We read in the Pesach Haggadah: "The more that one tells about
the Exodus, the more praiseworthy he is." Why?
R' Yaakov Yisrael Berger z"l (see page 4) wrote in 1944: Bnei
Yisrael were supposed to be in Egypt for 400 years, but Hashem
took them out 190 years early. Yet we have now been in exile for
thousands of years. The Jews probably suffer more in Europe now
than our ancestors did in Egypt. In the western nations, where
our brethren have found rest for their bodies, there is no rest
for the soul. The foundations of the Torah in these countries
are collapsing. Shabbat and family purity laws are almost
forgotten. Why then does Hashem not redeem us?
He adds: This is the meaning of the Haggadah's statement, "The
more that one tells about the Exodus, the more praiseworthy he
is." The more that one explores the reasons that brought about
the early redemption from Egypt, the more praiseworthy he is, for
such a person hastens our own redemption. This is also the
meaning of Rabban Gamliel's statement: "Whoever does not explain
the following three things at the Pesach festival has not
fulfilled his obligation - the Korban Pesach, matzah and maror."
It is not enough to eat these three things. One must learn their
lessons; for example, one must feel the bitterness of our own
exile, and do what we can to be redeemed as our ancestors were.
(Kol Yisrael Chaveirim p. 87)
"This month shall be for you the beginning of the months,
rishon hu lachem / the first of the months of the year it
shall be for you." (12:2)
The yotzer / additional prayer that some congregations recite
on Shabbat Parashat Hachodesh (the Shabbat before the month of
"rishon hu lachem / The first it shall be for you,
for G-d to pass over you, to be sanctified among you-
the Holy One!
lachem hu rishon / for you it shall be the first,
you who are guarded like the apple of the eye . . ."
Why does the first stanza say, "rishon hu lachem / The first it
shall be for you," while the second reverses the order of the
words and says, "lachem hu rishon / for you it shall be the
first"? R' Shalom Elchanan Halevi Jaffe z"l (see page 4)
In the verse quoted above, Hashem taught Moshe the mitzvah of
sanctifying the new moon to begin each month. That first month
was sanctified by Hashem Himself; He showed Moshe what the new
moon looks like. Thereafter, Hashem turned over this
responsibility to man. From that time on, even if the bet din
were to err in its declaration of the new moon, Hashem will
observe the holidays on the day when the bet din says they will
fall. [For example, Hashem will judge man on the day which the
bet din says is Yom Kippur, even if Yom Kippur really should have
fallen on the following day. (See Mishnah Rosh Hashanah 2:9)]
This explains the change between the two stanzas: Hashem
sanctified the first month - "rishon hu lachem / The first it
shall be for you." It was "first" before it was "for you."
Thereafter, "lachem hu rishon / for you it shall be the first."
It is "yours" to make the "first."
Why did Hashem sanctify that first month Himself? R' Jaffe
The Torah states (Vayikra 20:7-8): "You shall sanctify
yourselves and you will be holy, for I am Hashem, your G-d. You
shall observe My decrees and perform them - I am Hashem, Who
sanctifies you." These verses teach us that Hashem has
previously sanctified us, and only because He did so can we
sanctify ourselves further. Why did He sanctify us? Because He
knows that we will follow His initiative and continue to sanctify
Similarly, the gemara (Shabbat 88a) teaches that Hashem forced
Bnei Yisrael at Har Sinai to accept the Torah. Why did He force
them, whereas he did not force the descendants of Esav and
Yishmael? Because He knew that Bnei Yisrael would later reaccept
the Torah willingly.
In the same vein, Hashem sanctified the first rosh chodesh
because all sanctity must begin with Him. However, He then
turned this responsibility over to us because He knew that we
would continue to sanctify the months.
(Sichah Sheleimah p.190)
"And he left Pharaoh's presence in a burning anger."
Rashi writes: Moshe was angry because Pharaoh said (10:28),
"Do not see my face anymore."
