Monday, 31 March 2008


Having made Aliyah almost one and a half years ago, I encountered a world unknown to me. Yes, I’d been to Israel numerous times before, lived here for some time, and taken part in Israeli life. But it’s different when one makes the commitment to actually take a stand and say “I’m ready to be a citizen of the Holy Land.” Somehow, when doing this, one enters that world where the Talmud speaks of “Acquiring Israel through suffering.” Suddenly, the flu appears from nowhere, buses stop at bus stops moments before one arrives, banks are closed just when one needs them (and possibly just after one arrives from now having caught the bus after the bus above!)

I can’t say life can be easy living with people who’ve been brought up with a value system different to one’s own, and I often feel like perhaps I’m right here in Egypt, when in fact, I’ve actually left it! I continually question the Torah obligation of rebuking my fellow Jew, or that other most important obligation of “Loving one’s fellow Jew as oneself.” And just where does one draw the line between these two most important apparently contradictory commandments – neither one being any less important than the other? After all, love is the necessity, but without some measure of discipline, one opens the way to matters that can even affect one’s health. While children may enjoy 3 scoops of ice-cream on a warm summers day, dad knows only too well, that little Levi might just end up with a tummy ache! So when and how does one use one’s judgment correctly?

Sometimes, I’ve felt stronger about the judgment factor, to a degree that I wonder just when all this exuberant love stashed away inside me will let loose! In fact, at just about the time I’m ready to let go of it all – something happens yet again (call it missing that very important bus if you like) – judgment kicks into action, and it seems like the love was just never there!

Yesterday, as I peered outside my window from my apartment, an event occurred that made me feel like giving up on it all. Well, I don’t mean everything. I do mean however, that perhaps I should give up – even with the judgment. The situation is irrelevant for this article, but coming from a quiet, refined home and family, I simply could not put together what I was seeing or hearing – right here in the Holy Land. Apparently, as I was told, the behavior was normal Israeli etiquette! After expressing my concern to a number of rabbis, I realized I just wouldn’t get anywhere, and so took some “time-out”, contemplated my concern for improving the behavior of others and resigned myself to just staying away from correcting the world. It’s certainly no job for me!

Coming out of Purim – and living with the times – something else happened today that turned everything around yet again. Some time back, I had received a beautiful image of the Tree of the Sefirot – a Kabbalistic image showing the basic structure of G-d’s “tools” and “system of control” in the world. Based on it’s mystical meaning, and the particular love I have for the inner most parts of Torah, this piece of art was appreciated, save for one thing! The artist had drawn the image the wrong way around. Well, it really depends on how one looks at things for something to be the wrong way around. In this case however, the normal flow of the image is to show “kindness” on the right side (which it actually is) and “severity/judgment” on the left (which it actually is.) The artist had however swopped the Sefirot (emanations) around. The only thing I could come up with logically in my mind was that the artist had the intention of showing the image as it would be presented as if one were looking at it facing towards one – rather than the actual way it should be represented.

While this may have been the case, it was still not the standard way of showing the actual emanations in their correct positions. It worried me, since I felt that if one is displaying a Torah image – or structure – in a certain way, it should be done in accordance with the Torah’s normative way of representation. This image, was however, (intentionally) drawn incorrectly.

I did want to hang it up – but felt that I could not let others see something which does not fit in accordance with the Torah’s way of things, and so I wrote to the author/artist. I guess, my “sense of judgment” once again got the better of me. I remember seeing the Lubavitcher Rebbe on various DVD’s pointing out to people that when things are done, they should be done correctly! To such a degree, the Rebbe is seen informing a rabbi who had designed a three dimensional image of the Temple, that a certain part of it was not to scale. The Rebbe doesn’t tell him directly though – but rather hints that it appears to him as if it hasn’t been built to scale. One of the parts of the model was a little too short to fit the exact measurements. The average person might need rulers and much time to see the inconsistency, but the Rebbe saw this in a brief moment with just his eye! The rabbi (having already put much effort into doing things exactly correct) goes home, measures the work, and realizes the Rebbe’s correctness, and changes the image to be reflected in accordance with the exact scale. Indeed, he had been just 3 millimeters off!

I suppose I felt the same way about this image. I was upset that it just had not been done correctly. Why should I care in any case?! Most people would probably hang up the image because of its beauty. Did it really matter that it wasn’t drawn to fit the Torah’s requirements exactly?! In two worlds about the dilemma between criticizing another and loving my fellow Jew, I did not know what to do. But I went ahead and notified the artist that the image had been done incorrectly.

This happened some time ago already, and today as I checked my email, I noticed a message from the artist. In it, she acknowledges the error made, and more so informs me that she has changed the image to reflect its correct structure – and offers to send me a free copy of the new drawing!

I’m no authority on how to love my fellow Jew (although I’m trying hard!) And, I’m definitely no authority on how to correct another either. To strike the exact correct balance is a lifetime of work! I’m trying to work on both. But, after having finally thought to myself of the unimportance of correcting another – after my ordeal yesterday – especially from the criticisms of those already “in the know”, I realized today that in fact we are all in need of improvement, and have the right to let another know when things are not done correctly. It is through this that the world becomes a better place to live in – a cleaner one, a healthier one, one filled with more wisdom, goodness and kindness.

Whether a drawing or a mode of behavior – it is not for us to be silent. We are here for the purpose of helping each other, both in the sense of giving to them, as well as teaching them the right way to behave. We are not here to watch others humiliate themselves as they lead their lives as they wish to, but rather we are here to be guides for others when necessary. It is unacceptable to let others be, in the way they want – just because this has become their society and ways of doing things. Torah is about growth and working on oneself, one’s relations with others – and actually – yes – being there to teach another too, whether one’s own child or another’s who one might never have even met!

I guess there are some rabbis of the opinion that one who censures another for their incorrect behavior is acting immaturely and should grow up and that it is for him to improve himself. But I learned a far bigger lesson today. I learned that in fact, there are many people who actually may not know how to, or may in fact wish to improve themselves if only they knew how! They may even appreciate the “rebuke.” Sometimes, we are the one’s who may have the keys to open the doors of the “how” for another. If so, it’s not enough for us to simply be quiet and sulk regarding the bad behavior of others. It’s our duty to help them. To love them… but to make them aware that some things are just not done.

The love of a parent towards his/her child is probably the strongest love that can exist. Yet, it is only through holding back and discipline (the very two emanations that were the wrong way around on the drawing) that the love will find itself expressed correctly. Through the correct discipline and rebuke of a parent towards his/her child, the loving relationship between parent and child is in fact one which is heightened and appreciated when the child grows up later to become a mature and responsible adult giving of himself to the rest of the world.

Just as parents share this mutual love/discipline relationship with their children, so too must each Jew incorporate these character traits within themselves and express them outwardly in order that others benefit. Through this, in fact, not only is there not an issue of immature judgment against another, but instead, a mutual expression of love and kindness between two Jews, thereby bringing further goodness and kindness and mature responsibility that each of us have towards our fellow Jew. As a result and through this “rebuke” we allow for each of us to actually reach our potentials becoming the great people we really can become!

As the prophet Micah (6:8) says “He has told you – man – what is good? And what does G-d require from you, except to do justice and to love kindness, and to walk humbly before your G-d?”


There seems to be a contradiction within the Torah (Chumash) itself concerning the length of the exile the Jews experienced in Egypt. In one Passuk, in the book of Bereishis, it seems to indicate that the exile lasted a period of 400 years. Whereas in another Passuk, in the book of Shemos (dealing with the Egpytian bondage) it is clear that the exile lasted a period of 430 years. We might think that, in the usual way of the Torah, a third Passuk might come about to reconcile the two views, and yet we hear of nothing that can adequately resolve this contradiction.

In fact, if anything, we do have a clear mention of the exile having lasted a total of 400 years from another external source. This final reference is perhaps the ultimate source of history – namely the Haggadah Shel Pesach. More than this, the Haggadah indicates that Hashem had actually calculated the end of the exile to coincide with this period of time. And yet, after all these views, it seems that we don’t have a firm grasp of the actual period. Why is there an apparent contradiction within these sources, and why, if anything, does the Haggadah quote an anonymous source adding additional details, when it seems the original two sources are contradictory enough?

Two sources clearly indicate 400 years, and a third source indicates 430 years. Which are we to follow? And which of these is the correct period of time? And were the Jews actually in the Egyptian Exile for 400 years, or is there perhaps a hint somewhere within the above sources, that the exile may have been shorter? An in-depth study of each of these sources will clearly indicate that none of them contradict any of the others, and in fact, even that that we consider as being 400 years of slavery was far from that.


Our first indication of the period of exile that the Jews were to undergo i.e. their first of four exiles, was told to Avraham Avinu at Bris Bein Habesarim – The Covenant Between the Parts. Avraham had just made an extremely close connection with Hashem and had been promised by the Creator of the world that his descendants would continue the heritage which he had taught, and would ultimately inherit the Land of Israel. Avraham wished to know if indeed this would be so, and so “challenged” Hashem by asking for a proof from Him. The Passuk reads as follows:

בראשית פרק טו

(יג) וַיֹּאמֶר לְאַבְרָם יָדֹעַ תֵּדַע כִּי גֵר יִהְיֶה זַרְעֲךָ בְּאֶרֶץ לֹא לָהֶם וַעֲבָדוּם וְעִנּוּ אֹתָם אַרְבַּע מֵאוֹת שָׁנָה:

“And (Hashem) said to Avram. You shall surely know (that this promise will be fulfilled) for your seed will be strangers in a land not theirs, and they (another nation) will enslave them and afflict them 400 years.”

