Erev Shabbos Kodesh Tazria-Metzora Inspiration 5775

Rashi writes something that is bewildering. When you come into the Land and find tzaraas on your house, this is good news. The reason for this is because while the Jewish People were sojourning in the Wilderness, the Amorites were busy hiding their gold and silver in the walls of their homes so the Jews wouldn’t be able to find it. When the house was afflicted with tzaraas, the Jew was forced to dismantle his home and then he received his reward of gold and silver. The difficulty with this is that tzaraas was not a physical malady but a spiritual one. This being the case, it would appear unjustified to afflict a person with tzaraas and simultaneously reward him.

Last year we discussed the word מצרע, which equals 400 in gematria.  This year I would like to add a dimension to that idea. Prior to the Exodus, HaShem instructed Moshe to plead with the Jewish People to take gold, silver, and clothing from the Egyptians. the Gemara (Brachos 9a-b) states that Hashem had to instruct Me to beg the Jews to take jewelry so that Avraham Avinu should not complain to HaShem, “the slavery to Egypt You fulfilled, but the promise of going out with great riches You didn’t fulfill.” The Gemara likens this to one who is imprisoned and is then informed that he will be freed and granted great wealth. The prisoner responds, “ it is sufficient fi I get out of jail and I don’t obtain wealth. Nonetheless, HaShem shows the Jewish People that their tenure in servitude was rewarded by taking the Egyptian’s wealth. Similarly, when a person is afflicted with tzaraas, he is sequestered from the rest of the camp and he has time to ponder how he got to this place of solitude. Once he repents, he sees the light of Hashem’s kindness to him and there can be no greater reward than that.

The Emorites hid their gold and silver, a metaphor to the hidden desires inside a Jew to come close to HaShem. There is a Talmudic dictum that “we force a person until he acquiesces,” i.e. even if open does not appear to desire the performance of a mitzvah, we know that the desire is merely dormant and we just have to force it out of him. This was as the function of tzaraas. When one saw tzaraas on his home, he “discovered” the gold and silver within, i.e. the opportunity to repent and come close again to HaShem. If tzaraas on the house was insufficient to relay this message, then one would be afflicted with tzaraas on the clothing and ultimately with tzaraas on his body. In the end, hopefully, he would absorb the message that HaShem loves him and only seeks his good.

We should merit in these turbulent times to realize that all the punishments and all the suffering is HaShem’s way of convincing us to return to Him with all our hearts and all our souls.

Have a Self-Aware Shabbos

Rabbi Adler


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Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim: Tazria-Metzora 5775

Tazria-Metzora 5775

New Stories Tazria-Metzora 5775

Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim Tazria-Metzora 5775

Counting our way out of impurity towards purity and holiness


We have just completed the celebration of the Pesach festival, and we are now in the midst of counting the Omer. In this week’s parshiyos we also encounter other forms of counting. One counting is when a woman after childbirth counts the days of her impurity. A second counting is when a metzora, one who contracts the spiritual disease of tzaraas, counts seven days from when he is cleansed before he is permitted to enter into the Israelite Camp. A third counting is when a woman has a flow and she then counts seven days and she is then purified. The Zohar states that the forty-nine days that we count from the bringing of the Omer are akin to a woman counting her days of impurity. The counting from the Omer then culminates in the festival of Shavuos.

Understanding the counting of the Omer and the mourning period for the students of Rabbi Akiva

One must wonder why it is so important to count the days of the Omer. When one wishes to know when an upcoming festival will occur, he merely has to look at the calendar and determine the correct date of the festival. We do not count the days until Rosh Hashanah and other festival that we celebrate throughout the year. Why, then, must we count from Pesach until Shavuos? Another perplexing idea that requires explanation is why immediately after the joy of the Pesach festival we enter into a mourning period over the twenty-four thousand students of Rabbi Akiva who passed away between Pesach and Shavuos. How are we to comprehend the juxtaposition of this period of joy with this period of mourning?

One must search out the impurities within himself

In order to glean a better understanding of the purpose in our counting, it is worth mentioning a fascinating idea presented by the Gerrer Rebbe, the Lev Simcha. It is said (Mishlei 2:3-4) im tivaksehna chakasef vichamatmonim tachpisena az tavin yiras HaShem vidaas Elokim timtza, if you seek it as [it were] sliver, if you search for it as [if it were] hidden treasures – then you will understand the fear of HaShem, and discover the knowledge of G-d. The Lev Simcha (Emor) writes that these verses can be interpreted to be alluding to the festivals of the year. Seeking like silver alludes to Pesach, as the word kesef, silver, also connotes desire, and Pesach is a time when HaShem showed His love for the Jewish People. Hidden treasures allude to the days of counting from the Omer, as the word vichamatmonim, can be read mem tes monim, counting forty-nine. The word tachpisena, if you search for it, alludes to Shavuos, as the days of counting the Omer are a preparation for Shavuos. The Lev Simcha goes on to find allusions to Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur and Sukkos. It is fascinating that the word vichamatmonim alludes to the forty-nine days of counting from the Omer. The first letters of the word are mem and tes, which also form most of the word tamei, translated as impure. Perhaps the lesson contained in this hint is that one should always view himself as being in a state of impurity and that he must strive for purity and holiness. HaShem, in His infinite compassion, redeemed us from the impurities of Egypt, but we still have a long way to go until we are worthy of receiving the Torah. How, then, do we remove these impurities from our midst?

We are required to remove tainted character traits

The Gemara (Yevamos 62b) states that the students of Rabbi Akiva died because they did not treat each other with respect. It would seem from this Gemara that if the students of the great Rabbi Akiva were lacking in this area, then certainly we could use improvement on how we act towards each other. A person who does not respect his fellow man demonstrates an impurity of the soul. Shavuos is reflective of our gathering at Sinai kiish echod bileiv echod, as one man with one heart. It is not enough to merely study Torah. One must internalize the lessons in Torah, and Rabbi Akiva was the one who said viahavta lireiacha kamocha zeh klal gadol baTorah, you shall love your fellow as yourself, this is a great rule in Torah. The word gadol is associated with the tribute of chesed, kindness. It is no wonder that the first attribute that we refer to when counting from the Omer is chesed, and the last attribute is malchus, kingship. The Gemara (Gittin 62a) states that the true kings are the Torah scholars. For one to achieve a level of kingship he must be exemplary in the attribute of chesed. Thus, one must “search” himself during these days to filter out all the impurities within him.

Sefiras HaOmer is when we count towards Shavuos and when we count away from our impurities

We can now understand why we count the days from the Omer, and why we count specifically during the mourning period over the passing of Rabbi Akiva’s students. We are counting towards Shavuos, but even more significantly, we are counting the days until we can finally rid ourselves of the impurities that exist within our character. Thus, we can interpret the word matmonim to mean counting away from the mem and the tes, which spell out the two essential letters of the word tamei , impurity.

The Shabbos connection

Every week we have the ability to count the days of the week until we arrive at Shabbos. The weekday certainly has its share of impurities, both from the outside world and within us. Nonetheless, by preparing properly for the Holy Shabbos, we can always anticipate that we will arrive at Shabbos in a state of purity, when all harsh judgments depart and we can bask in the Kingship of HaShem. Hashem should allow us to count these days and they should culminate in joy, brotherhood, and a true purification of our hearts.

Shabbos in the Zemiros

Gott fun Avraham

Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev, who lived from 1740-1809, recommended that this prayer be recited by men, women and children three times and that the recitation would help ensure success in the upcoming week.

וְסִיַּעְתָּא דִשְׁמַיָּא לָנוּ וּלְכָל יִשְׂרָאֵל, אָמֵן, and help from Heaven, for us and for all of Israel, Amen! There are many verse that refer to HaShem “looking down,” so to speak, on humanity. Here we ask for assistance from Heaven. It is said (Tehillim 115:16) הַשָּׁמַיִם שָׁמַיִם לַיהוָה וְהָאָרֶץ נָתַן לִבְנֵי אָדָם, as for the heavens, the heavens are HaShem’s; but the earth He has given to mankind.  The Kotzker Rebbe interpreted this to mean that the heavens are to HaShem and the earth He gave to mankind to make into heaven, i.e. to transform materialism into spirituality. Here too we can suggest that we ask for help from heaven to transform our earthly needs and desires into spiritual matters, for us and the entire Jewish People.

