Acharei Mot-Pesach
 


Parshat Acharei Mot-Pesach           14-22 Nissan 5765              April 23-30, 2005             Vol.14 No.31


In This Issue:

Rabbi Ezra Weiner

Chaim Cohen

Shlomo Tanenbaum

Gavriel Metzger

Dov Rossman

Avi Wollman

Halacha of the Week

Rabbi Chaim Jachter

 

 

Freedom Through Torah
by Rabbi Ezra Weiner

While going through the order of the Pesach Seder, specifically the recounting of the story of Yetziat Mitzrayim, Mishnayot Pesachim state (10:4), “Matchil Bigenut Umesayem Beshevach,” “One begins with disgrace and ends with praise.” What are the Genut, disgrace, and the Shevach, praise, to which the Mishnah refers?
The Gemara (Pesachim 116) records a dispute between Rav and Shmuel on this matter. Rav maintains that the Genut refers to “Mitechilah Ovdei Avodah Zarah Hayu Avoteinu,” a reference to our ancestors’ idolatrous practices, while the Shevach is “Veachshav Keirvanu Hamakom La’avodato,” praising Hashem for bringing us into His service. Shmuel, on the other hand, believes that the Genut is “Avadim Hayinu,” that we were slaves in Egypt, and the Shevach is “Veotanu Hotzi Misham,” that we were brought out. (Though the Gemara does not actually state their positions regarding the Shevach, they may be inferred from their respective understandings of the Genut.) What is the basis of this Machloket?
Rav Soloveitchik relates this dispute to a Gemara in Masechet Gittin (38), which records another Machloket between Rav and Shmuel regarding the Halacha of emancipating an Eved Kena’ani, a non-Jewish slave. The case concerns a master who, intending to free his slave, simply declares his slave to be Hefker, ownerless, thereby breaking all financial and legal ties to this slave. Does the master still need to give his slave a Get Shichrur, a document explicitly freeing him? Rav maintains that such a document is required, while Shmuel maintains that we do not require the document, as the declaration of Hefker is enough to free him. How do the respective opinions of Rav and Shmuel regarding the Seder relate to their opinions about slaves?
According to Rav Soloveitchik, the underlying issue in the latter Machkloket is what happens to the status of a slave when he is freed. Rav believes that more than just the legal and financial ties must be released when setting an Eved Kena’ani free. After all, he is about to become a complete Jew, someone who will be completely obligated to observe all 613 Mitzvot like every Jewish male. Hefker only releases the legal bond; it does not have the power to change the status of an Eved Kena’ani to a Ben Torah. Hence, we still require the Get Shichrur. Shmuel, however, believes that an Eved is free once the financial strings are cut. Thus, Hefker is sufficient, and a Get Shichrur is unnecessary.
If we apply the principles we have established to our original Machloket concerning the Seder, we can now understand Rav’s and Shmuel’s positions. Shmuel believes that once we were redeemed from bondage, we were completely free. We had no financial ties to Pharaoh; he was no longer our master, and we were no longer his servants. Pharaoh declared us Hefker, so to speak, and it is this transition from servitude to freedom that is the theme of the story of Yetziat Mitzrayim.
Rav, on the other hand, believes that this physical freedom is only half the story. We were not legally bound to Pharaoh’s authority, but we still needed a Get Shichrur, a document to infuse us with Kedushat Yisrael. This document came along in the form of the Torah. Our “Shevach” is incomplete unless we discuss “Veachshav Keirvanu Hamakom La’avodato.” Without the Torah we are not free, and it is only with the Torah that we can understand that the real disgrace was not the slavery at all, but rather the fact that we were originally idol worshippers.
May this Pesach serve as a celebration not only of our physical freedom, but also of our freedom through Torah.