The verse is clear. Hashem informs Avra(ha)m of the exile to be imposed upon his descendants. This was the Egyptian Exile. It was to last a total of 400 years.


However in the book of Shemos (Exodus) we find a verse that seemingly contradicts the time of the exile. Here in telling about the actual length it states as follows:

שמות פרק יב פסוק מ

וּמוֹשַׁב בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל אֲשֶׁר יָשְׁבוּ בְּמִצְרָיִם שְׁלֹשִׁים שָׁנָה וְאַרְבַּע מֵאוֹת שָׁנָה:

“And the dwelling (time) that the children of Israel were in their stay in Egypt was 430 years.”

An apparently clear contradiction that the Bnei Yisrael remained in Egypt for 430 years. A clear discrepancy of 30 years against the very promise that G-d himself made with Avraham. How could this be?


In the Haggadah of Pesach, the following paragraph is said shortly after the 4 sons:

בָּרוּךְ שׁוֹמֵר הַבְטָחָתוֹ לְיִשְׂרָאֵל. בָּרוּךְ הוּא. שֶׁהַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא חִשַּׁב אֶת־הַקֵּץ, לַעֲשׂוֹת כְּמָה שֶּׁאָמַר לְאַבְרָהָם אָבִֽינוּ בִּבְרִית בֵּין הַבְּתָרִים, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר: וַיֹּֽאמֶר לְאַבְרָם יָדֹֽעַ תֵּדַע, כִּי־גֵר יִהְיֶה זַרְעֲךָ, בְּאֶֽרֶץ לֹא לָהֶם, וַעֲבָדוּם וְעִנּוּ אֹתָם אַרְבַּע מֵאוֹת שָׁנָה: וְגַם אֶת־הַגּוֹי אֲשֶׁר יַעֲבֹדוּ דָּן אָנֹכִי. וְאַחֲרֵי כֵן יֵצְאוּ, בִּרְכֻשׁ גָּדוֹל:

“Blessed is the One who guards his promise to the Bnei Yisrael. Blessed is He. For the Holy One Blessed be He calculated the end to do just as he said to Avraham our father at the Covenant Between the Parts. Like it says: “And he said to Avram (that this promise will be fulfilled) for your seed will be strangers in a land not theirs, and they will enslave them and afflict them 400 years. And also the nation that will do the enslaving, I will judge. And afterwards, they will go out with great wealth.”

Although in the Haggadah, we can often identify exactly where the source of it is, this particular paragraph has no source. It is not in the Tanach. It is not in the Talmud, and it cannot be traced to any direct authentic Torah source. Yet we well know the truth of it (to be discussed later.)

In this source of the Haggadah, we clearly see that the famous verse of the Covenant Between the Parts is quoted, and that the exile was to last for 400 years. All is perfect, except for some strange wording within the paragraph. “…the Holy One Blessed be He calculated the end…”

Why are these words added, and what is their purpose? Hashem calculated the end. What does it mean that Hashem calculated the end? Surely He already knew the end, and no calculations were necessary. After all, it was either 400 years, or 430 years. It surely could not have been anything else. Or could it?! And perhaps herein lies the clue to our understanding of the different parts of exile that the Jews underwent during that period of suffering.


In order to understand any area of Torah properly, it is not sufficient to read only the original text. We need something additional to the text that will help us uncover the true meaning of the text. Although there are many depths to Torah, it is still impossible to work through any part of it without the help of the foremost commentator who clarifies all parts of Tanach with a simple, insightful and clear meaning. This is Rashi (Rabbi Shlomo Yitzchaki 1040-1105.) It is through his words that the above discrepancies will be reconciled to indicate that neither of our verses was contradicting the other, but rather, perhaps, elucidating exactly how they are all saying the same thing.

Rashi (Bereishis 15:13) in speaking about the promise made to Avraham, says the following:
רש"י בראשית פרק טו

(יג) כי גר יהיה זרעך - משנולד יצחק עד שיצאו ישראל ממצרים ארבע מאות שנה. כיצד, יצחק בן ששים שנה כשנולד יעקב. ויעקב כשירד למצרים אמר (להלן מז ט) ימי שני מגורי שלשים ומאת שנה, הרי מאה ותשעים, ובמצרים היו מאתים ועשר כמנין רדו, הרי ארבע מאות שנה. ואם תאמר במצרים היו ארבע מאות, הרי קהת מיורדי מצרים היה, צא וחשוב שנותיו של קהת, ושל עמרם, ושמונים של משה שהיה כשיצאו ישראל ממצרים, אין אתה מוצא אלא שלש מאות וחמשים, ואתה צריך להוציא מהן כל השנים שחי קהת אחר לידת עמרם, ושחי עמרם אחר לידת משה:

בארץ לא להם - לא נאמר בארץ מצרים אלא בארץ לא להם, ומשנולד יצחק (להלן כא לד) ויגר אברהם וגו', וביצחק (שם כו ג) גור בארץ הזאת, (תהלים קה כג) ויעקב גר בארץ חם, (בראשית מז ד) לגור בארץ באנו:

“FOR YOUR SEED WILL BE STRANGERS: Since the birth of Yitzchak until Yisroel (the Jewish people) went out of Egypt there was 400 years. How can that be? Yitzchak was 60 years old when Yaakov was born. And Yaakov, when he went down to Egypt (in answering Pharaoh as to his age) said (Bereishis 47:9) ‘the years of my sojourns are 130 years.’ Behold (altogether) are 190 years. And in Egypt there were 210 years as in the same amount as the Gematria of the word “Redoo” (meaning: Go down [to Egypt]) Behold, there are a total of 400 years.

“And if you say that they were in Egypt for 400 years proper (as in being enslaved for that entire time,) behold, Kehas (the son of Levi, and the grandfather of Moshe) was of those who went into Egypt. Go and count the years of Kehas and of Amram (the father of Moshe) and the 80 years of Moshe (his age) when they went out of Egypt – and even then, you will only find 350 years. And still, you need to subtract from them all the years that Kehas lived after the birth of Amram (i.e. the overlapping years,) and the years of Amram after the birth of Moshe (that were also overlapping.)

“IN A LAND NOT THEIRS: It does not say in the land of Egypt (i.e. that they were in Egypt all 400 years,) but rather in a land not their own. And from the birth of Yitzchak (further 21:34) ‘And Avraham sojourned…” and with regards to Yitzchak (further 26:3)‘sojourn in this land,’ (Tehillim 105:23), ‘And Yaakov sojourned in the land of Cham,’ (Bereishis 47:4) ‘to sojourn in the land, we have come.’


Rashi (Shemos 12:40) comments on the actual length of the exile and says as follows:

רש"י שמות פרק יב פסוק מ

(מ) אשר ישבו במצרים - אחר שאר הישיבות שישבו גרים בארץ לא להם:
שלשים שנה וארבע מאות שנה - בין הכל משנולד יצחק עד עכשיו היו ארבע מאות שנה. משהיה לו זרע לאברהם נתקיים (בראשית טו יג) כי גר יהיה זרעך, ושלשים שנה היו משנגזרה גזירת בין הבתרים עד שנולד יצחק. ואי אפשר לומר בארץ מצרים לבדה, שהרי קהת מן הבאים עם יעקב היה צא וחשוב כל שנותיו וכל שנות עמרם בנו ושמונים של משה, לא תמצאם כל כך, ועל כרחך הרבה שנים היו לקהת עד שלא ירד למצרים, והרבה משנות עמרם נבלעים בשנות קהת והרבה משמונים של משה נבלעים בשנות עמרם, הרי שלא תמצא ארבע מאות לביאת מצרים, והוזקקת לומר על כרחך, שאף שאר הישיבות נקראו גרות, אפילו בחברון, שנאמר (בראשית לה כז) אשר גר שם אברהם ויצחק, ואומר (שמות ו ד) את ארץ מגוריהם אשר גרו בה, לפיכך אתה צריך לומר כי גר יהיה זרעך משהיה לו זרע. וכשתמנה ארבע מאות שנה משנולד יצחק, תמצא מביאתן למצרים עד יציאתן מאתים ועשר שנה, וזה אחד מן הדברים ששינו לתלמי המלך:

“THAT DWELT IN EGYPT: After other dwellings, since they had dwelt as strangers in (other) lands that were not theirs.

“430 YEARS: In counting everything (all the years) – Since Yitzchak was born until now there were 400 years. Since the time that there was seed to Avraham (i.e. that he had offspring) was fulfilled the promise (Bereishis 15:13) ‘for foreigners shall your seed be’ and 30 years had been since the (actual) decree of the (Covenant) Between the Parts, until Yitzchak was born. [In other words, it was at this point in time that the actual 430 years began since Avraham was already considered to be a foreigner.]

“And it is impossible to say that they were only foreigners in Egypt, since (we know) Kehas was of those who came with Yaakov (into Egypt.) Go (now) and count all the his years, and all the years of Amram his son, and the 80 years of Moshe, (even then) you will still not find them so much (to add up to 400. See Rashi in Bereishis above where Rashi clearly shows the calculation.)

