Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim Bo 5776

Bo 5776

New Stories Bo 5776

Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim Bo 5776

Unity, Redemption and Shabbos


In this week’s parasha the Torah records how the Egyptians were afflicted with the final three plagues and then HaShem redeemed the Jewish People from slavery. It is noteworthy that one aspect of the redemption is at times overlooked. It is said (Shemos 12:20-21) kol machmetzes lo socheilu bichol moshvosocheim tochlu matzos; vayikra Moshe lichol ziknei Yisroel vayomer aleihem mishchu ukechu lachem tzon limishpichoseichem vishachatu haPesach, you shall not eat any leavening; in all your dwellings shall you eat matzos. Moshe called to all the elders of Israel and said to them, “Draw forth or buy yourselves one of the flock for your families, and slaughter the Pesach-offering.” What is the significance of the fact that the Torah adjoins the prohibition of eating chametz and the commandment to eat matzah next to the instruction to take a Pesach-offering?

Unity and redemption

In the simple sense the Torah is alluding to the Halacha mentioned in the Gemara (Pesachim 5a) that one cannot slaughter the Pesach-offering while he is still in possession of chametz. Perhaps, however, there is a deeper message contained within these verses. The Torah states that one should draw forth or buy for himself one of the flock for his family. Why was it necessary to state that one has to take the sheep for the family? It would seem that the Torah is teaching us that in addition to the commandments of removing chametz from one’s midst and of eating matzah, one must also be conscious at the time of redemption of the unity of the family and of the entire Jewish People.

Without Moshe we need to be unified

It is said (Ibid 12:3-4) dabru el kol adas Yisroel leimor beasor lachodesh hazeh viyikchu lahem ish seh liveis avos seh labyais; viim yimat habayis mihyos miseh vilakach hu ushicheino hakarov el beiso bimichsas nefashos ish lifi achlo tachosu al haseh, speak to the entire assembly of Israel, saying: on the tenth of this month they shall take for themselves – each man – a lamb or kid for each father’s house, a lamb or kid for the household. But if the household will be too small for a lamb or kid, then he and his neighbor who is near his house shall take according to the number of people; everyone according to what he eats shall be counted for the lamb or kid. This verse can be interpreted as follows: if the “house” is missing, i.e. the Bais HaMikdash is destroyed, because of miseh, which can be read as Moshe, i.e. because Moshe did not enter into Eretz Yisroel, the Bais HaMikdash was allowed to be destroyed. What then is the solution to have the Bais HaMikdash be rebuilt? Then and he and his neighbor who is near his house shall take… i.e. the Jewish People shall unite as one, and this will bring about the redemption.

Shabbos is a time for unity

Shabbos is referred to as raza diechod, the secret of unity. While this statement has Kabalistic overtones, in a simple sense this alludes to the idea that Shabbos is a time for unity. It is noteworthy that Moshe orchestrated that the Jewish People rest one day a week from their enslavement, and that day was Shabbos. Subsequent to the redemption, the Jewish People encamped at Marah and there they received a number of mitzvos that they could engage in. One of those mitzvos was Shabbos. Furthermore, one of the main aspects of Shabbos is that it is a commemoration to the exodus from Egypt. It is also noteworthy that the words hu ushcheino hakarov (701) equal in gematria Shabbos (702).

The Shabbos connection

The Gemara (Shabbos 118b) teaches us that in the merit of observing Shabbos, we will witness the Ultimate Redemption. When we are cognizant of the need for unity in our nation, we will take it upon ourselves to observe Shabbos better and encourage others to observe Shabbos. In the merit of unity and in the merit of observing Shabbos, HaShem should allow us to merit the arrival of Moshiach Tzidkienu with the Ultimate Redemption, speedily, in our days.

Shabbos in the Zemiros

Tzama Lecho Nafshi

This zemer was composed by the great medieval commentator and poet Avraham Ibn Ezra whose name is found in the acrostic of the verses

מִי זֶה יִצְטַדָּק. נִמְשַׁל לְאָבָק דָּק. אֶמֶת כִּי לֹא יִצְדַּק. לְפָנֶיךָ כָּל חָי, who can justify himself amongst man who is likened to minuscule dust? In truth – none can justify before You and creature. From this passage we see that man is not worthy of life. Yet, the Ramban writes that the definition of a צדיק, a righteous person, is one who is צדיק בדינו, one who is righteous in his judgement at that moment. The Gemara (Kiddushin 49b) states that if a wicked man tells a woman that he will marry her on condition that he become a completely righteous person, the marriage is valid, because perhaps he contemplated thoughts of repentance prior to the marriage. Thus, every person merits life because although he may have sinned previously, right now he has some merit, perhaps a fleeting thought of repentance, that allows him to continue living, serving HaShem to the best of his abilities.

