These divrei Torah were adapted from the hashkafa portion of Rabbi Yissocher Frand’s Commuter Chavrusah Tapes on the weekly portion: CD #1016 – The Magician Who Became a Baal Teshuva. Good Shabbos!
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The pasuk in Parshas Vaera says, “I shall take you to Me for a people, and I shall be a G-d to you; and you shall know that I am Hashem your G-d, Who takes you out from under the burdens of Egypt (mi’tachas sivlos Mitzrayim).” [Shemos 6:7] I saw an interesting insight into the expression “Who takes you out from under the burdens of Egypt,” brought in the name of a sefer called Tiferes Shlomo [by Shlomo Hakohen Rabinowicz, the first Rebbe of the Radomsk Chasidic dynasty; 1801-1866]. He writes that this pasuk contains the segulah [key] by which Klal Yisrael was able to exist in Egypt, and by which they were able to come out of Egypt. The segulah is alluded to in the word “sivlos.” Sivlos means torture, suffering, burdens, etc. There is another familiar related word in Hebrew that has an entirely different connotation. The word is savlanus, which means patience.
The Tiferes Shlomo suggests that the reason Klal Yisrael was able to exist, and eventually to be redeemed from Mitzrayim, was they had the attribute of savlanus. They never lost faith that what was happening to them was not mere happenstance, but was in fact part of a Grand Plan. They could endure the suffering (sivlos) because they knew that may’ays Hashem haysa zos (this was coming from Hashem).
When a person is going through a tortuous ordeal and cannot imagine “why is this happening to me?” it is very difficult to survive that experience. But if a person can perceive that the Ribono shel Olam is doing this to me, and He knows what he is doing, and I therefore accept it — that is what can give a person the ability to survive a terrible, terrible ordeal. The Tiferes Shlomo provides a synopsis of this idea with the following sentence: “For if in His Eyes it is right, then by us it is alright as well.”
The Emunah to suffer (be sovel), and yet have the patience (savlanus), forbearance, and fortitude to realize that may’ays Hashem haysa zos — that was the segulah by which our ancestors were redeemed from Egypt.
The sefer Bei Chiya references, in this vein, an interesting Gemara in Maseches Berachos [60a]: The Elder Hillel was returning home from a journey and heard screaming coming from the direction of his home. He remarked, “I am confident that this screaming is not coming from my house.” The Gemara cites, regarding Hillel the Elder, the verse “From bad tidings he does not fear, his heart has confidence in Hashem.” [Tehillim 112:7] Since he had such amazing bitachon in Hashem, he was sure that these sounds of commotion were not emanating from his house.
Bei Chiya explains that someone who knows anything about the attribute of bitachon knows that this is NOT the correct definition of bitachon. This is a fallacy in people’s minds. Bitachon does not mean having confidence that things that occur will be “good” in the way that a person is hoping they will occur. If a person needs to go through a serious operation and he says, “I have bitachon that it will be alright,” he is misusing the term bitachon. That is not what it means.
True bitachon means that I have full confidence that what is going to happen is ultimately best for me. Now, I might think that “best for me” is that the operation should be successful, etc. However, maybe that is not what Hashem has in mind. Bitachon means that whatever the decree is, I accept it, because even though I may not understand it, I have confidence that it is ultimately for my good.
So, when the Gemara says that Hillel the Elder came into the city, heard screams, and said, “I know for sure it is not coming from my house,” it was not necessarily because nothing wrong was going on in his house. It could be his house was on fire. It could be that there was a terrible misfortune that just happened in his house. However, whatever it was, Hillel said, “My family would not be screaming about it.” Hillel was confident that he had been able to instill in his family this emunah and bitachon that whatever happens in life is part of Hashem’s Grand Plan. Perhaps there was a tragedy in his house, perhaps his roof collapsed. But he was confident that his family would not panic and cry out in distress. He taught them the attribute of savlanus, the concept of sivlos Mitzrayim.
Again, to quote the words of the Tiferes Shlomo “If in His eyes it is right; then in my eyes it is alright as well.”
Bei Chiya points out that this story of Hillel the Elder actually correlates fully with another opinion that Hillel expresses elsewhere. Every year at our Pesach Seder, we eat matzah and then we eat marror. Finally, after consuming the two mitzvah items independently, we form a sandwich made of matzah and marror and recite the statement, “This is what Hillel used to do when the Beis HaMikdash was standing. He would wrap matzah and marror and eat them together, as it is written, ‘upon matzahs and marror you shall eat them.’ [Bamidbar 9:11]” This ritual eating of the “matzah-marror sandwich” is performed “as a commemoration of the practice in the bais hamikdash, according to Hillel’s opinion” (zecher l’Mikdash k’Hillel).