Like Son, Like Father
by Chaim Cohen

The parents always get blamed. Very often when my parents criticize me, I just retort, “I got it from you, after all!” To which I usually get a “No, it’s from your mother/father, not me.”
The Parsha opens up with Hashem telling Moshe to warn Aharon about going into the Kodesh after Aharon’s two sons died in front of God. It is generally accepted that Hashem was worried that Aharon would be impulsive like his sons and go into the Kodesh when he was not supposed to. But would it not be more likely that the impulsiveness came from their mother? After all, Aharon was married to Nachshon ben Aminadav’s sister. Nachshon was the man who, according to the Midrash, jumped into the Yam Suf on a whim. Why didn’t God warn Aharon’s wife about being too impulsive? Furthermore, Rav Yair Kahn comments in Parshat Korach (in a Shiur that is available on Yeshivat Har Etzion’s Virtual Beit Midrash) that one of the characteristics of a Kohen Gadol, particularly Aharon, is the way he controls his impulses and emotions! Why was there concern about Aharon sinning?
Rabbi Moshe Morduchowitz proposes an answer to our question. Nadav and Avihu’s sin was that they tried too hard to get close to Hashem. They refused to accept the fact that they could not be as close to God as Aharon, so they tried to get closer. However, they tried to get too close and acted improperly, so they died. The Pasuk (10:2) says that they died “before God’ because they were attempting to get closer to God when they died. Perhaps this is why Hashem warned Aharon specifically after the death of his children; both Aharon and his children had a deep-seated desire to be closer to God.
Maybe it is true that these quirks are passed down from parents, but we were looking at the wrong habit. Aharon would never get wrapped up in his emotions, and neither would his children. The problem is, however, that all three had a strong desire to draw closer to God, but the Bnai Aharon got too close and burned for it.
We can learn from here that we while of course we must strive to achieve closeness to God, we must also realize our limitations. Hopefully we will all find a happy medium in our Avodat Hashem, bringing us as close as we can safely come to Hakadosh Baruch Hu.

The Azazel
by Shlomo Tanenbaum

In this week’s Parsha, the Torah describes the Yom Kippur service and procedures that accompany this holy day. One of the strangest rituals is the Azazel goat that is pushed off a cliff. What is the significance of this procedure? Moreover, the Azazel facilitates forgiveness for almost all Aveirot in the Torah, aside from a select few which need more Teshuvah. What is so powerful about the Azazel that gives it the ability to gain such widespread forgiveness?
The Midrash answers our questions by stating that the Azazel is representative of Eisav. One could interpret this Midrash as teaching that when we push the Azazel off the cliff, we are demonstrating that all our Aveirot stem from our association with Goyim. All philosophies and ideologies that are contrary to Torah are a direct result of our physical and mental connection and involvement with Nochri ideas, newspapers, magazines, television, etc. Without the influence of Eisav, we would have been almost perfect. It is possible to reject the influence of Eisav, but once a person sins, it is only because of his influence with Nochrim and society. Communities that do not have the influence of Eisav have much more dedication to Yiddishkeit and all the outlooks it represents. Shabbat observance is higher, enthusiasm and commitment to Talmud Torah is more extreme, and Mitzvot are performed with deeper understanding and devotion. They understand that their true purpose in this world is not the purposes and ideas perpetrated by Eisav. Therefore, it is of the utmost necessity to distance ourselves from the ideologies, ideas, and commitments presented by Eisav, and then our true selves will shine through.
The first Pasuk of Tehilim is somewhat strange. The book of Tehilim is basically a book of praises of Hashem and expressions of longing to become closer to His Shechinah. In that case, why does the Sefer start with an advice to keep away from jokers and Reshaim? This Pasuk belongs in Sefer Mishlei, where we are given advice on how to live our lives. Why is it found in Sefer Tehilim? Rav Avigdor Miller answers that by keeping away from Reshaim, our own Avodah is enhanced. The first step toward praising Hashem is to keep away from jokers, thereby making it easier to praise Hashem. If we are around Reshaim and jokers, our own Avodah and praises to Hashem will be diminished and inferior. Therefore, separating from the society around us is of the utmost importance to our own Avodah that Hashem desires from us. Hopefully, many will embark on a career towards searching and working on our our Avodah to Hashem, and not toward the Hevel, nothingness and unhappiness, that Nochri society offers.

Editor’s response: In the name of free speech we have printed the above essay, although it is not in harmony with the Hashkafa of our Yeshiva. A brief response, however, is in order. The communities that have greatly distanced themselves from Nochri influences are, quite ironically, extremely dependent on Nochri financial assistance. This is quite a Chillul Hashem and, quite frankly, is very dangerous (see Esther 3:8) in the long term as such communities continue to grow with Hashem’s help. An alternative approach to the above essay is that we must distinguish between the positive elements of the surrounding society and the negative elements, which may be symbolized by Eisav. Our casting the Azazel off the mountain could symbolize our commitment to distance ourselves from the negative elements of Nochri society while simultaneously looking for the what we can gain from Nochri society. This is the idea symbolized by Yitro and Chiram the King of Tyre (who contributed the cedar wood to build the Beit HaMikdash). Only communities that achieve this balance will succeed both spiritually and materially. The mission of Am Yisrael is to bring Brachah to the entire world, not to be unilaterally disengaged from it.