Shabbos Stories

Giving tzedakah properly

Rabbi Mordechai Kamenetzky writes: When the Satmar Rav came to this country after World War II he had a handful of Hungarian immigrants, most of them Holocaust survivors, as his Chasidim. As the custom is with Chasidic rebbes, they would come for a blessing and leave a few dollars for the rebbe to give to charity on their behalf. The poor immigrants would come in for blessings, some leaving a dollar, others some coins and on occasion a wealthier chasid would leave a five, a ten, or even a twenty-dollar bill. The Rebbe would not look at the offerings; rather he would open the old drawers of his desk and stuff them in, ready, and available for them to be put to charitable use.

Of course, givers were not the only one who visited the Rebbe. Those who were in need came as well. Each of them bearing their tale of sorrow, asking for a donation.

Once a man came desperately in need of a few hundred dollars, which the rebbe gladly agreed to give.

The Rebbe opened hid drawer, and began pulling out bills. Out came singles and fives, a few tens and even a twenty. Then the Rebbe called in his Gabbai (sexton), “Here,” he said, “please help me with this.”

The Rebbe began straightening out the bills one by one. Together, they took each bill, flattened it and pressed it until it looked as good as new. The Rebbe took 100 one dollar bills and piled it into a neat stack. Then he took out a handful of five-dollar bills and put them into another pile. Then he took about five wrinkled ten dollar bills, pressed them flat, and piled them as well. Finally, he slowly banded each pile with a rubber band, and then bound them all together. He handed it to the gabbai and asked him to present it to the supplicant. “Rebbe,” asked the sexton, “why all the fuss? A wrinkled dollar works just as well as a crisp one!”

The Rebbe explained. “One thing you must understand. When you do a mitzvah, it must be done with grace, and class. The way you give tzedakah, is almost as important as the tzedakah itself. Mitzvos must be done regally. We will not hand out rumbled bills to those who are in need.” (

Shabbos in Halacha

מוליד – Creating a  new Entity

  1. The Prohibition

There is a difference between bringing about the new state of an object manually (directly by one’s own hand), and doing so indirectly (by merely causing the change to come about without applying the energy for the transformation with one’s own hand.)

  1. נולד (Nolad) – Causing the Creation of a New Entity

According to some Poskim, one is prohibited to cause the creation of a new entity. Thus, one may not place frozen liquids near a flame (or other hot area), because this directly causes them to melt and results in the creation of a new entity. However, even according to this opinion, one is allowed to remove frozen liquids from the freezer and allow them to defrost at room temperature. One is only forbidden to cause the liquids to melt by placing them in a particularly hot area. According to this view, one is also prohibited to place liquids in a freezer, as this directly causes them to freeze and to assume a new, solid form. Other Poskim disagree with this opinion, and they rule that one is only prohibited from manually creating a new entity. One is, however, permitted to cause the creation of a new entity.

Shabbos Ta’am HaChaim: Bo 5776

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New Stories Bo 5776

My Father’s Visit from the Next World

He insisted on a cup of coffee. Little did I know he was saving my life.

by Beth Sarafraz

Winter, 2014. The heat in my apartment went off at 10 p.m. and it was freezing cold. So I went into the kitchen, opened the oven door and turned the dial to 550, the highest it could go. Then I went to bed. (Not smart, I know.)

I fell into a very deep, warm, enveloping sleep watching a dream about someone rearranging glass dishes in cabinets, sinking so deep into unconsciousness that it didn’t matter what was playing on the white screen in my mind.

Then, suddenly, the “movie” stopped dead in its tracks, replaced by something resembling a commercial, breaking news, the Emergency Broadcast System, beep beep beep, test interrupting a TV show – happening just like that.

The dishes disappeared and there, on the screen, reclining and propped up on one elbow, was my beloved father, Irving Schenerman, a/k/a Isser Ben Manis, who died of leukemia in 1999.

