Tzav - Shabat Hagadol

March 27th, 2021

14th of Nisan 5781


The Story of the Exodus Grants Faith to the Entire World

Rabbi David Hanania Pinto

The Rambam in Sefer HaMitzvot (Mitzvah 157) writes: "We are commanded to talk about the Exodus on the night of the fifteenth of Nissan at the beginning of the night, to the best of one's oratory ability. (the Hebrew should say כפי, not כפל) The more one relates at length about the great things that Hashem did for us, the way the Egyptians treated us with injustice and theft, and how Hashem avenged them, and to thank the Blessed One for all His kindness with us, the better it is, as it says in the Hagaddah, 'Whoever tells about the Exodus from Egypt at length is praiseworthy'."

There is a famous question that is asked: Since we mention the Exodus every day in Kriyat Shema, what is the difference between all other nights of the year and the Seder night when there is a special mitzvah to talk about the Exodus?

The following explanation will shed light on this matter. We all aware of the detrimental effect of habit. For when we grow accustomed to performing a certain act, even if it is a mitzvah, we eventually lose the feeling of vitality and begin to perform the mitzvah "like rote learning of human commands" (Yeshaya 29:13), which leads to losing all enthusiasm in observing the mitzvot.

The same idea applies here. Here too, one can say that the Torah wishes to teach us an important lesson in our service of Hashem. When a person has to perform the same act or remember a certain matter, over and over again, this may lead to performing it out of habit. But the Torah wants us to be animated about the matter so that through performing it in this way, we will draw upon the abundance of the holiness of the matter that we are engaged in. Not only this, but we will bring the inspiration of that holiness to the entire world. In this way, others will benefit from it too and they might even be influenced to perform that mitzvah even without knowing what brought them this pleasure.

It could be that this is why Hashem commanded Bnei Yisrael to tie the sheep to their bedpost (Mechilta, Bo) so that at least once a year they should remember the miracle of Pesach and not perform this mitzvah of mentioning the Exodus out of habit. This is alluded to by having to tie the sheep to the post (הַרֶגֶל) of the bed which can also be read as 'הֶרְגֶל', habit, to remind them to be wary of habit.

Performing the mitzvah of mentioning the Exodus on the night of Pesach cannot be compared to the other nights of the year, for Bnei Yisrael left Egypt on this night. Only by each person imagining, on Pesach night, that he himself left Egypt, does this effort brings down an inspiration of faith for the entire world. Through relating the miracles that Hashem performed for Bnei Yisrael in Egypt and until today, he elevates the entire world. Inherent in the mitzvah of mentioning the Exodus on this night is the obligation to feel as if we, and not just our fathers, were delivered from the bondage of Egypt.

From the power of Seder night, a person draws upon faith for the entire year, giving him the ability to mention the miracle of our redemption every night, for the holy Seder night is empowered with an influence so great that it can positively influence all other days of the year. This is why it is a mitzvah in itself to mention the Exodus on Seder night, more than on the other nights of the year, because from this night we draw upon the holiness of this festival which carries over to the rest of the year.

To be precise, it follows that Bnei Yisrael's faith had an effect on the entire world. With the power of their faith in the Creator of the world that He would perform a miracle for them at the Sea, Chazal say (Sotah 36b) that the tribes of Yehuda and Binyamin demonstrated self-sacrifice and jumped into the water with the steadfast faith that they achieved. As it says (Shemot 14:31) "And they had faith in Hashem and in Moshe, His servant", meaning that this miracle had an effect on the entire world.

It was important for Bnei Yisrael to know that all the plagues that Hashem brought upon the Egyptians were only for their sake, for Hashem could have smitten the Egyptians with just one plague and finished them off. Instead, Hashem smote them with Ten Plagues for the sake of Bnei Yisrael, to strengthen their faith in Hashem by seeing how He mocked the Egyptians. But since Bnei Yisrael already grew accustomed to these miracles and there was a chance that their faith was affected by habit, it was not strong enough for the Egyptians to draw upon and have a proper effect on their faith in the Creator.

