King Shlomo writes in Mishlei (28:14), “Ashrei adam / Praiseworthy is the
man who always fears, but he who is stubborn of heart will fall into
misfortune.” Rabbeinu Bachya ben Asher z”l (14th century; Spain) writes:
King Shlomo is instructing in this verse that a person should have a “soft
heart” (i.e., the opposite of being stubborn). One should always fear that
his deeds and actions are not up to the standard they should be, and he
should introspect regarding where his deeds will lead him.
Rabbeinu Bachya continues: The verse starts with the word “Ashrei,” which is
plural. This word never appears in Tanach in the singular form, he writes.
The reason is that a person does not deserve to be praised if he has only
one good trait, but rather when he combines many good middot. Thus we read
(Tehilim 1:1-1), “Praiseworthy is the man who did not walk in the counsel of
the wicked, and did not stand in the path of the sinful, and did not sit in
the session of the scorners, but his desire is in the Torah of Hashem . . .”
We see that the verse lists many good traits of a person who is called
“praiseworthy.” Our verse, too, encompasses several traits in that a person
who “always fears” will weigh the advantages and disadvantages of all of his
actions, he will refrain from bad actions, and he will do many good things.
Why does the verse refer to such a person as “adam” rather than “ish”?
Rabbeinu Bachya explains that “adam” comes from “adamah” / earth, and refers
to a person’s baser, less spiritual nature. Praiseworthy is the man who
conquers the adam aspect of his nature.
The opposite of the praiseworthy person described here is a stubborn person.
[A stubborn person does not examine his deeds.] As described in our
parashah and the preceding ones, Pharaoh was stubborn. His punishment,
writes Rabbeinu Bachya, was that, even when he wanted to repent, Hashem did
not permit him to, but instead forced him to remain stubborn.
“So that you may relate in the ears of your son and your son’s son that
I made a mockery of Egypt and My signs that I placed among them--that you
may know that I am Hashem.” (10:2)
R’ Shlomo Amar shlita (former Sephardic Chief Rabbi of Israel) asks: Who
made a mockery of whom? Seemingly, it was Pharaoh--who kept promising to
let Bnei Yisrael go as soon as each plague ended, but who never kept his
promises--who made a mockery of Bnei Yisrael and Hashem, not the other way
R’ Amar explains: No doubt the Egyptians did think that they were in control
and that they were mocking Bnei Yisrael and Bnei Yisrael’s G-d. The truth,
however, was that the Egyptians were merely tools in the hands of Hashem,
tools that He used to prepare Bnei Yisrael to become a nation.
Specifically, the plagues in Egypt taught Bnei Yisrael about Hashem’s
awesome power and His ability to do with His world as He pleases. Thus,
Egypt was the classroom par excellence for teaching emunah / faith to Bnei
Yisrael. Of course, Hashem would not wantonly demonstrate His power against
a nation that was not deserving of being dealt with harshly. But, the
Egyptians brought this treatment on themselves by forgetting the kindness of
Yosef and enslaving Yosef’s family with back-breaking labor, by killing
Jewish babies, and by refusing to subjugate themselves to Hashem even after
they saw His power. Because of these sins, the Egyptians deserved to have
their hearts hardened so that Hashem could make a mockery of them and
thereby teach Bnei Yisrael valuable lessons. (Haggadah Shel Pesach Mi’yamim
“But among all of Bnei Yisrael, no dog will move its tongue, against
neither man nor beast, so that you shall know that Hashem will have
differentiated between Egypt and Yisrael.” (11:7)
What is the deeper meaning of the fact that no dog barked during the plague
of the firstborn? R’ Chaim Zvi Senter shlita (rosh yeshiva of Yeshivat
Aderes Hatorah in Yerushalayim) explained:
The original cause of the exile in Egypt was the sin of lashon hara, which
is what caused Yosef’s brothers to hate him (see Bereishit 37:2). This is
why, when Moshe Rabbeinu realized that Datan and Aviram were tale-bearers,
he said (Shmot 2:14), “Indeed, the matter is known!” He meant: Now I
understand why our exile persists. Measure-for-measure, Bnei Yisrael were
enslaved by Pharaoh, whose name is an anagram (in Hebrew) of “Peh-ra” / “bad
The Gemara (Pesachim 118a) says that a person who speaks or believes lashon
hara deserves to be thrown to dogs. At the time of the redemption, no dog
barked, for the fact that the redemption was occurring indicates that the
sin of lashon hara had been corrected.
This also explains, said R’ Senter, why, as long as Bnei Yisrael were in
exile, Moshe had a speech impediment. After the redemption, a midrash
relates, Moshe’s speech impediment was healed. (Heard from R’ Senter, 20
“Please speak in the ears of the people: Let each man request of his
fellow and each woman from her fellow silver vessels and gold vessels.”
The Gemara (Berachot 9a) notes that Hashem said, “Please speak . . .” The
Gemara explains that Moshe was to say to Bnei Yisrael, “*Please* request
gifts from the Egyptians.”