“You must (also) say that there were many years to Kehas before he had gone down to Egypt. And there were many years of Amram that were included in the years of Kehas. And many of Moshe’s 80 years were included in the years of Amram. Behold, you will not find 400 years in their coming down to Egypt. And you are forced into saying this, since (the real point of the matter is that) even the other dwellings (of the Bnei Yisrael) were called “Geiroos” – sojourning, even in Chevron, like it says (Bereishis 35:27) ‘that Avraham and Yitzchak sojourned there.’ And it says (Shemos 6:4) ‘the land of their sojournings that they sojourned there.’

Therefore, you have to say that (the phrase where it says) ‘for your seed will be foreigners’ began at the time when he had seed (i.e. when Yitzchak, the first of his descendants, was born.)

And if you count 400 years from the birth of Yitzchak, you will find, that from their coming into Egypt, until the time of their leaving, 210 years. And this was one of the things that was taught over to Ptolemy the king.” (See translation and bold print to Rashi in Bereishis above.)


Rashi’s comment to the verse in Shemos clarifies for us what he had been discussing all along in his same comment in Bereishis. The two Rashi’s are both necessary and back each other up!

The Jewish people were destined to be slaves to Pharaoh for a period of 400 years. That is clear, and this is the exact promise that Hashem told Avraham at the Covenant Between the Parts. However, even Rashi admits that the actual period of enslavement only began when Yaakov went down into Egypt. Leaving only 210 years of enslavement. The real period of time of enslavement was actually 210 years. And even then, we are taught, that the real oppression only lasted for 86 years.

If so, it seems that there are even further contradictions. Were they enslaved for 400 years, 430 years, 210 years, or 86 years?! And if Hashem made a promise to Avraham that the enslavement was 400 years, then how do we reconcile all these views?

For this, the Haggadah Shel Pesach teaches us the most important line! Hashem calculated the end. In Hebrew the word for “end” is “קץ”. The Haggadah is hinting at something very important. The Gematria (numerical value) of the word “ketz” is 190. Since the Haggadah uses this word with this Gematria, it is coming to teach us something about the number 190 that was related to the original 400. If Hashem calculated the “ketz” it means that He used a method (know only to Him) to change the real duration of the exile. It was supposed to last for 400 years. But because of a change in the decree – due to the attribute of Mercy sweetening the judgment period, 190 years were removed from the original 400, thus leaving only 210 years of real exile!

This is clear. The total time of exile was supposed to last 400 real exile years. But Hashem – in His mercy – and after having ruled harshly – mitigated His judgment removing 190 years, bringing the “ketz”, the end, to a faster conclusion. The exile therefore ended up to be only 210 years.

But how did Hashem manage to make His promise remain, while still shortening the duration of it at the same time?! He had to count the 190 years somewhere. If the promise was to last for 400 years, then 400 years it would last! 190 years cannot just be done away with. This is what the Haggadah is saying. In His calculating those 190 years, he found a valid place to start them off. When would that be? At the very birth of Yitzchak exactly 190 years before! Indeed, Yitzchak was born on 15 Nissan, the exact same day the Jews left!

But if Hashem makes a promise that the Jews will be in exile for 400 years, then that must be, and they must be so! He cannot just make calculations according to any system of illogical thought. And so He does not! As the Pesukim state clearly, that from the time that Yitzchak is born, the Jewish people are in exile!

How do we reconcile the fact that they were not enslaved in Egypt for 400 years? No reconciliation is necessary. The promise the G-d made to Avraham was that they would be oppressed for this period of time, and not that they would be physical slaves in Egypt for this period of time. Although the promise may have indicated a possibility of being physically enslaved in Egypt for this period of time, it had a leeway manner of describing the enslavement. The enslavement did not have to be entirely under Egyption sovereignty. And because Hashem mitigated judgment with kindness, the oppression ended up being wherever the Jewish people found themselves in exile.

This period of time lasted a total of 400 years. Since even from the birth of Yitzchak, who was born in a land not owned by him i.e. Eretz Kenaan. While the land was eventually to become the property of the Jewish people (as it was so destined from the beginning of creation, see Rashi to Bereishis 1:1), at the time of Yitzchak’s actual birth, other people inhabited and owned the land. And since it was that Yitzchak did not own it, it was already considered that he was in a state of exile! Thereafter, all his children and grandchildren were also in a state of exile even up and until Yaakov physically entered the Land of Egypt. That total period of time lasted 190 years. Thereafter, the Jewish people were enslaved in Egypt proper for a period of 210 years.

Thus, Rashi together with the Haggadah – answers all of our questions. All but one! Why then in Shemos, does it in fact say that the Bnei Yisrael were in exile for 430 years? Even if we go in accordance with all of Rashi’s explanations, that we can begin counting from the time that Yitzchak was born – and that he too was in exile, still that gives us only 400 years. What happened to the extra 30 that this Passuk teaches us actually existed?

By using the same “logic” that Rashi teaches regarding the exile of Yitzchak, being that he was in a land not his own, and therefore we could begin counting from his birth – so too can we extend that to Avraham.

From the time that Hashem makes the promise to Avraham (at the age of 70), 30 years before the birth of Yitzchak, Avraham is already considered a sojourner in a land not his! (Likewise see Bereishes 35:27) that Avraham was only a sojourner, never an owner, never a claimant to the property he was on. In such an instance he was truly in exile.

The Gemara in Megilla 9b teaches that in fact, because the Bnei Yisrael knew that they were to be in Egypt for 400 years, and since many of the tribe of Ephraim already began their counting of these years from the time of the Bris Bein HaBesarim, they left Egypt 30 years before everyone else, anticipating that the time of the redemption had arrived. The Gemara says that they were killed. It is true that the exile lasted 400 years – but that was only to begin from the birth of Yitzchak. Then, when the Passuk in Shemos teaches us that the entire exile lasted 430 years, it means to include the years of Hashems promise to Avraham at that time – 30 years before the actual birth of Yitzchak. Yet in truth, Hashem promises Avraham that it was only his descendants who would be enslaved for 400 years. Therefore the calculation of the 400 years was only to begin at the birth of his son Yitzchak – even though in accordance with Shemos, the total real enslavement began with Avraham 30 years before!

Because of these apparent difficulties and discrepancies, to anyone not focusing on the intricate depth of the discussion, it would seem that the Torah contradicts itself. It would seem therefore, that possibly the author was not G-d (Chas VeShalom) and that a human wrote according to his own will, making mistakes as he went along. The truth is that each figure of years was carefully chosen to describe different parts of the exile, from Avraham, to Yitzchak, to Yaakov – and to his children etc. None were contradictory, but merely explaining different aspects of exile.

Since this was the case, the Gemara describes a miracle that occurred in the days of King Ptolemy. The king had requested 70 of the leading sages to translate the Torah for him, so that he could understand it properly. Naturally, by human translation, everything would come out in a contradictory way – proving to the king that the Torah was fabricated by man. The Gemara states that Hashem caused a miracle and that all the sages translated the Torah exactly the same – to indicate it’s authenticity. But for one thing. On certain occasions, where the Torah is difficult to understand, and would not be understood correctly by everyone if it was not made absolutely clear, a miracle occurred and Hashem made it that all the sages wrote a translation which was not exacting to the meaning of the Hebrew words, yet each of them wrote the exact same words.

It was in this very place – with regards to understanding the length of the Egyptian exile, that one of those miracles occurred. The sages all translated this very verse as follows: “And the habitation of the Children of Israel which they dwelled in Egypt and in other lands was four hundred and thirty years.”

The sages thereby resolved all possible contradictions that could come about. The exile was indeed 400 years long, as it began with the birth of Yitzchak. It was also 210 years long, because that is when they entered into Egypt. But above all this, it was still 430 years long, because even the journeys of Avraham were included. And those journeys began 30 years before Yitzchak was born – right at the moment when Hashem made this very promise of exile to Avraham himself.

We should merit that just as Hashem mitigated all His judgements with mercy in making the Egyptian exile so much shorter than His original promise, so too should He calculate our ketz bringing the real and ultimate redemption to be immediately.


And behold, by means of fulfilling the things spoken about above[1], that a person’s body should be despised and disgusting in his eyes – and that his only happiness should be the happiness of the soul alone: Behold, this is the upright and easiest way to come to fulfilling the Mitzvah of “And you shall love your fellow man as you love yourself” – “ואהבת לרעך כמוך” towards every Jewish soul from great to small.

Since it is that his body is disgusting and despicable towards him, and the[2] soul and the spirit[3] – who knows their greatness and high level in their root and source (Root and Source) in the living G-d. Since all[4] are fitting and there is one Father to them all. And therefore all of Yisrael[5] are called “brothers”[6] in absolute reality[7] from the point of view of the root of their soul in the One G‑d. It is only their bodies that are divided.

And therefore, those who make their bodies “the main thing” and their souls “secondary”, it is impossible for there to be true love and brotherhood between them, except for the type that is dependant on something[8].

And this is what Hillel the elder said regarding the fulfillment of this Mitzvah, “that this is the entire Torah, and the rest is but mere commentary etc.” For the foundation and root of the entire Torah is to raise and elevate the soul over the body (higher) level by (higher) level until[9] the origin (Origin) and source (Source) of all worlds, and also to draw down the Infinite Light[10] (Hashem) Blessed is He, into the Community of Israel – as it is written later. That means to say, into the origin of souls of all Israel to be one (One) in one (One) specifically[11], and not when there is separation G-d forbid, with the souls, because the Holy One Blessed is He does not dwell in a place of defect.