Due to this, the Egyptians would have forgotten all that was done to them which would then weaken their faith, for they did not know if Hashem was actually taking revenge on them or doing so because of the honor of Bnei Yisrael. And because of the Bnei Yisrael's tentative faith, Hashem hardened the hearts of the Egyptians so that He could bring more plagues, to increase their faith in Him. This would also serve to arouse Bnei Yisrael and fortify their complete faith in Hashem. A proof of their lack of faith was that only one-fifth of Bnei Yisrael actually left Egypt (Tanchuma, Beshalach 1), while the rest died during the Plague of Darkness due to their weak faith.

However, at the time of the Splitting of the Sea, when Bnei Yisrael were challenged with the great test of facing the sea and entered its waters with self-sacrifice, this demonstrated that they now possessed a strong faith in Hashem which is why they merited a miracle being performed for them.

We see that their steadfast faith in Hashem that He will perform a miracle for them, is what brought about a great awakening to the extent that even the Egyptians, who until now doubted Hashem's Omnipotence, now declared with certainty "for Hashem is waging war for them against Egypt", in contrast to their previous dubious faith in Hashem.

Walking in Their Ways

The Charity is to Your Credit!

Many of our brethren who live in France require financial support for the Pesach expenses. Wishing to assist them, I organized an emergency appeal for this cause, in Lyon.

Since several celebrations were set to take place in Lyon on the same day as this event, I was afraid that not many people would turn up and all my efforts will be in vain. Indeed, the turn-out was sparse but I began speaking about the great value and importance of charity, the reason we had gathered together. In the course of my speech, I related a wonderful story about Rabbi Shimshon Wertheimer zt"l, who besides being a tremendous Talmid Chacham and very wealthy, was also famous for his exceptional intelligence which led to him being appointed as the confidant of Emperor Leopold I.

The fact that Rabbi Shimshon zt"l was a close friend of the Emperor aroused strong jealousy among many of the citizens. In particular, whenever the Archbishop found himself in the company of the Emperor, he always searched for ways to lower Rabbi Shimshon's esteem in the Emperor's eyes, in various, strange ways.

One day the envious Archbishop turned to the Emperor and said, "The honorable Emperor is surely aware that 'your Jew' is one of the wealthiest men in the kingdom, owning property that is worth a fortune. Has your honor ever investigated where this enormous wealth comes from? I am certain that he embezzles many things without your knowledge and exploits his close friendship with the Emperor to increase his wealth…"

At first, the Emperor disregarded these claims and refused to pay attention to them. But slowly the words seeped into his heart and he eventually asked Rabbi Shimshon to show him a statement of capital for all his property. Right away, Rabbi Shimshon understood that someone wished to incriminate him in the Emperor's eyes, but he did not refuse this request and announced that the very next day he will present the Emperor with a detailed accounting of his assets.

Indeed, the next morning Rabbi Shimshon presented the Emperor with a notebook which was filled with long columns of figures, all inscribed in his own handwriting. The Emperor was most pleased and called over the Archbishop. Pointing at the notebook he said, "How did you dare suspect the integrity of my Jew… Is there anyone as methodical and upright as he?"

The Archbishop looked through the notebook and then uttered a triumphant cry: "I told the Emperor that this Jew is a thief. You gifted him with the Salzburg castle yet it is not recorded in this notebook. Who knows what else he is hiding from the Emperor?"

The Emperor called upon Rabbi Shimshon, wishing to investigate the matter. Rabbi Shimshon explained, "At any moment, my master can take back the castle that he presented to me, just like he can confiscate any of my other possessions in no time, if he so wishes. He can also decree upon me life-imprisonment, which means that even my freedom is in the hands of the Emperor and not in my own hands."

"If nothing is truly yours, then what exactly have you recorded in this notebook?" wondered the Emperor. "They are the sums that I donated to charity up until today, and mitzvot and good deeds are the only things that are mine for eternity. Even my master the Emperor, together with his entire army, cannot take them from me. And since his honor asked for a declaration of my capital, I replied that it is ready and is mine forever. Man's true capital is the amount that he donates to charity, and not the amount that he has amassed..."

