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Parshas Bo 5758 - '98

Outline Vol. 2, # 14

by Rabbi Yaakov Bernstein

Parshas Bo introduces us to the Avodas Hakorbonos -- the services. The Pesach Lamb was the sacrifice, the home was the altar, the blood on the door was the blood of circumcision, mingled with the lamb’s blood. (Medrash Rabah Rus, 6:1; see Pirke D’ Rebbe Eliezer at length.)

The mitzvos involving sacrifice are really mitzvos of giving. The Jew doesn’t merely give with his pocketbook -- he gives with his heart and soul, with his whole life. The sacrifice is the self, and the offering is the self.


Rav Yerucham Halevi (Da’as Chochmah Umussar, vol. 1, #3) said that self-sacrifice is found in every aspect of the mitzvos. It is nothing other than the totality of effort.

Remember how Yaakov prepared for battle with his brother in three ways: He prepared to fight, he arranged to give a gift of appeasement, and he prayed. Don’t think that Yaakov tried different things, lest each on its own not be sufficient. Not so, said Rav Yerucham. Yaakov did everything with deliberation and certainty. Since we are not allowed to simply rely on miracles, Yaakov did EVERYTHING in his power; he left no stone unturned -- for to do so would show a lack of diligent effort.

A generation earlier, the Alter of Kelm expressed this idea (Chochmah Umussar, part one, “Hein Yatzil, Hein Lo Yatzil”). “One who relies on a miracle lacks the merit of self-sacrifice. Surely he is holding back from complete giving.” That is, one who dedicates himself -- but inwardly relies on miraculous salvation -- has not given sufficiently, has not exerted himself to his utmost.

The proof of this, writes the Alter, is the famous story of Rebbi Chaninah Ben Dosa. After receiving a golden chair-leg miraculously, he saw in a dream that his reward in Olam Habah (the next world) would be lacking. He then asked that the leg be returned, and, miraculously, it was taken back.

The meaning of this incident, is that one’s merit may be reduced by having received heavenly assistance, when one could manage without such assistance. In such a case, the acceptance of assistance shows a lack of perseverance.

This does not mean that we will always be successful in our endeavors. “Hein yatzil, hein lo yatzil” -- Whether we succeed or not, is not in our hands; only the exertion, the unstinting effort -- this is our job.

It is clear to us that this was the intention of Rav Yerucham Halevi in the words, “ ‘Don’t think that Yaakov tried different things, lest each on its own not be sufficient. No so,’ said Rav Yerucham Halevi. ‘Yaakov did everything with deliberation and certainty.’ ” Not that Yaakov was certain that he would succeed; he was certain that he was obligated to try with everything in his power. Only then -- whether he was successful or not -- would he feel that he had done his duty.

Chodshei Hashanah Vol. 2 # 7: Technical Corrections

The last issue included an error. There are 1080 divisions of the hour, not 1040.

Reb Mordchai Greenes pointed out that last week’s issue did not clarify that certain of the dechiyos (postponements of Rosh Chodesh) only affect Tishre (Rosh Hashanah time). He asked whether all of the dechiyos are so.

The point, and question, are well taken; only Rosh Hashanah is directly affected by the dechiyos. 1. That the first, fourth and sixth days cannot be the first day of the month was certainly only said for Rosh Hashanah. 2. The other rule mentioned last week -- if the Molad appears after noon, it is put off a day -- is an issue. From the Talmud it is not clear if this was only said in regard to Rosh Hashanah; Rambam, however, derived that each of the dechiyos only affect Rosh Hashanah. See Magid Harakiyah, pp. 338 - 340.



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