation will improve, then he will engage in Torah and mitzvot. But not now when he is in the midst of a distressing hardship.

Against this way of thinking, explains the Chafetz Chaim zt"l, the verse writes "for the place upon which you stand is holy ground". This exact situation and this exact time – is holy, for it is possible that Hashem desires particularly the service that is a result of that difficult hour. The Midrash tells us that one who studies Torah when in pain receives a thousand for his reward, if not in pain - two hundred. 'According to the pain is the reward'.

A Claim – Not a Complaint

"From the time I came to Pharaoh to speak in Your Name, he did evil to this people" (Shemot 5:23)

The advocate of Am Yisrael, Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev zya"a, points out that G-d forbid for us to say that the master of the prophets, Moshe the servant of Hashem, would speak ill of Hashem. But this is what lies behind the matter: With this Moshe was laying down an example of, supposedly, a claim against the Master of the World, for all advocates.

This is the meaning of "from the time I came to Pharaoh to speak in Your Name he did evil to this people": All the hatred against us stems from the fact that I came to Pharaoh to speak in Your Name, for we sanctify Your Name and speak in the name of Your Holy Torah. Because of You, Master of the World, they hate us and we suffer, "Because for Your sake we are killed all the time" (Tehillim 44:23), therefore You must save us from our enemies.

Difficulty Is a Positive Sign

"From the time I came to Pharaoh to speak in Your Name, he did evil to this people" (Shemot 5:23)

Chazal say that one who performs a mitzvah for Heaven's sake yet comes across obstacles that are preventing him from performing the mitzvah, must realize that he is on the correct path and the reason for the obstacles is simply the Yetzer Hara at work provoking him. But one who performs a mitzvah, not for Heaven's sake, the Yetzer Hara helps him to fulfill it.

In this light, Rabbi Rachamim Chai Chavita HaKohen, in his sefer 'Minchat Kohen', explains Moshe's words to Hashem "From the time I came to Pharaoh to speak in Your Name", meaning he did so for Heaven's sake. "He did evil to this people" since the Yetzer Hara opposes this mitzvah it could be that I will not succeed in taking Yisrael out of Egypt, therefore Moshe said, "why have You sent me?" You should have sent an angel against whom the Yetzer Hara has no power to oppose. Even though complete tzaddikim are greater than angels, nevertheless Moshe Rabbeinu in his modesty did not regard himself as a complete tzadik.

But the truth is that Moshe Rabbeinu was on a higher level than the angels and the Yetzer Hara did not have the power to oppose him, especially regarding a matter that concerned the redemption of all Am Yisrael. The reason why Pharaoh intensified the slave labor was not that the Yetzer Hara opposed Moshe's mission, rather Hashem wished to harden Pharaoh's heart for if he would send the people out on his own volition then it would not be possible to punish him. Hashem hardened Pharaoh's heart so that he would receive his due punishment.

Therefore, if a person is having a hard time performing a certain mitzvah, he should know that the reason is that he is acting for Heaven's sake and he must wage a battle with the Yetzer Hara until he succeeds in overcoming him.

A Novel Look at the Parsha

Maran Hagaon Rabbi Ahron Leib Shteinman zt"l, when offering words of encouragement and reassurance to a bachur who had come to speak to him, told him that during the war he ended up in Switzerland in exile. In the end, it turned out that it was all for the good, for through this his life was saved. For whatever a Jewish person goes through is all for his good, as we find in Parshat Shemot where Pharaoh decreed that all baby boys be thrown into the river while the girls could remain alive. What resulted from this? Moshe Rabbeinu! Everything is for a person's good.

In truth, all that happens to a person follows this concept. People imagine that they are the ones making things happen but do not realize that whatever a person does, is in fact, being done with him, by Someone else. He is not the one doing. Everything occurs for the sake of the intended purpose, but man does not always understand this.