And as it is written[12] “Bless us, our King, all of us like one (One) in the light of Your Face. And as is written in other places at length"

And that, that is written in the Gemara, that one who sees in his friend that he sinned, it’s a Mitzvah to hate him, and also to tell his teacher to hate him too – this[13] is someone who is his friend in Torah and Mitzvos. And[14] he must already have fulfilled the Mitzvah of “And you shall surely rebuke your fellow man” – "הוכח תוכח את עמיתך"[15] – i.e. (one who is) with you in Mitzvahs.[16] And even though that be the case[17], he did not return (do Teshuva) from sinning – as is written is the Sefer Chareidim.

But someone who is not his friend and is not his close companion by him, behold, about this, Hillel the elder said[18] “Be of the pupils of Aharon – loving peace etc. (pursuing peace), loving people[19] (creatures) and bringing them closer to Torah. That means to say, even those who are far from the Torah of Hashem and His service[20]. And therefore they are called by the name “creatures” in a general sense – one must draw them with ropes tied up of love. And all of this, and perhaps, he will be able to bring them to Torah and to the service of Hashem.

And if not, he still has not lost out on the reward for the Mitzvah of loving ones comrades. And also those who bring others close to him, and rebuke them, and they don’t return (do Teshuva) from their sins – that it is a “Mitzvah” to hate them, there is also a Mitzvah to love them as well! And both of them are true – hatred from the side of the bad in them, and love from the side of the aspect of good that is hidden inside them, that is the spark of G-dliness inside them, that gives life to their G-dly souls, and also to awaken mercy in his heart upon her[21]. Because she[22] is in exile amidst the bad of the Sitra Achra[23], which strengthens itself upon her[24] towards the Reshaim[25], and mercy[26] nullifies the hatred, and awakens the love, as is known from what is written about Yaakov, that (Yaakov) redeemed Avraham[27] [and King David, peace be upon him, did not say[28] “With absolute hatred, I hate those… etc. except on the willful apostates and abandoners of the Jewish faith – Apikorsim, who have no portion in the G-d of Israel, as it stated in the Gemara, beginning chapter 16 of Shabbat.][29]

תניא פרק לב

והנה ע"י קיום הדברי' הנ"ל להיות גופו נבזה ונמאס בעיניו רק שמחתו תהיה שמחת הנפש לבדה הרי זו דרך ישרה וקלה לבא לידי קיום מצות ואהבתה לרעך כמוך לכל נפש מישראל למגדול ועד קטן. כי מאחר שגופו נמאס ומתועב אצלו והנפש והרוח מי יודע גדולתן ומעלתן בשרשן ומקורן באלקי' חיים. בשגם שכולן מתאימות ואב א' לכולנה ולכן נקראו כל ישראל אחים ממש מצד שורש נפשם בה' אחד רק שהגופים מחולקי'. ולכן העושי' גופם עיקר ונפשם טפלה אי אפשר להיות אהבה ואחבה אמיתית ביניהם אלא התלויה בדבר לבדה. וז"ש הלל הזקן על קיום מצוה זו זהו כל התורה כולה ואידך פירושא הוא כו'. כי יסוד ושורש כל התורה הוא להגביה ולעלו' הנפש על הגוף מעלה מעלה עד עיקרא ושרשא דכל עלמין וגם להמשיך אור א"ס ב"ה בכנסת ישראל כמ"ש לקמן דהיינו במקור נשמות כל ישראל למהוי אחד באחד דוקא ולא כשיש פירוד ח"ו בנשמות דקב"ה לא שריא באתר פגים וכמ"ש ברכנו אבינו כולנו כאחד באור פניך וכמ"ש במ"א באריכות: ומ"ש בגמ' שמי שרואה שחטא מצוה לשנאותו וגם לומר לרבו שישנאהו. היינו בחבירו בתורה ומצות וכבר קיים בו מצות הוכח תוכיח את עמיתך עם שאתך בתורה ומצות ואעפ"כ לא שב מחטאו כמ"ש בס' חרדים אבל מי שאינו חבירו ואינו מקורב אצלו הנה ע"ז אמר הלל הזקן הוי מתלמידיו של אהרן אוהב שלום וכו' אוהב את הבריות ומקרבן לתורה. לומר שאף הרחוקים מתורת ה' ועבודתו ולכן נקראי' בשם בריות בעלמא צריך למשכן בחבלי עבותו' אהבה וכולי האי ואולי יוכל לקרבן לתורה ועבודת ה' והן לא לא הפסיד שכר מצות אהבת ריעים וגם המקורבים אילו והוכיחם ולא שבו מעונותיהן שמצוה לשנאותם מצוה לאהבם ג"כ ושתיהן הן אמת שנאה מצד הרע שבהם ואהבה מצד בחי' הטוב הגנוז שבהם שהוא ניצוץ אלקות שבתוכם המחיה נפשם האלקית וגם לעורר רחמים בלבו עליה כי היא בבחי' גלות בתוך הרע מס"א הגובר עליה ברשעי' והרחמנות מבטלת השנאה ומעוררת האהבה כנודע ממ"ש ליעקב אשר פדה את אברהם [ולא אמר דה"עה תכלית שנאה שנאתים וגו' אלא על המינים והאפיקורסים שאין להם חלק באלהי ישראל כדאיתא בגמרא ר"פ ט"ז דשבת]

[1] See previous chapter/s
[2] i.e. but regarding the
[3] The Nefesh and the Ruach (the two lower, more discernable layers of the five levels of the soul. The Nefesh being more associated with the animal part of the soul. The Ruach being associated with a slightly higher level, but still very much a part of the “visible” self. The Baal HaTanya does not mention the Neshama which is already the more G-dly part of a persons soul, and he surely makes no mention of the two highest levels of the soul, namely Chaya and Yechida which are said to hover above/around a person and far more “attached” to G-dliness than the 3 lower levels.
[4] Every Jewish soul
[5] The Jewish people
[6] See Chapter 2 of Tanya well!
[7] Materially and spiritually
[8] See Pirkei Avos 5:16 “Only a love that is not dependant on a love with last. But a love that is dependant on a cause will never last.”
[9] Read: “Until it ‘reaches’”
[10] Ohr Ain Sof in original Hebrew
[11] For each soul to include itself in every other Jewish soul so that there is a total unity of souls
[12] Final blessing of the Shemoneh Esrei
[13] Refers to
[14] In addition to this point
[15] Leviticus 19:17 (See Rashi as well.) I personally read a very interesting statement made by Rabbi Avraham Yeshaya Karelitz (known as the Chazon Ish, a Posek – ruler in Halacha, of the previous generation.) The Rambam defines the Mitzvah of Ahavas Yisrael – loving one’s fellow Jew as: “To love everyone in Israel with a soul love (ahavas nefesh). To have compassion on a Jew and on his money just like a person would have compassion on himself and his own money.” The oft-quoted exception is the rasha. The Chazon Ish ruled that already in his generation there were no real reshaim – only Tinokos Shenishbu (children held captive and are not liable for not having kept the Mitzvos, as they have no knowledge of what Torah and Judaism are all about.) Most Jews today fall into this category. With regards to this Mitzvah of rebuking a fellow Jew before one is entitled to hate him is concerned – they asked the Chazon Ish “how many times must one rebuke a Jew before he is allowed to hate him?” The Chazon Ish replied: “Until you know, from Ruach HaKodesh – Divine Inspiration from Above – that you are Yotzei (have fulfilled) the Mitzvah of rebuke.” Nevertheless even here, the entire Mitzvah of rebuke is an entire Sugya (section of learning) unto itself, and one must certainly be very careful of how one goes about it. As above, see the entire Passuk with Rashi.
[16] A play on the word Amitecha (“your nation”) which shares the same first two letters as the word IM meaning “with”.
[17] Even after rebuking him
[18] Pirkei Avos 1:12
[19] Literally “creatures” – בריות. The word chosen is not “people” – אנשים, but rather “creatures.”
[20] And one may think that this person may be no better than a creature that scurries around attending to it’s animalistic tendencies all day long.
[21] The G-dly soul which is not felt be this individual, who has lost all touch with his connection to G-dliness.
[22] This G-dly soul.
[23] “The other-side” – a term used in Kabbalah and Chassidus to describe everything that is antithetical to Torah. The Sitra Achra is the exact opposite of G-dliness.
[24] The G-dly soul.
[25] The evil people. See Chapter 1 of Tanya for a better understanding of Tzaddik - the righteous, Beinoni – the middle-man, and Rasha – the evil person.
[26] This is the mercy that one Jew has upon another, in spite of his apparent “evil” ways. He continues to love him, even though he feels he (the other Jew) may not be deserving of such love, - perhaps due to his behaviour.
[27] In Kabbalah and Chassidus, each of the Avot (Avraham, Yitzchak and Yaakov) represent one particular force. Avraham is Chesed – kindness. Yitzchak is Gevurah – Strength. Yaakov is Emet – truth. Truth being the middle point is also closest to Kindness, and by mediating between the two, Kindness and Strength, it inclines towards Kindness becoming Mercy! Therefore Yaakov takes more out of Avraham – so to speak – than he does from Yitzchak. Whereas Yitzchak inclines in a very hard approach of holding-back (strength), Yaakov pulls away from that, returning to Avraham’s Kindness, resulting in an even more beautiful attribute, known as Mercy. Thus Yaakov redeems Avraham. Mercy brings out the Kindness that has been hidden, or captured, so to speak.
[28] Psalms 139:22
[29] See footnote 16 again.