Shabbos Stories

Transferring the Disease

The Shpoler Zeide (Rebbe Aryeh Leib, the Grandfather of Shpola) had a servant named Chelovno who told this story:

He once saw a man with a terrible skin disease that covered him from head to foot enter the Rebbe’s room with a petition-note. This man stayed with the Rebbe for a while and when he left, Chelovno said he saw that he was normal, without a trace of the skin disease!

After this, Chelovno brought a cup of coffee in for the Rebbe and was astonished to see that the Rebbe’s whole body was covered with the skin disease! “What happened here?’ yelled Chelovno. “Why did the Rebbe do this?”

The Rebbe, however, did not respond.

Later, Chelovno went in again and saw that the disease had completely disappeared from the Rebbe’s body, and asked the Rebbe to tell him what this was all about.

The Rebbe said, “When that man first came to me, I didn’t have any way to cure him. So I had to take the disease on myself; and he was healed. Afterward, I pleaded before God, blessed be He, ‘What have I done that I should be afflicted with this skin disease?’ Then, they healed me too!” (MiBeer Hatzaddikim, vol. 2, p. 45)

Who’s the Handicapped One Here?

Rabbi Mordechai Kaamenetzky writes: Rabbi Paysach Krohn loves to tell the beautifully haunting story of the woman who left Rusk Institute with her child who was in a wheelchair. It was a wintry day and the chill that pervaded the young boy’s fragile bones declared its chilling presence with the icy frosting it left on the exposed metal of his wheelchair.

Waiting at the bus stop on the corner of 34th and 2nd Avenue, three large city busses whizzed by, unable to accommodate the mother and the child and his special chair. It was only after a half-hour wait that the mother flagged down a bus and insisted to the driver that he allow them to board.

As the poor woman struggled to lift the wheelchair into the narrowly impatient doors that waited to slam like the jaws of a tiger, the driver shouted at her, “Lady you’ll have to wait for a bus with a lift! I gotta go!”

Immediately a few passengers jumped to her defense! “It’s freezing out there. We will wait!”

Embarrassed into submission, the driver acquiesced. As the mother and child settled in their place on the bus, one said to her, “Your child is not handicapped. It only seems that way. In truth it is the driver that has a handicapped mind!” (

Shabbos in Halacha

לישה – Kneading

  1. The Kneading Process

 B. The Two Categories of Mixtures

 As stated above, kneading is forbidden whether the final mixture is thick, like dough, or slightly less thick, like batter. However, only thick mixtures will be in the category of the melacha deoraysa (Torah Prohibition) of kneading, loose mixtures are prohibited miderabanan (rabbinic Decree). There are many halachic differences between these categories of mixtures, and we will therefore define each category.

Shabbos Ta’am HaChaim: Tazria-Metzora 5775

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New Stories Tazria-Metzora 5775

A Tale of Two Heroes

Personal glimpses of young men who gave their all for Israel.

by Sara Yoheved Rigler and Yisrael Rohn Rigler        

Yom HaZikaron, Israel’s Memorial Day for its fallen soldiers (to be observed this Wednesday, April 22), is an immensely personal day of loss for all Israelis. We mourn our sons, brothers, husbands, fathers, and neighbors. A tiny country, the 6,000 soldiers Israel lost in 1948’s War of Independence was 1% of the total population, equivalent to the United States losing 1.4 million soldiers that year.

In Israel’s short and embattled history, 23,169 soldiers have been killed in active military duty. Sixty-six of them fell last summer in Operation Protective Edge, Israel’s effort to stop the rockets fired by Hamas from Gaza. Here are glimpses into the lives of just two of them.

Benaya Sarel

The grandson of a Holocaust survivor, 26-year-old Benaya Sarel was engaged to marry Gali Nir on August 20, 2014, at Naot Kedumim, a nature reserve in central Israel. The invitations had already gone out when wedding preparations were interrupted by Operation Protective Edge. Benaya, who was a major in an elite infantry unit, was called up to fight the Hamas terrorists inside Gaza.

Benaya had been in Gaza before as a commander, during Operation Pillar of Defense in 2012. In an interview afterwards, he declared, “I always made sure to be in the front and to be the first to enter a building, so that if anyone would die, it would be me.”

During that campaign, in the thick of battle, Benaya called out, “Whoever is willing to give up his life, come with me now.” All his soldiers followed him.

During Operation Protective Edge last summer, Benaya was wounded by shrapnel. He tried removing the shrapnel himself. He even sent his family a Whatsapp photo of himself trying to take out the shrapnel. He called it, “selfie surgery.”

Benaya ended up being taken to Soroka Hospital in Beer Sheva. There he was told that he had to undergo surgery. He refused, and demanded that they postpone the surgery until the war was over so he could return to his troops.

When his parents heard that he was in the hospital, they wanted to come visit. Benaya refused to let them, because he didn’t let the soldiers under his command have visitors. His mother protested, “But no one will know.” Benaya replied, “But I’ll know.”

The doctors sewed up his wounds with the shrapnel still inside, and Benaya returned to Gaza to be with his soldiers.

Benaya was close to his family. Every day he and his mother would enjoy a “virtual cup of coffee” together. His mother in Kiryat Arba would turn on her coffee machine and Benaya, wherever he was stationed, would pour himself a cup of coffee, and they would talk on their cellphones as they sipped. One Friday last August, he called his mother at 8:38 AM. He spoke quietly, and said that there was going to be a ceasefire.

His mother asked, “Then why are you inside [Gaza]?”

He replied, “I have something to finish up. Turn on the machine; we’ll be drinking coffee soon.” He added: “Mom, you’re a 10.”

That was his final statement. At 9:10, he was killed in action. It was August 1, twenty days before the wedding that never took place.

Shai Kushner

Shai Kushner spent his last year of high school trying to convince his father to permit him to join a combat unit. As his father’s only child (his parents were divorced and his mother also had a daughter), the law in Israel required that an only child could not serve in a combat unit without the written permission of his parent.

Shai’s father Michael resisted. He himself had served in the same elite combat unit his son wanted to join. He knew the danger. But after a year of his beloved son’s pleading, Michael relented and signed.

Shai’s friend Yavgeny would later write:

Shai lived his life at a very fast pace, and therefore he didn’t get involved with the petty problems and worries of the average teenager. He always galloped forward, and impressed everyone who knew him. Even though Shai was involved in many projects, he knew how to allocate his time to each person – his parents, his half-sister, and his close friends. What I learned from him is what I call the “Shai way” – to gallop forward and to pass every test and challenge. [Translated from the website Walla!, Mishpachot Hallelei Tzuk Eitan Kotvot, Oct. 3, 2014]

Shai’s great love was music. He picked up a guitar for the first time at the age of twelve. It became his greatest source of joy.

He was twenty years old and had served in the IDF for two years when Operation Protective Edge broke out. Shai’s unit was sent into Gaza.

On July 30, Michael Kushner wrote this letter to his son:


I miss you very much. I live with the feeling that I haven’t seen you for years. Not a moment goes by that I’m not thinking of you – day and night.

I’m trying to imagine how you and your friends are dealing with this not simple situation, how you’re reacting to this situation that you were cast into, you and all the rest of the young people who have been given this hard task.

With every day that passes Protective Edge is turning from a “campaign” to a war, with all the horrible meaning of that word. But I know and believe that you and your friends are strong and determined, and full of motivation to complete the difficult task that has been assigned to you.

You are in our hearts and in our souls. Protect yourselves.

Your loving father who misses you,


Michael Kushner sent the letter to his son’s cellphone, but Shai was fighting deep inside Gaza, where soldiers (except officers) were not permitted to take their cellphones. The following day Shai was killed. Most likely, he never received his father’s letter.

Yom HaZikaron, this Wednesday, is the day to remember Shai and Benaya, and the thousands like them who gave their lives for Jews to live in their ancestral homeland.


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Erev Shabbos Kodesh Shemini Inspiration 5775

Nadav and Avihu entered the Kodesh HaKodashim with a strange fire and HaShem killed them. The Medrash offers many reasons for their untimely death but one of the reasons poses a difficulty. The Medrash states that Nadav and Avihu said, “even though a fire descends from heaven, there is still a mitzvah to offer a fire from a commoner.” It was for this reason that they chose to bring their own fire. The apparent difficulty with this opinion is that when the Gemara (Yoma 21b) uses the statement of “even though a fire descends from heaven, there is still a mitzvah to offer a fire from a commoner,” the Gemara is referring to bringing fire from the outer mizbeiach to the inner mizbeiach. Nadav and Avihu, however, took fire and brought it inside the Kodesh HaKodashim. Why would they apply this dictum to a different circumstance?