To Speak or Not to Speak
by Gavriel Metzger

Moshe Rabbeinu was one of the greatest leaders of Bnei Yisrael, if not the greatest leader, of all time. He led the nation out of Egypt, and was their rock of leadership for forty years in the desert. However, it is very well known that Moshe had one slight flaw: he was “Aral Sefatayim” (Shemot 6:12), literally “of sealed lips,” meaning that he had some form of speech impediment, possibly a stutter. In Parshat Shemot, Moshe uses this barrier as an excuse for not going to plead with Pharaoh for Bnei Yisrael’s release. He says, “Bi Hashem, Lo Ish Devarim Anochi…Ki Chevad Peh Uchvad Lashon Anoci” (4:10), “Please, Hashem, I am not a man of words…for I am heavy of mouth and speech.” Hashem rejects this argument and sends Moshe anyway, telling Moshe that He will be with him and that Aharon will also contribute in Moshe’s conversation with Pharaoh. This raises an obvious question: why did Hashem not simply fix this impediment so that Moshe could speak to Pharaoh himself? After all, Moshe is supposed to be the chosen leader of the people, a job for which speech is extremely important!
The Ramban states that Hashem did not fix Moshe’s flaw because He simply did not choose to, and it was in His plan that it would work out for good in the end. As this clearly does not explain the underlying motivation, the Ran clarifies that Hakadosh Baruch Hu wanted it to be known that He Himself swayed the judgment of Pharaoh and his ministers when Moshe spoke to them. Moshe could not have done so himself, because his stutter would have prevented him from winning over Pharaoh with speech. Consequently, the Shechinah later assisted Moshe in overcoming his difficulties when speaking to Pharaoh, just as Hashem had assured.
When Moshe came to Bnei Yisrael with his message even before he went to Pharaoh, the Midrash tells us that the Shechinah spoke for him to the nation. Why, then, did Moshe, after accepting his role as leader in Va’eira, complain when told again to go to Pharaoh, saying, “Hein Ani Aral Sefatayim, Ve’eich Yishma Eilai Paroh,” “Behold, I have sealed lips, so how shall Pharaoh listen to me” (6:28)? Hashem, in the form of the Shechina, had just helped him in his previous speaking endeavor! Rav Yonatan Eibeschutz relates that the Shechina chooses to speak only Hebrew, Lashon Hakodesh. Talking to Bnei Yisrael was not an issue, but the Shechina was not able to convey Hashem’s message to Pharaoh, who spoke only Egyptian, and did not comprehend Hebrew. Therefore, Moshe staged a second complaint to in order to be exempt from addressing Pharaoh. Ultimately, however, we all know that he was indeed sent to Pharaoh, which started a process culminating with Yetziat Mitzrayim. Just as Hashem’s immediate goal of making His own role clear was fulfilled, His larger goal of Yetziat Mitzrayim also came about through Moshe’s actions.
Moshe Rabbeinu’s experiences reiterate the important concept that all things, no matter what their initial appearance is, will contribute to a master plan. We also see that despite all complaints and excuses, Hashem’s hand always makes sure that that master plan is fulfilled. Have a Chag Kasher Vesameach.