“Dad?! What are you doing here?”

“Bethie,” he said, looking straight out at me, “go in the kitchen and make me a cup of coffee.”

How will you drink coffee? You’re not alive anymore.

“But how will you drink coffee? You’re not alive anymore. But wait, Daddy, I want to talk to you, I miss you so much.”

I knew if I opened my eyes, he’d disappear.

I had seen my father in dreams years before, once after getting scary news from a doctor and the next time while unconscious on an operating table. Both those times he’d been standing in mid-air, surrounded by a beautiful yellow light, with his arms held out to me. I had run into his embrace and gotten twirled around like a little girl, holding on tight, not wanting to let go. Both times, without speaking, he’d given a little push and released me back to this world where my children waited for me.

This time was different. After 15 years gone, dead and buried, he’d come back for – a cup of coffee?

He faded away and the dream about glass dishes came back on. My mind was giggling in Yiddish-English now, like someone in a stupor – drunk without drinking. “Vus iz dus with the plates?” I asked myself. “It’s too soon for an OCD Pesach prep dream!”

I waited to see if my father would come back. It was warm and cozy in my bed. I was groggy, drowsy, floating in the deepest ocean getting hit by wave after wave, sinking – and liking it, even. After surviving so much in my life, was I now scheduled to die? Was that why he was here? Was I going to grab a coffee to go and then float out of this world, arm in arm with my dad?

Suddenly, Dad was back again.

“Daddy, please talk to me, please don’t leave,” I said.

“Bethie,” he said calmly, “I can’t talk to you unless you go into the kitchen and make me coffee.”

The author’s father

Okay, okay, I forced my eyes open and looked at the clock. It was 6:00 a.m., time to get dressed for work, anyway – not like I really wanted to go there – or anywhere. I stumbled out of bed, feeling myself in a fog. I walked toward the kitchen.

Approaching it, a wall of heat hit me so hard, it felt like I was in a shvitz, a Russian bana sweat bathhouse, the kind my grandfather used to go to. And then I remembered. The oven! The oven had been on for eight hours, set at 550, with all the windows closed. God alone knew what could have happened! I felt like I was waking up from a coma, reaching for the pot to boil water for coffee.

The empty metal pot, sitting on the stovetop, was burning hot, like it was resting on a furnace. Even the plastic temperature dials were superheated. Maybe, given more time, they would have melted. I grabbed a potholder and shut the oven off.

Then it hit me – why my father had made his odd request. The gas and heat were so intense that maybe in a short while nothing in this world would have roused me from the deepest warmest sleep I’d ever known. Maybe a spark would have ignited; maybe I would have blown up my entire three-room, second floor apartment or the entire house, for that matter.

Maybe, in the little window of time before irreversible catastrophe, someone in Heaven had taken note, someone who’d loved me unconditionally all my life, someone who’d left the world of action years ago, but had never really left me, someone who knew that only he could force me out the deepest sleep.

“Poppy saved me,” I told my daughter Debra, who was visiting from Israel.

“Maybe you saved yourself,” she answered. “Deep down inside, you knew the oven was on full blast for eight hours, you knew it was dangerous, especially if the pilot light went out and the apartment was filling with gas and no windows were open and you were too groggy to get up.”

“You wouldn’t have listened to anyone else. He knew that.”

She continued, serious and rational: “So you created, in your mind, the one person who could move you to action, the one person who’d never lied to you or played games with you or turned his back on you no matter what stupid thing you were doing, the one person whose voice could rouse you from a coma-like state, and even against your will, make you turn away from wanting to remain with him – in order to return to life without him. You created the image of your father coming all the way from the Next World, to compel you to save yourself – before, God forbid, it was too late.”

“Okay, okay,” I said, feeling idiotic, weird, embarrassed.

She wasn’t done. “But I don’t think that’s what happened, Mommy. I think it really was Poppy talking to you, asking for a cup of coffee to get you into the kitchen to turn off the gas. You wouldn’t have listened to anyone else. He knew that.”

Perhaps someday, wherever we go to after death, I’ll sit down and have a cup of coffee with my father. Then I’ll ask him about this and many other hidden, mysterious things. Until then – chalamti chalom – I dreamed a dream, until it woke me up and saved my life.

This article originally appeared in The Jewish Press (

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