To answer this question it is worthwhile to examine the words of the Meshech Chochma in his introduction to Vayikra. The Rambam is  of the opinion that the reason why we offer Korbanos is to negate the practices of idol-worshippers. The Ramban vehemently disagrees with this thesis and the Ramban posits that the rationale for Korbanos is so that we come close to HaShem. The Meshech Chochma suggests that both opinions can be reconciled by maintaining that Korbanos that were offered on a Bamah, a private altar, served to negate idolatry, whereas Korbanos that were offered in the Bais HaMikdash functioned as a means of  coming close to HaShem. We can suggest, then, that Nadav and Avihu were attempting to negate the desire of idolatry, as we see that later on in history the Sages abolished this temptation, and a fiery lion, representative of this sin, escaped from the Kodesh HaKodashim (Yoma 69b). Thus, the “fire from heaven” was to eradicate the desire for idolatry. Nadav and Avihu, however, felt that they must offer “their own fire,” i.e. the fire that would bring them close to HaShem. While normally the commoner’s fire remained outside, Nadav and Avihu felt that the time had come for them to bring their own passion to HaShem, and for this reason they went even further by attempting to enter the Kodesh HaKodashim (See Toras Kohanim Shemini 1:32 and Raavad Ibid). Sadly, they were mistaken in their unadulterated passion and they died before HaShem.

HaShem should give us the desire to come close to Him by following His Torah and the laws contained within, and we should merit the arrival of Moshiach Tzidkeinu, with the building of the Third Bais HaMikdash, speedily, in our days.

Have a Passionately Inspirational Shabbos and an Amazing Chodesh!

Rabbi Adler


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Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim: Shemini 5775

Shemini 5775

New Stories Shemini 5775

Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim


Shemini 5775

Keep on praying for the Redemption


ויבא משה ואהרן אל אהל מועד ויצאו ויברכו את העם וירא כבוד ה’ אל כל העם, Moshe and Aharon came to the Tent of Meeting, and they went out and they blessed the people – and the glory of HaShem appeared to the entire people (Vayikra 9:23)

The Mishkan, the Tabernacle, which will serve as the resting place for the Divine Presence in the Wilderness, is ready to be erected. The entire Jewish People is anxiously waiting for a fire to descend from heaven, and this revelation would reflect the love that HaShem had for them and would also demonstrate that they had earned atonement for the sin of worshipping the Golden Calf. Unfortunately, it appears as if they have waited in vain. The fire has not descended, and they voiced their complaint to Moshe. What could Moshe do that would satisfy their desire to have the Divine Presence in their midst?

“Am I also preventing the Redemption from occurring?”

The Munkatcher Rebbe, Reb Chaim Elazar Shapiro (1872-1937) had finally arrived in Jerusalem for a historic meeting with the renowned Kabbalist, Rabbi Shlomo Eliezer Alfandri, known as the Saba Kadisha, The Holy Elder (1820-1930). For years they had communicated by mail and now a great crowd had gathered to witness the meeting of these two great Torah luminaries. The crowd finally dispersed and only the Rebbe’s attendant, Reb Shalom, remained in the room where the two leaders were to meet. The Rebbe gave his attendant a knowing glance and Reb Shalom left the room. Unable to contain his curiosity, however, Reb Shalom remained listening behind the door, curious as to what would transpire in this fateful encounter. At first Reb Shalom could not hear anything, and he assumed that the language barrier was preventing any communication, as the Rebbe only spoke Yiddish and the great Kabbalist spoke in his native Hebrew. Finally the two settled on Hebrew as the spoken language, and Reb Shalom heard the Rebbe ask in a slow but urgent tone, “tell me, please, when will the Messiah finally arrive to redeem us from this long exile?” The Saba Kadisha replied sadly, “there are those who are preventing the redemption from occurring.” Reb Shalom listened eagerly for further conversation, but he could not hear anything. After a few moments he heard the Rebbe crying and then through the tears, he was able to make out the Rebbe’s muffled cry, “Am I also among those who is preventing the redemption?” The Rebbe’s sincere query pierced Reb Shalom’s heart and penetrates the hearts of Jews the world over. Are we doing enough to bring the redemption?

Moshe prays for the Divine Presence to rest on the Mishkan

Moshe was confronted by the Jewish People’s disappointment that they had not yet merited the Divine Presence to rest on their new edifice. Rashi writes that Aharon was also saddened by the fact that despite having offered all the necessary sacrifices to inaugurate the Tabernacle, the Divine Presence had not yet appeared. Moshe then entered the Mishkan together with Aharon and they prayed that the Divine Presence should rest on the handiwork of the Jewish People. Immediately a fire went forth from before HaShem and consumed upon the Altar the burnt-offerings and the fats; the people saw and rejoiced at the revelation of HaShem’s Presence in their midst.

We must keep praying for the Ultimate Redemption

We are constantly praying for the Redemption, and at times we may wonder if there is something more that we need to do to hasten its arrival. In truth, however, just as Moshe did for the Jewish People in the Wilderness, we must keep praying to HaShem to bring the Redemption. HaShem revealed Himself to the Jewish People then, and He will certainly answer our prayers and bring us the Messiah and the long awaited redemption.

The Shabbos connection

Throughout the week we anticipate the Redemption. On Shabbos, however, we feel that we are so close to redemption, as we recite in the Lecho Dodi prayer, karvah el nafshi gealah, draw near to my soul-redeem it! HaShem should give us the strength to keep praying for redemption, and in the merit of our Shabbos observance, he will surely redeem us, with the arrival of Moshiach Tzidkeinu, speedily, in our days.

Shabbos in the Zemiros

Gott fun Avraham

Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev, who lived from 1740-1809, recommended that this prayer be recited by men, women and children three times and that the recitation would help ensure success in the upcoming week.

אַז דִי וָואךְ אוּן דֶער חוֹדֶשׁ אוּן דֶער יָאר זָאל אוּנְז קוּמֶען צוּ בָּנֵי חַיֵּי אֲרִיכֵי וּמְזוֹנֵי רְוִיחֵי, may this week and this month and this year arrive for…..and for children, life and expansive sustenance. These three blessings, children, life and sustenance are always grouped together. What is the connection between these three blessings? One needs sustenance in order to live. One who does not have children is considered to be not living. This is the simple explanation. On a deeper level, however, one who has children has continuity. Thus, we beseech HaShem to bless us with continued physical and spiritual lives so that e can serve Him properly.

Shabbos Stories

“Say it again and again until you understand it!”

The sudden death of Reb Yosef could not have come at a more untimely time – a few days before Passover. A Holocaust survivor, he had rebuilt his life in Canada and left this world a successful businessman, with a wonderful wife, children, and grandchildren. It was difficult, however, for them all to leave their families for the first days of Passover to accompany his body, and thus his widow traveled with her son to bury her husband in Israel. After the funeral the two mourners sat in their apartment in the Shaarei Chesed section of Jerusalem. Passover was fast approaching, and they were planning to spend the Seder at the home of relatives. As they were about to end the brief Shiva period and leave their apartment, a soft knocked interrupted their thoughts. At the door to her apartment stood none other than one of Israel’s most revered Torah sages, Rabbi Shlomo Zalman Auerbach.

“I live nearby,” he said, “and I heard that there was a funeral today. I came to offer my condolences.”

The sage then heard a brief history of Reb Yosef’s difficult, yet remarkably triumphant life.

Then Reb Shlomo Zalman turned to the widow and asked a very strange question. “Did you say the blessing Boruch Dayan HaEmes? Blessed are You, HaShem, the true Judge.” (This blessing acknowledges the acceptance of HaShem as the Master Planner of all events acknowledging that all that happens is for the best.) “Why? Yes,” answered the elderly lady. “I said it right as the funeral ended. But it is very difficult to understand and accept.”

Reb Shlomo Zalman, a man who lived through dire poverty and illness, four wars, and the murder of a relative by Arab terrorists, nodded. “I understand your questions. That blessing is very difficult to understand and to accept. You must, however, say it again and again. As difficult as it may be, believe me, if you repeat it enough you will understand it.”