No Pain, No Gain
by Dov Rossman

A main point of the Pesach Seder is to remember the story of Yetziat Mitzrayim and to tell it to the children, as the Pasuk states (Shemot 13:8): “Vehigadeta Levincha Bayom Hahu,” “And you shall tell your son on that day.” The Seder is a good time to reflect on Hashem and Yetziat Mitzrayim and to appreciate everything that Hashem has done for us.
Rabbi Raphael B. Butler comments that it is interesting that the telling of the story begins with Avadim Hayinu, the slavery, and not the redemption. Why is the slavery the beginning of the story and not the redemption? It is true that learning about the slavery gives us many insights to Jewish life in Egypt; we discover facts such as that the Jews did not change their names to Egyptian names so that they would not assimilate into Egyptian culture. But should this be the central focus of the night? Isn’t the focus of the night supposed to be on the redemption?
Rabbi Butler then answers his question with the following thought. As the Sfat Emet teaches, on the Seder night, we are supposed to think about the reason for which Hashem sent us to Egypt in the first place. We need to begin our telling of the story of Yetziat Mitzrayim with the pain and slavery, because without the pain and slavery, we would never have become Hashem’s chosen nation. If we, living in the twenty-first century, would have been in Mitzrayim during the time of slavery, we probably would have yelled out to Hashem and asked why He caused us to be enslaved. What we would not realize is that the redemption has to start through pain and suffering.
A certain Torah scholar mentioned that he spends much of his time remembering his slavery and pain in Europe during World War Two. At his Seder, he always recalls the family that he built and the life that he continued from the ruins of Europe. It is important to dwell both on the suffering and the redemption, because it is only through suffering that we can have redemption. We needed Mitzrayim to have Yetziat Mitzrayim.

Dwell on the Past
by Avi Wollman

Each year, when we conduct our Seder, we speak about four different sons: the wise son (Chacham), the wicked son (Rasha), the simple son (Tam), and the son who does not know how to ask (She’eino Yodeia Lish’ol). Each son asks (or fails to ask) his own unique question, and the father answers each one accordingly. However, if one looks deep into the roots of the questions, one can find that each son, in his own way, is really asking the very same question.
The Chacham asks, “Ma Haeidut Vehachukim Vehamishpatim Asher Tziva Hashem Elokeinu Etchem,” “What are the testimonies, the statutes, and the ordinances which Hashem our God has commanded you?” The wise son’s many complicated and involved questions are all ultimately coming to ask, “Why dwell on our past?” Accordingly, the father responds, “Ein Maftirin Achar Hapesach Afikoman,” “After the Pesach offering, no dessert is to be eaten!” The father is telling his son the Halacha that one may not eat anything after the Afikoman, which we do in order to keep its taste in our mouths. This analogy teaches, the Sfat Emet explains, that we are not just keeping the Geulah from Mitzrayim in our mouths, but we are also preparing for our final Geulah from the Galut in which we currently find ourselves.
The Rasha then asks, “Mah Ha’avodah Hazot Lachem,” “What is this service to you?” He is in effect asking, “What point is there in all of these strange things we do to commemorate something that happened so long ago?” He finds the entire thing ridiculous and pointless. However, the father sets him straight: “Ba’avur Zeh Asah Hashem Li Betzeiti Mimitzrayim,” “It is because of this that Hashem acted for me and took me out of Egypt.” He tells his son that commemorating the past is not pointless; it is because we remembered who we are and where we came from that Hashem saved us in Egypt. Had the son been in Egypt with his philosophy, he would never have been saved.
The Tam is next to come forward. He simply asks, “Mah Zot,” “What is this?” The Tam, like his siblings, is having the same problem. He cannot understand why we keep thinking about the past. The father answers him, “Bechozek Yad Hotzianu Hashem Mimitzrayim Mibeit Avadim,” “With the strength of His Hand did Hashem bring us out of Egypt, from the house of bondage.” The father explains that when Hashem took us out of Mitzrayim, He did it based on what He knew we would do in the future, as we were unworthy at that time. Hashem saved us because of this Mitzvah to have a Seder that we are fulfilling now.
Finally, the Sheeino Yodeia Lish’ol, true to his name, does not ask anything. He remains silent because he simply does not care. He, too, fails to see the point in commemorating the past. The father also tells him, “Ba’avur Zeh Asah Hashem Li Betzeiti Mimitzrayim,” “It is because of this that Hashem acted for me and took me out of Egypt.” It is because we remembered our past that Hashem took us out of the spiritual impurity of Egypt. The father tells his son that he, too, must participate in this Seder to escape his own “Egypt.”
No matter which son parallels us best, it is essential to understand personally why commemorating the past is so central in the celebration of Pesach and in all of Judaism. In Judaism, we understand that our past is our present and our future. We know that by commemorating our past, we learn how to live appropriately in the present in order to ensure a successful future. This is key to the Seder and essential to our faith. This year, we can only highlight this message at the Seder through Sippur Yetziat Mitzrayim. Next year, however, may we be able to commemorate our final Geulah, as well.


