The Easy Road to Teshuva – Tape #524

TAPE #524

The Easy Road to Teshuva



Dovid Hamelech said בימי רע למה אירא – “Of what should I be afraid in the days when there is what to fear? What should I be afraid of when there is cause to fear?” (Tehillim 49:6). So Dovid said that he’s not afraid of the perils that confront him; he doesn’t fear his enemies and those who seek to hurt him. So what is he afraid of? He fears only one thing: עון עקבי יסובני, “I’m in fear of my sins,” says Dovid Hamelech.

At the time when Dovid was confronted by some danger, בימי רע, he was afraid that at that moment of peril, during the time of difficulty, that’s when his sins would rise up and accuse him. They wait for the opportunity, like it states השטן מקטרג בשעת הסכנה – “When a man is in peril that’s when the accuser brings up his accusations” (Tanchuma Vayigash) . When you’re already in trouble, that’s when you’re likely to be accused of your misdeeds in shamayim. Like the gemara says (Shabbos 32a): Nafal tura, when the ox falls, so everybody says: chadeid lasakina, let’s sharpen the knife. It’s not easy to get a big ox onto the ground. But once it falls, that’s when it’s most available for shechita; so they say “Sharpen the knife; now is the chance.” And therefore, in the time of peril, when danger looms, that’s when a man’s iniquities rise up against him.


However, you must pay attention to the words of Dovid, because he specified that it was a special kind of iniquity that he feared. Of course Dovid was afraid of any sin he might have done, but he was mostly in fear of a certain class of sins. In the time when it is necessary to be apprehensive, in the time when a man should have a certain sensation of fear, of what should he be afraid, of which sins? עון עקבי, “Of the sins under my heels,” said Dovid.

עון עקבי יסוביני – “The sins under my heels surround me.” And this is explained in the gemara as follows:עונות שאדם דש בעקביו בעולם הזה מסובין לו ליום הדין – “It’s the sins that a man tramples under his heels, they are the ones that rise up and surround him on the Day of Judgment” (Avodah Zara 18a). Which means, that when a man is cognizant of any wrongs that he did, when he is aware of his sins, so to a certain extent he is capable of confronting them. At least he has regret. Now, to have regret is already a step towards rectification. It’s facing the direction of teshuva. To be sorry, it’s at least it’s a first step. It’s a big thing to know that something wrong has been committed. Now, of course, the best thing is to get busy repairing the harm that you did, to change your ways. But at least when a man knows that he is guilty, and he has compunction, he has charata, his heart aches, he is worried, that is already a form of kapara. It’s not a full selicha u’mechila, but it is certainly important.


But what is there to worry about? Those sins that a man is not concerned about, that sins that he tramples on without thinking. He doesn’t consider them important, or he may not even consider them as anything wrong. And then suddenly on the Day of Judgment he is confronted with enemies that he didn’t expect. He has fingers pointed at him by opponents that he didn’t know existed. Avon akayvav, the sins under his heels, m’subin lo, they rise up and surround him. They’ll ambush him and he won’t know what to say because he wasn’t prepared for such a confrontation.

Now there are two kinds, two separate classes, of avon akayvei. There may be more, but for convenience we’ll make two classifications now. One is the things that people consider permissible, or if they don’t consider permissible, at least they think that they’re not serious. He knows it may not be right, but he imagines that it’s not serious. We have to know, however, that even these, even if it would be true that his judgment was correct that they are lesser aveiros, even if they are at the bottom of the scale of severity, the most lenient of all kinds of sins, nevertheless there is no such thing as a small sin if a person doesn’t have regrets. Without teshuva no sin is small. Every sin is a catastrophe if a person doesn’t regret it.


It’s like that famous mashal of a man trying to go to sleep in a bed and everything is comfortable. But there’s one bean lying under the counterpane beneath him. Under the sheet there’s a bean. It’s only one bean, but it makes him uncomfortable and it ruins a night’s sleep. It presses into his side. It pushes in this direction, and that direction. Unless he takes it out, he may not sleep at all that night. That’s what you can look forward to from a small aveirah. It will make trouble for you to no end, like that small bean; unless you pull it out by doing teshuva. Like the Chovos Halevavos says: there’s no aveira that is big with teshuva, and there is no aveirah that is small without teshuva! And therefore, these unsuspecting enemies are going to ambush a man on the Day of Judgment. From a corner that he didn’t expect any kind of attack, suddenly there will come a very big attack.

Now, not only is it a serious matter for a person to overlook something in which he rebelled against Hashem – even if it’s the smallest item, but he didn’t have any attitude of regret, any feeling of sorrow that he had committed that act. Not only is there the gravity of the matter, but there’s another consideration that Rabbeinu Yonah explains in Shaarei Teshuva. And he tells us the mashal from Yeshaya Hanavi. Yeshaya Hanavi says (Yeshaya 5:18) that people may start out with deeds that seem as unimportant as spider webs; הוי מושכי העון בחבלי השוא, they’re thin, nothing to be worried about, you think, but eventually when they are added together and they become twisted into one big cord, וכעבות העגלה חטאה, the sins eventually becomes like the heavy ropes that you use to pull wagons.

And Rabeinu Yonah tells us, a small aveira that’s frequently repeated, in the course of time it become as serious as chayvei krisus and chayvei misas beis din. Even the smallest sin, if it’s committed again and again, so its severity is added together, and eventually it becomes a very big sin. Almost like chayvei krisus and chayvei misas beis din! So we begin to understand that avon akayvei, the small sin under my heels, the sin that I’m not even thinking about, is something that should be taken seriously.


However, there’s another classification of avon akeivai, something that causes people to overlook certain deeds – not because they don’t think that they are sins or because they consider them small aveiros. But it’s because these things are so easy to rectify. There are certain things that require almost no effort to avoid, and even if they were done, they are easily repaired. And because of the ease that’s involved in these things, people disdain them.

You know, sometimes people are confronted with very important tests, with temptations that require a great deal of willpower to avoid – and sometimes it might even require a change in one’s lifestyle. Sometimes you have to move to a different country to save your soul. And why not? There’s no question that people move to save their health. If a man is told that for his health he has to leave a certain climate and settle elsewhere; even though it means giving up all of his friendships and his family, and giving up his professional practice. But what doesn’t a man do to save his life? He moves, even if it’s across the world, and he understands that it’s worth it.

And so too, sometimes for certain aveiros it’s necessary to make drastic changes in one’s life. And certainly he should do it. He shouldn’t hesitate because if a man can save his life, if he can still salvage and achieve something in this world, he must do it. Everything is worth the sacrifice to rescue the rest of your days, the remaining years that you have. Even elderly people move to other countries in order to gain a few more years; surely they should do so to save their souls. And because this type of test looms so large in a man’s eyes, he understands its importance, and he can often overcome it.

But when a sin is so easy to repair, when teshuva requires almost no effort, so it doesn’t occur to him to do it now. He thinks that someday he’ll get to it, later on; it’s nothing to worry about. And he postpones and he neglects. And therefore, because he tramples on these things, they’re going to arise on the Day of Judgment and confront him. And it is this second class that we’re going to discuss now, the second class of avon akeivai, things that are so easy for a person to avoid, but nonetheless, he tramples them underfoot.


Now when talk about repenting or doing teshuva, let’s not make an error. We’re not talking merely about righting some wrongs that a person did. Teshuva in that sense is too limited. When we talk about teshuva, we talk about v’shuvu el Hashem, to return to Hashem. Which means, not merely to repent for things that were done incorrectly.  What teshuva really means is to come to Hashem and to gain certain qualities, certain attitudes, and certain practices that were never done before in your life. It means to get better. Teshuva actually means to get better.

Now, we’re going to study that subject. When the Torah talks about the subject of teshuva, it says (Devarim 30:12): Ki hamitzvah hazos, this commandment of teshuva that I’m commanding you today is not something that’s difficult. Lo bashamayim hee, it’s not in the sky that you should say how can we go up and get it, v’lo m’eiver la’yam hee, and it’s not across the sea that you have to travel a long distance, no. Ki karov eilecha hadavar meod bificha u’belevavcha l’asoso, this thing is very near to you. It’s in your mouth and in your heart, which means in your mind, to do it.

So what are we hearing? Hakadosh Baruch Hu is telling us that the mitzvah is teshuva is extremely easy. Ki karov eilecha hadavar meod, the thing is very close to you. It’s only a matter of bificha u’belevavcha l’asoso, it’s in your mouth, something you should say, and something you should think, and that is sufficient for the mitzvah of teshuva.

Now we have to understand that actually it’s not so. When you’re dealing, let’s say, with the public like today, you will have many things that people have to be told that do require a drastic change in their lifestyle. Sometimes a man has to give up his parnassa, his profession, for the sake of teshuva. Sometimes people have to be told to sacrifice their ambitions, their careers, for teshuva.


But when Moshe Rabbeinu was telling the Am Yisroel these words, you have to picture the circumstances. It was in the midbar and the people were all shomrei Shabbos. Everybody ate kosher and everybody kept taharas hamishpacha. There was no question about anyone doing a sin in the midbar that others could notice. That was out of the question. Even a hundred years ago, in a small Jewish town or in a big Jewish city; in Vilna let’s say, it was impossible for a Jew to walk through the street without a hat. He wouldn’t survive. Every Jew went to the beis haknesses; there wasn’t a Jew who didn’t put on tefillin. It was the national practice for the Jewish people to keep kol haTorah kula. And in the midbar certainly everybody kept everything! So the question arises, so what talk is there of teshuva when everybody is perfect?

And the answer is, that absolutely there is talk of teshuva. Because teshuva means something entirely different than you imagined. Doing mitzvos is the minimum that’s required of a Jew. It doesn’t make you special; it’s not your great achievement in life. It’s like a man who walks in the street naked, and let’s say, another person is clothed in shorts, that’s all. Now the man who is wearing shorts might feel extremely dignified. Look how important I am, I’m dressed in bigdei yom tov, bigdei malchus. He’s wearing shorts, this fellow, but he looks at his naked friend, and he imagines himself to be dignified. When comparing yourself to others, certainly people can deceive themselves. But in those days everybody was clothed in mitzvos. That was the bare minimum. Everybody did everything. And still, there was so much teshuva to be done, that for lack of teshuva, Hakadosh Baruch Hu threatened them with the tocheicha. And we see what happened eventually. And don’t think that it was because the people threw away the Torah and that’s why they were sent out into exile. No,the neviim didn’t accuse them of eating what was not kosher. The neviim never accused anybody of disregarding the laws of taharas hamishpacha. That was out of the question – everybody kept everything. And still there is a necessity for teshuva, and a very great necessity for teshuva. To make your way closer to Hashem in ways that you don’t ever think about. And these are the things that adam dosh b’akayvav, that people trample under their feet.

Now, when Hashem says that these things that I’m commanding you, the teshuva for these things is very easy, ki karov eilecha hadavar me’od,  now let’s not make any error. They’re extremely important and they are the things that we enumerate in al chait shechatanu lifanecha. Because if you look at the list of sins that we’re going to start saying tomorrow, you will not find once a mention of shedding blood. Bloodshed is not mentioned there. Jews didn’t have anything to regret when it came to homicide. Sins like, homosexuality, chas v’shalom, didn’t exist among the Jewish people at all. There was no such thing as mixed dancing. Like you can find today in this crazy society, a synagogue which considers itself Orthodox, and after Yom Kippur they have a Yom Kippur dance, which is y’hareig v’al ya’avor. Such lunatics didn’t exist in those days.


But we, the better ones, don’t need grobbe aveiros, severe sins, in order that we should feel a necessity to do teshuva. A Jew who keeps all the mitzvos of the Torah has to know that there is a very great peril facing him on the yom hadin because there are numberless things that he tramples underfoot that he must rectify. Countless things that he must repair, that he must do teshuva for. And his life depends on keeping in mind this principle that the aveiros she’adam dosh b’akayvav will be there m’subin lo l’yom hadin. They’ll be there waiting in ambush for him.

And therefore, right now we are addressing an audience that are all Orthodox Jews, and everybody keeps everything. And we’re not going to talk about sins that today you will hear about in the camp outside of the Orthodox. We won’t talk about anything that’s severe in the eyes of the hamon am, that even the multitude will agree that’s a sin. No; we’re talking about things that people, even the most Orthodox, commit. And still, they’re so serious that he has to worry about them on the Day of Judgment.


Now, we’ll start with the easiest of all, because that’s the subject, things that are so easy to do that it’s a pity to overlook them. Opportunities to come to Hashem, v’shuvu el Hashem, to do teshuva, to become better. And number one is the great necessity of keeping your mouth closed. When you consider how simple that is, you’ll begin to understand how guilty you really are. I will have to take the time now to explain about this subject so that you’ll understand how severe it really is – just because it’s simple.

You know in tzitzis there are two kinds of threads. There are threads of blue wool, which are expensive. In the days of old, when they wore tzitzis they wore blue wool techeiles on the tzitzis. And it was very expensive. And they also had threads of white wool which were not as expensive. The gemara says in Mesichta Menachos says like this: Suppose a man neglected to put blue threads in his tzitzis. So naturally, he is guilty. When techeiles was available, it was a sin to neglect it. But let’s say he neglected to put in white threads, that the gemara says is a much bigger sin. Much more severe. Why is it much worse? Because white threads are easier to find, they’re cheaper to purchase. Kasheh onsho shel lavan m’onsho shel techeiles, the punishment for neglecting the white threads is bigger than the punishment for neglecting the blue threads, because whatever is easier is the bigger obligation. So now we begin to understand how serious are the easy sins. Those things that are so easily avoided have with them a very great responsibility if a person transgresses them.


Now, it costs no money to keep the mouth closed. And we have to know that keeping the mouth open entails very many wrong things. First of all, we have to know there’s a sin called devarim biteilim. Idle talk is considered a sin. Even though it’s kosher idle talk, nothing wrong is said. But the gemara in Mesichta Yuma says, V’dibarta bam, “You can speak in them,” meaning that in divrei Torah you should speak. You can speak all day long in divrei Torah, until your tongue wears out, but v’lo bedevarim acheirim, not other things. V’debarta, and you should speak. In what should you speak? Bam, only in them, only in words of Torah. Talking idle talk means that you’re oiver on an asei, on a mitzvas asei. And then the gemara adds, that besides the mitzvas assei, there’s also a lav m’divrei nevi’im: Kol hadevarim yega’im, all the words are wearisome, lo uchal ish l’daber, a man has no permission to talk. Which means, you must speak to be sociable; if you see that someone requires some comradeship, someone requires a little sociability, you must soothe them with some kindly and friendly words; certainly. Even the biggest tzaddikim spent time talking to people who needed consolation and counsel and encouragement. But suppose that person wants to do the talking himself and you butt in and you want to unload your own words on him, then you have to know that there’s a sin of devarim biteilim. However, we’re not going to dwell on that because that’s just the beginning.


There is a sin of saying words that hurt. And now we come to a very important subject. Devarim bitelim is also important, but now we’re talking about what’s called lashon hara. Now don’t get me wrong; a lot of tzaddikim who learned about lashon hara, not to talk evil of other people, they understand is an aveira. And many people guard their tongues. But now we’re speaking of the most severe lashon hara, that’s the sharp tongue that hurts people’s feelings. You’re not slandering him; no, you wouldn’t slander a fellow Jew. But you’re speaking to him in a tone that hurts. You’re needling him, you’re saying a sharp word, that rips at his heart. You might not even notice it, you expect everyone to just have thick skin and bear it, but just because you’re oblivious to other people’s feelings that will not be an excuse on the Day of Judgement.

Now the gemara (Bava Metziah 58b) explains that there are two places in the Torah where it says lo sonu ish es amiso – “You should not vex your fellow man.” You shouldn’t hurt your fellow man. In two places we have this lav. One is written in business things, v’chi simkiru mimkar, when you sell anything, oh koneh, or when you buy, m’yad amisecha, from your fellow man, lo sonu ish es amiso, you shouldn’t vex your fellow man. It means you shouldn’t cheat him. That’s a lav of the Torah, ona’as mamon, cheating in money. Whether you take too much money, or you don’t give him the right change, or you give him inferior merchandise, or the weights are faulty, it’s all called onaas mamon, and it’s a lav from the Torah.

But there’s another place where the same verse is repeated as follows: V’lo sonu ish es amiso v’yareisa m’Elokecha – “You shouldn’t vex your fellow man and you should be afraid of Hashem.” So the gemara asks, what’s the second pasuk talking about? We don’t need two identical pesukim on the same subject. And the gemara answers, kan b’onaas mamon, the first pasuk is talking about vexing a man by cheating him in money matters. And the second possuk is speaking about vexing a man by hurting his feelings with words. So by hurting somebody’s feelings, it’s a lav lo sonu ish es amiso.


Now the gemara compares the two. What’s more severe, ona’as mamon, cheating a man in money, or ona’as devarim, hurting his feelings with words? So the gemara says (ibid.) in the name of Rabbe Shimon bar Yochai, gadol onaas devarim m’onaas mamon, vexing with words is greater than vexing with money. First of all, she’zeh b’gufo v’zeh b’mamono, if you hurt a person’s feelings you’re hurting that person physically.  You hurt his heart, you hurt his mind, his emotions. You’re hurting his nerves, it’s his health that you’re hurting. That’s b’gufo. But when you take away money it’s only from his property, from his pocket. So therefore, onaas devarim is much more serious. A second consideration the gemara says: she’zeh nitain  l’hishavoin, money you can always give back. Of course you shouldn’t take, but if you rob somebody, you can always give back the money. And you should make sure to give back. If you’re ashamed that he should know, so buy a postal money order and send it anonymously to him. Pay him. Ona’as mamon is nitan l’hishavon. You can pay back. But v’zeh lo nitain l’hishavon; biting words can never be taken back. You can ask for forgiveness, but you can’t take back the damage.

Let’s say you stick a knife in somebody’s heart and then you say, “I’m sorry, forgive me.” Even if the man says “Okay, I forgive you,” but that’s not undoing the damage. He has a knife in his heart. The damage is done. And teshuva requires to undo the damage. But you can never undo an unkind word! Now we’re not talking here of being nice and polite and derech eretz;  we’re talking now straight Torah. And in Torah it’s considered as if he’s oiver on a lav, no less than any other transgression in the Torah, no less than eating a ham sandwich. It’s actually much worse than eating a ham sandwich.

And the third reason that hurtful words is more severe than stealing money, the gemara says, is she’zeh lo neemar v’yareisa, on money matters the Torah doesn’t add the words “You should fear Hashem.” Now, you certainly you should fear Hashem if you’re going to cheat somebody in money matters. And there’s a lot to be afraid of. But the Torah doesn’t say these words. However, when it comes to hurting somebody’s feelings, it says v’yareisa m’Elokecha. You’d better be afraid of Hashem Elokecha.


So now let’s picture this. We have a case; here is a storekeeper on this side of the street, a very honest man. When you go into his store you can trust him for the price. His weights are honest and you never have to count your change! You know that he’s the most honest fellow you could find. Now, on the other side of the street, there’s a man who is cunning and tricky, and you have to be careful with him. He’s sneaky in money matters. With him you have to keep your eyes wide open because has a name that sometimes he cheats. So there’s no question, we know who is a good man, and who is a not good man.

But sometimes it’s not so. Suppose the righteous man on this side who is so careful in money matters has a sharp tongue. He’s impatient. When the customers are congregating in his store sometimes he’s impatient and he insults one or the other. He hurts people’s feelings. You learned already that you have to keep your mouth closed when you deal with him because he can bite you with his words. Whereas the other fellow, the one who’s not careful with your money, never hurts anybody’s feelings; he’s easy going. Even though you’re crowding, you’re snooping behind the counter looking at the merchandise, he doesn’t say anything. When you want to return a spoiled milk, he takes it back with a smile. He’s easygoing.

So now, according to the gemara we see a new attitude towards the two. This man who is honest, he’s the real crook. He steals people’s money because taking away their happiness by hurting their feelings is much worse than taking away their money, much worse. The gemara says it’s at least three times as bad. This fellow on the other side, he’s a righteous man. The fact that he steals money, all right, he steals money, but he doesn’t hurt your feelings. And that makes him much more virtuous. That’s looking at these two men through the lens of the Torah. From a Torah perspective, this man with the nice tongue is much better.


And now you can understand that when married couples live together day after day and week after week and they’re frequently saying unkind words to each other, you can understand how in the course of a year it accumulates into large heaps, mountains of aveiros. And not just aveiros; severe aveiros.

Suppose a man would give his wife, a certain amount of money, a hundred dollars, let’s say, so that she should go and buy something for herself. So she’s so happy, so she starts dressing to go out and buy that thing. Now he’s a stingy fellow, a conniver, and while she’s dressing  puts his hand in her pocketbook and he takes away some of the money; he steals some of it from her. That’s an unkind deed, an avlah. You wouldn’t even picture such a thing. Such a crooked man we wouldn’t imagine.

But it’s happening all the time! Because when a man says to his wife a word that’s abrasive, that’s cutting, that hurts her feelings, or even if he says a polite word but he says it in an impolite tone, that man is a robber, he’s stealing. And you have to know how great is the aveira of onaas devarim; the gemara says that it’s a very severe sin, very perilous.


Now, how easy it would have been to avoid that! Does it cost any money for a person to say the words kindly, or at least to just keep his mouth shut? Ki karov eilecha hadavar me’od, how near, how close, how easy that thing is. Now, if you had to go outside in the cold weather, in the storm, in order to buy something to fulfill a mitzvah, well, if you didn’t, so it’s wrong; but still you have some excuse for yourself. It might not be the best excuse but it’s something at least. But here we’re talking about where no effort is entailed; it involves no cost to keep the mouth closed.

So we understand now that kasheh onsho shel lavan yoser m’onsho shel techeiles. Just like the man who will get punished more for ignoring the white strings, because it was easier to do, that’s how it always is. The punishment for trampling on the easy things, like not berating your spouse, will be much greater than for the difficult ones. And that’s the kind of aveira that people have to fear on the yom hadin. So when husbands and wives are busy insulting each other all year long, and so they say “We don’t really mean it; we actually love each other, we’re living together so many years,” that won’t take off the severity of the sins. Because it actually hurts at the time. And they don’t have any regret! They trample these sins underfoot, and those are the sins that will be m’subin lo l’yom hadin.


Now the gemara says in one place (Bava Basra 9b) that hanosein pruta l’ani, if a man gives a penny to a poor man, misbareich b’sheish brachos, he’ll be blessed with six blessings. If you give tzedaka, even a penny, to a poor man, you  earn for yourself six great blessings. Of course, if you could give more than a penny, you should. But suppose you could only give only little penny, and you gave it, so you’re going to receive six grand blessings that are enumerated in Yeshaya (Yeshaya 58:7)! Az tikra v’Hashem yaaneh, then you’ll call out and Hashem will answer, tikrah, you will cry, v’yomer hineinu, He will say, “Here I am.” Great blessings are promised for those who give tzedaka to the poor. If you help out poor people, Hakadosh Baruch Hu is on your side and is going to shower upon you blessings. You may not get them immediately but eventually they’re bound to come. But then the gemara adds a whole new dimension to the discussion: V’hamifayso, but if you say encouraging words to a poor man, misbareich b’yud alef, you’re blessed with eleven blessings. Eleven blessing! A remarkable thing. For saying kind words you get eleven blessings.

Now the following question is raised in Tosfos (ibid.): When a man gives a some money to a poor man; he gives him ten dollars, let’s say. And at the same time he speaks to him words of encouragement; he speaks to the poor man kindly, with respect. Does it mean that he’ll get altogether eleven blessings; five more blessings for the kind words besides the six he already received for the money he parted with? Or does it mean that besides the six blessings he gets for giving the money, just for the kind words he’s going to get eleven more blessings? That’s the question Tosfos asks.

And he tells us that it means he’s going to get seventeen blessings altogether. Not merely six for the tzedaka that he gave and five more for kind words. No. Just for the kind words he’s going to get eleven big brachos. It’s even better than a ten dollar bill. The kind words are more valuable than the money.

But Tosfos doesn’t explain why they reached that conclusion. How does Tosfos know that it means eleven brachos more and not merely five brachos more? He doesn’t tell us. But we can now understand it ourselves; now we can understand why Tosfos reached that conclusion. Because we just learned that the man who is honest in money matters but he is harsh in the way he talks to people, he’s considered a robber. He’s robbing a person of his happiness, of his self-respect, by insulting him and by hurting his feelings, and that is worse than taking away money. So we’ll understand as well that one who gives a person self-respect and he honors him and encourages him, it’s better than giving him money! We can’t say that for giving money should be six brachos and for encouraging him only five more, no. Because encouraging people with words is a much greater act of virtue than giving them money. And therefore when a man is kindly, when he speaks words that make people feel happy, that man is considered as if he’s constantly giving, and he will be much more rewarded than the one who gives the greenbacks, because he’s giving something more important!


And now, when we start thinking about that we should become frightened. You begin thinking: “Look at all the opportunities I had to say some encouraging words to people, some kindly words.” Even your own wife; you come home from work or from the yeshiva, and she’s at her wits end. The children are making her crazy. You know how easy it would be to give her a few words of encouragement to lift her spirits. As you’re standing outside of your home holding the doorknob, before you come in, stop for a half minute, thirty seconds on the clock, and plan out in your head some kind words of encouragement. And what about your husband, when he comes home from work; he’s tired, worn out. His boss is harassing him at work. It would have been so easy for you to say one encouraging word to him. Let’s say he was telling you something about his difficulties in the office, at his place of  business, and you could have encouraged him with a few quiet, kindly words. But what did you do instead? At best, nothing.

Think of the great opportunity that you lost. Maybe you even needled him. Suppose instead of kind words you said to him “It’s your fault! “You don’t take my advice, and that’s why it happened to you.Why are you always fighting with other people? You’re always looking for trouble with your customers.” You pour salt on his wounds. So not only are you not giving encouraging words, but you’re destroying him. You have to understand what a great mistake that is. And nobody thinks about that, and they trample it under their feet. And in some families it goes on frequently, very frequently. Recrimination, constant needling each other, back and forth; a gehinom of aveiros.


Now you can begin to understand what it means when people have not learned the importance of serving Hakadosh Baruch Hu at least with silence. Like it states l’cha dumiya tehila, to You, Hashem, silence is praise. Many times by our silence we actually are praising and serving Hashem. Just by closing your mouth. And that’s what the Torah says, ki karov eilecha hadavar meod, really it’s so easy for you. You fool, you lunatic; you come home from your shop and you’re looking for a fight with your wife. She is tired too, all day long with the children, and she already cooked supper for you. It’s not ready exactly when you want it, so what about it? Do you have to needle her and  hurt her, and make a scandal out of nothing at all?! You have to know what a big rasha you are. A rasha, a lunatic, you are. You mishugenah! It’s a great opportunity to serve Hashem with silence; it costs nothing to be silent. You take a sefer and wait until supper is ready, or lie down on the couch and rest, and keep your mouth shut. These things are so easy to fulfill and instead people trample them underfoot. And they don’t realize that they are putting themselves in the greatest peril on the Day of Judgment. And that’s why it says ki karov eilecha hadavar meod, the thing is very close, very easy to you.


When Avraham Avinu came to G’rar, we know that the Torah relates that Avimelech asked him, “Who is this woman with you?” He saw a beautiful woman with Avraham and that was his first question. So Avraham said, Achosi hee, she’s my sister. And Avimelech didn’t hesitate; he took her and brought her to his palace. That night he had a dream that he was going to be put to death for taking away a married woman. So in the morning he came to Avraham and said, “Why did you deceive me?” And Avraham said, “Because when a stranger comes to town, the people are supposed to be asking about one thing: “Do you have a place to eat? A place to sleep?” But you didn’t ask any of these questions. You asked me, “Who is this woman with you? Is she your sister or your wife?” Oh, if that’s your question, then I know I have what to be careful from. And so immediately I said, “There’s no yiras Elokim b’makom hazeh, there’s no fear of G-d in this place, and therefore I had to deceive you.”

Now the question arises, but why should Avimelech have been sentenced to death; after all, he was deceived by Avraham? And the gemara answers (Bava Kama 92a), because it was Avimelech who forced Avraham to deceive him with his wrong behavior, by the type of questions he asked. Shehaya lo lilmod v’lo lomad – he should have learned correct behavior. Mi’kan, from here we learn, the gemara says, that a ben Noach, even a gentile, sh’neherag, he’s put to death, shehaya lo lilmod v’lo lamud, because he should have learned and he didn’t learn. Had he gone to listen to Avraham – Avraham was speaking all the time, he had thousands of talmidim – had Avimelech listened to Avraham, he would have learned how to behave when wayfarers pass through, how to put the right questions to them. And since he didn’t learn and he asked the wrong questions, so he was guilty. He’s not innocent. It was necessary for Avraham to deceive Avimelech for his own self-defense. Avraham couldn’t have said, “It’s my wife,” because he was afraid that Avimelech would kill him in order to take Sarah. And therefore, Avimelech was sentenced to death because he should have learned.


So we’re learning here a big principle about all these easy things that a person could have fulfilled without any effort. He cannot say “I claim exemption because of ignorance.” Because it’s easy to learn! We’re not requiring him to study sugyos chamuros with gemara and tosfos. No, we’re talking about fundamentals of proper living, proper behavior, that are easy to learn. And because there are so many opportunities to learn the fundamentals, therefore those who neglect these opportunities are held entirely guilty. If there are lectures such as these where you could learn, and if there are seforim you could learn, then you will be held responsible.


And that brings us to the subject of passing somebody on the street with an unfriendly face. Now you might think it’s only a small thing. “What?!” you’ll say. “Am I obligated to be an actor and to smile to him?” Now, listen what the gemara (Kesubos 111b) says. Gadol hamalbin shinayim l’chaveiro, it’s a greater accomplishment when you smile, when you show your teeth to someone in a smile, yoser m’mashkeihu chalav, more than giving him a drink of milk. Now suppose somebody is thirsty, a fellow Jew is passing you by on the street and you know he’s thirsty. And you have a big can of milk, or you have a big case full of bottles of milk. What does it cost to save a fellow Jew from privation? Let’s say he’s a meshulach from Eretz Yisrael, or from Williamsburg, and the man has been walking around all day trying to collect a little money for his family or for his institution. Would you begrudge him a drink of milk? It’s unthinkable. Certainly you’d be happy to offer him a glass of milk because you know how important it is for a thirsty and hungry man.

But the gemara is telling us now, that this man, more than he needs a cup of milk, he is even more thirsty for a smile from you. Of course, he’s looking for money. He’s not walking around knocking on doors for smiles because he can’t pay his grocery bill with your smile. But when you encounter another Jew, you should know that this Jew, no matter how wealthy or poor he is, he is hungry and thirsty for your smile.


And don’t think that it’s a small matter. Let’s say you pass an acquaintance and you have a glum face. Now it could be that you’re thinking about your own worries; it’s not because you hold that person in light esteem, not because you despise that person, you don’t scorn him. But why is he guilty because your wife just yelled at you? It’s bad enough you have to suffer. Why does this fellow on the street have to suffer as well? And therefore, the fact that you deprived him of what he needs most urgently is considered as if you have robbed him of what’s coming to him.

It’s a mishna in Mesechta Avos: Shammai says: Hevei mikabel es kol adam b’simcha, you should greet every man with joy. Show him that you’re happy to see him. That doesn’t mean that you have to be happy, maybe you’re not – but no matter, you have to show a happy face. And we learn this again and again. Hevei mikabel es kol haadam b’sever panim yafos – You should receive people with a pleasant cast of countenance (Avos 1:15). This was explained here already (See Toras Avigdor Parshas Vayeshev). Sever panim yafos includes three elements. First of all, it includes panim. You have to show your face to a person, not your ear. Secondly, you have to show a face with sever, with sevara, with interest, like you’re actually thinking about him. You’re interested in that person. And thirdly, yafos. It has to be a pleasant countenance.


Now we shouldn’t think that these are commandments only for great tzaddikim, for anshei maaseh, and therefore if we neglect them we have done nothing wrong. No. That’s aveiros she’adam dosh b’akayvav. It rankles you when you pass somebody on the street and he doesn’t bother to smile to you; it rankles. Sometimes he doesn’t even recognize you at all. He knows you, he looks at you and doesn’t even make the slightest movement with his head. Sometimes you even wish him a good morning, and he doesn’t even answer. He’s living in a cloud. You must know that that man has committed a serious error. And that’s one of the things that he has to be afraid of on the yom hadin. These things add up until they become like a heavy rope of many individual threads. K’avosos agalah chataah, the thin threads of aveiros add up and become like thick ropes of sin.

And so now we see, what the Torah means ki karov eilecha hadavar, the thing is very close to you, very close to you. B’ficha u’b’levavcha laasoso. It’s a matter of words, a few words, the right words. When you come home from work, why are you looking for a fight with your wife, and making a tragedy out of the calm home? They need you home for that?! You could have well just stayed on the subway! Or a woman that picks a fight with her husband and tries to find something to criticize when all he needs is a little rest and consolation. Husbands and wives are committing the worst errors towards each other. And with just a few kind words, soft words of encouragement, positive words, you could have done real teshuva, the teshuva of el Hashem, of coming back to Hashem.


And it’s not only on the Day of Judgement in this world, on Yom Kippur, that will you be surprised by all the sins that you trampled on. But on the great yom hadin when you come to the Next World you’ll be amazed! You’ll think of all people that you wronged. Maybe neighbors, maybe relatives, maybe others you wronged. But your own husbands and wives certainly were the last ones you would have wronged, you think. Absolutely wrong! The ones you sinned most against were your closest ones. Husbands and wives are going to be held accountable in the next world for very great wrongs, heaps, mountains of aveiros, mountains of unkind words, and glum faces that they showed to each other instead of being quiet. At least that! To keep your mouth closed! The minimum should be silence. And silence with a friendly face, or even a few words, is so easy to achieve that the Torah says you’re blamed for that. You’ll be held accountable for the words you could have said. The punishment for what’s easy to do is much greater than for what’s hard. A few words!

So if you take your wife out, let’s say, and buy her a diamond necklace, it’s not so easy. Maybe once in your lifetime you can do it. You should do it sometime. But when a man is stingy with his words, stingy from giving his wife kindly words constantly in the house, that’s a thousand times worse than being stingy with money. He constantly needles her. He says, my mother said this about you, and my sister said this about you. Or chas v’shalom, he says, even hints, that other women are prettier. That’s a knife in the heart. I know one stupid fool who said that to his wife. She called me up and complained, he said that other women are more pretty than she is. A man should never admit such a thing. His wife should be the most beautiful woman in the world. And if he can’t say it, let him keep quiet at least. But they’re constantly sticking daggers in each other, and these daggers are going to rise up on the yom hadin, and they’re going to be the most dangerous, fearful opponents, fearsome opponents. A person will be amazed to find that he has enemies that are attacking him and accusing him and pointing a finger at him on the yom hadin. All because of what husbands and wives said to each other. All because of what neighbors say to one another. Even what friends say to each other.


Now we’re coming to another subject on a different level entirely. But it’s something that we must consider when we’re thinking about improving ourselves. When the subject of teshuva is brought up this always should be included. We’re going to quote the Mesilas Yesharim at the end of chapter sixteen. He talks about the great men of our past who were chosen by Hakadosh Baruch Hu. Now it really is worthwhile to study the following subject, he says. Why did Hakadosh Baruch Hu favor these great personalities? It’s a subject we should investigate. What was the reason Hakadosh Baruch Hu loved Avraham so greatly? Why did He love Moshe Rabbeinu so greatly? We think we know. We know that Avraham had ten trials, asara nisyonos, and he passed them all successfully, and so on. Moshe Rabbeinu was devoted to his people, was a servant of Hashem with all his heart, an eved ne’eman. But we’re making a big error. We don’t understand at all the greatness of our great men.

Now listen. Hinei b’emes, I’ll read in English: He says “This in truth is the test that the servants of Hashem were tested by and this is what set apart each one according to his degree of greatness. What was the test? The test was the one who knew how to purify his heart more and he was the one who was closer to Hashem and more beloved to Him.” What does that mean? So he explains that “when they did the ordinary deeds – not the great deeds that are written in the Torah, the heroic deeds of self-sacrifice that we speak about – but even their daily deeds were done with the intention of serving Hakadosh Baruch Hu.”


And so when Avraham Avinu was busy managing his sheep and his cattle – that was his business, raising livestock – he was thinking always about serving Hakadosh Baruch Hu. When Avraham was in his tent with Sarah, or Sarah was in the tent with Avraham, each one was thinking how to talk in a way that would serve Hakadosh Baruch Hu. When they sat down to eat, they ate with the thought how can they please Hakadosh Baruch Hu with their way of eating. Now anybody who would have been present wouldn’t have heard anything. You might have heard great things too, no question that whatever words were exchanged were noble words. But what was doing in their minds no reporter could have noted. No tape recorder would have recorded their thoughts in their minds. It’s true that all of their conversation was noble, and their acts were noble and dedicated to Hashem. But says the Mesillas Yesharim “the true nobility of these great people was the way they lived in their inner lives, the way they thought.” That’s a remarkable statement that we’re hearing now, that in every physical, material act that they did, they were thinking always of doing it for the purpose of Hakadosh Baruch Hu.

At the end of U’va l’tzion, we make a statement. We ask that Hashem should put into our hearts the love of Him and the fear of Him. Hu yiftach libeinu b’soraso v’yaseim b’libeinu ahavaso v’yiraso – He should put the love and fear of Him into our hearts. U’l’avdo b’levav shaleim, and to serve Him with a perfect heart; that means a perfect mind. Now listen to the following words: Why are we asking for this? Why is it so important? L’maan lo niga larik, in order that we shouldn’t toil in vain, v’lo naileid l’bihala, we shouldn’t give birth to nothingness; it means we shouldn’t give birth to deeds that are for nothing.


Because people spend a lot of time and effort doing things; you spend effort on your home, you spend effort on preparing meals, on cleaning the house, you spend effort on taking care of your clothing. Who doesn’t spend hours during the week for material things in his home and his business?! And everything is done with an empty mind, and Hakadosh Baruch Hu is completely absent! And that means that it’s a waste of effort. Our lives fly out the window, in the garbage; it’s one hundred percent nothing at all. The tragedy of all tragedies is to live in vain. L’maan lo niga larik, we shouldn’t toil for nothing. And therefore we have to understand that this is a subject that is obligatory. It’s not a voluntary thing for great tzaddikim.

If you look in the Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim (231) there’s a whole chapter devoted to the subject of eating l’sheim shamayim. It’s a remarkable thing. It’s a halacha that when you eat, at least for a moment you should have in mind “my purpose in eating now, is so that I should be able to serve You Hashem.” But when people sit down at the table and just shove food down their throat without any thought except themselves, they should know that they’re committing a sin. And it’s a sin that’s so easy to repair! You’re trampling on these sins underfoot. Because you can still enjoy your meal, you can still eat all the courses that you eat; Hashem wants you to enjoy. All that’s necessary is to add one thought, “I’m eating this food to have the strength to serve Hashem. Strength to learn in the Yeshiva, or to go to my business and make money for my family.”

Now don’t think “It’s hypocrisy, I’m an honest person. I can’t say that.” Be a hypocrite and think that thought. Even better, say it when nobody’s listening; say that you’re eating for the purpose of serving Hashem. Or say a pasuk: poseiach es yadecha u’masbia l’chol chai ratzon, I thank You Hashem for opening up Your hand. Forget about birchas hamazon. Birchas hamazon is not enough. It doesn’t express it properly because we gallop through it; it’s just a formality, a ritual. So do it while you still have the food in front of you. You should think a thought of gratitude to Hashem while you’re eating.

We’ll soon come to that subject. Right now, to think that you’re eating l’sheim shamayim. That’s not a small a thing, and it’s an aveira she’adam dosh b’akayvav  that will be sovivim oso b’yom hadin. And there’s no effort involved except a little moment of reflection. And that’s ki karov eilecha hadavar meod, how close it is to you to do these things. So get busy adding some thought to the things you are doing anyhow.


You’re in your place of business; does it cost you money to think that your intention is that part of your earnings will go to tzedaka? And part will pay for schar limud for your children. And part will pay for support of your synagogue. And part will pay to buy someday tzitzis and tefillin and maybe a lulav and an esrog. And it will pay for the rent of your house where you’ll maintain a frum Jewish home and serve Hashem. “Oh,” you say. “Certainly, that’s a superfluous thing, it goes without saying.” Ah, it goes without saying, that’s the great pity. It remains without saying, without thinking and a man can pass years and years, working for rik, for nothing. In his subconscious mind he may have such thoughts. If you press him about it, he may be able to say the right things. But never once did he express it. And the great tragedy is that it cost no money, no effort is involved. Ki karov eilecha hadavar me’od, how close this thing is to you, b’ficha, just with your mouth, u’b’levavcha, with your heart, with your mind, laasoso, to do it. And so we begin to see that the great part of the subject of teshuva is so immensely easy that the responsibility for it becomes immensely vast.

Now when a person does big sins, let’s say a person does very big sins, chas veshalom, let’s say he does twenty big sins every day. Let’s say he smokes on Shabbos twenty cigarettes. Each one is a very big aveira, he’s chayav misa for each one. Twenty times he is chayav misa! He has to be put to death for each cigarette. Not each cigarette, for each puff. Every puff he’s madlik, maavir; he’s chayav misa for each puff.


Now, suppose we would approach that man and say, “Look, tomorrow is Yom Kippur, so maybe you’ll do teshuva and you’ll smoke only nineteen cigarettes on Shabbos.” He says, “What will I accomplish if anyway I’ll be chayvei misa nineteen times? So what will one more make any difference?” So you have to tell him as follows: “That last one is more severe than all twenty together, because that one is so easy to avoid. And for not dropping that one, you have to know there’s a bigger penalty than all the others together.”

And so, when people are able to think at least once l’sheim shamayim, it’s so easy, and even that they don’t do, then they have to know what a great responsibility, what a great sin it is. If people are able to come home let’s say, and at least keep their mouths shut if they can’t say kind words. If instead of scowling they can just wear an ordinary friendly face, it costs no money at all. You have to realize how great is the responsibility on the yom hadin for that.


And therefore the kavana l’sheim shamayim is also something that takes its place in the forefront of those that will accuse a man on the yom hadin. Do you mean to say you never thought once that you’re eating l’sheim shamayim?! Or you didn’t think before doing a mitzvah that you’re doing it l’sheim shamayim. Many times people do mitzvos and they don’t think of the purpose of the mitzvah. When you pass a mezuzah, isn’t it a tragedy that day in and day out you’re not getting a mitzvah? By having a mezuzah on your door you’re always having a mitzvah of letting the mezuzah be on the door. But that’s not the purpose of the mitzvah. You should be reminded of Hashem every time you pass the mezuzah. But instead you pass in and out without thinking about it. And so you must put your mind even on mitzvos, even the mitzvos you must do l’sheim shamayim. That’s what the Torah is demanding, b’levavcha, in your hearts.

And therefore, we come know to the big subject of chovos halevavos, the duties of the hearts. The duties of the hearts, that’s what the Torah really is hinting at, that’s what Hashem wants from you – all the things that people can fulfill just by their minds. The obligation of living with their mind is a paramount Torah obligation, and it is the greatest achievement of man in this world.


And of all the obligations, we’re going to single out just one for now. And that’s the mitzvah of being afraid of Hashem. How great is the virtue of being afraid, pashut afraid of Hashem. Afraid of everything that could happen, chas veshalom. To fear Hashem. The Torah tells us, Vayihi ki yaru hamiyaldos es haElokim, the midwives when they were summoned by Pharaoh, and he commanded them that they should kill the Jewish children, the Israelite boys. Now they were very much afraid of Pharaoh. You couldn’t disobey a king in the olden days. Everybody melted away when a king said something; they were so afraid. And these women, they weren’t men, they were women, and still they went home and they disobeyed. Why? Because they were afraid of Hashem more than they were afraid of Pharaoh.

They were afraid; ki yaru hamiyaldos es haElokim. Now don’t think that they weren’t afraid of Pharaoh. They trembled from Pharaoh, they couldn’t sleep anymore. They stopped sleeping, these women. But because they feared Hashem, they refused to obey him. And because of that, Va’yaas lahem batim, Hakadosh Baruch Hu rewarded them with batim. He gave them great families in the Jewish nation. The most important families in our people are descended from these women who feared Hashem. That’s how great is the virtue of being afraid of Hashem is.


Now when Hakadosh Baruch Hu wanted to praise Avraham Avinu after the tenth test that He gave him, the akeida, and Avraham passed the test successfully, what did Hakadosh Baruch Hu say about him? What words, what title did he give him? He says atah yadati ki yarei Elokim atah – Now I know that you are a man who fears Elokim. To fear Hashem, that’s the paramount achievement. How can a person live his life without being afraid of Hashem? He loves Judaism, he loves mitzvos, he’s enthusiastic about it, he may even learn. But where is the fear, to be afraid of Hashem? That’s a mitzvah in the Torah, es Hashem Elokecha tirah, fearing Hashem is in itself a very great obligation. To live one’s life without fear of Hashem constantly is a tragedy. At least once a day to think about it, “I’m fearing Hashem, I’m afraid.” Not just awe, not just respect. “I’m afraid of Hashem.”

Hakadosh Baruch Hu has ways and means of carrying out His retribution. Chas veshalom crossing a street, cars are coming from all directions. Suddenly a car turns, it’s going too fast to stop. And sometimes it jumps the curb. And there’s nothing you can do about it. It’s too late. You have to be afraid! Suddenly a cell in a man’s body goes wild; it begins to misbehave. Nobody can be certain that chas veshalom something wouldn’t suddenly happen to him.

You see on all sides, things happens to people who never expected it. There could be a person, a boy, fourteen years old who’s perfectly well, he’s getting ready to enjoy a long happy life. And suddenly he has a certain pain in his neck and he’s taken to the hospital and he has leukemia. Leukemia! “Ay yah yay,” he says. “Why should it happen to me?” These things happen suddenly, constantly. Accidents in the house, constantly. And therefore people should learn to be afraid of Hashem – not to live in fear of things that might happen, but to live in fear of Hashem who can make anything happen.

That’s a mitzvah of the Torah, to learn to be afraid of Hashem constantly. Even if everything is going smoothly, even when you’re doing things that are proper, you’re fulfilling everything, still you must bring into your heart a fear of Hashem. When you walk into the street, you fear Hashem. Even a king who is secure, he has bodyguards all around him, he has to learn to fear Hashem. That’s why he carries a sefer Torah wherever he goes. So that he should learn to fear Hashem. To learn, to train oneself constantly to have that in your heart, is an important form of teshuva. And by not doing it, by neglecting that, no matter how frum a person is, you must know that that’s one of the things that he’s trampling underfoot and it will be m’subin lo l’yom hadin.


And so we come back now to that statement in the Torah. Ki hamitzvah hazos, this commandment that I am commanding you today, lo bashamayim hee, it’s not in the sky. Who will go up into the sky to bring it down for us, no, it’s not that difficult. V’lo me’ever layam, it’s not overseas. You don’t have to travel to Eretz Yisroel to do teshuva. You don’t have to go anywhere. It’s right here. Where is it? It’s right inside of you. Ki karov eilecha hadavar me’od, it’s in your heart, bificha u’b’levavcha la’asos.

All you have to do is make up your mind that you’re willing to serve Hashem in these manners, and nothing is required of you in a matter of effort, no expense, no mesiras nefesh. If you take these ideas that you heard here tonight, and you get busy doing them, that’s the teshuva that Hakodosh Boruch Hu wants most. It’s v’shuvu el Hashem – you’re coming back to Hashem. And just because of that, just because these things are so easy to do, so easy to begin, that’s why these are the things for which we will be held most accountable for on the Yom Hadin.


Mourning for Our Ancient Perfection – Tape #E-21

TAPE #E-21

Mourning for Our Ancient Perfection


Yeshayah Hanavi declared, שמחו את ירושלים כל אוהביה וגילו בה, All you who loved Yerushalayim will rejoice with her,  שישו אתה משוש כל המתאבלים עליה, all those who mourn for Yerushalayim will rejoice together in her happiness. (Yeshayah 66:10). So the Gemara makes a statement on that possuk: כל המתאבל על ירושלים זוכה ורואה בישועתה – Those who mourn for Yerushalayim will be rewarded that they shall see the yeshuah, the salvation, of Yerushalayim (Taanis 30b). Now, that statement needs a peirush, which we will later discuss, b’ezer Hashem.

The Rambam explains how tzadikim mourn properly for Yerushalayim. They don’t long for its restoration because they desire the happiness of living in the glorious land of zavas chalav u’dvash. That’s not what they’re mourning for. Although there is no question that at the time of the geulah, once more the land will be restored to its ancient greatness, even in physical ways, but that’s not what it means to be מתאבל על ירושלים. So what do they yearn for? The Rambam explains that they yearn to be free from shibud galuyos, from being subjected to the nations in exile.

Now, pay attention to the following words of the Rambam: “They yearn to be at liberty in their own land כדי שיעסקו בתורה וכו, so that they will be able to engage entirely in the study of the Torah and they will be zoicheh because of that to Olam Habah.” It’s an interesting statement which we will have to study.

Now, all of the ramifications of that statement are too many for us to discuss. But at least we see that when we mourn for Yerushalayim, we are doing something out of pity for ourselves. We are so sorry that we don’t have the opportunities for greatness, for perfection of character and personality, which were afforded to our nation in the days of old. And therefore, we wait and hope for the restoration, so that at that time we will have the opportunity to become as great as we possibly can, when these opportunities are once more given to us!


The Rambam says clearly: כדי שיעסקו בתורה – we yearn for the days of old so that we could engage in Torah study. Now, it doesn’t mean only Torah. All the opportunities for greatness of mind and soul which the ancient days offered to our forefathers, we yearn for those opportunities because we desire once more not to waste our lives. After all, we don’t live forever. And each person who is serious would like to make the best of himself. And such a big portion of our lives is expended on useless things because we are among the nations. And we’ll discuss that soon. And so once more, when we’re back on the soil of admas kodesh, we’ll be able to devote ourselves entirely to pursuing the function of becoming the best that we’re able to be. So what are we mourning for? For the shleimus, the opportunities for perfection, that were available in the days of old.

Now, when the Gemara states that זוכה ורואה בישועתה, that we will merit to see the salvation of Yerushalayim, it’s a hint that the more you yearn for the days of old and the opportunities that those days offered to us, so the more Hakodosh Boruch Hu is going to give you those opportunities, right now. And He will help you attain your ambitions to create yourself into the very best personality; just in the merit, in the zchus, of your mourning for the opportunities that went lost at the Churban.

Now, we’ll study this in some detail right now. In the time of the Beis Hamikdash there were three great opportunities – maybe there were more, but right now we’ll dwell on only three of them, the outstanding ones – that enabled people who were sincere, devoted and energetic, to become what they hoped, what they looked forward to in the perfection of their lives.

One was the existence of nevuah – the fact that there were nevi’im in the days of old. I’ll explain that soon. Number two was the existence of the Beis Hamikdash.  And the third was that there was no dispersal, no pizur. Every Jew was in Eretz Yisroel. Now, we’ll study these three.


A principle which is enunciated again and again in the Sefer Mishlei is as follows:  אוזן שומעת תוכחת חיים, בקרב חכמים תלין – “The ear that listens to the reproof, the rebuke, of life will remain lodged among the wise” (Mishlei 15:31). And that’s repeated in various ways throughout the entire Sefer Mishlei. ודרך חיים, “The way of life, תוכחת מוסר, is the rebuke of instruction” (ibid., 6:23).


Now, of course, today we cannot follow that in the manner that was practiced in ancient times. Today, if we would rebuke someone and tell him what’s wrong with him, we would never see him again. Because it says אל תוכח לץ פן ישנאך, “Do not rebuke a leitz because he will hate you” (ibid., 9:8). And most people today are in the category of leitzim. We have to suspect ourselves, especially in America which is “the land of leitzanus,” of being in the category of leitzim that Mishlei was referring to. And therefore, you cannot tell people directly what is wrong with them.

In the ancient times, maggidim, preachers, used to visit the kehillos, and they spoke for hours criticizing. And the people used to delight in hearing these things. However, even that was nothing compared to the days of the nevi’im! When the navi came, he spoke with the utmost vigor to denounce anything that he saw that was wrong. Nobody – not the kings, not the talmidei chachomim, not the wealthy – no one was immune from his criticism. Now, you must know that of all the purposes of the nevi’im, the most important was הוכח תוכיח, to rebuke people for their wrongdoings. And as a result of hearing rebuke constantly, the nation was always close to the ideals of teshuvah.