Pesach without any questions

Once, when a student of R’ Yitzchak Zev Soloveitchik zt”l (the Brisker Rav; died 1959) was leaving Yerushalayim to return to his home in Binei Brak, the Brisker Rav said, “Please tell your father that I wish him a `Chag Sameach.’ Also, please give him my wish that the holiday should pass with no shailos [i.e., that no questions should arise regarding whether chametz had found its way into the food or into the pots and pans].”

The Brisker Rav added: “Do not think that this is a small blessing. I remember that when I was a child, my father [R’ Chaim Brisker zt”l] once said to my mother after Pesach, `Thank G-d the holiday passed with no shailos.’ He spoke then the way a person speaks after successfully undergoing difficult surgery.”

The Brisker Rav also added: “A shailah in those days was not like a shailah today. I remember as a child in Volozhin that a question arose in someone’s kitchen, and all of his pots and dishes were declared chametz. Today, rabbis are so much more likely to accept a lenient opinion among the poskim / halachic authorities.”

Pesach is like winning the lottery

The 19th century chassidic rebbe, R’ Yechiel Meir of Gostynin zt”l, barely slept all of Pesach. His family was worried about his health and asked him why he would not sleep. He replied, “If I had won the lottery, would you ask me why I couldn’t sleep? Believe me! Every minute of Pesach is like winning the lottery.”

What did he mean by this? Why did he feel more fortunate on Pesach than on any other day? The Amshinover Rebbe explained: Our Sages say that chametz represents the yetzer hara. Thus, Pesach is a time that is free of the yetzer hara. Every minute of such a time is priceless. (Otzroseihem Shel Tzadikim)

A right way and a wrong way to read the Hagadah

The mitzvah of Sippur Yetzias Mitzrayim / relating the story of the Exodus requires more than just reading the story. One’s recitation of the Haggadah must be from the heart and also must penetrate one’s heart, so that the story of the Exodus will serve as the basis for strengthening one’s emunah/faith. Indeed, R’ Simcha Zissel Ziv zt”l (the “Alter of Kelm”; died 1898) used to observe that the statement in the Haggadah, “The more that one relates about the Exodus, the more praiseworthy it is,” also can be translated, “The more that one relates about the Exodus, the more improved he is.”

R’ Yaakov Levitt zt”l (Bialystok) illustrated with a parable the difference between the right way to tell the story of the Exodus and the wrong way:

A villager once took seriously ill. The doctor was called, and the doctor recognized that the villager’s illness was fully curable if treated properly. He wrote out a prescription and he told the villager’s wife, “Give your husband this prescription with water three times a day until it is finished, and he will be cured.”

The family did as it was told. Every day, the simple village wife tore a small piece off the prescription, dissolved it in water and gave it to her husband to drink. Needless to say, his condition did not improve.

The doctor was called, but he was very perplexed. “I know that this prescription works,” he said. “I have prescribed it for this illness before.”

“Let me see the prescription,” he requested finally. “Perhaps I made a mistake.” The villager’s wife explained, however, that she could not show him the prescription because she had given it to her husband as instructed.

“Fools,” he shouted. “Can a piece of paper cure your husband’s illness? It’s not the paper that makes the difference, but what’s written on the paper that would have cured him.”

So it is with the Haggadah. It is not the book of the Haggadah nor simply reading the Haggadah which illuminates one’s soul. Rather, one must absorb the contents of the story. (Haggadah Shel Pesach Shaarei Armon p. 150)

Reb Shaul Kagan zt”l

Reb Shaul Kagan, founder of the Kollel of Pittsburgh, was born in Europe. After his family fled to the U.S., his father became Rosh yeshiva of Yeshiva Rabbeinu Yaakov Yosef (RJJ). R’ Shaul studied there and later enrolled in the fledgling yeshiva in Lakewood under R’ Aharon Kotler.

Over 30 years ago, R’ Kagan established a kollel (institute for advanced study by married men) in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He began with ten men who studied and taught classes (for free) to the community. An appreciation of the Kiddush HaShem that he and his kollel made on the city of Pittsburgh may be gleaned from a comment made once by the non-Jewish, then-Pittsburgh Mayor Richard Caligari, “What those ten men are doing day and night in that study hall on Bartlett Street is giving hope and strength for Russian Jews far across the globe.” Asked later why he would make such a comment, the Mayor said, “Rabbi Kagan told me a little bit about the Torah. Then he explained what you rabbis do. Then he took me to the kollel. I saw from the way that he talked about your Torah and by seeing you study that whatever the Torah does, it must impact much farther than Pittsburgh.” (Based on Yated Neeman) (

Shabbos in Halacha

לישה – Kneading

  1. The Kneading Process

A.  The two steps of the Kneading Process


 Pouring a liquid onto food particles or vice versa is deemed to be an act of kneading because some bonding occurs immediately. Mixing the ingredients afterwards is deemed to be a separate act of kneading. However, when a coagulated substance is used as the binding agent, only the actual mixing can be considered kneading.

Shabbos Ta’am HaChaim: Shemini 5775

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New Stories Shemini 5775

The Holocaust Torah

How did a survivor who wouldn’t buy a ticket to Israel afford to commission a Torah scroll all by himself?

by Yvette Alt Miller   

 “Join us for a Holocaust Torah Dedication.” The synagogue e-mail caught us by surprise. Our congregation is very small. Everyone knows each other and we’re aware of any looming celebrations months in advance. Besides, dedicating a new Torah scroll is a huge event. We’d just been part of a mammoth, two-year fundraiser for a new scroll at our kids’ school that took years of planning and the participation of scores of families to make that dream a reality. How could there be a similarly large undertaking in our own synagogue without us being aware of it?

Torah scrolls are painstakingly hand-written by specially-trained scribes. It can take a year or more to complete one scroll; consequently, commissioning a new Torah scroll is very expensive and it’s common for an entire community to band together to raise funds for it.

Mr. Friedman with the author’s son

“It’s Mr. Friedman’s Sefer Torah,” our rabbi responded when we called to ask how we could help. I thought of Mr. Friedman, an elderly member who came to synagogue every morning. With his neat demeanor and old-fashioned manors, he’s a beloved fixture in the community. Our rabbi explained that as a Holocaust survivor himself (he was an inmate at Auschwitz and Dachau), Mr. Friedman commissioned a new Torah scroll to commemorate his parents who were murdered by the Nazis, and his late wife, who was also a survivor.

My thoughts flew to a conversation I’d had with Mr. Friedman in synagogue just a few weeks before. Nearly all his relatives had been murdered by the Nazis, and his wife’s family had met the same fate. One of his only living relatives was an elderly sister-in-law in Israel who’d been blessed over the years with a large family of many children, grandchildren and now great-grandchildren. Though they spoke sometimes on the phone, he recalled, they could never visit. The cost of a plane ticket was prohibitive.

How did a man who couldn’t afford to buy a plane ticket to Israel commission an entire Torah scroll all by himself?

As the day of the Torah dedication drew near, other families begged Mr. Friedman to be allowed to help. Eventually, our requests wore him down. He consented to allowing his friends and fellow congregants to raise funds for the Torah mantle and crowns that would decorate his new Torah, and to throw a party in his honor. He was adamant on one point though: the fundraising for the Torah itself was entirely his own. “It’s my project,” he said, “and I don’t want any fuss.”

The day of the dedication dawned cold and brisk. As friends and congregants milled around, music began to play. A member drove Mr. Friedman slowly up to the synagogue driveway, tightly holding the Torah scroll. With difficulty, he got out of the car and held the Torah in his arms. As friends held a chuppah – a wedding canopy – over, him, Mr. Friedman laboriously walked up the drive. Just as he’d refused all help in funding his donation, he was now resolved to carry the Torah into the synagogue himself.

“I don’t want to give a big speech,” he’d already declared, but as he deposited the Torah in its home in the sanctuary, a sob escaped him and echoed through the room, more eloquent than any discourse. The Torah, dedicated in memory of his murdered parents and of his wife, was finally home.

A few months later, Mr. Friedman became ill and I called to see if I could stop by with some food. As he buzzed me into his small apartment, I looked around, taking in the modest furnishings and asked him about his parents. He showed me two black and white photos – his mother, wearing an old-fashioned wig, looked young, barely out of her teens in hers. Their names were Menachem Mendel and Raizel. Mr. Friedman talked about them tenderly. They were charitable, honorable, religious people – broad-minded and kind.

When the Nazis took his father away, a young Mr. Friedman found out that he’d been secretly supporting many other families through the years. His father’s last whispered instructions to his son were to continue this tradition, and bring them tzedaka each week.