Bei Chiya makes the fascinating connection between this practice of Hillel regarding the consumption of matzah and marror, and the philosophy of Hillel that “the screams I hear coming from the city are not coming from my house.”
Matzah is the symbol of redemption. Marror is the symbol of enslavement. It would thus make sense that the two symbolic foods should be eaten separately. However, that was not Hillel’s attitude. Hillel would wrap matzah and marror and eat them together. He knew that there is exile and that there is redemption, and that they are both part of a single Grand Plan. It is thus appropriate to eat foods representing exile and redemption together, to show that they form part of a unified master design stemming from the same Source.
I am hesitant to dwell on this point, because to have such an attitude sincerely is a tremendous spiritual achievement. It is much easier said than done, and maybe we are not holding by such a level of spiritual greatness. It is tempting to say that Klal Yisrael in Egypt was on such a madreigah [spiritual level]; but it is beyond our grasp.
However, I want to read a brief piece of prose that someone showed me recently. This is something he heard from his aunt. His aunt, who is already an old woman, survived the concentration camps of World War II. This item was written in Yiddish, and it will be lost somewhat in the translation, but I will translate every line. This is what people sang when they were being marched to their deaths. At that stage, everybody knew about the “showers”. They knew that people did not come back from the “showers,” and yet, this is what they sang:
G-t in Zein Mishpat is gerecht (G-d in His Judgment is correct)
Keiner ken nisht zoggen G-t iz shlecht (No one can say that G-d is bad)
G-t veis voz Ehr tut (G-d knows what He does)
Um recht tut Ehr keinmol nisht (He never does evil)
G-t in Zein Mishpat is gerecht (G-d in His Judgment is correct)
These people did not live three thousand years ago. These people lived 70-plus years ago. Some of them are still alive today. Some of them had this capacity of, “And I took you out from beneath the sivlos of Egypt.” These people not only “talked the talk,” but they also “walked the walk.” These people believed with every sinew of their bodies “If it is good in His Eyes, then for us, too, it is alright.”
Transcribed by David Twersky; Jerusalem [email protected]
Technical Assistance by Dovid Hoffman; Baltimore, MD [email protected]
This week’s write-up is adapted from the hashkafa portion of Rabbi Yissochar Frand’s Commuter Chavrusah Series on the weekly Torah portion. A listing of the halachic portions for Parshas Va’eyra is provided below:
- # 039 – Shabbos Emergency: Who Do We Call?
- # 082 – Astrology: Is It For Us?
- # 130 – The Issur of Entering a Church
- # 177 – Magic Shows: More Than Meets the Eye
- # 223 – Learning in Kollel: Is It Always Permitted?
- # 267 – Do Secular Names of G-d Have Kedusha?
- # 313 – Converting a Church Into a Shul
- # 357 – Birchas Hamotzi
- # 401 – Kadima B’brachos — Hierarchy of Brochos
- # 445 – Shoveling Snow on Shabbos
- # 489 – Denying Jewishness
- # 533 – Shin Shel Tefillin & Ohr Echad
- # 577 – Davening For Non-Jews
- # 621 – Kosher Cheese Continued – Cottage Cheese and Butter
- # 665 – Checking Out Families for Shidduchim
- # 709 – Kavod Malchus & Secular Kings
- # 753 – Making Hamotzei – Not As Simple As It Seems
- # 797 – Sheva Brachos at the Seder
- # 841 – Serving McDonalds To Your Non-Jewish Employees
- # 885 – Davening Out Loud – A Good Idea?
- # 929 – The Bracha of Al Hamichya
- # 972 – Is Islam Avodah Zarah?
- #1016 – The Magician Who Became a Baal Teshuva
- #1060 – Bentching on a Kos; Making Brochos with Children
- #1103 – Davening In Front of a Tzelem
- #1146 – Polling Place/AA Meeting in a Bais Avodah Zara – A Problem?
- #1189 – Can You Wear Your Tzitzes in the Bathroom?
- #1233 – Mutar To Say Mumbai, Corpus Christi and Even Satmar and Sans? – Why Not?
- #1277 – Snow Shailos
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