To Be a Chassid - a Person of Lovingkindness

Each of us wishes and has the obligation to improve himself, to become someone greater than he already is. To what degree should we strive and how do we keep in balance while still advancing to higher levels?

Externalities and physical appearance is just the start! One of the heights to which each of us can aspire towards, is to become a Chassid.

A Chassid, from the Hebrew word Chessed – kindness – is one who is himself filled with kindness. Whereas a judge (in Hebrew – a Dayan) is focussed on Din (judgment,) it is through Chessed (kindness) that one becomes a Chassid.

The Torah was given to bring goodness into the world. It was not given for one to become an ascetic on a mountain peak – perhaps the Himayalas – in the hope of experiencing Divinity and G-dliness! It was given for the individual to learn, to improve himself, so that he will affect a change for the good in everything in the world. This becomes the purpose of a person’s life in this world, to be able to bestow more and so turn this world into a G-dly world.[1]

The Talmud[2] gives three opinions defining what a true Chassid is. In fact, in a short discussion before its definition, the Talmud gives us a taste of what it means. “Thorns, which could be dangerous to others should be disposed of appropriately” – states the Talmud. The first “Chassidim” would hide dangerous thorns and broken glass in the ground. Realising the harm these items could cause, and being super-sensitive to other people’s lives, they would hide the dangerous items a hand’s-breadth (about 8 – 10 centimetres) into the ground. These “Chassidim” took into account not only the danger these items could cause others, but also the possible danger these items could cause a plough passing through the field! It wasn’t enough that no person come to harm, but that a machine, belonging to someone – who purchased it for money – should also not break as a result of going over the hard items.

While the first “Chassidim” would bury the dangerous items – albeit with due care, Rav Sheshet would throw the thorns into a fire – and thus destroy them completely! Rava would throw them into the river. All these sages were aware of the dangers these items could present to others and so did their best to remove the danger absolutely and completely from any harm! All this, in order to teach us the correct way to behave. To be sensitive to another and to his property too.

Kindness, or being a Chassid, is all about super-sensitivities. It’s about going above the letter of the law. Perhaps, as the Hebrew expression states, it is in fact about fulfilling one’s obligations within the letter of the law[3]. A Chassid does no more than required of him, simply fulfilling what is mandatory. After all, is it too much to dispose of one’s dangerous items – that no other person come to harm from them? Is it too much to be aware of the possible danger they could be to another’s personal assets?! This is simply being a decent and caring human being.

For a person to be a Chassid – one filled with kindness, is nothing more than doing the right thing – that which the Torah teaches!

According to Rabbi Yehuda, if one wishes to be a Chassid, one should fulfil all those laws written in the tractates of Torah dealing with the Laws of Damages (Nezikin). Rava says that one should fulfil the moral principles as enumerated in the Mishna text entitled Pirkei Avot – Ethics of our Fathers. A third opinion cites that fulfilling the laws of Blessings is all that is necessary.

Why all the differences of opinion? Which is it?! Is a Chassid the first, second or last of the above categories? Why list three such different ideas, when only one would surely have sufficed?!

The Maharsha teaches that in fact, the Talmud does not argue. Instead it brings into full circle what being a Chassid is really all about. There are three relationships in life that a person needs to work on constantly – if he wishes to be a Chassid.

Firstly, he needs to work on himself. He needs to see to it that his relationship with his own self is a healthy one. In a sense – he needs to love himself and be balanced within himself. He also needs to work on his relationship with others. Our interactions with each other need to be in balance, filled with true kindness, without constant judgment. Here too, there is a much needed love – but in this case, as it applies to another. Finally, one needs to have a harmonious relationship with the Creator of the world – G-d Himself! Without a love for G-d, one is bound to lose track of having love for anybody else. Further, one will certainly not appreciate how to love oneself and another correctly, since it is only through the Torah that we learn how to love properly.

Hence the necessity for the mentioning of all three areas. One who learns the Ethics of our Fathers, will come to understand what developing and improving oneself is all about. One who learns well the Laws of Damages, will come to excel in behaving correctly with his fellow man. One who learns and puts into practise the laws of Blessings, will become constantly aware of G-d, creating a healthy relationship with Him. In addition to this, he will come to acknowledge and realise the presence of G-d in all his doings and actions.

How can we be better people? How can we be kind? What is true kindness – and how can we distance ourselves from the opposite side of the coin – that of judging another? The Talmud answers clearly.

There are 3 areas to perfect. Improve yourself and feel great about being you! Love your fellow, doing him no harm and keeping danger as far from him as possible. One more thing, don’t forget the most important area – remember the Creator of the world. It is He who has given you your own life. It is He who has given you your fellow man and friends for life – and it is He who has given you of every single thing in this world. Acknowledge Him for it.

A word of thanks to G-d. A kind deed to another. A kind word to oneself. It is these three relationships and loves that turn each one of us into a true Chassid – a person filled with loving kindness, on the path to bringing more goodness into the world.

[1] Midrash Tanchuma (Buber) Parshat Nasso, chapter 24. “When G-d created the world, He desired that there would be a dwelling place below, just as there is for Him above.”
[2] Bava Kama 30a
[3] Pirkei Avot 2:8 – See Rabbi Ovadia Mi’Bartenora: “חסיד: שעושה לפנים משורת הדין”

Acts of Goodness and Kindness

The Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, stressed throughout his life the importance of increasing in acts of goodness and kindness. At the core of life is the action of giving to another. However, just when one would assume that one had given enough and had told the Rebbe of his most generous donations, the Rebbe, without hesitating would encourage more. “One who has one hundred wants two hundred[1],” the Rebbe would quote the Torah. If this applies in terms of one’s material gains for one’s own self – surely it would apply equally – and perhaps even more so to one’s efforts in giving to others?!

Giving can be done in so many ways. It is not only a monetary thing. The Rambam lists different obligations, formats and structures of giving[2]. On the highest level one gives somebody a job – so that he can take care of himself – without the need to constantly embarrass himself asking for charity from others[3]. Within this level is also giving a loan to another. Here one allows another to experiment and grow in his own life having the material needs to attain his goals on his own.

Never, does the giver have to humiliate the receiver by imposing his own purpose of the material help he is giving, nor should he. Instead, the money is given to allow the receiver to make something of himself, grow in his very own way, and contribute to the world his own unique gifts!

There are many ways to give, says the Rambam – even if it be unwillingly – although this be the lowest level.

Unfortunately we are not all granted the blessings of “exaggerated” wealth. While some have material wealth, there are others blessed with other ways of bestowing their kindness. Perhaps it’s through devoting an hour a week to visit a sick person in hospital. It could be sponsoring a project of another, or offering one’s own professional service at no cost (thereby not incurring any loss to oneself.) Donating a book to a new Yeshiva, even though it may not seem like much, can make a huge difference in the life of a student. Giving to a newly married couple an item much needed in the start of a home, can be a gift for life!

Due to it’s sensitivity, one strives to fulfill this Mitzvah without embarrassing another[4]. Yet, how many of us know that when we’ve needed that extra help (whether material or spiritual), we have been met with the “anger” of the giver. “Get a job!” they might say – while handing over the money. While fulfilling the Mitzvah of charity, they lose out on the opportunity of doing it with a happy countenance! How much more they could stand to gain for themselves and the world, were they only to give with a smile?!

The Torah says that it is G-d who gives to everyone[5]. Nobody is given something because he deserves it – as such. Rather, G-d has desired that the world exist in kindness[6]. There is only one way of achieving this goal. Some will have to have, and others will have to lack. G-d therefore gives more to some and less to others so that the world will exist on kindness. Charity can only be given when another is in need. It can only be given between two people. Were G-d to grant each person his material desires without the intervention of any person, the world would lack the most important part of it – kindness between people.

More than the giver gives to the recipient, the recipient gives to the giver! Such a person gives the giver the greatest opportunity in life – to give, to become G-dlike and create something new in the world. Through his receiving, he allows the giver to build the world, to bring G-dliness into it, by allowing him to imitate G-d Himself. It is in fact he – the receiver, who brings into existence the concept of giving, which the giver has now merited to do.

The giver becomes a partner with the receiver. He is no greater because of his giving. The receiver becomes a partner with the giver, he is no less.

This is kindness. This is giving. This is the way of the Jewish people[7], and we hope and pray that all will learn from them so that the entire world will be filled with a oneness and an awakening to perceive G-dliness. The one who has, does not become arrogant, and the one who lacks has no shame. Each gives to the other, and the symphony of the music is filled with melody. One waits patiently as the other plays his tune at his time, and then the roles become reversed, and the other now has a chance to play his instrument. For one, it may be a solo piano piece lasting minutes, and for the other just a quick movement as his bow moves swiftly across his violin strings. Yet together they contribute – each giving when they can, neither one more jealous of the other.

The Rebbe was also very much involved in seeing how technology manifested itself in the world – and using it to further this message of goodness and kindness that he had[8]. Wherever he could, he would take the latest developments, see its greatness, its G-dliness, and use it to bring more happiness in the world - more goodness and more kindness.

