January 23rd, 2021

10th of Shvat 5781


Taking Also the Youngsters and Elderly to the Wilderness

Rabbi David Hanania Pinto

"So Moshe and Aharon were returned to Pharaoh and he said to them, 'Go and serve Hashem, your G-d, which ones are going?' Moshe said, 'With our youngsters and with our elders shall we go; with our sons and with our daughters, with our flock and with our cattle shall we go, because it is a festival of Hashem for us'" (Shemot 10:8-9)

Maran Hagaon Rabbi Yeshayahu Pinto zya"a (the Rif) explains the dispute between Pharaoh and Moshe, in answer to "which ones are going?". Pharaoh told Moshe Rabbeinu a"h that he agrees to let them go, on condition that Moshe and Aharon take with them only those who 'are going", meaning those who go willingly, whereas they should not take the youth, the children and the elderly who do not want to go and for whom it would be hard to journey in the wilderness. The children will not go willingly because they do not understand the matter of sacrifices, and the elderly due to the effort of travelling.

What was Moshe's answer? Also the youngsters and the elderly will join us. He explained that "it is a festival of Hashem for us", meaning that just as on a Chag we are commanded "You shall rejoice on your festival, you, your son, your daughter" (Devarim 16:14), and even though the children are not obligated to observe the mitzvot we share our rejoicing with them, so too it is necessary for all to join us in the Wilderness, the youngsters and the elderly too.

I would like to explain Rabbi Yeshayahu's holy words. In fact, the reason why it was necessary for the youngsters to join them was that they certainly had no desire to leave Egypt for the Wilderness after dwelling in this materialistic, impure land, as it says in reference to Egypt (Bereishit 42:9), "the land's nakedness", nakedness being an expression of impurity. Particularly since the plague of Blood flooded the Jewish people with money since only by purchasing water from the Jews did the Egyptians have water to drink that did not turn into blood. This resulted in the Jewish people becoming very wealthy (Shemot Rabba 9:10). If so, certainly all these riches and materialism had a negative effect on the desire of the youngsters to leave for the Wilderness.

But Moshe explained that on the contrary, when we take them out of Egypt to the Wilderness, a spiritual place lacking anything of material substance, they will then begin to love the Torah and on their own accord will wish to study it, just as David Hamelech says, "Taste and see that it is good" (Tehillim 34:9). Because once they taste the sweetness of Torah they will no longer be able to detach themselves from it, and they will then fulfil the verse "because it is a festival of Hashem for us", the Torah will be considered as a festival for them.

This concept in educating one's children is what Moshe wished to instil in the people, the way to raise youngsters to appreciate the Torah.

Pharaoh replied to Moshe and Aharon, "He said to them, 'So be Hashem with you as I will send you forth with your children! Look, the evil intent is opposite your faces" (ibid 10:10). According to the Rif who explains that Pharaoh told Moshe not to take out the youngsters who cannot walk and are unwilling, what is the connection to Pharaoh's retort of "the evil intent is opposite your faces"? And why was this his answer to Moshe concerning his explanation that he wishes to take the children to the Wilderness even if they are unwilling to go, so that they should taste the sweetness of Torah and eventually come to love it on their own?

It seems to be that Pharaoh was telling Moshe that since the children might not want the Torah or rejoice with it, if so it is a shame to take them out of Egypt. This is the meaning of "Look, the evil intent is opposite your faces". Maybe the children will consider the Torah as "evil", G-d forbid. But Moshe did not accept Pharaoh's words because he already explained to him that although the Torah may seem like something negative to those starting out, as soon they taste it they will not wish to withdraw from it.

We will now explain why Moshe Rabbeinu said they will take the animals too. He wished to inculcate in the children that the sheep are not avodah zarah as the Egyptians considered them to be. Pharaoh answered him, "Look, the evil intent is opposite your faces", and Chazal explain that he was referring to the sin of the Golden Calf. Pharaoh wanted to show Moshe what will result from the flock - the sin of the calf.