“I always wanted to do something to honor their memories,” Mr. Friedman once told me about his parents. I gazed around at his humble apartment, at the worn cuff of his jacket, and asked him what had been puzzling me for months. “How did you save the money to buy an entire Sefer Torah all by yourself?”

Mr. Friedman glanced at the photos of his young, vibrant parents. “I’ve been saving for this Torah my entire life,” he whispered.

It is difficult to properly memorialize the countless Jews murdered in the Holocaust. In one synagogue in Chicago, one family is remembered each week now when a brand-new Torah is lovingly unrolled and read. It took decades of hard work and self-denial. But thanks to one elderly, unassuming survivor, the memory of his parents – and of his wife – has at last come home.

Mr. Friedman could use your prayers for a refuah sheleima. His Hebrew name is Mordechai Aryeh ben Raizel.







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Erev Shabbos Kodesh Shevii and Acharon Shel Pesach Inspiration 5775

As we dance our way into the last days of Pesach, we must wonder what we have accomplished thus far and what we are intending to accomplish in the last days. Matzah, Maror, Freedom, Prayer, Torah Study. We have engaged in a very intensive Yom Tov and now it seems that we can coast, literally, through the Sea and then back into the year. Of course, we count Sefiras HaOmer, which keeps us in tune with the upcoming Holiday of Shavuos, but where will Pesach be in our minds? Will we truly be free? Yes, the true free person is one who studies Torah, but does that only apply to the time period between Pesach and Shavuos, as we prepare for the Receiving of the Torah? How about the rest of the year?

In order to gain a better insight into these days, we can explore the meaning of the Gemara (Brachos 40a) that states that “if you listened in the old, you can listen in the new.” What does this mean? We are familiar with the idea (Tanchumah Yashan Yisro 7) that one should always view words of Torah as if one had received them today, i.e. one should always consider Torah study as a fresh declaration and not as something antiquated and worn-out. What, then, is the significance of the statement that one who hears the old will hear the new?

The Splitting of the Sea, while a miracle in itself, contained two components of listening. One aspect of listening is that the entire world heard of the miracle, and this was one of the catalysts that inspired Yisro to come from afar and join the Jewish People. The second component of listening was that the Medrash (Mechilta Yisro 3) states that the reason why HaShem orchestrated the Splitting of The Sea was so that the Jewish People should cry out to Him again, just as they had done in Egypt, and in this manner they would always remember that only HaShem can save them from their difficulties. Thus, there were those who had heard in the past, i.e. the nations of the world, who, for the most part heard and went back to everyday life. Yisro and the Jewish People, however, heard again, i.e. Yisro was aware of HaShem but now became even more aware of HaShem’s greatness and converted to Judaism because of the miracles that he heard about. Similarly, the Jewish People, against their will, caused HaShem to hear their cries and they were redeemed.

At times we may feel under duress to study Torah, whether it is peer pressure, for ulterior motives such as becoming a rabbi or the like, or for other reasons. When we recall the hearing of Yisro and that HaShem forced the Jewish People to cry out to Him for salvation, we will realize that there is a more preferred manner of “listening” to Hashem’s will, and that is by studying Torah and performing Mitzvos willingly. Although this may sound difficult, the commentators write that Pesach is a time when we repent out of love, so we must pray to HaShem to instill in  us the love for Him and for His Holy Torah and mitzvos. When we experience that love, we are truly “free” in our study of Torah.

HaShem should provide us with the necessary love and willingness to fulfill His will and we should merit the true sign of His love when he brings us Moshiach Tzidkeinu, speedily, in our days.

Have a Great Yom Tov and a Fantastic Shabbos!

Rabbi Adler

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Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim: Shevii and Acharon Shel Pesach 5775

Shevii and Acharon Shel Pesach 5775

New Stories Shevii and Acahron Shel Pesach 5775

Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim Shevii and Acharon Shel Pesach 5775

Shevii Shel Pesach: Beyond the Borders


The first day of the last days of Pesach is referred to as Shevii Shel Pesach, the seventh day of Pesach. Although the festival of Pesach is one long eight-day holiday, the seventh day of Pesach bears its own uniqueness. What is so special about the seventh day of Pesach? Rashi quotes the Medrash that states that the Jewish People were liberated from Egypt on the fifteenth of Nissan, which is the first day of Pesach, and on the twenty-first of Nissan, which was the seventh day of Pesach, the Egyptians drowned in the Red Sea and the Jewish People sang the Shirah to HaShem. On the eve of the fifteenth of Nissan, we celebrate our freedom from Egypt by conducting a Seder, and in the Diaspora, we conduct a Seder on the second night of Pesach. Yet, the Jewish People were not truly free from the clutches of the Egyptians until the seventh day of Pesach, when Pharaoh and his armies were drowned in the Red Sea (There is an opinion in the Medrash, Pirkei D’Rabbi Eliezer §43 that states that Pharaoh himself did not drown). One must wonder, then, why we celebrate our freedom on the fifteenth of Nissan and not on the twenty-first of Nissan, which is the seventh day of Pesach?

Two Plagues within the Borders

I would like to suggest a novel approach to answer this question. It is interesting to note that regarding two of the plagues that HaShem sent against the Egyptians, the Torah uses the word gevul, boundary. Regarding the plague of tzifardeia, frogs, it is said (Shemos 7:27) viim maein atah lishaleiach hinei anochi nogeif es kol givulecha batzfardiim, but if you refuse to send out, behold I shall strike your entire boundary with frogs. It is also said regarding the plague of arbeh, locusts (Ibid 10:4) ki im maein atah lishaleiach es ami hinini maivi machar arbeh bigvulecho, for if you refuse to send forth My people, behold, tomorrow I shall bring a locust-swarm into your border. I have wondered for years why specifically by these two plagues does the Torah use the word gevul, boundary. It is fascinating to note that regarding the prohibition of keeping or eating Chametz, leavened bread, on Pesach, it is said (Ibid 13:7) matzos yeacheil es shivas hayamim vilo yeiraeh lecho seor bichol givulecha, matzos shall be eaten throughout the seven-day period; no chametz may be seen in your possession, nor may leaven be seen in your possession in all your borders. Thus, we see that a recurring theme of the redemption is the idea of borders and boundaries. What is the association of borders with chametz?

Walking into the Sea was Transcending Limitations

We have previously mentioned that Rabbi Ephraim Wachsman, Shlita said that Pesach is all about rising above our limitations. Based on this premise, we can understand why the Torah states that one should not find seor in all your borders. Chametz symbolizes stagnation, i.e. one who remains within his limitations. The Torah prohibits one to remain within his borders on Pesach. The plagues of frogs and locusts represented a swarm, which in essence were a symbol of transcending limitations. These two plagues were specific lessons for the Jewish People, which culminated with the prohibition of seor within their borders. Let us now turn to Shevii Shel Pesach, when the Jewish People experienced true freedom from their Egyptian masters. The Medrash (Mechilta Yisro 3) states that the reason why HaShem orchestrated the Splitting of The Sea was so that the Jewish People should cry out to Him again, just as they had done in Egypt, and in this manner they would always remember that only HaShem can save them from their difficulties. Perhaps there is an additional dimension to the Splitting of the Sea. We are taught (Tosfos Arachin 15a s.v. kisheim) that in essence there was no real need for the Jewish People to cross the Red Sea. Rather, HaShem sought to punish the Egyptians so He had the Jewish People walk through dry land and then He drowned the Egyptians. The Medrash (Mechilta Bashalach) states that the Jewish People felt trapped, as on one side were the pursuing Egyptians and on the other side they were faced by the raging sea. Based on the explanation we gave earlier, we can now better understand why the Jewish People were placed in such a predicament. The Jewish People were presented with a situation where the only option was to transcend their limitations. This was accomplished by Nachshon ben Aminadav from the tribe of Yehudah walking straight into the raging sea, and by the Jewish People praying to HaShem, their only salvation. Thus, while we only attained true freedom on the seventh day of Pesach, the concept of transcending our limitations was already incorporated during the plagues and with the prohibition of not eating any chametz or seor for the entire seven days of Pesach.