Halacha of the Week: No Fighting at the Seder!
by Rabbi Chaim Jachter

There seem to be three differences between the mimetic tradition (Halachic practice that is transmitted by children following their parents’ practices) and the Mishnah Berurah’s rulings regarding one’s conduct at the Seder. The three differences are the size of the Kezayit, conversation before eating the Korech sandwich, and including Charoset in the Korech sandwich. I have heard that in some families there is conflict at the Seder about these matters, as the children insist that the Mishnah Berurah’s rulings be followed and the parents insist on their right to conduct themselves at the Seder in the same manner that their parents and their grandparents did. In this brief column, we seek to outline that there is a Halachic basis for the mimetic tradition and that parents who abide by these traditions should not be criticized by their children. Of course, those children who wish to follow the Mishnah Berurah should also not be criticized by their parents.
The twentieth-century Halachic guidebooks generally instruct one to eat a relatively large amount of Matzah (such as a half of a handmade Matzah Shemurah) in order to fulfill the Mitzvah. This instruction stems from the Shulchan Aruch’s and Mishnah Berurah’s ruling (486:1) that a Kezayit is the equivalent of half of an egg and that one should accommodate the Noda Biyehudah’s ruling that the eggs today are half the size that they were in the time of the Gemara. (A relatively full discussion of this issue appears at www.koltorah.org.) Those who follow the mimetic tradition generally eat dramatically less than half of a Matzah Shemurah. However, in Rabbi Bodner’s recently published Sefer on the topic of the size of a Kezayit, the author cites a very interesting observation of the Chazon Ish. The Chazon Ish is reported (by his nephew Rav Chaim Kanievsky) as having asserted that essentially a Kezayit should be measured by the size of an average contemporary olive. According to this approach, one would be required to eat approximately a fourth less Matzah than if one follows the approach that a Kezayit is the equivalent of half of an egg. Although a Rav would not ordinarily counsel one to follow this lenient approach, it nevertheless seems that the mimetic tradition is in harmony with the Chazon Ish’s approach. Thus, we have no right to criticize those who follow the mimetic tradition.
Although the Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chaim 475:1) clearly states that one should not engage in conversation until one eats the Korech sandwich, many people who follow the mimetic tradition do seem not to strictly abide by this ruling. It seems that they are following the Mishnah Berurah (475:24) that states it is desired (Lechatchilah) but not essential (Bedieved) that one refrain from conversation until consuming the Korech sandwich. Indeed, the fact that the common practice is to recite “Zecher Lemikdash Kehillel” before consuming the Korech seems to demonstrate that we do not consider it essential to refrain from conversation until completing the Korech (this topic also is discussed in an essay that is available at www.koltorah.org). Thus, although it is very important to follow the ruling of the Shulchan Aruch on this matter, one should not rebuke those who do not.
The Mishnah Berurah (475:16) codifies the ruling of the Ma’amar Mordechai that one should remove the Charoset from the Maror before he consumes the Korech sandwich. However, many who follow the mimetic tradition eat the Charoset along with the Matzah and Maror. We can defend the mimetic tradition by noting that the Shulchan Aruch does not explicitly state that one should remove the Charoset from the Maror used for the Korech sandwich. Thus, the mimetic tradition seems to be in harmony with the straightforward reading of the Shulchan Aruch. Moreover, a TABC student suggested that perhaps the mimetic tradition seeks to accommodate the approach that the Rambam articulates in his Peirush HaMishnayot, that it is a Mitzvah to eat Charoset just as it is a Mitzvah to eat Maror and Matzah at the Seder (this also is discussed in an article that appears at www.koltorah.org). Accordingly, although one should follow the Mishnah Berurah’s ruling, it seems that we have no right to criticize those who follow the mimetic tradition.

The bottom line is: NO FIGHTING AT THE SEDER!!!!!!

 


Staff at time of publication:

Editors-in-Chief: Ariel Caplan, Jesse Dunietz
Managing Editors: Etan Bluman, Roni Kaplan
Publication Managers: Mitch Levine, Josh Markovic
Business Manager: David Gross
Webmaster: Avi Wollman
Staff: Avi Levinson, Kevin Beckoff, Jesse Nowlin, Dov Rossman, Gavriel Metzger, Chaim Strassman
Faculty Advisor: Rabbi Chaim Jachter

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