Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim Pesach 5775

Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim Pesach 5775

What Did Haman Care About Shabbos And Pesach?


The Gemara (Megillah 13b) states that Haman complained to Achashveirosh that the Jews are always claiming that, “it is Shabbos today, it’s Pesach today.” The commentators write that Haman was saying that the Jews are always involved in Shabbos and Pesach preparations. What is it about these preparations that even the archenemy of the Jewish People would find it noteworthy to mention to the king?

Chametz and the Pit

The Gemara (Pesachim 6b) states that two things, while not belonging to a person, are deemed to be in his domain, so that he is liable for them, and that is chametz on Pesach and a pit in the public domain. Is there a connection between chametz and a pit?

Yosef Makes Note of the Pit

When Yosef was beseeching the butler to remember him before Pharaoh, he said (Bereishis 40:15) כִּי גֻנֹּב גֻּנַּבְתִּי מֵאֶרֶץ הָעִבְרִים וְגַם פֹּה לֹא עָשִׂיתִי מְאוּמָה כִּי שָׂמוּ אֹתִי בַּבּוֹר, for indeed I was kidnapped from the land of the Hebrews, and even here I have done nothing for them to have put me in the dungeon. Why did Yosef have to mention that he was placed in a pit? Could he have not sufficed to say that he was placed in a משמר, in a jail?

Yosef’s Pit was a Microcosm of the Egyptian Exile

We know that every word in the Torah contains multiple meanings and allusions to other events. Here, too, the word בַּבּוֹר alludes to the Egyptian exile, as the word בַּבּוֹר equals in gematria 210, the years that the Jewish People sojourned and were enslaved in Egypt. Essentially, Yosef was telling the butler that on the surface there was no rationale for the Jewish people to be enslaved to the Egyptians for 210 years. Nonetheless, Yosef was making the effort to be released from jail, even if his sentence was not yet complete. Yosef felt that he represented the Jewish People, and if he was able to effect his own release, this would be a sign that his descendants would also exit prematurely. The Gemara (Rosh HaShanah 11a) states that Yosef was released from jail on Rosh HaShanah, and the Jewish People ceased to be enslaved to the Egyptians in the month of Tishrei. Furthermore, the Exodus was predicated on taking Yosef’s bones out of Egypt, and the Medrash (Tanchumah Vayeishev §9) states that the Sea split in the merit of Yosef.

The Mound of Dirt and the Ditch

Let us return to the connection between chametz and the pit. The Torah instructs us to remove all chametz from our possession prior to Pesach, and to do so one must prepare by cleaning and searching for any hidden chametz. This is similar to a pit in a public domain, where one must be cognizant where he is walking so that he doesn’t fall into the pit. The Gemara (Megillah 14a) likens Achashveirosh and Haman to a תל, a mound of dirt, and a חריץ, a ditch. Achashveirosh had “the Jewish Problem,” which was the mound of dirt, and Haman had the solution, which was the ditch, i.e. the Final Solution to annihilate the Jewish People. It is noteworthy that the word תל equals in gematria 430, the years that spanned from HaShem foretelling Avraham at the Pact of the Parts that his descendants would be slaves until the Redemption. The word חריץ contains the letters ר”י, which equal in gematria 210, and the letters ח”ץ, which equals 98, the amount of curses that the Jewish People heard in Parashas Ki Savo. Achashveirosh was trying to effect the demise of the Jewish People who had survived the 430 years of being strangers in a foreign land and slavery, and Haman was attempting to do away with the 210 years of exile and the 98 curses that the Jewish people suffered in exile. We, however, know that the exile is merely a preparation for the Ultimate Redemption. Haman argued to Achashveirosh that the Jewish People are always involved in preparations for Shabbos and Pesach, and both Shabbos ad Pesach are symbols of redemption for the Jewish People. Shabbos is a liberation form the shackles of the week and the foreign influences in our lives. Pesach, as we know well, is the symbol of the Ultimate Redemption.

The Shabbos Connection

This year we have the fortune of the first day of Pesach falling on Shabbos. There is no better way to negate the diabolical schemes of Haman and his ilk than by properly preparing for Shabbos and Pesach, and HaShem will surely see our efforts to serve Him in holiness and purity. May it be HaShem’s will that this year we merit to offer the Korban Pesach in the Third Bais HaMikdash, 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.

אוּן נָאר דִיךְ צוּ דִינֶען אוּן קֵיין אַנְדֶערִין חָלִילָה נִישְׁט, and to serve only You and no other. We ask HaShem for the strength to serve Him. This strength that we request is not merely for spiritual matters. The Torah states (Devarim 8:18) וְזָכַרְתָּ אֶת יְה-וָ-ה אֱלֹהֶיךָ כִּי הוּא הַנֹּתֵן לְךָ כֹּחַ לַעֲשׂוֹת חָיִל, then you shall remember HaShem, your G-d; that it was He Who gives you strength to make wealth.  Thus, we see that HaShem also provides us with the strength to be successful in materialistic matters. All we have to do is remember where our strength comes from to accomplish all of our goals and then HaShem will surely grant us success in all of our endeavors.