Transcending Limitations is the Genesis of Liberation

With this idea in mind we can understand a peculiar statement in the Gemara. The Gemara (Rosh HaShanah 11a) states that the enslavement of the Jewish People ceased in the month of Tishrei. One must wonder, then, what the Jewish People were doing for a half a year while the Egyptians were being afflicted with plagues. I believe the answer to this question is a profound lesson in our service of HaShem. Even if one has not yet experienced true liberation from a difficult situation that he finds himself in, he must know that by merely attempting to transcend his limitations, he is already deemed to be a free person.

The Shabbos Connection

The Baal HaTurim (Shemos 10:14) quotes the Zohar that states that the locust rested on Shabbos. Perhaps this teaches us that when one expends the effort during the week to transcend his limitations and achieve his true potential, he will be rewarded with the true rest that is reflected in the Holy Day of Shabbos. HaShem should grant us this Shevii Shel Pesach that we move past anything that is inhibiting us from serving Him properly, and we should merit the Ultimate Redemption, with the downfall of all our enemies, speedily, on our days.

Shabbos in the Zemiros

Gott fun Avraham

Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev, who lived from 1740-1809, recommended that this prayer be recited by men, women and children three times and that the recitation would help ensure success in the upcoming week.

אוּן אַז דִי וָואךְ אוּן דֶער חוֹדֶשׁ אוּן דֶער יָאר זָאל אוּנְז קוּמֶען צוּ גֶעזוּנְד אוּן צוּ מַזָּל אוּן צוּ בְּרָכָה וְהַצְלָחָה. אוּן צוּ חֶסֶד, may this week and this month and this year arrive for good health, and for good fortune, and for blessing, and for success and for kindness. We often wish people ברכה והצלחה, blessing and success. What does it mean to wish someone blessing and success? We can understand that one person proffers on his friend a blessing for success, or a blessing to earn a livelihood, get married, bear children or the like. How can someone bless someone with “a blessing?” in truth, however, we find that the Hashem Himself bestowed this blessing upon Avraham, as it is said (Bereishis 12:2) וֶהְיֵה בְּרָכָה, and you shall be a blessing. Rashi writes that HaShem was telling Avraham that until now, the blessings were in My hands, whereas from now, you, Avraham, will determine who shall receive a blessing. This interpretation obviously requires an explanation, because ultimately HaShem will decide who should bel blessed, and it is not in the hands of a human being to actually bless someone. We can suggest, based on the words of the Sfas Emes that the word ברכה is similar to the word מרכב, which means to graft. Thus, HaShem was informing Avraham that where until now only Hashem was involved in blessings, now Avraham, and all righteous Jews to follow, would be intertwined in the blessing process. Similarly, when we declare that the week should be a blessing, we are beseeching HaShem that we be incorporated into the process of blessing, i.e. we be beneficiaries of all of HaShem’s blessings.

Shabbos Stories

With Passover come and gone, thoughts of liberation and Jewish survival linger in the hearts and minds of many. Linked inextricably with these thoughts is the image of the Jewish woman, who has always been an agent of continuity and vision for her people. From the enslavement in Egypt through life in the desert and beyond, a beam of feminine light pierces the darkest moments in Jewish history, pointing towards a better future. This week, Women in Judaism shares the story of one Jewish woman who refuses to give in to what another might consider impending doom. Lady Amelie Jacobovits is the widow of the late Rav Lord Immanuel Jacobovits, Chief Rabbi Emeritus of the British Commonwealth. Her Passover story of Holocaust survival demonstrates how the powerful life force of a Jewish woman connects our past, present and future.


By Lady Amelie Jacobovits

(Adapted from The Jewish Women’s Journal, Summer 1993)

“Occasionally, one memory escapes from the vault that holds the terror of those years. One Passover, my three-year old grandchild looked up at me from his chair at the Seder table. I don’t even know what he said, because the rush of Passover 1941 blocked everything else. I was a young girl hidden in a dark cellar in central France. I was without other family – alone with four other children, all of us strangers. Today and in recent years, as I celebrate Passover surrounded by the comforts and luxury of our London flat and the security of more than a dozen relatives and friends, I realize that for all of their splendor, these holidays cannot compare in my heart to that unique event 62 years ago. 1941 was the most extraordinary Passover of my life. But before I describe it, let me explain how I got to that cellar. I was born in the years preceding World War II and lived content and well loved by my family in Nurnberg. By 1933, however, my world was getting darker till, one day, Nazi storm troopers marched into Nurnberg ordering that all major buildings must fly the swastika flag by evening. In 1936, my parents took us to Paris, as my father had been appointed rabbi of the prominent Rue Cadet synagogue. Within a few years, as the political situation deteriorated, my father was conscripted into the army and had to leave us. In 1940, when the Nazis began bombing Paris, my mother fled with us – her four children – on the last train before the main onslaught. It was the eve of the Jewish holiday of Shavuot. The mass of people on that train – a tornado of humanity – repeatedly wrenched us from one another. Months later, on another leg of our desperate journey I lost track of my family altogether and began to wander from village to village. Lone children all over were doing the same. One night just before dawn I could go no further. I knocked on the farmhouse door of what turned out to be a kind, courageous gentile farmer. He took me to his cellar where I found another little girl. Eventually two boys and another girl joined us. None of us admitted we were Jewish for several days. It was a dire winter. Each morning, a few rays of light would poke their way into the cellar through two windows high on the wall – our only eyes to the world outside. The farmer had lowered us into the cellar through those windows and every day through one of them he lowered a net with five morsels of food and a bucket for our natural needs. Strange as it sounds, we were very lucky. In that difficult winter, five homeless children developed values so different from those today – as well as a bond of lifelong friendship. One day, peering from the cellar up through the windows one of us noticed a streak of sunlight in blue sky. A few days later, another saw blades of grass penetrating the frozen terrain. We had no calendar or sense of time, but we concluded that, if the weather was indeed changing with spring on its way, maybe we were nearing Passover. Each of us children came from a different range of Jewish commitment, yet we shared a strong desire to do something to celebrate what we sensed was the upcoming Passover holiday. When the farmer appeared with our food the next morning, we asked if he would lower in tomorrow’s basket a small amount of flour, a bottle of water, a newspaper and a match. Two days later we received a small bottle of water, but we had to wait several days for the flour. The entire region was drained of provisions, with everything being transported north to Germany. Our host the farmer had himself barely anything to eat. A day later, a newspaper came through – and then a match. We waited a few more days. We saw a full day of sunshine and blue skies, and we decided that, in order to cultivate a festive spirit, we would switch clothing with one another and wear them as if new. So we changed clothes; the two boys trading and the girls exchanging dresses. Before evening we baked our matzah, though we hadn’t a clue how to do so. We poured water into the flour and held the dough in our bare hands over the burning newspaper on the floor. We produced something which resembled matzah and, whatever it was provided enough for the five of us. That night we celebrated Passover. One of us recalled by heart the Kiddush – the blessing that sanctifies the Passover night. Another remembered the Four Questions – the part of the Seder the young children recite. We told a few stories of the Exodus that we remembered having heard from our parents. Finally, we managed to reconstruct “One Kid, Which my Father Bought for Two Zuzim,” the song which typically ends the evening. We had a Passover to remember. With no festive food, no silver candlesticks and no wine – with only our simple desire to connect with G-d – we had a holiday more profound than any we have known since. I thank G-d for allowing me to live to be able to tell my children and grandchildren about it. Even more, I feel obligated to the younger generations of my family, who never experienced what I did, to pass on the clarity it gave me – the vivid appreciation of G-d’s presence in my life, of His constant blessings, wonders and teachings…and of His commitment to the survival of the Jewish people.

[Women in Judaism, Copyright (c) 2002 by Mrs. Leah Kohn and Project Genesis, Inc.] (

Shabbos in Halacha

לישה – Kneading

  1. The Kneading Process

 A. The twos steps of the Kneading Process

When food particles are combined with liquid, some of the particles will often bond instantaneously, even prior to the manual kneading of the ingredients. This bonding is the first step in the kneading process. The second step is the process of the actual kneading (mixing or stirring), which fully blends together the ingredients.

Each step in the process is, by itself, a forbidden act. Therefore, one is prohibited from even pouring a liquid into food particles or adding food particles to a liquid, as doing so will cause the particles to commence bonding. Furthermore, even after one adds the ingredients, one is prohibited to stir the mixture as this will further blend the ingredients.

For example, when one prepares baby cereal, the cereal begins to bond as soon as milk is added; nevertheless, the cereal still requires stirring. Thus, pouring the milk into the cereal and stirring the cereal are each deemed to be acts of kneading.