Can we use technology to speed up these acts of goodness and kindness? Already amazing Torah sites have arisen – filled with words of Torah. Helping Jews around the world learn more and more. The power of an email can bring goodness to another in a moment. Money can be sent from one part of the world to another – in seconds! And of course, an encouraging word can by Divine Providence reach the right person at just the right time.

Are we doing enough though? There is always more to do! We are still in exile awaiting the final redemption. What can we do to speed things up? Can we use technology to hasten the redemption? Can technology bring peace into the world?

While one can always give in person, today one can even join a group on the Internet that has formed for the sole purpose of doing good. It’s name – Goodness and Kindness. It’s a place where there is no need to feel greater – or lesser, arrogant or shameful. In fact it may well be that the partners – giver and receiver, never even actually meet! We all have what to give. Let this remind us, that there are still many in need. Today, at the click of a button we can literally bless another with exactly what they need, no matter how small or large. And all of this, without the slightest trace of embarrassment to the recipient.

Give it a try sometime, click right here:

It’s there, waiting to be explored. You can join and take part in bringing those who have in abundance with those who might be in need.

Join today - we all have something to give. Do another act of goodness and kindness. Charity hastens the redemption.[9] May we all encourage each other in all our “Giving” projects, create a true unity amongst the Jewish people, give delight to the Creator of the world, and indeed hasten that final moment, where we enter into a world, with unity and love in place of jealousy and strife. A world filled with only goodness and kindness.

[1] Kohelet Raba 1:34
[2] Rambam Hilchos Matanos L’Aniyim (Gifts to the Poor) Chapters 8-10
[3] See as above Chapter 10, Halachos 7-14 (8 Levels of Charity)
[4] Rambam Chapter 10:13 (7th level of charity – to give with a smiling face.)
[5] See Tehillim 145:16 “You open your hand and satisfy the will of every living creature.”; Talmud: Beitzah 15b
[6] Tehillim 89:3 “For I have said, the world is built upon kindness”
[7] Talmud Bavli: Yevamos 79a “This nation has three characteristic traits. They are merciful, modest (shy) and doers of kindness.”
[8] See Proverbs 3:6 “In all your ways know Him”
[9] Talmud Baba Basra 10a

From Exile to Redemption - A Sefer Torah is Saved!

Pesach and Shavuos share a unique connection. It may seem that these two holy days are festivals in themselves, but there is a clear clue that they are linked. Sefiras HaOmer. As we count each day, we link these two festivals together. While Pesach is the festival in which the Jews were taken out of Egypt, it was for the purpose of receiving the Torah 50 days later that Pesach actually happened. Pesach is not a festival to itself. Shavuos too, is not a festival in itself. Each shares something of the other and both are intertwined and interlinked.

The number 4 is significant when talking about Pesach on the revealed level. The Haggadah and the Seder are all about the number 4. We drink 4 cups of wine. We ask 4 questions. There are 4 expressions of redemption spoken about. There are also 4 sons.

Just as the number 4 is so important for the Seder, it too shares a quality with another 4. Four generations. While the four sons represent various qualities of four different Jews, and even one Jew with four different qualities, it also represents four generations that are linked with each other. Four generations link a great-grandparent to a great-grandchild. And that brings me to the significance of this article.

My great-grandfather, HaRav Zelig Pinchas Shear must have been a special man. I never knew him personally, and neither did my father – who was named after him. But something of “his” found it’s way many years ago into my own hands.

My great-grandfather had been brought up knowing what Torah was all about! He studied in the famous Telz Yeshiva in Lithuania. The story I share certainly answers any questions I might have had about his level of scholarship and his fear of heaven. It shows his connection with Pesach, of leaving a country and fleeing, and bringing the Torah (literally) to another country – a receiving of the Torah elsewhere – Shavuos!

At the age of 32, he fled Lithuania, having already obtained Semicha from the famous Yeshiva. He arrived in South Africa and settled in that beautiful area of Uniondale in the Cape. A place that had no formal Jewish community. He literally became that community! He raised the finance; bought the property (my father actually has the title deed to the property), and built a most beautiful shul, its ceiling painted by an Italian artist, filled with the most exquisite design of stars and the heavens upon it. It still stands to this day and just a few years ago I travelled together with my father to see it, stand in it, and offer up a few prayers in this holy place. This place was where my great-grandfather had davened over 100 years ago. This was literally his shul.

In addition, my great-grandfather was a Mohel, having circumcised all of his 8 sons. He was also a Shochet. The shul premises also included a Mikvah and a Cheder (a room made for the sole purpose of teaching children).

From the stories I have heard of him, he was highly respected even by the non-Jews of the town. He apparently had quite a presence about him. A big man with a shining countenance. He was a powerful swimmer, and I heard a story about him diving in and saving somebody from the icy waters of his homeland. He became a successful shopkeeper and ostrich farmer, and in his spare time he would sit, spending most of his days immersed in his Torah books.

It seems the “shear” quality of Torah he was immersed in was filled with power. There was nothing fake about the Torah to him. It was real – every part of it. He wasn’t just a congregational Rabbi, or a good preacher of sorts. He knew what it meant to build an entire community, taking care of all its needs. More than this, he knew what it meant to be a presence even in a foreign environment amongst non-Jews.

Through the stories told by my grandfather, we knew that to him, his Torah was his most important asset. It was life itself. And when he fled from Lithuania, he brought with him a Sefer Torah, which he used in his Shul. We later found out that he had brought out , not one, but indeed three Sifrei Torah. We had always wondered what had happened to the Torah used in the shul, but the thought of locating it never entered our minds, until my Grandfather passed away, and my father decided to trace a family tree to perpetuate his memory.

The events leading to the discovery of one of these holy relicts prompts me to realize just how true it is of what the Baal Shem Tov teaches, that G-d leads events in the world exactly as He wishes them to be. This concept – Hashgachah Pratis – “individual Divine providence” extends even to the way in which a leaf falls from a tree. Not only does G-d want the leaf to fall from the tree, but He even orchestrates the exact path it must take to reach the ground. As the well known story is told, when a Chassid of the Baal Shem Tov asked his Rebbe if this really was true, the Baal Shem Tov looked at a leaf on the ground and asked the Chassid to lift it up ever so gently. In so doing, the Chassid noticed a tiny worm hidden underneath it. The Baal Shem Tov told the Chassid that the worm was in need of some shade, and so G-d had orchestrated all of creation, the winds and trees, the branches and leaves, to blow a certain way, so as to cause the leaf to land directly on top of the worm, in order to give it shade.

If G-d can take such care for the detailed providence of a worm, surely He is involved in every moment – and every movement – of a human being.

And so did the events occur. My father used to run a computer school from his home. In fact, one of his pupils was the son of the country Rabbi of South Africa. My father mentioned to him that he was compiling a family tree, and casually asked him, being the Country Rabbi, whether he knew of the little shul in Uniondale, and if there was any chance of locating the Torah used there. Imagine his surprise when the Rabbi replied that he indeed knew the Shul well, and the Sefer Torah just happened to be on his desk in his office. He said that it was a special Torah, being small in size and portable, and for those reasons, when the last Jews had left Uniondale, and the Shul had closed its doors, the Torah had been saved and had been used in the South African army. My father immediately realized and knew instinctively that this Torah must be the very one which had belonged to my great-grandfather! It had come all the way from Lithuania, and was now in the possession of this Rabbi – who by “shear” coincidence was the father of a pupil of my father’s!

It was not long after this, that the ownership of this Torah was established, and it was given back to us to be a part of our lives once again. This in itself was an absolute miracle! How could all of these events happened in such a way – and that in fact, a Torah – which may well have been Hefker (ownerless) actually found it’s way back into the hands of it’s “owner”?

It is a beautiful Sefer Torah. I must admit that it doesn’t look like much on the outside though. It seems that it was still protected by the original cover that it had when taken from Lithuania. And the columns of writing are really not that neat either! In fact, the columns are all of different sizes. Some have long lines running across the parchment, and others have short lines made of just a few words. Far from the perfection of Sifrei Torah that we have today, which are precisely written on only the best parchment! Our Sefer Torah had a slightly yellowy and even darker color in certain places.

Our Sefer Torah is no king in size! It’s rather sweet. One can easily hold it and carry around with one. When I made Aliyah with my new wife at the end of 2006, I brought it on the plane with me. As Divine Providence would have things, the plane wasn’t full, and the air hostess saw three open seats next to each other, and allowed us to sit in them. It was wonderful to see this Sefer Torah finally on a journey to the Holy Land strapped in its seat with protected seat belt.

Our Torah has been with us for quite a number of years already. I’ve danced around with this beautiful “jewel” of holiness on many Simchat Torahs. Unfortunately through the years, we’ve never really known whether it was Kosher or not, so we’ve never used it. How many years it could have been since it was last used is impossible to say. But the Halachah states that one may not use a Sefer Torah unless every one of it’s letters is present and Kosher. That being the case, and being unable to afford to check it, we have simply kept it with us without making use of it.

