Illuminations #188, Tevet, 5779, Parshat Shemot

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Illuminations #188, Tevet, 5779, Parshat Shemot

Torah Gems

“From Egypt You delivered us, and from the house of bondage You redeemed us.”

The Siach Yitzchak writes that “G’altanu, You delivered us,” implies by force, against Paroh’s and Egypt’s will. On the other hand, “P’ditanu, You redeemed us,” implies willingness and consent, as in a transaction between the buyer and the seller. 

In Egypt, the Jewish people were subjugated and constrained in two ways. First, they were detained within the borders of Egypt. Although it was against their will, they had to stay there. Secondly, they were made into slaves. At first the Egyptians spoke to them softly and the Jews went to work for the Egyptians willingly. Later the Egyptians tortured them. It became forced labor. 

At the time of the exodus, both elements of subjugation were lifted. First, on the night of the Tenth Plague, Paroh declared that the Jews were free to serve Hashem. As related in the Midrash, Moshe said, “Do  you want this plague to stop? If so, say, ‘You all are freed from me. You now are servants of the Holy One.’” Paroh started to scream, “You used to be my slaves. Now you can serve the Holy One!”

Paroh, however, had not yet agreed to completely free them. He consented only to let them serve Hashem. His intent was that they return to Egypt after three days. The Jews became completely free to leave the land of Egypt only later, after the Egyptians were drowned in the sea. 

In our tefillos, we praise Hashem by first saying, “From Egypt you delivered us,” against their will, when You drowned them. At that point, we became free to go wherever we pleased. No longer were we detained in Egypt. Afterward we mention what happened first. “From the house of bondage You redeemed us.” On the night of the Tenth Plague, You caused Paroh to relinquish his ownership of us. In a manner of speaking, Paroh concluded the transaction willingly, to quell his fright.

Parsha Pearls

We must know that the life of our forefathers in Egypt was not one of only tears and pain. Nor was the life of our forefathers in the ghettos of prewar Europe one of only suffering. There were many among our brethren, both in Egypt and throughout galus, whose bitachon (faith) in Hashem elevated their lives above the suffering and degradation of the slavery in Egypt and their ghetto restrictions. 

It was this tenacious adherence to their bitachon in Hashem, even while they were building Pisom and Raamses, during which Hashem showed Himself to them only as “yud hey”, which eventually led to their yeshuah.

This combination of suffering and the joy-bringing bitachon in Hashem is beautifully symbolized at our Seder tables when we dip the maror into the charoses. Surprisingly, the charoses, which symbolizes the mortar which our forefathers had to make for their bricks- with its cinnamon strips symbolizing the straw- is to be composed of sweet ingredients instead of bitter ones. But it is just the sweetness of this dip which reminds us that the bitterness of the slavery of our forefathers, the “they embittered their lives,” was mitigated and sweetened by their bitachon that Hashem would eventually redeem them.

Later on at the shore of Yam Suf our nation declares: “And he was a salvation for me.” Meaning, my faith in Hashem developed into my salvation. 

Glimpses of Greatness

We must never underestimate the power of tefillah. When the KesavSofer was the Rabbi of the city of Pressburg, a Jew was sentenced to hang for a crime he did not commit. The Kesav Sofer did everything he could possibly do to save the condemned man, but to no avail. The night before the hanging was scheduled, the KesavSofer was at home, out of ideas of what to do, and cried himself to sleep. 

As he slept, his father, the ChasamSofer, appeared to him in a dream with an angry face.

“How are you able to sleep,” the ChasamSofer said, “when an innocent man with a wife and children is going to be put to death?”

“But what should I do?” the KesavSofer asked his father in his dream. “I’ve already tried everything.”

“Why aren’t you praying?” his father asked. “You have to pray, pray, and pray some more.”

The KesavSofer immediately arose and gathered the community to the shul for prayer. They prayed throughout the night, and in the morning, miraculously, the judge agreed to investigate the case further. The man’s life was saved.

Halacha Weekly

Q. Can one do some action as a good sign? [1 YD 10-262-263]

A. Sheilat Shaul  (1-28,R. Shaul Berish) – brings the Tosefta (88-4) which explains that only in places where it is explained by the Sages that there is a concern for the practice of the Amorites are we concerned about the prohibition [of Nichush, Divination]. However, in other places it is really permitted [to act this way]. [For example] to tie a red string on one’s finger, there is a prohibition, since it is expressly prohibited in the Tosefta. However, in other places it appears to be permitted [to do some action as a good sign].

There are those who permit asking a child a pasuk (verse) that he has learned and to base their action on the pasuk that the child recites. This is because Chazal (Baba Batra 12b) tell us that  nevuah (prophecy) has been given to young children, and it is permitted to do things differently as a good sign [based on recitation of a pasuk by a child] and likewise to refrain from doing something. By acting this way it will [simply] arouse him [to act with watchfulness or alacrity to do the will of Hashem], and it is not being performed in the way of nichush (Divination).

Tefilah LeMoshe (3-19. R. Moshe Levi) writes that,  if he does make a sign (simon) in order to accustom himself to action according to his own words [for example, a resolution to act a certain way], then  the  Ravad  Z”L and Radak Z”L permit it.  However, the Rambam Z”L and the majority of Rishonim prohibit this also because of a concern with Nichush (Divination), and this is the essential ruling. In any event,  if he does not conduct himself only according to the sign (simon) alone and acts rather by adding to it other reasons [for acting in accordance with the sign in addition to the simon itself], then it is permitted [to act according to the sign].


In loving memory of
Chayka Ben David, ז”ל
By the Aminov Family