Shabbos Stories

Borrow a Father

R’ Elazar, the son of the illustrious Rebbe R’ Elimelech of Lizensk zt”l once spent Shabbos at the court of the famous Rebbe R’ Pinchas of Koritz zt”l. After davening (prayers), as is the custom in Chassidic courts, R’ Pinchas held a Tisch (a communal Shabbos meal led by the Rebbe). Being the son of a great tzaddik (righteous person), R’ Elazar was given a seat next to the Rebbe. At one point, R’ Elazar, caught up in his own holy thoughts, sighed to himself, “Oy – Tatte,” (O Father – a reference to G-d). R’ Pinchas, who was renowned for his cutting truthfulness and abhorrence of lip-service, overheard his krectz (sigh). He turned to him and whispered, “Who says?” [i.e. who says that you in fact are so close to Hashem as to refer to Him as your Father?]

R’ Elazar was crushed. What hurt him the most, he reckoned, was that R’ Pinchas was absolutely right! Was he really so close to Hashem? Was his whole avodah (service of G-d) no more than lip-service?

He returned home dejected. His father, R’ Elimelech, noticed right away that something was amiss. He asked his son, and R’ Elazar told him what had happened, and how broken-hearted he felt. “What?!” R’ Elimelech exclaimed. “And if one doesn’t have a Father – must he remain an orphan? The pasuk says: ‘Sh’al Avicha – You have to borrow a Father!’ [This is a play-on-words of the passage (Devarim 32:7) which reads, “Sh’al avicha ve- yagedcha, Ask your father, he will tell you.” The word sh’al, to ask, can also mean to borrow.] Sometimes, when we feel very far away, we have to take Hashem as our Father – on loan.” (

Shabbos in Halacha

לישה – Kneading

  1. The Melacha of Kneading


Any method of binding together small food particles is prohibited. This is prohibited whether the mixture is firm (like dough) or slightly fluid (like thick batter), and whether one uses a liquid, i.e. water or a thick coagulated substance, i.e. mayonnaise to bind the particles.

The melacha applies only with small particles, which will be perceived as one large mass after being mixed. Sizable chunks of food, which remain clearly distinct even when stuck together, are not subject to the melacha of kneading.

Shabbos Ta’am HaChaim Pesach 5775

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New Stories Pesach 5775

Passover in Hell

My grandfather’s Passover Seder, hiding from Nazis in the Krakow Ghetto.

by Yakov Brachfeld     

A raging fire burned through Europe through the years 1939 – 1945, destroying European Jewry. Mendel and Moshe Brachfeld – my great uncle and grandfather – were two brothers who walked through the fires of the Holocaust together. After the rest of their family was killed by the Nazis they made a pact that they will stay together any cost. They survived together, grew together and were welded together. These two brothers outsmarted the Nazi machine by staying alive, staying sane, and sticking together, staying strong in their mitzvah observance. They survived the war and rebuilt their lives, raising generations of committed Jews, and today are buried next to each other on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem.

Many survivors were never able to speak about the horrors that they witnessed. My grandfather would never speak of the killing and torture but he would recount as often as he could tales of spiritual growth in the most harrowing of situations. How he and his older brother, with great sacrifice, managed to put on tefillin almost every day in that hell. How they smuggled tefillin from camp to camp, how at one point 500 Jews would line up every morning to put on their tefillin. How they broke open a jail cell and over 100 people were able to escape. How they found a mikva before Yom Kipper and how they survived on only potatoes one Passover. Many stories, all with the same theme – not of horror but of heroism.

There is one story that was repeated every year at the Passover Seder – when my grandfather and his brother celebrated Passover in the Krakow ghetto in 1943.

On the Run in Krakow

During World War II, the Nazis established more than 400 ghettos in order to isolate Jews from the non-Jewish population and from neighboring Jewish communities. The Germans regarded the establishment of ghettos as a provisional measure to control and segregate Jews. The assumption behind this separation was to stop the Jews, viewed by the Nazis as an inferior race, from mixing with and thus degrading the superior Aryan race.

Nazi high officials also believed that the Jews would succumb to the unfavorable living conditions of the ghetto, including lack of food, water, and living space. Furthermore, the ghettos served as round-up centers that made it more convenient to exterminate large numbers of the Jewish population later. The Brachfeld brothers were living in in the Krakow Ghetto, one of the bigger ghettos in Poland1 which was established in March 1941. In March 1943, five weeks before Passover, the Germans liquidated the ghetto either killing or removing all remaining Jews. The great city of Krakow – a city that had been home to Jews for 700 years – was officially declared Judenrein – clean of Jews.

