Tuesday, January 19, 2016



"But they (the midwives) did not do as the king of Egypt [Pharaoh] said and they gave life to the boys" (Shemos 1:17).

The Munkaszcer Rav told a story about the Rebbe Reb Melech of Lizhensk and his talmidim:
It was a difficult time for Klal Yisrael: the government was seeking to pass a new harsh decree, that no Jewish male would be allowed to marry unless he had performed his duties and served in the armed forces. Only after the required army conscription would he be discharged and allowed to marry. Such a decree would spell disaster for the Yiddishkeit of young Jewish boys – the rough elements and the culture and manners of the goyim would ruin them.

The Rebbe Reb Melech davened to no avail; his tefillos simply could not cancel the decree. He was greatly perturbed as he lay down to rest, knowing that at midnight the decree would pass into law and go into effect. Fortunately, he had shared this information and his distress with his talmidim.

Rav Menachem Mendel of Rymanow and the Chozeh of Lublin did not remain idle. They had been collecting tzedaka, and now they gathered a minyan together to secretly celebrate the wedding of two penniless orphans. They conducted the ceremony so that the chuppa would occur exactly at midnight and their simchas mitzvas chassan and kalla should correspond exactly to the moment of the harsh decree of conscription.

When the Rebbe awoke at midnight, as was his custom, to his great surprise and joy he had nothing left to do! There were no battles to wage, for the decree had vanished and been canceled at the last minute – due to some technicality the decree had not passed into law! He sent word to his talmidim to celebrate, yet they could not be found at their lodging or the Beis Medrash. Finally they were discovered celebrating in secret. Their celebration of a mitzva so dear just at the right time had canceled the decree, said the Rebbe Elimelech.

So it was with the midwives, explained the Munkasczer. The pasuk says that the midwives did not heed the command of Pharaoh to kill the newborn boys. The holy Ohr HaChaim's commentary to our pasuk is: The verse teaches us that these holy righteous women canceled Pharaoh's decree, for they acted as soon as he had decreed it. This is why the pasuk says they did not do so. When did they contradict his orders? When he spoke – as soon as he commanded they disobeyed him. As soon as they left his presence after being told to murder the babies, they went straight off to give them life! They canceled the decree by acting as soon as Pharaoh spoke; the words of our pasuk they did not do as he had said mean that as soon as he had finished speaking, immediately they ran to disobey!

You see, explained the Munkasczer, the Ohr HaChaim's explanation of our pasuk matches the story exactly: because they battled the decree at the time it was to have taken effect, they neutralized it and canceled it! (Divrei Torah I 33)

The fly buzzed round and round Yiddel's head. "Shoo, go away! Pesky fly, beat it!"
The fly either didn't understand English or didn't hear him, as it continued its relentless buzzing, flying round and round, here and there, settling on his drooping eyelids, on his nose or some other limb.

Each time, the figure bent with concentration was interrupted and annoyed anew. "Get away, shoo!" he yelled in growing spams of anger and frustration as he was interrupted again and again by the irksome buzzing and ticklish crawling of the fly who simply would not let up.

"Gerrofame! Ah! I'll never get this done now – I can't concentrate! I have no yishuv hada'as (peace of mind)!"

If that were not bad enough, a week later Yiddel was at the nurse's station, getting a dose of antibiotics and his wound re-dressed. It seems Yiddel had a small cut and the fly, filthy from landing and crawling on some of the dirtiest, most loathsome of places, had infected his little cut so that it had festered, needing advanced medical attention. Silently Yiddel cursed the fly!

Who is this fly? Rav Elimelech Biderman reveals that Chazal (Berachos 61a) called the yetzer hara a fly. Why did Chazal compare the evil yetzer to a fly? Rav Biderman cites the holy Rav Moshe Kobriner (Imros Moshe) to explain the mashal:

"A single moment of yishuv hada'as is worth all the world's treasures. If a Jew has true yishuv hada'as and can concentrate and understand his purpose and direct his energies – nothing is more valuable than this!"

Explains Rav Biderman, that the evil yetzer tries all it can to confuse us, confound our minds and disturb our spirits. All its energies are bent on distracting us from what is truly important – and this is the beginning of a person's downfall. Perhaps this is why it is compared to a fly. What can a fly do already? It's so small and puny that it cannot hurt us. But a fly is sooo annoying and sooo bothersome, buzzing round and round our heads – it's enough to drive anyone crazy. This buzzing merry-go-round itself annoys us and ruins our yishuv hada'as. And this is exactly what the yetzer wants us to lose so that, Heaven forbid, we should fall down the slippery slope to forget our emuna and fall into its clutches.

Another thing flies do is carry sickness and disease. A fly can infect even a small open wound, and make it so much worse! It can transform a small cut into an infected soar whose poison runs deep into the blood and sickens the entire body! Similarly, the evil yetzer sees a small opening, some small lack of doubt, some small sin or transgression and he sullies it and infects it, until, Heaven forbid, he has made the entire soul sick!