This fascinating story had a powerful effect on the participants. I was the pioneer and began by donating a sizeable sum from my own pocket so that the other participants should follow suit.

As I finished speaking, one of the wealthy attendees, who despite his means was generally a reluctant charity giver, suddenly approached the dais. He took the microphone and announced "Honorable crowd! Be it known that I am not in the habit of donating to charity but when I saw Rabbi David shlita, a great Rav and exceptional Talmid Chacham but not wealthy, nevertheless donating a considerable sum for this purpose, I felt obligated to offer a generous contribution for the cause. I wish to declare my donation of ten thousand dollars (!) for this charity.

It is superfluous to point out the charitable spirit that this generated among the assembled and with siyata dishmaya, the evening was a great success and we made double the amount from previous years.

This, in my opinion, is called a Kiddush Hashem, the sanctification of G-d's Name. For when the affluent individual saw how I willingly participated in this mitzvah and was the first to donate for this cause, it lent him the passion to join this lofty matter. Heaven gave me the merit of serving as the catalyst for another Jew to appreciate the mitzvot of tzedakah and chesed.

This shows us that every Jew has the potential to publicly sanctify Heaven's Name and increase love for Hashem among His people, through the power of his own good deeds. No doubt, through increasing Hashem's glory in the world and sanctifying His name, Hashem will shower us with His attribute of mercy and annul all bad decrees. For just as the sin of desecrating G-d's Name Hashem is most terrible and can be the cause of suffering and death r"l, so on the other hand, can a Kiddush Hashem cause Hashem to rescind His anger from His people and pronounce only good decrees.

Guard Your Tongue

May Awaken a Wave of Jealousy

An example of 'avak lashon hara' is praising an individual which might cause someone present to speak derogatively of him. Due to this, one is forbidden to praise someone in the presence of his enemies, since it is common for them to react to this praise by pointing out his faults and criticizing him.

Similarly, it is forbidden to praise someone in the presence of many people since there is a definite chance that at least one of those present is not on good terms with him. Another example would be to praise a businessman in the presence of his competitors, even if they do not consider themselves as his enemies.

As a rule, one should never praise someone excessively because this could lead to a negative reaction from the listeners, even if they do not hate the one being spoken about.

The Haftarah

The Haftara of the week: "Then the offerings of Yehuda and Yerushalayim will be pleasing to Hashem as in the days of old" (Malachi 3)

The connection to the Parsha: The Haftarah mentions that Hashem will send Eliyahu Hanavi to announce the future redemption. This idea is connected to 'Shabbat HaGadol' when Hashem sent Moshe Rabbeinu a"h to inform the Jewish people of their imminent redemption from Egypt.

Pearls of the Parsha

Atonement Brings Peace

"Every male among the Kohanim may eat it; it shall be eaten in a holy place" (Vayikra 7:6)

The last letters of the words 'יאכלנו במקום קדוש יאכל', 'may eat it; it shall be eaten in a holy place', can be re-arranged to spell 'שלום', peace.

Rabbi Shimon ben Ya'akov zt"l, in his sefer 'Meishiv Devorim', explains that from here we see how precious is the attribute of peace in Hashem's eyes, for He commanded the Kohanim to eat the offering in a holy place. The reason for this is that before the sinner received atonement for his sin, he was distanced from Hashem and there was a lack of peace between them.

But once he admits his sin and brings his offering, he has now achieved closeness to Hashem and there is peace between him and the Master of the world, "The King of peace, Who blesses His people Yisrael with peace".

