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.
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.] (www.Torah.org)
Shabbos in Halacha
לישה – Kneading
- 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
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.” (www.Torah.org)