Sadly, our “Queen” has had to have the shame of having a piece of cloth tied around her on the outside, warning all outsiders of the possibility of its “inferior” status by not being Kosher. And so our queen has remained, very often at times, all by herself, and alone - separated from all the mighty kosher Torahs it would stand next to in the shuls she was left in. Our queen seemed less loved than the other Torahs. On those wonderful Simchat Torah occasions, I remember my joy at being able to carry her around and around. But when they would hand her out to others to share in the Simcha, they didn’t seem quite as excited. Usually she was given to the children to carry – because it would be easier for them. They of course wanted the “bigger” Torahs! The one’s with the beautiful pure white coverings on – not some simple blue covering with a Magen Dovid on it looking like it’s about to fall off!

We had tried getting help to have the Torah queen checked, but lacking the financial means to do it ourselves made things difficult. Well, I suppose, what with a Sefer Torah 150 years old, who would want to check it?! Perhaps it would be a waste of time, and a waste of our money.

When I arrived in the Holy Land, I had enquired about having it checked, and met with quite a few responses. One person told me that it was absolutely forbidden for me to have in my home and that I should immediately get it buried! He was adamant about this, and felt quite disgusted and irritated with me that I had even thought of bringing it to Israel when I had no place for it here. And after all, it’s 150 years old! I recall another person telling me on the phone – without so much as being prepared to look at our queen, that we should see to it that she would be buried immediately!

It seems that Divine Providence won the battle again. Things were not meant to be the way “others” see them. If my great-grandfather had considered this Torah to be inferior to the other two he had brought out (which we have never been able to locate), maybe he would not have brought it with him in the first instance! What chance could there have been of bringing three Sifrei Torah with him aboard a ship?! What would be the chances of success? Better bury the Torahs in Lithuania. Write new ones in South Africa – everything will be just fine there! Why should he concern himself with a small Torah that appears inferior to its bigger sisters? There must have been a reason. Again Divine Providence comes into the picture.

But my great-grandfather knew well what the value of a Torah is. In fact, he knew the value of this particular Torah years before he left Lithuania! And this has only become apparent recently.

I found a wonderful Sofer in Jerusalem, who upon hearing of our Queen, came over to our apartment, not even wanting us to move the Torah a few meters! He felt honored to be able to be the one who could take a look at this wonderful holy jewel. He opened the Torah up and quite quickly glanced through the Torah, tapping the parchment in various places to see that the ink was still attached to it. It seemed like a fuller check was necessary, but the good news was that the Torah was in excellent condition! It could easily be repaired and made use of again!

The Sofer explained everything to us. In those days long ago in Lithuania, when the Jews had to pay for pieces of parchment, they were required to work with whatever sizes they could afford and purchase at the time. As a result, when it came to writing, they would make use of each piece as best as they could. They did this by writing long lines at times, and shorter lines at other times, in order to make sure that every part of the parchment was used. Our question regarding the odd size of the lines had been answered. What could he tell us regarding the parchment itself? It was in excellent condition. They knew how to purchase in those days! And they bought only the best!

We were ready to have the Torah checked. Now, we needed a beautiful cover made for her. We posted some requests on various Jewish Newsgroups on the Internet asking if anyone would help with this project of ours. We had no idea who to contact, and we lacked the financial means to pay too. But we were prepared to take things one step at a time. First we would need to find someone who could design a cover.

One lady responded. Not only did she respond, but she was filled with a Simcha I cannot relate in words. She wanted the job! There would be no cost attached. Just the cost of the materials themselves. She was proud to be able to take part in restoring a Sefer Torah to a useable state!
I told her a little about the size of the Torah, and she asked me a few questions. Suddenly, she shouted out in excitement that she couldn’t wait to become involved in this project.

Our small, inferior-looking Queen had been neglected, but was at last beginning to reveal her true value through the kindness and sincere faith of some people sent to us by Divine Providence.

This wonderful lady told us that she knew of only two others similar Torahs. She said that these Torahs are called "Pogrom Torahs" because they were *especially* written this way in order to be carried around when the time would come. In other words, it wasn't just that they didn't have enough paper or couldn't afford bigger parchment etc., but that the Sofer - and all those that took part in the making of the Torah - did so because they knew they would eventually have to flee in the pogroms, and they obviously wanted to make sure they had a Torah with them. These Torahs are very precious indeed. And my great-grandfather had realized this years ago in distant Lithuania, and this was the reason that he had preserved it and brought it out with him to South Africa. The truth was that this Torah had been written exclusively to be able to continue teaching Torah under the most oppressive conditions. It would be able to be transported around the world with ease. This insignificant Torah – the “ugly duckling”, actually deserved a place of honor in its role of perpetuating the Jewish religion.

And now, back to the festival of Pesach – a time of fours. Great-grandfathers to great-grandsons. Shavuos, a time to receive the Torah. Which Torah will we choose to receive this year? Will it be the kind that is externally big and beautiful, or will we perhaps think again. Perhaps we’ll choose the Torah which seems rather small. In fact, it may even have a “band” tied around it, seemingly indicating some sort of inferior status. But maybe, inside this Torah, there is far more good, kindness and truth. It just takes a little patience to see behind the mask of materiality. The mask that calls out in words of holiness “I am greater”. Perhaps, with just a little patience, we can dig a little deeper to find that hidden amongst the thorns lies a rose.

The story is told of Rabbi Yehoshua Ben Chananya. Caesars daughter once chanced upon the physically ugly looking Rabbi. “Shame, such beautiful wisdom in such an ugly vessel,” she told him. He replied “My daughter, in what type of vessels does your father keep his wine?” Said Caesars daughter “in earthen vessels.” “What then is the difference between you father and the common people,” he asked. After asking him where they should be kept, he replied “People as important as you should keep their wine in gold and silver vessels.” She notified her servants to make the change, and the wine was transferred to the beautiful gold vessels. The wine turned sour. Caesar was angry! He asked her why she did this, and when told it was the doing of Rabbi Yehoshua Ben Chananya, he summoned him. Rabbi Yehoshua explained to Caesar that he was simply giving the same advice to his daughter as she had given to him.

Shavuos – a time for self refinement to finally set it. After 49 days of counting the Omer, and working on improving character flaws, we can finally enjoy and reap the rewards. Modesty is beautiful. It shines. But its light is only available to those prepared to see it. A Sefer Torah, small and hidden. For so many years considered to be worth nothing. Considered to be deserving of burial. Yet some human beings had the patience to see its worth and its light! Finally, after 150 years, our Queen is on her way to being restored to her fullest beauty. She does not do this for herself though, but so that each of us can recognise what she truly is all about, so that each of us will appreciate what true goodness, kindness and beauty is all about.

“כל כבודה בת מלך פנימה" “All the goodness of the daughter of the King is inside” (Tehillim 45:14)

For those reading this article and wish to partake in the project of restoring this Sefer Torah to a completely usable status - which includes a comprehensive check - or for those wishing to contribute to aid in purchasing a beautiful Aron Kodesh for the Torah to be used in the Yeshiva, please would you donate - whatever you are able to - by clicking on the button below. Thank you so much!

Sunday, 30 March 2008

Yeshivas Dira BeTachtonim - A Dwelling Place for G-d in the Lower Worlds

Amongst the many Mitzvah projects, Chessed Ve'Emet also includes a Yeshiva, located in Beitar Illit, open to all serious students of Torah. Shiurium are given in a wide variety of subjects, with a special emphasis on practical learning (Kashrus, Shabbos and Niddah) - and other areas in the halachos discussed in the Shulchan Aruch. One-on-one sessions are available with various rabbanim, to spend time learning the Sefer of your choice. We are hoping to have a Kollel allowing for Avreichim to learn at their own pace as well. In addition, acquiring and obtaining beautiful personality traits is emphasized throughout all the learning and activities in the Yeshiva.
over the Internet
People wishing to learn at the Yeshiva, but who may be unable to be here in person in Beitar Illit, may also do so through the Internet by arranging with a rabbi, a mutually suitable time to get together and learn using such software as Skype - and others. The rabbi can turn on a webcam allowing for a virtually personal interaction. This gives students the opportunity to learn at their own pace, a book of their choice and at a time convenient to them, while having the "luxury" of learning in their own homes.
As part of the curriculum, it is encouraged for students to also spend time sharing their own learning with others by teaching, whether in person at the Yeshiva - or using Internet facilities - as above. Students will receive payment for their teaching services if other students can be found around the world to teach in this way.
Both Nigleh - the revealed part of Torah, as well as Nistar - the hidden Torah (Chassidus and Kabbalah) are taught, and students can take part in those parts that appeal to them the most, whether in Chassidus Chabad, Chassidus Breslov, Sifrei Ramchal, Kitvei Arizal, Zohar etc.
The Yeshiva is still in its beginning stages and is looking for a variety of people to come on board to take part in expanding it. We are working towards purchasing apartments in the *immediate* vicinity of the Yeshiva to allow for Bachurim, Avreichim and Rabbis to live, allowing them to be within immediate access of the Yeshiva and their homes. We do not as of yet have our own webpage - although this is being worked upon. We will also be in need of at least one person to manage this part of our Yeshiva on a daily basis, as we hope to have a full schedule of activities available on the site, including written Divrei Torah, audio lessons and an interactive chat section.
A Dwelling Place for G-d
We are looking for serious teachers, rabbis, students, fund raisers and financial supporters and contributors to expand the Yeshiva and make it truly into a Dira BeTachtonim - a dwelling place for G-d. Through this it will be a place which brings peace and happiness to all those learning in it, and from this, spread out these beautiful values to the rest of the world as well.
If you have something to offer in any of the above areas or alternatively wish to learn more, please be in touch with Rav Eliyahu.