However, at the end of the era of the First Beis HaMikdash, false prophets began to appear on the scene, because the people wanted other kinds of prophecy, not criticism. As Yirmiyahu tells us in sefer Eichah (2:14): נביאיך חזו לך שוא ותפל ולא גלו על עונך להשיב שבותך – “Your nevi’im – not My nevi’im, your nevi’im – they saw for you visions that were false and meaningless, ולא גילו על עונה – and they did not reveal your sins, להשיב שבותך – that would have brought back the captivity; that would have prevented the galus, ויחזו לך משאות שוא ומדוחים, Instead they saw visions for you that only helped you go astray after falsehood. However up until the days of the false nevi’im, the Am Yisroel relied on the nevi’im to guide them toward perfection in avodas Hashem.

Now, in the days when the nevi’ei ha’emes prevailed in the society of the Jewish nation, people used to flock to the navi. Although they were criticized bitterly, they still came every week to hear him. You remember when that woman was saddling her donkey to go someplace, so she was asked, “Where are you going?”, and she said, “I’m going to the navi.” So they said, מדוע את הולכת היום -”Why are you going today?, לא חודש ולא שבת היום – it’s not Rosh Chodesh and it’s not Shabbos today.” So it seems that on Rosh Chodesh and Shabbos it was understandable why she would be traveling to the navi. Everybody went to the navi! They would travel great distances – they rode on their donkeys, or they walked , and would throng to the navi every Shabbos and Rosh Chodesh.

Now remember, this story happened in the part of Eretz Yisroel that belonged to the aseres ha’shvatim. The aseres ha’shvatim was the break off from Yerushalayim. It was no longer the better element of the nation. And still, in the aseres ha’shvatim people went every Shabbos and every Rosh Chodesh to listen to the navi!

And what did the navi tell them? He didn’t tell them any jokes, anecdotes. He told them what was wrong with them! And he said it in the bitterest way. The smallest sins, were portrayed by the navi in the very worst words. That’s the system of nevuah. Nothing is considered small.


Now, Shlomo Hamelech tells us, that this is the way to success in this world and the World to Come. דרך חיים, ““The way of life, תוכחת מוסר, is the rebuke of instruction.” What does life mean? Life means everything in life. It means marriage. A marriage is successful if there is somebody to tell you that you’re wrong and you’re wrong; you’re both wrong. Today, each one “knows” that he’s right and the other one is completely wrong.

But in the days when there was a navi, so they went to the navi and he told them the truth. And the navi wasn’t merely taking a guess – he knew the truth. And not only would he criticize the people who came to him, but he did it even to the  people who ran away from him. He went and stood in front of the palace and he shouted into the king’s window accusations against him. And in many cases the king came out, and he was humbled. He would say, “I’m sorry. I want to to rectify my ways.”

Now, when people have somebody to criticize them, they’re going to succeed in this world. No question about it. There will be shalom in the world. People live more successfully when they know what’s wrong with them. They live longer. There’s more harmony between people when they know that they have done wrong things, and they are urged, pressed, to make atonement and ask forgiveness of each other. There’s no question that happiness and success in this world is greatly augmented, greatly increased, by the presence of a navi, a mochiach. We need criticism – and we don’t have it!


There are many things in the world that are difficult to know; many things. This world is considered like darkness. כי הנה החשך יכסה ארץ, Behold, darkness covers this world (Yeshayah 60:2). And the Gemara explains that Hashem made it dark in this world so that people would not see the truth so readily. It’s not easy to see the truth in this world. But of all the things that are difficult to know, the most difficult of all is to know yourself. To recognize who you are is the thing that you know the least of all. That’s something you’ll have to study very well. To recognize yourself is the biggest of all tasks!

Here’s a man who comes in, he’s dressed like a tzadik. All day long he hangs around the shtiebelech in our neighborhood. So I asked him, “Are you married?” “No.” “How old are you?” “I’m in my thirties,” he tells me. He’s in his thirties and he’s not married?! A wasted man! Are you davuk ba’torah? Are you a gadol ba’torah? Very far from it. He’s wasting his life.

Try telling that to somebody. A man like that came in here so I said to him, “What’s going to be tachlis? What’s going to be with you?” He gave me a sad look of reproach and I never saw him again. You have to be an oheiv mussar. You have to want to hear criticism. Someone has to tell them, “Go to work! Learn a profession. You have to make a living and get married. Why should a girl want to marry a bum like you?! You’re wasting your life.” לא נברא העולם אלא לפריה ורביה – “The world was made for the purpose of having children,” the mishna says. Who’s going to tell him that? He looks around for a shtiebel where the rebbeh needs him for a minyan, and so the rebbeh keeps quiet; he doesn’t criticize him. And he wastes his life there.

There is so much criticism, even for good people. In this world we cannot succeed unless we know the truth about ourselves. That’s why we find so much failure in physical things, in all the things of this world. People are failures in business because they’re not behaving properly. They are failures in health because they’re not behaving properly. They are failures in their family lives because they’re not behaving properly. They’re unhappy; and they go to other unhappy people who are called psychologists and they pay them. It’s a waste of money because the unhappy people can’t make others happy. And therefore, what is needed is for someone to speak up and tell them what is wrong with them and what is wrong with the psychologists. That is derech chayim, the path of life! The rebuke of instruction!


In this world, it is of the utmost importance that you have someone to steer you in the right direction. Otherwise, it is like a man sitting at the steering wheel of his car with his eyes closed; he can’t steer! Someone has to open your eyes for you  so that you could see where you’re  going in order to succeed in this life.

And the Next World is no different. A person will not have any success at all in the Next World, unless he has somebody in this world, in this life, who will set him straight. Because this world is full of so many pitfalls and so many errors.  There are so many opportunities to stray away from the path of achieving a fulfillment of our purpose here. And therefore it is impossible for a man to succeed in gaining Olam Haba unless there is somebody around who will point out to him זה הדרך לכו בה, this is the road; travel in this direction. Otherwise, there are thousands of roads leading to nowhere! And everybody, everyone around us, is wandering on those roads, and their lives are being wasted.

So derech chayim, means the road of life in this world, which means happiness in every respect, and also in Olam Haba, your Chayei Olam Habah. And what is the path you must travel to succeed in life in both worlds? תוכחת מוסר, you need somebody to rebuke you with rebuke of instruction. Now, this is paramount; it’s more important than all the deeds of man, there is nothing we need more than someone to guide us, to advise us, to criticize us, to point out our faults, and to show us what we should do to correct them. There is nothing more valuable in life than that! That’s called derech chayim, it’s the way of life.


So let’s say you know of a certain shtiebel where the rebbeh is going to criticize you when you come in: “Why did you come late today?” “Why did you leave early?” “Why did you talk during davenen?” “Why did you misbehave? Where’s your derech eretz?” “Where are your children?” “Are you married?” Now, of course there’s no such shtiebel. But that would be the shtiebel of success in this world, and of happiness in the World to Come.

So what did Hakodosh Boruch Hu do in the days of old? He granted our nation the greatest gift, and that was nevi’im. That was one of the great opportunities of the days of old. Nevi’im were for the purpose of setting people straight in their lives and helping them succeed in living full lives in Olam Hazeh. You remember when Shaul lost his donkeys? He went to the navi to find out where his donkeys were. In the olden days a navi gave you advice in gashmiyus. Why waste your time wandering up and down all the hills, and looking in all the valleys? The navi could just tell you, “Walk down this road and look for your donkey over there.” And even more important than your donkeys is your behavior with other people. With your wife, with your mother-in-law, with your neighbors. And your behavior toward yourself. Are you ruining your health? Are you serving Hakodosh Boruch Hu properly? Are you doing the mitzvos that Hashem commanded you? So the navi came and he was a yeshua – he was mamish a yeshua, a salvation, for the nation.


Now, we must know that for hundreds of years people tolerated the navi. It doesn’t mean that everybody always obeyed him, but they allowed him to speak. There was a case when one navi was slain. He came to criticize a king and the king was infuriated. So the king sent out somebody who secretly attacked the navi and killed him. It was a case that was never forgotten in our history. The blood of the navi was never forgotten. It’s mentioned again and again, but it was a rarity.

It was only at the end of Bayis Sheni when the people were already deteriorating that Yirmiyahu Ha’navi got a slap in the face from Pashchur the Kohen. It was an unusual thing. People couldn’t take the criticism anymore. And some of the king’s officers took Yirmiyahu Ha’navi and they threw him into a swamp where he was sinking in the quagmire, and he would soon drown in the mud. So a black man passed by, he was a black slave – here you have a black man who did a good thing – and he reported to the king that Yirmiyahu Ha’navi is drowning in the quagmire. So the king said, “Quickly, take blankets and ropes and run to save him.” So they took the blankets and ropes and they pulled him out and saved his life.

This type of thing happened at the very end because some of them showed that they didn’t want any more nevuah. So Hakodosh Boruch Hu said, “I gave you this great gift to help you in this world and the next world – it’s a derech chayim, a way of life – and now you’re  becoming tired of it?! So I’m taking away that gift.” And that’s why the nevuah stopped. The Churban Beis Hamikdash was the termination of the nevuah. At the beginning of Bayis Sheni there still remained some old nevi’im who continued to live on for a little while. And when they passed away no  navi ever arose again. It’s a remarkable thing; read our history – never again did anybody get up and say כה אמר השם – “So said Hashem.”

By the way, in the New Testament – of course it’s full of sheker, the whole New Testament is nothing but falsehood – but Oso Ha’ish was very careful; he knew how to guard himself. He never said כה אמר השם, not even once. He prayed to Hashem, yes, he prayed to Hashem it says. He kept the seder. He said hallel. He said hallel at the seder – it says it b’feirush in the New Testament. Many things he did. But despite all of his boasts he never said כה אמר השם. That he knew you can’t do! Because prophecy had already come to an end at the end of Bayis Rishon.

And you have to know that you should never forget the loss of nevuah! When we sit on the ground on Tishah B’Av, one of the things you are mourning is that there is no one to tell you the truth. Our fathers and mothers used to tell us a little bit when we were young; we didn’t lose everything. A father used to say something sometimes accompanied by a potch. It was a great gift, but you don’t live forever with your parents. Now that you became a big boy nobody tells you anything. The rebbi, the rosh yeshiva, doesn’t  tell you anything because he wants to keep you – there are other yeshivos competing for you. So no rosh yeshiva is going to criticize his boys anymore. So it’s gone. תוכחת מוסר has gone lost. דרך חיים, what’s necessary for our lives, has gone loss! Who will tell us?

Here’s a couple that is battling. She’s battling against her husband. She’s all right, and he’s all wrong. And he of course says just the opposite – she’s all wrong and he’s all right. All over the map, everywhere, people are battling. Isn’t that a tragedy when everyone thinks he’s right? Here’s a machlokes between neighbors – they come to me and each one is sure that he’s right. Everyone thinks he’s right. Nobody is wrong! Nobody knows the truth about himself: How wrong you are! How wrong you are!

And in the days of old we had that glorious opportunity of תוכחת מוסר, of being told how wrong we were. And now we sit on the ground on Tisha B’Av and we weep. What are we weeping for? We are weeping for the shleimus, the perfection, that we once had available to us, and now it’s gone. We should weep for that!

Now, in the days of old, in order to give the words of the nevi’im more power, Hashem allowed the nevi’im to do miracles. Now these nissim weren’t just because Hakodosh Boruch Hu wanted to show miracles. It was for the purpose of upholding the authority of the navi. You remember when the navi wanted to give a poor woman some wealth? He could have brought her a bag full of golden coins. But that would be too poshut, too simple. So what did he do? He caused her jar of oil to overflow; it began overflowing into other jars. That’s what it says in this possuk. She poured from this jar into another jar, and then another one, until she filled up many jars from her one jar. Now, that’s a neis. Why was it necessary? The navi could have had gold. Hashem could have said, “Bring her gold,” and he would bring her gold. If it’s a miracle to make oil, he could have made gold too. Now, suppose the navi would have brought her a bag of gold; very good. The poor woman would have been very happy. But it wouldn’t be a demonstration of the d’var Hashem. So Hakodosh Boruch Hu gave the navi the power to do miracles. And therefore, people respected the word of the navi. And these miracles stopped by the Churban Bayis Rishon – because the nevuah stopped, and there was no need for these miracles any longer.

Now, when we sit on the floor on Tisha B’Av, we should have in mind how great was the opportunity of tochacha, of hearing criticism from mouths of the nevi’im. And we’re missing it so terribly. כל המתאבל על ירושלים, you sit and you mourn for that loss! Of course, if you’re mourning for that, then it means that’s you’re willing to hear criticism today, even not from a navi. Many years ago, a boy came over to me in the yeshiva – I was the mashgiach – and he said to me, “If you see anything wrong in me, tell me.” I almost fell off my chair. It happened only once. In my history it happened only one time. I don’t know how much he meant it, but it sounded good anyhow.

In the days of old people wanted to get better. And so if you’re really mourning for those days, so you have to be ready to hear criticism; you have to go to places where somebody will criticize you. If you can’t find a place, then you’re going to have to choose somebody in whom you have confidence and tell him, “I want you to tell me whenever you see anything wrong in me. I want you to criticize me.” Of course, you’re not going to do it. But I’m just telling you the idea; at least you should hear the idea.


In the days of old we had that. And we’re mourning for that. Again and again, it must be reiterated that we have lost a great treasure that would have set us straight in our lives physically. It would have caused so much happiness in our lives. In the days of the nevi’im people would be walking around in Eretz Yisroel, and the sun is shining, and people would complain, “Oh, it’s too hot!” And the navi would say, “What do you mean ‘too hot’?! Hakodosh Boruch Hu is causing the grapes to bulge with grape juice! The figs are swelling with sweetness inside! The dates are growing big with syrup inside! All because of the sun! And you’re blaming Hashem because He’s cooking all these meals on the trees and making the fruits ready to eat?! He’s cooking for you on the tree ready to eat fruit. And you’re complaining?!” That’s how a navi would speak. Only that I suspect that people didn’t complain about the heat in those days. They knew that it was good for the plants and the trees and they loved it.

If snow fell – sometimes snow fell in Yerushalayim too and someone would say, “The snow is nasty!” Let the navi hear such words! He would say, “Don’t you know that farmers are praying for snow? The more snow there is in the winter time, the more moisture goes into the earth, and the better the crops will be in the summertime. No question about that. And you’re complaining when you get a gift like that?!”

People would learn to be happy with the weather! Imagine, everyone learned to be happy when it was hot and happy when it was cold. Cold is very important! The earth stops producing when it’s cold. If the earth would continue producing all year round, the soil would become arid and it would lose its fertility. The cold causes earth to stop producing and rejuvenate. So we say, “Baruch Hashem, yom yom.” We’re happy with the weather every day. We’re happy with the cold. We’re happy with the heat. When it rains, you say, “Rain, rain, go away”?! “Chas v’shalom,” the navi would say, “Chas v’shalom! Didn’t you stand last Hoshana Rabbah for two or three hours and ask for rain? That’s all you were asking for: rain and rain and rain and rain. And now, when it comes, you’re unhappy with the rain?!”


And so, you have to have a navi to make you happy in this world. You know, when the Bnei Yisrael began to complain in the wilderness, ויהי העם כמתאוננים, so Moshe Rabeinu said to  Hashem, “I can’t help them. I don’t know what to do.” So Hakodosh Boruch Hu told him, אספה־לי שבעים איש, Take together seventy men… and I’m going to make them into nevi’im” (Bamidbar 11:16).

Now the question is: What would the seventy men help? Would they be able to supply the people with all the things they wanted to eat? After all, they weren’t bakers and butchers. What good was it to have seventy men? They wanted better food, not nevi’im.

The answer is that the seventy men would give the people what was most important – they would give them seichel. They would scatter among the people and say speeches; they’d speak to the people. A navi is a good speaker! They would explain how good it was to have mann. They would tell a person, “Take this mann, and imagine that this mann is now a seven-layer chocolate cake. Imagine that!” And the navi would spend time explaining to them that it takes work, it takes effort of the mind, to imagine that it’s seven layer cake. And now anyone who listened well, would take a piece of mann, and bite into it, it tasted like a seven-layer chocolate cake!

When you want to feel that taste, you’ll feel that taste. If you want to be happy, you’ll be happy! You have happiness inside of you; it’s only your foolishness that doesn’t let it come out. You need a navi to teach you how to live properly, and that’s what the seventy men were for; to explain to the people how lucky they were. “Look, you have no goyim around. You’re protected, you’re safe here. You’re safer here than you’ll be at any future time in your history.” Moshe Rabeinu was the most victorious general we ever had. And we were protected all the time by the ananei hakavod. “What are you complaining about?!

That was the purpose of the seventy  nevi’im. We needed seventy people who were capable of speaking to the people and teaching them how to be happy with all of the simple things in life; the bread, the water, the grass, the air, the wind. Everything! The navi taught us how to live life properly.

So the navi was a great gift in the days of old. A gift for physical happiness, for causing harmony among people, and of course, even more important, the navi was the one who showed us the path, the דרך חיים תוכחות מוסר, how to be successful to be zoicheh to chayei olam habah. No question, in the World to Come, all those tzadikim from those generations are standing in front of Hashem and saying, אודך השם כי אנפת בי – “I thank You Hashem that you were angry at me. You were angry at me and you sent the navi against me. Ahh! How lucky I am that I lived in the days when I had a navi to criticize me.”

And so today, when we mourn for that, when we mourn for what we once had, then we are promised by Hashem: זוכה ורואה בישועתה, you will be rewarded and you will see the perfection and happiness of Yerushalayim.

Now, I’m going to explain that right now in one sense. What does it mean that you’ll be rewarded and see the yeshuah of Yerushalayim? What does it mean that you’ll see the nevi’im again? Because the question arises: Didn’t Rashi sit on the ground on Tisha B’Av and mourn for Yerushalayim? And Rashi didn’t see any neviim come. The Rambam, the Rashba, all the tzadikim. And before them, all the Tannaim sat and wept for Yerushalayim, but they didn’t see the yeshuah. So it’s a question. What do the chachomim mean when they say that those who mourn what we are missing will be zoicheh to see those benefits of Yerushalayim? I want to make sure you hear the kashah.

According to some, when Moshiach comes there will be techiyas hameisim, the resurrection of the dead, as Rashi says (Sanhedrin 51b). According to this approach, all those who mourned properly for Yerushalayim will merit to be resurrected and they will see the simchah of Yerushalayim then.

But there are some problems with this approach. First of all, we don’t rule that way. The Rambam rules according to Shmuel, that in Moshiach’s time olam keminhago noheig, the world will function as it always has. Of course, it will be a world of truth — yakiru veyeidu kol yoshvei teiveil … everyone in the world will recognize the truth — and Am Yisrael will be known as Hashem’s chosen people, but everything will continue as it is today: people will live and die, just as they do today. Only some time later — we don’t know when — will there be techiyas hameisim.

Second, even according to that approach, if those who mourned the Churban arise at techiyas hameisim, and will want to experience the simchah for which they wept on Tishah B’Av, it will be too late; after techiyas hameisim they will have no bechirah, no free will, and without free will no one can perfect himself. No one can make himself better than he was. The way he died is the way he will remain after returning to life. People are mourning that they don’t have a prophet to set them straight and give them guidance in life, but if a prophet comes to help them after techiyas hameisim, it will be too late to help them.


So let me tell you what it means. When the Gemara says zocheh vero’eh besimchasah, that one will merit to see the joy of Yerushalayim, it doesn’t mean that they will see the simchah of Yerushalayim itself; it means that they will see the simchah that Yerushalayim could have given them. For instance, a tzaddik like Rashi mourned for Yerushalayim in a perfect manner, weeping and saying, “Oh, I mourn for the days of old when we had nevi’im who could guide us. What a glorious period that was!” Then Hashem responded, “You are looking for someone who will set you straight in life? If so, then right now I will give you what you are wishing for: You will merit that perfect guidance. I will give it to you in the form of siyata diShmaya, assistance from Heaven.” When a person yearns for a good thing with all his heart, Hashem says, “I will give it to you.” So even though no navi came to Rashi or to the other tzaddikim who sat and mourned for the Beis HaMikdash,  but Hashem gave them greatness.

Rashi had such a perfection of recognizing truth, that it’s remarkable. When you study Rashi thoroughly, it becomes obvious how wise and clear headed he was in understanding character, in recognizing the ins and outs of middos, of human nature. It’s remarkable. Rashi became one of the greatest experts in chochmas hamussar, the wisdom of mussar. And that’s besides for being an expert commentator. Every word that he says is exactly suited to the situation. There is wisdom in Rashi without end. It’s remarkable! You can make a whole compendium of Rashi’s ideas that teach us wisdom and da’as Hashem.

And one of the reasons that Rashi merited all this wisdom is that he yearned for it. He hoped to Hashem: “Help me! I’m so sorry that I don’t have a rebbi who is like an navi to teach me, to guide me toward perfection.” So Hashem said, “Just because you are yearning for that, just because you are longing for the wisdom that the navi would provide, I am going to give it to you. And that yeshuah that will come in the time of the Beis Hamikdash, you’ll get it right now.”


If you truly regret that you missed an opportunity for perfection, then Hashem will give it to you. If you’re sorry, “Why didn’t I have a chance to become a big lamdan,” then Hashem will help you succeed. Of course, you have to be sorry enough! You have to mean it. If you’re sorry that you are not a lamdan but you don’t open a sefer, that shows that you’re not really sorry. But if you’re sorry and you’re opening a sefer all you can, so Hashem says, “Oh, you’re really longing for it! So I’ll help you.” That’s called זוכה ורואה בישועתה.

You want to be a tzaddik? What are you doing to become a tzaddik? Are you learning Mesillas Yesharim? Do you make it your business to read sefarim that teach you the ways of tzedek and avodas Hashem? If you do that, and then you say, “Ah, if I had a navi to guide me, then it would be so much easier! I wouldn’t wander around back and forth searching for the right path,” then Hashem says, “Because you’re truly mourning Yerushalayim, I’m going to give you that yeshuah of Yerushalayim now — and you’ll succeed.”

Now there is another very similar element that we lost at the churban, that is included in this loss of nevuah. We call it the Churban Beis Hamikdash but actually it was the churban of our nation. We lost our national government which was a Torah government. We were governed by the chachmei hatorah. The Sanhedrin was l’havdil, our Parliament, l’havdil elef havdolos. People who had spent their lives in laboring in becoming great in Torah were our leaders. By the way, many of them worked as well at the same time. Rabbi Yehoshua was the Av Beis Din, but he would slip out from time to time to go make needles. He manufactured needles in his cabin. He didn’t take any money from people to be supported. Rabban Gamliel was a millionaire. Rabbi Tarfon was a millionaire. They didn’t take money from the people to support them. But they still labored all their lives in Torah, and these people, the people who lived Torah lives, they were the ones who were the leaders of our nation!

Now, when we yearn for such an opportunity of having the chachmei hatorah in charge of our people, there’s no question that Hakodosh Boruch Hu takes into account the fact that we are yearning and he gives us some benefit without the presence of these great men. So now we are learning how important it is to sit on the floor on Tisha B’Av and look back and mourn for the perfection that we could have had in the days of old – when we had the nevi’im criticizing us and the chachmei hatorah guiding us to shleimus in avodas Hashem.


Now there is another element that we lost besides the nevuah, and that is the actual Beis Hamikdash. The Beis Hamikdash you must know, was an opportunity for the Jewish nation to have what we know as true knowledge. True knowledge of Hashem – called dei’ah – is something that is one of the  most precious thing in the world. The Gemara (Nedarim 41) tells us דא קנית מה חסרת if you have this, if you have dei’ah, what do you lack? If you have true knowledge of Hashem, there is nothing more precious. Now, what is true knowledge of Hashem? True knowledge of Hashem means that a person is so clearly convinced of the Presence of Hashem that all he lacks is actually seeing Him. This is what we call emunah chushis, the sensory emunah. It’s when a person has gained such clarity that he feels that “I’m standing before Hakodosh Boruch Hu and Hakodosh Boruch Hu is looking at me.”

Now that takes work. It doesn’t come easily. You could be a frum Jew, but actually your head could be empty of emunah. You say words, you say “Ani ma’amin…,” but you’re very far away from it. Do you actually feel that Hashem is looking at you? That doesn’t happen by itself; you have to work on it. It’s not easy. Mesillas Yesharim says that when we’re standing in davening, it says דע לפני מי אתה עומד, Know before Whom you stand. Know! Do you know before who you’re standing? “Sure I know!” you’ll say. No, you don’t know at all. You know how to say the words, but you don’t have a y’diyah chushis; you don’t actually feel it. It’s not easy to feel that you’re standing before Somebody who is  listening to you.  כי אתה שומע תפלת עמך ישראל ברחמים, You, Hashem, are listening to the prayers of Am Yisrael with compassion. Hashem is standing before us and listening with compassion to us! Do we have that feeling? We have to work on it.

But when we came to the Beis HaMikdash, that was the place where we gained dei’ah, emunah chushis. When we saw how the Kohanim walked with the utmost reverence, with fear of Hashem; every detail they did with such precision exactly, l’havdil, as if they were standing in front of a king, and serving him. When the Kohen accepted the dam of the korban, he caught the blood of the animal in a vessel, and he began carrying the dam to the mizbei’ach. He walked eikev b’tzad godel; he walked slowly and carefully, with reverence, with moreh shamayim.

Anybody who was present and saw this was so impressed that he gained the full attitude of understanding that the Shechinah rested in the Beis HaMikdash. Hakodosh Boruch Hu actually dwells in the Mikdash. ושכנתי בתוך בני ישראל. We have no idea about the powerful impact of the korbanos on the minds of all the spectators. Once you came and you saw the avodas Beis HaMikdash it left an indelible impression on your mind that lasted forever! You would tell it to your grandchildren, “I was once in the Beis HaMikdash,” and you’d tell them what you saw, and they would be impressed. And even those people who didn’t come to the Beis HaMikdash for some reason – maybe they lived too very far away – but they knew that Hakodosh Boruch Hu dwelled in their midst: There is a house, a palace, a big, beautiful building where Hakodosh Boruch Hu resides!

Of course, today, we’re far away from that idea. We’re all philosophers, all chachomim, wise guys. But in those days people believed that Hakodosh Boruch Hu resided among us. Like He said, ושכנתי בתוך בני ישראל – “I will dwell among the Am Yisroel.”

In the times of the First Beis HaMikdash, the nevi’im came and told us that again and again; and every person saw for himself with his eyes how the Beis HaMikdash was the Place of the Shechinah. In those times many miracles took place in the Beis HaMikdash to demonstrate the Presence of Hashem.

And therefore, we have to understand that  the Beis HaMikdash was a source of emunah chushis, a real  sensory perception. And that’s why today we sit on the ground and mourn that, alas, we don’t have that opportunity anymore. And we shed tears over the loss of the Beis Hamikdash because it’s our loss! And we yearn for the opportunity to once more be able to come and witness the avodas Beis HaMikdash, and our hearts would swell with feelings of loyalty and devotion to Hashem. We’ll learn how to fear Hakodosh Boruch Hu, how to fear His Presence, when we see how the Kohanim serve Him with yirah. ושם נעבדך ביראה כימי עולם וכשנים קדמוניות.


That’s why it’s important that every time you finish Shemoneh Esrei, you should say those words. Don’t be in a hurry. Utilize the opportunity, ושם נעבדך ביראה כימי עולם וכשנים קדמוניות, there we will serve You again with yirah, with fear, as we did in the days of old. Isn’t it a pity? You walk back three steps and you mumble these pesukim. No, don’t say it fast. ותן חלקנו בתורתך, and give us our share in Your Torah. Our share in Torah is the Beis HaMikdash. We need it to infuse us with emunah and yiras Shamayim.

It’s good to be frum, certainly. It’s good to be a m’dakdeik b’mitzvos. It’s good to be afraid of the Shulchan Aruch, absolutely. Where’s Hakodosh Boruch Hu, however? What about being afraid of Him? So you’ll say, “I’m afraid of Him.” Now, I’m sure we have yiras shamayim a little bit. But that’s not real dei’ah; that’s not real yiras shamayim.

Gedolah dei’ah, says the Gemara (Berachos 33, Sanhedrin 92) And just how great is dei’ah? “If someone has dei’ah, it’s as if the Beis HaMikdash was built in his days.” It’s a remarkable statement! If you build up dei’ah in your mind, you’re making yourself into a Beis HaMikdash, because the purpose of the Beis Hamikdash is to enable people to acquire dei’ah. That’s why, when a tzaddik passes away, we weep for him “kisreifas Beis Elokeinu,” as if the Beis HaMikdash had been burned down” (Rosh Hashanah 18b). Because this tzaddik worked and worked his whole life to feel the Presence of Hashem. He walked on the street and he said, “Hashem is looking at me.” He’s sitting at home and he’s thinking, “Hashem, I know that you’re looking at me right now.” He’s constantly reminding himself, “Hashem is looking at me.” עין רואה ואוזן שומעתHe didn’t just say it; he worked on it. He worked for years and years, and he made a Beis Hamikdash out of himself. And when he finally passes away we have to weep for him like for the Churban Beis Hamikdash.


And so this year, when we sit on the floor on Tisha B’Av, let’s shed a tear for ourselves. We don’t have the Beis Hamikdash anymore. Ahh! What we are losing by not having that glorious opportunity to gain the true awareness, the feeling that Hashem is right there, that was available in the days of old.

Now, there’s so much more to explain about how the Beis Hamikdash was able to plant into men’s minds an emunah that was a true and genuine feeling of awareness of Hashem. But I want to move on to the third subject now, the third loss that we suffered, because our time together is almost over.


And the third subject was: פזור, the fact that we’re now scattered among the nations. The Gemara in Masichta Sanhedrin (52b) asks: What caused the friends of Korach to side with him against Moshe Rabbeinu? After all, the bnei Reuven didn’t have any hopes of becoming kohanim, they were not levi’im. So why did the bnei Reuven and others, join Korach in his machlokes? They had nothing to gain! Korach was a levi, and the levi’im were jealous that Aharon Hakohen was chosen. But the non-levi’im, why did they come?

So the Gemara explains that it was because Korach was a generous host. He entertained people. They came to his tent and he gave plenty of parties; he was a wealthy man. There’s a passuk (Tehillim 35:16), בחנפי לעגי מעוג – With flattery, that’s laagei, and ridicule, that’s ma’og. But the word מעוג is related to the word עוגה, cake. He served them all sorts of cakes, and they sat at his table and laughed at his jokes. When you sit at somebody’s table, if he says divrei Torah you applaud him; even if it’s not good Torah. But because you eat at his table, “Ah, very good toirah” That’s nature. If you’re a host and you’re entertaining people with good times and a good meal, and you say divrei Torah, they’re going to applaud your Torah. And if you’ll say lashon hara, they’ll applaud your lashon hara too.

So בחנפי לעגי מעוג because they chanfed, they flattered, they catered to Korach, that’s why when Korach ridiculed Moshe Rabbeinu, they agreed with him. Because of  ma’og, the cakes that they ate at his table, they nodded their heads. Even if they didn’t agree with Korach, but they nodded their heads.  Just to nod your head alone is a terrible thing! Charok alav shineimo, the Sar shel gehinnom began to gnash his teeth at them, and said, “They’re my customers now! My customers.” If you’re sitting at Korach’s table, you’re his customers. You have to be careful where you eat!


Now, we’re in galus now and we’re eating at the table of the goyim. They’re our hosts. We sit in their countries, in Spain, in Germany, in Poland, in France, in Russia, in America. And they’re the ones who are entertaining us, they’re hosting us. After all, we eat from their country. And therefore, we chanfah, we flatter, the goyim. You’ll say, “I’m not chanfening the goyim; I’m independent.” It’s not true. As soon as you set step in America, you should know that even the biggest tzadikim are already somewhat humbled and they’re kowtowing before the Americans. You can’t help it! Living among goyim means that you are partly a goy.

Like it says in the possuk, when Dovid had to flee from Eretz Yisrael because he was afraid for his life, he said (Shmuel I 26:19), ‘Today they drove me away from being together with the nachlah of Hashem, and they said to me, לך עבוד אלוהים אחרים, Go, serve other gods’.” So the Gemara (Kesubos 110b) asks: Who told Dovid to serve other gods? Nobody told him that! So the Gemara says, yes, because once you go among the goyim it’s like you’re serving other gods. So even though you’re a frum Jew, if you live among goyim, like it or not, part of you is a goy. That’s what the gemara says. You can’t help it. Eretz Yisroel today is the same thing. The resha’im in Eretz Yisroel are like goyim, so if you live among them, it’s also like serving other gods.


But in the days of old, Eretz Yisrael was entirely for Am Yisrael. There wasn’t a single Jew who lived outside the borders. It’s unbelievable! Not a single Jew lived outside the borders of Eretz Yisroel. We didn’t have to chanfeh the goyim. Maybe there were a few goyim in the land, could be; maybe some of the weaker Jews chanf’ed them. But it wasn’t so necessary. After all, we were the owners of the land. They were eating at our table. If a host is so weak minded that he chanfehs his guest, it’s a big criticism on him. You don’t chanfeh your guests. And in those days we were the baleh batim in Eretz Yisroel. You know what it means to have a whole nation that spoke only  lashon kodesh. You couldn’t hear a word in English in Eretz Yisroel. You couldn’t hear a word of French. Only lashon kodesh in all of Eretz Yisroel. Imagine what that means! Everybody ate kosher in Eretz Yisroel. You couldn’t help it. They’d murder you. The neighbors would murder you if you ate treif in Eretz Yisroel. Everyone kept Shabbos! They wouldn’t touch a davar tamei. They kept tumah vetahorah, the laws of purity, in Eretz Yisroel. Everybody kept the Torah!

And even in the worst times, when our nation was divided, the aseres ha’shvatim kept the Torah. They had broken away from those whose lives centered around Yerushalayim, they were not the better element of the nation, but even then they kept everything. In the time of King Achav, which was the worst time in our history, Achav’s kitchen was perfectly kosher. The Gemara (Sanhedrin 113a) tells us that birds used to take food from Achav’s kitchen to bring to Eliyahu Hanavi to eat. It says it openly. It says that ravens used to steal food from Achav’s kitchen and bring it to Eliyahu in his hiding place. It was a perfectly kosher kitchen. It was glatt- glatt! If Eliyahu ate it, then it was surely from a glatt-kosher kitchen!

Imagine such a country! Everything was al pi hatorah. Of course, people did sins; there was lashon hara and machlokes, all kinds of sins. And sometimes someone would even sneak in to do a little avodah zarah quietly. He needed the help. When his field wasn’t producing enough grain so he heard from one of the few gentiles in the land, a goyishe neighbor, “I have a little idol over here. If you worship this idol, it’ll help you have a more fertile field.” So, out of desperation, he yielded to the goy sometimes. But the nation was a Jewish nation.


Suppose you have all of Boro Park full of Jews. There are no Irishmen and no Italians left. All of Boro Park, nothing but frum Jews. But in the time of the Beis Hamikdash it was a hundred times better than Boro Park; it was a thousand times better than Boro Park. Even in Boro Park, even if there were no goyim at all, what’s the law of the land? The state laws of New York. Everyone must submit to the laws of the the state and to the Constitution. But in Eretz Yisrael when the Beis HaMikdash stood, what was the law of the land? The  Chumash! The Torah Shebe’al Peh! There was no other constitution except the Torah. Even Achav and his wicked wife followed the Torah! When they wanted to falsely accuse Navos, they brought two witnesses – not one witness; two witnesses were required. And they accused Navos of cursing Hashem and cursing the king. And they gave him the s’kilah according to the laws of the Torah – exactly like the Torah says. Achav and his government followed the Torah. Imagine living in such a country! We have no idea what an opportunity for perfection it was for them.

No movies, no amusement parks, no hippodrome. In Rome there hippodromes. No baseball games! No baseball games in Eretz Yisroel! Nothing! Just a Jewish nation. All Jewish minhagim! You have no idea what perfection was available to them.


And on Tishah B’Av we sit on the floor and mourn that; for the pizur, the fact that we’re dispersed among the nations, and that we’re becoming goyim. It can’t be helped; we’re miktzas goyim. Of course, as much as possible we should try to keep aways from goyim today too. We keep away from gentiles and irreligious Jews. We don’t go to places where they go. As much as possible, we can still do something today. But it’s nothing compared to what it was like when you couldn’t see a goy. You walk in the streets today and you have to close your eyes. In ancient times, if a person walked in the street the way people walk in public today, they’d murder them. You think you could walk in the street with a short dress. It was unthinkable! When the navi criticized the women of his times, in the days of Yeshayah, he criticized them for having very fine, expensive dresses; expensive shoes (Yeshayah 3:16). But that it was short sleeves?! Chas v’shalom! Nothing like that could ever happen in Eretz Yisroel!

You have no idea what it means to live among Jews! Only Jewish minhagim! Yom Kippur! Yom Kippur was a hundred percent Yom Kippur. There wasn’t a single goy around. Rosh Chodesh! People didn’t work on Rosh Chodesh. The whole Jewish nation didn’t work on Rosh Chodesh. Shabbos? No question about it!


And so, we sit on the ground on Tishah B’Av and we weep. We weep, “Where are the neviim of old who used to guide us in perfection in this world and into the Next World? We weep over the loss of the Beis HaMikdash, which gave us dei’ah and emunah chushis — a true concept of Hashem’s Presence among us. The Beis Hamikdash gave us a true, a real, belief in Hashem. And we weep over the loss of the nation that was once living together in its own land, without dispersion. We didn’t live among the goyim! Everything was frum; fully Jewish and nothing but Jewish.

And that’s what we’re mourning for on Tisha B’Av. We’re mourning for that perfection that was available to our nation. So Hashem says, “If you mourn for it now, then to a big extent you’ll be zoicheh and you’ll see the yeshuah in this lifetime, right now. That’s זוכה ורואה בישועתה. If you’ll mourn the loss of the nevi’im who criticized and made us better, then Hakodosh Boruch Hu will give you to a big extent the  perfection of having someone show you the right path in life. You’ll bump into the right teachers. You’ll come across the right sefarim. You’ll get guidance as if it were coming from a navi. Of course, it can’t be the same, but it will be something m’ein, similar to what was once given by the nev’im.

And if you mourn the loss of the actual Beis HaMikdash, eventually you will get a certain amount of emunah chushis. Hakodosh Boruch Hu will guide you in how to learn Shaar Habechinah in Chovos Halevavos — which will teach you how to recognize Hashem in nature. And you’ll daven with the kavanos that will awaken within you a feeling that you’re standing before Hashem. דע לפני מי אתה עומד. And you’ll find many other seforim that will teach you the emunah. And that will be your reward for weeping on Tishah B’Av.

And if you mourn on Tisha B’Av because you’re dispersed among the nations, then Hakodosh Boruch Hu will help you that you’ll be able to be among Jews more. Maybe you’ll get a parnassah that won’t necessitate being among the gentiles. Hashem  will give you the strength you need to overcome the influence of the gentile environment. You’ll be able to live an independent, frum, Jewish life. More and more the environment will help you. Environment is a tremendous thing. No question, if you live among frum Jews it has a tremendous effect. Those people who move away to West Orange, to other places in Jersey, to small towns in Massachusetts. Those Jews are trying to get lost among the goyim. And if you try to get lost, you’ll succeed. You’ll succeed!

You should do everything you can to settle among the best; to settle among the biggest number of frum Jews. Of course, it would be better to be in Eretz Yisroel when Moshiach will come. But in the meantime, our job is to try to emulate, to imitate, as much as possible the kibutz galiyos. As much as possible to associate only with frum Jews. And only the best of the frum Jews.


And if you sit on the ground together with other Jews and weep for these three things, then Hakodosh Boruch Hu says: כל המתאבל על ירושלים – If you mourn for Yerushalayim, for what Yerushalayim once was able to give you, and which you don’t have now, זוכה ורואה בישועתה, then you will see in your life some of the salvation, some of the perfection in avodas Hashem that Yerushalayim was capable of giving in the times when the Beis HaMikdash stood.

שמחו את ירושלים וגילו בה כל אוהביה, Be glad with Jerusalem and rejoice in her all you who love her (Yeshayahu 66:10). All you who mourn with Yerushalayim will rejoice with it. All those who love the privileges of what Yerushalayim offered us in the days of old, will rejoice in the happiness of the Beis Hamikdash. And even though we may not be able to see it with our own eyes, Hakodosh Boruch Hu says that זוכה ורואה בישועתה. Hashem assures us that a great measure of that perfection will come to you in this life, even if you don’t live to see Moshiach come.



Five Minutes a Day – Tape #E-159

TAPE #E-159

Five Minutes a Day


Bruchim Haba’im, welcome everyone. We’re about to begin b’Ezras Hashem number E 159.

In the Chovos Halevovos there’s a section called Shaar Cheshbon Hanefesh. The way the public understands Cheshbon Hanefesh is not the way the Chovos Halevovos understands it. The popular concept – which is a very important and good concept – is that a person must make an accounting with himself to see: “Are his ma’asim that he does in accordance with the will of Hashem? Is he fulfilling the mitzvos of the Torah?” And included in that is to see how to remedy any faults that he has, and to improve himself.

But the Chovos Halevovos when he talks about cheshbon hanefesh, he means something entirely different. He’s talking about the responsibility of a serious Jew, an Eved Hashem, to embark on the career of Thinking; “cheshbon” from the root “machshava”. The serious Jew should be a thinking man.

And the Chovos Halevavos gives us thirty examples of subjects that we could think about. Now these thirty subjects we’re not going to discuss yet. They’re written at length in the Chovos Halevovos and it’s worth looking inside and seeing them.

But the Shaar Cheshbon Hanefesh teaches us about making a career of expanding our minds and thinking into things a little more than they usually are considered. Things that are usually taken in a superficial and simplistic way are mentioned in that shaar, and the Chovos Halevovos expects us to spend a little time, or as much time as we can, to think into them. And then we discover that they’re not so simple at all. They’re actually quite profound, and many times they can transform your life.

How so? First it was just a maxim, a pleasant saying that everybody agreed with. But this man thought into it, he thought about this one idea, and he began to see that it has depth, that it has subdivisions. And he began to apply it in his life in ways that nobody else thinks about when they think about that maamar or that principle. And so with machshava, with cheshbon hanefesh, that idea adds a new dimension to his life.

Now, we’re going to talk about an easy career here. A career of thinking five minutes a day on seventy different subjects. Now all seventy won’t be announced here tonight, but we’ll study a few of them. Some of these subjects are unanimously known and accepted, and some are not so well known; but each one deserves some thought. And the people who listen, if they’ll undertake, bli neder, to spend five minutes a day – you can do it while you’re eating breakfast, lunch or supper – five minutes a day thinking on one of these subjects, in the course of time it will transform you. It will accomplish a revolution in your way of thinking. A tremendous benefit! And by applying yourself, even in a superficial way, for just five minutes, you’re going to see how great the benefit is. If you wish, you can keep a notebook and jot down every day your chiddushim that you yourself discovered by thinking what you didn’t know before.  In the course of time, it could fill up a notebook.

We start now, not in any order, at random.





The first principle we’ll say, is that the world was created to testify to the Creator. Which means: והאלקים עשה, “Why did Hashem make everything?” שייראו מלפניו – “so that people should be aware of Him and fear Him” (Koehles 3:14). The world is made in such a manner, that if we utilize it by looking at it, by gazing and thinking even a little into it, we’ll see that the world testifies to the Borei. We’ll discover that there’s no scientific fact as open and as well founded as the fact that the world has a Creator.

Every person, even if he never had a teacher, even if he never learned anything at all – but if he used his mind like Avraham Avinu did, he would see that the world testifies to Hashem. Every object testifies to this great truth. Now some of the testimonies are not so apparent to us, but there are so many open testimonies, that we become convinced of this tremendous foundation of truth that there is a Creator. The world testifies to the Borei.

Now, to give an example of what you can do in order to practice this principle. You’re walking in the street and you see laying on the sidewalk a piece of an orange peel. On one side it’s a beautiful yellow-orange, and on the other side there’s no color. Now stop, and think about it. Why is it that there’s no color on the inside? The outside is so brightly colored, and on the inside there’s no color at all?

And the answer is, because when you look at the orange you don’t see the inside, only the top side. The underside is covered up. So we must say that the purpose of the color is to attract your attention.

You mean to say that there’s a purpose in the coloring of the orange? Yes, it’s to attract your attention. But the underside of the peel, nobody sees unless they take it off and look at it. Otherwise, when you pass by a fruit stand, you don’t see the underside. You see only the outside and it’s beautifully colored.

So we see that this was planned, the coloring of the orange is planned. But who made such a plan? How did such a plan originate? Is the tree smart enough to try to attract people by producing a cover on the outside of the orange, and not on the underside of the skin? The peel on the underside has no color.

Now that’s only a beginning. Start thinking about that and you’ll come to a tremendous conclusion. In the course of time, you’ll come to know of a Borei who is tremendously wise, with infinite chochma. He can make a machine that’s so small, it’s concealed inside of a cell. The cells are so small that you can’t see them without a microscope. And in that tiny machine there is the equipment to create color. The orange seed doesn’t have any color inside of it, but it has the equipment to create color. Out of what? Out of dirt, out of air, out of water. It’s a remarkable thing that a seed could create color!

And then, another thought; every seed is made in such a way that it contains the instructions for changing colors. When the orange is still unripe it’s green. Why green? Why isn’t it black or blue? It’s green so that it should blend with the leaves that are on its tree. So that you won’t see the orange when it’s unripe. It’s hiding. It says, “Don’t look at me yet, I’m sour.” And then, when it turns sweet, then the color changes into a beautiful orange color. So here you see both timing and purposefulness.

Where does the green come from? You think green is an accident? There’s no green inside of the orange seed. Besides for producing the orange paint, this little seed also has equipment to manufacture green. And it’s timed. It manufactures green to last up to a certain time and then it changes into the beautiful color – only on the outside.

Now once you start thinking that way, you should know it’s going to lead you to emunah, not only in Hakadosh Baruch Hu, it will lead you to believe in Olam Haba as well. Now how that is, I’m going to leave to you to use your mind. You’ll be amazed where a little thought will lead you. Maybe not the first five minutes, but you’ll be surprised at how far this one little item, a piece of an orange peel on the sidewalk, can bring you. It will be an introduction to a whole world of machshava.

And so this little piece of orange peel can confer on you a blessing in a small and  easy way that will reap for you tremendous benefits. All you have to do is spend five minutes. Of course, you’re going to have to do it! Think for five minutes a day: Everything in the world is exactly the same, with one purpose, and that is to demonstrate that Hakadosh Baruch Hu made it.

It’s stated (Tehillim 104:24) מה רבו מעשיך השם – “How many are your works O’Hashem”, כולם בחכמה עשית – “they are all made with wisdom”. Now he adds something, so pay attention: מלאה הארץ קניניך- “The world is full of your kinyanim”. What is meant by a kinyan? A kinyan is an act that shows ownership. The world is full of things that show ownership. Like the stamp of a factory “Manufactured by so and so”. The world is full of stamps that demonstrate that the things in it were made by Hakadosh Baruch Hu, the great Creator, the great Designer.

Now, if you’ll start thinking along these lines, there’s no question that your mind will expand and you’ll become an eved Hashem. You’ll understand that Hashem is doing in the world not only acts of very great wisdom, but He’s doing for the world acts of very great kindliness. Because the orange is sweet! And orange juice has vitamins! And much more than that as well. Little by little, your eyes will open up and you’ll see that Hashem is גומל חסדים טובים. Not only is He’s giving chesed, “kindliness”; He’s giving you chassadim tovim “good kindliness”.

What’s “good kindliness”? Kindliness that will lead you to the greatest success in Olam Haba. You’ll come to understand that Hashem is teaching you the principles of emunah. You’ll see with your eyes that Hashem that made the world with design, with perfection and purpose. And with a little bit of thought you’ll understand that the purpose can only be fulfilled if there is a life after death. People don’t think about this. After you die you’ll live on and on! And that’s the real purpose of life. And you’ll discover all this if you study the orange peel.

Now, it’s not only the orange peel. מלאה הארץ קניניך – “the world is full of Your kinyanim”. Wherever you’ll look. You’ll look at your ear. You look at a hair. At a leaf. Whatever you’ll see in the world, if you keep on looking at it, you’ll be amazed. It will be a testimony: עדותיך נאמנו מאד – “Your testimony is very trustworthy” (Tehillim 93:5). Hashem filled the world with testimony. כל פעל ה’ למענהו – “Hashem made everything for His sake” (Mishlei 16:4). Everything in the world is made for the purpose of teaching about Him.

Now that’s one of the seventy principles we are going to study. You can write that down if you want to remember it: That the world was made to testify concerning the Creator. That’s a principle to think about.

Now in case you’ll think five minutes tomorrow at breakfast and you won’t come to the conclusion that it proves Olam Haba, don’t be discouraged. It teaches many things also in addition to that. Little by little as you think into it, you’ll be amazed how it opens up the world to you. You’ll be amazed what will happen to you.

Now we’re going to try another subject. We didn’t exhaust the first subject yet, but I don’t intend to spend the entire evening on that one program. But you should know it’s a tremendous lesson if you’ll spend a little time thinking.

I can’t help but give you some more examples. Why is it that a peanut opens up if you press it in a certain place? You have to press a peanut in a certain place and it opens up by itself. How is it that a seed can create a great tree? A tiny seed! What’s in the seed? How many plans, how much equipment is in this little seed to create a tree? And therefore when we start thinking into everything in the world, it’s amazing how we’re going to see the gedulas Hashem and the chesed Hashem, all testifying to the Creator.



Now another principle. Number two:

Everything in this world is for the purpose of teaching us a mashal; it’s a parable of something else. Now, we’ll give some examples from the gemara to explain. For instance, Shabbos is מעין עולם הבא (Brachos 57b). Shabbos has to remind us of the World to Come in various ways. First of all, מי שטרח בערב שבת יאכל בשבת (Avodah Zarah 3a), if you prepared, you cooked and baked, you shopped before Shabbos, then you have something to eat on Shabbos. But if you didn’t prepare, you have nothing. And this world is a time of Erev Shabbos. It’s here that we have to prepare for the World to Come, but there, in the Next World is the place of the great banquet. You can’t do mitzvos in the World to Come. This world is the only place where you can cook and bake and prepare mitzvos to take with you to the World to Come.

Another thing, if you ever touch a hot stove with your finger, you pull it back. But that experience shouldn’t be wasted. It’s a mashal. There’s a certain place where you’ll touch a hot stove chas v’sholom and you won’t be able to take your finger back again. Your finger will be stuck, it will be stuck to the stove. That’s gehinom.

Fire, aish, is אחד משישים בגיהינום (Brachos ibid.). Fire is a mashal for gehinom. In order for us to learn a little bit of the taste of the gehinom that the reshaim are enjoying right now, think back to once in your life when you scorched your finger. Ahhh, what a pleasure it was. And you ran to the medicine chest to put something on it. But suppose you had to keep those fingers attached to the place that was scorching it, and you couldn’t pull it back.

So let’s say he’s a person who was a moser, he massered a fellow Jew to the government. Because of his mesirah he caused great trouble to a fellow Jew. That moser will be in gehinom. They’ll take his tongue and paste it to a hot stove. It’s not a mashal. Only the stove won’t be hot like our stoves. It will be sixty times hotter. He won’t be able to pull his tongue away. His tongue will be up against the stove and it will be there, you know how long? Very long. And he won’t get used to it. He won’t become accustomed to it. Every minute it will burn more than the previous minute. It will burn and burn and he’ll be screaming!

And the tzadikim sit in gan eden and they hear it and say, “Well, that’s Hashem‘s mishpat”.  נודע השם משפט עשה  “Hashem is known by the judgment that He does” – בפועל כפיו נוקש רשע – “the rasha is captured by the things he did” (Tehillim 9:17). He did a wrong deed. He did this deed with his tongue, and here he is now with his tongue pasted to a scorching stove.

So whenever it happens; suppose that a housewife in the kitchen, burns a finger on a hot tea kettle, by accident – don’t dismiss it, utilize it. Make use of the opportunity to remember this great principle. Of course, she won’t go to gehinom, but one of the reasons she won’t go is because she’s thinking these thoughts. Think eish is אחד מששים מגהינום, it’s one sixtieth of gehinom. The gemara says that. Actually it’s more than sixty times hotter in gehinom. But fire is the mashal, so that you can begin to get a taste of what you’re striving to avoid.

Another mashal is when you go to sleep. When you go to sleep, you lie down, you stretch out. You should remind yourself that this won’t go on forever. Someday will be the last time that you’ll lie down. Hopefully it’ll be at age 120. You’ll lie down and you’ll stretch out forever and ever until techiyas hameisim . שינה, sleep, the gemara says is a mashal for death (Brachos ibid.).  It shouldn’t make you sad. It should make you happy to think how precious life is.