R' Chaim Aryeh Lerner z"l (see page 4) asks three questions:
(1) Why would Moshe be angered by those words rather than the
words in the same sentence: "For on the day you see my face you
(2) Why did Moshe become angry now more so than on other
occasions when Pharaoh was disrespectful to him (e.g., in verse
(3) Why was Moshe upset at all? He should be happy to never
see Pharaoh again since one is not supposed to look at the face
of a wicked person!
R' Lerner answers: The Ba'al Haturim writes that the phrase "al
tosef" /"Do not . . . anymore" appears twice in the Torah - once
in the verse quoted by Rashi and once in the verse (Devarim
3:26), "Do not speak to Me anymore about this matter." (The
"matter" referred to there was Moshe's desire to enter Eretz
Yisrael and Hashem's decree that Moshe would not enter the Land.)
Why is the same phrase used in both of these verses? The Ba'al
Haturim explains that this illustrates that one should not take
lightly a curse uttered by any person, even a wicked person. The
fact that Pharaoh threatened Moshe with the phrase, "al tosef"/
"Do not . . . anymore," had an effect and led Hashem to speak the
same words to Moshe many years later.
The gemara (Megillah 3a) teaches that when a person is
frightened and he doesn't know why, it is because his "mazal"
(loosely translated: his soul) has seen something that the person
himself has not seen. Here, too, Rashi informs us, Moshe was
frightened and angered by the words "al tosef" / "Do not . . .
anymore" more so than by Pharaoh's other threats, although Moshe
himself did not know why.
"And it shall be when your son will ask you at some future
time, 'What is this?' (13:14)
This is the question that the Haggadah associates with the
simple-minded son. Why, asks R' Moshe Feinstein z"l, is this
question presented in the Torah before the question of the wise
son (Devarim 6:20): "What are the testimonies and the decrees and
the ordinances that Hashem, our G-d, commanded you?"
He answers: This is how one should approach Torah study.
Before one can start inquiring into the Torah on a deep level, he
must ask: "What is this?" Only after one knows the entire Torah,
writes R' Feinstein, can one ask the deeper questions.
Rabbis of the New World
The following are biographical notes on some of the sages
who appear in this week's issue:
R' Yaakov Yisrael Berger z"l was a longtime rabbi in Cleveland
in the period before World War II. His works include Ahavat
Yisrael and Kol Yisrael Chaveirim. His descendants include the
well-known writer R' Zelig Pliskin. (Source: R' Gedaliah Anemer)
R' Shalom Elchanan Halevi Jaffe z"l was the son of R' Shimon
Peretz Jaffe. The younger R' Jaffe served in several Lithuanian
towns. Beginning in 1890, he was rabbi in St. Louis, Missouri.
He wrote several works; the one quoted in this issue is a
commentary on the selichot, hoshanot and yotzrot, and was
published in Yerushalayim in 1896. (Source: Otzar Ha'rabbanim
R' Chaim Aryeh Lerner z"l was born in Leordina, Hungary (now
Rumania) on 18 Tamuz 5653/1893. Among his teachers were R' Akiva
Schreiber in Pressburg and the Sigheter Rebbe, R' Chaim Zvi
Teitelbaum (the "Atzei Chaim"). About the latter, R' Lerner
writes: "I was a member of his household day and night." R'
Lerner settled in the United States in 1929 and served as rabbi
to several congregations in New York. He died in 1977.
The two volumes of R' Lerner's work, Imrei Chaim, were
published in 1958 and 1972, respectively. In addition to R'
Lerner's own writings on chumash, Talmud and halachah, the
volumes contain previously unpublished writings of the Atzei
Chaim and correspondence with the Atzai Chaim's son, the current
Satmar Rebbe. (Source: Imrei Chaim)
Martin and Michelle Swartz
in memory of Martin's grandmother, Elise Hofmann a"h