Pharaoh also added, "Not so; let the men go now. Serve Hashem, for that is what you seek!" (ibid 10:11).

Pharaoh sent to call for Moshe and Aharon because his servants said to him, "Do you not yet know that Egypt is lost". They pressured him to send for them and thus save the land. He agreed and again called Moshe and Aharon. He argued with Moshe and tried to limit the number of those who would leave, and when Moshe Rabbeinu did not agree to a compromise Pharaoh immediately drove them away from him.

From this verse, we can learn to identify the ways of the Yetzer Hara. It is well-known that the power of the Yetzer Hara is to search for all different techniques to make man stumble and incite him. But if man would only stand firm opposite him, the Yetzer Hara will disappear, just as happened with the wicked Pharaoh. When he saw that Moshe and Aharon were standing firm and not paying heed to his claims and temptations, he sent them away from him.

The important message that we can derive from this verse is that when faced with this situation, where a person stands like a firm rock against the Yetzer Hara and is not prepared to budge from his opinions and principles even a hairsbreadth, the Yetzer Hara simply leaves.

It is also possible to actually remove oneself from the Yetzer Hara and not remain standing opposite him, allowing him to lead you astray. Someone told me that he once went to a store for business purposes and came face to face with an immodest image which placed him in great spiritual danger. What did he do? He sacrificed his business need and left the place at a run without turning back at all.

So too with Moshe, one can say that he removed himself from Pharaoh's presence because he realized that they were carrying on a futile argument. He therefore expelled himself so as not to remain in the rasha's presence.

Words of the Sages

The following story took place many years ago. The snow had piled up to a height of 80 centimetres! A snowstorm was raging in North America and the temperature outside was minus twenty degrees! The streets were empty. In the 'Torah v'Daat Yeshiva too, the talmidim remained in their dormitory rooms and did not try and make their way over to the Beit Midrash which was a short distance away.

After two days of being under siege, three of the bachurim became concerned. The next day the Rosh Yeshiva, Rabbi Shlomo Heiman, was scheduled to give his weekly klali shiur. What was the Rosh Yeshiva planning to do, they wondered?

His self-sacrifice for disseminating Torah was well known, and certainly tomorrow too he would come to the Yeshiva with self-sacrifice, despite the snow and the bitter cold, but he would find the Beit Midrash deserted!

The threesome decided: We too will demonstrate self-sacrifice and go to the shiur. With great difficulty, they managed to make their way through the snow without coming to harm and came to the Beit Midrash, which was empty as they had assumed. The three waited with anticipation, and exactly at the appointed time they heard the sound of the Rosh Yeshiva's footsteps. He arrived covered in a layer of white snowflakes, but his face was alight with joy.

The Rosh Yeshiva smiled at the three heroes, made his way to the stairs of the Aron Hakodesh and began delivering the shiur, as usual. He gave over the shiur as if he was standing in front of hundreds of talmidim. His face was alight like a torch, and the veins on his forehead bulged from the effort of straining his thoughts. Every so often he banged strongly on the shtender, his entire being a ball of fire.

At the end of the shiur the three approached the Rosh Yeshiva and asked him:

Why did the Rav expend so much effort in delivering the shiur? We are only three boys and could have heard even if the Rosh Yeshiva had whispered...?" The Rosh Yeshiva grew serious and replied:

"Do you think that I am giving over the shiur to you alone? I am transmitting to you the torch of Torah! To you, to your children, to your grandchildren and all your descendants, to your students and your students' students. If I don’t shout, how will they hear me?!"

The Torah tells us: "And so that you may relate in the ears of your son and your son's son that I made a mockery of Egypt and My signs that I placed among them, that you may know that I am Hashem" (Shemot 10:2). The question is, why does the Torah not make do with the father relating all that happened in Egypt. Why does the obligation rest also on the grandfather?