Last night when you went to bed, you didn’t know if you would get up again. You asked Hashem השכיבנו והעמידנו; you asked Him to let you get up again. And then morning comes. Ah, you get up again! It’s techiyas hameisim to awake! It’s me’ein techiyas hameisim, a little bit like techiyas hameisim, when we will awake finally. ומקיים אמונתו לישני עפר. Hashem will uphold His promise. All those bodies that sleep in the dust will come out of the dust. They will be so happy to be back again on this earth once more. And your body will join your neshama that was spending its time in Gan Eden. Your body was down below in the dust, and now it comes together once more in happiness. So when you go to sleep it’s a reminder – you can’t waste your life!  It will come to an end someday. The gemara says that. And waking up is a remez to techiyas hameisim.

Suppose you think these thoughts; now you’re a different personality. You’re not living just like the Italian or Irish man is living. You’re thinking like a Torah person. Your life is transformed by understanding these things.

In the springtime when the trees burst out with blossoms; there are pink and white blossoms everywhere. Utilize the opportunity to think that there’s gan eden, a beautiful garden. And some day after 120 years the neshama will be in a place of great happiness in gan eden, only a thousand times more glorious and more beautiful than what you’re seeing now. Utilize the springtime. Don’t waste the opportunity. You see a tree bursting out in pink flowers, it’s so beautiful. Stop and look. Don’t just rush by. Think about it. It’s a mashal for gan eden.

Now this world is full of meshalim. Of course, it’s not that easy to know which is a mashal, but if you’ll utilize your mind, you’ll discover very many meshalim.

A wife is a mashal for Torah. כמה טובה אשה טובה – “How good is a good wife, that she’s compared to the Torah” (Yevamos 63b). A wife is compared to the Torah? Yes. The Torah is for the purpose of making something out of you. And a wife, there’s no question, will change you. Of course if a person has a Torah, he has a sefer, a shas and he never opens it, never practices it, never studies it; so he’s not getting any benefit. A person who utilizes his wife in order to gain the shleimus, the self-control, the perfection of character that comes from dealing with another person, for learning how to get along with another person, it’s mamash a Torah.

Don’t think it’s a small part of the Torah. Most of our lives will be judged by our relationships to our wives and to our husbands. And when a person practices getting along with his wife, he’s patient and he tries to help out and to console. And she does the same. She tries to make him feel good. He comes home from work and he’s tired and she said a few kind words to him. And never do they try to hurt each other’s feelings. That marriage is compared to a Torah. It creates such shleimus, such perfection.

Like it says about Elkana. Elkana was the father of Shmuel.  ועלה האיש ההוא מביתו – this man went up from his house. So the Midrash says he went up to greatness from his house. נתעלה בביתו. He became elevated in his house. By living with his wife in a proper way he became great; that’s נתעלה בביתו. He becomes great because of the way he’s training himself in his home. Of course that’s not the only thing he has to do, and he has to do it l’shem shamayim too. But a man who, in addition to everything else, practices living with a wife על פי התורה l’shem shamayim, he becomes very, very elevated in שלימות הנפש, in perfection of character.

That’s why it says  לא טוב היות האדם לבדו – It’s not good for a person to be alone. It’s not good to be alone. What does good mean? Good means all kinds of good. And the greatest good is שלימות הנפש. If you’re alone, you do what you desire. You do what you wish. But if you’re with a wife, you have to yield many times. You have to yield and yield and yield some more. With a husband, you have to give in many times. And that self-control is a perfection. It’s an aliyah. It’s tov.

So a wife is a mashal to Torah. Of course a chasan under a chupa, looks at the kallah, perhaps he’s not thinking that thought yet, but he should know he’s starting a career that’s going to make something out of him. And something out of her. They’ll acquire greatness in perfection of character as a result of living together properly.

When you see the episode of that airliner that crashed in Nova Scotia and over two hundred persons lost their lives, it reminds us of what we say in Unesaneh Tokef: מי לחיים ומי למוות מי באש ומי במים – everyone there had been sentenced previously and they were all brought together by Hashem‘s plans. I heard just recently that there was a ben Torah who was supposed to take a passage on that airplane. But for some reason, they made his ticket pasul. He wasn’t able to go. It’s min hashamayim.

So when you study those episodes it’s a mashal for yom hadin. You have to study that. Now, don’t say who knows if it was because of the din. No, you start out with the premise that Hashem does things with a purpose. Every man on that airplane was sent there by the g’zar Hashem.

A mashal of worldly people ending up their lives in misery: The Titanic. A tremendous lesson, the Titanic: In 1912, the Titanic went down. It was the world’s greatest ship and millionaires booked passage on the Titanic. “A ship that could never sink”, but it sank. And here, Mr. and Mrs. Straus, millionaires were standing on the deck as the boat was going down. Millionaires. It’s the famous Straus, the millionaire, he was going down.

Now when you saw Straus in New York, he wasn’t a frum Jew, he was mechalel Shabbos, maybe a reformer.  So people thought “look at this tzadik, reshaim are succeeding in this world!” But you have to understand that just like Straus and his wife were standing on the deck as the Titanic went under the surface of the water – and they were drowned miserably, it was a terrible death – so too are all the reshaim going to get it. They’re getting it right now! In gehinom. It’s a mashal, the Titanic was a mashal.

Now this world is full of meshalim. You have to utilize it. You should spend five minutes a day thinking of it. Think that aish is echad m’shishim of gehinom. And you’ll think of the spring time which is a mashal for Olam Habah. And think of sleep, sheina is the mashal for  the yom hamaves which everybody will someday have to experience. And upon waking in the morning you say modeh ani, and it’s a rehearsal for the great time when you’ll open up your eyes and you’ll say, “Thank you Hashem that you gave me techiyas hameisim.” ברוך אתה ה’ מחיה המתים. You’ll make that brocha then.

And therefore, as a person thinks into these things, there’s no question that his mind will expand and he’ll become a new personality as a result. Of course the more you do it the better you are. But at least five minutes bli neder on each one of these subjects you should spend.



Now the third one:

The Am Yisroel is the purpose why Hashem created the universe. Now it doesn’t matter that you want to be an anav. You’re going to have to live with this principle, despite democracy, and despite the constitution that says all men are created equal. It’s not so.

Listen to the following pasuk  in Devarim (10:14)- הן להשם אלקיך השמים ושמי השמים – Behold to Hashem belong the heavens and the heavens above the heavens, all space belongs to Him. הארץ וכל אשר בה – and the world, the earth and all that is in it, belongs to Him. But רק באבותיך חשק ה’ לאהבה אותם  – only in your forefathers did Hashem delight to love them. Only your forefathers. From the whole universe, Hashem loved only our forefathers. And ויבחר בזרעם אחריהם – and He chose their seed after them בכם כהיום הזה in you, as on this day.

So as you walk on the street you have to know that you are the center of the universe. You, of course, and all the other frum Jews. Hakadosh Baruch Hu, who is the owner of this universe, a universe that is so tremendous – millions of huge stars, trillions of stars. There’s no end to space. From all that vast expanse, the Am Yisroel is all that Hashem is interested in. And all the rest is only background for the Am Yisroel. We are the main persons in the whole drama of existence. And so you have to have a tremendous pride in being a Jew, a tremendous respect for the Jewish people. Baruch atah Hashem shelo asani goy. You’re an aristocrat. The kings and the queens are nothing compared to you. And Hashem is thinking about you. בכם כיום הזה – about you, on this day.

Now that thought is a revolution in our ideas. If you’ll spend five minutes sometimes thinking about that, you should know that you’re investing your efforts in a very deep mine of gold. You get so much wealth out of this cheshbon of the greatness of the Am Yisroel: that the whole universe is only for them and that Hashem loves them more than anything else.



Number four:

Everything that’s written in the Torah that happened before Avraham Avinu was done as a hakdamah, a preparation, for Avraham Avinu. Even Adam in Gan Eden, the entire episode was necessary as the hakdama to Torah. And whose Torah? Our Torah.

Goyim don’t have any Torah. You pick up lehavdil a history book; you won’t find anything about Adam in Gan Eden outside of the Torah. It was done for us. Hashem knew that Adam would someday make a mistake. He knew he would be driven out of Gan Eden. And that lesson had to be written at the beginning of the Torah to teach the Am Yisroel who would someday come to the fore as the main actor in the world. And they must know what it means to do a chet.

What happened later? The mabul. The mabul cleansed the world of a great population. They had to make way for the appearance of Avraham Avinu. If that great population would have existed, Avraham would have gotten lost among them. The world would have been populated by the mabul men. Everything was done to prepare for Avraham Avinu.

Now when you study the chumash, it’s very important to understand this principle. If people would have continued to live for nine-hundred years, then it would have been a very difficult task for an Avraham to change them. An old person who is so convinced that he is right would never listen. And therefore Hakadosh Boruch Hu caused the world to shrink in their longevity. Their lives became shorter and therefore when Avraham came along he found listeners.  The Rambam says tens of thousands listened to him. And Avraham’s children surely listened to him.

They should continue to have long lives? No, impossible. לא ידון רוחי באדם לעולם בשגם הוא בשר (Bereishis 6:3)- it’s not possible for a person who lives too long to be perfect because he becomes accustomed to the gashmiyus of this world, and the spirit of Hashem in him cannot compete with the tendencies of the gashmius. So everything that happened in the Torah was made so that the Am Hashem should come onto the world and therefore it was a hakdama, a preface for the history of the am Yisroel that started with Avraham Avinu.





Another principle. Number Five.

Everybody knows this Principle. מעשה אבות סימן לבנים – everything that happened to the avos is a prophecy, it’s a mashal, about what will happen to their children.

Yaakov Avinu was born after Eisav. The reshaim have precedence in the world. Eisav came first and he was the one who had more power. Eisav settled in Edom and remained there, while יעקב ובניו ירדו מצרימה – they went into slavery in Mitzrayim. The Umos ha’olam seem to be dwelling in happiness and security. And the Am Yisroel is traveling in exile. It’s a mashal. Because the outcome we know already. The outcome was that Eisav finally disappeared. Edom is gone forever, and the Am Yisroel is still around. And that’s a mashal for us. We’re always going to be around, and the nations of the world will go lost. Everything in the Torah is for that purpose; to be a siman for the future of the Am Yisroel.

Yosef hatzadik was envied by his brothers and they were desirous of getting rid of him. The end was כל מה שאירע ליוסף אירע לבניו – whatever happened to Yosef happened to the Am Yisroel. Yosef  became the ruler, and the brothers had to bow down to him. Eventually, all the nations יכירו וידעו כל יושבי תבל – the whole world will bow down to the Am Yisroel and say, “You are right! You were right all along! We wasted our lives worshipping the false gods of all the other religions.”

Now when you study all the things that happened to Avraham Avinu you see this too. Avraham Avinu went down to Mitzrayim. Everybody knows that this is a mashal that his children would go down to Mitzrayim. And Pharaoh wished to oppress them for his own benefit. The end was that included in מעשה אבות סימן לבנים, is the hostility of Eisav to Yaakov, which means, forever the Am Yisroel will be confronted by enemies. צוה השם ליעקב סביביו צריו – Hashem commanded that Yaakov should be always surrounded with enemies (Eichah 1:17).

In Eretz Yisroel we had enemies on all sides, Edom, Amon , Moav and Midyan. For hundreds of years wars were carried on with them. And wherever we go, we have enemies. Not merely because of the Christians or Mohammedans. Long before them, the Greeks were bitter enemies of the Am Yisroel. הלכה עשו שונא ליעקב – halachah means it’s one of the ways of the world. The Jew has to be hated in this world. It’s a test. Sometimes you have weaklings who  yield and go lost because of that. Some go lost from the Am Yisroel. But the Am Yisroel are ne’emonim, we have complete faith that  someday there will be a great announcement. פתחו שערים “open up the gates” ויבא גוי צדיק שומר אמונים – “and let come the righteous nation that keeps its loyalty” (Yeshaya 26:2). And the loyalty is being tested always  by the fact that we are a minority. That’s maasey avos siman labanim.

Then you study what happened as a result of Eisav’s hostility to Yaakov Avinu. What happened? As a result, Matan Torah took place. You know that? Eisav caused Matan Torah to take place! If Eisav did not have hostility towards Yaakov, he wouldn’t have gone away from home. Yaakov would have remained home. And if he would have remained home, when his father wanted a wife for him he would have sent a delegation to Lavan, and Lavan would’ve sent back Leah. Yaakov would have married Leah. But without Rochel, he couldn’t have a Yosef. Yosef was necessary though! So therefore Eisav was the enemy of Yaakov and he fled to Padan Aram. And there he saw Rochel and he chose Rochel. And from Rochel he had a son Yosef, and Yosef hatzadik is the one who was our leader in mitzrayim for eighty years.

Yosef did more for us than Moshe Rabeinu. Moshe Rabbeinu didn’t have power like Yosef hatzadik had. Anyone who opened his mouth about Yosef Hatzadik, Pharaoh put him to death: ובלעדיך לא ירים איש את ידו ואת רגלו בכל ארץ מצרים – “Without your permission, nobody in Mitzrayim is permitted to raise their hand or foot” (Bereishis 41:44). They were all afraid of Yosef. And for eighty years he trained them in his secret: את האלקים אני ירא – “I am a man who fears Hashem” (ibid. 42:18).

It was only Yosef hatzadik who prepared them for Matan Torah. He had full control over his brothers and their families, and he kept them in line. It was only because of him that they remained the bnei Yisroel. You have to realize that. And all that wouldn’t have happened if Eisav hadn’t been an enemy. So what do we see? That the hostility of the umos ha’olam is the greatest blessing for us. If the nations would be friendly to us, we would have gone lost chalilah long ago. Only because of their hostility are we able to remain in existence.

The greatest danger for Yaakov Avinu in his entire history was when Eisav embraced him and kissed him. When they met again after all those years, Eisav fell upon Yaakov’s neck and embraced him and kissed him. The biggest sakanah was right then. The sakanah of being friendly with Eisav. Baruch Hashem, Yaakov Avinu was able to evade Eisav with an excuse. He said the sheep are young, his sheep cannot go so fast, it’s difficult for us, they have to travel slowly, too slow for you to travel; so Eisav took the hint and went away. And Yaakov was rescued from Eisav. But to be friendly with Eisav is the biggest sakanah, the gravest danger.

That’s why when it came to Edom, the melech of Edom didn’t let them go through. The Bnei Yisroel told them, “We’ll pay for the water. If anyone wants water to drink, we’ll pay you for it,” but he said no. He said nothing doing. And so ויט ישראל – Yisroel turned away. It was a tremendous hatzalah for us. If we would have  passed through Edom, who knows what would’ve happened? Edom is a brother. They looked like the Jews, they spoke the Hebrew language. We would’ve became too friendly with them. So it was a terrible sakanah to go through Edom.

And therefore Hakadosh Baruch Hu activated the principle of הלכה עשו שונא ליעקב – they were hostile to the Am Yisroel and we were not permitted to enter Edom. And this rescued us from being embraced by Edom.

Maaseh avos siman l’bonim is a very great source of the understanding our history. It was all planned by Hakadosh Baruch Hu so that we should learn from that model for all the other centuries of our existence. We should use the model of our Avos, and how Hakodosh Boruch Hu guided them, in order to know how to guide our own lives.

When Avraham saw that there was a difference of opinion between him and Lot, so he told Lot הפרד נא מעלי – “Separate from me”. That’s a tremendous lesson. We have to separate from those that have different opinions. We don’t believe in pluralism. We only connect with Jews who have our opinions, who believe in Torah she’baal peh and believe in the Talmud. Anybody else is outside, m’chutz l’machaneh. It’s a very important lesson. We don’t believe in unity. We don’t accept them as a Yisroel. Only those who are unified with us in the emunah in Torah shebichsav and Torah she’baal peh. And therefore הפרד נא מעלי was a great thing, a great lesson for us forever.

Avraham Avinu even sent away his sick son, because  keeping him around would complicate matters for Yitzchak. And he wasn’t always trying to make alliances with others. He wasn’t looking to live among others. הן עם לבדד ישכן – We are a nation that dwells alone. We thrive when we are separated from the gentiles. Our hatzlacha is when we are by ourselves. The less we have to do with others the more fortunate we are, and the more we are guaranteed success in our lives. We’re called insular, we’re called segregated. Yes, it’s true. We believe in it! That’s our success! Just that itself is  enough to think about for five minutes a day. You practice this for five minutes a day, and you’re going to discover a gold mine of very, very important information.





Principle number six.

האדם לא נברא אלא להתענג – A man is created only for happiness. You hear that? Hashem made man only for happiness. Now, the Mesillas Yesharim adds a caveat. He says להתענג על השם – happiness on Hashem, or Olam Haba. It means Hakadosh Baruch Hu wanted to make us happy. That’s the purpose. That the righteous person should be happy. And why didn’t He give us the happiness in this world? Because this world is not the full happiness. להתענג על השם – The happiness of Olam Haba is the greatest happiness. And כל ישראל יש להם חלק לעולם הבא – nobody else.

The happiness of Olam Habah, forever and ever, is given to kol Yisroel. Now don’t be embarrassed by that. You think maybe it’s selfish. You don’t have tell this to the gentiles, but that’s the truth. Only Yisroel. And that happiness was planned by Hakadosh Baruch Hu from the beginning. Olam Haba was made for happiness. Now, if there is happiness in this world before Olam Habah, that’s also part of the plan. האדם לא נברא אלא להתענג – We were created for happiness.

There’s happiness in this world. No question about it. Every time you eat, every time you sleep, all the things we enjoy in life, Hashem did it for the purpose of giving us happiness. So Hakadosh Baruch Hu should be regarded as olam chesed yibaneh, as having created the world for happiness. We should realize that. And even though sometimes there are tragedies, but by and large, rubah d’rubah it’s a world of happiness. The fact that people are not understanding how to appreciate it, that’s their fault. If a person would see how lucky he is, how he can be someyach b’chelko, he would realize that the world is made for happiness.

That’s a principle to study. The world is made for happiness. You walk in the street and you breathe in the air, ahh ahh ahh! It’s a delicious cocktail of gases. האדם לא נברא אלא להתענג – you’re made for happiness in this world. That’s happiness – to breathe air. You can see that it’s happiness. Enjoy life! Yes, Hashem wants you to enjoy life. Don’t think He doesn’t want you to enjoy life. The more you enjoy life, the more you’re going to be given the happiness of the reward of Olam Haba. Enjoy life and sing to Hashem. The world was created for happiness.

So once more: האדם לא נברא אלא להתענג על השם. A man is created for happiness. The true oneg is in Olam Haba, because that’s the greatest happiness. But Hashem intends happiness for us even now. He’s giving it to us all the time. And we should learn to appreciate that happiness. And the more you spend time thinking about that, the more you’re going to enjoy your lives. And it’s a mitzvah to do that! The five minutes that we invest in this career of learning to understand that life is happiness, is going to pay a very great dividend to us.



Number Seven:

אין פורענות באה לעולם אלא בשביל ישראל – “No misfortune happens in the world unless it’s for the Am Yisroel”. When that airship sank in Nova Scotia it was because of us. Hashem could have let them land, each one in his hometown and they could’ve gotten pneumonia or cancer. They could have died in a quiet way. Why did He bring them together to die in this spectacular way all in one place when the plane went down? For us. We have to look at that and learn; and the purpose is to be afraid of Hashem and to cry out  כתבינו בספר החיים – we should have utilized that on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. “Hashem keep us, guard us, protect us.” Rashi says that; what does it mean that it’s all bishvil yisroel? So Rashi says: leyari’am, to make them afraid. To make the Am Yisroel afraid so they should do teshuva.

When you hear how in Rwanda they’re murdering men, women and children, it’s for the purpose of us being afraid that it shouldn’t happen to us chalilah. And what happened in Europe – it’s for the purpose of making us afraid. Absolutely, we have to be afraid. Being in America you feel secure. But you know what? We were secure in Germany once. Germany was a polite country with law and order and derech eretz. Nobody dreamed that Germany would become a headquarters of a land of murderers. That such a thing could happen in Germany? Nobody dreamed about it in their worst nightmares. But chas v’shalom it could happen anywhere.

And so when  it happens in a far off country, so it’s for this purpose. To make us afraid! And we have to do the best we can to remind ourselves that only Hashem is protecting us. Hashem is protecting us in a secure land, far away from Europe. There’s an ocean between us and them. You have to thank Hashem and do your  best to deserve that protection. And so all the purani’us that happens is bishvil Yisroel.

When Princess Dianna was squashed in a car together with her paramour, the whole world went crazy with sympathy for her. Princess Dianna with the Egyptian man were killed, and they gave her the biggest kavod. But for us? It happened because of us. So we should learn the lesson. She was squashed like a cockroach – that’s what she was. You’re laughing. It happens to wicked people. That’s what we should learn from what happened. Only because of us did it happen. A photographer was chasing her in his car, so her taxi driver hurried up and they bumped into something and she was squashed.  And the purpose was so that Am Yisroel should learn that Hakadosh Baruch Hu takes care of resha’im in this world too.

When you hear of a wealthy man, a big executive, who was swimming in the Pacific Ocean of California and he drowned. He was drowned just recently, a very wealthy young man, a gentile. It’s a lesson for us. It doesn’t mean anything to the world. But for us it means that as he was drowning, all his money couldn’t help him. We have to learn from that to understand Hakadosh Baruch Hu is the only one who could help us. And we have to find favor in His eyes. And so אין פורענות באה לעולם אלא בשביל ישראל – whatever misfortunes happen in the world we should understand it is a lesson for us. Don’t shrug it off and forget about it. Take it to heart. Hashem is teaching you a lesson. And think about it, and gaze at it. And you’ll gain the great benefit of being aware that Hashem is in charge of the world. Utilize being afraid of puraniyus. Yiras shamayim is a tremendous benefit we gain from learning what happens to the reshaim in this world.



Number Eight.

No benefit comes to the world except because of Yisroel. אפילו ספינה המהלכת מגליא לאספמיא – Here’s a boat full of merchandise. It’s traveling from ancient Gaul, that’s France, to Spain. No Jews are on board, there were no Jews in those countries yet. The Jews were all in Bavel. And that boat has a successful voyage. It had nothing to do with the Jews and yet the success of that voyage was only because of Yisroel. In some indirect way it has a connection with Yisroel. Maybe some merchandise will finally land up among the Jews. I cannot tell you. But there’s no question about it! The gemara makes that statement, אינו מתברכת אלא בשביל ישראל – that voyage was successful only because of Yisroel.

And so when Columbus made his voyage and discovered North America, it’s only bishvil Yisroel. It wasn’t to make Spain wealthy. Because Spain later lost control of all those territories and Great Britain took over. Then Great Britain lost control. It had nothing to do with Spain and Great Britain. The purpose was that the am Yisroel should someday come here and build a tremendous Torah community!

Columbus was setting out to find a place where the Am Yisroel would  build yeshivos, kehillos, and tremendous neighborhoods of shomrei mitzvos. This is just the beginning. It will get bigger and bigger as time goes on im yirtzah Hashem. Now Columbus was a shaliach. He didn’t know he was sent by Hakadosh Baruch Hu, but אינה מתברכת אלא בשביל ישראל – any brochos, any success comes only because of Yisroel.

Edison discovered the electric light? It’s bishvil Yisroel. The gentiles use electric light too, but the purpose was for the Am Yisroel. They should sit by electric light, learn Torah, practice mitzvos.  It’s very important for us to have light. The fact that gentiles also enjoy the light, that shouldn’t deceive us.

The Rambam gives a mashal. There’s a palace. For hundreds of years it’s standing in a place where the king and the queen hold court and they make balls. Wealthy people come there, and there are banquets. All for the goyim. But really it’s not for them. Because one day when it was raining, a Jew was walking by in the street, so he stood under the projection in front of the door until the rain stopped. The palace was made for that moment when the Jew was there. He was only there for a few minutes, maybe fifteen minutes until the rain passed. And he didn’t use the palace for its conveniences; he just used the awning, that’s all. But the entire palace was made for that five minutes or fifteen minutes; for that Jew! And in order that he should have it, Hashem allowed the goyim to use it for hundreds of years. All kinds of celebrations and parties. That’s how the world is made. Like a tree. A tree sheds thousands of seeds, yet only one tree grows. And so, any kind of brocha in the world comes only because of the Am Yisroel.

Now I know that’s very difficult for people to believe. But think into it according to the principle of the gemara and you begin to understand how great is Hakadosh Baruch Hu’s hashgacha, His control of the world when He does things for man.



Now we’ll spend five minutes on another subject.

All the generations in general are מתקטנים והולכים – we are becoming less and less. That’s more important than we think. It’s not merely that we’re anavim, we’re humble when we compare ourselves to the old generations. When Adam was created he was a k’lil hama’alos, he had everything. A tremendous intelligence. And even after he sinned and he was diminished to a much smaller level of perfection, he was still a great personality, a very great personality. The old generations had brilliant minds. But they’re  miskatnim v’holchim. Hashem’s plan was, that as time goes on, they become smaller and smaller, it’s a plan. The further you get from the source, the smaller you become.

When it came to the Avos, the Avos were an exception, they were greater than their forebears. But not the whole dor of our Avos. Their generation wasn’t any better than before. But Avraham Avinu was an exception. עד שבא אברהם אבינו וקיבל שכר כולם  – Avraham Avinu came along and he took the reward of all of them. Avraham suddenly shot up. He became great and high and tall. His son, Yitzchak was very great too but less than Avraham. And Yaakov was less than Yitzchak. But from then on אין קוראין אבות אלא שלשה – It’s only those three that we call our Avos. Yosef hatzadik, never did Hashem speak to Yosef. But He spoke to the Avos. You won’t find in the chumash one place where Hashem spoke to Yosef or his brothers, no.

When Moshe Rabbeinu came along, Hakadosh Baruch Hu planned this man for a purpose. He shot up again very high, but the people, the generation of Moshe were all on a level much below that of the brothers of Yosef. At Matan Torah the people shot up very high. They sprang up. When they heard the words of Hashem they became transformed, but from then on, we got smaller and smaller and never again did we hear the voice of Hashem speaking to the whole Am Yisroel. Never again, never again.

Then the nevi’im were visited by the dvar Hashem for a long time and finally the generations became smaller and smaller and no more nevuah. Only ruach hakodesh continued until after a while even ruach hakodesh was taken away.

אם הראשונים כמלאכים, אנו כבני אדם אם ראשונים כבני אדם אנו כחמורים – “If the early generations are like angels, we are like men. And if they were like men, we’re no more than donkeys!” so that’s a big principle. And this is how we have to look back with humility to the words of the previous generations. What was said 200 years ago by the gedolei Yisroel who were the leaders of our Torah nation then, we have to respect them, we must have the greatest derech eretz for them. But looking back to the rishonim- the Ramban, Rashba, Ran, Ritva and the Rambam, Rashi, Tosefos, their words to us are yesodos in chochma, foundations, because they are a much earlier generation. S’yata dishmaya helped more. They lived then a life of kedusha. Even the common people in their time were immensely more noble than the common people of later generations. Later generations become smaller and smaller.

It’s a very important principle. All the doros are miskatnim v’holchim -with some exceptions like we mentioned- and therefore one of the goals when we study is to understand how much we have to respect the ways, of the previous generations. If they started minhagim; then to us these minhagim are kodesh kedashim, the utmost holiness.

Like the Mirrer mashgiach, Rebbe Yerucham zichrono livracha said seventy years ago. He said, מיר קענען נישט פארשטיין אונזער עלטע באבעס – we can’t understand our great grandmothers. We don’t understand them at all. This great man said it’s impossible for him to understand the greatness of our great-grandmothers. Now he didn’t say the greatness of our grandfathers. He was referring to the simple, unlearned grandmothers! We have to learn to have the greatest respect for them. And pride!

And Hashem made miracles for them. He made miracles for older generations. We shouldn’t expect it. He does miracles for us too but it’s b’hastara, hester panim. Today He hides from us. Those generations were worthy. Hashem showed them openly the yad Hashem. It’s important for us to know that.

All the generations become smaller and smaller, and therefore be happy that you were born now and not 30 years later. 30 years later it’s a smaller generation you should know. Yes. Of course there will be more frum Jews, I’m sure. More kollelim, more yeshivos, bigger kehilos but you should know that the ruach that you inherited from the European Jews who are still among us, is disappearing. In the yeshivos there are rebbeim who are European yeshiva men. Older rebbeim, but not many of them are left however. Time goes on, they should be ma’arich yamim, but they’re becoming less and less.

In Mirrer Yeshiva you have old rebbeim who learned in European yeshivos. There were tremendous lessons they gained there in spirit. What you had in Europe in the yeshivos, you don’t have in American yeshivos, no matter how good the yeshivos are. We’re a different spirit. There was fire. The fire is not burning as brightly in America as it burned there, as before. When chasidim come to a rebbe in America, it’s not like the chasidim who came to a rebbe once upon a time in the old Europe, It was a different kind of kedusha.

Now we should look back with great longing to the olden days. Once a Rosh yeshiva told me, “I wish I was born”, he said, “100 years earlier”, “I wish I was born 100 years earlier.” but 100 years from now people will say they’re sorry they weren’t born in our times. So make use of your time. For these five minutes you can get a great deal for thinking of this principle.



Now number Ten. Invest your five minutes!

There is no truth among the goyim. Only in the Torah and in chazal. Now, technicalities, yes. Gentiles can tell you technicalities. Because there are some forms of wisdom that they possess. Hashem appointed them to serve us. They make inventions for us and so on. We ride in their airplanes, we use their telephones, absolutely. But when you’re looking for emes, there’s no emes among the gentiles.

All the ideals of the gentiles are false. If you hear sometimes something that might be emes, it’s because they’re repeating words from our Torah. The only source of emes, is our tradition; our Torah, Torah shebichsav, Torah shebaal peh, the gemara – all those sources of Toras Hashem. They’re the only source of emes.

And people who spend time looking through newspapers while eating breakfast; they’re swallowing sheker by the bucket full. Spend time looking into a sefer while you’re eating. Better not to look into anything than to look into a newspaper.

And some fools spend time in front of the TV. That’s committing suicide, spiritual suicide. They’re swallowing sheker. Some people pay money to go to the movies. Of course it’s all sheker, it’s not true stories at all, it didn’t happen. But even the best ones of the gentiles, Benjamin Franklin let’s say, and better gentiles, whatever they say is not emes compared to what you’ll find in our mekor of emes.

Only the am Yisroel has emes. A very important lesson. Think into that. And the more you’ll think into pirkei avos, mamarei chazal, or you’ll think into agadata, and halachos, and pesukim, the more you have emes in your mind. Otherwise don’t look for emes in the world. Emes is only in this place, in the Torah.

Now another principle, oh you have 10 already- In the future tapes we’ll have more bli neder… I’m going to give you 70 bli neder!

Thinking for five minutes, don’t think it’s a small thing. You’ll discover more than what I told you. But the idea is to think it. And that’s what the chovos halevovs calls cheshbon hanefesh. Thinking, using your mind on ideas. And all these ideas will have toldos, they will bear fruit, and toldos of toldos. It’s amazing what they’ll create in your mind. And it could be that you’ll make chiburim of your own as a result.

These ideas, they’re not mine. I’m only telling them to you, but they come from the divrei chazal. And therefore there’s no question, all of them are fundamentally solid principles. If we’ll spend time thinking into them, we’re bound for success and to have a wealth of thoughts in our minds that will be forever, in this world and we’ll take it with us into the World to Come!




Shavuos, Together at Sinai – Tape #E-12

TAPE #E-12


Together at Sinai



Bruchim ha’ba’im. Welcome everyone. We are about to begin b’ ezras Hashem number E – 12. And we cite from the Rambam in his Igeres Teiman, which is his famous proclamation, the one he made when there was a shmad in the land of Teiman and he wrote this to encourage them to persist in their loyalty, in their emunah.


Now the whole letter will not be read here but we’ll read certain portions. And so, we begin. The Rambam states there are three enemies that the Am Yisroel face. Who are they? The first is the group who try to force us to forsake our emunah by shmad -that means: brute force. This happened again and again in our history. The Romans made a shmad  and much earlier Antiochus in Syria made a shmad. The Rambam calls that group the כת האנסים, those who try to force us. Again and again they have tried.

In Europe, in Portugal, they dragged thousands of Jews to the baptismal altar against their will. They took away the Jewish children from their parents. It happened again and again. Nikolai tzorer ha’yehudim, the Russian czar took away Jewish boys from their parents. He tried to bring them up as gentiles. That is the כת האנסים; that’s one group. The group that tries to force us away from the Torah.

Another group; are those who argue against us, those who attack our minds. These include the philosophers of Greece, the academicians, the so-called scientists of today, the academic community which today, of course, includes all the newspapers and all the schools. That’s the second group, the כת הטוענים, the group who try to convince us to forsake Hashem with their ta’anos, their arguments against us.

And the third group is כת המתדמה לנו, those who imitate us. It means the Nazarenes and the Mohammedans, the imitating religions.


It’s these three whom we must face throughout our history. And the Rambam says כולם יאבדו, all of them will go lost. All of them will go lost! And if you see for the time being that they might have some power, any power that they might have, or a seeming victory at certain times, you should know it will not continue forever – that temporal victory will finally come to an end. And so, our Creator, the Borei yisborach, made a decree and He promised us forever and ever – that whenever enemies will rise against us; whether it’s a shmad or any other kind of attempt against us, that He will cause it to depart and disappear.

Now before we go on, it’s important for us to know that Hakodosh Boruch Hu has already demonstrated in history a most impressive phenomenon to illustrate this point. We have no concept of how powerful idolatry was in the days of old. All the nations brought proofs how they had been saved by their idol worship. This one said this god saved me, and this one said this god helped me, and they had testimonials – in the millions. It was overpowering. And the gemara states that the yitzra d’avodah zarah, the yetzer harah of idolatry was so powerful that even big talmidei chachamim had to fight to resist it.


Now, we have to imagine what it was like in those days to be a Jew. It means you were alone against a very great world. They all believed implicitly in the idols. And along comes the Navi and he says והאלילים כליל יחלף- “The idols will disappear entirely” (Yeshaya 2:18). Now, at that time it was extremely difficult to accept that statement. And there were certain people who couldn’t believe it. Even the best of our people had a hard time accepting such a statement.

And yet,  if you look back – today we must admit, idolatry is already dead. There are certain forms that still persist in uncivilized parts of the world, but nobody considers that a temptation any more. The yitzra of avoda zara has been slaughtered entirely. Not only among us, even among the gentiles. Almost all of humanity today has rejected the worship of idols. How did this happen? In those days, all of Africa worshipped idols, all of Asia worshipped idols, all of Europe worshipped idols. Everywhere. Greece and Rome and Persia, “Bavel” –all the nations of antiquity believed that idol worship is absolutely true. And the fact is that many Jews thought that idols were true too, only, they said “Hakadosh Baruch Hu is more important than all the other idols. But “the idols are something”, they thought. And that’s what the nevi’im had to battle. כי כל אלוהי העמים אלילים – “All the gods of the nations are nothing-gods, there’s nothing to them.” That’s what elilim means – nothing gods. The nevi’im told the people, “It’s only stone and wood that you’re worshipping.” But in those days it fell on deaf ears. It was unbelievable to people what the navi said in those days. Nothing gods?! It was hard to accept such a statement.

But today we see that it all came to an end. And today, idolatry, as far as most of humanity is concerned, is dead. And the Rambam says that all the others will disappear as well, all the philosophers of Greece and the academicians of today, all the universities and the press and the literature – they’ll all come to an end.


Evolution will someday be ridiculed. The truth is, evolution is as silly as can be. It’s only because of one reason that it has any power. And that’s because there’s great numbers of those who advocate it. Anyone could ask himself the question: “How could non-life become life?” And to this day there’s no answer. They’re twisting their minds. They’re trying to find ways and means to show that this happens, but it never happened yet. In all the laboratories they’re trying their best; nothing doing. The simplest form of life must have at least one trillion bits of data recorded on it. Again, the simplest cell must have at least one trillion bits of data in order to have life. You know what a trillion is? More than all the letters in the biggest library in the world. Not “books”, letters. And each bit of data, each one of these data is necessary. A trillion essential bits of information for the simplest form of life.  So how can a piece of iron, or a piece of copper, or an atom of oxygen turn into life?

Now, most of the evolutionists dodge that question. They’ll say “In some way – we know not how – life originally appeared.” But how did it appear? They try not to answer that question because there is no answer. It’s so silly, but because there are so many that are upholding that theory, it’s accepted; that’s  the force of avoda zara. I had a rebbe once who said that because in ancient times they were wiser than today, they couldn’t have preached evolution in those days. But today the world has turned silly. And therefore a silly yetzer hara is being preached to a silly world.


Now back to the Rambam who tells us that Hakodosh Boruch Hu promised us that all of these different enemies that we face will sooner or later disappear. He continues: And that’s what Dovid said with ruach hakodesh when he was speaking about our nation. How we complained of the persecutions of the idolaters against us and how their power spread from the beginning of our history against us. And still they don’t have the power to destroy us and to erase our name. And although they pursue us and they try their best with shmad and with gzeiros and other methods; still they have not succeeded!

Now this didn’t just begin today. They have started from the beginning, during the times of Avraham Avinu! And they’ve been working hard throughout all the generations. And yet  they’ve failed! And he quotes רבת צררוני מנעורי יאמר נא ישראל – “How greatly they have harassed me from my youth says the Am Yisroel (Tehillim 121: 1). And yet, even though they harassed me greatly from my youth, גם לא יכלו לי – But still they weren’t able to overcome me. That’s what Dovid said.

The Rambam continues: “Our brothers, don’t you know that in the days of נבוכדנצר הרשע they forced the Jewish people to worship idols? They assembled all the Jews they could find, and they said ‘If you won’t bow down to Nevuchadnetzar’s idol you’ll be destroyed.’ And most of the Jews bowed down to save their lives. And the only ones who didn’t bow down were Daniel, Chananya, Mishael and Azarya, these four. But what happened in the end? The end was that Hakodosh Boruch Hu destroyed Nevuchadnetzar and He destroyed Bavel and the religion and culture. And the truth was restored.”

Now, when Nevuchadnetzar was in his full power, you must know he had the greatest civilization in the world at that time. Even today, when people visit the ruins of ancient Bavel they’re amazed at the degree of civilization and achievements; buildings, huge edifices, tremendous roads, huge gateways. We can admire it even today. And at that time when they had full power over all the nations around them, the Babylonian Empire was supreme. Nobody ever dreamed that the time would come that Babylon would be lying underneath the ground as it is today. It’s all ruins!


And so it happened in the Bayis Sheni when the Syrian Greeks had power over us and they decreed very terrible shmad edicts against us to destroy our Torah. Anyone who kept Shabbos would be put to death. Anybody who circumcised his son would be executed. Every Jew had to put a sign on his garment that he does not believe in Elokei Yisroel.  You couldn’t walk on the street unless you had a badge on you stating “I do not believe in Elokei Yisroel“. And on every ox, on their horns, they.were forced to engrave that same slogan. So when the oxen were used for plowing everybody saw that this person was demonstrating this belief.


What happened? For fifty-two years this situation continued. But then Hakodosh Boruch Hu destroyed them entirely and their religion went lost. Today all the gods of the Greeks are only in museums! In poetry sometimes they mention them, but nobody comes to worship them anymore. Even the Greeks themselves don’t worship them anymore today. And the Rambam quotes what the gemara says: שמדא עבידא דבטיל (Kesubos 3b), the shmad will eventually become batel. Don’t become Don’t become overwhelmed. Sooner or later the decrees will pass away.

And it is that promise, the promise that all of the goyim that oppress us are עבידא דבטיל, that stands as our salvation forever. That’s what the Rambam says: “Hakodosh Boruch Hu gave His promise to Yaakov Avinu, that even though the nations will oppress Yaakov’s children and afflict them, and even have power over them, but Yaakov’s children will remain, and they will persist. And those who persecuted them will eventually go lost and  disappear.


I must interrupt, because it’s good to hear what a goy says too. Everybody knows how I always quote Mark Twain. Mark Twain said “The Jew walks on the graves of all his oppressors.” They’re all gone and we walk on their graves!

Now, the Rambam goes further: והיה זרעך כעפר הארץ – “Your seed will be like the dust of the earth (Bereishis 28:14). Why does it say like dust? So listen to this: Although everyone tramples on the dust, the end will come and all those who trampled on the dust will  be covered up by the dust. All the goyim are buried in the ground. And the Am Yisroel will eventually bury all of them like the עפר הארץ buries all those who walk on it.

And he quotes Yeshaya Hanavi who said in the name of Hashem that in all the days of our nation’s exile, if anyone thinks that he can overcome us and force us; it could be that for a certain time he will succeed, but the end will be, Hakodosh Boruch Hu will send a deliverer and will remove from us that persecution. And he quotes חזות קשה הוגד לי. Yeshaya says: “I have seen a very difficult nevuah”(Yeshaya 21:2). It’s a nevuah that foretells persecution. חזות קשה, it will be a difficult thing to see. הבוגד בוגד – “The wicked will continue to be wicked for some time.” והשודד שודד – and the robber will continue to rob for some time. עלי אילם צורי מדי  – Eilam and Madai were empires in their time and they rose and ruled over us. And what was the end? כל אנחתה השבתי, all of the sighs, all of the groans of our nation will come to an end. Because finally Hakodosh Boruch Hu will destroy all those nations.

Now, you must know that this happened again and again. Who destroyed the Beis Hamikdash the first time? Bavel. Where is Bavel today? Who destroyed the Beis Hamikdash the second time? Rome. Where is Rome? Rome is in Italy, but it’s not Rome anymore. Rome was finished long ago. Nothing remained of Roman culture and Roman religion, nothing at all. Nothing!


And Hakadosh Baruch Hu promised us by means of His נביאים, He said “You will never go lost”. He’ll never make an end of our nation and we will never stop being a pious nation. Of course there’ll be certain Jews who will want to go lost and they’ll succeed in going lost, but there will always be a part of the Jewish nation that will remain loyal forever. And the Rambam explains, just as Hakodosh Boruch Hu’s existence is impossible to stop, it can never end, He continues forever, so too, it’s impossible that we should go lost from the world. And he quotes from Malachi (3:6). אני ה’ לא שניתי ואתם בני יעקב לא כיליתם – “I Hashem have never changed. I have not changed ever, and you the sons of Yaakov will never come to an end.” Now these pessukim are good to keep in mind -that Hakodosh Boruch Hu says: “Just like I am forever, the Bnei Yisroel are forever.”

And He also told us that despite any sins that we may commit, He will never reject us entirely. ואף גם זאת – “Even despite all those things that are foretold in the tochecha”, לא מאסתים ולא געלתים לכלותם – “I will never reject them or despise them to  bring them to make an end to them” (Vayikra 26:44). Forever and ever they’ll continue!

And that’s what Yirmiyahu Hanavi tells us in the name of Hashem: כה אמר ה’ אם ימדו שמים מלמעלה – “If somebody can measure the height of the heavens” גם אני אמאס בכל זרע ישראל – “If you can measure the height of the heavens, then I’m going to reject the Yisroel” (Yirmiyahu 31:36). It means, nobody can measure infinity of space. Space is millions and millions of miles. It’s beyond the ability of any human being to measure space. And so too , it is impossible for the Am Yisroel to ever come to an end.


And now the Rambam adds a certain statement. שכל מי שנטה מדרך הדת הנתונה במעמד ההיא, -”Anybody who departs from the way of the Torah that was given to us at Sinai” שאינו מזרע  האנשים ההם “He doesn’t belong to the seed of those people who received the Torah.” The Rambam is saying that Matan Torah had such a powerful effect on the Am Yisroel that it made them eternal in their loyalty. It went into their genes, and their children inherited that quality. If anybody strayed away from the Torah, it’s a sign that his forefather did not stand at Har Sinai.

And then he speaks to the people of Teiman and he urges them to work on one very important ikar of the Torah which is one of the biggest forms of encouragement; at all times. What is that? “You, my brothers, you should raise your children with the description of that great episode of Your Ma’amad Har Sinai. Speak about it in public. Speak about it in your homes with your families. Talk about that great episode because that is one of the most important of all subjects that the Jew has to keep in mind”. Not only on שבועות. Always and forever and ever. Teach it to your children – כדי שיגדלו על תלמודו  “So that they should grow up with the thoughts of Ma’amad Har Sinai in their minds.” Now that  Hakadosh Baruch Hu is the best of all witnesses. And He testifies that there never was such a day, and there never will be such a day. כי שאל נא לימים ראשונים אשר היו לפניך למן היום אשר ברא אלוקים אדם על הארץ ולמקצה השמים ועד קצה השמים – “You should inquire now about the early days that preceeded you, from the day that Hashem created Man upon this earth, and from one end of heaven to the other end of heaven, הנהיה כדבר הגדול כזה או הנשמע כמוהו השמע עם קול אלוקים מדבר מתוך האש כאשר שמעת אתה ויחי – Has there ever been anything like this great thing or has anything like it been heard?! Has a people ever heard the voice of Hashem speaking from the midst of the  fire as  you have heard, and survived?!” (Devarim 4:32-33).


We must understand, that the day of Matan Torah was the biggest day in all of history. The world was created only because of that day. ויהי ערב ויהי בקר – Why was there evening and morning? Every day the world was functioning only for one purpose – יום השישי, just for the sixth day of Sivan, the day of Matan Torah(See Rashi: Bereishis 1:31). The world was created for Matan Torah. That’s the heart of history.

Now here we’re going to think about one of the ikrei hada’as – the awareness that Hakadosh Baruch Hu gave the Torah to a huge multitude of witnesses. And what was the purpose? The purpose was כי לבעבור נסות אתכם בא האלקים, “in order to elevate you, Hashem came” (Shemos 20:17). נסות means “elevate” from the word נס, נשא to lift up. Matan Torah came to elevate us forever. ובעבור תהי’ יראתו על פניכם לבלתי תחטאו, “And in order that the fear of Hashem, the belief in Hashem – the awareness of Hashem should be on your faces and you should never sin (ibid.). And what that means is that you’ll never stray away from the Torah.


There will always be a frum and loyal Jewish nation. כי לא תשכח מפי זרעו (Devarim 31:21), the Torah will never be forgotten in all generations (Rashi ibid.). You can take a walk today, in Boro Park, Flatbush, Williamsburg, in frum Jewish neighborhoods and you’ll see! People are studying the Torah like they did in Bavel, like they did in the great Yeshivos in Eretz Yisroel.

Long after the Rambam wrote this letter, Torah learning continued to flourish, and not less, no! Huge libraries were composed after the Rambam, great kehillos. And today, everywhere, young people are studying Torah. The Jewish nation is forging ahead in all the places where they live. Frum Jews everywhere are founding institutions; hundreds and hundreds of yeshivos ketanos and mesivtas, even in America alone! Bais Yaakov girl schools, Bais Rochel schools, they’re everywhere. Frum children, Frum families, everywhere. So boruch Hashem we see today how the prophecy that was foretold is being fulfilled and will continue forever. Boruch Hashem!

What about all the others nations of the world, all the false religions of the world? The others will go lost! They’ll all go lost. עד ארגיע לשון שקר – The false tongue is only temporary (Mishlei 12:19). Christianity, it will disappear. It’s disappearing today too. It’s breaking up. There are two hundred and fifty six sects fighting each other, calling each other liars, and we believe all of them! All of them are liars! And the Mohammedans and the Christians are fighting each other. They’ve had wars against each other. They slaughtered each other on the battlefield and each one called the other infidel. And of course, it’s true; we agree with both of them; they’re all infidels. The truth is, although there’s an upsurge of religiosity among some of the Islamic people, the end will be that it will all disappear. I have no doubt about it. והאלילים כליל יחלוף  (Yeshaya 2:18).

Now it’s worth reading the Igeres Teiman. If you have time, I recommend it. And even better, people should read it in the original. It’s full of chochma – not only עידוד, encouragement – but  it’s full of chochma, da’as and important information.


And now, this brings us to a very important question. There is a mashal which the gemara tells us. At the beginning of Creation it says that Hashem created את שני המאורות הגדולים – The two great luminaries”, the sun and the moon (Bereishis 1:16). So the moon spoke up and said: אי אפשר לשני מלכים שישתמשו בכתר אחד – “Can two kings rule over the same kingdom?” Is there such a thing as two kings equal in power ruling over the same kingdom?

So Hashem said “You’re right. You’re right, so you go make yourself smaller.” And the moon became smaller. So the moon said, “Because I said something right, I should become penalized; I should become smaller?! So Hashem said you’re right again. And therefore I want the Am Yisroel to bring a korban every Rosh Chodesh for Me. It says in the korban of Rosh Chodesh that it’s a ‘חטאת לה – “A sin offering for Hashem” (Bamidbar 28:15). Only one place in the Torah do we find such words. A chatas l’Hashem! It’s an atonement for Hashem!


And this idea we’ll explain as follows. that Hakadosh Baruch Hu said it cannot be that the truth should be so easy to see in the world. If the כלל ישראל were just as numerous as the אומות העולם , it would be very easy, it would be too easy to be a Jew. But we’re not in this world to have it easy. Our purpose is לעמוד בנסיון, we’re to withstand the tests of this world (Mesillas Yesharim Chapter 1). And Hakadosh Baruch Hu made us a minority for that purpose. כי אתם המעט מכל העמים – “You are the smallest of all the nations of the world” (Devarim 7:7). We’re the smallest. We’re a minority. And the purpose of that is that we should fight back against the influence, the overpowering influence of a great majority.

We learn in the Torah, לא תהי אחרי רבים לרעות – “You should not follow the multitude for wrong things” (Shemos 23:2). That’s the test that we’re passing through in our history. And that’s why Hakadosh Baruch Hu gave us His great gift, the gift of the opportunity to לעמוד בניסיון, to stand on our own feet and refuse to be influenced by the power of numbers. We can use seichel and withstand the blandishments of the outside world. You can see the weakness, the emptiness of all their claims. Mohamed has nothing to say at all. The Rambam calls him “the meshugah that came out of the wilderness; a lunatic.” He doesn’t have a single proof to uphold anything he says.

But at Har Sinai, להבדיל אלף הבדלות, there were two million people present. At least that’s what we claim. Our claim is that Hashem spoke to at least two million people at Har Sinai. And what does he claim? He doesn’t claim that, no. He claims he came out of his tent where Allah spoke to him privately. Who was there to testify for that? Not one person! And therefore the Rambam calls him the משוגע who came out of the desert. And אותו האיש, who testifies for him? He came out of the grave, they say. He had techiyas hameisim. You know who testifies? Two harlots were present. Two zonos – they testified that he came out of the grave.


It’s well-known, it’s documented, the encounter that the Ramban had with the King of Spain. He was confronted by the king who wanted to force the Ramban to admit that Christianity was true. Now, the Ramban was caught in a tight place there, in the presence of a great public and he had to answer. The king said you must accept Christianity. So the Ramban said: “I’m willing to accept. But under one condition. The Torah was given to us in the presence of an entire nation. So if Hakadosh Baruch Hu will come once more and address our entire nation and tell us that He abolished our Torah, then I’m willing”. And the king didn’t answer anything. There is nothing to answer. The Ramban won the debate but he had to leave the country though. That’s how it was in those days. If you win the debate  against the king, you have to leave the country.

Now the Rambam quotes from Shir Hashirim (7:1) שובי שובי השולמית  – “Come back to us you perfect one.” What’s it talking about in that possuk? The שולמית, is the perfect nation that is looking for Hashem. We once had Hashem with us openly. We could see Him. In the Midbar, every day we saw the ענני הכבוד. We saw the שכינה once upon a time. But then the שכינה went into hiding. ואנכי הסתיר אסתיר את פני מכם, I’ll hide My face from you (Devarim 31:18). So now we’re wandering around looking for Hashem.

We’re looking for Hashem. ישמח לב מבקשי השם (Tehillim 105:3). We should be happy that we’re the ones who are seeking Hashem. But we’re not done yet. We’re still seeking. We’re looking for Hashem and we say הוא ישמיענו ברחמיו שנית לעיני כל חי. We’re waiting once more to hear that voice again like we heard at Har Sinai (Kedusha Mussaf).  ישקני מנשיקות פיהו – “Let Him kiss us once more with the kisses of His mouth – the way He kissed us at the Har Sinai (Shir Hashirim 1:2).  So we’re seeking Hashem. We want to be closer to Him.


So the nations say to us שובי שובי השולמית, come back to us. Run away from your quest, from what you’re looking for. We have it already; we have what you’re looking for. So the Rambam said a משל- there’s a beautiful woman and there are wicked men who are trying to persuade her, to seduce her, and they’re giving her hopes that they’ll make her great if she’ll come with them.

So the wicked nations are saying to us שובי שובי, “Come over to us. We have it all; we’ll show it to you, happiness.” ונחזה בך, “We foresee great things for you.” Come with us, we foresee great things for you. You’ll be in גן עדן, together with אותו האיש! Only they don’t know but he’s in Gehenim, that’s where he is. You can tell that to a goy by the way, in case he starts up and begins missionizing with you.