Several years ago, as related in the magazine "A Geshmake Vort", there was a horrifying aviation accident. A Pan Am aircraft flying from London airport heading to America suddenly exploded from a bomb and plummeted down over the town of Lockerbie. Several days after the accident, the Hamodia newspaper published a letter sent from London, and this is what was written:

"I am a taxi driver, an Israeli living in London. I wish to relate a miracle that happened to a certain family concerning this horrific plane crash. I witnessed and even merited taking part in this miracle. On that fateful day, a family from Stamford Hill had ordered my car service to take them to the airport where they had seats booked on this flight to America. On the way to the airport, something unusual happened to me: One of the tires punctured. To the dismay of the impatient passengers, we had to stop and I changed the punctured tire with the spare one that I kept in the trunk. But, when a short time later, we suddenly heard another rupturing sound coming from the direction of the wheels, the passengers who were in a rush to arrive at the airport on time, could no longer take this in their stride. Getting out of the car, I saw that a different tire had decided to have a puncture just then when I had no other spare tire in the trunk. Understanding the situation, I knew that I had no choice but to leave the 'stuck' car, go to the nearest petrol-station which was a ten-minute walk away, and purchase a new tire.

My passengers showered me with profuse blessings:

"You should be well" the mother sighed, caught up in the horror of missing the flight. "Why did you not say before you started out that you don’t have air in your wheels?" They blamed me with other similar 'justifiable' complaints about all that had happened, but I had no choice. I made my way to the petrol-station, bought a new tire and returned to the car. The passengers who had not managed to stop another taxi, hurled an agitated, burning welcome in my direction…

The puncture was fixed. I entered the taxi and began the race to the airport. From all sides, impatient voices urged me to accelerate. Departure time was growing closer and I prayed with all my heart that we would still make up lost time. But suddenly, as if in a bad dream, we heard a grating sound which was followed by the smashing of glass… We were in shock. But the reality was that the lorry in front of us that was carrying a load of stones, suddenly braked and as a result, a shower of small stones landed on my front windscreen, smashing it to pieces.

A short argument between me and the passengers resulted in a compromise. I agreed to continue driving with a smashed windscreen but without any real choice, I could stop and take down the lorry driver's details so that I could be reimbursed for this damage. The mother and daughter’s fury rose and under extreme pressure, she spat out that I shouldn't even dare ask for payment for this ride. Deep in my heart, I was happy with this modest demand, I thought that I would have to pay them for imprisoning them in my car...

After a twenty minutes' delay, we once again set off. I took hold of the steering wheel, pressed hard on the accelerator and tried to swallow the distance. The time on the clock gave me some hope that we would still manage to arrive at a decent time before the flight.

Due to the time pressure however, I intentionally maneuvered from the main lane and drove in the emergency lane which is strictly forbidden. I violated this traffic law hoping to calm the bundle of nerves that was travelling in my car and to make up for the lost time. But as you probably guessed, this time unwelcome lights suddenly flashed in my direction. Opposite me was a policeman who indicated that I should stop the car on the hard shoulder. Motioning with his finger, he signaled to me to get out the car and give an account and reason for driving in this lane.

The smashed windscreen, the agitation of the passengers and all that I offered in my defense, had no effect on his motionless expression.

I begged him to release me for just a short while so that I could finally get my passengers to their destination. I even offered to leave my documents and all my money with him, but my words fell on deaf ears. I returned to my car and started up for the fifth time on this journey. The grouching behind me had almost stopped, they had despaired of catching their flight.

As we arrived at the airport, the clock showed that my dear passengers’ flight was right then taking off. With careless, heavy movements they removed their baggage from the trunk without uttering a word. I ran to book them a place on a flight that was supposed to leave for America in another hour. With siyata dishmaya I managed to sort this out, using the influence that I had with a friend who works in that company.

I told them about the alternative flight arrangements and fled from the site as quickly as I could, without getting paid a penny for this journey. I breathed a sigh of relief when I found myself after this strange set of events. The tires puncturing one after another, the smashing of the windscreen in such an unusual manner, receiving a ticket, all in just one innocent journey. I was faced with many tasks in restoring my battered car and hoped that my day would finish without any more harm.

On my way back to Stamford Hill, I was utterly astounded to hear a newscaster broadcasting in a trembling voice that the plane had crashed. My head began to spin and my hands shook. "Master of the World," I shouted. "How great are Your deeds, how exceedingly profound are Your thoughts". My throat constricted with tears, I did not know what to do with myself. This was a clear demonstration of Hashem's remarkable ways.

A Jew must know that even when things turn out differently than he planned, and sometimes it seems to him that he would have liked to arrange things differently, he must remember that there is Someone in charge Who is taking care that everything should turn out for the best.


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