The two brothers decided to go into hiding.

The two brothers understood that listening to the Germans surely would lead to their deaths. They decided to go into hiding. In the five weeks leading up to Passover they were caught along with 100 other Jews, and managed to break out of jail. They were running from attic to attic, trying desperately to stay alive and working on getting papers that they could use to escape.

With Passover approaching, the two brothers wanted to find a way to eat matzah on the first night of Yom Tov. It took a lot of inventiveness and sacrifice – getting caught meant getting shot – but they found some flour and built themselves a makeshift oven2. They found a blech and some highly flammable paint. They set the paint on fire and were able to kasher the blech – and they had a kosher for Passover oven. They baked a few small maztahs for the Seder. (How the smell of burning paint was not detected by the Germans can either be a miracle or perhaps the stench of dead corpuses in the ghetto was so overwhelming that the smell of burning paint was insignificant.)

23 Jozefonsky St. The building where the Seder was held

The night of Passover came and they sat down to their makeshift Seder, celebrating the Jewish exodus from Egypt in a hidden attic on Jozefonsky Street in the Krakow ghetto. In years past they had sat at a beautiful set table with the finest silver and surrounded by family. Tonight they sat down in a dark attic, all alone in the world, running from the Nazis, their very lives in danger, with a bit of matzah for which they sacrificed their lives. Marror was not needed; they had enough of that in their lives.

What Freedom?

My grandfather, then 21 years old, said to his older brother, “There is no way I can have a Seder tonight. The Seder is to celebrate our freedom, our going out of exile, yet here we sit, our lives in danger, our family is all gone, our parents, sister and her kids were all killed, the entire city is up in flames. The Nazis, with their wild dogs searching for us, won’t be happy until every Jew is dead. Isn’t this worse than the lives the Jews had in Egypt? What kind of freedom are we celebrating tonight?”3

What kind of freedom are we celebrating tonight?

His brother answered, “Every night in the evening prayers we praise God for taking us out of Egypt to an ‘everlasting freedom’. The everlasting freedom that we gained and are thankful for isn’t a physical freedom – that is only a byproduct of what we got that night. Rather it’s the spiritual freedom that we recognize. Passover celebrates the birth of a nation, when we went from being Egyptian slaves to becoming a newly born Jewish nation – a nation that God could call his own. When we sit down at the Seder we celebrate something bigger than life, a going out of slavery into the embracing hands of our Father in heaven, becoming a Godly nation. This is something that no one can ever take away from us. No matter how much they beat, torture and kill our physical bodies, our souls will always remain free to serve God.”

With those words the two brothers, my grandfather and his older brother, sat down to a Seder that consisted of dangerously produced matzah and a little bit of borscht in place of wine.

My grandfather often said that this was the most magnificent Seder he ever experienced.

  1. Jews had been living in Krakow since the 13th century. Many great rabbis through the generations had lived in Krakow including Reb Herschel of Krackow, the Rema and the hassidic master the Meor Veshemesh.
  2. My grandfather died on the 9th of Nissan 2008, 66 years – almost to the day, when they baked those matzahs.

3 Interesting to note: my grandfather would repeat this story with pride. He was never ashamed to repeat his question and of his initial unwillingness to participate in the Seder. There is nothing wrong with a sincere question that leads to a profound answer.


Passover’s Secret of Success

How to jumpstart your personal exodus.

by Sara Yoheved Rigler  

Shimon E., a 16-year-old Israeli Shotokan karate champion, was in Philadelphia with eleven other Israeli boys for his first international competition. He had trained long and hard, but eying his opponents, especially the Japanese contingent, he felt daunted. The Japanese contenders seemed to have karate in their blood.

What did he have in his blood? Suddenly it hit him: He had not seen any of the contenders pray. Although Shimon was not religious, he intuited that he should ask God for help. At the beginning of each match, he prayed for Divine assistance. Shimon scored victory after victory; by the end of the tournament, he was #1 in his division in Israel and #2 in the world.

As Shimon described it years later, his prayer was not a magic formula to strengthen himself or disable his opponent. Rather, it simply expressed his recognition that God is the ultimate causal factor. Of course, had he not trained hard, his victory would have been impossible. But watching many sports competitions had shown him that human effort even augmented by tremendous talent did not always spell success. He concluded that unlikely victories as well as startling defeats are determined by the Divine.

Many years ago, my husband and I invested most of our savings in a mutual fund called Tiger. Tiger was run by Julian Robertson, who was rated one of the smartest and sharpest fund managers in the world. Robertson’s genius quickly proved itself. In a short time, our investment tripled. We were euphoric.