Rav Melech Biderman cites Rav Menachem Mendel of Vorka and Rav Henich of Alexander who explain the pasuk in our parsha along similar lines. "And Pharaoh commanded the slave drivers and taskmasters . . .do not give any more straw to the people which they use to make bricks as you did in the past. Let them go themselves to gather straw. Do not lower the quota of bricks to be made – let them fulfill the same quota as before" (Shemos 5:6-8).

The Tzaddikim ask what Pharaoh's intentions were. If he simply sought to break them by giving them an impossible task, why not simply raise the quota of bricks per day? If he doubled or tripled the daily quota surely they would not be able to make it, even if they were given straw. Why the need to make them go out and gather straw themselves? The Tzaddikim explain that Pharaoh wanted to break Bnei Yisrael's spirit by making them lose all hope and all sense of calm. In order to fill them with confusion and anxiety he forced them to go out and search for straw. This task would hound them and make them lose any sense of inner peace and calm. It would cause them to lose both yishuv hada'as and their bitachon in Hashem, Heaven forbid. If, however, their quota had simply been raised and they had still been supplied with straw, they would garner strength and reinforce their emuna and bitachon. This in turn could cause them to work so hard and become so determined that they might actually make the quota!
Pharaoh knew that the secret to breaking a person is to confound, confuse and ruin his yishuv hada'as. May Hashem always grant us the needed yishuv ha'daas to serve Him and overcome all obstacles with peace, tranquility and steadfast emuna and bitachon, Amen.


SHEMOS (1:11-12) "So they appointed over them tax collectors to afflict them with their suffering . . . But as much as they would afflict them, so did they multiply and so did they gain strength.

Rav Dr. Dovid Gottleib, well-known Jewish Philosopher, Gateways Lecturer and Rebbe at Ohr Same'ach, Yerushalayim, told the following tales of how to deal with suffering:

The Apta Rav, the Ohev Yisrael, was once sitting with his talmidim, when there was a knock on the door. When they opened it up and the Rebbe saw who was standing there he began to laugh. The Tzaddik laughed and laughed – a cynical laugh – and then the man left and he closed the door. The Chassidim did not dare ask the meaning of this strange occurence and the shiur continued as if nothing out of the ordinary had occurred.

The next day, the shiur was again interrupted by knocking. This time the members of the chevra kadisha (burial society) were at the door.

They explained that yesterday a stranger had arrived in town and lodged at the local inn. He remained anonymous – no one knew him or his identity, and unfortunately they had discovered him this morning in his room, lifeless. The chevra kadisha wanted to know from the Rav where they should bury him. Should they consider it a suicide in which case the dead were buried outside the gate in a place reserved for sinners, or should they bury him in a regular plot?

"You can bury him in a normal plot," the Apta Rav ruled, and they left. The talmidim realized that this must be yesterday's anonymous visitor, and the Rebbe explained, "When a sinner used to come to the Beis HaMikdash in Yerushalayim of old and offer a korban chatas, his sin offering was brought before the Kohen, and the Levi'im (Levites) would sing a slow, sad, mournful tune to remind him of his past misdeeds and to induce him to have remorse and to do teshuva.

"After the korban was brought, they struck up a lively, happy, joyful tune of simcha and acceptance. All of them did so. All but one. One Levi was spiteful and would mock the sinners by continuing a sad, melancholy tune.
"The Levi'im got together and devised a plan. One day this Levi himself would accidentally sin and then he would get his just desserts!

"Sure enough, the hand of Heaven prevailed. The Levi sinned inadvertently and was liable to bring a sin offering. As he brought the Korban Chatas the Levi'im all played sad, slow, mournful tunes and did so all through the whole time, even after his offering was complete – and then they all laughed at him! 'Ha ha ha!' they all laughed. All but one. All but me.

"You see, I was the Kohen Gadol," explained the Apta Rav. (It was well known that in a previous gilgul the Apta Rav had been the Kohen Gadol; in fact, when he davened as the chazan during the Yamim Nora'im, as he stood leading the congregation in tefilla on Yom Kippur, he would recite the tefillos known as the Avoda of the Kohen Gadol – but when he reached the stanza which recalls the sprinkling of the blood, where it says "And so did the Kohen recite – vekach haya omer," instead he recited, "And so I used to say – vekach hayisi omer"!) "I could not bring myself to laugh at the misfortune of another Jew, even if he was a sinner. Now this laughter was his atonement. All the Levi'im had laughed – everyone but me. So when I saw our guest yesterday, I recognized him at once! Here was our Levi! But I asked myself, why was he here again? Why did he come back again before me in this life? I reasoned that he came once more before me so that I too should laugh at him and complete his atonement. And so I laughed. He must have achieved his kappara, and that is why he passed away. This is why I told the chevra kadisha to give him a proper burial."

Rav Gottleib told another story:

The Gerrer Rebbe suffered a terrible loss when his twenty-seven-year-old son was niftar. Many great Rabbonim and Tzaddikim came to comfort him during the shiva (period of mourning). The Gerrer Rebbe told them, "You are coming to comfort me for the terrible loss of my young son who was taken from me after just twenty-seven years. But I am celebrating the twenty-seven years that HaKadosh Baruch Hu gave me with him.