However, this holds true only if one uses a liquid to bind the particles. With a coagulated substance, i.e. mayonnaise, the particles do not bond at all until stirred. Therefore, when such a substance is used as a binder, only the actual stirring falls under the prohibition of kneading.

Shabbos Ta’am HaChaim: Shevii and Acharon Shel Pesach 5775

Sponsorships $180.00

Have a Wonderful Shabbos and a Chag Kosher Visameach!

Prepared by Rabbi Binyomin Adler

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New Stories Shevii and Acharon Shel Pesach 5775

Matzah and Maror – Worthy Mechutanim

As much as we are told that Purim is a Yom Tov of opposites – “ve- nahapoch hu,” the Pesach Seder has more than its own share of opposites. It can be confusing: Are we commemorating our freedom and the Exodus from Egypt and slavery, or are we remembering the bitterness of our years as slaves under the cruel rule of the Pharaohs of Egypt. We recline, to demonstrate we are free. Yet we dip our food in salt-water to remind ourselves of the tears of our slavery. We drink the “Arba Kosos – four cups” of wine, which represent the “four languages of redemption,” but we eat charoses to commemorate the mortar bricks we were forced to make. Maror reminds us of the bitter times we spent in Egypt, yet we recline to demonstrate our liberty.

The explanation, however, is obvious. As our Sages put it, “Light is only fully recognized when emerging from darkness.” One can only appreciate the importance of freedom after he fully understands what slavery entails. To truly praise Hashem for taking us out of Egypt, we must first learn about slavery, and even perform physical symbols to bring home to us how bitter it actually was.

Matzah and maror can also be seen as “opposites,” as the following story illustrates.

One Seder night, the holy Rebbe R’ Yissachar Dov of Belz was walking through the alleyways of his town Belz. As he passed by the house of a simple yet G-d-fearing Jew, he stopped by the window to listen in on his Seder. He overheard the Jew saying the section of the Haggadah which establishes the correct time to remember the Exodus:

“One might think that the obligation to discuss the Exodus commences with the first day of the month of Nissan… therefore the Torah adds (Shemos 13:8), ‘It is because of this that Hashem did so for me when I went out of Egypt,” [the pronoun this implies something tangible, leading us to conclude that] I have commanded you [to discuss the Exodus] only when matzah and maror are lying before you [at the Seder].”

The simple Jew, it seems, was not very learned. Instead of saying, “I have commanded you only when matzah and maror lie (munachim) before you,” he said, “I have commanded you only when matzah and maror are mechutanim (i.e. relatives through marriage) before you.” It was all his disciples could do not to break out laughing. Yet to their surprise, R’ Yissachar Dov took his blunder quite seriously. After pondering the simple Jew’s words for a moment, he remarked, “Indeed, matzah and maror are mechutanim!” Seeing his disciples’ amazement, he related the following story.

Reb Zelig was a rich and important Jew who’s daughter’s time had come to marry. Her father searched far and wide for a young man worthy to take his daughter’s hand in marriage, yet it seemed that every boy he met just didn’t suit the bill.

One day, while travelling on business, he came across a young man sitting and learning in beis hamidrash. At first, R’ Zelig was put off by the boy’s shoddy clothes and impoverished appearance. The more they spoke, however, the more impressed he became. “This young man is a diamond in the rough,” he thought to himself. R’ Zelig wasted no time, and immediately arranged a shidduch, with a date for the wedding to be arranged later.

So excited was R’ Zelig by his chassan that he began to become paranoid lest someone else “discover” him and steal from him his catch. He sent an urgent telegram to the young chassan. “Come right away,” it said, “the wedding must take place immediately! Do not worry about clothing or wedding expenses, I will take care of everything.”

Alarmed, the chassan promptly gathered his meagre possessions, and travelled to the city of the kallah. When he arrived, he was whisked off to the tailor to have a new suit made for the chassunah. The tailor was instructed to save the chassan’s old torn suit for the father of the kallah, who was footing the bill. Then, not even taking the time to prepare a lavish wedding banquet, as would normally befit a man such as R’ Zelig, a hasty chassunah took place.

In later years, when R’ Zelig’s son-in-law disagreed with him, or refused to take his advice, R’ Zelig would go to his closet and remove the old, tattered clothing his son-in-law had worn before marrying his daughter. “You forget,” he would say, “that I’m the one who made you what you are today. Look at your regal clothing – this is what you used to wear!”

Not to be outdone, R’ Zelig’s son-in-law had his own trick up his sleeve. He had put aside a stale piece of bread from the hastily prepared leftovers which had been served at his chassunah meal, saving it for just such an occasion. Taking it out, he would say, “Ah, but you too forget just how anxious you were to have me as your son-in-law. Why, you didn’t even take the time to prepare a normal meal – you just couldn’t wait!”

“So, you see,” said the Belzer Rebbe, “they were mechutanim worthy of one another.”

“The same discussion,” concluded the Rebbe, “takes place between the Jewish nation and Hashem on the Seder night. Hashem, so to speak, takes out the maror, showing it to us. ‘You see,’ He tells us, ‘this is how bitter your lives were before I took you out of Mitzrayim. Without Me, you would still be there!’ But, not to be had, we too have what to say. We take out the unleavened matzos before Hashem, as if to say to him, ‘Ah, but remember the rush You were in to have us as your nation. Why, you couldn’t even wait until our bread had time to bake!’ Indeed, matzah and maror are the finest of mechutanim.” (

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Pesach Insights 5775

The first question that we need to ask ourselves before we ask the questions at the Seder is, why are we still in exile? The commentators throughout the ages have offered various answers to this question. The answers range from the fact that the Jewish People are required to observe one or two Shabbasos to merit the redemption, eliminating strife and discord amongst Jews, people taking false oaths, desecration of HaShem’s Name, overindulgence in materialism, and more. While all these explanations serve a purpose to explain why we still wallow in the exile, what is needed is an awakening to the fact that we are still in exile and we need to take action that will arouse HaShem’s mercy to redeem us. Looking at the Egyptian exile, we see that HaShem only redeemed the Jewish People once they cried out to Him. It is said (Shemos 2:23) וַתַּעַל שַׁוְעָתָם אֶל הָאֱ-לֹהִים מִן הָעֲבֹדָה, their outcry because of the work went up to G-d. The Ohr HaChaim notes that the verse does not state that the Jews cried to HaShem to save them. Rather, they cried out from the pain of their bondage, and it is those cries that HaShem heard. Let us cry out to HaShem from our pain of being in exile, and HaShem should hear our cries and redeem us speedily, in our days.

One must wonder why it is necessary to eat Matzah and Marror by the Seder. True, the Torah commands us to eat these foods on Pesach, but if they are primarily a reflection of the slavery and liberation from Egypt, would it not be sufficient to talk about them. In fact, in the Hagadah we recite the words רַבָּן גַּמְלִיאֵל הָיָה אוֹמֵר: כָּל שֶׁלֹּא אָמַר שְׁלשָׁה דְּבָרִים אֵלּוּ בַּפֶּסַח, לֹא יָצָא יְדֵי חוֹבָתוֹ, וְאֵלוּ הֵן: פֶּסַח, מַצָה וּמָרוֹר, Rabban Gamliel would say: whoever does not recite these three things on Pesach has not fulfilled his obligation, and these are the three things: Pesach, Matzah and Marror. The answer to this question can be found in the words of the Mirrer Mashgiach, Reb Yeruchem Levovitz zt”l. From the Torah it appears that the reason why we wear Tefillin and Tzitzis is because through these mitzvos we commemorate the Exodus from Egypt. Reb Yeruchem, however, suggests that the rationale is diametrically the opposite. HaShem took us out of Egypt so that we can perform the mitzvos of Tefillin and Tzitzis. In light of this explanation we can better understand why we eat Matzah and Marror on Pesach. HaShem took us out of Egypt so that we should merit the mitzvah of eating Pesach, Matzah and Marror.

With this explanation we can better understand the words of Rabban Gamliel previously cited. Rabban Gamliel did not say that one is required to say the words Pesach, Matzah and Marror. Rather, he said that one who does not recite these three words has not fulfilled his obligation. The words for “has not fulfilled his obligation” are לֹא יָצָא יְדֵי חוֹבָתוֹ. The word יָצָא is literally translated to mean “go out,” and here we can understand it to be alluding to the idea of going out from Egypt. Thus, by reciting these words one becomes cognizant that HaShem took us out from Egypt so that we can perform the mitzvos of Pesach, Matzah and Marror.