The answer is that passing on the torch of faith from father to son depends on the father seeing in his son the emergence of his grandson and great-grandson. If the message of Judaism is transmitted in the correct way, with intensity, with love, and with warmth, success will be seen not only with the son but also with all future generations.

Walking in their Ways

Hearing Is Believing

A young talmid chacham once came to me with his children and asked me to bless him and all his family with success. For some reason, I singled out the oldest son and asked the father, “What is his name?” The father told me his name. “And how are his ears?” I continued.

“Baruch Hashem. As far as we know, he has no problem with his ears.”

But I stubbornly insisted they have his ears checked out.

The avreich was not overly concerned since they had no reason to assume that he had any problem and the child himself had never complained of an earache. He therefore did not bother investigating the matter.

Two months went by and suddenly the couple noticed that this boy was not obeying them. They found themselves shouting at him and even punishing him for not listening to them. The boy’s conduct went from bad to worse. His bewildered parents could not understand what was happening to their previously wonderful, disciplined child.

Slowly but surely, they became suspicious that maybe there was something wrong with his hearing. They noticed that whenever they spoke to him he would try to read their lips. When he could not understand what they wanted, he would repeat, “What? What?” Only after raising their voices could he discern what they were saying.

They finally took him to an ENT specialist. A thorough examination revealed a build-up of liquids in his ears which was responsible for this significant hearing problem. The boy was sent for a comprehensive audiological hearing test which indicated a tremendous decrease in his sense of hearing.

Suddenly, like a bolt of lightning, the avreich remembered my instructions to check the boy’s ears several months previous and he regretted not having listened to me immediately.

I attest that I have no idea why I told him to check out the boy’s hearing. It was said only in the merit of my righteous forefathers.

The Haftarah

The Haftarah of the week: "The word that Hashem spoke" (Yirmiyahu 46)

The connection to the Parsha: The Haftarah speaks about Pharaoh's punishment and the destruction of Egypt. The Parsha too speaks about the last three plagues and the destruction of Egypt.

Guard Your Tongue

Unnecessary and Damaging Exposure

It is forbidden to relate something that although not derogatory, could harm the subject in matters of livelihood or shidduchim by being exposed. This kind of lashon hara is most prevalent when being asked for information regarding shidduchim or filling a certain job position.

It is forbidden to speak about a physical weakness or lack of intelligence even if both the speaker and listener do not see this as derogatory because publicizing these matters can cause the subject loss and harm.

From the Treasury

Rabbi David Hanania Pinto

The Mitzvah of Sanctifying the New Moon

"This month shall be for you the beginning of the months, it shall be for you the first of the months of the year" (Shemot 12:2)

Rashi writes, "'This month': Hashem showed Moshe the new moon and told him, 'When you see the moon in its new phase, it shall be Rosh Chodesh for you'".

Am Yisrael were given this mitzvah of sanctifying the month while they were still in Egypt. Why was this so and what is the significance of this mitzvah that it was chosen to be one of the first mitzvot that Am Yisrael were commanded to observe?

One can explain that the reason is that the only creation where it is possible to actually see its renewal tangibly each month, is the moon. When Hashem created the world in six days, the world was completely new, free of any sin. After Adam sinned by eating from the Tree of Knowledge, that newness was blemished, a blemish that continued to accompany Am Yisrael throughout the generations. Hashem in His great mercy wished to grant Am Yisrael atonement for this sin, therefore He commanded them to bless and sanctify the moon each month and in this way when Am Yisrael see the renewal of the moon, it will cause them to also renew and purify their souls from the impression that still remains from the time of the sin of Adam HaRishon.

That is why this mitzvah was given to Am Yisrael at the very beginning and they were commanded to observe it while still in Egypt. In Egypt, Am Yisrael were immersed in the forty-ninth level of impurity (Zohar Chadash beg. Yitro) so they were commanded to observe the mitzvah of sanctifying the new month which had the power of also renewing their souls and eradicating the abominations of Egypt from within them. One can also add that since Bnei Yisrael were immersed in the forty-ninth level of impurity, it was necessary for them to raise their eyes heavenward and thereby remember "Who created these [things]!" (Yeshaye 40:26). This could be another reason for receiving the mitzvah of sanctifying the moon.