Atonement in the Merit of Torah Study

"This is the law of the burnt-offering, the meal-offering, the sin-offering, and the guilt-offering; and the inauguration-offerings…" (Vayikra 7:37)

The Holy Zohar (Vayeira 100:1) writes: "Rabbi Yochanan said, when Hashem explained the matter of the offerings, Moshe said, 'Master of the world! This is fine when Yisrael will be living in their own land, but what will they do when they are exiled from their land?' Hashem answered, 'Moshe, they will engage in Torah and I will forgive them on account of it quicker than had they offered all the offerings in the world as it says, 'This is the Torah (law) of the burnt-offering, the meal-offering, the sin-offering, and the guilt-offering; and the inauguration offerings'. Meaning, this Torah is in place of the burnt offering, in place of the meal-offering, in place of the sin-offering, in place of the guilt offering.

Rabbi Kruspidai said: Anyone who recites in the Batei Knessiot and Batei Midrashot, the section of the offerings and the order of offering them, with concentration, a covenant has been made that those angels who mention the sins of the people to cause them evil, will not be able to do any evil to them, but only good".

Singular and Plural; If Only They Would Be Plural

"This is the law of the burnt-offering, the meal-offering, the sin-offering, and the guilt-offering; and the inauguration-offerings, and the feast peace-offering" (Vayikra 7:37)

It is surprising to note that the verse begins in the singular "of the burnt-offering, the meal-offering, the sin-offering, and the guilt-offering" while it ends in the plural "the inauguration-offerings, the feast peace-offering". The peace offering is understood here to be many.

The reason, writes Rabbi Yosef Caro zt"l in his sefer 'Or Tzadik', is because Hashem does not want His people to sin, G-d forbid, therefore the offerings brought for committing sins are mentioned in the singular, "burnt-offering, meal offering, sin-offering, guilt-offering". If only that individual will not sin at all and not be required to bring his offering.

However, concerning the inauguration offerings and the feast peace-offerings, if only they could be offered at all times, to give pleasure to Hashem "a fire-offering, a satisfying aroma to Hashem". These last two are plural because we desire that these offerings be in abundance.

One's Appearance is Telling!

"Take Aharon and his sons with him, and the garments" (Vayikra 8:2)

'Midrash Yelamdeinu': "'Take…the garments', for they are a person's honor. Ben Sira said, “the glory of G-d is mankind and garments honor man.” There was an incident with a pious man who would take his clothes and fold them after returning from the market place. They asked him, 'How many talmidim, servants and family members do you have who can fold them for you?' He replied, 'My garments lend me honor in the market place, so I honor them in the house, as it says (Shmuel I, 2:36), 'For I honor those who honor Me'".

From the Treasury

Rabbi David Hanania Pinto

Alacrity in Mitzvah Performance

This Shabbat is called 'Shabbat Hagadol' since Am Yisrael eagerly fulfilled the will of Hashem who commanded them to tie a sheep to their bedposts and slaughter it in front of the Egyptians.

Inherent in this mitzvah was a seemingly great drawback for the Jewish people. This mitzvah involved not in a monetary loss but a much greater one – the loss of life since the Egyptians wished to satiate their anger on them and kill them for bringing dishonor to their god. It is natural for a person to be laid back about something that holds an inherent detriment for him. But the Jewish people overcame their Yetzer Hara and with great self-sacrifice obeyed Hashem's word. With great alacrity, they tied the sheep to their bedposts even though this endangered their lives. This is a concrete example for us and our children of serving Hashem with devotion and loyalty, and fulfilling His mitzvot with alacrity even if we will thereby experience some loss. This is the reason why this Shabbat is called 'Shabbat Hagadol'.

The Jewish people inherited this wonderful attribute of alacrity in serving Hashem from Avraham Avinu a"h. He too, also on Erev Pesach, hurried to fulfill the mitzvah of inviting guests although it involved great self-sacrifice, on the occasion when the three angels came to his home looking like Arabs. Although it was the third day after his brit milah and he was weak and feeble, nevertheless Avraham Avinu unconcerned about his health, got up to invite them into his home. He waited on them, offering them food and drink, all with remarkable alacrity as if he was a young lad. The verses stress this: “he ran toward them” …”So Avraham hastened…and said”, “Hurry!”…”Then Avraham ran to the cattle”. Since Avraham knew that the Yetzer Hara will disturb him in trying to fulfill this mitzvah and will weaken his desire by telling him to take care of his health and go about it slowly, he therefore overcame the Yetzer Hara and did everything with alacrity and great sacrifice in order to rid himself of any undesirable thoughts stemming from the Yetzer Hara. The Jewish people absorbed these attributes of alacrity and self-sacrifice in fulfilling Hashem's commandments that Avraham displayed, deeply into their very essence and they too follow in his footsteps.