In the Hagadah we recite the words רַבָּן גַּמְלִיאֵל הָיָה אוֹמֵר: כָּל שֶׁלֹּא אָמַר שְׁלשָׁה דְּבָרִים אֵלּוּ בַּפֶּסַח, לֹא יָצָא יְדֵי חוֹבָתוֹ, וְאֵלוּ הֵן: פֶּסַח, מַצָה וּמָרוֹר, Rabban Gamliel would say: whoever does not recite these three things on Pesach has not fulfilled his obligation, and these are the three things: Pesach, Matzah and Marror. One must wonder what the significance is in reciting these three things. Does the fact that one says Pesach, Matzah and Marror add to the splendor and awe of the Seder night? There are two answers to this question. One explanation is that there is a rule that הדיבור פועל הרבה בקדושה, words have a great effect regarding matters of holiness. Thus, by merely reciting these words we are connected to the source of these mitzvos. Additionally, Rashi (Devarim 27:17) writes that the word אמר, literally translated as “saying,” also connotes to praise and glorify. Thus, here in the Haggadah we are not just reciting words for the sake of recital. Rather, through these words we come to praise HaShem, as we continue to elaborate on the themes of Pesach, Matzah and Marror.

In the recital of the mah nishtana we ask questions that focus on the eating by the Seder, such as the eating of matzah and Marror, the dipping of the various foods and reclining while we eat. Why is there so much of a focus on food?

Perhaps the answer to this question is that the Mishna (Avos 3:3) states רַבִּי שִׁמְעוֹן אוֹמֵר, שְׁלשָׁה שֶׁאָכְלוּ עַל שֻׁלְחָן אֶחָד וְלֹא אָמְרוּ עָלָיו דִּבְרֵי תוֹרָה, כְּאִלּוּ אָכְלוּ מִזִּבְחֵי מֵתִים, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (ישעיה כח), כִּי כָּל שֻׁלְחָנוֹת מְלְאוּ קִיא צֹאָה בְּלִי מָקוֹם. אֲבָל שְׁלשָׁה שֶׁאָכְלוּ עַל שֻׁלְחָן אֶחָד וְאָמְרוּ עָלָיו דִּבְרֵי תוֹרָה, כְאִלּוּ אָכְלוּ מִשֻּׁלְחָנוֹ שֶׁל מָקוֹם בָּרוּךְ הוּא, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (יחזקאל מא), וַיְדַבֵּר אֵלַי זֶה הַשֻּׁלְחָן אֲשֶׁר לִפְנֵי ה, Rabbi Shimon would say: Three who eat at one table and do not speak words of Torah, it is as if they have eaten of idolatrous sacrifices; as is stated, “Indeed, all tables are filled with vomit and filth, devoid of the Omnipresent” (Yeshaya 28:8). But three who eat at one table and speak words of Torah, it is as if they have eaten at G-d’s table, as is stated, “And he said to me: This is the table that is before G-d” (Yechezkel 41:22).

We commence the Seder with a Torah discussion regarding food to demonstrate that we have forsaken the idols of the Egyptians and HaShem has brought us close to Him and His Holy Torah. This idea is reflected in the statement further on in the Hagadah where we recite the words מִתְּחִלָּה עוֹבְדֵי עֲבוֹדָה זָרָה הָיוּ אֲבוֹתֵינוּ, וְעַכְשָׁיו קֵרְבָנוּ הַמָּקוֹם לַעֲבֹדָתוֹ, initially our forefathers worshiped idols and now HaShem brought us close to His service.

In the Hagadah we recite the words רַבָּן גַּמְלִיאֵל הָיָה אוֹמֵר: כָּל שֶׁלֹּא אָמַר שְׁלשָׁה דְּבָרִים אֵלּוּ בַּפֶּסַח, לֹא יָצָא יְדֵי חוֹבָתוֹ, וְאֵלוּ הֵן: פֶּסַח, מַצָה וּמָרוֹר, Rabban Gamliel would say: whoever does not recite these three things on Pesach has not fulfilled his obligation, and these are the three things: Pesach, Matzah and Marror. We can suggest that Pesach corresponds to Avraham, as the three angels visited Avraham on Pesach and HaShem informed Avraham that on the night of Pesach He would redeem the Jewish People (there are more connections between Avraham and Pesach which are enumerated in the song וַיְהִי בַּחֲצִי הַלַּיְלָה). Matzah corresponds to Yitzchak, as the commentators write that the word מַצָּה can mean strife and discord, and one primary incident in the life of Yitzchak was the disagreement with Avimelech and the Plishtim regarding the wells. Marror, the bitter herbs that we eat by the Seder, corresponds to Yaakov, who suffered greatly from his brother Esav, his father-in-law Lavan, the disappearance of his favorite son Yosef, and other troubles that befell him and are enumerated in the Medrash.

One of the central themes discussed in the Haggadah is the ברית בין הבתרים, the Pact of Parts. The Gemara (Nedarim 32a) states that it is said (Bereishis 15:8) וַיֹּאמַר אֲדֹנָי יֱ-ה-וִ-ה בַּמָּה אֵדַע כִּי אִירָשֶׁנָּה, he said, “My Lord, HaShem/Elokim, whereby shall I know that I am to inherit it?” Avraham questioned HaShem regarding his worthiness to inherit the Land, so HaShem responded to Avraham (Ibid verse 13) that his descendants would be strangers in a land not their own and they would serve them and they will oppress them for four hundred years. This exchange appears difficult, however, as Avraham was the quintessential מאמין, believer in HaShem, so how could it be that he questioned HaShem regarding inheriting the Land?
In order to answer this question we are required to understand the life of Avraham. Once Avraham chose to believe that HaShem was the creator of the world, HaShem sent him on a mission, accompanied by a series of tests that Avraham was required to pass. Avraham was to undergo ten tests and upon passing them, he would be worthy of HaShem’s blessing and providence. When HaShem brought Avraham to Eretz Yisroel to partake in the Pact of the Parts, He informed Avraham that he would have a child and Avraham did not question HaShem regarding this good news. The reason Avraham did not question HaShem is because Avraham had already undergone the suffering of not having a child, so he knew that he had passed the test (an explanation is required as to why not having a son is not listed by the commentators on Avos 5:3 as one of the ten tests).

Regarding inheriting Eretz Yisroel, however, Avraham wondered what suffering was required in order to inherit the Land. HaShem therefore informed Avraham that in order to inherit Eretz Yisroel, the Jewish People would have to be enslaved and afflicted for four hundred years in Egypt. Thus, the knowledge that his descendants would undergo an exile was not necessarily a punishment for Avraham’s question. Rather, HaShem was responding to his justified question, as everything in this world requires some form of suffering in order to achieve results. This idea is actually reflected in the words of Rashi further on where it is said (Bereishis 36:6) וַיִּקַּח עֵשָׂו אֶת נָשָׁיו וְאֶת בָּנָיו וְאֶת בְּנֹתָיו וְאֶת כָּל נַפְשׁוֹת בֵּיתוֹ וְאֶת מִקְנֵהוּ וְאֶת כָּל בְּהֶמְתּוֹ וְאֵת כָּל קִנְיָנוֹ אֲשֶׁר רָכַשׁ בְּאֶרֶץ כְּנָעַן וַיֵּלֶךְ אֶל אֶרֶץ מִפְּנֵי יַעֲקֹב אָחִיו, Esav took his wives, his sons, his daughters, and all the members of his household, and his livestock and all his animals, and all the wealth he had acquired in the land of Canaan and went to a land because of his brother Yaakov, Rashi writes that the reason Esav left was because he knew that in order to inherit Eretz Yisroel, he would have to pay up the debt of the Egyptian exile, and he was unwilling to do this.

This statement indicates that the Egyptian exile was the prerequisite of inheriting Eretz Yisroel and not merely a punishment for Avraham questioning HaShem about his worthiness to inherit the Land. (While the Gemara uses the word “punishment,” we know that HaShem does everything for the good, so we are explaining the Gemara along those lines). Avraham certainly was not lacking faith in HaShem that he would give his descendants the Land. Rather, Avraham wanted to know the exact methodology that HaShem would employ to give them the Land, and HaShem explained clearly to Avraham how this would be manifest.

Have a Good Shabbos and a Chag Kosher Visameach.

Rabbi Binyomin Adler

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