And that’s how it’s going to be. All the nations promising you heaven will go join him eventually, what a heaven they’ll have – ah glick oif columbus. שובי שובי השולמית ונחזה בך  “We foresee great things for you,” they try to tell us. So the שולמית answers מה תחזו בשולמית – “What can you foresee for us?” Can you foresee for us what we once saw already? כמחולת המחניים, “Like that great gathering at Har Sinai?” Will you foresee anything like that for us?

That’s a very important principle here. Nobody in the world, no nation had ever claimed that their entire nation has heard the voice of their deity speaking to them. Nobody ever said that. At least, let them claim that. No, that’s too much for them to claim, because people will say, “You know it’s not so. You can’t pull the wool over our eyes.”

And therefore Hakadosh Baruch Hu wrote in the Torah, the very last words in the Torah tell us that it was done לעיני כל ישראל. These are the last words in the Chumash. Everything was done לעיני כל ישראל. These are very important words. Everybody saw what happened.


Once a Rosh Yeshiva was talking. It was in America. A Rosh Yeshiva came from Europe and he was talking to American boys. And I was there; I was listening. So an American boy asked him, “Can we prove what happened in the days of old? What’s the proof?” So the Rosh Yeshiva asked him, “Do you believe in George Washington?” The boy said, yes. “Did you see him?” No, he never saw him. Did you see anybody who saw him? No.

How many people saw George Washington when he was alive? Maybe 10,000 people at most. A million people didn’t see him. When George Washington was alive, nobody in Poland knew about him, nobody in Africa knew about him. Nobody knew a George Washington. Even today, go to Africa, they never heard of him! In America they talk about him a little bit, but in other countries who knows about George Washington? In Poland, they don’t know about George Washington.


When you’re asked however: How many people were present at Har Sinai? At least two million. How many people know about Moshe Rabeinu? Millions! All the Mohammedans believe that there was a Moshe Rabeinu and a Matan Torah. All Muslims believe that Hashem gave the Torah at Har Sinai. There’s no question about it. It states openly in the Koran. All the Christians believe that Hashem gave the Torah to the Jewish nation. It’s in the New Testament openly, they all believe in it. So the whole civilized world believes that the Torah was given to us. The whole civilized world admits it!

And therefore the Rambam says גדלהו על כל גדולה, “Talk about Ma’amad Har Sinai and make it the most important subject of your conversations at all times.” Not only on Shavuos. All the time!

And the Torah says (Devarim 4:9) השמר לך  be careful. ושמור נפשך מאד and guard yourself very much. What about? פן תשכח את הדברים אשר ראו עיניך, perhaps you’ll forget the thing that your eyes saw at Har Sinai. Now, we’re transgressing this every day, we’re forgetting. Don’t forget what took place at Har Sinai! והודעת לבניך ולבני בניך – “You should make it known to your children and to your grandchildren!” Talk about it! And talk about it more and more.


Now, this brings us to a great subject that is one of the secrets for achieving success in this foundation of Matan Torah. And that is the subject of being imbued with a confidence, a strong emunah, that all the nations of the world are all sheker v’chazav, and only with us is the emes. And that subject is as follows:

The Gemara says כל בי עשרה שכינתא שריא, when ten Jews come together, the שכינה rests on them (Sanhedrin 39a). So you’ll say because a Jew is ממלכת כהנים וגוי קדוש. So when ten kedoshim come together we understand that the shechinah should rest on them. Now, I’m going to tell you a chiddush in this maamar. Not to contradict the idea of the kedusha, but a different idea in addition to that.


The Gemara (Kesubos 17a) discusses the obligations, לא עלינו ולא עליכם, at the time of a funeral. And the following question is posed:“How many people would be enough to honor the deceased at the levaya?” So the Gemara says ששים רבוא, six hundred thousand. Why so many? The Gemara says נטילתה כנתינתה; the taking away of the Torah from a man when he dies has to be like when the Torah was given. That’s a remarkable statement. When a man dies he loses the Torah. במתים חפשי, he is now free of mitzvos (Tehillim 88:6 -Niddah 61b). And that man can be covered by shatnez. He no longer has any issurim on him. He lost the Torah.

Now in order to demonstrate how great the loss is, you need ששים ריבוא people to come and participate. What’s the proof that you need ששים רבוא? Because at the giving of the Torah there were ששים רבוא. Now that’s a queer thing. At the giving of the Torah you needed ששים רבוא because they all wanted to hear the word of Hashem. They all wanted to be mekabel the Torah. But when the Torah is taken away, why do you need ששים רבוא? But this maamar reveals to us a new aspect. Another aspect why we needed ששים רבוא at Matan Torah.


The fact that you saw so many other Jews who were accepting the Torah at that time made a tremendous impression on each one of them.  You weren’t alone.  איש את רעהו יעזורו, “Each one helps his fellow man, ולאחיו יאמר חזק, “and he says chazak! he gives encouragement to his neighbor.” (Yeshaya 41:6) The fact that there were so many Jews who were mekabel the Torah, caused each one of them to be more convinced of the necessity of taking the Torah forever and ever. עלינו ועל בנינו ועל זרענו forever and ever.

The numbers that were present had a tremendous effect. Imagine if today you could get together ששים רבוא  – that was only the men – it was two million all together. At least two million people will get together, and they’re all mikabel the Torah. I think Moshiach would maybe come. It would be such a revolution that the whole world would be shaken up! Goyim would run to be misgayer. It would be earth shaking!

The effect on each one was so powerful, because everybody shouted נעשה ונשמע- everybody shouted! אמרו כאחד – “They said it together.” Everybody said the same promise, the same kabbalah, with the same dedication and devotion. And they meant it forever and ever. It went into their blood and it changed them from the top to the bottom. It changed their nature, it changed their neshamos, it changed their genes forever. It was a tremendous experience!

That’s the great success in the  ribui of maaminim. If you have people who are together with you, it causes you to have much more loyalty, much more steadfastness, much more strength.


Now when you have ten Jews all united all with one purpose, all wanting  to serve Hashem together, it’s a chizuk. It’s not a tremendous chizuk like Maamad Har Sinai was, but still it’s something. Ten Jews coming together? It’s a ribui, it’s a chizuk! So Hashem says: That chizuk causes the shechina to rest on you. Don’t think it’s a small thing. When you’re more confident in the shechina, when you have more emunah in the shechina, more aware, then the shechina comes and rests on you.

And therefore the gemara says שובה השם רבבות אלפי ישראל.  Moshe Rabeinu says: “Come rest your shechinah Hashem on the thousands of ten thousands” (Bamidbar 10:36). That’s two times ten thousand and two times a thousand. So the Gemara (Yevamos 64a) says, from here we see that the shechina rests on 22,000 of Yisroel. That’s a different kind of shechina. If you could find 22,000 of Yisroel that come together at one time, then a different shechina comes on them. Because he sees so many people. Each one is fortified, you become oifgelebt!  22,000 frum Jews all together! It’s a tremendous encouragement, a tremendous chizuk. So Hakadosh Baruch Hu says if that’s the case, if you have the spirit in you, if you’re excited about Me, then I’ll give you more spirit, and the shechina rests on them.

The Ramchal says that when 600,000 Jews came together; so Hakodosh Boruch Hu said: Now, I can come down on Har Sinai. וירד ה’ על הר סיני (Shemos 19:20). Now I can descend. Hashem came down because there were 600,000 – just because there were 600,000 that’s why Hashem  came down on Har Sinai. That number brought them to a certain degree of enthusiasm, of spiritual strength. And now they were so convinced, and so enthusiastic that Hakadosh Baruch Hu said, “If that’s the case, then I’m going to show Myself to you”.וידבר אלוקים את כל הדברים האלה לאמר: אנכי השם אלוקיך.  And Hashem began speaking to them, just because there were 600,000!

Now, when a man passes away, a frum man passes away we want to understand how great is the loss. So the Gemara says that you need 600,000 Jews at the levaya in order to demonstrate how great is the loss of Torah. To lose the ability to learn Torah, to lose the opportunity to become successful in Awareness of Hashem, that’s a terrible loss. Up till the last minute you could learn Torah. Up  to the last minute you could do the mitzvos of the Torah. And now it came to an end. It’s over. So even 600,000 Jews is not too much to come to his levaya to show what a great loss has taken place. It’s not overdoing it. כנתינתה כך נטילתה. At the time of  the giving of the Torah, 600,000 Jews were necessary to create that spirit of understanding and impress upon us what a great gift was being given to us at that time. And so too at a levaya, the Gemara says that the great number of Jews present, impresses upon those there, to appreciate the loss of the great opportunity to serve Hashem.


So now we learn that it’s important to have a big number of frum Jews around us. The more you have Jews who demonstrate that they are loyal to Hashem and to His Torah, the easier it is for you to be mischazek, to strengthen yourself, in your emunah. Not because there are arguments. You can always find arguments to show how ridiculous all the theories of the nations are. Even if you’re one Jew by yourself, and you’re living let’s say, in China. A frum Jew in China, he could easily show how ridiculous Christianity is. He could bring proofs to show how Islam is nothing and nothing. He could show how evolution is ah pusta chalom, empty dreams. But in order to have the spirit of enthusiasm, it’s important to live among frum Jews. A very important lesson. And we shouldn’t disdain the effect of others on us.

There’s a woman who wanted to move. I said “Where does your son go, to which yeshiva?” So she tells me that he goes to Ateret Torah. Ateret Torah is a very great institution. I asked her, “Where are you going to move?” “I want to move to West Orange.” Oyyyy! West Orange!? What kind of environment will your son have? “No, we’re Orthodox Jews!” she says, “We’ll never give up our orthodoxy.” No, no, that’s a terrible mistake. That’s what you hope, but you should know that once you move away from a frum neighborhood where you have many frum Jews, you’re not the same person anymore. As soon as you move away, you’re already a changed person.

That’s an ikar – to always make sure to be among many of our people. And therefore Moshe Rabbeinu said שובה השם – “Come to rest Hashem.” Where do You come to rest? On רבבות אלפי ישראל, where there are “ten thousands and thousands” of Yisroel. Because each one is so full of a fire because of the numbers – the power that numbers give. That’s a very important point what you’re hearing now.


It says נדיבי עמים נאספו, “The great ones of our nation; the princes of our nation, are assembled together.” עם אלקי אברהם, “they are the people of the G-d of Avraham.”  כי לאלקים מגיני ארץ “Because when all the shields of the world are for Elokim,” when the great men, all the wealthy men, all the prince’s, they  all come together to show that they’re for Elokim, then מאד נעלה, that’s when “Hashem becomes exceedingly elevated” (Tehillim 47:10). When a rich man comes to shul in the evening to learn, it’s a kiddush Hashem! When a poor man comes in, he has nothing else to do! He comes in, it’s also something. But when the wealthy man comes in; he’s a powerful man, and everybody knows that the rich man is a chacham and a capable person, and he sits down in front of the Gemara to learn the dvar Hashem, that’s a kiddush Hashem. And so, when he comes into the shul, it’s a big encouragement.

The Gemara says in Mesichta Sukkah (29a-29b): מפני מה נכסי בעלי בתים נמסרין למלכות – Why is it that wealthy people sometimes become poor? And the gemara says that it’s because they didn’t use their influence to bolster up Yahadus. A wealthy man should not think that his wealth is just money alone. It’s much more than  that. His power, his influence, can be put to good use for the benefit of Yahadus. And by doing that, he’s utilizing his position among the people. So כי לאלקים מגיני ארץ, when all the shields of the land are for Elokim, all the wealthy people, the prince, anybody who’s important speaks up for Elokim, then מאד נעלה, then Hashem becomes even more exalted. Hakadosh Baruch Hu doesn’t need anybody’s help. He doesn’t need to be exalted. But it’s in our own minds, that’s where we have to exalt Him. And our own minds need enthusiasm and encouragement. And when we see so many people especially the leaders, the important people, they all come together to serve Hashem מאד נעלה, He becomes more and more elevated because of that.

ויהי בישורון מלך, When did Hakadosh Baruch Hu become a melech? בהתאסף ראשי עם, when the people come together, all the leaders come together (Devarim 33:5). Imagine the olden days. The king came to the Beis Hamikdash to bring korbanos. When the king came all the princes came. All dressed in their wealthy garments. And everybody saw that the king and the royal house bowed down to Hashem and they all fell down on the ground with all the people. It was a kiddush Hashem! Everybody became frummer and frummer as a result.

ויהי בישורון מלך, Hashem became a king in Yeshurun, בהתאסף ראשי עם יחד שבטי ישראל, all together. When the  שבטי ישראל came together there was a tremendous kiddush Hashem. Do you know why? Hashem came down with His shechina on them, just because they had more fire in them now. And the fire was a result of seeing more frum Jews around them.


And that’s one of the reasons why it says שלוש פעמים בשנה יראה כל זכרך את פני השם (Devarim 16: 16). Three times a year all men had to go up to Yerushalayim . You know what that meant? Everybody came to Yerushalayim to show themselves to Hashem. There was shevet Reuven, Shimon, every shevet was there. Don, Naftoli, all of them! It was a kiddush Hashem, a tremendous encouragement. By seeing that alone, without any kind of sevaros, without any kind of logic, any kind of persuasion. You saw the Klal Yisroel, all were unanimous in serving Hashem. It had a tremendous effect on every one of them. We look back what we once had and we grieve over that great loss.

Of course, let’s say they all come together and see the Rebbe making Hoshanos. I once went to see the Satmar Rav, the old Satmar Rav zichrono livracha on Hoshana Rabbah. The place was packed, it was jam packed with people and the Hoshanos were four hours! Kiddush Hashem, a great crowd of people, kiddush Hashem! You don’t have to be a philosopher only learning sefarim. Just seeing so many frum Jews for hours and hours is enough to have a profound influence.

And you can go to other places. When the Agudas Yisroel made a siyum, twenty thousand Jews came. It knocked the eyes out of the New York Times. It hurt them to no end. Very good! Even more than an eye should be knocked out. It was a kiddush Hashem. Twenty thousand Jews at a Siyum Hashas!

When the Belzer made a chasuna, it was a tremendous chasuna, a royal convention – bigger than a convention. All frum Jews, all wearing shtreimelach, it was a kiddush Hashem. Think of this idea. Each one went away from that chasuna with a new chizuk, with a new kind of loyalty.


And therefore it’s so important when Jews demonstrate in the street that they are frum Jews. You walk with a black hat in the street, a kiddush Hashem. The more black hats, more frum Jewish children with yarmulkes, more frum Jewish women pushing baby carriages, two inside the carriage and five running alongside the carriage—kiddush Hashem!

A reporter came from the New York Times to Brooklyn. He said, “There are so many baby carriages in Brooklyn.”That’s what an impression it made on him; his heart hurt him when he saw that. In Manhattan there are no baby carriages. Gays don’t have baby carriages.

And so it’s a kiddush Hashem when you see a great truck almost a block long, with the big words chalav Yisroel. Kiddush Hashem! And so the more we show our presence, the more  we have big families, kein yirbu, the bigger kiddush Hashem it is. When the yeshivos close down on Friday and the buses start rolling down. Twenty buses from this yeshiva and twenty from that yeshiva. All over the town, buses full of yeshiva boys and yeshiva girls are riding home. Baruch Hashem! kein yirbu!

You know what that means? A tremendous chizuk. You may not admit it. You’re a philosopher, you’re a chacham, you want to read the Kuzari, you want to read the Chovos Halevavos. Fine.But this is more important than anything else. And that’s why Matan Torah when there were ששים רבוא present, then וירד ה’ על הר סיני. Because, the people themselves became so mechuzak, so strong when they saw everybody together. יחד שבטי ישראל, all together.

Now,  we should not ignore this principle. And we should know that whenever you go to a place where you see a big number of Jews, you’re going to come back not the same person anymore.

Now the effect of a rabbim is very important to counteract this great nisayon of being מעט מכל העמים, of being the smallest of all the nations. And that’s why Jews should always live together in the most densely populated frum neighborhoods.


At Matan Torah everybody saw the truthfulness of the Torah. They saw that Moshe was Emes and his Torah was Emes. Because at Har Sinai Hashem spoke to Moshe, and everybody heard Hashem speak to Moshe.

Now this attitude that they gained at Har Sinai was the most precious of all the gifts, more important than the actual Kabbalas Hatorah itself. More important than learning each mitzvah separately. משה אמת ותורתו אמת, that’s what we have to gain from Shavuos. Moshe is אמת ותורתו אמת. And these words are important for us to say at all times.


Now we’ll tell the story, everybody knows the story in Bava Basra (74a). There was a group of people traveling in the wilderness, in the Sinai desert. And they came to a certain place where they were told that here is where the ground opened up and swallowed Korach. They were told that  if they would stay there, so after a little while, they would see Korach too. Because it’s like a pot where they’re all boiling, they’re all boiling in Gehinnom. It’s a vision, a nevuah – they’re all boiling in gehenim. And when they would look down into the ground they would see how they’re boiling in Gehenim.

Now when things are boiling in a pot, sometimes they go to the bottom and sometimes they rise to the top. That’s what boiling is; things are in motion, not always in one position. So in Gehenim, sometimes Korach is at the bottom and sometimes the boiling of Gehenim brings him to the surface. If you wait long enough you’ll see Korach.

So they stood there near that opening and finally Korach appeared. And he was shouting at the top of his voice with a broken heart. He was shouting משה אמת ותורתו אמת. Again and again and again and again he was shouting these words as his heart was breaking. Now, why was he shouting these words? Because Korach knew that these words are the words he should have said when he was alive! He now knew that this was his greatest mistake! Now, Korach didn’t deny Matan Torah. But Korach had a theory that Moshe Rabeinu had  found favor with Hashem and Hashem was therefore granting him his requests. He didn’t fully understand that משה אמת ותורתו אמת while he was still in this world. Had Korach understood to say משה אמת ותורתו אמת, it would have saved his neshama.

Now, imagine this. ותפתח הארץ את פיה – The earth opened up its mouth and Korach began to fall in (Bamidbar 16:32). He’s falling but he’s still alive. As he’s falling, suppose he would have shouted משה אמת ותורתו אמת. Then he would have fallen into Gehenim. He would have been saved; he would’ve been saved forever. He might have needed to take a detour to Gehenim, but he would’ve been saved. But, he didn’t say it. He clenched his teeth together and refused to say it and he fell into Gehenim forever. And now, he’s tearing his guts out. He’s tearing his heart apart. He knows, now he knows the truth and that’s what’s hurting him. He knows that this is why he’s  in Gehenim; that’s why fire is burning him up. If he could only say these words now, with his own free will, that would be his salvation. It would be his yeshuah.


The same is also with Bilaam. The Gemara (Gittin 57a) says that they showed Bilaam to somebody in a vision and Bilaam was asked:“Who is great in the next world?” So Bilaam said “The Am Yisroel, no question about it.” So they asked “Should we join the Am Yisroel?” And  Bilaam said, No! לא תדרוש שלומם וטובתם כל הימים – ”Do not seek peace or goodness for them; do not seek to make things easy for them, ever”.

Now, of course, Bilaam knows better now. He knows better. He knows that the only salvation for a person to get Olam Haboh, is to be part of the Am Yisroel, to be attached to Hashem’s people. That’s the only way! כל ישראל יש להם חלק לעולם הבא; it’s the Am Yisroel who are assured of a portion in the World to Come. And Bilaam said it when he was alive too. He knew it. He said תמות נפשי מות ישרים ותהי אחריתי כמוהו, -”I want to have the end that they have” (Bamidbar 23:10).  What do you think Bilaam meant? That he should merit to be buried in a Jewish cemetery? Is that what he meant? That’s not what he was saying! He knew that the Next World was for the Am Yisroel, and that’s the end that he desired, that’s the end he was speaking of.

But when it came to l’maaseh, when it came down to it, he couldn’t say those words. Now in the next world Bilaam knows that this is his Gehenim. If Bilaam could  change his language and say “Yes! Join them!” then he would have been able to come out of Gehenim. But he can’t change it. Once you die with a certain wicked error, that error stays with you forever and that error is your Gehenim. You don’t need any other Gehenim. That’s the fire of Gehenim. The ta’us you have in your mind, the flawed thinking itself, that is the fire of Gehenim.


And so, we’re alive now and we all have to say משה אמת ותורתו אמת! That’s the purpose of Matan Torah. And the fact that there were so many people who were present to reinforce it, made it so much more strong, so much more effective. It makes our משה אמת ותורתו אמת that much stronger.

And that’s why Dovid Hamelech when he spoke about death, he called it  יורדי דומה – “They who go down into silence” (Tehillim 115:7). The end is called silence. Now we understand that there are good things that you can talk. You can talk divrei Torah, divrei tefillah; certainly it’s a good thing. But the most important of all things that you can speak is that you can say the emes. As long as you are alive you must be saying the  emes as much and as often as you can. As long as you have the ability to speak you can say these great words, משה אמת ותורתו אמת. And when the time comes for dumah, for silence, that’s the greatest loss of all.


And therefore, when we talk about what was the great gift of Matan Torah; certainly many things were given to us. Torah is many things, not merely one thing. But we should always remember that the chizuk we received at that time when the klal Yisroel was all together, כי לאלקים מגיני ארץ, everybody was united,יחד שבטי ישראל, and they heard the voice of Hashem. At that time there came in them a spirit that changed them and they became the eidim.  “You are my witnesses says Hashem” (Yeshaya 43:9). We’re now the witnesses. The klal Yisroel are witnesses forever and ever. We say, “Yes! משה אמת ותורתו אמת. No matter what the world says, we’re not going to bend even one iota. Moshe Rabeinu is true and the Torah that he brought down to us is true! That’s our testimony to the world. We saw it with our eyes and we’ll continue to testify forever! And the fact that we are the witnesses, Hashem says, is why we’ll always be around. Because our job in this world is to testify to this greatest of all principles, the truth of Hashem and His Torah, forever and ever.

He Came Shining – Tape # S-15
TAPE # S-15

He Came Shining

We will attempt to study a piece of Gemara together. It’s in Mesichta Avoda Zara on :ב. If you have an Ein Yankiv, you’ll look in the beginning of Mesichta Avoda Zara, and you’ll see our Gemara.

The Gemara tells of a vision of prophecy, regarding an event that will take place באחרית הימים, at the End of Days, when finally הקדוש ברוך הוא will come in all of His glory and will appear to all of mankind. And there will be a final reckoning, a summation of history. And at that time Hashem will take a sefer Torah, so to speak – it’s a figure of speech – and hold it to Himself, and He will proclaim the following: “All those who have performed acts of virtue throughout history should now come and claim their reward.” And as the nations will come, one by one, הקדוש ברוך הוא points out to them that the sole purpose of their existence was selfishness. It wasn’t virtue at all. They lived only for themselves.

And the prophetic vision continues: Hashem then points to one nation that was persecuted throughout all the centuries. The nation that suffered persecution because they were loyal to the Torah that הקדוש ברוך הוא gave to them. And Hashem says, “They, the עם ישראל, are going to take the reward of the rest of the world.”

Now, the nations at that time, are going to say something. And actually we can say it for them, even today. And it is with those words that we will begin our subject.

The Gemara says, אומרים לפניו -” The nations will say to Hashem,” רבונו של עולם – “Master of the World,” כלום נתתה לנו ולא קבלנוה – “Did You give us the Torah and we refused to accept it? You gave it to the Jews, and not to us. So why blame us for not having a Torah?”

Now the Gemara immediately interrupts this argument of the gentiles: “What do you mean that הקדוש ברוך הוא did not offer them the Torah? ומי מצי למימר הכי – How could they say such a thing?! והכתיב – Isn’t it written, ויאמר משה – Moshe Rabeinu made the following statement in וזאת הברכה, this week’s Parsha: השם מסיני בא – “Hashem came from Sinai,” וזרח משעיר למו – “And He was shining to [the Am Yisroel] from Seir.” הופיע מהר פארן – “Hashem revealed Himself from the Mountain of Paran.” And it also states: אלוקה מתימן יבוא – “Hashem came from Teiman” – that’s another nation of the אומות העולם.

So the question the Gemara asks is מאי בעי בשעיר ומאי בעי בפארן – “What was the Presence of Hashem doing in these gentile countries of Seir and Paran and Teiman? What was הקדוש ברוך הוא doing in those nations that you say, ‘He came shining to the Jewish people from Seir.’ That He came shining from Paran and from Teiman.” The various places mentioned means to tell us that He came to the Am Yisroel from all sides. From all the nations, the Glory of Hashem came to the Jewish people. What does that mean? Does הקדוש ברוך הוא have to come from the nations to give His glory to the Jewish people?

So the Gemara answers that we learn from these p’sukim the following: מלמד – “This teaches us,” שהחזירה הקדוש ברוך הוא על כל אומה ולשון – “that Hakodosh Baruch Hu carried the Torah around to every people and to every language,” ולא קיבלוה – “And every nation refused it.”

Now we’ll soon understand this in a logical way. Every nation, very civilization, refused to accept the Torah. עד שבא אצל ישראל וקיבלוה – “Until Hashem came to the Am Yisroel and they accepted it.” Now, we’ll soon come back and explain that, because the way people understand it is too juvenile. To take it literally that someone went to the nations with a sefer Torah, before even Moshe Rabeinu and his people looked at it, and it was displayed to the gentiles and they turned it down?! That’s the way people ordinarily understand, but that we won’t say. We’ll explain it soon.

But the principle that we learn from here is that the nations of the world did, in some way, reject the Torah. So what are they protesting now that it’s not their fault because the Torah wasn’t offered to them? They can’t claim that! It was offered to them!

So the Gemara says, אלא הכי קאמרי – “This is what the nations will say:” כלום כפית עלינו הר כגיגית ולא קבלנוה – “Did you force is to accept it, and we refused?” That means the following: If we didn’t accept it, it was because You didn’t use enough persuasion on us. כמו שעשית לישראל – “like You did to the Nation of Israel.” Because when it came to the Am Yisroel , You actually forced them to accept the Torah. You forced it upon them, and therefore what credit do they deserve?

“And how do I know that they were forced?” the Gemara asks. דכתיב ויתיצבו בתחתית ההר – “They positioned themselves at the foot of the mountain” (Shemos 19:17). The people of Yisroel encamped around the mountain of Sinai. And they positioned themselves at the foot of the mountain. But תחתית can also mean “underneath.” How was their encampment underneath the mountain?

So the Gemara says, אמר רב דימי בר חמה מלמד – “Rav Dimi bar Chama says that these words teach us the following,” שכפה הקדוש ברוך הוא הר כגיגית על ישראל ואמר להם, אם אתם מקבלין את התורה מוטב, ואם לאו שם תהא קבורתכם- “Hakodosh Boruch Hu raised up the mountain like an overturned barrel over the people of Yisroel, and he said to them: ‘If you accept the Torah, good. And if not, here will be your grave.’ ” And that’s why they accepted the Torah.

And that’s why the nations have an argument. “You didn’t do that to us,” they argued. “If you had shown us such methods of persuasion like you did to the Jews, we also would have accepted the Torah.”

Now let’s go back and understand the words that we just heard. Because the words of the sages are shorthand. They embody important principles in a few words. And sometimes they use figures of speech that are only “picture-words,” in order to describe ideas.

So we will explain as follows: There was once a woman who lived in a fairly sumptuous apartment in Flatbush. She had six rooms, two bedrooms. They had two garages, as well as other accessories for comfortable living. But she had visited a relative someplace in Long Island that lived in style. And when she returned, she was full of dissatisfaction. The rooms are too few, and too small. That’s how she felt.

So her husband is listening to her complaints, and he says, “Let’s stop talking about this for now because my mother is coming over to visit with us for a while.” So the mother-in-law came over to visit, and she remained a couple of weeks. At the end of the two weeks, the mother finally left. And then the wife said to her husband, “Isn’t it nice how roomy it is in our house now and how comfortable our home is now?”

I’ll tell you another story, and then we’ll get down to our subject. We’ll go to a small town in Europe. And there was a woman who complained that the one-room shack wasn’t big enough for the family. So the husband, “You know it’s cold weather now outside. Let’s take in the goats and chickens into the house. It’s a pity on them, צער בעלי חיים.” And they were there for two days. And finally, after the two days, after the family had almost suffocated, he took the livestock and poultry out of the house again. And now the house became as spacious as a palace. There was so much room, and even enough left over to spare.

So what does that mean for us? Now, when Hakodosh Boruch Hu wanted to visit His people, He didn’t have to come sideways, via Paran, or via Seir, or by means of Teiman. He could have come from above, straight to the עם ישראל. That’s the way that would befit Him to come. So why the detour to Seir?

And the answer is this. It is the contrast between the עם ישראל and the rest of the nations that makes our greatness even more evident. Like the lady who has enough room in her home, but she only realizes it when she contrasts it with the suffocation she felt when living with the goats, or with her mother-in-law. If Hashem would have come from above, from the world of spirit, the world of purity and angels, and He’d come straight down and view of people of flesh and blood – even the best people – He would be cognizant of human faults. Even the best people sometimes have squabbles. And the best people have human weaknesses. And so Hakodosh Boruch Hu first went to view the nations of the world. And He took a good look at them first. He visited with Seir. And after the Presence of Hashem was in Seir for some time, to see the Edomites who dwelled there, it was then that He came from Seir to His people, and He was shining. זרח משעיר למו – “From Seir, He came shining to His people.” Now, why was He shining at us?

In Seir, He saw men who were beating their wives. That was the standard practice in Seir. Every man, every week – at least once a week – he would give his wife a good beating. It was a principle in those Eastern countries that the lady of the house should be put in her place. And from time to time she would forget, so there were frequent reminders. He would be her up. They were wild fellows – and it was on principle.

There was still an old Arabian custom that they inherited from their “good old days,” that when an woman spoke fresh to her husband, he locked her in the woodshed. It was an Arabian custom and it was sanctioned by Mohammedan law, by Sharia law. To teach her good manners towards her husband, he would lock her in the woodshed, and the duration of her stay depended on his judgement, his whims. Sometime he got busy and forgot. And by the time he remembered and returned, she had already been humbled. She had been taught the lesson.

And so when Hakodosh Boruch Hu took a look at Har Seir, and He saw this – and other similar practices as well – so, וזרח משעיר למו – “He was shining from Seir.” He didn’t just “come” from Seir to the Am Yisroel. He was shining upon our nation from Seir. He came now to a nation of equity. A nation of decency. A nation where people honored each other. The women looked up to their husbands, and the husbands honored their wives. That’s a Jewish principle. אוקירו לנשייכו – “Honor your wives.” That’s a Torah principle. And אשתך גוצא – “If your wife is short,” גחין ולחיש לה – “Bend over and whisper to her.” What does that mean? If her seichel is short, if she doesn’t have enough intelligence, don’t despise her. Speak to her according to her own level. And sometimes the wife has to speak down to the husband’s level as well. But whatever it is, the עם ישראל respects the mother of the house. The wives and the mothers are the builders of our nation.

And that’s a Torah principle. Once a husband contracts to marry a woman, it’s a ברית, it’s a covenant, and it’s a covenant with a promise of respect. Like it says in the kesuvah, דמוקרין לנשייהו בקושטא – “They honor their wives in truth.” It’s written in the kesuvah. It’s a good idea, by the way, to read the kesuvah and know what you committed yourself to. It’s important to translate the kesuvah in a language that the choson understands. דמוקרין לנשייהו בקושטא – “They honor their wives in truth.”

And therefore, when Hakodosh Boruch Hu came to Seir, and He viewed their ceremony of putting the wife in her place, and then He came to His people, He was shining to them.

But what do we need Seir for? Let’s go to modern London. London 1890. There was a writer, a Jewish writer, who was describing Whitechapel, the Jewish district in London. And he describes it like this. Saturday night in Whitechapel, he says, was like a little island of decency in a world of moral corruption. From all sides, he writes, from all the gentile quarters, you could hear the wails of women being beaten. Because Saturday night was drinking night. They received their pay on Saturday, and everybody went straight to the pub. And that’s where they spent a good deal of the money before bringing any of it home.

And then, when they were well-inebriated, they went home and they practiced up their fisticuffs on the closest object they found – their wives. And he writes that on all sides you could hear the wails of beaten women. That’s how Israel Zangwill describes London in his times, in 1890. The drunkenness and debauchery of London! And don’t think that London is any better today. In some ways it’s much worse.

And in those days, they didn’t have any sort of society for prevention of cruelty to women. And no society for prevention of cruelty to children either. They did though, already have a society for prevention of cruelty to animals. That, they had. Prevention of cruelty to animals! Now that’s a civilized country! But not for the women and children. Oh no, women and children had nobody to speak up for them, because it was a self-understood natural law in London that you have to put them in their place, either with a fist. And if you wrenched off the leg of a table, nobody would criticize you.

And in ancient Seir, that’s what the Sh’china saw. And when He came to the עם ישראל after visiting Seir, it says וזרח משעיר למו – “He was shining from Seir to the Am Yisroel.” And then Hakodosh Boruch Hu decided that it’s not enough. And He took a visit to Paran. You know who was in Paran? In Paran was Yishmael. In Seir, Hashem had found Eisav. Edom, that’s the family of Eisav. And who was in Paran? In Paran was Yishmael. Like it says וישב במדבר פארן, Yishmael dwelt in Paran. And so Hakodosh Boruch Hu visited Seir and Paran and Teiman. He visited all of the civilizations that were around.

We will attempt to study a piece of Gemara together. It’s in Mesichta Avoda Zara on :ב. If you have an Ein Yankiv, you’ll look in the beginning of Mesichta Avoda Zara, and you’ll see our Gemara.

The Gemara tells of a vision of prophecy, regarding an event that will take place באחרית הימים, at the End of Days, when finally הקדוש ברוך הוא will come in all of His glory and will appear to all of mankind. And there will be a final reckoning, a summation of history. And at that time Hashem will take a sefer Torah, so to speak – it’s a figure of speech – and hold it to Himself, and He will proclaim the following: “All those who have performed acts of virtue throughout history should now come and claim their reward.” And as the nations will come, one by one, הקדוש ברוך הוא points out to them that the sole purpose of their existence was selfishness. It wasn’t virtue at all. They lived only for themselves.

And the prophetic vision continues: Hashem then points to one nation that was persecuted throughout all the centuries. The nation that suffered persecution because they were loyal to the Torah that הקדוש ברוך הוא gave to them. And Hashem says, “They, the עם ישראל, are going to take the reward of the rest of the world.”

Now, the nations at that time, are going to say something. And actually we can say it for them, even today. And it is with those words that we will begin our subject.

The Gemara says, אומרים לפניו -” The nations will say to Hashem,” רבונו של עולם – “Master of the World,” כלום נתתה לנו ולא קבלנוה – “Did You give us the Torah and we refused to accept it? You gave it to the Jews, and not to us. So why blame us for not having a Torah?”

Now the Gemara immediately interrupts this argument of the gentiles: “What do you mean that הקדוש ברוך הוא did not offer them the Torah? ומי מצי למימר הכי – How could they say such a thing?! והכתיב – Isn’t it written, ויאמר משה – Moshe Rabeinu made the following statement in וזאת הברכה, this week’s Parsha: השם מסיני בא – “Hashem came from Sinai,” וזרח משעיר למו – “And He was shining to [the Am Yisroel] from Seir.” הופיע מהר פארן – “Hashem revealed Himself from the Mountain of Paran.” And it also states: אלוקה מתימן יבוא – “Hashem came from Teiman” – that’s another nation of the אומות העולם.

So the question the Gemara asks is מאי בעי בשעיר ומאי בעי בפארן – “What was the Presence of Hashem doing in these gentile countries of Seir and Paran and Teiman? What was הקדוש ברוך הוא doing in those nations that you say, ‘He came shining to the Jewish people from Seir.’ That He came shining from Paran and from Teiman.” The various places mentioned means to tell us that He came to the Am Yisroel from all sides. From all the nations, the Glory of Hashem came to the Jewish people. What does that mean? Does הקדוש ברוך הוא have to come from the nations to give His glory to the Jewish people?

So the Gemara answers that we learn from these p’sukim the following: מלמד – “This teaches us,” שהחזירה הקדוש ברוך הוא על כל אומה ולשון – “that Hakodosh Baruch Hu carried the Torah around to every people and to every language,” ולא קיבלוה – “And every nation refused it.”

Now we’ll soon understand this in a logical way. Every nation, very civilization, refused to accept the Torah. עד שבא אצל ישראל וקיבלוה – “Until Hashem came to the Am Yisroel and they accepted it.” Now, we’ll soon come back and explain that, because the way people understand it is too juvenile. To take it literally that someone went to the nations with a sefer Torah, before even Moshe Rabeinu and his people looked at it, and it was displayed to the gentiles and they turned it down?! That’s the way people ordinarily understand, but that we won’t say. We’ll explain it soon.

But the principle that we learn from here is that the nations of the world did, in some way, reject the Torah. So what are they protesting now that it’s not their fault because the Torah wasn’t offered to them? They can’t claim that! It was offered to them!

So the Gemara says, אלא הכי קאמרי – “This is what the nations will say:” כלום כפית עלינו הר כגיגית ולא קבלנוה – “Did you force is to accept it, and we refused?” That means the following: If we didn’t accept it, it was because You didn’t use enough persuasion on us. כמו שעשית לישראל – “like You did to the Nation of Israel.” Because when it came to the Am Yisroel , You actually forced them to accept the Torah. You forced it upon them, and therefore what credit do they deserve?

“And how do I know that they were forced?” the Gemara asks. דכתיב ויתיצבו בתחתית ההר – “They positioned themselves at the foot of the mountain” (Shemos 19:17). The people of Yisroel encamped around the mountain of Sinai. And they positioned themselves at the foot of the mountain. But תחתית can also mean “underneath.” How was their encampment underneath the mountain?

So the Gemara says, אמר רב דימי בר חמה מלמד – “Rav Dimi bar Chama says that these words teach us the following,” שכפה הקדוש ברוך הוא הר כגיגית על ישראל ואמר להם, אם אתם מקבלין את התורה מוטב, ואם לאו שם תהא קבורתכם- “Hakodosh Boruch Hu raised up the mountain like an overturned barrel over the people of Yisroel, and he said to them: ‘If you accept the Torah, good. And if not, here will be your grave.’ ” And that’s why they accepted the Torah.

And that’s why the nations have an argument. “You didn’t do that to us,” they argued. “If you had shown us such methods of persuasion like you did to the Jews, we also would have accepted the Torah.”

Now let’s go back and understand the words that we just heard. Because the words of the sages are shorthand. They embody important principles in a few words. And sometimes they use figures of speech that are only “picture-words,” in order to describe ideas.

So we will explain as follows: There was once a woman who lived in a fairly sumptuous apartment in Flatbush. She had six rooms, two bedrooms. They had two garages, as well as other accessories for comfortable living. But she had visited a relative someplace in Long Island that lived in style. And when she returned, she was full of dissatisfaction. The rooms are too few, and too small. That’s how she felt.

So her husband is listening to her complaints, and he says, “Let’s stop talking about this for now because my mother is coming over to visit with us for a while.” So the mother-in-law came over to visit, and she remained a couple of weeks. At the end of the two weeks, the mother finally left. And then the wife said to her husband, “Isn’t it nice how roomy it is in our house now and how comfortable our home is now?”

I’ll tell you another story, and then we’ll get down to our subject. We’ll go to a small town in Europe. And there was a woman who complained that the one-room shack wasn’t big enough for the family. So the husband, “You know it’s cold weather now outside. Let’s take in the goats and chickens into the house. It’s a pity on them, צער בעלי חיים.” And they were there for two days. And finally, after the two days, after the family had almost suffocated, he took the livestock and poultry out of the house again. And now the house became as spacious as a palace. There was so much room, and even enough left over to spare.

So what does that mean for us? Now, when Hakodosh Boruch Hu wanted to visit His people, He didn’t have to come sideways, via Paran, or via Seir, or by means of Teiman. He could have come from above, straight to the עם ישראל. That’s the way that would befit Him to come. So why the detour to Seir?

And the answer is this. It is the contrast between the עם ישראל and the rest of the nations that makes our greatness even more evident. Like the lady who has enough room in her home, but she only realizes it when she contrasts it with the suffocation she felt when living with the goats, or with her mother-in-law. If Hashem would have come from above, from the world of spirit, the world of purity and angels, and He’d come straight down and view of people of flesh and blood – even the best people – He would be cognizant of human faults. Even the best people sometimes have squabbles. And the best people have human weaknesses. And so Hakodosh Boruch Hu first went to view the nations of the world. And He took a good look at them first. He visited with Seir. And after the Presence of Hashem was in Seir for some time, to see the Edomites who dwelled there, it was then that He came from Seir to His people, and He was shining. זרח משעיר למו – “From Seir, He came shining to His people.” Now, why was He shining at us?

In Seir, He saw men who were beating their wives. That was the standard practice in Seir. Every man, every week – at least once a week – he would give his wife a good beating. It was a principle in those Eastern countries that the lady of the house should be put in her place. And from time to time she would forget, so there were frequent reminders. He would be her up. They were wild fellows – and it was on principle.

There was still an old Arabian custom that they inherited from their “good old days,” that when an woman spoke fresh to her husband, he locked her in the woodshed. It was an Arabian custom and it was sanctioned by Mohammedan law, by Sharia law. To teach her good manners towards her husband, he would lock her in the woodshed, and the duration of her stay depended on his judgement, his whims. Sometime he got busy and forgot. And by the time he remembered and returned, she had already been humbled. She had been taught the lesson.

And so when Hakodosh Boruch Hu took a look at Har Seir, and He saw this – and other similar practices as well – so, וזרח משעיר למו – “He was shining from Seir.” He didn’t just “come” from Seir to the Am Yisroel. He was shining upon our nation from Seir. He came now to a nation of equity. A nation of decency. A nation where people honored each other. The women looked up to their husbands, and the husbands honored their wives. That’s a Jewish principle. אוקירו לנשייכו – “Honor your wives.” That’s a Torah principle. And אשתך גוצא – “If your wife is short,” גחין ולחיש לה – “Bend over and whisper to her.” What does that mean? If her seichel is short, if she doesn’t have enough intelligence, don’t despise her. Speak to her according to her own level. And sometimes the wife has to speak down to the husband’s level as well. But whatever it is, the עם ישראל respects the mother of the house. The wives and the mothers are the builders of our nation.

And that’s a Torah principle. Once a husband contracts to marry a woman, it’s a ברית, it’s a covenant, and it’s a covenant with a promise of respect. Like it says in the kesuvah, דמוקרין לנשייהו בקושטא – “They honor their wives in truth.” It’s written in the kesuvah. It’s a good idea, by the way, to read the kesuvah and know what you committed yourself to. It’s important to translate the kesuvah in a language that the choson understands. דמוקרין לנשייהו בקושטא – “They honor their wives in truth.”

And therefore, when Hakodosh Boruch Hu came to Seir, and He viewed their ceremony of putting the wife in her place, and then He came to His people, He was shining to them.

But what do we need Seir for? Let’s go to modern London. London 1890. There was a writer, a Jewish writer, who was describing Whitechapel, the Jewish district in London. And he describes it like this. Saturday night in Whitechapel, he says, was like a little island of decency in a world of moral corruption. From all sides, he writes, from all the gentile quarters, you could hear the wails of women being beaten. Because Saturday night was drinking night. They received their pay on Saturday, and everybody went straight to the pub. And that’s where they spent a good deal of the money before bringing any of it home.

And then, when they were well-inebriated, they went home and they practiced up their fisticuffs on the closest object they found – their wives. And he writes that on all sides you could hear the wails of beaten women. That’s how Israel Zangwill describes London in his times, in 1890. The drunkenness and debauchery of London! And don’t think that London is any better today. In some ways it’s much worse.

And in those days, they didn’t have any sort of society for prevention of cruelty to women. And no society for prevention of cruelty to children either. They did though, already have a society for prevention of cruelty to animals. That, they had. Prevention of cruelty to animals! Now that’s a civilized country! But not for the women and children. Oh no, women and children had nobody to speak up for them, because it was a self-understood natural law in London that you have to put them in their place, either with a fist. And if you wrenched off the leg of a table, nobody would criticize you.

And in ancient Seir, that’s what the Sh’china saw. And when He came to the עם ישראל after visiting Seir, it says וזרח משעיר למו – “He was shining from Seir to the Am Yisroel.” And then Hakodosh Boruch Hu decided that it’s not enough. And He took a visit to Paran. You know who was in Paran? In Paran was Yishmael. In Seir, Hashem had found Eisav. Edom, that’s the family of Eisav. And who was in Paran? In Paran was Yishmael. Like it says וישב במדבר פארן, Yishmael dwelt in Paran. And so Hakodosh Boruch Hu visited Seir and Paran and Teiman. He visited all of the civilizations that were around.

We will attempt to study a piece of Gemara together. It’s in Mesichta Avoda Zara on :ב. If you have an Ein Yankiv, you’ll look in the beginning of Mesichta Avoda Zara, and you’ll see our Gemara.

The Gemara tells of a vision of prophecy, regarding an event that will take place באחרית הימים, at the End of Days, when finally הקדוש ברוך הוא will come in all of His glory and will appear to all of mankind. And there will be a final reckoning, a summation of history. And at that time Hashem will take a sefer Torah, so to speak – it’s a figure of speech – and hold it to Himself, and He will proclaim the following: “All those who have performed acts of virtue throughout history should now come and claim their reward.” And as the nations will come, one by one, הקדוש ברוך הוא points out to them that the sole purpose of their existence was selfishness. It wasn’t virtue at all. They lived only for themselves.

And the prophetic vision continues: Hashem then points to one nation that was persecuted throughout all the centuries. The nation that suffered persecution because they were loyal to the Torah that הקדוש ברוך הוא gave to them. And Hashem says, “They, the עם ישראל, are going to take the reward of the rest of the world.”

Now, the nations at that time, are going to say something. And actually we can say it for them, even today. And it is with those words that we will begin our subject.

The Gemara says, אומרים לפניו -” The nations will say to Hashem,” רבונו של עולם – “Master of the World,” כלום נתתה לנו ולא קבלנוה – “Did You give us the Torah and we refused to accept it? You gave it to the Jews, and not to us. So why blame us for not having a Torah?”

Now the Gemara immediately interrupts this argument of the gentiles: “What do you mean that הקדוש ברוך הוא did not offer them the Torah? ומי מצי למימר הכי – How could they say such a thing?! והכתיב – Isn’t it written, ויאמר משה – Moshe Rabeinu made the following statement in וזאת הברכה, this week’s Parsha: השם מסיני בא – “Hashem came from Sinai,” וזרח משעיר למו – “And He was shining to [the Am Yisroel] from Seir.” הופיע מהר פארן – “Hashem revealed Himself from the Mountain of Paran.” And it also states: אלוקה מתימן יבוא – “Hashem came from Teiman” – that’s another nation of the אומות העולם.

So the question the Gemara asks is מאי בעי בשעיר ומאי בעי בפארן – “What was the Presence of Hashem doing in these gentile countries of Seir and Paran and Teiman? What was הקדוש ברוך הוא doing in those nations that you say, ‘He came shining to the Jewish people from Seir.’ That He came shining from Paran and from Teiman.” The various places mentioned means to tell us that He came to the Am Yisroel from all sides. From all the nations, the Glory of Hashem came to the Jewish people. What does that mean? Does הקדוש ברוך הוא have to come from the nations to give His glory to the Jewish people?

So the Gemara answers that we learn from these p’sukim the following: מלמד – “This teaches us,” שהחזירה הקדוש ברוך הוא על כל אומה ולשון – “that Hakodosh Baruch Hu carried the Torah around to every people and to every language,” ולא קיבלוה – “And every nation refused it.”

Now we’ll soon understand this in a logical way. Every nation, very civilization, refused to accept the Torah. עד שבא אצל ישראל וקיבלוה – “Until Hashem came to the Am Yisroel and they accepted it.” Now, we’ll soon come back and explain that, because the way people understand it is too juvenile. To take it literally that someone went to the nations with a sefer Torah, before even Moshe Rabeinu and his people looked at it, and it was displayed to the gentiles and they turned it down?! That’s the way people ordinarily understand, but that we won’t say. We’ll explain it soon.

But the principle that we learn from here is that the nations of the world did, in some way, reject the Torah. So what are they protesting now that it’s not their fault because the Torah wasn’t offered to them? They can’t claim that! It was offered to them!

So the Gemara says, אלא הכי קאמרי – “This is what the nations will say:” כלום כפית עלינו הר כגיגית ולא קבלנוה – “Did you force is to accept it, and we refused?” That means the following: If we didn’t accept it, it was because You didn’t use enough persuasion on us. כמו שעשית לישראל – “like You did to the Nation of Israel.” Because when it came to the Am Yisroel , You actually forced them to accept the Torah. You forced it upon them, and therefore what credit do they deserve?

“And how do I know that they were forced?” the Gemara asks. דכתיב ויתיצבו בתחתית ההר – “They positioned themselves at the foot of the mountain” (Shemos 19:17). The people of Yisroel encamped around the mountain of Sinai. And they positioned themselves at the foot of the mountain. But תחתית can also mean “underneath.” How was their encampment underneath the mountain?

So the Gemara says, אמר רב דימי בר חמה מלמד – “Rav Dimi bar Chama says that these words teach us the following,” שכפה הקדוש ברוך הוא הר כגיגית על ישראל ואמר להם, אם אתם מקבלין את התורה מוטב, ואם לאו שם תהא קבורתכם- “Hakodosh Boruch Hu raised up the mountain like an overturned barrel over the people of Yisroel, and he said to them: ‘If you accept the Torah, good. And if not, here will be your grave.’ ” And that’s why they accepted the Torah.

And that’s why the nations have an argument. “You didn’t do that to us,” they argued. “If you had shown us such methods of persuasion like you did to the Jews, we also would have accepted the Torah.”

Now let’s go back and understand the words that we just heard. Because the words of the sages are shorthand. They embody important principles in a few words. And sometimes they use figures of speech that are only “picture-words,” in order to describe ideas.

So we will explain as follows: There was once a woman who lived in a fairly sumptuous apartment in Flatbush. She had six rooms, two bedrooms. They had two garages, as well as other accessories for comfortable living. But she had visited a relative someplace in Long Island that lived in style. And when she returned, she was full of dissatisfaction. The rooms are too few, and too small. That’s how she felt.

So her husband is listening to her complaints, and he says, “Let’s stop talking about this for now because my mother is coming over to visit with us for a while.” So the mother-in-law came over to visit, and she remained a couple of weeks. At the end of the two weeks, the mother finally left. And then the wife said to her husband, “Isn’t it nice how roomy it is in our house now and how comfortable our home is now?”

I’ll tell you another story, and then we’ll get down to our subject. We’ll go to a small town in Europe. And there was a woman who complained that the one-room shack wasn’t big enough for the family. So the husband, “You know it’s cold weather now outside. Let’s take in the goats and chickens into the house. It’s a pity on them, צער בעלי חיים.” And they were there for two days. And finally, after the two days, after the family had almost suffocated, he took the livestock and poultry out of the house again. And now the house became as spacious as a palace. There was so much room, and even enough left over to spare.

So what does that mean for us? Now, when Hakodosh Boruch Hu wanted to visit His people, He didn’t have to come sideways, via Paran, or via Seir, or by means of Teiman. He could have come from above, straight to the עם ישראל. That’s the way that would befit Him to come. So why the detour to Seir?

And the answer is this. It is the contrast between the עם ישראל and the rest of the nations that makes our greatness even more evident. Like the lady who has enough room in her home, but she only realizes it when she contrasts it with the suffocation she felt when living with the goats, or with her mother-in-law. If Hashem would have come from above, from the world of spirit, the world of purity and angels, and He’d come straight down and view of people of flesh and blood – even the best people – He would be cognizant of human faults. Even the best people sometimes have squabbles. And the best people have human weaknesses. And so Hakodosh Boruch Hu first went to view the nations of the world. And He took a good look at them first. He visited with Seir. And after the Presence of Hashem was in Seir for some time, to see the Edomites who dwelled there, it was then that He came from Seir to His people, and He was shining. זרח משעיר למו – “From Seir, He came shining to His people.” Now, why was He shining at us?

In Seir, He saw men who were beating their wives. That was the standard practice in Seir. Every man, every week – at least once a week – he would give his wife a good beating. It was a principle in those Eastern countries that the lady of the house should be put in her place. And from time to time she would forget, so there were frequent reminders. He would be her up. They were wild fellows – and it was on principle.