A Novel Look at the Parsha

To What Degree Do You Feel Connected to the Story of the Exodus?

Some Advice from Maran the Chafetz Chaim zt"l

The Ten Plagues can be divided into three groups, as Rabbi Yehuda grouped them by their initials, 'דצ"ך (דם, צפרדע, כינים), עד"ש (ערוב, דבר, שחין), באח"ב (ברד, ארבה, חשך, בכורות)', and the Malbim explains the common denominator of each group. The lesson of the first group, דצ"ך, Dezach, is "that I am Hashem". Hashem is the only G-d and there is no other god. The second group, עדש, Adash, taught the Egyptians "that I am Hashem in the midst of the land", Hashem supervises and guides the entire creation. The final group, באח"ב, Beachab, personified "so that you shall know that there is none like Me in all the world", to show the Creator's immeasurable power.

The goal of the first two plagues in each series was to cause Pharaoh to allow the Jewish people to leave his land, by demonstrating the existence and great power of the Creator, who wants him to grant freedom to His people. But the intention of the third plague in every group was different. It was meant as a punishment for not having learnt a lesson from the previous two plagues. This is why the first two plagues were preceded with a warning which is appropriate when the purpose of the plague is to teach a lesson to the one being smitten, whereas there was no need to warn before the arrival of the third plague since its goal was to punish, not to teach.

In each group, there were two of these plagues which were preceded by a warning so as to strengthen the message of faith that was sent to Pharaoh and his servants because as we mentioned, the goal of these plagues was to show the Egyptians the power of the Creator and not to punish the Egyptians.

Besides this, the plagues served another important goal. Hashem wished to implant in His children this message of faith and trust in the power and might of the Creator, "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".

Maran the Chafetz Chaim's zt"l animated descriptions when learning about the Ten Plagues are recalled with profound awe by his talmidim. This is what his talmid, the Gaon Rabbi Chaim Yitzchak Chaikin zt"l related:

"One Friday I passed by the window of Maran's zt"l hut and heard him studying the Parsha of the week with Rashi's commentary. When he came to the verse "the frog ascended and covered the land of Egypt", he explained the verses in his own words: 'At first only one frog ascended from the River, but they hit it and swarms of frogs emerged from it. They continued hitting it and more frogs emerged. Ai, ai, ai, so many frogs…"

The Chafetz Chaim took great pleasure in this description as if right now he could picture the smitten frog in front of his eyes, releasing swarms of frogs from its insides.

This live description remained etched in Rabbi Chaim Yitzchak's memory and every year he excitedly related the story of the Ten Plagues to his talmidim, thereby fulfilling "that I made a mockery of Egypt and My signs that I placed among them"!

Similarly, the Gaon Rabbi Mordechai Pesach Poderavski of Kobrin zt"l, a close talmid and attendant of the Chafetz Chaim in his final years, related:

"One Friday at about midnight when I passed by Rabbeinu's house, I heard his pleasant voice and approached his window. I saw him sitting on his bed learning Parshat Va'era. With each plague, he expressed his amazement and exclaimed with great admiration, 'Ai, ai!'

When it came to the verse describing the sixth plague, 'The necromancers could not stand before Moshe because of the boils', he laughed aloud, and until then I had never heard him laughing so loud [as we know the Chafetz Chaim was very particular not to fill his mouth with mirth in This World, to the extent that he testified about himself that he did not wish to hear even words of wisdom that have a thread of mirth]. His amazement at the plagues was as great as if he was right now witnessing the plagues. I was so moved that I stood mesmerized by his window for more than half an hour…"


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