No matter how smart or how hard we work, success and failure are ultimately in the hands of God.

Then, literally overnight, Tiger plunged. It had something to do with the Japanese selling off yen. I never understood the intricate economics of it, but suddenly all our gains had vanished. Robertson wrote a letter to his investors explaining how this unforeseen debacle of a single day could not have been anticipated even by his expertise, and how he planned to restore Tiger to its former glory. The final bombastic sentence of the letter made me cringe. Robertson assured his investors not to worry, because “This Tiger will roar again.”

It didn’t. Within several months the fund was defunct.

Robertson didn’t realize what 16-year-old Shimon knew: that God is the ultimate causal factor. Although human effort is essential, no matter how smart we are or how hard we work, victory and defeat, gain and loss, success and failure are ultimately determined by God.

Crying Out

Our ancestors in Egypt took a long time to grasp this crucial point. During 116 years of slavery and 80 years of sadistic oppression, it did not occur to them to appeal to God. Assimilated into the majority culture, our ancestors worshipped the idols of that time and place. They descended almost to the lowest level of spiritual impurity, forgetting the one Supreme Power taught by Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Instead, they looked for their salvation to political changes, such as the advent of a new, more compassionate Pharaoh.

Only when Pharaoh died and his successor continued his oppressive policies did our ancestors despair of any amelioration of their condition through natural means. Only at that point, the Torah testifies, did they “cry out” to God. The next verse tells us that God immediately initiated the process of the Redemption.

The “crying out” that catalyzed the Exodus from Egypt was not what we would call prayer. They pronounced no words, no lengthy supplications, no eloquent appeals for Divine mercy. Rather, their crying out was a simple, inarticulate turning to God as the only source of salvation. Yet that basic recognition jump-started all the miracles of the Exodus.

What the Gas Attendant Knew

The Twelve-Step Program is the world’s most successful treatment for serious addictions and compulsions. I once accompanied an alcoholic friend to an AA meeting in Boston. The first speaker to address the large group introduced himself as Tom, a recovering alcoholic. He was dressed like a gas station attendant. “Every morning,” Tom declared, “I get on my knees and beg God to get me through another day without alcohol.” At that point, he had been dry for 22 years.

The first two steps of the Twelve-Step Program are: 1) To admit that you are powerless (over alcohol or overeating or internet addiction or whatever) and 2) to believe in a Higher Power who can liberate you. The next ten steps lay out an arduous program of “fearless moral inventory,” admitting wrong-doing, making amends, etc. The Twelve-Step Program requires tremendous commitment and effort, but it starts with the simple, adamant recognition that God, and only God, is in ultimate control.

I wish that Julian Robertson had known what Tom knew.

Gift of Freedom

To accomplish anything — to win a karate tournament, strike it rich, score high on a test, marry the spouse of your dreams, get admitted to the college/grad school/med school of your choice, find a good job during a recession, or overcome psychological and emotional bondages —you have to work hard. Along with (not instead of) that effort, you have to know that God runs the world.

Passover is the holiday of the Divine give-away.

Passover is the holiday of the Divine give-away. To receive the gift of atonement on Yom Kippur and the ensuing joy on Sukkot, we have to do the arduous inner work of repenting for and rectifying our bad behavior. To receive the gift of the Torah on Shavuot, we have to “count the Omer,” working our way up through the 49 levels of spiritual refinement. The gift of inner freedom on Passover, however, is a freebie. On Seder night, God bestows on all Jews the possibility of redemption from whatever inner bondage holds them. It’s like winning the lottery.

Of course, to win the lottery you have to exert yourself to the extent of going to a lottery booth and buying a ticket, looking up the winning number, and showing up to claim your prize. To become worthy of the Exodus from Egypt, our ancestors had to exert themselves to the extent of slaughtering the Passover Offering and smearing its blood on their doorposts. Today, to become worthy of the liberation afforded by Passover, you have to exert yourself to the extent of attending a Seder, eating the requisite amount of matzah, drinking the four cups of wine, and carefully fulfilling the other mitzvahs of the Seder.

Decide before the Seder, “What am I enslaved to?”

To claim your Passover gift of inner freedom, two other steps are necessary: Decide before the Seder, “What am I enslaved to?” The possible answers are many: anger, peer approval, materialism, jealousy, self-destructive habits, fear of commitment, impulsivity, resentment, laziness, desire to control, dishonesty, a critical nature as demanding as any taskmaster, etc. Then, during the Seder, as you eat your matzah in silence, commit to striving to accomplish that change and appeal to God to free you from that particular bondage.

This does not preclude working hard every day to overcome that bondage. But achieving true freedom requires admitting that what really catalyzes the process of inner liberation is the recognition that God, and only God, is the source of that liberation —and of everything else. (




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