Concluded Rabbi Gottleib: We take the years we have for granted. We deserve it. We have a right to it! Why did Hashem cut it short? What a different way to look at it! Often, we have the opposite perspective: Why do I suffer? Does Hashem, Heaven forbid, hate me? Why did Hashem do this to me? As if He owes it to us.

Instead this Tzaddik, the Gerrer Rebbe, saw what he got as a gift – that each day given to us is a free gift that no one owes to us. I haven't got a right or a claim. I got twenty-seven years – we have to be grateful for that!
Think of the great Arizal or the Ramchal – they didn't make it to age forty! What they achieved in such a short life span we could not achieve even in a thousand years.
So do we say that their lives were cut short? Obviously not. When we accept that Hashem does not owe us anything, then every day and every breath is a gift.

Rav Avigdor Miller was once discovered by a grandchild with his head submerged in his full kitchen sink. The grandchild was scared, until Rav Miller pulled out his head gasping for air.
"Zeide, what's wrong? What happened?" asked the fearful child. Rav Miller answered the child, "Chazal teach us that we have to be thankful to Hashem and praise Him for each and every breath we take. But we breathe all the time, automatically, so we cannot appreciate this. So from time to time I deny myself the ability to breathe like I did just now. Then, when I need to breathe and do so again, I can truly really appreciate it!"
Concluded Rav Gottleib, "That is great mussar; this is what is meant by being appreciative of every moment – and this is what the Gerrer Rebbe meant when he explained the loss of his child – be grateful for what time you did have, because Hashem did not owe it to you!"

Rav Fischel Shachter told:

A wealthy Chassid came in to the Chozeh for a beracha. The Chozeh told him to go and become a melamed. What? Drop his vast business dealings and become a simple teacher for children?
But this Chassid had emuna and bitachon and so he did what the Rebbe said. He did not exactly know where to start his new job just yet, so in the interim he sat himself down in the Beis Medrash to learn.

Meanwhile, a simple farmer came in to the Chozeh crying about his children. "My sons are growing up unlettered and unlearned – they will be amaratzim – ignoramuses!"
"Don't worry," said the Rebbe. "I have just the melamed for you."
The farmer entered the Beis Medrash, approached the wealthy businessman-Chassid and said to him, "The Rebbe sent me to you; he says you should be the melamed to teach my sons Torah."
The wealthy Chassid sent word to his astonished wife to cancel all his appointments and business meetings with famous dignitaries, because the Rebbe, the Chozeh, had commanded him to be a melamed instead.
He sat down and tried to start learning with the farmer's sons – but they did not seem to succeed in anything he tried to teach them. He went back to the Chozeh and said, "This isn't working!"
"Are you davening for them?" asked the Rebbe. "Go back and daven for them to be matzliach (successful)!"

The Chassid returned, davened for them and tried again to teach them…
One day, he asked one of the sons to try to learn to say the kiddush but it just wouldn't go. He watched the boys; they were intelligent enough, they seemed to know their way around the farm well enough. Somehow when it came Lashon HaKodesh and Torah, they were stumped.
He then hit upon an idea. "Do you know the names of all the cows?" he asked the farmer's son one day.
"Yes, I do," answered the young lad. He led the melamed out and proudly named all the cows for him. "See – this one is Betsy and this one is Suri," and so on.
"Well," said the melamed, "We are now going to rename the cows. From now on this cow is called Vayechulu, and this one is Hashomayim, that one is called Veha'aretz…" He renamed all the cows using the words recited for Kiddush! That Friday night, he proudly told the stunned farmer, "Your son is going to say Kiddush!"
And so he whispered into the boy's ear, "Name the cows!"

"Vayechulu Hashomayim Veha'aretz…" The boy recited Kiddush and his parents were so proud!

One day a letter came from his wife telling him the news: "The French army invaded, they repossessed all the businesses of the wealthy, rounded them all up and had them shot! Baruch Hashem you are safe – otherwise they would have gotten you too!" That is when he realized that sometimes it is good to be a melamed!

After hearing this he realized that his Rebbe had saved his life. He traveled to the Chozeh and said, "Can I go home now?"

The Chozeh asked him, "When you were there as a melamed, what d'var Torah did you hear?"

"I remember that two people had an argument and one said to the other, "Why fight? It says in the pasuk: Vayar menucha ki tov – peace and quiet are so good that Vayet shichmo lisbol – better we should carry this burden on our shoulders and settle our differences, rather than fight and argue – because peace is so much better!

"That," said the Rebbe, "is what you needed to hear. Now you can go back home."
Sometimes what seems like misfortune turns out to be our good fortune! We never know what lessons we need to hear and where.


The Chafetz Chaim wrote:
I am surprised at some people, who search high and low for different segulos and waste their money and spend their energy all for nothing, when in fact we have a wonderful segula right at hand, available to each of us every day. Chazal promised us explicitly that whoever answers Amen and Amen Yehei Shemeih Rabba aloud and with kavana acquires for himself a protective wall, surrounding him with guarding ministering angels.
(Ahavas Chessed II Chapter 5)

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