There was still an old Arabian custom that they inherited from their “good old days,” that when an woman spoke fresh to her husband, he locked her in the woodshed. It was an Arabian custom and it was sanctioned by Mohammedan law, by Sharia law. To teach her good manners towards her husband, he would lock her in the woodshed, and the duration of her stay depended on his judgement, his whims. Sometime he got busy and forgot. And by the time he remembered and returned, she had already been humbled. She had been taught the lesson.

And so when Hakodosh Boruch Hu took a look at Har Seir, and He saw this – and other similar practices as well – so, וזרח משעיר למו – “He was shining from Seir.” He didn’t just “come” from Seir to the Am Yisroel. He was shining upon our nation from Seir. He came now to a nation of equity. A nation of decency. A nation where people honored each other. The women looked up to their husbands, and the husbands honored their wives. That’s a Jewish principle. אוקירו לנשייכו – “Honor your wives.” That’s a Torah principle. And אשתך גוצא – “If your wife is short,” גחין ולחיש לה – “Bend over and whisper to her.” What does that mean? If her seichel is short, if she doesn’t have enough intelligence, don’t despise her. Speak to her according to her own level. And sometimes the wife has to speak down to the husband’s level as well. But whatever it is, the עם ישראל respects the mother of the house. The wives and the mothers are the builders of our nation.

And that’s a Torah principle. Once a husband contracts to marry a woman, it’s a ברית, it’s a covenant, and it’s a covenant with a promise of respect. Like it says in the kesuvah, דמוקרין לנשייהו בקושטא – “They honor their wives in truth.” It’s written in the kesuvah. It’s a good idea, by the way, to read the kesuvah and know what you committed yourself to. It’s important to translate the kesuvah in a language that the choson understands. דמוקרין לנשייהו בקושטא – “They honor their wives in truth.”

And therefore, when Hakodosh Boruch Hu came to Seir, and He viewed their ceremony of putting the wife in her place, and then He came to His people, He was shining to them.

But what do we need Seir for? Let’s go to modern London. London 1890. There was a writer, a Jewish writer, who was describing Whitechapel, the Jewish district in London. And he describes it like this. Saturday night in Whitechapel, he says, was like a little island of decency in a world of moral corruption. From all sides, he writes, from all the gentile quarters, you could hear the wails of women being beaten. Because Saturday night was drinking night. They received their pay on Saturday, and everybody went straight to the pub. And that’s where they spent a good deal of the money before bringing any of it home.

And then, when they were well-inebriated, they went home and they practiced up their fisticuffs on the closest object they found – their wives. And he writes that on all sides you could hear the wails of beaten women. That’s how Israel Zangwill describes London in his times, in 1890. The drunkenness and debauchery of London! And don’t think that London is any better today. In some ways it’s much worse.

And in those days, they didn’t have any sort of society for prevention of cruelty to women. And no society for prevention of cruelty to children either. They did though, already have a society for prevention of cruelty to animals. That, they had. Prevention of cruelty to animals! Now that’s a civilized country! But not for the women and children. Oh no, women and children had nobody to speak up for them, because it was a self-understood natural law in London that you have to put them in their place, either with a fist. And if you wrenched off the leg of a table, nobody would criticize you.

And in ancient Seir, that’s what the Sh’china saw. And when He came to the עם ישראל after visiting Seir, it says וזרח משעיר למו – “He was shining from Seir to the Am Yisroel.” And then Hakodosh Boruch Hu decided that it’s not enough. And He took a visit to Paran. You know who was in Paran? In Paran was Yishmael. In Seir, Hashem had found Eisav. Edom, that’s the family of Eisav. And who was in Paran? In Paran was Yishmael. Like it says וישב במדבר פארן, Yishmael dwelt in Paran. And so Hakodosh Boruch Hu visited Seir and Paran and Teiman. He visited all of the civilizations that were around.

Now all this that we are learning in the Gemara, is just a figure of speech. Hashem didn’t have to visit anybody. He knew just well what was doing there without having to make a visit. But it’s a poetic expression. It means that He examined the behavior of Paran. And when He took a good look at Paran, He saw that in Paran that they were slaughtering babies. Little babies in Paran were being killed. Why were they slaughtering babies? Well, when they saw that the crops were failing they decided to propitiate the gods of fertility. And that god apparently had a special diet. It was the fat and blood of little children. And therefore, they used to take their children – and in case a person didn’t have any, he would seize his neighbors children – and they slaughtered them as offerings. And that’s why when the archeologists began to dig around the ancient altars, they found heaps and heaps of children’s bones. Big heaps of children’s bones around the ancient altars.

And we shouldn’t think that this was only in Paran. All over the world, the nations were busy destroying human beings to propitiate their gods. The Aztecs had a nice little minhag of taking a young girl and throwing her down into a deep well where she would be offered up as a drowning victim to their jealous gods. And the Central American Indians were not wild savages like today. They were very “civilized” at that time in their history. They had great big cities. Today those cities are buried under jungles but in those days they had teeming countries full of people and cities and organization. And we know just well how they spent their “civilized” days. They used to wage wars for the purpose of gaining more victims for human sacrifice.

And the Romans! Ahhh, the blessed Romans. The exponents of European civilization! The Romans had a principle that if a father was angry at his son or daughter, or a grandfather was angry at his son or his daughter, they could take the child and have him thrown to the lions. And the family would gather, together with the rest of the Roman aristocracy, for a Sunday afternoon of good culture – Sunday was a big day for the Romans, that’s where the Christians got it, from the Romans – and so they would sit there Sunday afternoon munching popcorn and they were watching the performance. And they would converse with each other about the goings-on. Let’s say, as the lion would bite into the victim’s skill, the master of the house would turn to his wife and say, “Paulina, did you hear that crunch? Now that was a crunch!” And they munched their popcorn with more appetite, and they enjoyed the scene. And they discussed the proficiency of this lion versus that lion. And the victims? Nobody though about them. And who were the victims? It might have been a boy who said something unseemly to his father, or to his grandfather or even great-grandfather. It was the law of Patria Potestas. The law of “the power of the family father.” A family father was entitled to sentence any one of his descendants in the male line – his daughters too, as long as they were in the male line – he could sentence them to be put to death. The law also empowered him to kill his slaves and throw them to wild beasts. Tacitus, the eminent Roman historian who delighted in defaming our nation, grudgingly admits that among the Jews “it is esteemed utterly unlawful to kill any of their children” (Tacitus, History of the Jews, Book V, Chapter 2). I suppose he considered this a most remarkable point. Of course he did, because in Ancient Rome they killed deformed children, and even healthy ones. That was the culture of Rome.

And if we turn our attention to Greece, we’ll also come shining back to the Jewish people. In Greece, everybody knows, we have the Spartans. The Spartans, whenever anybody was old, instead of taking him and placing him in a nursing home, in a home for the aged, they took him on their backs and they carried him out to the forest, in the dead of winter, in the bitter frost. And they deposited him on the snow. They left him, and he became an ice cube. That was the honorable end of old Father and old Mother in Greece. Ice cubes in the forest.

And if we go to the Indians, we will also come back shining on the Jewish people. We can look at what Mitchiner writes in his book on the Indians. He considers himself an authority on Indian culture, so let’s hear what he says. Here is an Indian warrior, a hero who gave his life to save his tribe. He fought heroically but, nebach, he lost his life. And his fellow Indians were not ungrateful. They gave him a hero’s burial. They put him on a wooden pallet, and they carried him in state to a certain tree-grave and they buried him in a certain tree-grave that they had prepared. They put the pallet, like a wooden bed, on the tree and there he lay for the birds to come to pick at his eyes and consume his flesh. That was the hero’s burial.

But he left over a widow. What happened to his widow? So here Mitchiner describes with a little note of apology – all little preface of apology – that there was a “cruel and inexorable law of the prairies.” As soon as this man’s funeral was over, all the chashuveh ladies, the sisterhood of the tribe, descended upon her, and they took away every last thing she possessed. That was the rule. That was the law. Now that there was nobody to protect her, it’s the law of the tribe to take away every shred, every stick that she possessed, except for the clothing on her back. And she was left without a wigwam. They took her wigwam apart as well, as midwinter arrived.

And nobody invited this widow into their homes. Of course not. That was against the procedure. And so what did she do? She went to live among the horses in order to try to maintain her life a little longer. And in the morning they found her frozen to death. And that was the standard procedure among Indians.

So הקדוש ברוך הוא, when He came from the Indians, He came shining to His people and He said, “This is a people who have pity on widows.” And that’s why He gave us a Torah where it states that if you even speak harshly to a widow and the widow complains, then וחרה אפי – “My wrath will be kindled,” והרגתי אתכם בחרב – “And I will kill you by the sword” (Shemos 22:23).If a man speaks harshly to a widow or to an orphan that’s the punishment he will get.

And the Jewish nation was the people that already had that. That procedure of caring for the downtrodden was followed by the Jewish people even before the Torah was given to them. From the beginning we were a special people. We’ll soon talk about that.

And that’s why Hashem came shining to them. And that’s why all these nations are enumerated – because הקדוש ברוך הוא contrasted our forefathers with the nations of the world, and He came to Har Sinai shining, to give us the Torah

The moral depravity of the Oriental peoples is well-known. Until recently widows were burned alive on their husbands’ funeral pyre. In 1398, two thousand wives of King Hari Hara ll of Vijayanagar were burned alive with his dead body. The human sacrifices of the Shaivas, the ritual murders of the Thuggi, and all other forms of cruelty have enslaved India for long centuries. And so Hakodosh Boruch Hu shined upon the nation that rejected all these forms of wickedness.

Now this may seem to people like propaganda. It may seem to you like exaggeration. But whose fault is it that you are not aware of ancient history?! You should read about Ancient Rome and Ancient Greece in the sources. Not in the New York Times! Not what the New York Times tells you. The New York Times speaks glowingly about Ancient Greece. “Ahh, Ancient Greece, the cradle of democracy and human rights.” Let me tell you about Ancient Greece. Ancient Greece was a place where Socrates, the greatest Greek who ever lived, was put to death. And for what? He was put to death because he did not urge his disciples to be respectful enough to the Senate of Athens. That was the reason. His disciples sat on the porch and they studied philosophy. Porch is a stoa in Greek. And the Stoicis means the porch men. A Stoic means a porch man. Not like we think that Stoics means that they were tough people. No, Stoics means people who sit on the porch. So as you pass down the street in East Flatbush and you see people sitting on their porches, those are Stoics. It means loafers. That’s the real meaning of Stoics.

And so Socrates taught his Stoics, his porch men, that there are more important things in life than politics. Sitting on the porch and philosophizing is much more important than being a politician. He gave his students this idea that philosophy is much more important than being a soldier or a politician. And he didn’t speak enough about the gods. He sometimes mentioned the gods of Greece, but he didn’t speak about them enough. So this was seized as an excuse and the Senate sentenced Socrates to death for the crime of impiety. And Socrates had to drink the hemlock poison. That’s how Athens treated its greatest citizen.

Now, if we go back and see what was the practice of general decency in Athens, we’ll see the following. In Athens, they worshipped a certain god – I won’t mention his name – he was the chief god of all of them. And according to their literature it is unanimously accepted that he had a male concubine. The chief god of the Greeks had a male concubine! His name I can tell you because he wasn’t a god. His name was Ganymede. Ganymede was the male concubine of their chief god. And the Greeks weren’t ashamed to practice homosexualism because they worshipped a god that practiced it himself. Now of course we understand why the Greeks did that. The best way to get a license to do something wicked is to attribute that behavior to your gods. You say your gods do it! Naturally, everybody follows suit.

All throughout their history, the Greeks have corrupted themselves by all the evil attributes which they ascribed to their gods. Unbounded lusts are ascribed to almost all of these gods. I don’t want to waste your time or fill your mind with the wickedness of the Greeks, but it’s important to know why Hakodosh Boruch Hu shines on our nation exclusively. The chief god is found deluding the goddesses and making them pregnant. And then he puts them in prison or drowns them in the sea. Sodomy is ascribed openly to their gods, and the gods express envy at those who were caught in the act of adultery. In this wild phantasmagoria of their mythology, the Greek gods committed every crime and practiced every vice. And so, the Greeks, like the Romans, and like all the idolaters before them, contrived these gods and their behavior, as an apology for their own unbridled lusts, and in order to permit themselves every form of licentiousness and wickedness.

And therefore when הקדוש ברוך הוא came to His people from Greece, He was shining. And that’s why this preface to the giving of the Torah is related. That’s how He came to our nation. He looked at the nations of the world and He said, “I’m trying to find other candidates to receive My Torah. Who else? The Egyptians?!” The Egyptians worshipped the asp, the crocodile, and the baboon. And Josephus tells us that the worshippers imitated their gods. He said that they emulated the qualities of these gods.

Now the qualities of an asp, I suppose are not too enviable. The qualities and good manners of a baboon? But these were that manners and the morals of Ancient Egypt. Now, that’s not what I say. Josephus wrote this two thousand years ago and he knew Egypt. He lived right next door to them so I imagine that he had some knowledge of Egypt.

So you might say, well the white peoples were never any good. The white peoples were always a wicked bunch. If you want to see real virtue you’ll have to look to the black people. They are the real ones. Black is beautiful! So we’ll imagine now that the Sh’china took a visit to the Congo. And not two thousand years ago, but even two hundred years ago. And the Sh’china saw in the Congo, and elsewhere all over Africa, that there was a quaint little custom. When you wanted to make a wedding feast for your children, you wouldn’t waste your efforts on such cheap viand, cheap food, like ox meat or fish. No! You went out at night and you concealed yourself in a bush. And when a neighbor, a neighbor of your own tribe, was passing by, you pounced on him from behind and you felled him with one blow. And now you had what they called “longpig.” And that person was broiled for their wedding feast. That was a delicacy! And now the Sh’china is looking at how beautiful black really is. How they’re sitting there celebrating a wedding and they’re chewing on the bone and saying, “He was a nice neighbor, a really good fellow. We’re enjoying him to no end!”

And what I’m telling you is not propaganda. This is well-known that their neighbors were their victims. And it was considered a wisdom and a virtue to be so cunning that you were able to cut down your neighbor and destroy him.

And people think – it’s a pity what people think. If you read such propaganda as Roots – that book Roots – you’ll read about how it was a great pity that the blacks were transported from the Congo and brought to America. But they don’t realize that it was actually a salvation for them. They were saved from being devoured by people of neighboring tribes. Because that’s all they did! They fought incessant wars. They never stopped fighting with each other. And eating each other.

And the same with the American Indians. Only that the Indians didn’t eat each other. They just took a souvenir when they killed somebody. They were satisfied with that. They took off his scalp. They didn’t shave his scalp – they actually cut off the skin of his head with a scalping knife and they hung it on their belts. And then they came back home to the village and they danced a victory dance. And the admiring young women were looking on, and these maidens were counting how many scalps are hanging from this warrior’s belt. And the more scalps, the more virtuous. He was the most decent one. It’s like, l’havdil, today a girl from Beis Yaakov. She wants to know whom to marry from the yeshiva men. So she looks to see how many mesichtahs did he learn. He learned five mesichtahs. And this one learned two sedorim. This one knows three mesichtahs by heart. That’s what the Beis Yaakov girls counted instead of scalps. Well, that’s how it used to be anyhow. In the good old days she wanted to know, “How much did he learn?” But there, by the American Indians, they wanted to know how many scalps he had cut off from his fellow Indians.

And in South America, they wanted to know how many teeth of his enemies did he have hanging as beads around his neck. Enemies?! They weren’t really enemies. Everybody was your enemy! All the nations of the world were your enemy. And they lived only for homicide! It was an ideal to murder people. And if you looked all over the world, it was the same story.

Now let’s take a brief visit, a quick visit over to the nice people of China and Japan. Oh, the Japanese! Now that’s an orderly people. Certainly they are orderly. The Japanese used to kill baby girls in a very orderly way. They didn’t do it in a messy way. The Japanese and the Chinese. And when the woman was about to give birth, her husband was standing by. And he was very concerned. He wasn’t saying Tehillim, but he was very concerned. And not about his wife. But, “Would there be another boy?” That’s all he wanted. And then when the midwife told him that it’s a girl, so the husband did like this with his hand. It means “to heck with her.” And the midwife knew what that meant. She had already prepared a piece of wet paper just in case – you know the Chinese and Japanese invented paper – so she took this wet paper and put it over the infant’s nose, and she kept it there for ten minutes.

Pearl Buck, when she visited China in about 1915, she wrote that she spoke to many of her friends there. She writes about a gathering of about Chinese women, and almost every one of them admitted that they had killed at least one girl baby in their family. She writes that in a conversation with with eleven Chinese friends, nine of them admitted that they had murdered at least one baby girl (The China I Knew). So now you know, when you come back to our people, why הקדוש ברוך הוא was shining.

And if you think the Nordsmen were any better – “Oh yes,” you’ll say. “They’re Saxons, their the real white people. A different white people, with blue eyes and yellow hair.” Oh, they’re wonderful, those Nordsmen. So why go back to two thousand years ago when we can go back just thirty years [this shiur was given in 1972]. Thirty years ago, look into the homes of these beautiful, nice-smelling Saxons, the Germans. They were perfumed. You know that they washed themselves with soap every day, a few times a day. And the soap was sometimes made from human fats. Out of Jewish fats. All over Germany.

So here is a dirty filthy Jew, who is being dragged to the crematorium, and a clean shaven, nice smelling German is hitting him over the head with the butt of a gun. Now let’s see, who stinks in the eyes of הקדוש ברוך הוא? The Jew who hasn’t bathed in months? The Jew who hasn’t changed his clothing for months? The Jew who is wretched in his suffering? Or this well-rested and well-fed German who has bathed every day without fail, and shaved every day without fail. And he even put perfume in his underwear. So who smells bad? You understand of course that the smell of the Jew was like perfume that went up to heaven. The suffering Jew, that was the one. And the German was a swine, the filthiest swine. Only that I have to apologize to the pigs. We have to apologize to the swine for comparing them to the Germans.

And these Germans weren’t nobodies. Don’t think that they were criminals. They were criminals of course, but they weren’t of the criminal class. They were professors and pastors. German pastors stood there with their guns – their Tommy guns – shooting down men and women and children and babies. German pastors! Don’t deceive yourselves. There is evidence for this [See Hitler’s Willing Executioners by Daniel Goldhagen]. It was clear that the German people on a whole willingly joined in, in this “Great Prank” of mass murder. So this Teutonic יצר הרע got free leeway, free reign, for a little while. And after that, again they’re nice people, they’re quiet people for a little bit. And when the Allies came the Germans put up a big squawk, “The Russians are not giving us enough vitamins. We’re not getting enough proteins. Our children are going to suffer from vitamin deficiency.” And the Americans became so excited about the humanitarian needs of the Germans folk. We have to make a special airlift to supply the Germans with all their needs. They were מוסר נפש! American fliers died in the airlift to supply the Germans with all good things. And there was even an airlift for toys for the children. But nobody got excited about an airlift for the poor Jews when they were being massacred. One airplane, one bomber, could have put out of commission the railroad that led to Auschwitz. And the United States government was informed about it. If you would bomb that line you would stop the whole devilish performance. No, they couldn’t spare a bomber for the Jews. But when the time came to supply toys for the German children, all of America melted away in sympathy.

And so, I don’t want to talk too much about America. We love America because it is our home and it has given us a great many privileges. But when Hashem comes from America to the Jewish people, He is shining as well.

In Milwaukee, it happened that a bird, a mallard duck, laid some eggs on a drawbridge over a big commerce river. Well, when a duck lays eggs, you can’t disturb the eggs of that bird, can you? To disturb the nest of a bird?! Oh no! Americans couldn’t do a thing like that. And so the drawbridge wasn’t opened up anymore. Police were stationed there, and down at the river tugboats were circling around to drive away all boats. All traffic had to be rerouted for many miles. You couldn’t travel under this bridge anymore. And every day, from hour to hour, there were reports on the radio. Reports on how are the birds doing. It cost many thousands of dollars for the city. And at that same time, Jewish children were being thrown into the crematoriums. Not birds. Children. Real children. And there wasn’t even an echo in Milwaukee. They knew about it. But it wasn’t important enough. And therefore, when Hashem comes from Milwaukee to the Jewish people, He is shining.

And so, Chazal are telling us that when Hashem visited all the nations of the world, and then He came to the Jewish people who wanted to accept His Torah, He was shining. זרח משעיר למו הופיע מהר פארן.

Now we go on to what the nations said. The nations had a big claim against Hashem. They said, “What do you want of us?! You didn’t give us the Torah!” So הקדוש ברוך הוא answered back to them, “You didn’t accept it.”

Now what does that mean that the nations didn’t accept the Torah? הקדוש ברוך הוא didn’t send anybody around with a Torah in his suitcase, making appointments with the kings of the nations. What do you think?! That someone made an appointment with the king and said, “I have something to sell you,” and the king said, “OK, let’s see your merchandise.” So the salesman opened up his suitcase and showed the king, “Here’s the Torah.” And then the king said, מה כתוב בה, “What’s written in the Torah?” No, it wasn’t that simple. That’s childish. It was something much more profound than that.

Hashem sent salesmen around. Yes, He sent salesmen around. You know what was happening at that time? At that time the world was in convulsions. Nature was very much in convulsions. There are records, historic records, that at that time there were great changes in nature. There was great deal of volcanic activity all over the world. There were earthquakes all over the globe. I could recommend a certain book that gives details, but it’s against my principles however to name in these lectures any book that is written by an atheist. He’s an atheist who is a researcher, and he has brought together material to show that all of over the world, at that time, nature was in great turmoil.

And the nations of the world began to ask each other, “What’s this about?” In those days people still believed in a divine power. You remember, in the book of Yonah that we just read on Yom Kippur, when Yonah was on board the ship and a great storm arose. So the gentile sailors said, בשלמי הרעה הזאת לנו – “Because of whom is this bad thing happening to us? It’s no accident,” they said. (Yonah 1:7). And they threw lots and the lots fell on Yonah. He is the one because of whom the storm took place.

At that time the nations believed. They weren’t buffoons like the people today. And therefore they began to ask questions. And there were great men among the nations. Men who began to say to them, “You know, maybe we should change our ways. Maybe our immorality, maybe our rapaciousness, maybe our selfishness, is not the right way for us to continue. Maybe this is a message from heaven.” At that time, the Medrash tells, the gentiles came to Bil’am,and they asked him about what was taking place. And Bil’am said, “A big change is coming into being in the world right now. The Torah is being given to the Jewish people.” Now, that is also a figure of speech, that Medrash. But everywhere at that time there were men of spirit who raised the question, “Maybe we should start changing our ways?!” But the nations refused to listen. Today we see even among Jews, there are Reform Jews, Conservative Jews, atheistic Jews, even many Orthodox Jews, who don’t interpret events in a divine way. “It just happened that way,” they think. And they find materialistic reasons for whatever happens. As long as they won’t have to admit that they’re living lives of שקר, of falsehood, and that they have to change their ways.

And so, at that time, the nations fell short. And that’s what is meant by refusing the Torah. So the nations now say, “What do you want of us?! To the עם ישראל you came with a threat, and you forced the Torah upon them. Why didn’t you force the Torah upon us? We would have accepted it too. We could do a good job with the Torah. We didn’t know. We had to guess from the upheavals of nature. We had to use our intuition and understand that You were hinting that we have to change our ways. But to the Jewish people You came openly, with thunder and lighting, and they heard Your voice speaking at Sinai. And Moshe Rabeinu came down and spoke to them. Why didn’t You do that to us?”

And now we come to our subject. And the subject is this: It depends on how you make the first step. Now, let’s listen prayerfully to this because it’s a very important subject. הקדוש ברוך הוא has taught us a principle: פתחו לי פתח כחודו של מחט – “Open up for Me, make an opening for Me, as big as the tip of a needle.” Do you know how big of a opening the tip of a needle can make? Take the tip of a needle and stick it into, let’s say, a piece of paper. How wide is that doorway? You can’t drive your car through it yet, can you?

So הקדוש ברוך הוא tells you: פתחו לי פתח כחודו של מחט, “If you’ll open up for Me a hole as wide as the tip of a needle,” ואני אפתח לכם כפתח של אולם – “I’ll open up for you a doorway like the doorway of a palace” (Shir Hashirim Rabba 5:3).

What does that mean? It means that everything depends on how you start out. Everything depends on your first step. And as a result of your first step, you’ll be amazed at what happens. There’s a reward for opening up that small hole, for making that first step, and the reward is that you’ll make a second step. But the second step is far bigger than the first one. The second step, הקדוש ברוך הוא already intervenes. The first step you have to make yourself, but the second one, He gives you a push.

Yirmiyah Hanavi said קודש ישראל השם – The Jewish nation is sacred to Hashem.” Do you know why? Because ראשית תבואתו – Because they are the first of His produce” (Yirmiyahu 2:3). We are sacred because we are the first. What does that mean? Why doesn’t it say “because we are the best”? That’s the truth! We really are the best! Where do you find a nation that hates violence as much as the עם ישראל? Where do you find a nation that has as much chastity and decency as the עם ישראל? We’re talking about real Jews now, not imitation Jews. The real Jews are the most decent of all peoples in the world.

I was in Lithuania for six years. Now you might think that the Lithuanians were nice quiet people. Let me tell you something. Every Lithuanian carried a knife in his boots. He didn’t carry it just for ballast. If you started up with a Lithuanian goy and you got away without having a knife drawn on you, you would consider yourself a very lucky fellow. I once started up with one of them, but I walked rapidly away from him. He was drunk and he could hardly walk, and that’s why nothing happened to me. But my friends who were with me scolded me. “You don’t start up with a Lithuanian goy,” they said. He had said something about me, “a dirty Jew” or something. So I gave him a push. I was an American so I wasn’t accustomed to bowing my head. So my friends said to me, “What are you doing?! Are you crazy?!” and we quickly walked away. He could hardly keep his balance walking, so we just quickly walked away.

Every Lithuanian had a knife in his boots. Every Monday morning the Letivus Idis came out. That’s the Lithuanian newspaper. And there was a long list of stabbings – stabbings that took place on Sunday. A long list. “Mikolis Antonis stabbed so and so. Sanjonis Antavishus stabbed Mojunis Mikolosis.” A whole long list of stabbings. It was a regular procedure.

And getting married was a waste of time in Lithuania. If somebody saved up enough money to get married, so the children would come to the wedding. I myself saw it. And Wednesday was a spectacle in itself. Wednesday was the fair day, the market day, in the small town where I lived. So on Wednesday the peasants would come, the poor peasants, they were as poor as anything. They came and they sold their produce. They sold their chickens, they sold their sheep, they sold their wood, their lumber, they sold their linens. And they took their money and they went straight to the saloon and they got drunk. I can’t say it was every single one of them, but I’ll tell you what I saw. I saw a shocking sight. A heap of men and women, lying dead drunk, all on top of each other, like a pile of old clothing. And with vomit all over them. I was shocked, but people told me that this is the regular procedure for every week. That’s the blue-eyed, fair-haired people! And they were much better than the Poles. The Poles were worse, a hundred times worse. The Poles were terribly wicked.

But even though we were always the best, the Navi tells us that we are holy to Hashem because we are the ראשית, the first. From all the nations, we made the first step. And therefore, when הקדוש ברוך הוא looked for a nation to be His nation, He found קודש ישראל לה׳ ראשית תבואתו – “They were a sacred people for Hashem from the beginning, because they were the first of His produce.” He looked around and found that it was our nation that had taken the first step towards Him. We were the ראשית, the first to come close to Hashem. There wasn’t any impartiality. He didn’t give the Torah to our forefathers because He liked their noses or anything else like that. Somebody made the first step! Who made the first step? You know who made the first step?

The first step was made by Noach’s son Shem. Shem made the first step. Noach had three sons, Shem, Cham and Yafes. And one day Noach made an error and he got drunk, and he lay uncovered on his couch – he laid naked. And in came his son Cham, and Cham took a look and he came out and made a joke. He told it to his brothers. He said, “Look at the old fellow. Look at the old man now.” So Shem said, “Stop it now! Keep quiet!” And he took a blanket to cover his father. And the second brother, Yafes, a decent fellow, also took hold of the blanket. But he wasn’t the initiator. He wasn’t the first one though. ויקח שם ויפת את השמלה – It says ויקח, singular. “And he took, Shem took, and then Yefes also.” Yefes had the good sense to join in on a good thing. And it paid for him, by the way. It paid off for him handsomely. So Shem and Yefes took a blanket, and “they walked backwards,” the Torah says. They walked backwards, not to look at their uncovered father. “Ohhh,” said הקדוש ברוך הוא, “That’s one good step in the right direction. Shem, you were the first one!” And therefore, Noach put his blessing on Shem. That’s where we get the Semites, the Semitic people. Now, it doesn’t mean that all the Semitics are good – the Arabs are also Semites, and they’re far from good. But that was the beginning. That was the first step. Shem did what was right. Shem was a decent man. And he did more things than that. Many more things. But that was one little incident related by the Torah.

And after Shem, nobody could choose any longer to be privileged, except for the families of Shem. The die was cast. History gives opportunities and everybody can choose to be great – up to a certain time. After the opportunity is missed, it’s too late. And so the die was cast and the greatness had to come from Shem.

From Shem there came forth an Avraham. Avraham chose greatness. He lived as a little boy in a house of idol worshippers. His father made money from manufacturing idols. So he had vested interests in idolatry. But Avraham started asking questions. Now, as Avraham matured, he asked better and better questions, but even as a young boy he asked questions. “What good are idols? If it’s a piece of wood, and half of it we chop up for firewood and the other half we make into god, so this god’s brother is burning in the fire, and we’re worshipping him? And Avraham started arguing to himself these points, and then he started speaking to his parents. And his parents scolded him and slapped him. “It’s bad for business to talk that way.” And finally, after asking questions and questions, and searching the depths of his mind for answers, he recognized that this world is managed by a supreme intelligence. There is a Great Designer, he realized. He saw that there is so much design, so much wisdom, in every detail of the Universe, that he came to the realization that there is a Creator.

And then Hamarabi, Nimrod, heard about him. He heard that this young little apikoris was making trouble, so he summoned him and spoke with him. “Young man,” he said, “I know that you mean well, but you better change your ways. And quick! Because of you continue what you’re doing, you’re going to find yourself in hot water. You’re going to find trouble because you’re breaking our traditions.” And Avraham put up an argument – I’m sure it was a good one – and Hamarabi felt inside that his belief was a little bit shaky now. After he got through talking to Avraham, he didn’t feel as secure in his beliefs anymore.

So what did he reply? How did he deal with these new questions? He had a big pit dug, and he had his servants put stones and fire into the pit, and he had it burn for days until the stones were red hot. And then he summoned Avraham and he told him to take peek into the pit. “Take a look,” Nimrod said. “Will that persuade you to change your foolish ideas?” And Avraham refused and he was cast into the fire-pit.

And Avraham didn’t perish. He didn’t perish because his ideas are imperishable! Remember that well! The Torah ideals are imperishable! And so, because Avraham chose, that’s why הקדוש ברוך הוא chose him. Avraham was the first! He was the first in righteousness. He was the first in kindliness. מי העיר ממזרח צדק – “Who awakened righteousness in the Orient?” (Yeshai’a 41:2). Righteousness was asleep, fast asleep. And Avraham awakened it. There was no ideal in the ancient days to be kind to people, to be kind to strangers. It was a new idea introduced by Avraham! Today you have a lot of hypocrites who throw around around those words, “kindliness,” “be kind,” “love your fellowman,” “love everyone,” but these people are actually as wicked as could be. If you analyze modern society you’ll see that these loving liberals are as cruel as could be.

But in ancient times, when Avraham came along, the people were open about their true principles. They weren’t like the fakers of today. They were real. And they had only one principle – “live for yourself.” And Avraham arose, on his own, in that generation, and he began the institution of welcoming wayfarers. Not just welcoming them, but he went all out for wayfarers. He almost gave his life for warefarers. When somebody came by, he threw himself on the ground and he begged, “Please don’t go away! Please partake of my hospitality.” Because Avraham wanted to emulate his Creator. Avraham studied the world around him and he saw that Hashem had made this wonderful inn, the beautiful hotel of this world, and that He was supplying the world with all good things, and that we are His guests. So Avraham wanted to emulate Hashem, so he also made a place for wayfarers, and he went all out to welcome them.

Avraham took the first step. He took that first step by studying this world to see the חסד השם Hashem everywhere around him, and emulating what he saw of Hashem. He established the institution of hospitality for wayfarers. He made the first step forward, and he taught the world the concepts of doing kindliness to others. And when Sodom, the wicked cities of Sodom, were being destroyed – these were his enemies, his ideological enemies. They were against everything that Avraham taught. They were actively opposed to his teachings. In Sodom, when a poor man you used to come by, they would punish him for being a beggar. To be a beggar was a crime in Sodom. It shows that you’re shiftless, that you’re not ambitious. That you’re just a burden on society. You’re a parasite. So in Sodom they used to punish poor people. They used to kill poor people for begging. And Avraham lived not far from Sodom. And he was the opposite of Sodom. They were his enemies.

And yet when Avraham heard that Sodom was being destroyed, he prayed and bargained with הקדוש ברוך הוא. “Don’t destroy Sodom,” he said. “Aren’t there are some righteous people there?” So הקדוש ברוך הוא said, “Well, if you can show me fifty righteous people in Sodom, I’ll let them go.” But he couldn’t find fifty righteous people, so Avraham started bargaining for forty. So Hashem said, “Show me forty.” Finally it came down to ten righteous people. And Hashem agreed. But there weren’t even ten righteous people. So Sodom was destroyed.

But Avraham supplied the model of having pity even on the enemy. And therefore הקדוש ברוך הוא said, אדם מקדש את עצמו מעט – “If a man make himself a little bit holy,” then מקדשים אותו הרבה – “I’ll make you very holy” (Yoma 39a). That’s called accepting the Torah. You take the first step, you get the ball rolling, and Hashem helps you succeed.

The Jewish nation had already accepted the Torah principles and so now, they were forced to go even further. Now, I’ll give you an explanation of how they were forced into the Torah. Imagine here’s a man, a gentile, and he saw Orthodox Jews. He saw how the families lived, how they lived decent lives. He saw how how they lived with devotion to the Torah. Every day, all day long, they were mindful of Hashem. They remembered the Torah, and they made a blessing over everything they ate. And they would eat only things that are pure, that are כשר. They lived according to noble principles.

So finally he decided that he wants to become a Jew. So he made an appointment with the Rabbis and they laid him down on the table. To become a Jew he has to undergo an operation. At that moment, this gentile thought, “Maybe this is too much already. What was I thinking?!” So he was struggling a bit. So the Rabbis did him a favor and they pinioned down his hands. They held him down and didn’t let him move, until they finished the operation.

Now whether or not that’s the proper way, let’s imagine it happened that way. And after it’s over, so he says to the rabbis, “Gentlemen, thank you. I nearly missed the opportunity. But why did you go all out to circumcise me? Why didn’t you just let me go?” So they said, “Look, if you were idealistic enough to go all this way, then you deserved that extra push. We wouldn’t go out into the street and kidnap a man and circumcise him. But you went all the way! You already paid for it. You deserved that extra push.” It costs money to be circumcised. It’s not cheap. And he wouldn’t get his money back. “You already showed that you wanted it, You already paid for it. And therefore we rewarded you.”

That’s the principle. Once you you do something voluntarily, then הקדוש ברוך הוא rewards you by forcing you to make progress. And it’s this forcing, this coercion, that is the biggest success in life.

Sometimes a Jew joins a good group of Orthodox Jews; he joins a nice Orthodox synagogue, he gets close to a good Rabbi, an authentic Rabbi, or to a group of idealists, or his son joins a good yeshiva, and now the environment forces him to be nice. Many times he hankers to go back to his old ways. But he’s ashamed now. He’s embarrassed because of his good environment. That’s a reward for him! He’s being forced. At first it was free-will. It was his own choice, his own volition. But now he’s being forced.

To be forced, that’s the reward for the initial step that you make. It’s important to make the first step in the right direction. After that things start happening by themselves. You’ll be amazed by what’s going to happen. One thing follows another.

That’s what happened to רות. She decided that she wasn’t going to forsake נעמי. She was loyal to her mother-in-law. She was a gentile girl but she couldn’t forsake her mother-in-law. She was a widow, and she was her mother-in-law, and she wasn’t going to abandon her. And so רות took the first step, and that first step led to Dovid Hamelech, to Shlomo, to Shir Hashirim and Koheles and Mishlei. And to Moshiach.

And the עם ישראל made that first step as well. They always looked back at their forefathers, even before they were given the Torah, to learn which path to trod in life. And that was the path of recognizing Hakodosh Boruch Hu always, and living with that palpable recognition always. In Mitzraim, among the wicked and morally corrupt Egyptians, they kept to their own, they kept far away from the wickedness of Mitzraim, and retained the teachings of Avraham, Yitzhok and Yakov. And when Hashem saw that the עם ישראל had taken that first step, He contrasted them with the nations of the world, and He shined His Presence upon them, by choosing them as the only ones worthy of His Torah.

And therefore, it was that first step that Shem took, and the first step that Avraham Avinu took, and the first step that the עם ישראל took, that made them worthy of being coerced into more and more greatness. And there’s no greater coercion, than being pushed closer and closer to Hashem.

And therefore, every one of you, should always be looking to make that first step in עבודת השם. There’s so much to do, so much to accomplish, so much perfection to achieve, and we’re going to need Hashem to hold the mountain over our heads and force us towards that perfection. But we’ll need to take that first step, those first steps towards Hashem, those steps that all the nations of the world never take. And all these ideas, all these Torah ideals that we speak about at these lectures, are great opportunities for your first steps. We have to open that little hole, the חודו של מחט. And then Hashem will shine upon us. He’ll open up wide for us כפתחו של אולם, and continue leading the עם ישראל towards our rendezvous with Him in the Next World.

Pesach – Tape #116

TAPE #116



To all of our participants, we’re happy to have you here. I wish to remind you that you have the right to ask questions; the ladies also can put their questions on slips of paper. This is tape number 116 and the title is Pesach.


The three symbols that are most conspicuous on Pesach night, are pesach, matzoh, and marror. The korban pesach, we don’t have today; but we have a symbol, as a memorial of the pesach offering. But the matzoh and marror, that we still have. Now, since these are the three central symbols it is worth discussing each one of them separately.


The festival of the korban Pesach, when we bring and eat the Pesach offering, is called “Pesach” and that is on the fourteenth of Nissan. But the festival that follows it, which is the  seven days of yomtiv, that is called Chag HaMatzos; not Chag HaPesach. “Pesach” is only erev Pesach – the 14th day of Nissan – when they slaughter the korban pesach and at night when they eat it. And henceforth, it’s “Chag HaMatzos;” you’re finished with the Pesach. You can’t eat from the korban Pesach the next morning; you have to finish it before daybreak and make sure that nothing remains. So we see a difference between Pesach and matzos. There are two separate principles involved here, and we have to study both of them. And then there’s marror, the bitter herbs. We’ll study that as well.

Pesach means to pass over, to skip over, and it symbolizes Hashem skipping over the homes of the Bnei Yisroel. And we must understand what was so important about this episode of the destroyer passing over the houses of the Bnei Yisroel and sparing them. What is so significant about that event, that it deserves to become  a separate Yomtiv, on the fourteenth of Nissan?


So we’ll say like this. B’pshuto, understanding it in its most simple meaning, it signifies that when the Destroyer is let loose by Hashem – and that happens not only once in history, but many times – it is his function to wipe out nations and civilizations. Again and again, one nation after the other has been destroyed, has been obliterated. And today, their remains are not even in evidence. Over what was once a flourishing civilization, is now either a desert or a jungle.

It’s difficult for us to imagine, but if we would travel through Central America and find one of the most dense jungles on the globe, a profusion of vegetation which seems to have been in that place from sheshes yamei bereishis; it’s difficult for us to even imagine that underfoot lie the ruins of what was once one of the densest populations that was in the world. HaKadosh Baruch Hu has created His world in such a way, that if you don’t hustle to get rid of nature’s abundance, then in a short time nature is going to choke out and overgrow every vestige of man’s work.

In downtown Manhattan, if they wouldn’t interfere, then in a short time you’d be amazed, because the streets would become jungles. All you need is a crack in the sidewalk; a crack between the sidewalk and the paving of the street; and a seed blows in and lodges there. And the seed has the power of breaking macadam. It breaks concrete and in the course of time, it becomes a forest. It’s amazing what HaKadosh Baruch Hu’s creatures can do. And grass and trees would be growing on Broadway and Times Square. And it wouldn’t be such a bad thing at that. I think it would be an improvement. But that’s how Hakadosh Baruch works. And today, a green jungle covers all of Central America, where once the great empire of the Incas had roads and flourishing cities.

And we all know about the great city of Bavel, a city which was built with stupendous splendor. The ancient writers marveled in their time at the height of the walls of the city, and at the magnificence of the palaces of the city of Bavel. It was once the metropolis of the world; and yet, if you would be there today you wouldn’t notice a thing because of the sand that covers it – if not for the archaeologists that have had some digs that have exposed some of the ancient ruins. And even then, it’s a pretty sorry site.

And that was once the magnificent metropolis of Bavel. And the Navi’im, living at a time when Bavel flourished, foretold of its destruction at a time when it was unthinkable. It was long after the Tanach had been concluded, it was hundreds of years later, that Bavel was transformed into a desert.

Now, the hand of the Destroyer comes sooner or later to every land, every people. And nobody is going to escape it. And not only are cities destroyed, and nations wiped out, but languages are destroyed. Nobody today speaks ancient Latin as their tongue. Ancient Greek? It’s a dead language; that’s how it’s called in the schools. Nobody speaks ancient Babylonian. The old languages are also wiped out by the hand of the Destroyer.

And even national stocks, the strains of natural breeds of a nation, are wiped out in the course of time. They become a motley mixture of every kind of people mixed together. And that’s why today you won’t find a pure people anymore, except perhaps in some places where it seems to us pure. In some isolated islands, you might find some savages, who have been living alone and secluded for a long time. But don’t be deceived. Because even those savages have been so mixed, so mongrelized, by other tribes, that their original features are no longer recognizable.

So the Destroyer wipes out localities and cities. And he wipes out national identity, as well as peoples and languages. And in the episode of Pesach, when the Destroyer was striking right and left, אין בית אשר אין שם מת – “There was no home that did not have a dead one” (Bo 12:30). Every house was visited. Whether it was the first born boy, or a first born girl – the malach raised his sword – whatever it was that he did – but he left over somebody dead as he passed by.


And when he passed over the houses of the b’nei Yisroel it was more than just a one time event. It was a prophecy. It was a portent for the future – telling us that the Destroyer will always pass over the people of Yisroel. That’s what Pesach means. “You are eternal,” Hashem says. “You are the Am Olam.” Of course, every community must be apprehensive, lest HaKadosh Baruch Hu decide, chas ve’shalom, that He no longer needs them. It could be that He can get along without a certain community of Jews. But even when the Jews were being transported to the ovens, they could have been assured that the Jewish people is going to survive. אני השם לא שניתי – “I Hashem have never changed,” ואתם בני יעקב לא כליתם – “And you the sons of Yisroel, the sons of Yakov, you will never come to an end” (Haftorah Shabbos Hagadol). That’s a promise.

And it was this promise that  was demonstrated on that night of Pesach. And that’s what the korban Pesach is saying. So when you eat a piece of matzoh instead of a korban pesach – that’s what you do; you take a piece of matzoh, and you eat it as a memorial to the korban pesach. So what is a kavanna peshutah to have in mind? It means that we are the eternal people, and nobody else. And monarchs and tyrants can do their best and make attempts – like Achashveirosh and Haman, and like others – but the Am Yisroel is going to survive either way, and to eventually step upon the graves of its enemies.


However, although this should certainly be remembered when we talk about Pesach – this promise for the eternity of the Am Yisroel – there’s another element that usually is not noticed and that therefore deserves to be emphasized.

About the korban pesach it states, זאת חקת הפסח – “This is the law of the korban pesach,” כל בן נכר לא יאכל בו – “A stranger, an alien, cannot eat from it” (Bo 12:43). Now we have to understand the importance of that statement. In reality, it’s such an immense teaching, that it’s very difficult for us to grasp it even after we hear it explained. And it takes years and years for it to sink in, even superficially.

And so we’ll start with a gemara. The gemara quotes a posuk  from Shir Hashirim, עורי צפון ובואי תימן – “Awake you north wind, and come you south wind” (Shir Hashirim 4:16). And the gemara (Zevachim 116a) explains this posuk in a very queer way, but it’s a way that’s illuminating, it’s startling. And it’ll need all of our energy, to apply ourselves in order to assimilate it properly. עורי צפון, the gemara says: “Bestir yourselves, you people of the north.” ובואי תימן – “And come, you people of the south.” Now, who are these “people of the north”? All the gentiles, all the nations are called “people of the north.” And who are the “people of the south”? The Am Yisroel. That’s what the gemara says. Now that’s hard to understand. What do the north and south have to do with the difference between us and the nations?

Now listen what our Sages tell us: There is an offering called the ‘korban olah’ – a burnt offering. That’s what you call the ‘holocaust’ – that’s what holocaust means, holo means completely, and caust from the old Greek kausten which means burnt, destroyed. That’s the olah, the offering that is burned entirely on the mizbayach. This was the form of offering that all the peoples of the world used from the beginning of time. In all of history, there was only a korban olah. There was never an offering that anyone ever ate. Adam offered up a korban olah, Noach offered a korban olah. If you look through the beginning of the chumash, that’s all there was. There was never anything but a korban olah – a burnt offering.

It never entered the mind of a human being that he could eat of an offering. What business does he have with an offering? He slaughtered whatever he had to slaughter, and he put it on the mizbayach and he burned it. And as the fire went up, so it symbolized a form of allegiance, of loyal devotion, to Hakadosh Baruch Hu. He’s bringing to Hakadosh Baruch Hu something to demonstrate his love and his gratitude to Him. And he added to this the vicarious symbolism, that he would like to burn himself as an offering. He would like to burn himself, but instead, as a substitute, as a symbol, he burns a lamb to HaKadosh Baruch Hu. Or maybe he burns a bullock. He brings it up to Hashem. But to eat from the korban?! No one ever thought of eating the offering.


The first time in history that we find that an offering was eaten, was the Korban Pesach in Mitzrayim. It was a revolution; but it’s even more revolutionary than we think. The first time that anyone was authorized to partake of an offering that was sacrificed to Hashem was in Mitzrayim, by the korban pesach. And thence forth, the Am Yisroel had offerings in addition to the korban olah, burnt offerings. In addition to the burnt offerings, they also had offerings that they ate. And that was revolutionary. A people that can eat the offerings?! To eat from the korban to Hashem? What does that mean?!

What it means is that this nation is not one of the nations of the world. It means the Am Yisroel was singled out – they parted company with Mankind. When you talk of “Mankind” you don’t include the Am Yisroel. Now that’s not easy to think, especially if you’re a liberal. If you’re accustomed to being a cosmopolitan, a universal fellow, then you’ll have to do a lot of reappraising of your ideas. The Am Yisroel is not a nation, and the Jew is not a human being!

Now, I don’t care what you say – you didn’t come here to hear your own opinions echoed. You came here to hear something, whether you like it or not. And we are being taught by the Torah that the Jew is not a member of the human race! Because no human would dare eat of an offering of Hashem.


And it was in Mitzrayim that Moshe Rabbeinu came and spoke to Pharaoh those bold words -words that were never heard before: כה אמר השם – “So said Hashem:”  בני בכורי ישראל – “My favorite child is Yisroel” (Shemos 4:22).

Now, it sounded just as offensive to Pharaoh’s ears as it does to your American ears. And if you had been Pharoah, you would have bridled. You would have been indignant. It’s enough if Pharaoh would concede that the bnei Yisroel also have rights – that they’re just as good as the Egyptians. That alone would have been a very big concession. Even that concession was difficult for him to make, because the Egyptians were the aristocrats – they were the cultured and the wealthy ones. “And you dare claim to be our equals?!” said Pharaoh.” You tribal people who came from Syria!” They called the Jews ‘Syrians’; they called them ‘Ivrim’ – they didn’t call the Jews ‘Yisroel’. Yisroel is a great and noble name. This name ‘Yisroel’, such a name they would never call the Jews.

When we spoke to the gentiles, we didn’t say, אלוקי ישראל נקרה עלינו – “The G-d of Yisroel came to us.” No, we say אלוקי העברים – “The G-d of the Ivrim.”(Shemos 5:3) That’s all the Egyptians would acknowledge. They won’t recognize you as ‘Yisroel.’ You belong to the Ivrim – certain tribes, poor and lacking in culture. Disorganized tribes, who came somewhere out of the east. The gentiles would never recognize you by any other name.

And that’s why when Yonah was asked who he is, he said, “Ivri anochi.”(Yonah 1:9) He didn’t say, “Yisroel anochi,” because that meant nothing to the goyim; they never wanted to hear the word, ‘Yisroel’. Yisroel!? You know what Yisroel means?! It’s a name that signifies the highest of aristocracy! It’s a superman – that’s what Yisroel means. כי שרית עם אלוקים ואנשים ותוכל – “You’re going to win out against angels and against men” (Vayishlach 32:29). You will win out against all the forces of nature. That’s what Yisroel means: “You are going to conquer all the forces of the universe.” So therefore, all that Yonah can say to the captain, when he inquires about his nationality, is “Ivri anochi” – “I am an Ivri.” A goy can’t even begin to fathom what a Yisroel is.


And when Moshe Rabbeinu came and told Pharoah: בני בכורי ישראל, it’s a miracle that Pharaoh didn’t have him beheaded on the spot for such impudence. But that’s what the korban pesach is saying. It’s saying that from now on, the body of a Jew – I say Jew – the body of a Yisroel is so sacred, that it is now a counterpart to the mizbeach. And just as you burn on the altar an offering to Hashem, so too you can put kodshim inside the Jewish body and you consume it. That’s an offering;  the Yisroel is holy enough to be a mizbayach for Hashem. If you can eat from the korban, then you’re not part of Mankind. You’re something much much more.

Now, some people are accustomed to pshetelach, so when they hear this, so they’ll tell me a pshetel of their own. That’s what happens when you get two Jews together – you tell him a peshetel, and he tells you a peshetel. So keep your peshetelach in abeyance for some other time – first listen to my pshat which is the plain pshat.

And therefore, the gemara says, עורי צפון – “Bestir yourselves, you nations of the world who only have the north of the mizbayach.”  “The north of the mizbayach” – that’s the burnt offering. Because the korban olah is slaughtered only על ירך המזבח צפונה – on the north side of the mizbayach. So you nations, עורי, bestir yourself, and make way for a new kind of people that is going to appear now. ובואי תימן – “Let come that people who can slaughter offerings on the south too.” Because they have other korbanos that they can eat. And that’s because they are no longer among the company of nations. They are an Am Kadosh and their bodies are so sacred that they can consume the korban in their bodies. And that’s why they have to make way for us. עורי צפון, bestir yourselves, you nations of the north, ובואי תימן, and make way; because now comes the Chosen People.

But not the Chosen People the way you think. It’s like a certain writer who writes about the “Chosen People.” Because he’s a Jew, and it happens to be his people, so he calls them the Chosen People. The same like an Italian calls his people the chosen people. And the Puerto Rican, call his people the same. But that’s not Chosen People. You chose your people, that’s all. That’s nothing! Now we’re talking about something that’s not even a people; they are chosen from among all the peoples, and they are elevated far above them. They were chosen from the peoples to be lifted up above the rest of Mankind. There’s no comparison. That’s what the korban pesach is saying.


Now if you want to realize the impact of this teaching a little more, pay attention to what our Sages say: חביב אדם שנברא בצלם – “How beloved is a man, because he was created in the image of Hashem” (Avos 3:18). What does it mean ‘a man’? It means that if you go among the Puerto Ricans, and you go among the Eskimos, you have a right to tell them this teaching, that he has to know how beloved he is. He is more important than the sun! One Eskimo, one Apache is more important than the world.

We’re not talking now if he continues in his criminal ways. If they go in their criminal ways, then they’re less important than a wasp, than a fly! They have no importance at all. We’re talking about a decent Apache who doesn’t believe in taking any scalps, and he sticks to his own family and he earns an honest living. So we say to him: You have to know, that the Torah teaches that you are more important than the sun. Not only the sun. You are more important than a galaxy of suns. A galaxy has millions of stars, and some of those stars even dwarf the sun and the sun becomes a little baseball compared to them. And one man, one human being, is more important, not than a galaxy; he is more important than the Milky Way. The Milky Way has so many galaxies, that each galaxy is like a drop of light. But there’s so many of them that it looks like a river of light in the distance. So you have billions, trillions of huge worlds, and one man, one Eskimo, is more important than all of them put together. That’s what the Torah teaches. That’s the meaning of “Chaviv Adam” – How beloved is a man – any man!”