Why was it important that Bnei Yisrael ask for gifts? And, why did Hashem
only *request* that they ask for gifts, rather than *commanding* them to
ask? R’ Avraham Yitzchak Hakohen Kook z”l (1865-1935; Ashkenazic Chief
Rabbi of Eretz Yisrael) explains: After hundreds of years in the Egyptian
exile, Bnei Yisrael were lowly and down-trodden. A person in such a
situation doesn’t dream of “big things”; he will be more than satisfied if
he can gain his freedom. However, in order to prepare Bnei Yisrael for the
glorious spiritual future that lay ahead of them, Hashem “needed” them to
think big. As a first step, He wanted Bnei Yisrael to *want* wealth.
The Gemara explains that Hashem wanted Moshe to request Bnei Yisrael to ask
for gifts so that Avraham Avinu wouldn’t say, “You kept the part of Your
promise which said, ‘They will enslave them and they will oppress them,’ but
not the part that said, ‘And after that they will leave there with great
wealth’.” R’ Kook explains: The “great wealth” to which Hashem referred in
His promise to Avraham was the Torah and Eretz Yisrael. However, given the
lowly state of Bnei Yisrael, Avraham might have complained that they weren’t
capable of aspiring to spiritual goals or nationhood. Indeed, the Gemara
records that Bnei Yisrael told Moshe, “We will be happy just to be released
from our imprisonment.”
Of course, telling Bnei Yisrael to seek wealth can backfire, since they
might think that having material wealth is an end in itself. Thus Hashem
*requested*, but did not *command*, that they seek wealth, so that no one
would mistake it for a mitzvah. (Ein Ayah)
“You shall eliminate leaven from your homes . . .” (12:15)
Rabbi Yehuda, one of the sages of the Mishnah, maintains that chametz must
be destroyed by fire and not by any other means. He derives this from the
law of “notar” / leftovers of sacrificial offerings, which also must be
destroyed by fire.
R’ Zvi Elimelech Shapira z”l (the Bnei Yissaschar; died 1841) is quoted as
saying that whenever the Talmud derives one law from another law, there must
be some intrinsic connection between them. What is the connection between
chametz and notar?
R’ Yaakov Yechizkiyah Gruenwald z”l (Hungarian rabbi; died 1941) explains:
Why would someone leave leftovers from a sacrificial offering rather than
eat it all within the allotted time? Often, it would be because he lacks
bitachon / trust in G-d and is afraid he won’t have food for tomorrow.
Chametz alludes to a similar lack of bitachon. What’s the difference
between chametz and matzah? Matzah does not expand; the way it’s made is
the way it remains. Chametz doesn’t share this trait. Chametz rises as if
it’s afraid there won’t be enough for tomorrow. Thus, chametz also alludes
to a lack of bitachon. (Va’yagged Yaakov)
Memories of Yerushalayim
R' Ben-Zion Yadler z"l (1871-1962; "Maggid / preacher of Yerushalayim”),
describes in his memoir, B'tuv Yerushalayim, his role in building and
supervising the eruv in Yerushalayim.
The eruv operated at the personal expense of R’ Eliyahu David
Rabinowitz-Teomim z”l [1845-1905; Assistant Rabbi of Yerushalayim, known by
the acronym “Aderet”]. When R’ Asher Zusman z”l asked him, “Surely you can
turn over the expenses of the eruv to the council!” the Aderet answered him,
“Our Sages say that the majority of Jews transgress the sin of theft. The
halachah is that if one has stolen and does not know from whom he stole, he
should expend money for the needs of the public. There is no greater public
need than this--making an eruv so that people can carry. Inevitably, the
victim or his son will benefit from the eruv and I will have returned what I
After the British occupied our Holy Land [in 1917], I continued arranging
eruvin in accordance with the guidelines laid down by the Aderet in his day.
After Yerushalayim grew and expanded, the eruv surrounded all of the new
city of Yerushalayim. On the west side, it surrounded the neighborhoods of
Romema [behind the present-day Central Bus Station], Givat Shaul, Kiryat
Moshe, Bet Ha’kerem [in front of present-day Yad Vashem], and the
neighborhoods facing it, Yefei Nof and Bayit Vegan. On the south, Sha’arei
Chessed, Neve Sha’anan, Rechaviah A, B, C and D, Kiryat Shmuel, Talbiya,
Mekor Chaim [south of present-day Baka] and Talpiot. To the north, all the
neighborhoods until the Bukharan Quarter, and also the new Beit Yisrael,
Machanayim, Sanhedria, Nachalat Yitzchak and Nachalat Shimon (Ha’tzaddik).
There was almost no house outside of the eruv.
The eruv that I made used wooden posts with wire strings above them, all in
accordance with halachah, without any reliance on telephone lines. [In a
footnote:] Remember favorably R’ Pesach Margolin, who devoted his life to
improving the eruv with *metal* posts around Yerushalayim.
The editors hope these brief 'snippets' will engender further study
and discussion of Torah topics ('lehagdil Torah u'leha'adirah'), and
your letters are appreciated. Web archives at Torah.org start with 5758 (1997) and
may be retrieved from the Hamaayan page.
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