Parshas Bo introduces us to the Avodas Hakorbonos -- the services. The
Pesach Lamb was the sacrifice, the home was the altar, the blood on the
door was the blood of circumcision, mingled with the lamb’s blood. (Medrash
Rabah Rus, 6:1; see Pirke D’ Rebbe Eliezer at length.)
The mitzvos involving sacrifice are really mitzvos of giving. The Jew
doesn’t merely give with his pocketbook -- he gives with his heart and
soul, with his whole life. The sacrifice is the self, and the offering
is the self.
Rav Yerucham Halevi (Da’as Chochmah Umussar, vol. 1, #3) said that self-sacrifice
is found in every aspect of the mitzvos. It is nothing other than the totality
Remember how Yaakov prepared for battle with his brother in three ways:
He prepared to fight, he arranged to give a gift of appeasement, and he
prayed. Don’t think that Yaakov tried different things, lest each on its
own not be sufficient. Not so, said Rav Yerucham. Yaakov did everything
with deliberation and certainty. Since we are not allowed to simply rely
on miracles, Yaakov did EVERYTHING in his power; he left no stone unturned
-- for to do so would show a lack of diligent effort.
A generation earlier, the Alter of Kelm expressed this idea (Chochmah
Umussar, part one, “Hein Yatzil, Hein Lo Yatzil”). “One who relies on a
miracle lacks the merit of self-sacrifice. Surely he is holding back from
complete giving.” That is, one who dedicates himself -- but inwardly relies
on miraculous salvation -- has not given sufficiently, has not exerted
himself to his utmost.
The proof of this, writes the Alter, is the famous story of Rebbi Chaninah
Ben Dosa. After receiving a golden chair-leg miraculously, he saw in a
dream that his reward in Olam Habah (the next world) would be lacking.
He then asked that the leg be returned, and, miraculously, it was taken
The meaning of this incident, is that one’s merit may be reduced by
having received heavenly assistance, when one could manage without such
assistance. In such a case, the acceptance of assistance shows a lack of
This does not mean that we will always be successful in our endeavors.
“Hein yatzil, hein lo yatzil” -- Whether we succeed or not, is not in our
hands; only the exertion, the unstinting effort -- this is our job.
It is clear to us that this was the intention of Rav Yerucham Halevi
in the words, “ ‘Don’t think that Yaakov tried different things, lest each
on its own not be sufficient. No so,’ said Rav Yerucham Halevi. ‘Yaakov
did everything with deliberation and certainty.’ ” Not that Yaakov was
certain that he would succeed; he was certain that he was obligated to
try with everything in his power. Only then -- whether he was successful
or not -- would he feel that he had done his duty.
The last issue included an error. There are 1080 divisions of the hour,
Reb Mordchai Greenes pointed out that last week’s issue did not clarify
that certain of the dechiyos (postponements of Rosh Chodesh) only affect
Tishre (Rosh Hashanah time). He asked whether all of the dechiyos are so.
The point, and question, are well taken; only Rosh Hashanah is directly
affected by the dechiyos. 1. That the first, fourth and sixth days cannot
be the first day of the month was certainly only said for Rosh Hashanah.
2. The other rule mentioned last week -- if the Molad appears after noon,
it is put off a day -- is an issue. From the Talmud it is not clear if
this was only said in regard to Rosh Hashanah; Rambam, however, derived
that each of the dechiyos only affect Rosh Hashanah. See Magid Harakiyah,
pp. 338 - 340.