Rosh Chodesh is a day that has inherent powers of forgiveness and atonement since Hashem considers this day as one of the six days of creation when the world was clean and fresh and had not yet tasted sin. This is the reason why Am Yisrael were commanded to offer a he-goat as a sin-offering for atonement on Rosh Chodesh.

Pearls of the Parsha

Serving Hashem is Performed with Joy, Like a Festival Day

"As I will send you forth with your children" (Shemot 10:10)

When I (Pharaoh) send you and your children forth?!

This is how the sefer 'Umatok Ha'or' explains Pharaoh's words namely as being of question and surprise. If I send you together with your children, surely the children will disturb and distract you from serving your Creator?!

And to this Moshe had already replied, "because it is a festival of Hashem for us". It is a service of joy which is performed by everyone together, with the entire family!

To which Pharaoh answered, "Look, the evil intent is opposite your faces". You surely intend to escape and free yourselves from your service of G-d, for if not, it cannot be that you will rejoice because only free people are joyful.

The Story of the Exodus at a Family Celebration?

"And it shall be when your son will ask you" (Shemot 13:14)

Rabbeinu Chaim ben Attar zya"a, the Or HaChaim, writes:

If your son sees the procedure of redeeming a firstborn and asks you about this, you have an obligation to explain about the redemption from Egypt. But if he does not ask, you only have an obligation to tell him on the night of Pesach. This is derived from the exact wording of the verse, "And it shall be when your son will ask you at some future time, 'What is this?' you shall say to him, 'With a strong hand Hashem removed us from Egypt'". Even if he asks at some future time, this obligation to tell still stands. "You shall say to him" implies that if his intention when asking is that you should answer him, then reply. But if he says "What is this?" in disdain and is not truly interested in an answer, do not reply.

Hagaon Rabbi Nissim Karelitz zt"l explains the practical application of this ruling (Chut Shani 3, pg. 234):

If a father and son are present at the redemption ceremony for a first-born son or donkey, and the son asks his father: "What is this?" the father has a Torah obligation to tell him about the miracles of the Exodus, even if the son asks this question during the year and not just on the night of the fifteenth of Nissan, as is clear from the verse.

But during the year there is no obligation of "you must begin to speak to him", where the father has an obligation to tell his son even if he doesn’t ask. This obligation only applies on Pesach, on the night of the fifteenth, since it is derived from the words "And you shall tell your son".

Subduing of the Heart is Service of Hashem

"Not a hoof will be left, for from it shall we take to serve Hashem, our G-d" (Shemot 10:26)

The reason why we were given the commandment of sacrifices is not that Hashem requires these offerings since "Hashem's is the earth and its fullness". Rather it is so that man should take heart and repent from his sins, as Chazal say that when the Kohen slaughters, skins and cuts a person's animal offering, he should contemplate that this is really what should have been done to him for transgressing Hashem's command. This will bring him to submission and repentance.

Therefore, explains Rabbi Aharon Zorogon zt"l, a distinguished Turkish Sage, in his sefer 'Beit Aharon', Pharaoh said to Moshe "Go, serve Hashem, only your flock and cattle shall remain behind" (ibid 24). Why do you need to take the flock and cattle? If you wish to give a present to Hashem, then "even your children may go with you". Maybe sacrifice them to Hashem since they are dearer to you?”

Moshe answered, if the goal of the offerings was to give a gift to Hashem, it would be fitting to give Him our dearest possession. But since the goal is to subdue our hearts and return to Hashem, we therefore need to take the flock and cattle. This is why Moshe said, "Not a hoof will be left, for from it shall we take to serve Hashem, our G-d". This service of G-d requires submission to our Father in Heaven.