And now, to understand this properly you would have to sit down in solitude and meditate on this for the rest of your life. The Alter of Slobodka, zichrono l’vracha, spoke forty years on this subject – and he didn’t exhaust it.It’s so profound, what the Torah teaches about the greatness of mankind. And that’s why only one man was created at the beginning instead of having the whole globe populated with people all at once. Why didn’t Hashem populate the globe with many people, varieties of people, at the beginning. Just like the whole globe was populated with birds all at once and fish all at once, and deer and wolves and foxes all at once. All over the globe it was תוצא הארץ נפש חיה למינה (Bereishis 1:24), and immediately these creatures began hopping and running and crawling. But Mankind was created only one pair.

And that’s why we see today that all of Mankind is really only one species. Never mind the fairy tales that they tell you. There never was another species of man. Mankind today doesn’t have any remnant of these storied species. There’s only one species of man, and from any place in the world they can breed together. Now, not all animals can breed together. Not all birds can breed together. But all mankind can breed together. If you’re not fastidious, you can have a kallah from the African Pygmies. You can have a bride from the bushmen in Australia. The fact is that the Englishmen – the “aristocrats” who were taken out of the prisons in England and transported to Australia as the first settlers – they didn’t have trouble finding wives. In Australia they took wives from the Bushmen. They are weird looking people those Bushmen – a weird, queer people. But the English took them for wives. And there was no problem – they had babies. Because all of mankind is one species! Where are all those species that they tell us used to exist?! They shouldn’t be able to intermarry at all.  The answer is, there was never anything at all but one species, that began with Adam and Chava. Anything else is nothing but lies that they’re spreading.


But why did Hakadosh Baruch Hu make only one pair to start with? Was it that He was stingy and didn’t want Mankind to increase? On the contrary, He said: ומלאו את הארץ – “Fill up the world!” (Bereishis 1:28). Fill it up! “Get busy,” He said. You old bachelors, hurry up and get married! You old girls, what are you waiting for?

When they make meetings of old girls and old boys, and each one has his or her problem. Each one is looking for prince charming or princess charming. What do you need it for?! Right here, you have an old boy, and here’s an old girl – you have an old boy and an old girl – let them get married and each one’s problem will solve the other problem immediately. If I was running the show, the problem would be solved in one meeting. We’re wasting time! HaKadosh Baruch Hu is waiting! לא נברא העולם אלא לפריה ורביה – the world was created just for that – to help bring even more people into the world (Gittin 41b).

What do you think, that you can come into the banquet of this world and just keep a seat for yourself and forget about others? You have to keep on popping out of the banquet hall, and calling in new people. That’s your job. Of course, once in a while you can take a bite from what they are serving you, but in between the  dishes you must make sure to run out to bring in another guest.


So if that’s what HaKadosh Baruch wants, then why did He only create one pair of people? He could have gotten the ball rolling by populating the world with people, like He did with all of the animals and fish and birds and trees. And the answer is, the Mishnah says (Sanhedrin 37a), לפיכך נברא האדם יחידי – “ Therefore Adam was created all alone, כדי שיאמר כל אחד ואחד – in order that every human being should say, בשבילי נברא העולם – I am so important and so great; I am of such vast importance that the whole universe was made solely for me.” It’s to teach us this lesson. That’s why HaKadosh Baruch Hu held back His hand, His cornucopia of abundance of humanity, and He let only one couple be created. Because He wanted to give them this great understanding of what man is. Man is of such enormous importance, that the whole universe is worth creating just for him.


And that’s the first statement. Again, “Chaviv Adam”  – A man is beloved. But the mishna tells us more. Why is he beloved? Why was he created only one? Why is it that the whole universe is only for him? And the answer is given: שנברא בצלם – “Because he was created in the image of Hashem.” Now tzelem doesn’t really mean “image”. It’s from the word צל, shade, reflection. So tzelem means that he is a reflection of Hashem. Just as in the word חנם we add the letter mem to the word חן, and כנם comes from כנה, so too צלם is from the word צל. It’s a reflection of Hashem. There’s a reflection of the Divinity in every human being. And that reflection is so important that he is worthy that the whole universe should be created just for him.


Now pay attention to the next step; but hold onto your seats, because this is earth shaking. חביבין ישראל – “Beloved is Yisroel,” שנקראו בנים למקום – “They are called ‘children of Hashem.” What’s he saying? It sounds like a repetition. We already said that all of Mankind is tzelem Elokim. No, no, it’s not repetition. We’re starting where he left off, from the previous statement. You know what Mankind is? You think you know what it means to be a “reflection of Hashem”? Think about it for the next hundred years and maybe it will penetrate a little bit. And now, after you understand that, after you understand what Mankind is, the Mishna is building a second story on top of that. A skyscraper on top of a skyscraper! However great Mankind is, much greater than Mankind is Yisroel.

Because not only are they נבראו בצלם like all of Mankind, but they are called בנים למקום. Now who called them בנים למקום? It was Moshe Rabeinu when he came to Pharaoh and spoke in the name of Hashem: כה אמר השם בני בכורי ישראל – “So said Hashem: They are My most beloved son.”

Now this lesson takes a lot of learning, a lot of thinking. But the best way to learn it, is if it goes into you. And it goes into you when you chew the Korban Pesach, and understand that you’re eating food from the table of Hashem.

Now you know why we sit on Tisha B’av and we mourn for the Churban Beis HaMikdash. Alas for what we lost! Our fathers were able to sit down Pesach night in Yerushalayim in chaburos, family groups with their guests sitting around a broiled lamb. And each person received a little piece of the Pesach, the Passover korban. And when they ate that meat they were demonstrating that we are not one of the nations of the world. שלא עשנו כגויי הארצות – “You didn’t make us like You made the nations of the lands.” Not because we disparage them; that’s a different story whether or not we disparage them. That has nothing to do with the subject. We are not one of the nations! והבדלתי אתכם מן העמים – “I separated you from the nations.” Because you are My people, you’re a separate thing altogether. You’re not human beings! You’re My people now!


And our forefathers, as they ate that little piece of roasted lamb, they were putting this lesson into them. They weren’t just hearing it like you’re hearing now. They were chewing the meat of the korban, and the lesson was going into their bones. And what’s the lesson? That we can eat the offering! This was the first offering to Hashem that anyone ever ate and we are the ones who are eating it. We are the only ones who can eat from a korban, and that demonstrates chavivin Yisroel, how great is a Yisroel! And that’s what the Korban Pesach comes to teach.

Now I’m sure it teaches other things as well, but this is certainly included. And therefore, although we don’t have the Korban Pesach, but when we eat the piece of matzoh that symbolizes the korban, that’s the afikomen, that’s what we are demonstrating. Now you see how important the afikomen is; so don’t gorge on the kneidelach during the meal. Leave a little room, like it says in the little letters in the hagaddah: that a חכם עיניו בראשו – “A wise man should have eyes in his head.” Not eyes in his belly – but eyes in his head. He should look ahead and leave a little space for the afikomen.


And then, while you’re eating the afikomen – while you’re chewing that piece of shemurah matzoh, the afikomen matzoh, you’ll be thinking about what it signifies. It signifies the greatness of the Am Yisroel. Not ‘greatness’ like a Jewish writer would put it; not the ‘greatness’ that some Jewish columnist would say it means. But it’s a greatness that is far beyond our ability to comprehend. It’s a greatness the way HaKadosh Baruch Hu understands it.


And now we move on to the Matzoh. Now, there are many significances that are included in matzoh – and many more have been inserted that weren’t originally intended by anyone. ושמרתם את המצות – “You have to guard the matzos” (Bo 12:17). Now everybody knows why you guard the matzos. Because matzoh, if it’s not guarded, can become chometz. And so let’s now understand what the matzoh is trying teach us.


Everybody learned that our forefathers in Egypt had sunk pretty low. Who doesn’t know the statement that “our fathers had reached מ”ט שערי טומאה – The forty-ninth degree of impurity.” And there was only one more degree to go. So according to this, they were pretty far gone. And it should occur to us: Why were they rescued if that’s the case? Why did they deserve to be chosen?

Now, first we have to ask another question. At what degree of tumah were the Egyptians? If our forefathers were at the forty ninth level of tumah, so then which one of the sha’arei tumah were the Egyptians on? There’s only one sha’ar left! So where were the Egyptians?

I’m going to explain this to you now because the whole thing is misunderstood. When we measure the degrees of heat and cold in this world, on this earth, we should realize that it’s actually nothing compared to the possible degrees of heat and cold, because the variation and fluctuation here is a very small range. Only that we could not exist if it would be a little colder or a little warmer. But our thermometer is only a little thermometer. It measures only about a hundred degrees. But if you would have an absolute thermometer, it wouldn’t be a hundred degrees, it would be a million degrees. Because even zero is nothing, because there’s below zero; and it’s unlimited below zero. And above zero, it’s unlimited too. It’s only that on this huge thermometer we are acquainted with only a little area, and it’s along that small area on the thermometer that “our” temperature fluctuates.


Now when it’s stated that our forefathers had reached the forty-ninth degree of tumah, it means there was a special thermometer that HaKadosh Baruch Hu used only to measure His people. There are different thermometers for different uses. I’ll give you a mashal. Here you have a thermometer that you use when you bake. Now that baking thermometer, you’re not going to push into a child’s rectum – because it wouldn’t register. Even if the child that has a high fever, it will never register on an oven thermometer. And if you have this baking thermometer, and now you have an oven where you’re going to melt metal – you’re melting ore – then even the baking oven  thermometer won’t register. So it depends what the thermometer is used for.


For the Am Yisroel, there was a special thermometer that HaKadosh Baruch Hu had, and it was a very strict thermometer. And according to that thermometer it was the forty ninth level of tumah. And where were the Egyptians? Egypt was on a different thermometer altogether. A very long thermometer, way down on the bottom. They were a thousand degrees minus.

I’ll explain this some more. You know that the Navi Yechezkel castigated our forefathers in Mitzrayim with extreme criticism. But we must be careful when we listen to the words of Yechezkel. And we know that because he criticized them, not only in Mitzrayim, but even after they went out of Mitzrayim. And the Navi Yechezkel states as follows, את שבתותי חיללו מאד – “They profaned My Shabbos very much.” When the people went out of Mitzrayim and they went into the wilderness, “they profaned My Shabboses very much,” said Yechezkel Hanavi. Now the question is, what kind of chillul shabbos did they commit in the wilderness? It was forty years in the midbar and in all those years we have only two instances of chillul shabbos. One instance was the mikosheish. It wasn’t a party, it wasn’t a movement; it was one man. And he didn’t do it a hundred times. One man did something once on Shabbos. And they put him to death! The other instance was יצא מן העם ללקוט. Some people went out to look for the mann on Shabbos – and they didn’t find any. So they didn’t even do anything because they didn’t find any mann to gather. Now it’s these two instances that Yechezkel is referring to. About that Yechezkel says: את שבתותי חיללו מאד – “They profaned My Shabosses very much.”


Now this is very important and you have to get this point into your head. A nation that numbered in the millions – they numbered in the millions when they went out of Mitzrayim. Because just the males alone, between twenty and sixty, were 600,000.  But the males had wives and there were many who were younger than twenty and there many older than sixty as well. So there were millions. So in a nation of millions, over forty years, you had two instances, two lone instances. Which means that never again was there ever so much shmiras shabbos as there was in that generation. Never again did you have such Shabbos observance as you had then. But the Navi Yechezkel, he speaks like a Navi is supposed to speak, with a magnifying glass. Now you understand what kind of thermometer was used for the Bnei Yisroel.  That’s called שבתותי חיללו מאד!


However, even that was already too much for Hakadosh Baruch Hu. Because He didn’t choose a ‘people amongst peoples’. He was choosing a nation that would separate, that would be lifted up far above the rest of Mankind. And to be His chosen sons, He requires perfection.  That’s what HaKadosh Baruch Hu desires – shleimus, perfection. And even if the Jew is always superior to the best of the nations of the world, even if the Jew is better than the best of the peoples of the world, it’s not good enough. And that’s why the Am Yisroel must always be on guard for the slightest change in temperature. Because Hashem won’t sit back. Something is going to have to happen – something is going to have to impede the matzoh from turning to chometz. That’s what we’re learning here. That there’s a different thermometer for the Am Yisroel, and that thermometer notices the slightest differences in temperature, changes which among the umas ha’olam would mean nothing.


So the Am Yisroel were at the forty ninth level of tumah. And so it states that HaKadosh Baruch Hu was חישב את הקץ – HaKadosh Baruch Hu calculated the end, לעשות כמה שאמר לאברהם אבינו – He had to fulfill what He promised to Avraham Avinu. He had said that at a certain time He was going to take them out. But He calculated that certain time. How did He calculate it? Now, He could have calculated it in a number of ways. When He said four hundred years, it could have been four hundred years in Mitzrayim. It didn’t have to be four hundred years from the birth of Yitzchak. It could have been four hundred years in Mitzrayim. And it could have been even more, because when Yosef was alive, they really didn’t suffer bondage. It could have been four hundred years starting from after Yosef’s death . That’s when the four hundred years of bondage began. It could have been any number of calculations because when HaKadosh Baruch Hu gives a prophecy, we don’t know exactly what He means. It’s only after it’s all done and we look back retroactively, then we discover what He meant.


So what does it mean that HaKadosh Baruch Hu calculated the ’keitz’?  It’s like matzoh. You know matzoh, if you let it stand, so up to a certain degree of development, it’s still matzoh. But if it’s going to ferment a little bit beyond a certain stage, then it’s chometz. It’s not just a little bit. It’s not a mitzvah anymore! On the contrary – it’s koreis, a very big sin. And it says, ושמרתם את המצות – “You have to guard the matzos.” And the purpose of guarding your matzos is to act as a symbol: that HaKadosh Baruch Hu was חישב את הקץ. And He saw that in Egypt we were inching along the thermometer in the wrong direction. We weren’t getting better. And that was a big problem.

Now, we were very good. Compared to the best of the Egyptians, we were excellent. We were way above them. But that wasn’t good enough. It’s like a man who is sinking in a quagmire and if he sinks down to his knees, so you can wait before you extricate him – it’s no emergency. When he sinks down to his thighs, they’re still not alarmed. When he sinks down to his shoulders, there’s still an opportunity to save him. But when he sinks down to his neck, it’s a little late. And when he starts sinking down to his nostrils, then it’s the last moment and you can’t wait anymore. And they were now at forty-ninth level of defilement. Now don’t get any wrong ideas! They were best of all the peoples in the world, but for the Am Hashem they weren’t good enough.

Now up until now, Pharaoh had been stubborn as a rock. Moshe had gone to him once, and again and again. He had been lambasted by makkos. His land was rocking and reeling under the makkos. The land was going to ruin under the makkos.  But Pharaoh refused to budge. But when HaKadosh Baruch Hu came to that moment that He had calculated – when He decided that they can’t remain any longer – then Pharaoh got up in the middle of the night. He himself got up, and he came to Moshe and banged on his door and he said, “Go out!” When HaKadosh Baruch Hu pressed the button, you didn’t have to go to  Pharaoh and ask him for favors. No; Pharaoh got up, and he came with his officers and he knocked on the doors looking for Moshe Rabeinu. He knocked on the door and he said, “Go out”: כי גרשו ממצרים -”They were driven out of Egypt.” Pharaoh drove them out.  It would have been good enough for us had Pharaoh reluctantly said, “Alright, you can go now.” No, he didn’t say, “You can go.” He drove them out!


And do you know why? Because לא יכלו להתמהמה. They couldn’t wait any longer. And that’s why they made matzos that night. Now we think matzos are because they didn’t have a chance for their dough to sour. That’s good for matzos that you make today, after the story of Pesach. But what about the  matzoh of that Pesach night – the matzoh that they ate in Mitzrayim at the seder – why did they have matzos? They weren’t driven out yet! Why couldn’t they eat the old bread that they had, the leavened bread that they had in their homes? And the answer is that they were told to eat matzos in order for them to realize it’s late. You have to leave Mitzrayim now because a little bit longer and you would be too far away from perfection. ושמרתם את המצות means that now is the last moment; you can’t wait another moment. When the signal comes, you must get up and get out of Mitzrayim to save yourself. Otherwise, you’ll perish as a nation. You’ll be a nation, and maybe you’ll even be the best of the nations, but that’s not what the Chosen People means. Hashem wants us to be the perfect nation, separated from Mankind completely. So Hakadosh Baruch Hu calculated that moment when they must rescue themselves. And that’s why they came out of Mitzrayim in a hurry, בחפזון. They were in a hurry.  You can’t waste any time when a man is sinking down to his nostrils.


Now the Egyptians didn’t sink down to their nostrils. The Egyptians were already far far underground. All the nations were miles underground. But the Am Yisroel, their nostrils were beginning to touch the level of the mud; and now HaKadosh Baruch Hu went into action. And it was quick action! It was בחפזון and כי גרשו! They were kicked out of Egypt; they’re were ejected. Quick action was needed. כי לא יכלו להתמהמה. And that’s what took place. That’s why the matzos of that night were eaten. In order to symbolize that there’s a time when it becomes almost too late for our nation, and quick action has to be taken, so that we should remain the perfect nation.


Now, there’s a time in the life of a nation, and there’s also a time in the life of an individual. And the individual must know too: there comes a time when it’s pretty late, and if you wait another minute then it’s lost forever. The Rambam says: Why is it that Pharaoh was forced to obey the prophecy of אני אכביד את לב פרעה – “I’m going to make Pharaoh’s heart stubborn”? Pharoah lost his free will. How do You take away free will from somebody?! Pharaoh couldn’t let them out beforehand because Hakadosh Baruch Hu made him a prisoner. He was a prisoner! He couldn’t say anything other than, “No.” HaKadosh Baruch Hu changed him; He changed his free will. Pharaoh couldn’t speak – he was in chains.  All he could say was “No.” He was a puppet.

So the Rambam asks: Doesn’t this contradict the principle of free will? Free will means every man can choose between right and wrong. And so the Rambam tells us something very important. He says that Pharaoh lost his free will as a punishment. He was doing wrong things beforehand and as a punishment for what he had done beforehand, he was placed in chains and he lost his free will. Pharaoh was scheming beforehand. Now, I’m sure that Pharaoh had all the excuses in the world. But Hashem knew exactly what was going on in his head. כי ידעת כי הזידו עליהם – “For You Hashem knew that [the Mitzrim] acted with evil intentions” (Pesukei D’zimrah from Nechemia 9:10). It wasn’t like Pharaoh said “It’s self-defense and we have to save ourselves. Suddenly a nation we took in as refugees; they’re beginning to increase. It’s terrible – they’ll drown us out with their fecundity, having so many children. So in self-defense we have to practice birth control on them. We’ll have to throw the children into the river.”  No, that’s not true. כי ידעת כי הזידו עליהם. Hashem knew that it was b’meizid; it was only wickedness. It was rish’us. He knew that.

Now, it could be that some of the people weren’t saying that. Could be. Pharaoh’s people said, “Well, we’re all nice people. We like Jews. Jews are among our best friends. But what can we do?  It’s self-defense.” “No,” said Hashem, “I know.” כי ידעת כי הזידו עליהם. Now, not everybody knew. But Hashem knew! Hashem knew what Pharaoh was thinking.


And so Pharaoh was made a prisoner. Why did he lose his free-will? It was because of his wickedness that he lost his free will. And the Rambam says that this can happen to anybody. HaKadosh Baruch Hu gives you a chance. He says, “Look; you were young and you were in Yeshiva once. You had an opportunity to learn. But you frittered away the opportunity and you left the Yeshiva. But you can still learn. You’re not lost yet. But there will be a time when I’ll make it My business,” HaKadosh Baruch Hu says, “that you’ll lose your free will.” You’ll never know it. You’ll be hurried and harried all the rest of your life, all the way to the end; you’ll hurry towards your grave. You’ll hurry and you’ll have so many things to do – whether it’s success or troubles, but all your life you’ll be on the run from now on. Because you had the opportunity and you neglected it. ושמרתם את המצות. Be careful and guard your life. Because past a certain stage, it’s not matzoh anymore. It becomes chometz. You lose your free will and you’re cut off from any more opportunities.


That’s what we learn from matzoh. Our nation was snatched out from the jaws of destruction just in time, just before they reached the last degree. Now don’t think that our people in Mitzrayim were, chas veshalom, disloyal people. I’d like to read to you a list of some names. We have a record of some names of the Jews in Mitzrayim and it’s so important, this list of names. It’s so enlightening:  אליצור בן שדיאור. Do you know what that means? “Hashem is my G-d, He’s my strength.” And his father’s name was, “The Almighty is my light.” Now these names were not given because there was an uncle who had that name! These were original names!  And they gave these names because they meant it. These names were not only given for the yotzei Mitzrayim, for that great nation that left Mitzrayim. These men were mature men when they left Mitzrayim. And if they were mature men, their names were given long before that, when they were still in bondage. And their fathers had such names as well. Let’s find somebody today who gives a name that really means a  prayer and a praise to Hakodosh Boruch Hu, a name that expresses love of Hashem. שלומיאל בן צורישדי – Ahh, what a glorious name! “Hashem is my Peace; my Welfare.” And his father’s name was “Hashem is my Rock.” Here’s a name! עמינדב – My nation volunteers to follow HaKadosh Baruch Hu, to serve Him. Now that’s a name! Aminadav! Ahh! These are names! It tells us what the people were thinking. It’s the pulse of our people!

By the way, women gave these names. Women gave these names. They didn’t give them names of actresses. Grace and Betty. Or Jeffrey and Mark after a great-uncle. They gave names that were filled with ideals and prayers. נתנאל, Nesanel. That’s a name that was invented in Mitzrayim. “Hashem gave.”  אליאב, Eliav. “Hashem is my father.” אלישמע, Elishama. “Hashem has heard; He has listened to our prayers.” עמיהוד, Amihud. “My people’s pride; my people’s majesty. Hashem is my people’s majesty. The glory of my people.” Ahh! What names! That’s the Jewish people. These are the ones who went out of Mitzrayim. גמליאל, Gamliel. “Hashem has bestowed upon me.” It means, כי גמל עלי – “He has given me great happiness, blessings. And פדהצור, PadahTzur. “My Rock has redeemed me.” אבידן, Avidan. “My father strives for me.” It means, “My Father – that’s Hashem – takes up for me.” כי דנני אלוקים. Follow the names! And פגעיאל, Pagi’el. “Hakadosh Baruch Hu, that’s the One who fights for me.”

Now these names are only a sampling. They were mentioned in the Torah because they were leaders of their tribes, but they weren’t chosen as leaders because of their names. The Jewish nation was head over heels in love with HaKadosh Baruch Hu. This you have to know.

And they loved Hashem because they were children of Avraham Avinu: זרע אברהם אוהבי – “These are the children of Avraham, My friend. ” Avraham is Hashem’s friend and his children loved Hashem – no question about it. We were a beautiful nation. Only that Hashem was measuring is with His thermometer, and He therefore took us out before we would cool off even a little bit more. And if we are told that somebody wasn’t so good, you have to know that we are measuring him with that thermometer.


In order to save time, because we’re near the end, we’ll cut it short – although there’s much more to be said about it. And we’ll move on and talk about marror for a moment. מרור זה -”These bitter herbs,” we say and we point at the marror. And our Sages say, that this marror is a certain species – a certain type of leafy vegetable – that originally is not bitter at all. But if you let it stand in the ground and you don’t pick it for some time, then it turns bitter.

And that marror is a symbol of the nations among whom we live.  We try to fraternize with them and in every land they seem so sweet at first. In every land, at first, the nations all seem sweet.  But if that fraternizing continues, then it’s going to turn bitter. That’s what the marror is. Chazal say that the species of the marror that is the choicest is the Romaine lettuce because, תחילתו מתוק וסופו מר – “It’s sweet in the beginning, and then it turns bitter.” And the best time to pick that marror is when it’s still fresh. It means, not to fraternize! We have to be friendly to the umas haolam and always be polite, but we have to keep aloof from them. Like Avraham Avinu kept aloof from the umos. You can be friendly and polite, but don’t let that attitude sit in the ground and grow any more than that, because it’ll turn very bitter.


That’s very important for us to learn, and the marror symbolizes what happened. When they started becoming friendly to the nations in Egypt, so what happened? It states in Tehillim in chapter 105, הפך לבם לשנוא עמו – “[Hashem] turned their hearts to hate His people.” להתנכל בעבדיו – “to scheme against His servants.”

Yosef was admired in Mitzrayim. He was a hero to them. And Yosef’s people therefore all basked in the reflection of Yosef’s glory. And they loved it; you know it’s natural. And there’s no question that, to some extent, they considered the Egyptians as friends; they looked upon them with kindly eyes. But HaKadosh Baruch Hu didn’t want that. Like it was explained here recently: the hostility, any kind of hostility, is sent by HaKadosh Baruch Hu for a purpose.

The Gemara in Mesichta Kiddushin tells us this. אם ראית שתי משפחות שמתגרות זו בזו – If you see two families that can’t get along and we don’t understand why. It seems like trivial things; no real cause. So the Gemara says that it’s of a mysterious source. HaKadosh Baruch Hu has sent this hostility as a barrier. שמץ פסול יש באחת מהם – “There’s something wrong with one of the families.” And HaKadosh Baruch Hu is protecting one of the families, the family that has yichus, the aristocratic family, against mingling with the other one. That’s what hostility comes for, as a barrier: אם ראית שתי משפחות שמתגרות זו בזו שמץ פסול יש באחת מהם ואין מניחים אותו לדבק בחבירתה – “Hashem won’t permit them to marry.” That’s why there is hostility.


When Jews forget to be aloof from the gentiles around them; they mingle with them, they use their names – they use names of the umas ha’olam. And they identify with the umas ha’olam. So HaKadosh Baruch Hu sees that there’s a danger; they’re sinking into the quagmire, they’re sinking and sinking. The knees, the shoulders, the neck. So what does Hakodosh Boruch Hu do? He erects a barrier, a barrier of hostility, הפך לבם לשנוא עמו – “He turns over their hearts so they begin hating His people now.” And that’s their salvation! And that marror, this bitterness, this hostility towards us, is very good for us.

It’s very healthy for us, and that’s why we sit down and eat marror on Pesach night. The truth is, the choicest marror , Romaine lettuce for instance, is quite pleasant. So you sit down Pesach night and you munch Romaine lettuce and you’re thinking of the bitterness that could happen if you let it stand too long. So you’re learning the lesson that this bitterness, this marror, that HaKadosh Baruch Hu raises up between us and the goyim is very good for us. Romaine lettuce, the green leafy vegetable, it’s healthy to eat.  It has vitamins, it has iron; it’s good to eat. So as you eat a wholesome meal of whole wheat matzoh and you’re eating green leafy vegetables, so you’re eating a very refreshing meal. Very good! It has all the elements of a good meal. And the protein will follow eventually. And that’s to teach us that this marror is good for us! This marror is healthy for us!  And therefore, when you walk down the street and some umas ha’olam hurl an epithet at you, they say something to you, you should feel that this is vitamins for you.  That’s what HaKadosh Baruch Hu does to preserve us. And the best way of learning this lesson is by eating the marror on Pesach night, and thinking these ideas.

Preface to Pesach – Tape #214

TAPE #214

Preface to Pesach



In our homes on Pesach night we make a great declaration, not only to our children, but to everybody in the world. And we say הא לחמא עניא – this is the bread of affliction which our forefathers ate in Mitzrayim. Now, when we say that they ate “bread of affliction” we actually mean that they ate affliction. And eating affliction is an exceptionally good diet. Now, that may need some explaining, but certainly it’s a diet that is very good. Like the gemara says on the pasuk יחלץ עני בעניו – Hakadosh Baruch Hu extricates a poor man, He saves him, because of his poverty. The gemara says that בעניו means בשכר עניו – in reward for his poverty. In reward for affliction, people attain success.


What type of success? Every form of success! We get success in gashmius, in physical ways, and we get success in ruchnius, in the spiritual arena. Whatever it is – חביבין ייסורים! Suffering is a very great benefit! Hakadosh Baruch Hu would give more of it, only that He suffers from it as well k’viyochal. בזמן שאדם מצטער – When a man is in distress,  שכינה מה לשון אומרת – what does the shechina say? “I’m in distress!” But otherwise Hakadosh Baruch Hu would give us more of this good thing. Because there’s nothing that’s mechaper on a man, nothing that purifies him and makes him good, nothing that elevates him – like suffering.


Actually there is one thing that’s greater than suffering, but that’s a very difficult thing. And that is utilizing happiness to become great. Utilizing happiness to gain purity of character and to get kapara. That’s even better. That’s the madreiga called kedusha, like the Mesillas Yesharim explains: If you’re able to eat and to become closer to Hashem through enjoying this world, then that’s the biggest of all things. If you’re able to breathe deeply and to look at a blue sky and your heart sings within you, and you thank Hakadosh Baruch Hu, then you’re following the pattern of שירי דוד עבדיך. You’re walking in the footsteps of Dovid Hamelech, who grew great through happiness.

Dovid had the other kind too. When Dovid was hiding in a מערה, in a cave, the fear of death was upon him. A number of times he was in peril of his life. And he grew great there too. But Dovid’s true greatness was בנאות דשא ירביצני על מי מנוחות ינהלני, when he was lying down with his sheep in the green meadows by the still waters. It was then, when he had no enemies that he became Dovid Hamelech. He was a boy and nobody was jealous of him, and so he had nothing to worry about. And he took out his harp and he sang to Hakadosh Baruch Hu. And his soul ascended on the notes of his harp to heaven and he became great – there, behind his sheep, is where Dovid became great.


But that you have to know is extremely difficult. It’s much easier to become good from suffering. Suffering is a great benefit! And our forefathers, when they ate the bread of affliction they gained weight – spiritual weight. They became better and better. Because all the virtues that we acquired as a nation we gained in the affliction of Mitzrayim. And now we’ll mention just two examples out of thousands.


וזכרת כי עבד היית בארץ מצרים – “Remember you were a slave in Mitzrayim.” So what do we see? That the experience in Mitzrayim taught us how to have sympathy with those who are  suffering. The Jewish nation from then on, was always on the side of the downtrodden – because they went through it themselves. They knew what it meant. If you never were in a hospital – and you shouldn’t have to go except when your wife is in the maternity ward – if you were never a patient in a hospital, then you can’t appreciate what the sick people feel. When a person undergoes that experience, then he sympathizes the next time he passes by a hospital. He knows that there are a lot of suffering people inside. And therefore, הא לחמא עניא, this is the bread of affliction that our forefathers ate. It was a “bread” that they ate. Bread is healthy for a person. It was good for them. Only, what do we do? We try to substitute for what they did, for how they lived; we try to substitute it by eating. That’s why we eat matzoh.


Now, matzoh is a pleasure to eat. Whether it’s machine-made 18 minute matzos, or whether it’s handmade matzoh, it’s always good to eat matzos. The change from bread to matzos is always welcome. But as your teeth are crunching into the matzo, don’t waste the opportunity. Try to gain at least a small measure of what our forefathers gained by eating a different kind of matzos.

Our forefathers ate a matzo that was bitter; it was affliction that brought tears to their eyes. When children were snatched from them and they were taken away to destruction, Jewish fathers and Jewish mothers wept. They broke down. I don’t doubt that some went insane from tzoros. But the total, the sum total result was, that they became a new people. They went through fire! But they were purified in that furnace.

And that’s why Hakadosh Baruch Hu called Mitzrayim the  כור הברזל – it was a furnace of iron. Now, there were some furnaces in ancient times that were made of clay, clay furnaces. And that was good enough to bake bread. However, if you want to melt precious metals, and to remove the impurities, it wasn’t enough to have a clay oven. You needed an iron oven, a כור הברזל. And Mitzrayim was an iron furnace for the Am Yisroel. And our fathers were melted, and they became liquid. And Hakadosh Baruch Hu removed all of their impurities, and they became pure gold in Mitzrayim.


Now for us, we don’t want that, we don’t want an iron furnace. We prefer to gain just a little bit of this; and we’ll never come to the stage that they attained. We’ll never be as good as they were, but a little bit we want to gain by eating the matzos.

So as you sit home with your family in a peaceful country, where you’re more or less secure against the outside, and you don’t have many worries. As you lean back and relax – you have to lean on your left hand when you’re eating matzos, you know. You have to recline when you’re eating the kezayis matzoh. So as you’re leaning and eating, and you think – while you’re eating the matzoh you think – that by this means I want to gain some of the perfection that our forefathers gained by עינוי, by affliction. And that’s what we say הא לחמא עניא – this is the bread of affliction that our forefathers ate. They ate something much worse! But we’re trying to recapture it a little bit.


And then we make an announcement. כל דכפין ייתי וייכול – “Anybody who’s hungry, let him come and eat.” Now, Jews always made this announcement; the children of Avraham always made room for the hungry. It wasn’t only the night of Pesach. So what is special about tonight? On the night of Pesach we have to say a second thing: כל דצריך ייתי ויפסח – “Anybody who needs, should come and eat the korban Pesach.” Because the korban Pesach is an obligation, and every Jew has to come and eat. Now you can’t invite him from the street, because if he didn’t count himself in at the beginning, he can’t come. So this announcement is made only to those who belong to the club, all those who chipped in and bought this lamb together. So we’re announcing: “Hurry up! It’s ready; come and get it. Let everybody who belongs come in.”


But while we’re talking about that, while we’re making announcements, here is a man, a poor man in the street who came late. He didn’t have the opportunity to be nimneh, to count himself in on the korban Pesach. And he hears us inviting in, from the street, all of our comrades who belong to our club. Since we don’t want to leave anybody out, so we say you can come in too. Now, the korban Pesach, we’re sorry you can’t eat, but we’ll give you other things. There’s plenty of meat and plenty of fish and plenty of matzos, so we invite him in to eat anyhow. Tonight we’re inviting people in, we’re calling from the house so that the stragglers – those who belong to our club – shouldn’t be left out. But while you’re announcing, don’t hurt the feelings of the people who are homeless, the travelers, or visitors. Even though it’s too late for them to eat the korbon Pesach, but we invite them to eat whatever they can. Because no matter what, everyone has to make use of this sacred night. It’s so important to gain all the attitudes of the seder night.


And so, we’re sitting there and we’re about to begin this great drama of the seder. Hakadosh Baruch Hu is the playwright and He wants the Jewish people to be the actors. Excuse me for the mashal – it’s not a proper mashal – but it helps us to explain this. Hakadosh Baruch Hu arranged the seder. And the seder is actually a play. We’re reenacting a drama.


And we say there, right at the beginning of the script, the first thing you have to know השתא הכא – this year we’re here. Wherever you Jews are, remember that this is not your final destination. It may be very comfortable and you may be settled in some beautiful neighborhood. You may be prosperous and satisfied, but you have to know that the Jew in this world has a function. And it’s true that in galus too, this function can be carried out. But it’s only a preparation for the future. We are all preparing for the great future.


Because, like our forefathers in Mitzrayim, they didn’t live for the moment. They were also enacting a drama that was to be re-enacted throughout the generations. They understood that they had a function to fulfill when they lived out these great scenes of history in Mitzrayim. And therefore we also understand that while we’re here, we’re also preparing for the future. You have to know that you’re here to prepare. השתא הכא – this year we are here. But remember! We are preparing for the future generations to read our history.

They’ll read someday the history of the Jews of America. And they’re going to read about how the Jews in America staged a great comeback. There was a great rising of the youth, a leavening, a rebellion against the old generations who came to America to get lost – the generation who made it their  purpose  to mingle with the people of the land and to throw away the Torah. And then the youth arose with a mighty and a violent revolt, and all over America baalei teshuva began to appear! Torah institutions began to sprout and grow everywhere! And we are the ones writing this great book. Someday it will be read in the world – the history of the Jews of America.


But that’s a preparation. Because we’re all getting ready לשנה הבא בארעא דישראל – in the year to come – whether it’s next year or not, but it’s going to happen, it’s inevitable! And the galus is a preparation for the geulah. Because, when our descendants, let’s hope that we ourselves will be there, but our descendants will be sitting in Eretz Yisroel and they’ll be telling about what happened to their forefathers in exile; we are the ones who are writing that book now. So therefore השתא, remember this year you’re here, but you’re getting ready לשנה הבא, for the year to come, when you’re going to be in Eretz Yisroel. And the way to go to Eretz Yisroel, and to make that final geulah more perfect is by living according to these great ideals this very moment.


And one of the biggest preparations that you can do is to remember the subject of Yetzias Mitzrayim, and to enact those scenes in our lives. And the night of Pesach is the glorious opportunity – more than any other occasion – to impress upon your minds the great lessons, some of which we’ll speak about tonight.


And therefore the first thing we say השתא עבדי – now we are slaves. It means; we recognize that we cannot exercise our free will entirely. Because there are laws of the land, and there are gentile practices. Even the best Jews are subject to the influence of the environment. Of course, it doesn’t mean that you have to have a television and you have to sit and swallow the stupid propaganda of gentile actors for two hours a day. No, we’re not talking about that. But even let’s say Satmar Jew who’s sitting in Williamsburg. He doesn’t have any television and he doesn’t have a radio. He doesn’t even have any English books in his house; and still he cannot avoid the influence of the environment.

And so we are slaves now – that’s what the hagaddah is saying. השתא עבדי. You have to realize that this situation now is not the full opportunity. לשנה הבא בני חורין – The time will come when we will be free to live perfectly, בשלימות, according to our ideals.

Now that’s very important. Because, when people think that now is it – they’re living for the now – then they are making the biggest error possible. Because they don’t adjust their lives for their true function.


Our function is to prepare for the geulah. And that’s why the Chofetz Chaim made a sefer called ציפית לישועה. It’s a question that’s going to be asked of everybody. When the great day comes when we appear before the tribunal of heaven, the question is going to be: ציפית לישועה? Did you look forward to the salvation? Did you look forward for moshiach? Because, every day three times we say it. But the question is: How sincere are we? You have to feel that we are hampered now in our galus. Because if you don’t know what is hampering you, you won’t be able to succeed.


Now of course, when a person has opportunities that he neglects even now, it’s a terrible loss. Let’s say, summertime is coming. There’s nice weather and the roads are beckoning, and so every Sunday he climbs into his car with his family and they’re off for another day of suicide.

He has a free day. Wouldn’t it be fine to sit home in your backyard and learn? Learn with your children! Or if he’s in camp, let him learn with his children in camp. Wherever they are, try to devote your day for learning.


But some people go to bungalow colonies and they have to “visit” on Sundays. All Sunday they’re sitting at the steering wheel bumping up and down the country roads. All Sunday! This is instead of sitting with his children and examining them on what they learned during the week, and teaching them to make up what they missed during the winter time. So if people live for the moment, if they don’t realize that השתא עבדי, then they won’t utilize their lives. They don’t realize what they’re here to accomplish. And that’s a tragedy. That’s the great tragedy of wasting time, wasting your life.


But when he knows he’s living for the future then he can become a success. ציפית לישועה – it’s a question that’s going to be asked. Did you expect moshiach to come momentarily? Everyday we say ומצפים לישועה in nusach sefard. And nusach ashkenaz say כי לישועתך קוינו כל היום. It doesn’t mean every day, it means all day long. And it means that you’re always aware of what your purpose here is. So as a Jews walks through the streets of Paris, he’s not a Parisian, he’s in exile. A Jew is walking through the streets of Rome, he’s in golus. Our fathers walked through the streets of the great city of Babylon. They weren’t Babylonians. They were tourists. A Jew is a tourist in this world. כגרים ותושבים אתם – we’re tourists all over the world, wherever we are. Of course we pay taxes. Of course, we keep the laws. And by the way, you should even put out a flag on the fourth of July. Certainly you should be loyal to your country. We’re just as loyal as everyone else – we should be even more loyal than others. A Jew should be grateful to America. We should kiss the earth of America for all that it gave to us.

But we should never forget, we don’t belong here. We don’t belong in Eretz Yisroel either until it becomes Eretz Yisroel. It’s a country where they have a law permitting abortion, anyone could get an abortion and a million babies were already killed since they established the State of Israel. A million babies! Jewish children! They wouldn’t have to worry about Arabs. If you have some place to settle them, you wouldn’t have to make proclamations, pathetic proclamations, “Come Gush Emunim, let’s settle in occupied territories”. The force of population would have caused you to have settlements everywhere. But they went into this terrible business of murder, of abortions, instead. And so they’re killing Jewish babies in the State of Israel! They’re worse than Hitler! Hitler only killed a million Jewish children, and they’ve already killed a million. And now they’re starting on the second million.


So that’s not Eretz Yisroel either! But we’re waiting for that great day when we’ll come to the true Eretz Yisroel and then we’ll fulfill our mission. But right now we’re waiting. Wherever you are, if you’re in Tel Aviv or if you’re in Brooklyn, you’re preparing for moshiach. That’s what we’re reminding ourselves. השתא עבדי.


Now, here’s a rich man, perhaps he’s sitting on West End Avenue. Not today; West End Avenue today is not such a great thing anymore because on all sides you have Puerto Ricans. If you walk out, it’s dangerous. But I remember West End Avenue when it was West End Avenue. There wasn’t a house without a flank in the doorway. It looked like an admiral. Every house! And only millionaires lived there. So let’s imagine a millionaire Jew, an Orthodox Jew on West End Avenue, and he’s packed with money. When he sits down with his nice family, he has nachas from his family, and he’s saying השתא עבדי – “This year we’re slaves.” He doesn’t even begin to feel the truth of these words! It’s just words.


And therefore it’s important for him to realize that this is not his place. He’s not a US citizen – he is a citizen of the Torah! The Torah is our country. Like the Jews once asked Hakadosh Baruch Hu: Where should we run? There’s no place to run to. We ask the same question today: Where should you run? You run to Long island? There are some communities in Long Island that have already become so black that the synagogues were sold to Negroes. In Long Island!  There’s no place to run. So Hakadosh Baruch Hu answers ברחו לתורה – “Run away to the Torah.” That’s your home. So whether you live here, or in Williamsburg, or even if you live in Brownsville! Wherever you live, the Torah is your home. And that home nobody can take from you. Nobody can take it from you and in the end you’ll take it with you.


Now we move on to a new subject, and the subject is that beautiful scene in the הגדה של פסח that the painters have tried to recapture on canvas. A little boy is asking his father the historic question מה נשתנה.  Now we have to realize what a central place this occupies – not only at the seder. It’s occupies a central place in the destiny of the Jewish people. I’ll explain that.

Hakadosh Baruch Hu told us why He loved our father Avraham. It’s important to listen. Why do I love this man? כי ידעתיו  – I know this man. It means; My mind is on him. Now Hashem knows everybody. Why does it say that He knew Avraham? It means: I’m thinking about him all the time. כביכול, Hakadosh Baruch Hu’s mind is always on Avraham. Why? Why do I love this man so? למען אשר יצוה את בניו ואת ביתו אחריו – “Because I know he’s going to command his children and his household after him.” He’ll see to it that it’s handed over to his descendants. That’s why I love him. ושמרו דרך השם – “They’re going to keep the way of Hashem.” That’s why Hakadosh Baruch Hu loved Avraham. He knew He could trust him.

Avraham did a good job on his son too. Avraham and Sarah together. Sarah was there behind the scenes in everything. Sarah raised up Yitzchak. Don’t think it was Avraham alone. When Sarah passed away Yitzchak was inconsolable, he was disconsolate. וינחם יצחק אחרי אמו it says. But at first he was disconsolate. Because his mother had raised him up.

So Avraham and Sarah dedicated their lives, like the Rambam says in Moreh Nevuchim, להעמיד אומה עובדת השם – “To raise up a nation that will serve Hashem.” That’s what the Rambam says about the Avos. They were dedicated to that one purpose of raising up a nation, generations and generations forever, that would serve  Hashem.


And therefore the Torah insists again and again כי ישאלך בנך – “When your son will ask of you.” It’s so important that the son should ask. That’s the link in the chain of the generations. The son has to be an asker, he must ask from the generations before him.


Now the Malbim asks a kasha. Later in the haggadah, we learn about the four sons. One of them is a chacham. Chacham means a learned man. In some old Hagaddahs he’s depicted as a sage with a long beard wearing a long robe and a turban. And he’s holding under one arm a big tome, a big volume. That’s a chacham. So what does this old sage of a son, this great sage, ask of you?

He’s asking: מה העדות והחוקים והמשפטים. “What are these laws that G-d commanded us?” Now, is that a question for a sage to ask?! He’s a chacham after all – didn’t he learn all the things chukim and mishpatim? But that’s the question! And more than that – you must say that when מה נשתנה is asked, when we ask the מה נשתנה, we’re asking the chacham’s questions. We wouldn’t pick something from the אינו יודע לשאול, and you wouldn’t pick something from the rasha. Most likely, it’s a שאלת חכם – the question of the wise son. So the wise son is four years old, this big chacham. And you say: “Son, take your finger out of your mouth and ask the four kashas.” So he pulls his thumb out of his mouth and he starts stammering, “Why is this night different from all other nights?” And that’s the question of a great sage! That’s the example of a wise son!? The Malbim asks this kasha.


And the Malbim says that it’s a mistake to think that wisdom means to know information. Wisdom doesn’t mean you know. Wisdom means you want to know. That’s a wise son! That little boy is a great chacham if he wants to know.

And therefore כי ישאלך בנך, Mah Nishtana – it’s a prerequisite in the gemara. You must have somebody who will ask. If you’re too young to have a son, you just married, so your wife, she’ll ask you. Suppose you’re a bachelor sitting alone someplace and making a seder, so you have to ask yourself. But somebody has to put a question. The question is vital to the seder. Because, it’s such a big chochma when the young generation turns to the old generation and asks for information. That’s the great chochma.


All of Judaism stands on tradition. Our entire history stands as evidence to all our teachings. If somebody asks a question “How do I know that there is Hashem?” we can prove Hashem to him, it’s not difficult. Just take out an orange and ask him: “How does it happen that the color outside is beautiful whereas on the underside of the peel there’s no color?” There’s no answer to that except – Hashem! Don’t let go of him. He’ll argue with you. He’ll twist himself. He’ll contort himself into ten stitches, ten knots, but don’t let go of him. You have to force him against the wall. There’s no way out of that question. And the only answer is Hashem.

But we’re not talking about that right now. What we’re saying now is that we base everything on our tradition. We don’t need any arguments. Because our forefathers were present and everybody saw. Everybody was a witness. And so all of Judaism stands on the great process of mesorah, handing over from father to son. And therefore it’s very important that the son should receive directly from a father. Like the gemara says; anybody who teaches Torah to his son or to a grandson, כל המלמד תורה לבנו או לבן בנו כאילו קיבלה מהר סיני – it’s like he accepted it from Sinai. We have a powerful tradition.


We have a sober tradition. There’s nothing in the entire Tanach of superstition. The entire Tanach is so clear. The clear and  true waters of our tradition flow like a river, from the beginning of the world down until today. It’s so clear and so convincing, but it all depends on your willingness to bend over and drink. טעמו וראו – you have to bend over and taste it. Then you’ll see. If you don’t want to taste – a person who’s ignorant and is not willing to ask, to go to those who are willing to teach – so he’ll never know. He’ll remain ignorant forever. And that’s why it’s of the utmost importance that the son should ask.

דור לדור ישבח מעשיך – “One generation must praise Your deeds to the other generation.” You know, when a child has to do things on his own it’s a big thing. It’s a big achievement if a child will go to the library and find Hashem in the library. Let’s say he has no home, he has no father and he has no mother; in his home there’s nothing. He goes to the library and he discovers, let’s say, a Bible, a Cambridge Bible. It’s a Bible, it’s a Tanach. It says וידבר ה’ אל משה לאמר – but there are notes on the bottom of bible critics and apikorsim. That boy has no instruction except in the library, so he reads it. And that boy gets something. He looks in the text on top. He never heard such great things before. He had a forefather Avraham! And now he’s hearing what Avraham did to sacrifice himself for the will of Hakadosh Baruch Hu. He loved Hakadosh Baruch Hu. So the flame is kindled in this boy. It’s a great thing. A lot of boys became frum on their own; it’s a great thing. But it’s even a greater thing when the father hands it over. Because then it’s part of your nature, it’s part of your blood. It’s in the family tradition.


A person has to be dedicated to the Torah because that’s his natural way. It’s in his bones. That’s so important. Now a lot of you people here will think that it’s not so important. You’ll think: if we do things rationally by argument, by conviction – that’s all that’s important. No! It’s a wonderful thing to do things out of conviction. But if you’re committed to the Torah because that’s your family’s way; my father was like that and his father was like that and all the way back, then you’re walking on a bridge that’s built by the generations. Psychologically, it’s one of the most powerful ingredients in making a Jew eternally loyal to the Torah.


Of course, there are people who had good families but broke away, and people who had no families who became very good. Still, if an idealist has a family behind him then it’s דור לדור ישבח מעשיך. It has a tremendous impact when you hear it from your father – because you realize that he heard it from his father. And all the way back – across the ocean, in Europe, fathers were telling their sons. In Germany before they came to Poland, and in Spain before they came to Germany. And in Bavel before they came to Spain, and in Eretz Yisroel before they came to Bavel, and in Mitzrayim before they came to Eretz Yisroel! And you understand that the truth of our history stands on solid foundations, and it becomes part of your being – and you don’t have to be convinced.


And that’s why והגדת לבנך – The whole hagadah is given that name because of והגדת לבך, you have to tell it to your son. And this sacred scene where the son turns to the father – of course it’s been rehearsed – the son has been saying it in his yeshiva ketana for months already. Or the little girl. And they don’t understand what’s taking place, but they are actors in a vital scene.


It’s so vital that even the apikorsim, nebach the Jews who strayed away and got lost, they still feel the importance, the vitality of that moment. And writers have written about it and many people come back home just for the seder alone because they understand the holiness of that night.

I was standing once on Utica Avenue and Eastern Parkway, way back when it was all white, many years ago. It was erev Pesach, by accident I was there erev Pesach. And it looked – it was remarkable. It looked like an exodus. Everybody was coming to Brooklyn. Subways, with people unloading. And it was still early.

That’s how it was in those days – before the Jews became very much Americanized. Now already the new generation is nebach lost, of course, but in the old times, thirty years ago, people poured out of Manhattan and came to Brooklyn. They came for the sedorim, and they were going home, back to the old folks. Back to East New York, back to Brownsville, back to Crown Heights, from all over people were streaming. Because the call of the seder was felt in their bones!

Of course it doesn’t pay to postpone too long, to wait just for the Pesach seder, and the generation after that already has lost contact with mesorah. And that’s a tragedy. It’s one of the great tragedies of America. Of course a lot came back, a lot of people have surprised us. A lot of people came over from Reform homes, but still there’s nothing like an unbroken chain of tradition. That’s why the Torah insists that the son has to ask; in order to fulfill the mitzvah of hagadah you need somebody to ask.


So now we’ve heard the questions from the chacham , and so we start out. The father says: “You asked me four good kashas my son, איז דער תירוץ אזוי. Now listen to the answer. עבדים היינו לפרעה במצרים – it all started when the time was when we were all slaves to Pharaoh.” My friends you have to know what “Pharaoh” means.

You should know, that once there was a school of thought among Jews that said: Everything in the Torah is allegory, and nothing is כפשוטו. And they caused a lot of trouble and finally they were kicked out and we got rid of them. It was mostly the Greek Jews, Alexandrian Jews, who got hooked by this idea that it’s all mashal. Avraham stands for a certain principle and Yitzchak stands for another principle and some of them started thinking that there never was an Avraham.


However, you have to know that not for nothing did such an idea develop. Actually it’s true. The Torah is a lot of allegory. I won’t go into it now, but Pharaoh was also an allegory – we know that from the Rambam. The Rambam tells us that  פרעה הוא יצר הרע, that’s what the Rambam says. Pharaoh is a symbol of the evil inclination. If we are enslaved to anybody, to anything, in this world, then we are enslaved to the yetzer hara.


Now don’t say you heard drush here because I won’t tell you any drush. I’m just going to tell you what the Mesillas Yesharim says. The Mesillas Yesharim says that one of the worst obstacles, actually the worst obstacle for a man’s progress in this world is הטיפול והטרדה – you’re too busy.  If you’re too busy then you’re enslaved to too many things. You have no time to live. Now listen to what he says. When Pharaoh heard that the bnei Yisroel were talking about נלכה ונזבחה לאלוקינו – let’s go and we’ll bring offerings to Hashem, so Pharaoh said: “How can I deal with this? How can I stamp this out?” So Pharaoh said: תכבד העבודה על האנשים – “Let them get busier!” So instead of giving them straw and them having an easy time – only working 20 hours a day making bricks – I won’t give them any straw. So in the few hours they used to have to rest from making bricks, now they’ll spend that time looking for straw.