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We offer 3 professional photographic services:

1. Semachot of every kind. Eliyahu photographs the men's section, and Shoshanah photographs the women's - Elegant & Modest.

2. Photobook Albums. We will prepare our photography for you in a variety of albums including a complete Photobook Album. At a special discounted rate we offer the exact same album in a variety of sizes for all family members. Stunning memories preserved forever!

We also take your previous photographs that you may have from before (even tens of years old) and convert them into Photobook Albums. This way your memories are kept for always in a complete book form - and you never lose your original photographs.

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PRODUCTS AVAILABLE: We also have a select range of beautiful and artistic photographs of various holy sites in various sizes and frames. With a special verse of Torah appropriate to the photo, these make for beautiful adornments in your home - and terrific gifts for family overseas. We also offer these same images as 4x6" (10x15cm) fridge magnets.Visit us to view our portfolio and purchase a selection of these stunning images. Or share your ideas for your own poster image, magnet, or advertising image and let us bring it to life!

Friday, 28 March 2008

Sha'ar HaShamayim - A Genuine Kabbalistic Yeshiva



In the heart of the holy city of Jerusalem, there sits an elderly Torah Sage teaching Kabbalah – the mystical texts and understanding of the Torah – to a large group of Torah scholars. The name of this great Sage, beloved and respected worldwide by all segments of the Torah community, is Rabbi Yechiel Fischel Eizenbach shlitah, the Rosh HaYeshivah (Dean) of the renowned Torah academy Sha’ar HaShamaim. Continue reading...

Rabbi Yechiel Fischel Eizenbach zt"l
(Seated left is Rabbi Daniel Frish - author of Matok Midvash commentary on Zohar)

Who is PINCHAS [Ben Elazar the Kohen (Phineas the son of Eleazer)]?


PINCHAS IS ELIJAH! (Yalkut Shimoni, Torah 771)

His mother's father descended from Joseph, his mother's mother from Jethro. (Sotah 43a)

Whoever sees Phineas in a dream will have a miracle wrought for him. (Berachos 56b)

An angel of Hashem went up from Gilgal to Bochim. (Judges 2:1) Was it not Phineas, rather than an angel? [Yes,] but when Divine Inspiration rested upon him, his face was like a burning torch [thus resembling an angel] (Vayikra Rabba 1:1).

Hashem sent a man who was a prophet to the Children of Israel (Judges 6:8). That was Phineas (Seder Olam Rabba 20)

Divine Inspiration left Phineas for two hundred years (Koheles Rabbah 10:15).

Phineas became an angel who lives forever, and [he will be] the harbringer of redemption at the End of Days (Targum Yonasan, Bamidbar 25:12)


Phineas did not become a priest until he had slain Zimri. Rav Ashi says: Until he made peace among the Tribes [i.e. between the Tribes of Reuben, Gad, and half of Manasseh, and the rest of Israel] (See Joshua 22) (Zevachim 101b)

He does not bear the disgrace of crimes committed by close friends (Psalms 15:3). This refers to Phineas, who was of the Tribe of Levi. Zimri was of the [companion] Tribe of Simeon, yet as soon as Zimri committed the [nefarious] act, [Phineas] slew him, so that Israel would not be disgraced by what he did (Shocher Tov 15:6).

Had Zimri separated [from Cozbi] at the time that Phineas slew him, [Phineas] would have been put to death [for killing him without Zimri having been judged guilty in court]. Had Zimri turned around and slain Phineas, [Zimri] would not have been put to death [for murder], for [Phineas] had attacked him (Sanhedrin 82a)

Phineas said, "There is no one who is ready to risk his life by slaying [Zimri]. Where are the lions? A lion cub is Judah (Genesis 49:9); Dan is a cub (Deuteronomy 33:22). When Phineas saw that no man of Israel was doing anything, immediately he took a spear in his hand (Numbers 25:7) (Yerushalmi Sanhedrin 10:2)

Phineas expounded, "A horse who goes into war risks his life for his master. How much more so [should] I [risk my life] for the sanctification of the Name of the Holy One, Blessed is He!" He began to ponder: "What shall I do? Alone I cannot prevail. Two can overpower one; can one overpower two? can one overpower two?" While he was pondering, the epidemic raged [among the Israelites] (Shemos Rabbah 33:5)

He took a spear in his hand (Exodus 25:7). He removed the blade from the handle and concealed it in his clothing. Leaning on the handle as if it were a walking stick, he went [over to] the Tribe of Simeon. [There] he said, "Where have we found the Tribe of Levi to be greater than the Tribe of Simeon? [I.e., why should the Tribe of Levi abstain from the daughters of Moab, when the Tribe of Simeon does not (Rashi)?]" They said, "Let him also gratify his desire." He entered [the tent in which Zimri and Cozbi were. Those who were outside said, "Evidently] the Sages have permitted it." [All these things he did to gain entrance safely to the tent of Zimri and Cozbi] (Sanhedrin 82a)

Phineas waited until [Zimri's] strength was dissipated. [Then he entered] (ibid 82b)

Twelve miracles were made for Phineas at that moment:
  1. The Holy One Blessed is He, stuck [Cozbi and Zimri] together and they did not separate, which would have prevented Phineas from being allowed to killl them
  2. They did not scream [for help]
  3. He [plunged] the spear directly into their genitals
  4. The iron did not slip out of the spear
  5. The lintel was raised so that he could take them out [on his spear]
  6. He carried them throughout the camp of Israel without tiring;
  7. He lifted them with his right arm for all to see their act, yet they were unable to harm him
  8. The wood did not break under the heavy load
  9. The iron became as long as both of them so that they did not fall from it
  10. An angel came and turned them over so that all would see their shame;
  11. They remained alive all the while that he was carrying them so that [Phineas,] a priest, would not become unclean through contact with a corpse
  12. Their blood solidified and did not spill on him (Tragum Yonasan, Bamidbar 25:8).
He came and threw them down before the Omnipresent and said, "Shall 24,000 of Israel die because of these?" (Sanhedrin 44a).

[When he said this,] the ministering angels sought to knock him down, [but G-d] told them, "Leave him. He is a zealot descended from a zealot [Levi, who was zealous in the incident of Dinah], an appeaser of [G-d's anger descended from an appeaser of [G-d's] anger [Aaron, who stayed the epidemic that followed Korah's rebellion]" (Sanhedrin 82b)

The members of the Tribe of Simeon rose to strike him, [whereupon] an angel descended and smote some among them. Seeing that [the angel] sought to annihilate them, Phineas arose and prayed (Psalms 106:30) (Bamidbar Rabbah 20:25)

They sought so excommunicate him [for they thought he was not acting out of true zealousness (Pnei Moshe)] until the Spirit of Holiness hurried and said: It shall be to him and to his seed after him the covenant of everlasting priesthood, because he was zealous for his G-d and atoned for the Children of Israel (Numbers 25:13) (Yerushalmi Sanhedrin 9:7)


When the wicked Balaam saw Phineas the priest pursuing him, [Balaam] cast a spell and flew up in the air. Immediately Phineas pronounced the Great and Holy Name, flew after him, and pulled him down. Balaam began to plead with Phineas: "If you let me live, I swear to you that for the rest of my life I will not curse your people." Phineas replied, "Are you not Laban the Aramean who wished to kill the Patriarch Jacob? [Moreover, it was] you [who] went down to Egypt to [incite] the destruction of his descendants. And when they went forth from Egypt, you incited Amalek against them. It is impossible to let you live." Thereupon [Phineas] drew his sword and slew him (Targum Yonasan, Bamidbar 31:8).

When the wicked Balaam saw Phineas, he made his two arms like two tablets of stone and flew upward. Using the Ineffable Name, Phineas too made his two arms like two stone tablets and flew after him, until he found him prostrating before the Throne of Glory. Phineas immediately placed the frontlet of the Holy One, Blessed is He, against him, pulled him down, and brought him before Moses. Then the Sanhedrin tried [Balaam] and executed him (Yalkut Shimoni, Matos 785).


Moses sent (Numbers 21:32) Caleb and Phinas to spy (Targum Yonasan).

Joshua dispatched two men - spies - secretly (Joshua 2:1). These were Phineas and Caleb. They went with unswerving dedication and succeeded in their mission... They pretended to be potters and called out, "Pots for sale!" (Bamidbar Rabbah 16:1)

Phineas told [Rahab], "I am a priest, and [since] priests are likened to angels, I do not need to be hidden. Hide my colleague Caleb" (ibid.).

Jepthah vowed "...Whatever comes forth from the doors of my house to meet me... I will offer up for a burnt offering." ... And behold, his daughter came out to meet him (Judges 11:30,31). Was not Phineas available to absolve Jephtah of his vow? [He was, but he] said, "It is he who needs me; why should I go to him?" And Jepthah said, "I am head of the captains of Israel; why should I go to him?" Between the two of them, that girl perished [i.e. she was sent into seclusion and never married. Therefore] both of them were punished... Divine Inspiration was removed for Phineas, as it is written, Phineas son of Eleazar had been prince over them [in the past], for Hashem had been with him (I chronicles 9:20) (Bereishis Rabbah 60:3).

Joshua wrote his Book [Joshua], and Phineas finished it (Bava Basra 15a)

For more information about Pinchas ben Elazar HaKohen, see Numbers 25:10 onwards.


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