A Novel Look at the Parsha

We find that the following central principle in education is repeated in the Torah several times, and is found also in this week's Parsha. This is the command of "And you shall tell your son" (Shemot 13:8). The importance in education of remembering the past and transmitting tradition forms a dimension that bestows our lives with significance and gives us an eternal grasp in the world. We are obligated to keep the knowledge of the past in the forefront of our minds and implant this remembrance in our offspring because the purpose of the creation is for the sake of observing the Torah and its commandments, without deviating to the right or left.

This is what the Maggid, Rabbi Shalom Schwadron zt"l, related:

On one of my journeys to Chutz La'aretz, I found myself seated next to a non-observant Jew on the airplane. This man, as I soon found out, was a foremost civil engineer and no small professor too. In short, an intelligent fellow who was of the opinion that he knows and understands everything.

All that his expertise lacked was coming across a Jew like me with a big beard who looks like an important Rabbi, and hurl his protests at him concerning exactly what he thinks about Rabbis and interrogate him with questions on Torah and halacha.

"Why can you Rabbis," the professor turned to me, "not be a little bit more flexible with the halacha? What's your problem? A bit of flexibility and the irreligious won't be so put off by you."

This is what I answered him: "Your question indeed requires a good answer, but first we will set your question aside and allow me to ask you, what is your profession?"

"I am an architect and engineer," he replied and added: "I am now on my way to Chutz La'aretz to give over the blueprints for a multi-story building, an exclusive project."

"Could you please show me these plans that I assume you have with you in your hand luggage?" I asked him

"With pleasure. But what will the Rabbi gain from a quick look at a complicated and intricate design plan?"

"The truth is that I won't understand much, but just getting some impression of your work with the addition of a few explanations, will enable me to understand something."

The architect agreed and with undisguised pleasure took out a stack of papers. He spread them out before me, pages upon pages. He described and explained, and I showed a profound interest. Once I had grasped somewhat what was involved, I asked him to please give me a few moments of quiet to look through the blueprint.

I scrunched up my forehead as if I was avidly trying to scrutinize the document. My attention was caught by a line which indicated one of the foundations of the building, a line which seemed to become askew and asymmetrical.

After several moments I picked up my head and asked, "Please explain to me why the bottom line that can be found in the south-east corner cannot be moved slightly to the east? And if you make it straight it will also look nicer and less cumbersome? What's the problem, a bit of flexibility here and there, everything will look so much better?"

"Since when do Rabbis understand engineering?" He answered mockingly, "The entire strength and stability of the building depends specifically on those lines. Any deviation even by one millimeter will endanger everything!

The laws of engineering are sharp and clear and one may not budge from them to the right or left to the slightest extent", was how he finished his sharp rebuke.

"And since when do engineers understand Jewish law?" I replied in return. "The entire existence of the world depends on fulfilling the Torah, and all the Torah commandments that we received from Heaven are full of clear laws. So how can you possibly wonder why there is no room for flexibility here and there…

When I ask for flexibility concerning just one building that is contingent on the wisdom of a human engineer that took you several weeks or months to design, you are so raging mad. Yet concerning our Torah that was given thousands of years ago, here you come demanding that the Rabbis who are charged with guarding the law should intervene with G-dly commandments and show 'flexibility'?!

I will tell you a story that will clarify this for you:

Once there was a poor child who gathered together penny after penny until he was able to fulfil his dream of buying new shoes for Pesach. With a bundle of coins in his hand, he went to the Arab market where one could find cheap merchandise and came across a pair of shoes that he liked. But to his great consternation, the shoe was a good fit for only one of his feet, while he could not get his other foot inside the other shoe.

The Arab merchant noticed his distress and tried all different ways to make the shoe fit. After all his efforts were in vain, he said to the child: "I have a solution for you. If you permit me, I will cut away a small part of your toe and then the shoe will fit you well."

This is a fitting comparison for all the fools who wish to adapt the Torah to the spirit of the times and do not understand that one must adjust the times to the spirit of the Torah, just as one must suit the shoe to the foot and not the foot to the shoe…"


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