תכבד העבודה על האנשים – “Let the work become even heavier on them.” ואל ישעו בדברי שקר – “And they shouldn’t have time to look for trouble.” So the Mesillas Yesharim says: That’s the eitza, that’s the counsel, of the yetzer hara. The yetzer hara sees, here’s a young man, there’s something already developing in him. He’s on the right path already. He’s thinking noble thoughts. He thinks about Hashem as much as he can. There’s a big danger. He might become something! So the yetzer hara finds something to make him more busy than he ever was before, in order that there shouldn’t be any opportunity now to think at all. That’s the עצת היצר, that’s Pharaoh, the Mesilas Yesharim says. So what do we learn from this? It’s not just fanciful words, I’m telling you now. What the Rambam said about Pharaoh is a tremendous object lesson for us.


עבדים היינו, we were slaves to Pharaoh in Mitzrayim. You know, it’s true that we were slaves. It wasn’t a figure of speech. But what was worst of all was that we didn’t have time for ourselves. That’s what we’re bemoaning. When a man is so enslaved that he can’t fulfill the purpose of his life, that’s the tragedy of tragedies.


ויוציאני ה’ אלקינו משם – Hashem took us out of that slavery and He gave us “liberty.” And now when you read let’s say a pamphlet published by some temple of some Jewish community council. And they speak about the lesson of Passover, the lesson of freedom, that we raise the banner of freedom for all the peoples. So you have to know it’s hokey, it’s baloney. Pesach has nothing to do with the idea of liberty of independence. Pesach is not a rehashing of the revolutionary war. Pesach is the liberation of man from his slavery to the yetzer hara! And in that aspect the world is not liberated, not at all.


It says אני ה’ אלוקיכם אשר הוצאתי אתכם מארץ מצרים. Why did I take you out of Egypt? So that you should be free to lean back in your garden in Eretz Yisroel and eat figs and dates? They had beautiful figs and dates that fell from the trees in Eretz Yisroel. They were so big that they had to watch out when they fell down. Heavy fruit, like pumpkins! It was a sakanah, a danger, to sit under the trees when the fruits were ripe. And when it fell down and it squashed on the ground, the honey spattered all around, and pools of honey were formed. And that’s why it became an ארץ זבת חלב ודבש. It was a land flowing with milk and honey! And the goats were all over Eretz Yisroel, and these goats were so full of milk. There weren’t enough hands to milk them. And the milk flowed from the goats’ udders into these pools where there was already the honey from the dates and the figs. And anybody who wanted could lean over and scoop up a delectable mixture of date honey and milk or fig honey and milk. It’s a pleasure; try it someday if you can get the right kind of honey. I’m not talking about bee’s honey, no! I’m talking about the honey of dates. These dates were so fat that they were dripping with the heaviest sweet juice that came out, the heaviest sweet syrup. Not like a date that you get from California that’s covered with some kind of preservative. It says “No preservatives added, except, and except, and except” because they don’t tell you everything. And even if they were free of preservatives, can you compare those dates, those poor skimpy, skinny examples of fruits to what was in Eretz Yisroel when Yehoshua entered the land?


But that wasn’t the purpose! אני ה’ אלקיכם אשר הוצאתי אתכם מארץ מצרים, why did I take you out of Egypt? להיות לכם לאלקים – I should be your Elokim. All the work, all the efforts that you devoted to Pharaoh, should now go into serving Me. That’s what liberty is for. אין לך בן חורין אלא מי שעוסק בתורה – I took you out of Egypt to become a nation that studies gemara. That’s why you’re here for. You’re here to study gemara.


Now some people will say, gemara? I’ll study bakashot, I’ll study Pirkei Avot, I’ll  study Tehilim, I’ll study Chumash. Gemara, my friends. It’s gemara that a Jew is created for. לא כרת הקדוש ברוך הוא ברית את ישראל אלא בשביל תורה שבעל פה – gemara is not easy. Sometimes gemara causes a person to gnash his teeth in despair. And it’s bitter. But he has to remind himself that under Pharaoh he gnashed his teeth over other things. And it’s better over a sugya, it’s better when the shas is hard and frustrating, than what happened in mitzrayim. And that’s the purpose why He took us out.


But we have to understand that we have to study a subject tonight. And the subject is the way Hakadosh Baruch Hu took us out of mitzrayim. And that’s the subject of the seder. The manner in which he delivered us from mitzrayim, that’s what’s important right now.


ויוציאנו ה’ אלקינו משם – He took us out of there. Now, He could have taken us out easily. He could have sent a dream to Pharaoh like He sent a dream to Lavan Ha’arami or to the old Pharaoh when Avraham was there. Or He could have sent a dream like He sent to the king of the Plishtim. And Pharaoh would’ve gotten up in the morning and he would have called together his counselors and he would have said: “Look people, I decided to let the bnei Yisroel go.” And they would have marched out and finished. But Hakadosh Baruch Hu made Pharaoh’s heart hard, He took away his free will, it’s an unusual case! And He didn’t let Pharaoh send them out.

And He states that over and over again. למען שיתי אותותי אלה בקרבם- “In order that I should make My miracles, My signs there”. Because, למען תספר באזני בנך – “In order that you’ll have something to talk about in the ears of your children”. So had we been delivered from mitzrayim because Pharaoh had a dream and we would have marched out in an ordinary way, what would there be to talk about? We sit down at the table with a dream. Now, did we see the dream? Pharaoh had a dream at night. He came out and told people that he had a dream. And that’s the end of it, nothing to talk about. But ויוצאינו ה’ אלקינו משם ביד חזקה ובזרוע נטויה –”Hashem took us out of there with a Mighty Hand and an Outstretched Arm” and therefore that’s what we talk about tonight. We talk about what happened. The phenomena that took place that night. And that’s something to talk about, not only on this night but all of our nights and all our days.


This is so important that it’s a foundation stone of the Torah. And when Hakadosh Baruch Hu decided to give a Torah to His people, and once in history He spoke to a nation – Only once in all of history did Hashem speak to a nation – And He started talking, you have to listen to His words. He introduced Himself. Hakadosh Baruch Hu introduced Himself: He said אנכי ה’ אלקיך, He didn’t say “who created heaven and earth”. He didn’t say “who took your father Avraham out of Ur Kasdim”. No! אנכי ה’ אלקיך אשר הוצאתיך מארץ מצרים – “I am the one who took you out of mitzrayim.” And the Kuzari explains, the taking out of mitzrayim, that was the most startling and open demonstration! And when Hakadosh Baruch Hu said I’m the One, everybody knew who was talking. So the nisim of mitzrayim are paramount to talk about. It’s imperative to talk about them. The way we went out of mitzrayim, that makes pesach. And that we have to stud


But let’s go on, maybe we’ll come to that again. And then he puts in a note to urge us not to be lax in this. We have to devote ourselves to this job with all that we have. Because, there were once some fellow Jews of ours that didn’t. And they lost out thereby. ואילו לא הוציא הקדוש ברוך הוא את אבותינו ממצרים – “If He hadn’t taken us out of mitzrayim, then we and our children would’ve remained there forever.” Because there were some people who remained there. There were a lot of people who remained in mitzrayim because they didn’t devote themselves to utilize the opportunity.


When they were being persecuted by Pharaoh, there were some people who reacted by trying to curry favor with the Egyptians. And they tried to adopt Egyptian ways. It’s like a bachur who comes home from the Yeshiva at night, but he’s afraid that the shekotzim, the bums, will pick on him so he doesn’t wear a black hat. He tries to get a cap so that he should look like a bum himself, he wants to dress in such a way – with a baseball jacket with “Mets” on it so people will think that it’s an ordinary boy. That’s his camouflage.

In mitzrayim there were two kinds of Jews. One kind of Jew said “No”, we’re going to demonstrate who we are, even if that means a stone in the head. When you walked through the streets at night, the Egyptians gave you a stone in the head. Because the Jews were already hated. But there were Jews who insisted on dressing like Jews, they dressed like Jews. And they spoke only the Jewish language. And they called themselves only Jewish names. And they looked down on the persecutors and they were proud. They knew who they were and they despised the people of the land.

But there were many weaklings who tried to curry favor and to look like the people around them so that they should escape persecution. And those people remained in Egypt. They didn’t leave Egypt. Like it says later, אילו הי’ שם לא הי’ נגאל. Only those who gladly suffered the disability of being a Jew, they’re the ones who went out. And therefore he tells us that we have to apply ourselves to this job of talking about what happened that night.


Now there’s a maysa. “It happened that Rebbe Elazar and Rebbe Yehoshua and Reb Elazar ben Azarya and Rebbe Akiva and Rebbe Tarfon  שהיו מסובים בבני ברק – all of these people were reclining that night in Bnei Brak.” They were keeping the seder in Bnei Brak. Now it’s good to know who they were: There are five persons here and four of them were millionaires while one of them was a very big pauper, a very poor man.

But among the sages, money or lack of it didn’t make any difference. If you were a talmid chacham you had exactly the same status as a millionaire. So Rebbe Yehoshua ben Chananya who made a living by producing needles in his home over a fire of charcoal, was just as important as the millionaire Rebbe Eliezer ben Horkenus, or the millionaire Reb Elazar ben Azarya, or the millionaire Rebbe Akiva, or the millionaire Rebbe Tarfon. And these five sages were sitting all night in Bnei Brak and they had something to talk about.


Now these people had already gone through yetzias mitzrayim with a fine-toothed comb. They had studied it in the previous years. This wasn’t the first night they were up all night. But what did they do that night? That night they were serving Hakadosh Baruch Hu. Like the Zohar says: Tonight you’ll provide a nachas ruach for Hakadosh Baruch Hu. And the more you talk, your words are brought up to heaven, to Hakadosh Baruch Hu, by the melachim and it causes so to speak, a happiness to Hakadosh Baruch Hu.

Now, that night they were busy producing nachas ruach to Hakadosh Baruch Hu. And they were working hard. It’s not easy to be mechadesh chiddushim on a subject that you went through thoroughly. But that’s what they did! And they did it all night long! Which means that these people weren’t inebriated, and they weren’t sleeping, they were working. They were busy with a night of great opportunity. “This is not the night to waste”, they said.

Now of course, we people, if we do the seder and then we go to sleep, so Hakadosh Baruch Hu will give you a reward. But anybody who puts in more effort, כל המרבה לספר הרי זה משובח. And that’s what we’re learning here, that these great sages were able to spend the entire night in being מחדש חידושים. And they didn’t stop. They didn’t want to stop. It’s only when the talmidim came and said “You can’t go on any longer”, otherwise they would have continued.


And now with this introduction we listen to Rebbe Elazar ben Azarya. Reb Elazar ben Azarya was a young man and he says הרי אני כבן שבעים שנה – “I am like a man of seventy years”. Now, he wasn’t seventy years. He was far from 70 years. He was around 18 years old but he was like a man of seventy years old. It means that he had labored in the Torah to such an extent, he listened to the sages, to such an extent that he gained the status of his chaverim who were somewhere around 70 years.

Now, people will tell you that this refers to the fact that his beard had turned white. That’s true, his beard turned white. That’s in the gemara. But that’s not enough. A white beard doesn’t make you כבן שבעים שנה that you should talk about it. ולא זכיתי – so what z’chus is there in a white beard? A lot of people turn white when they’re 30, it doesn’t mean a thing. But he means that he utilized the opportunity.

Because when he was 18 he was fit to be chosen as the ריש מתיבתא instead of Rabban Gamliel. It’s only that he had a black beard, so his wife said how can a black bearded young man like you accept such a position? So מן השמים they caused his beard to turn white. But he had prepared himself. Now, he said, after all these years that I labored in the Torah; he said that he never learned a proof, a remez from the Torah, that you must speak about yetzias mitzrayim at night. Until ben Zoma came along and he found a remez.


Now, we won’t go into the details but the principle that’s involved here is as follows. Dovid hamelech said טוב להודות לה’, it’s good to praise Hashem. להגיד בבוקר חסדיך – to relate in the morning Your kindliness ואמונתך בלילות – and Your steadfastness at night. But we have to know what’s the p’shat in this pasuk. Dovid is really saying this: Only at night you talk about the steadfastness of Hashem and in the morning you don’t talk about His steadfastness? And the chesed of Hashem is only in the morning and not at night? So p’shat in the pasuk is this. טוב להודות לה’, להגיד בבוקר חסדיך ובלילות and ולהגיד אמונתך בבוקר ובלילות – that’s the plain meaning of the pasuk. And if you learn tonight that way you’ll understand very many places in Tanach. That’s what it means.

What’s good for a man? That in the morning he should speak about the kindliness of Hashem and His steadfastness. And in the evening he should talk about the same thing. What about in between? In between, certainly! It means you start out in the morning talking about it and you finish off at night talking about it, and in between that’s what you do, all day long! That’s your job. So now if you want to know what your job is, you start out in the morning when you open up your eyes and you start thanking Hakadosh Baruch Hu that you’re alive. And you have to keep busy all day long until you close your eyes at night. So now you know the program of a Jew.

And now Rebbe Elazar ben Azarya said, “I know that there’s a duty to mention yetzias mitzrayim by day and by night but I could never prove it.” Because this means that a Jew has two minimum requirements. Every morning you must talk about yetzias mitzrayim and every night. And by the way, when you’re saying the parsha of tzizis you have to think about this. Why do you say the parsha of tzitizs every day? Because, you want to mention yetzias mitzrayim, not because of tzitzis.


Now, if a person would say it without thinking what he’s saying, so he missed an opportunity. So while you’re saying אמת ויציב in the morning and you were taking a tour let’s say of Europe, and when you come back and you see it’s all over, you were completely tuned out while you were saying ויאמר ה’ אל משה לאמר – the parsha of Tzitzis, and then when you start saying אמת ויציב you come back to yourself. You must use that opportunity and at least there say ממצרים גאלתנו ה’ אלוקינו ומבית עבדים פדיתנו. That’s important. So if you fell asleep during אני ה’ אלקיכם אשר הוצאתי אתכם מארץ מצרים, so when you’re saying  ממצרים גאלתנו then you should think what you’re saying.

The same is in the evening. If you weren’t thinking when you said יציאת מצרים, so at אמת ואמונה  you have to say הפודינו מיד מלכים, and you have to think what you’re saying.

Now, Rebbe Elazar ben Azaryah learned this principle already from tradition. He knew long ago that you must say it twice a day, but he was looking for a remez. Where do you find a remez that you have to say it at night? And ben Zoma brought the remez. But in the meantime we see that the Jewish nation knew about it. They all practiced it. They spoke about yetzias mitzrayim constantly.

We have no idea how frequently yetzias mitzrayim was in the mouth of old Jews. ירמי’ הנביא says a day will come he said when Jews will stop swearing חי ה’ אשר הוציא את בני ישראל מארץ מצרים and they’ll start swearing חי ה’ who took us out of the exile and brought us back to Eretz Yisroel. Because in Yirmiya’s time when a Jew swore, that’s how he swore חי ה’ who took us out of mitzrayim. Because that was on their tongues all the time. Not only in the morning and the evening. The morning and the evening are only requirements to remind us.


But let’s say you’re sitting in your office in Manhattan or you’re standing in your grocery store in Boro Park in the middle of the day, and you remind yourself that you went out of mitzrayim. It’s not pesach, let’s say it’s, תשעה באב or it’s a day before Purim and you’ll think about yetzias mitzrayim. That’s what you’re supposed to do. The מצוות עשה is in the morning and in the evening but the purpose is, you should always think about it. למען תזכור את יום צאתך מארץ מצרים כל ימי חייך.


I’ll give you a picture of a Jew who used to live that way. Once a talmid in the Radin Yeshiva peeked in through the keyhole. It wasn’t nice to do it. He wanted to see what the Chofetz Chaim was doing. The Chofetz Chaim had a little room in yeshiva, so he peeked through the keyhole and he saw the Chofetz Chaim sitting on the edge of his bed holding a Chumash. Now, it wasn’t the week when they were reading that sedra. It wasn’t Bo or Beshalach, it wasn’t pesach, it was in middle of the year! But, the Chofetz Chaim was a Jew who lived Judaism. He wasn’t a stereotype who just followed – because it’s a mitzvah in the morning, so I’m finished my obligation and now I’m done. I discharged my obligation, I’m finished with yetzias mitzrayim for the rest of the day until at night, and then I’ll perfunctorily mention it again and forget about it. No, he lived yetzias mitzrayim. This talmid saw the  Chofetz Chaim sitting at the edge of a bed holding a Chumash and he was reading the story of the makos that befell Pharaoh. And he was saying as follows, “A maka came on Pharaoh, איי גוט אויף עהם” he said.

The Chofetz Chaim was an old sage. He had been through this years. He was an old man. He studied it with all the meforshim, you could be sure. But the Chofetz Chaim wanted to relive – to reenact those things. He lived yetzias mitzrayim. And as he sat on his bed he was picturing exactly what happened. Pharaoh was sitting, let’s say also on his bed, his royal couch, and he was scratching on all sides. He couldn’t escape it in his royal chambers. והיו הכינים בכל ארץ מצרים – and he was picturing under the purple, under the ermine, under the velvet, under the satin – it was crawling. And Pharaoh was cursing and stamping his feet and calling exterminators. But nothing would help. And the Chofetz Chaim was picturing that and he was saying איי גוט אויף עהם– “good for him!”

Now that’s the briefest kind of report because that boy didn’t have the nerve to look long. He felt he was eavesdropping on the shechina when he looked at the Chofetz Chaim through the keyhole. But we can be sure that the Chofetz Chaim spent more time on the subject than the boy saw.

And that’s what we’re expected to be. To remember yetzias mitzrayim all the days of your life. So as you’re driving down the speedway, of course keep your eye on traffic, but keep your mind on yetzias mitzrayim and know that you came out of mitzrayim for a purpose. And the purpose is not to get in your car and drive around in this world. The purpose is not merely to chase after a parnasa. And the purpose is not merely to live for good times. We’re here in this world in order: אני ה’ אלוקיכם אשר הוצאתי אתכם מארץ מצרים להיות לכם לאלוקים – to serve Hashem. Now that’s the big responsibility of yetzias mitzrayim, all the days of your life.


Now, we’re going on to a couple of more points. ברוך המקום ברוך הוא – which means as a result of studying this subject, what are we going to do all our lives? That’s what we’re going to say. We’re always going to say these words ברוך המקום ברוך הוא. Whatever we do we’re thanking Hakadosh Baruch Hu for yetzias mitzrayim. Whether you say ברוך אתה ה’ אלוקינו מלך העולם שהכל נהי’ בדברו or אשר קדשנו במצוותיו וציונו להניח תפילין, whatever you’re doing in this world to serve Hakadosh Baruch Hu it’s gratitude because He took you out of mitzrayim.


Now you remember the case of the מסית ומדיח – the false prophet who came to persuade you to forsake Hashem and worship an idol? So the Torah says you should have no pity on him. You should give him a punishment; put him to death. Now what’s the terrible thing he wanted to do, this מסית ומדיח? כי ביקש להדיחך מה’ אלקיך המוציאך מארץ מצרים – he wanted to dissuade you from serving Hashem who took you out of Egypt. Don’t say because he wanted to make you serve idols to do wicked things. That’s nothing compared to ingratitude of forgetting that you went out of mitzrayim, that’s what counts. That’s why his sin is so terrible. And so we see that that’s what counts in everything we do as Jews. We do it because of yetzias mitzrayim and that’s why you say now ברוך המקום ברוך הוא. All our lives we say these words.

Now the haggada starts enumerating some things. And he enumerates so that the first and the biggest thing is ברוך שנתן תורה לעמו ישראל – the Torah is the greatest of all the gifts He gave to us. Then, he starts out with the sons, ah, that’s our problem the sons. עמלינו אלו הבנים – “all of our toil- that’s the sons”. Our entire labor as a nation and our labor as individuals is to raise up our sons to Torah. עמלינו it says later אלו הבנים. And therefore the problem of the sons comes to the surface immediately at the beginning of the hagadah.


Now the four kinds of sons, nobody should have an error and think that the rasha is a hippy boy who ran away from home and he lives in Greenwich Village. No. the rasha is a frum boy and he learns Torah, and he’s sitting at his father’s seder. That’s a Jewish rasha. And he’s eating matzo and maror and doing whatever is required of him. That’s what he’s going to do with his children too!

You have no idea what the ancient Jewish people were. Even the thieves were loyal Jews who kept everything. But, they weren’t lucky in business so they sought another parnasa and became hold-up men. But the hold-up men ate matzo and maror, no question about it. And so the rasha here doesn’t mean a rasha chas v’sholom who has forsaken the Torah. It’s such a silly idea. If you think that’s the case then you don’t know Jewish history. All the Jews kept everything, always. So what’s the rasha about here?


The rasha is something that’s very hidden, and only the father is smart enough to sense it. Now, רשע מה הוא אומר – the world says a joke. It’s not the p’shat, but the joke is: rasha מה הוא “whatever he is”, אומר “he says”. It means: he reveals what he is. But that’s not the plain p’shat. What does the rasha say? מה העבודה הזאת לכם – “What is this service for you?” So the Yerushalmi says why did he have to mention avodah? There are so many things he could’ve mentioned החוקים, המשפטים. Now, avodah is a great thing. Avodas Hashem, to serve Hashem, it’s a wonderful thing to say that. But when a man chooses a certain word, it’s a giveaway. It shows what’s in his heart. And because it’s “work” to him, that’s why he used that word.

Aha, serving Hashem comes difficult to you, it’s a little burdensome to you, that’s a Jewish rasha! He sits at the seder and after the seder he takes out a gemara, a gemara pesachim. He sits and learns. Everybody in his house learns late at night, even after the seder, until the effect of the wine wears off we learn and learn. But he doesn’t have the happiness of his brother. His brother is happy, while he does it like a job, like it’s a difficult chore. That’s an old time Jewish rasha. It’s avodah, that’s what it is.

So the father understands that this is not the son he was hoping for. So the father says, “If you don’t love it, if your heart’s not in it בלב שלם, then you have to know; had you been in mitzrayim you wouldn’t have gone out.” אילו הי’ שם לא הי’ נגאל.

Now the Jews in mitzrayim who didn’t go out, they weren’t as wicked as we try to make them. We like to make them as wicked as we could in order to have some justification for ourselves. But the truth is that they weren’t that bad because they suffered a great deal. What people can undergo such difficulties without yielding, without giving a little bit? Such difficulties and they shouldn’t yield a little bit? But that wasn’t the blame. The blame was that their heart wasn’t in it like the other Jews. Only the choicest ones went out, because their heart was in it.


The Jews who thirsted to serve Hakadosh Baruch Hu, they went out. And the ones who did it perfunctorily, they were frum Jews, today they would’ve stood in the shul like all of us, shaking themselves by davenen. מצוות אנשים מלומדה, these Jews would’ve remained in mitzrayim. It’s only the Jews who are full of fire; they’re the ones who are going to survive. And that’s the difference between the ancient rasha and the chacham. And don’t make any mistake about it.


And one more point and then we’ll conclude. It saysבעבור זה לא אמרתי אלא בשעה שיש מצה ומרור מונחים לפניך – It states because of “this”, Hashem took us out of mitzrayim. So we say these words only when the matzo and maror are lying before you. יכול מראש חודש, I might think you start the seder from Rosh Chodesh, because on that day you were commanded all these laws. So he says no. בעבור זה, only when the matzo and maror are there.

Now what does that mean? Briefly we’ll say that it means this: We were taken out of mitzrayim in order that we should eat matzo and maror. We were taken out of mitzrayim in order we should do mitzvahs. Hakadosh Baruch Hu didn’t take us out of mitzrayim because He couldn’t look; He couldn’t tolerate people being oppressed. That wasn’t the reason.

He didn’t take us out of mitzrayim because He wanted to give us freedom like He promised Avraham our forefather, no. He didn’t take us out of mitzrayim because we cried out and He heard our prayers. All these things were necessary. But He took us out of mitzrayim that we should be His people. And His people means, only to do mitzvos. If you don’t do mitzvos then you’re not the am Hashem. Hakadosh Baruch Hu has no interest in Jews who stop doing mitzvos. You could be a Zionist, you can be a patriot for Israel, if you’re a man who doesn’t do all the mitzvos then you don’t belong to the Jewish people. And you deserve to get lost in the maelstrom of history. It’s only בעבור זה because of matzo and maror, because of mitzvos, that we were taken out of mitzrayim.

And therefore when a Jew performs mitzvos he is fulfilling yetzias mitzrayim. That’s the purpose. If a Jew will speak about going out of mitzrayim and not do anything, it’s nothing at all. It’s only דברים בעלמא. So yetzias mitzrayim requires a Jew to devote himself. Every man and every woman, every boy and every girl should live lives of yetzias mitzrayim. Which means; “Do you think it’s hard to do this?” You have to think; “Was it easier when we were under Pharaoh?” Or “It costs too much money to do this”. Well, did we have any money under Pharaoh? We have to sacrifice certain conveniences to be Jews. What conveniences did we have under Pharaoh? And therefore nothing should be too difficult for a Jew, because that’s his way of yetzias mitzrayim.

Now when a Jew says I want to live in a comfortable neighborhood – far away where there are no blacks, I want to live where there are a lot of trees, in suburbs. So we say, did the Jews live where they wanted under Pharaoh in mitzrayim? The Jews would have been happy to live in Brownsville if they could leave Egypt.

He didn’t take you out of Egypt to run away from the Jewish people and to get lost among apikorsim or among gentiles. So therefore a Jew has no excuse. We’re not in this world to become citizens of Edison, New Jersey. We’re not in this world to become citizens of some rural community in the South or in Florida. We’re in this world to serve Hakadosh Baruch Hu. And the way to serve Hakadosh Baruch Hu is to get close to Him.


And if a Jew wants to demonstrate that he understands yetzias mitzrayim he’s not going to sacrifice his accomplishments for the sake for some superficial material conveniences. A Jew has to dedicate his life just to the one goal, to show that he remembers yetzias mitzrayim. חי ה’ who took us out of eretz mitzrayim. And by living that way, he will live successfully because that’s the purpose of going out – that we should utilize this great phenomenon. The way He took us out of mitzrayim באותות ובמופתים – we never forget it. And nothing should be too difficult for us. We shouldn’t try to settle for 50% or 75%, we are all His, like we were all the possession of Pharaoh.

And just like Pharaoh took our children and threw them into the yam to destroy them or he immured them in the wall, we take our children and give them to the Roshei yeshivos. It’s a little bit better. We say “Take our children, they’re yours!” We don’t want any nachas except Torah nachas. We want nothing from our children except they should be devoted to Hakadosh Baruch Hu. That’s our way of appreciating yetzias mitzrayim.



Pesach, Havdalah – Tape #E-271

TAPE #E-271


The Secret of Pesach



In the weekday brachos of shemonah esrei, the first bracha is אתה חונן לאדם דעת. You, Hashem, bestow understanding upon man. This is the great gift of da’as. Only man possesses it. And in that bracha we include, when necessary, the subject of havdalah. We say אתה חוננתנו on motza’ei Shabbos and on motza’ei Yom Tov.

So why is havdalah connected to this subject of da’as? And our Chachomim tell us, אם אין דעה, הבדלה מנין. If you don’t have da’as, then you’re not able to make a proper havdalah – a correct and accurate separation between different things. Now, this is a yesod in understanding all the things of the world and of the Torah. In order to make a proper havdalah, you must have da’as. Otherwise, you mix things together that don’t belong together.

This great gift of da’as was given to us so that we should use our minds to understand how to make havdalah. And if that’s the purpose of da’as, then we see that it is a superlative function of our lives to continue making havdalah – to always utilize the gift of da’as to understand the difference between one thing and another.


We say, בין קודש לחול. Looking at them they seem the same. And if you don’t have da’as you might even treat  them the same. And that would be a very serious error. A person must understand that kodesh must be handled with the utmost respect. Anything that is kodesh must be appreciated as such.

And people who never learned da’as are constantly making mistakes in differentiating and in separating between kodesh and chol. They don’t know it and they may never even realize their errors. But it’s a very important and fundamental separation – the separation בין קודש לחול.


Similarly, בין ישראל לעמים. To understand the difference between Yisroel and, l’havdil, the other nations, is a fundamental purpose of da’as. It is of utmost necessity to make this havdalah. And אם אין דעה הבדלה מנין. You need a great deal of training of the mind to make havdalah between Yisroel and all of the nations of the world. It’s not as simple as people think. You must sharpen your chush, your sense of da’as, in order to realize the tremendous distance between ישראל לעמים. And even if you spend all your life thinking about that subject, it’s still not enough. בין ישראל לעמים! It’s such an important havdalah, and it has to be understood on a fundamental level.

We also say, בין יום השביעי לששת ימי המעשה. Now, every loyal Jew knows the difference between the Shabbos and the weekdays. But you don’t know. You think you know, but you don’t! You have to study what Shabbos means. It requires da’as. What is the effect of Shabbos on your neshama? On your life and on your character in Olam Hazeh? What is the effect of Shabbos on you in Olam Habah?

And if you didn’t study it – if you didn’t study these things – then although you say the words, it’s not a full havdalah. You need to study and think about the havdalah between these things in order to appreciate the vast difference between them. אם אין דעה הבדלה מנין. Without da’as, without study and contemplation, there can be no havdalah. Of course you’ll tell me, “I make havdalah all the time,” but it’s nothing. It’s just words, just words.


It’s an important subject that you’re hearing now. Don’t think it’s a small thing. And who is the only one who can make the havdalah properly? ברוך אתה ה׳ המבדיל בין קודש לחול. You, Hashem, are capable of understanding what the true difference is. Hakodosh Boruch Hu is the one who knows the full difference. He is the One who is המבדיל. He made the havdalah and therefore only He really understands the havdalah. And we have to spend our lives studying the havdalah in order to understand it properly.


In Pirkei D’Rabbi Eliezer we are given a reason for the din of shatnez. Everyone knows that shatnez is one of the chukim – and yet a reason is offered. We know that Kayin brought מפרי האדמה. And according to Pirkei D’Rabbi Eliezer, some pishtan, some flax, was included in his gift or is a remez for his gift. So pishtan, flax, represents Kayin. And the korban of Hevel, the בכורות צאנו is symbolized by tzemer, wool . Maybe he actually brought tzemer as well. But, in any case, it is symbolized by wool. And Hakodosh Boruch Hu made a decree that the two should never mix. The flax of Kayin and the wool of Hevel should not mix.

Now, Kayin you should know, was an important personality – a very great man. He was a son of Adam and Chava! And we know also that Hakodosh Boruch Hu spoke to him. And when Kayin saw how  Hakodosh Boruch Hu turned away from his korban and favored the korban of Hevel, he became terribly discouraged. ויפלו פניו – his face fell down. That means that he became terribly discouraged. Because Kayin knew that the purpose of man in this world is למצוא חן בעיני ה׳ – to find favor in the eyes of Hashem. That’s why you’re in this world. You’re here to find favor in the eyes of Hashem.

Now, Kayin wasn’t entirely rejected by Hashem. Only that He elected was chosen. And that, to Kayin was a tremendous defeat. He desired to be the best. He desired to be the closest to Hashem. You should know, that Kayin was closer to Hashem than the best people of our generation. I’m not saying he was a little better than the best of our generation. No; much more than that. And yet, he wasn’t satisfied. Kayin understood why he was in this world. And he wanted to be the best. Everybody should desire to be the best. And when Kayin saw that Hevel was granted favor, then – ויפלו פניו. Even more than that, it says, וירע לקין מאד. He was terribly distressed! He was overwhelmed with sadness.

Now, Hakodosh Boruch Hu had a reason. It’s not so simple. You have to have more explanation to understand why the korban of Kayin was not accepted as was the korban of Hevel. But whatever the reason is, Hakadosh Baruch Hu found a certain excellence in the korban of Hevel that He didn’t find in the korban of Kayin. He was mavdil. He made havdalah. If we had been present, I don’t know whether we would have seen any difference. Why not favor the korban of Kayin? Why not? פרי האדמה! Why not?

However, Hakadosh Baruch Hu did see a difference. And Hakadosh Baruch Hu said that the korban of Hevel is superior to that of Kayin and therefore I am going to make a chok forever. The chok of shatnez. That’s what the Pirkei D’Rabbi Eliezer says. You can’t mix wool and linen. Wool and linen should not mix. Now, it’s not because linen is not kosher. You can wear a linen garment. Hashem didn’t pasul linen. He didn’t say it’s treif. But it’s the mixing that is the problem! You have to make havdalah between the one whom Hashem chose and the one who was not chosen.


That’s a very important lesson. There’s nothing wrong with linen. You can wear a linen beged as long as it’s not mixed with wool. Why shouldn’t you wear linen?! There’s nothing wrong with that. But linen has no business together with wool. That’s the gzeirah forever and ever. You have to keep in mind the tremendous difference between a good man and a better man. אינו דומה שונה פרקו מאה פעמים למאה ואחת. Here you have a person who learns a certain inyan, a certain sugya a hundred times. A tzadik. A shakdan and a mivakeish emes. He wants to know the Torah, so he reviews it a hundred times! And still, it’s אינו דומה. There’s no comparison between him and the one who did it a hundred and one times!

Why אינו דומה? Sure it’s דומה! It’s only one more time. One time to a hundred is not a big amount. But still, it’s אינו דומה, because Hashem has the infinite Da’as to understand the difference. There’s a tremendous difference between a hundred times and a hundred and one times. That one time! We don’t see it, but Hakadosh Baruch Hu sees it. Hashem says, אינו דומה!

The possuk says, ושבתם – “Someday you will come back, וראיתם – and you will see, בין עובד אלוקים לאשר לא עבדו – between the one who is a servant of Hashem and the one who is not His servant.”

Who is this עובד אלוקים? The Gemara says that it’s the one who learns mei’ah v’achas, a hundred and one times. And the one who learns it only a hundred times is called a לא עבדו. He didn’t serve Hashem. That’s a tremendous thing to say! לא עבדו?! He didn’t serve Hashem?! A hundred times he learned it! That’s not serving Hashem?! No, it’s לא עבדו, the gemara says. Compared to the other one it’s called לא עבדו.

Right now, we’re not capable of seeing a difference. But someday, ושבתם וראיתם – you will come back and you will see the tremendous difference. And just like Kayin was extremely overwhelmed with grief, so too all those people will see how their chaveirim excelled a little more – even just a little better, a little more perfect – and they will be distressed. Because it’s not a little. That little bit is not little at all! That little bit is so tremendous, that Hashem will show His favor to those who added one more time.

And so, forever and ever we have to teach ourselves that no matter how important Kayin was, no matter how sincere his korban was, but still Hevel was superior. Kayin was a great personality. He was a great man. Hashem even spoke to him. And nevertheless, Hakadosh Baruch Hu saw that Hevel was superior – in a way that we wouldn’t .


Now, besides the important lesson of being intent on, and striving to become better than you are. Besides the important teaching, that you shouldn’t be satisfied with what you have already accomplished. It’s of utmost necessity that you should always forge ahead more and more because you can never tell what you can make out of yourself! But besides that, we’re going to learn now, how very great is the spiritual value of ruchniyus. And how very vast is the separation between someone who is great and someone who is greater. When it comes to gashmiyus it may seem to us only a minor difference. You may not even see the difference. But when it comes to ruchniyus the difference is vast. Sometimes it’s so vast that we’re astonished to see the difference. ושבתם וראיתם בין עובד אלוקים לאשר לא עבדו. “But both of us were tzadikim g’murim,” you’ll say. No, that’s not enough. He is bigger than you and that difference makes all the difference in the world.


Another example: When Noach drank wine, he fell asleep and became uncovered. And the possuk says, ויקח שם ויפת את את השמלה. And Shem and Yefes took a garment to cover up their father. Now, it doesn’t say ויקחו – “And they took.” It says, ויקח – and he took. Because Shem is the one who began. He’s the one who first started it. And as soon as Yefes saw what Shem was going to do, he immediately came and joined in. He also took hold of the beged. You have to know that Yefes was a great personality. He didn’t have to be told to join in. ויקח שם – and Shem took the beged. And Yefes leaped up, “I also want a cheilek!” And both of these tzadikim walked backwards in order to honor their father and they covered him up.

Now, Cham is left out of the picture. Cham certainly has no comparison to these two tzadikim. But even among these two tzadikim Hashem gave His declaration forever and ever. יפת אלוקים ליפת – Yes, I’m going to give harchava, wide dominion and power to Yefes. He’ll spread over the world. A tzadik deserves recognition. Yefes will not be forgotten. What he did is forever and ever. But וישכון באהלי שם. Where will the sh’china dwell? Where will Hashem reside? Only באהלי שם – only in the tents of Shem.

That’s a tremendous statement. The sh’china will not be in the אהלי יפת. Only in the אהלי שם. Even though both of them were engaged in the mitzvah. What did Yefes do? He joined in. He joined in wholeheartedly. Shem only began it. So what? What about it? And the answer is that the one who begins is infinitely greater. The chiluk, the tremendous difference between the one who thought of it first and the one who joins in fully, is so vast that Hashem will never forget that.

And although יפת אלוקים ליפת – “I’m going to give him הרחבה,” says Hashem. יפת means הרחבה. I’m going to give him wide power in the world. His children will fill up the continents. They will build big cities. They will be very learned men. And there will even be tzadikim among them. Yes, there will be tzadikim among them as well. But, וישכון – the sh’china will not dwell there. וישכון באהלי שם. The sh’china will reside only in the tents of Shem, forever and ever.

Hakadosh Baruch Hu is the source of Da’as. He is the One who knows how to make havdalah. And He understands how tremendous is the difference between שם and Yefes. We don’t understand it. We see a difference, but not to that extent. Such a difference doesn’t even enter our minds at all. Because we don’t have the minds big enough. אם אין דעה הבדלה מנין. You need understanding to make such differences. Hakadosh Baruch Hu makes that havdalah.


And now we come to our Avos. You know, Avraham Avinu lived a peculiar kind of life. He was a wealthy man. He could have settled anywhere. And he had where to go. He had places to settle. For instance, in the city of Shalem was a good town under the rule of Malki-tzedek. The king of Shalem was a tzadik. And Avraham could have just as well settled with מלכי-צדק מלך שלם. But he didn’t settle there. He didn’t settle anywhere.

ויתהלכו מגוי אל גוי. He went from one place to another. וממלכה אל עם אחר. He moved from place to place. He chose to be a רועה צאן, not a farmer who settles in one place. He didn’t build a home. He had no business with cities or towns. He kept apart from everybody. Agav urcha, Hashem didn’t give him any daughters either so that he shouldn’t have any mechutanim among the gentiles. That would have joined him too much to the people around him.

So Avraham , all his life was a בודד, a נודד. We are a nation that dwells alone. הן עם לבדד ישכון. Now, why did Avraham do that? We understand that Avraham was a man of great dei’ah – a man of tremendous understanding! He was the most outstanding original thinker in the world. Moshe Rabeinu was very great. But Avraham Avinu was the most original thinker. And Avraham saw the tremendous difference between himself and all the umos – all the nations of the world. Even the tzadikim. Even the tzadikim like Malki-tzedek.

Now, it’s true that Avraham had talmidim. The Rambam says that he had thousands of talmidim. But he still kept apart from everybody. It seems like a very queer kind of behavior. But the shitah of Avraham was havdalah. And because of this shitah, he became chosen by Hakadosh Baruch Hu. We cannot estimate, we cannot even fathom how difficult it was בימים ההם to be a wanderer among the nations. When you came to a foreign town, if they seized you and made you an eved you couldn’t say a word. You couldn’t do a thing. You had no rights. And it happened all the time. It was a common occurrence. They seized the wife of Avraham Avinu. It was only because Hashem intervened that his wife was rescued. It was a great sakanah to wander around alone. And Avraham risked everything. He made sure to be alone, to be on his own. For what purpose? To maintain the separation from the world. He was the father of the עם קשי עורף. He was the progenitor of the stubborn nation. A nation that is stubborn about not having anything to do with the umos ha’olam.


And now we come to the subject of the yontif of Pesach .Pesach consists of two main elements. Pesach is really before the yontif of Pesach. The Korban Pesach is before Pesach. Then comes Chag Hamatzos. It’s two different things – Pesach and Chag Hamatzos.

What was the outstanding feature of the Korban Pesach? We understand it from the words of Moshe Rabeinu himself. When Moshe heard the mitzvah of Korban Pesach from Hashem, he was astounded. He was astonished. “Do You mean to say that we will publicly take a sheep or a lamb to slaughter it?!” And the goy will ask, “What are you doing with that?! Where are you going with that?!” So the Jew would say, “We’re going to slaughter it.” “What?! You’re going to slaughter the lamb?!” You know that the Egyptians despised the Ivrim. The Egyptians considered the Ivrim a very low people. They wouldn’t eat together with them. It says that in the Torah again and again. The Egyptians wouldn’t eat with the Ivrim because the Ivrim were to them mamash a tumahdikeh nation. If you can slaughter a lamb – a lamb was kadosh to the Egyptians – then they despised you. Now, why it was kadosh to them is not my business now to tell you. It’s a well known fact. So Moshe Rabeinu said, הן נזבח את תועבת מצרים לעיניהם ולא יסקלונו. “You mean that we’ll be able to slaughter the to’avas Mitzrayim- that means the avodah zarah of Egyptians – we’ll slaughter their avodah zarah and they won’t kill us? They’ll massacre us! How can we even think of such a thing!?”

Now, you might say, well, so we won’t take it too long beforehand. We’ll just take the lamb right before the time comes to shecht it. That way, the goy won’t have a chance to see what we’re doing. We could take the lamb – the Korban Pesach – for that purpose just a minute before the sh’chitah. No, you can’t do that. Hashem says, “מקחו מבעשור” – On the tenth day of Nissan – long before Pesach, they had to take it.

They made a demonstration – a public demonstration. It wasn’t hidden. Everyone could see the lamb. The Mitzri would ask, “What are you holding it for?” And the Yisroel had to answer, “I’m bringing a zevach – a sacrifice.” “What zevach!? You’re going to slaughter a lamb?!” To the Egyptians, that’s a terrible thing. All of Egypt would get up in a rage and massacre the Bnei Yisroel. It would cause a pogrom of mass proportion. That’s what Moshe Rabeinu expected. ולא יסקלונו, he said. They’re going to stone us all.

So Hakadosh Baruch Hu told him, “That is the mitzvah of Korban Pesach.” To slaughter what is considered by the umos ha’olam to be so precious. To make an open demonstration that what’s important to them, what’s untouchable to them, what’s impossible for them to think of slaughtering – we go ahead and we disregard it completely. And with chutzpah, with a brazen boldness! We openly go ahead and we proclaim that we act according to the ratzon of Hashem and we are shechting the avodah zarah of the goyim. Of course, once you do it that way, it’s not avodah zarah anymore. Now, it becomes avodas Hashem to shecht that lamb. It’s kadosh. It’s the kedusha of breaking down all the ideals of the umos ha’olam.


The Korban Pesach is a revolt. Am Yisroel revolts against the world על פי ה׳. And not only in the matter of slaughtering a lamb. That’s just a symbol. In general, it’s a klal gadol that the Am Yisroel disregards the umos ha’olam. We are different. We are fundamentally different than the umos ha’olam. And this fundamental truth is so important that it had to be set down in the beginning of our history. When we left Mitzrayim and first became a nation, this yesod of what Am Yisroel is, was emphasized to us with the Korban Pesach. We disregard their holy feelings. We disregard their worship. We disregard the honor they give to their religion. To us, it’s nothing at all. It’s hevel v’rik. And that’s how important it is to understand the Korban Pesach. The Korban Pesach means to throw away, to ignore, to oppose with a complete disregard, all of the ways of the umos ha’olam.

Now this is a very important point. Am Yisroel was chosen to be the הן עם לבדד ישכון. We are alone – separate from all the nations of the world. We are to be entirely different. ודתיהם שונות מכל עם. Everything the Am Yisroel does has to be different. And that’s so important, that it’s the foundation of our kiyum. That was the foundation of the birth of the Am Yisroel when we left Mitzrayim. Just because of this act of separating from the goyim – just because they made an open demonstration that they’re breaking off in every respect from the umos ha’olam – that’s why they’re going to have a kiyum. That’s why the Am Yisroel will survive.

Now for this you have to have havdalah. To achieve this separation you must know how to make havdalah. But havdalah needs Da’as. You have to learn Da’as. What is the great difference בין ישראל לעמים? Now, we all know. We think we know! But we don’t know anything. We have to study and make our minds into Torah minds. We have to live with the attitudes of the Torah, the thoughts of Hashem. Little by little it will dawn upon us how tremendous is the difference. Even a little boy of the Am Yisroel is more important than the greatest of the umos ha’olam. No comparison at all! To save the life of one Jewish child, you can be michaleil Shabbos. But to save the life of a thousand, even ten thousand goyim you cannot be michaleil Shabbos. Nothing will help. It’s a tremendous difference. And what I said is not yet enough. It’s only the beginning. And Hakadosh Baruch Hu is the only one who knows how great, how very vast, is the difference.


Now when we talk about the Korban Pesach, we should try our best to understand what the Korban Pesach is telling us. It is teaching us that Hakadosh Baruch Hu was הבדילנו מן הגוים. He was הבדילנו מן הטועים. He made us different. And we should dedicate our lives towards trying to answer this question: What is the true Torah way? What is the true Torah attitude that is free of any adulteration, free from any admixture of ideas of the outside world. We don’t realize that our minds are an עירבוביא – a mixture of true Torah attitudes with false attitudes of the outside world. And we have to make a havdalah. We have to separate between these attitudes.

Once upon a time every Jew lived in Eretz Yisroel. He had no connection with the umos ha’olam. It was a different world. A different life. They thought like Jews. They thought like the zera Avraham. Today when we live among the gentiles, we have to know for certain that there’s an עירבוביא – there’s a mixture in our minds. Our minds are full of outside things. Now you might say, “No, I’m a ben-Torah. I’m a Yeshiva man.” Well, I’m sorry to tell you that even the fact that I’m speaking English to you is already an עירבוביא. Don’t think it’s a small thing.

We’re so accustomed to it. We’re assimilated already. We’re in the American melting pot. And we’re melting. Just the fact that I’m speaking English to you is a sakanah. I know people laugh at that. They think it’s too extreme. “You have to know English. You have to make a living,” they tell me. Yes, you have to make a living. But to speak English at home?! That’s a tremendous yeridah! In Europe nobody spoke Lithuanian or Russian. It was a bizayon for a Jew to speak goyish. Even apikorsim spoke only Yiddish. It was a shame to speak goyish. But today we’ve accepted it.


Now, in Mitzrayim the people didn’t do that. All the names are names of lashon kodesh. Names like גמליאל and פדהצור. Beautiful lashon kodesh names. לא שינו את לשונם. They didn’t change their language. Imagine being in America two hundred and ten years. Two hundred and ten years and not changing your language! It was a nisayon that they went through. And Hashem expected that. And it was because of that – because they made the havdalah that Hashem expected of them – because of that, Hashem took them out of Mitzrayim. Now, they are ready to go out into the world and to fight back against all the errors and falsehoods out the goyim.

The possuk says: הנה חושך יכסה ארץ – “Behold, a darkness covers the whole world, וערפל לאומים – and a thick cloud envelops the nations.” They are covered by a thick dark cloud of error. All the goyim live in error. So you might say, “Well, it’s not so. They make some errors. But how can the possuk say that they live in error?! Are they completely covered by a cloud of darkness?!” The teirutz is that yes, they’re all living completely in error. And the problem is that we live among them. We live with them and you have to know that we have the עירבוביא in our heads. That’s why we say, וקבצינו והצילינו מן הגוים. “Please Hashem, rescue us from the goyim, להודות לשם קדשיך – so that we will be able to praise and elevate Your name.” Otherwise, if we continue to live among the goyim, in the עירבוביא, then we won’t ever be able to understand perfectly our duty towards you, Hashem. And that’s the very great nisayon of the golus we live in.


We must know, that one of the most important functions of the עם ישראל is to always keep in mind that great lesson that the Korban Pesach comes to teach us: the most important lesson that you have to slaughter all the ideas and ideals of the outside world. Which ones? There’s no end to the things that we have to be aware of. There are thousands ideas of the gentiles that we have in our heads. Thousands! And the only way to know how to be mavdil is to consult that one sefer. There’s only one sefer in the world. Hashem’s sefer is the only sefer that will tell us what is the right way to live, the right way to think. But even with this sefer, you must constantly be aware. Because if you put into your mind the ideas of this sefer together with the ideas of the gentile world, there will still be that עירבוביא, and you will have to work always to clean out your mind from the darkei ha’goyim.

This is a very important subject, a vital function of our stay in this world, and people are not doing it. They don’t even think about it. They think everything is alright. Now, it’s a pleasure to see frum Jews. It’s a pleasure to see people who are shomrei mitzvos. It’s a pleasure to see bnei Torah. It’s a mamash a pleasure to see that. It’s a happiness to see frum girls, Beis Yaakov girls. But you have to know that it’s not what it used to be. Once upon a time in Europe, way back, about two hundred years ago, the עם ישראל lived by themselves. They were an עם לבדד ישכון. They lived in small towns or in areas that were set off from the goyim. They lived lives that were completely separate from the goyim. They spoke only Yiddish in the small towns. And the streets were streets of yiras shamayim. We have no idea how much emunah every poshuteh person had in those days.


Almost eighty years ago, Rav Yeruchem, zichrono l’vracha, the Mashgiach in the Mir Yeshiva, made the following statement: “We cannot understand the greatness of our great-grandmothers.” We’re not talking about the great- grandfathers. He said the great-grandmothers. You have no idea how much kedusha existed in the Am Yisroel.

This was all until the newspapers began coming in. Newspapers came in at that time and began to change the people. The people were ruined by the newspapers. At first people kept everything. They kept everything but they read the newspapers. And the עירבוביא began to enter their minds. Now we think, “Alright, maybe reading newspapers is a waste of time. But that’s all it is – a waste of time.” No, it’s so much worse than that. We don’t realize. The newspapers are mamash gentile poison. You pass by a newsstand, you look at the headlines, that’s enough. But to buy it, take it home and read it?! You’re bringing poison into your home.

Now, that’s what caused a tremendous descent. It wiped out the kedusha – a large part of the kedusha – of the Am Yisroel. You have no idea how much we lost. I’ll tell you what the Chofetz Chaim said: “Because of the newspapers,” he said, “we have אין בית אשר אין שם מת.” Every house has somebody who has been spoiled by the newspapers.


But in the olden days, it was very different. Before they had contact with the goyim. No goyishe periodicals. No goyishe books. No goyishe newspapers. Even the Jewish resha’im, the Maskilim’s Hebrew and Yiddish newspapers were treated like goyishe newspapers. No! No newspapers! There was only one book. Only one sefer. The Toras Hashem. The Chumash and the Gemara. The Gemara and the Chumash. That was what a Jew read. And it was from the Torah that a Jew developed his attitudes and ideals. Only from the Torah. And the Am Yisroel was kadosh then.

To people today it may seem like a guzmah – like an exaggeration. But you have no idea. You have no idea. If you read the sefer Zichron Yaakov – it’s the three volumes – it talks about the olden days. It seems like a חלום! It’s just a dream. But it was a true חלום. But even then, even two hundred years ago, before the onset of the yeridah, it was nothing compared to what it had been when the Am Yisroel had been together on its own land. וקבצינו והצילינו מן הגוים – Rescue us from the goyim. Not because we’re being persecuted. They’re not harming us. But they’re harming our minds – our neshamos. And that’s why we’re so interested in kibutz goliyos. To free ourselves from this עירבוביא that’s in our minds. Now, we don’t sense it. We’re not aware of it. But we’re subject to it. No question about it. We’re subject to it on many levels.

Now, when the Korban Pesach was slaughtered, it was a tremendous lesson. We have to slaughter the entire inyan of anything to do with the ideas, the attitudes, the middos, the hashkafos, the interests, the practices, the minhagim of the umos ha’olam. We’re not interested! We took the avodah zarah of the Mitzri’yim and we shechted it לעיניהם, right before their eyes.


You pass by a Yeshiva today, you see things going on. טייערע boys, טייערע boys. And yet, they’re behaving like goyim. I don’t want to say why and how. They’re טייערע boys, behaving like goyim. Their games are goyishe games. Their sports are goyishe sports. When you go to a bar-mitzvah, you see that their dancing is goyishe dancing. It’s all gentile ways. But Jews should have other ways of doing things. And instead, they’re thinking in goyishe ways. Goyishe thoughts. Boruch Hashem, we’re happy with them. I’m happy with them. Kein yirbu. And kein yigdilu. I love them! טייערע boys. And yet, they don’t realize that they’re being influenced by the outside world tremendously.

And the Korban Pesach has to remind us again and again, that instead of absorbing all these outside influences, we should disregard completely what is important to the goyim. It’s nothing to us. We shecht the lamb and by doing so, we stand up in opposition to all the ideals of the outside world. We ignore them and demonstrate our disregard for their ideals. We are different and will remain separate. Separate in all our ways.


And now we come to the inyan of Chag Hamatzos. Now, the matzah has two parts to it. The issur of chometz and the mitzvah  of matzah. What is the issur of chometz? The issur of chometz means that we are not to have any kind of influence of the umos ha’olam among us. That’s chametz. That’s what chametz is. לא יראה לך שאור בכל גבולך. No chometz should be found in the Jewish inyanim at all. In their lives, in their homes, in the way they think, in the way they talk. לא יראה לך. You have to get rid of the chometz. And the chachomim were machmir. Even a משהוא, they said. To make that havdalah, to root out even the smallest משהוא of gentile influence. The bedikas chometz is really a bedikah to examine, “Do I have any עירבוביא of outside world influence inside of me?” And that’s a very difficult bedikah. It can’t be superficial. You have to have a ner. The ner means the light of the Torah. With the light of the Torah you examine every nook and cranny of your mind. You look for some crumbs too. Nothing of chometz should be found בכל גבולך.


Now you should know, that’s perfection. That’s the system of Avraham Avinu. He was separate from the goyim. He didn’t have any gentile attitudes at all. Even to settle in a beautiful city like Shalem, under a tzadik like מלכי צדק מלך שלם הוא כהן לאל עליון. No! Because to settle with them means he’d absorb their ideas. And Avraham is not satisfied with that. He doesn’t want their ideas. They’re not good enough for him. They’re very good, but not good enough for Avraham. Avraham made sure to stay separate from them. כל ימיו he was a נודד – a wanderer, never to be influenced by them. Never to settle in a town. Never to settle among them and risk being influenced by their ways and attitudes.

That was the mistake of Lot. He made that great error. ויאהל על סדום. He settled in Sedom. And it ruined him! But Avraham made sure to not settle anywhere.


And that’s one of the reasons Hakadosh Baruch Hu is always moving us around in golus. We go from one place to another. Even in our golus, we don’t stay in one land forever. Because we have to be taught that great lesson. We have to be taught, “Beware of identifying with that nation that you live among!” You have to de-Americanize! Of course, you have to be loyal. You have to be a patriot for the country. You have to do what’s right. But don’t become one of them. And therefore, when the time comes, Hakadosh Baruch Hu makes a gzeirah and He says, “Keep moving. Go on to someplace else.” Hashem does this in order that we should never become entirely integrated with our environment.


The Modern Orthodox are making a tremendous error. They think they can be frum Jews and still be mixed with the gentile ideas. And therefore, very many of them are going lost, nebach. Very many. Especially their children. And therefore, only the frummeh, the ones who live among the frummeh in the frum neighborhoods, can remain with Hakadosh Baruch Hu.

It’s so important to live in frum neighborhoods. Make sure, at least, that you don’t have contact with those neighbors who have an עירבוביא of chometz in their minds. And that’s the idea of chometz. That’s the great lesson of removing all the chometz, all the goyishe influences – even the crumbs – from our homes.


Now we come to the idea of matzah. You have to know that the matzah is a separate subject. Matzah! What does matzab come to say? Now, listen to me. It’s not enough to know a havdalah. It’s not enough to know how important it is to separate. It’s not enough to know that. You also have to know how important the Am Yisroel is. You have to know that the Am Yisroel is קדושים תהיו כי קדוש אני. You are kadosh because I am kadosh. And therefore, your kedusha is almost infinite. Yes, the kedusha of the Am Yisroel is almost infinite. You have to look at a fellow Jew with the greatest respect. He’s kadosh. And his kedusha comes from Hashem. כי קדוש אני. You have to train yourself. It takes hard work. You have to knock that yesod into your head. When you see a Yisroel, you’re seeing a kadosh. You must know that ישראל קדושים הם. Now this kedusha elevates us to the status of Kohanim.Hashem said to us, אתם תיהיו לי ממלכת כהנים. We – all of us – are called “a nation of Kohanim.” The truth is that every Yisroel is now given the status of a Kohen.


What is a Kohen? The possuk says, שפתי כהן ישמרו דעת ותורה יבקשו מפיהו. Every Yisroel must know that he has to be a learner. He has to be capable of understanding things. A Kohen must be a learner. אלה הדברים אשר תדבר אל בני ישראל. The Torah is for all of the Bnei Yisroel. All of Am Yisroel should know – you’ve now been elevated to the madreigah of Kohanim.

Of course, there’s a difference. A Kohen of זרע אהרן has different dinim. But nevertheless, every Yisroel, man or woman, is a Kohen. And as a Kohen you are mi’chuyav to do things that a Kohen has to do. A Kohen must dedicate his life to the service of Hashem. And every Yisroel knows that that’s his function in life. You’re here in this world to be an oved Hashem. You can’t just remain a slab of meat your whole life. You’re in this world to make something of yourself – to become more and more kadosh.

And that’s what the matzah says. That’s what matzah is telling you. Because Kohanim, when they eat the korban mincha, it has to be matzab. The possuk says by a Kohen, מצות תאפה. Only matzos he can eat in the Beis Hamikdash. A Kohen eats matzos all year round. לא תאפה חמץ. You can’t have a chometzdikeh mincha. And the Kohanim eat the korban mincha only because it’s matzah. It’s a special food for the Kohanei Hashem. And we, all of the Am Yisroel, are elevated now, for these days of Pesach, in order to remind ourselves that we are eating matzah like the Kohanim. Because we are Kohanim!

We are the Mamleches Kohanim. We’re chosen by Hashem for our excellence and we must put all our efforts into the career of being Kohanei Hashem. Hashem tells us, אתם כהני ה׳ תקראו. “You’ll be called – all of you – ministers to Hashem” Servants of the א-ל חי. Not לעתיד לבוא. Not some time in the distant future. No! Now, as soon as we came out of Mitzrayim, Hashem said that we must eat matzos. Hashem was declaring that we are Kohanei Hashem.


So whenever you eat the matzah, keep in mind that this unleavened bread is teaching you who you really are. You are important. You are a kadosh. You shouldn’t look down at yourself at all. You are a kadosh. Of course, an anav is someone who understands that other people are also kadosb. We are all kadosh. The truth is always that ישראל קדושים הם. The פסוק says כי עם קדוש לה׳ אלוקיך לא תבשל גדי בחלב אמו. It’s not just a guzmah. It’s not just a figure of speech. You’re an am kadosh right now. Not that one day, in the far off future, after Moshiach comes, or in Olam Habah, you’ll be an am kadosh. No! Right now you’re a kadosh. And kadosh means something very important.

Now, only Hakadosh Baruch Hu knows how to make the havdalah between kodesh and chol. He is המבדיל בין קודש לחול. But at least we have to know that there’s a very big havdalah – a tremendous havdalah between kodesh and chol. You have to understand that there is vast difference between ourselves and the rest of the world. We are the am kadosh. We are a nation that stands out on its own. And you are part of that am kadosh. You must always keep that in your mind. When you’re walking on the street and the goyim are passing by you on all sides, you’re thinking, “They’re all just scenery. It’s nothing at all. I’m a kadosh. I’m the reason the world was created.”

And we have to always be working, thinking, to understand that havdalah. That’s so essential, so necessary. Otherwise the עירבוביא in our mind is a big confusion of ideas. The עירבוביא is a mixture of chometz and matzah. You have to set yourself free from the darkness of the world around you. You have to let loose from the media. There’s no in between. You have to make that havdalah between yourselves and the ideas outside. אין לך בן חורין אלא מי שעוסק בתורה. If you’re not filling your mind with Torah attitudes, then your mind automatically becomes enslaved to gentile ideas and ideals. And then you have the עירבוביא of chometz and matzah in your minds. And you can’t be a successful person, an ish shalem, if you haven’t made that havdalah.

You have to be like the ochlei mincha. Only מצה תאפה. Only matzah, nothing else. Your lives have to be completely dedicated to the to the service of Hashem. That’s who the ochlei matzah are. And you must understand that you are in this world to serve Hashem. The chometz of the outside world that wants to distract you from your purpose in life has to be removed. That havdalah should be clear to you. You’re servants of Hakadosh Baruch Hu like the Kohanim. Our lives are devoted to avodas Hashem.


Now people will say, “Certainly I’m an oveid Hashem. Certainly. But that’s only part of my life. I have to do other things too. I have a job. I have a family.” The answer is  “No! Whatever you are doing in life, you are still a Kohen Hashem. Look, a Kohen can also get a job. But he’s still a Kohen.

You have to go to your office, to your store, whatever it is, to make a living. But you’re still a Kohen Hashem. You have to take care of your children, feed them, bathe them. That doesn’t in any way, affect your status. You’re a servant of Hashem. You must keep that in mind. Hashem made you a Kohen Hashem. There are no options. Nothing can change that fundamental truth. A Yisroel can never change his function in life. And therefore, the Am Yisroel, all of them without exception, should realize the importance of being the Mamleches Kohanim. That’s the matzah.


Now one more element we’ll add to this and that’s marror. The possuk says וימררו את חייהם. The marror is a zeicher of our affliction. We lived in bitterness in Mitzrayim. We lived there for 210 years and we couldn’t leave. No hope! No hope at all. They believed b’emunah, even b’emunah sh’laimah that Hashem would take them out, but they didn’t see it. Many were dying. Every generation died out. What’s going to happen? When will it end? When will the end come? And finally, when they went out with song on that great day, they were full of kesef v’zahav and they were singing to Hashem. As they walked out of Mitzrayim, it was מצרים מקברים את מתיהם on all sides. On all sides the Egyptians were burying their dead. It was such a beautiful day. היום יצאתם בחודש האביב. A beautiful spring day. A glorious day to remember forever. זכור היום הזה אשר יצאת ממצרים. Remember this glorious day that you went out of Mitzrayim. Don’t forget that tremendous happiness. And their hearts were full of love of Hakadosh Baruch Hu. Don’t ever forget that.

Now, this tremendous feeling of gratitude and love to Hashem was the result of that bitterness that they suffered in Mitzrayim. The marror was the hakdamah, the preparation. And when we were freed from that bitterness that we suffered in Mitzrayim, life became so sweet that we became wild with enthusiasm. And now we were ready to do whatever Hakadosh Baruch Hu would say. That’s why we said נעשה ונשמע. That’s why at Matan Torah Hashem’s first words were אנכי ה׳ אלוקיך אשר הוצאתיך מארץ מצרים מבית עבדים. Why did He say that? Because He wanted to tell them, “Do you remember that happiness, that exhilaration, that delirium of simcha? That’s how I want that you should always remember Yetzias Mitzrayim.” Always try to remember the tremendous simcha that came after the years of bitterness. Always try to remember that.

And therefore, the gratitude for Yetzias Miyzrayim, the zman cheiruseinu, is one of the important elements of the Yom Tov of Pesach. Not only at the time you’re eating the matzah. Not only during the Seder. And not only during the time of Yom Tov. But all the days of your life. כל ימי חייך. Always try to remember the great happiness and the love of Hashem that we experienced at Yetzias Mitzrayim. Morning and evening. כל ימי חייך. When you’re waking up in the morning. When you’re going to sleep at night. Remind yourself again and again. Whenever you have a moment, think about Yetzias Mitzrayim. And when you’re mentioning it in your davening, think about what you’re saying. Say it with some thinking behind the words. למען תזכרו את יום צאתך מארץ מצרים כל ימי חייך. We love you Hashem forever and ever. And this love will never die out. And all our efforts during the Yom Tov of Pesach should be to try to rekindle this great fire of love of Hashem. And to carry it over to all year round.


So once more, I’m going to repeat. The Korban Pesach comes to show our demonstration against the ideas and attitudes of the world. Openly! The Rambam says that they know that we don’t agree with them. The gentiles know that we don’t agree with them. They know that we disregard what is so important to them and we’re still allowed to live among them. We do what we have to do. We say שהם משתחוים להבל וריק. They bow down to nothing. כי כל אלוהי העמים אלילים. All of their gods are nothing-gods. We say that all the time. And we have to demonstrate it openly. Now, you don’t have to tell it to a goy to his face. You don’t have to insult him. But among ourselves we have to say the truth.

And the truth is that the goyim are living in darkness, in error. הנה חושך יכסה ארץ. Darkness covers the world. Their ideals and attitudes and behavior are all darkness. ועליך יזרח ה׳. But only on you, the Am Kadosh, does Hashem’s light shine.

And then we have to remember also to be bodeik chometz always. We shouldn’t have any gentile things, even a crumb of gentile ideas in our minds at all.

We must always know how important we are, how kadosh we are. Hashem took us out of Mitzrayim to be His people. He made us His ממלכת כהנים וגוי קדוש. And therefore we eat matzah, the food of the Kohanim, to show that we’re elevated to a very great status in the eyes of Hakadosh Baruch Hu.

And always remember the marror. Once upon a time we suffered. We suffered terribly in Mitzrayim and Hakadosh Baruch Hu brought us out. You redeemed us from that bitterness and we experienced such a great happiness. You chose us – הבוחר בעמו ישראל באהבה – and we will never ever forget Your love for us. We will never forget, until finally the time will come when פתחו שערים – Open up the gates, ויבוא גוי צדיק שומר אמונים, and the righteous nation that remained loyal for so many years in golus will finally come home and be together again.

Rabosai, thank you for coming. You all should have bracha v’hatzlacha a חג כשר ושמח and many, many happy and kosher Pesachs.



Purim A World Upside Down – Tape #E-3



A World Upside Down


ויהי ערב ויהי בוקר יום אחד. This possuk is not only important because it is one of the statements in the Torah – where everything is important – but also because it teaches us a lesson of the most profound significance. Everyone knows that our day begins the night before. The Am Yisrael calculates the day beginning from the night before. ויהי ערב ויהי בוקר יום אחד. It is night, and then it is day, יום אחד. That’s a day.

There’s a certain question in the Gemara (:שבת עז). Someone asks, “Why is it that when the shepherds lead the flock from the town into the fields the goats always run ahead?  The flocks consist of goats and sheep, and in those days most of the goats were black. They were dark. And this man noticed that the goats run ahead. And when they run ahead, it’s an advantage for them because when they come to the best places to pasture, the best grass, they’re the first ones to get there. מאי טעמא עיזי מסגי ברישא. So why is it that the goats go ahead?

Now, he’s not asking a silly question. He’s asking about the way Hakodosh Boruch Hu made the world. There’s a purpose Hashem had in mind when he created the nature that the black goats should go ahead of the white sheep. This man understood that Hashem does everything for a reason.


So the Gemara answers, כברייתו של עולם. We learn from the way of the world. ויהי ערב ויהי בוקר יום אחד. First it’s night, then it’s morning. First it’s dark, then it’s light. So too, first come the black goats. And only afterward, come the white sheep. Now, we must understand that this exchange of words in the Gemara is a fundamental lesson in understanding all of the history of the world. There’s a secret here that explains a great many historic phenomena.

Everyone knows that Eisav is compared to a goat – a sa’ir. In this world Eisav was born first. And it made a big impression. ויצא הראשון אדמוני. He was the first one who came out; he came before Yaakov. And he was ruddy too. Ruddy means that he looked like he was full of blood and strength. And not only were other people who noticed this impressed, but even Yitzchok Avinu was impressed. And he said, “Why did Hakodosh Boruch Hu make him, of the two twins, come out first? He came out before Yaakov. Is it not a sign min hashamayim that he is going to be the superior one?” And therefore, from then on, whenever he looked at Eisav, he tried to see in him reasons for his superiority. And when you look, you find! So whatever Eisav did, Yitzchok had a good head, and he explained that Eisav did it for some good reason. If he goes out in the fields – great men walk out in the fields – for solitude. Don’t we know that the seforim tell us that היקר מן הכל הוא ההתבודדות – the most precious thing is to be alone? To be alone with Hashem. Big tzadikim went out alone in the forests, in the mountains, to be alone with Hashem. So Yitzchok Avinu was milameid zchus. He defended Eisav, saying that he was out in the fields communing with Hakodosh Boruch Hu. Now, it could be that it was partially true. That could be. But it wasn’t as much as Yitzchok thought.


Now, from the story of Eisav we see that what happened when he was born was a deception. His coming out first was only a trial – a test – to deceive the world. And it did deceive. It deceived Yitzchok too. He wanted to give Eisav the brachos; he was deceived by what he saw with his eyes.

And that’s what the answer of the Gemara was. Why do the goats go first? Because this is a world of darkness. ויהי ערב. This is a world of ערב, a world of choshech. And in darkness you make mistakes; the darkness makes it easy to stumble.


The Mesillas Yesharim says that you make two kinds of mistakes in darkness. When you see a post, you think it’s a man. And when you see a man, you think it’s a post. Two different kinds of mistakes. In the darkness of this world, when you see something worthless you think it’s a man – you think it’s important. And that’s why we find that in this world, worthless things  are admired by very many people. But when you see a man, you think it’s only a post. The important things in this world are ignored. So two great errors take place in this world. People ignore what’s important and they worship and aggrandize and make great what’s unimportant.


And that’s why Hashem made it that darkness should come first. In order that people who are living in the darkness of this world, should fight back against the mistakes, against the frauds, against the Eisavs. The Medrash says, עשו – הוי שוא. “Eisav – how false it is.” Eisav is false! Therefore, this world is intentionally made by Hashem  to deceive. תשת חושך ויהי לילה. You, Hashem, make darkness and it becomes night. The Gemara in Bava Metziah says תשת חושך – זה העולם הזה הדומה ללילה. You, Hashem, made darkness – this refers to Olam Hazeh which is similar to the night. Hashem intentionally made this world a place of darkness in order that it should be like the night, a place of error. And our function in this world is that despite the darkness, we should exert ourselves to see the truth.

Now, understanding that, that’s why Shabbos begins on Friday night, when it’s dark. ויהי ערב – that’s the remez, the hint, to this world. And tomorrow, when Shabbos comes in the morning, when it’s daytime, that’s a mashal of Olam Habah, when it’s daytime and you see the truth. In the World to Come, we’re going to see the truth; there won’t be any darkness in the Next World.

Therefore, when you come into a place like a hospital or a university, and you see the professors in the medical school all dressed in white, they all seem to be kind-hearted malachei ha’shareis of rachamim. No! That’s the darkness of this world, making you see a post as a man. They are malachei chabalah – demons of destruction – because they teach atheism. They fill the world with their darkness, with their sheker. Anyone who spreads ideas of atheism in this world, you have to  know, that he is the darkness for which the world was created. And our function in the world is to ignore them. That’s our function. That despite them, we should be able to see the truths of the world. Despite the universities, despite the colleges and the high schools and all of the other institutions that are spreading darkness in the world, the Jewish nation is busy building Yeshivas and spreading light. We’re the ones spreading the ohr ha’Torah. Bais Yaakov schools and Bais Ruchel schools. We’re providing the light in this dark world.


Our job is to fight back against the darkness. It’s not easy. But it’s supposed to be that way. We see that first comes darkness. ויהי ערב. That means that this world is a place of darkness. A vast majority of the world is dark. Not only is it dark in Africa. It’s dark everywhere else. It’s dark in Germany. It’s dark in Austria. It’s dark in Russia. Everywhere it’s dark. It’s dark in Manhattan. Wherever you go, it’s dark. And we have to know that it’s a choshech.

The possuk says, הנה חושך יכסה ארץ. Behold, a darkness covers the earth. וערפל לאומים. And a dark cloud envelops the nations. ועליך יזרח ה׳. And upon you – only on you, the Jewish people – Hashem shines. It’s only a little ray of light. And it’s only on you.


And this is the famous agadata which is not really understood by most people. It says that Hashem made the שני מאורות הגדולים. So it seems that Hashem made both the sun and the moon as large luminaries. But then it says המאור הקטן when it mentions the moon. So how is that? We are told by a ma’amar chazal that when Hashem made the two luminaries, the moon asked Hashem, “How could the world have two leaders?” If there are two luminaries of the same size it would disturb the proper functioning of the whole world. Suppose there was light by day and by night. No one would ever go to sleep. They would drop dead from overworking. And so we can’t have light all the time.


So Hashem told the moon, “You have said a wise thing. So go make yourself small.” And that’s when the moon became smaller. So the moon said to Hashem, “Because I said something correct, because I said the right thing, I should be the one to suffer?!” And so, Hashem listened to complaint of the moon and said, “Every month, I’m going to bring a korban chatas to be mechaper because I made you small.” That’s why it says by the korban of Rosh Chodesh the words חטאת לה׳. Every month when they brought the korban of Rosh Chodesh, it was also a chatas for Hashem, to atone for Hashem for making the moon small.

Now this ma’amar chazal is אומר דרשני. It’s begging to be explained. It needs an explanation. And it’s as follows. According to what should have been the right plan, the Am Yisrael should have been at least as numerous and powerful as all the other nations of the world together. After all, we are the people of Hashem. We are the  people of the Torah , the nation that bears the truth. And therefore, let’s say, all of Asia, all of Europe, maybe Australia also, should be for us. If Hashem wishes, He could give the goyim Canada and North America. Maybe South America – maybe. But we, the Am Yisroel should take up at least half of the world. And it’s a big kasha. Don’t make light of this question! After all, Hashem is in charge. And He knows that our function in the world is to say “Hashem Echad.” We’re the ones who uphold His name in the world. So why shouldn’t we be at least as numerous and powerful as the other nations?! That’s what we say to Hashem. That’s what we ask Hashem.

So Hashem says, “You’re right! So, go and become small now. You become little.” The moon is Yaakov, the Klal Yisrael. That’s because we calculate the seasons by the moon, not by sun. The gentiles look at the sun to calculate the months but we calculate by the moon. And therefore, the moon represents the Am Yisrael. So Hashem said, “Make yourself small.” So the Am Yisrael says to Hashem, “Is that yosher, is that right?” After all, we are the most important. Why should we become small?!” So Hashem says, “Every Rosh Chodesh you should bring a korban and I’ll be mechaper for my sin of making you small. ” What does that mean? Hashem is saying, “Every Rosh Chodesh I want you to remind yourselves that it’s an injustice.” We really should be big. We shouldn’t be small.


So let’s understand that. Why are we small? The answer is that Hashem is making the world for the very great purpose of giving us the biggest success that he could possibly give us. And that is the success of achievement when it is difficult for us to uphold our principles – and we uphold them anyway! And because we are small, we are a minority against a great big world of עובדי עבודה זרה, a world of liars and false religions, a world of academicians, atheists, and scientists who preach evolution. We are the ones who uphold the banner of בראשית ברא אלוקים – that’s how our Torah begins. Just because we are the ones who carry the banner of truth, therefore Hashem says, “I’m going to make you the smallest.” המעט מכל העמים -You are the smallest of all the nations. Why? Why are you the smallest? In order that you should fight back and uphold the truth.” And לפום צערא אגרא – according to the difficulty will be the reward. By being in opposition to the great empires of the world; by being surrounded on all sides by enemies, and despite everything, we stand up and proclaim, “Yes, Hashem Echad!” No matter what the world says, we are proclaiming השם אחד!” So Hashem says, “For that, you are going to get a reward that you could have never gotten had you been a great and powerful empire.” When it is easy to be a Jew, what reward should you get? But the fact that you’re מעט מכל העמים – that’s your greatness and that’s your success. We’re in this world to gain the great reward of fighting against the apikorsim, fighting against the atheists, fighting against the colleges, fighting against the libraries, fighting against the newspapers, fighting against the Umos Ha’olam, the churches and the cathedrals, fighting against the mosques. And they know – they know that we’re speaking against them. What can they do?! It’s a miracle! We’re still here! And that’s the purpose of our being a minority. In order that we should have the opportunity to stand up against the whole world and proclaim, ה׳ אלוקי ישראל אחד, and get the great reward of לפום צערא אגרא.


However, from time to time Hashem picks up the veil of darkness in this world, and even in this world of darkness, He lets us have a glimpse, a look, and see the truth, even in this world. Even in this world of darkness, we are shown a little bit of truth from time to time. Sometimes, you can see the truth in this world. The Rambam says this in his Moreh Nevuchim. He says that in this world we walk in darkness all the time, but sometimes Hashem lifts up the veil of darkness for a moment and you can see the truth. You get a glimpse of the truth, for a moment, and then the curtain of darkness comes down again.

And one of those times when the curtain was raised for a little while and Hashem gave us a glimpse of the truth of this world was on Purim. Here is Haman with the King’s ring on his finger. A real k’nocker! He has all the power in the world. And then, all of a sudden, there is Haman hanging! ונהפוך הוא!! It’s an upside down world! Haman is hanging!  ונהפוך הוא! אשר ישלטו היהודים המה בשונאיהם!


It’s a world upside-down. The Jews are making a pogrom on the goyim! Not long ago, the New York Times was complaining that the Jews, when they have a chance, they make pogroms against the goyim. And they mentioned that in the times of Haman, the Jews made a pogrom on the goyim. The New York Times doesn’t like that Jews should make pogroms – they prefer it the other way around. But in the time of Purim it was ונהפוך הוא. “It’s an upside-down world,” they said. “Haman is hanging!”


Now, the Gemara in Bava Basra tells a story. A certain wise man, a big talmid chochom passed away. Now, I can’t tell you if he actually died or if he had a vision. But he was definitely out of commission for a while. And then, finally, he came to life. He was revived. So his father said to him, “Such an experience, you had! What did you see there? You were already in the threshold of the other world. You took a look at what was doing there. What’s doing in the next world?” So his son said, “It’s all mixed up over there. It’s an olam hafuch! It’s an upside-down world! Everything that is important in this world, there it is on the bottom. And everything that is unimportant in this world, there it is on the top.” “No,” said his father. “עולם ברור ראית. You saw the true  world, the world of clarity. This world is the upside-down world.”


This is a lesson of very great importance. This world is an upside-down world. If North America is full of goyim, churches everywhere, colleges everywhere, and the frum Jews are a small minority, it’s an upside-down world. It should be just the opposite. The Jewish Nation should have filled up all the continents. Eretz Yisroel should be too small for us. All the lands would become Eretz Yisroel after a while. The whole world would be full of Jews! That’s how it should be. So, at that time of Purim, Hashem lifted up the curtain of darkness of Olam Hazeh, so that we should see how it really should be. All the Hamans should be hanging. Farrakhan should be hanging. All the other resha’im should be hanging. That’s how it should be. That’s where they belong. Up there hanging. And who should be sitting on the thrones? The Roshei Yeshivas. The big Rabbonim. They should have golden crowns on their heads. They should be sitting in Windsor Palace. And who should be in the White House? Rav Pam, let’s say, the Rosh Yeshiva of Torah Vada’as. He’s the one who should be sitting in the White House. Yes, Rav Pam! Why not?! He’s a טייערע יוד, a big chochom. Rav Pam in the White House! An עולם הפוך!

When Mordechai went into the palace of Achashveirosh it was a crazy thing. It was an עולם הפוך. “What’s this?” people said. Mordechai Ha’yehudi went out with all the kingly garments. ומרדכי  יצא…בלבוש מלכות תכלת וחור ועטרת זהב גדולה ותכריך בוץ וארגמן. Mordechai the Jew was wearing a golden crown of a king! “What’s going on?!” people asked. A Jew, a talmid chochom, with a great crown on his head?! What was it? It was Hashem letting everyone take a little look – for a moment. It wasn’t long. But the purpose was to show us that that’s how it should be.

The Gemara says: מאן מלכי? רבנן. Who are the rulers, the real kings? The רבנן. It means the talmidei chachomim. They are the ones who should have power in this world. We’re accustomed to the idea that they persecute us. But that’s only a crooked thing. It’s a wrong idea; a wrong attitude. So Hashem says, “It’s my sin. I made you small. I did it. So bring a korban for me on Rosh Chodesh. Bring a korban to remind you that what I’m doing for you is the biggest favor.  It’s a favor for you. חטאת is a כפרה – a cleansing, a wiping away. It’s a favor for you because it purifies you. It’s for you, to remind you not to be fooled by the עולם הפוך.”


At the beginning of the Torah there is a statement that needs explanation. ורוח אלוקים מרחפת על פני המים. The spirit of Hashem was hovering over the waters. Now, what’s the purpose of that? The spirit of Elokim is hovering over the waters? Hashem is מלא כל הארץ with His glory. So why tell me that His spirit is hovering over the waters? And so you’ll say that it’s because the waters covered the whole earth at that time, so Hashem was hovering over all the water. And then Hashem separated the  waters from the dry land. So when it became dry then Hashem couldn’t get his feet wet anymore. So therefore He moved to the dry land?! That doesn’t make any sense. Hashem doesn’t get wet. We know that. So what does He care if there’s land or water?

I’ll tell you what it means. The answer is that the Torah is telling us that there is a spirit of Elokim. Not Elokim, but a ruach Elokim, a spirit of Elokim. And that spirit was made to hover over the waters because it was looking for a place to rest. And Hashem said, “Wait. Wait.  The time will come and you’ll find a place to rest. I made this ruach Elokim hovering over the waters because I wanted you to know, that you, the ruach Elokim is going to find a makom menucha, a place to rest sometime. And where will be that makom menucha? The place where the sh’china will rest will come when the Am Yisroel comes into existence. The spirit of Hashem is going to rest on the Am Yisroel. When we were created into a Nation, into the Am Hashem, the spirit of Hashem came down and rested upon us – and it’s still there to this day. It’s of utmost importance to understand that! The ruach Elokim is resting upon us right now. Yes, upon us. Each one of us – men, women, children – our heads are supporting the ruach Elokim that is hovering over us. In the beginning, it hovered over the waters. It was waiting for a time when a nation would be created that would support it. Then we came into existence and the ruach Elokim settled upon us forever and ever. And it will never move away from us anymore. It will never leave us.

Now, it’s important for us to take this principle into our heads because this is going to be the יסוד היסודות, the foundation for all of history. Everything is going to be explained by this great principle; by this great principle that the Am Yisroel is the nation that upholds the spirit of Elokim.


איש יהודי היה בשושן הבירה ושמו מרדכי בן יאיר בן  שמעי בן קיש איש ימיני. So the Gemara asks, “Why mention all these names of his ancestors?” And the Gemara answers that each name is a title of honor that describes Mordechai’s greatness. יאיר: שהאיר עיניהם של ישראל. He illuminated the eyes of Klal Yisroel. Each title describes some great achievement of Mordechai. So you have here, a list of names, a list of titles, of achievements. Now, imagine you have the King of England who issued an edict. Of course, nowadays he’s a nobody. It’s Parliament that passes the laws, but let’s imagine. And the edict comes out in the name of “Chaim Yankel, King of England, Ruler over Scotland, Regent over India, Regent over the Commonwealth of Canada.” All belong to him. But what’s the first thing that is enumerated? What’s the first title? King of England. That was his greatest kavod, his greatest honor. The first title, King of England, is the one that is most important.

Now, איש יהודי היה בשושן הבירה. So the first title is Yehudi. That’s his main title. Other titles follow. ושמו מרדכי בן יאיר בן שמעי בן קיש איש ימיני. So the Gemara says, מוכתר בנימוסין היה He was crowned with various titles. One title after another. איש יהודי, this and that, and this and that, and this and that. But the first and the greatest title is the title of איש יהודי. Now, we have to understand – why is that such a great title?


I always tell the same stories so you heard this already. But I’ll tell it again. Reb Moshe Montefiore was the Lord Mayor of England. And he was also a baron. He was knighted by the king. That’s why he was Sir Montefiore. Now, when he heard that in Russia they were persecuting the Jews, he decided to go to Russia and intervene with the Czar on behalf of his fellow Jews. So he travelled all the way across Russia with his own chariots. His own horsemen and a fancy carriage. The horsemen sat in the front, driving. And he was in the back. And on the side of the carriage were like private guards who could protect him if needed. And he was riding through Poland. He was riding through the streets of Warsaw. In Warsaw, in Poland of old, they were all anti-Semites. They hated the Jews. And here they saw a Jew riding in a carriage. A Jew who’s a big k’nocker. So there was a goy who couldn’t contain himself. A boy, a shaygetz, came running after him and he shouted, “Zhid!” Zhid means Jew in Polish. It was a derogatory way of referring to a Jew. So Reb Moshe Montefiore stopped the carriage and told his footmen to go run and catch the goy. They caught the goy and he was trembling because he knew that this Jew was a powerful Jew. They brought him to Reb Moshe and his hands and feet were trembling. So Reb Moshe Montefiore said, “Look here. In London they call me the Lord Mayor of London. The Sheriff of this and this district. Baron and Sir and so on and so on. But the biggest, the most important title, is the one you called me. ‘Zhid.’ There’s nothing greater than that in the world.” And Reb Moshe Montefiore gave the boy a quid – a half pound – and he sent him away. He thanked him and sent him away.

And that’s because it’s an honor to be called a “zhid.” We have to understand that yehudi means, “The one who has the function in this world of elevating Hashem.” That’s our function. We have to make Hashem great in this world. It comes from the word הוד. And hod means elevated, majestic. And so when Yehuda was born, his mother said, הפעם אודה את ה׳. This time, I’m going to elevate Hashem. I’m going to thank Hashem and elevate Him. And that’s where we get the word yehudi. A Yehudi is the one who elevates Hashem. This means that we are in this world as representatives of the greatness of Hashem. Our job is to make Hashem great. הודו לה׳ קראו בשמו הודיעו בעמים עלילותיו. Elevate the name of Hashem with words of gratitude. Make known among the nations His great deeds. Of course, in the ancient times, we used to do it. Nowadays, we can’t do it so loudly because the goyim get a little irritated. But at least among ourselves we are always speaking about Hashem. When a Jew goes to daven early in the morning, the gentile neighbors say, “Where are you going every morning? Every morning?!” Then they see you again in the afternoon going to Mincha, and they say, “What’s this?” Then they see him by Ma’ariv again. “What’s he doing here? What’s going on?” They don’t realize that a Jew’s whole life is הודו לה׳. That’s a Jew’s life. To us, it’s not merely agav urcha. Like when a goy does a sin, that’s when he goes to the church to get a kaparah for his sin. He asks the galach to give him a kaparah for his sin. But the Jew goes and goes and goes. That’s his business in life. We’re yehudim. That means that our job is to elevate Hashem. We have nothing else in life except that. And even when we learn Torah and do mitzvos, our only intention is to elevate Hashem. And when a Jewish mother is feeding her children and doing the laundry, her only intention is to elevate Hashem.


Now, since that’s the purpose of the Am Yisroel, we can understand the following. In the beginning of our history, we were called various names. We were called ראובן, שמעון and לוי. The different sh’vatim. But now all these names disappeared as a way of differentiating among ourselves. Today, there’s only one name for all of us and that’s yehudim, the name that Leah gave her son. It’s not an accident! People think that it’s an accident. That the aseres ha’shvatim got carried off, they went into captivity, and the names went lost. No! The plan מראש ומקדם, from the beginning, was that we should be called yehudim because that is the function of the whole Klal Yisroel.

So now you know what your job is in this world. Your job is to elevate Hashem. To speak about Hashem. To think about Hashem. All day long, ברוך אתה ה׳. A drink of water, ברוך אתה ה׳. You go to the bathroom, ברוך אתה ה׳. You eat a piece of bread, ברוך אתה ה׳. You wash your hands, ברוך אתה ה׳. Everything you do is ברוך אתה ה׳. All day long, all day long. And so when Leah foretold this prophecy, she was telling us, “That’s going to be the function of the Am Yisroel. And they’re going to be the ones on whom this sh’chinah is going to rest forever and ever.”


But in order that it shouldn’t be easy, Hashem introduced into the world the יצרא דעבודה זרה, the Yetzer Ha’rah of idolatry. And therefore, in the time of Avraham Avinu everyone worshipped idols. We have no idea how powerful it was. The truth is, that even today, if you go to India – if you want to waste your money, you can go to India – and see how they’re celebrating one of the holidays of their idols. It’s tremendous. It’s impressive. They bring out elephants, clothed in golden garments. Expensive golden cloths. And diamonds! Big elephants! And riding on the elephants are riders with turbans – with diamonds in their turbans. And there’s music and flags. And thousands of people are lying on the ground, bowing down to the idols. On the back of the biggest elephant is a big avodah zara. A big piece of dead wood, and they’re all bowing down to it. With loud music playing. It’s tremendous! And other people are there – let’s say, a stupid Jew – a dope addict. Instead of smoking marijuana in a cellar in Manhattan, he decided to smoke marijuana in India. That’s what they do, you know. After a while, they graduate from the basements of Manhattan and move on to India. So he smokes marijuana in India. And he sees what’s happening there and he’s so enthralled. This is a true story, by the way. He was so enthralled and he said, “Oh! Now I know this is the true religion!” He sees such a panoply, such a pomp. And he’s overwhelmed by what he sees.

Now, that’s only today. But in the ancient times, it was a thousand times worse than that. And it was there, in that darkness, that along came one man, Avraham Avinu. It says, כל העולם מעבר הזה ואברהם מעבר הזה. The world was on one side, and Avraham stood on the other side. One man stood up, and he said, “It’s all sheker v’chazav. It’s all lies!” And they wanted to kill him! They threw him into a fire to get rid of their problem, and by a miracle he escaped. And he had to run away and hide in order to save his life.

The Jewish Nation is always being persecuted because they don’t agree with the goyim. We’re being persecuted. Now, the question is, how do we continue to exist? And to flourish? Let’s say, in Catholic Europe in the Middle Ages, how could the Jews exist? The Catholics weren’t tolerant. How could they allow Jews, who they knew vehemently disagreed with them, to live among them? They made all kinds of גזירות, decrees against the Jewish people but we still survived. We did more than survive. The truth is that we existed. We made a living. We never worked in their homes as servants. They worked in our homes as servants. Yes, they worked in our homes as servants! We didn’t work in their homes. No, we didn’t. How could this be? A society that was dead set against us with the biggest sin’ah, the strongest hatred – even in later times in Poland, before World War II, there was a terrible sin’ah against the Jews. Not only Germans. Catholics everywhere were son’ei Yisroel. And in America when I was a boy, you couldn’t walk in a white neighborhood. It wasn’t safe to walk in a white neighborhood. Things have changed a bit since then, but the white gentiles were big son’ei Yisroel. It was terrible to walk in a white neighborhood once upon a time in America. Today we worry about the black neighborhoods. The white neighborhoods were a lot worse. A black man is not a son’ei Yisroel. He’s just a פרא אדם – a savage. But the whites hated the Jews. Their blood was full of sin’ah against the Jews. And still, the Jew existed in Medieval Europe. We have to know that this was one of the great miracles. It was a neis. Now, the Kuzari said that if you want to see a neis nowadays – he lived about a thousand years ago – if you want to see nowadays a miracle like they used to see in the days of old. Just look at the Am Yisroel. We don’t have any nissim today but the fact that we still exist among the nations despite the fact that we stand in opposition to them is a neis, says the Kuzari.


Today already, there’s equality. There’s liberty and the Constitution. There was a revolution in France and in America, so people are already accustomed to the idea that we have religious freedom. But once upon a time, there was no such thing. If you didn’t agree with my religion – with the religion of the country you lived in – then you had no place in this world at all. So it was mamash a miracle that the Jewish nation continued to exist.

Now, in the Far East it was exactly the same. When Muhammad first came out of his tent and said that Allah spoke to him, at first he had a hard time. He came out with his book and said that he was now the teacher of the true religion. At first, he approached the Jews in his area. He thought maybe the Jews would listen to him. And he saw that the Jews wouldn’t listen to him, he became very angry at them. Muhammad, you know, when he converted the Arabs, he didn’t convert them with arguments, with svaros, with logic. He converted them with fire and the sword. It was either or. The choice was between the new religion or death by the sword. That’s how it spread among the Arabs. The Mohammedans are not a tolerant people. If you don’t accept their religion then you have no place in this world. And miracle of miracles, the Jews lived among them. Generations passed. And in some countries they even flourished. It’s a remarkable thing. And that’s what Rav Yehuda Halevi points out in the Kuzari. It’s a neis, he says. Don’t think it’s just one of the facts of history – a natural thing. No! It’s so unnatural. It’s a miracle that we still exist.


And he gives a mashal. Suppose you have a pack of seventy wolves. Seventy wolves somewhere in the forest. And suddenly, one little sheep gets lost and wanders along into the forest among the seventy wolves. What’s going to happen to him? If there is a case where the one sheep continues to exist, we can be sure that it’s a neis. So the seventy nations of the world are worse than seventy wolves. And the tzon Yisroel is the one little sheep. So we see that it’s a gzeirah that Hashem decreed that we will survive among the wolves.

And that gzeirah you’ll find in Megillas Esther. The Gemara asks, “What’s the proof that Megillas Esther was said with ruach hakodesh? What’s the proof that it wasn’t merely a chronicle written down for historical purposes? How do we know that it was said b’ruach hakodesh? The Gemara brings a number of proofs. And among them is the following possuk.

וימי הפורים האלה לא יעברו מתוך היהודים וזכרם לא יוסיף מזרעם The days of Purim will never depart from the Jewish people. They’ll celebrate Purim forever and ever. Now, that was said 2,500 years ago. And during those 2,500 years, all kinds of things happened. The Churban Beis Hamikdash was considered by many people to be the final end. And then the war of Beitar was even worse than the Churban Bayis. And then we were dispersed. We left Eretz Yisroel. To have a people that is chased out of their land and dispersed among the nations – and nevertheless, these days of Purim have been celebrated for 2,500 years!! That’s a statement of ruach hakodesh.

Now, we think it’s because the Jews are a stubborn people.  We don’t think that it’s Hakodosh Boruch Hu did anything for us. We just made up our minds that we’ll keep Purim no matter what. No! It doesn’t work that way. Now it is true, certainly it’s true, that we are a stubborn people. עם קשי עורף. We are a stubborn people, no question about it. וסלחת לעוונינו כי עם קשי עורף הוא. Forgive us because we are a stubborn people. Those words mean that it’s a ma’aleh. It’s a good thing about us that we’re a stubborn people. Please forgive us because we’re a stubborn people means the following: Forgive us because once we accepted the Torah, we accepted it forever. We’ll stick to it. We’re stubborn – we’re serious about it.


But that’s not enough. No! Hashem was speaking when these words were said. It’s Hashem who is saying, וימי הפורים האלה לא יעברו מתוך היהודים. There will always be Purim. Even when Moshiach comes, there’ll be a Purim. And that’s because Hashem made a decree that Am Yisroel is forever. And that’s written openly in other places as well. Other places, it’s in the kisvei hakodesh, so it’s not so surprising that they said such a nevuah that the Jewish nation is forever. But now we hear it in Megillas Esther which on the surface looks as if it’s just a chronicle of the history of Persia. ויהי בימי אחשורוש. It’s the story of the king of Persia. And it tells us the story about his palace and the glory of his kingdom and his wealth. So it looks like a chronicle, a history of the kingdom. No, no! Hashem is speaking in the Megillas Esther. And He’s saying, וימי הפורים האלה לא יעברו מתוך היהודים. There will always be Purim!

You should know that this is mentioned in the tochacha as well. In the tochacha it says like this: Hashem says, “I’m going to visit you with retribution if you don’t keep everything in the Torah. I’m going to scatter you among the nations and I’m going to send the sword after you.” The sword means Haman and similar tyrants. Hashem says that even over there, in the lands where I scatter you, I will send the sword after you. Over there too, you’ll have enemies. Now, after you finished reading the tochacha, and you’re frightened and  discouraged – you know that the ba’al korei reads the tochacha in a low voice so as not to frighten the people too much – so all the way at the end of the tochacha it says, ואף גם זאת בהיותם בארץ אוביכם – when they will be in the land of their enemies, לא מאסתים ולא געלתים – I will not reject them and I will not spurn them, להפר בריתי איתם – to break my covenant with them. Do you hear that? Even if they’re scattered among the nations, even when they’ll be in golus and they’ll be persecuted, my covenant that I promised them, that they’ll be My people forever, that will never be broken. Forever and ever they’re My people. And that’s in the chumash. And that’s also what the Megillas Esther is telling us with these words: וימי הפורים האלה לא יעברו מתוך היהודים. That’s Hashem’s promise to us that He will never forsake us.


Now, you know that when Dovid Hamelech became king, he sat down at the royal table. At a golden table with golden dishes and golden cutlery and many servants. He was a king! But Dovid had many enemies who were jealous of him. And some of them were important people. Now, they were not in his palace. They were someplace else, but they looked on as Dovid came into the palace like a king. He had a crown on his head and they were jealous. And Dovid said like this. He said the following words. And these words were not said for him alone; they were said for the Jewish Nation. תערוך לפני שלחן נגד צררי – “You set the table before me, in front of my enemies.”

You have to know that it’s a great pleasure when you finally become king of a nation. You’re the leader. It’s a big zchus. And there was a tremendous happiness when Dovid became king. He was able to have the people sing his songs, ושירי דוד עבדיך. And he was able to build Yerushalayim Ir Hakodesh. He was the king now and he was able to accomplish everything. He was singing in happiness and he understood that it was such a big zchus. But among the good things that made him rejoice was that when he sat down at the table, it was despite his enemies. “You set the table before me, in front of my enemies.” The enemies were outside, gritting their teeth – gritting their teeth that Dovid has finally made it. He’s the king! They were so angry about that. They were eating themselves up. And for Dovid, and for us, that’s part of the pleasure. Let them grit! That’s part of the fun. Don’t think it’s a small thing. That’s part of the fun!

And that’s what’s going to happen l’asid lavo. It says about l’asid lavo- “The time will come,” Hashem says, “that there will be a great banquet.” The Next World is a big banquet. הנה עבדי יאכלו – “My servants will eat at this banquet.” ואתם תרעבון – “But you, the enemies of the frum Jews, you’ll be hungry. You’ll be standing and watching.” The Umos Ha’olam will be standing and watching while the Jewish People are sitting at the banquet. It’s the type of banquet where one course follows another course forever and ever. And they never tire of eating. It’s even better than eating. They’ll enjoy it so much, and the goyim will be standing on all sides and looking at us. And they’ll start crying out, “What about us?! What about us?!” הנה עבדי יצעקו מטוב לב – “And my servants will cry out in happiness.” ואתם תצעקו מכאב לב – “And you, the Umos Ha’olam will cry out from heartache.” So the Am Yisroel will be sitting at the tables in Olam Habah and singing, and the Umos Ha’olam will be standing around and crying out in agony. And this will go on and on and on. Forever and ever. This is a picture of Olam Habah. And it’s not a mashal. That’s what’s going to happen. But as much as we picture it in our minds, it’s still not even a fraction of the truth. The truth is that it’s much greater than we can imagine. So the time will come when the sun will rise and dispel all of the darkness of this world, and we will see the truth of the world. The darkness will be dispelled.


And Purim gave us a little glimpse – for a moment – מעין עולם הבא. Look, Haman is hanging and Mordechai is on top of the world! And then the curtain went down again. It became dark again. We’re still in galus. We’re still in the choshech of Olam Hazeh. The Gemara says, אכתי עבדי דאחשורוש אנן. We’re still the slaves of Achashveirosh. Wherever we are in Olam Hazeh, we’re still slaves to our non-Jewish masters. And we’re slaves to all the darkness and falsehood of the goyim. אכתי עבדי דאחשורוש אנן. He’s still our king. Even after Purim. He’s still our king. He rules over us. ויהי ערב. It’s a world of darkness. It’s a great pity. Esther is still captive in his house. אכתי עבדי דאחשורוש אנן.

But for that little while, Purim gave us a glimpse of the truth – that Hashem is still with us. A glimpse of the truth that Hashem is with us all the time. It’s a glimpse of the truth, that if internalized properly on Purim, can last all year long. It’s like the sun behind the clouds. Although the clouds cover the sun, the sun is still there. Don’t worry about that. And then the time will come. ויהי בוקר. The morning will come.

We have to look at what was said by Rav Simcha Zissel zichrono l’vracha. Rav Simcha Zissel said that when you look in the tochacha it’s terribly discouraging. You lose hope. But you must understand what actually took place, he said. Let’s say, the Jews in Europe, for example. They were of the lowest status that we reached in our galus. The Romans never degraded us as much as the Jews in Europe were degraded by the nations. We had to wear a badge, a yellow garment sewed on to our clothing. Sometimes we had to wear different kinds of hats. And as we walked in the street, the goyishe boys spat on us. They set their dogs on us. It was the lowest in our history.


And yet, there in Europe, were composed the greatest Torah works in our history. Libraries of Rishonim and Achronim. Yeshivas flourished. They built big synagogues all over Europe. There were big kehillos. The Jewish Nation lived a rich and flourishing Torah culture. I say culture, l’havdil. Everywhere, wherever you went, you could find Jews, Jews and Jews. Wherever you went, seforim and printing houses with new seforim always coming out. The Rambam’s seforim and Rif’s seforim . The Ritva and the Rashba and the Rosh. Seforim and seforim and seforim. More and more. Libraries. Huge works were composed. Rav Yosef Karo and the Tur. The Shulchan Aruch and the Rama came along. And the sifrei shailos v’teshuvos. So many mechabrim! It was a very vibrant existence. The Jewish Nation was fully alive. On Simchas Torah they went wild the happiness of being Hashem’s chosen people. On Purim they went wild with simcha! They lived with happiness in the ghetto. Despite the persecution, the Jew lived a vibrant and rich internal life. They were concealed from the goyim, separate from the sheker v’chazav. They lived separate from the goyim and lived a life of Torah.

I remember in Europe. When I married in Europe, it was on the street. Jews used to marry on the streets in Europe. And the goyim didn’t say anything. “It’s the Jewish religion,” they said. “What could we do?” So we were all in the street. The whole wedding company was on the street. The goyim passed by and they didn’t say a word. It’s the Jewish religion – what could you do?


The Jews practiced their religion openly. And everybody knew that when the Jew said aleinu, when he said שלא עשנו כגויי הארצות שהם משתחוים להבל וריק – “That You did not make us like the nations of the world, who bow down to empty gods, to nothing gods” – the Jew used to spit. You know that we used to spit by aleinu. We stopped that, you know, because spitting is not sanitary. But once upon a time, all Jews would spit by aleinu. And the goyim knew very well why we were spitting. They should have rushed in with their hacks and swords to do something about it. No, they didn’t do anything! It’s a neis. They knew that we disagreed with them and that we didn’t respect their religion at all, and yet we were allowed to live. So while it’s true that we were a stubborn people, that’s not enough to explain our survival.


Hashem said, וימי הפורים האלה לא יעברו מתוך היהודים. Hashem said that there has to be a Purim every year forever and ever and ever. The yehudim must always be able to see the lifting of the curtain for that glimpse at the truth, in order to survive in the darkness of Olam Hazeh. You have to always know, that you are the purpose of the creation of the whole universe. Don’t let yourself be swayed in the least bit by the fact that the moon was made smaller. Once the Am Yisroel was chosen, the ruach Elokim rests only upon us. And therefore, says Hashem, no matter what the goyim want, my nation will exist forever and Purim will exist forever.


Now, there are two functions that we have to fulfill in order that the ruach Elokim should rest upon us. One is pnimi and one is chitzoni. One is internal and one is external. Internally, a Jew must make it his business that the spirit of Hashem should always be in his heart. That’s why it’s so important to learn Torah. To inspire yourself by learning all the inyanim that cause a Jew to be a thinking Jew. והיגת בו יומם ולילה. As much as possible to be thinking thoughts of Hakodosh Boruch Hu. Inside your mind with your thoughts. That’s one way of upholding the shechina on your head forever and ever. And that’s so important. Like the Gemara says, כל אדם שיש בו דעה – if you have in your mind dei’ah, and dei’ah means the right kind of ideology, then כאילו נבנה בית המקדש בימיו – it’s like you built the Beis Hamikdash. You’re the Beis Hamikdash. If you have in your head the Torah ideology, emunah, thinking about Hakodosh Boruch Hu. If you’re thinking about the stories of the Torah, if you’re thinking about the Torah ideals and all of the Torah principles, then you become the Beis Hamikdash and you’re upholding the shechina on you. So in the beginning it was רוח אלוקים מרחפת על המים. And where is it now? It’s on the Am Yisroel now. Because inwardly you’re creating a mikdash and Hashem says, ושכנתי בתוכם. You make yourselves a mikdash with your thoughts, and Hashem says, “I’ll rest in that mikdash.”


But in addition to that avodah pnimiyus, that internal service of Hashem, there is also the very important function of pirsumei nissa. That’s the function of publicizing the important principle, that Hashem is watching over us and is taking care of us forever. We publicize the neis. That’s what we’re doing right now. We’re publicizing the neis. That’s why in the old days the Jews went all out on Purim. I wouldn’t recommend it today, but Jews went all out – all out – on Purim. They used to make big fires in the street. Gentile streets. A big fire in a hole in the ground and they used to jump over the fire. Chazal tell us that. They describe it. They used to make a hole in the ground on the street and fill it with fire, and on Purim they jumped over it. And the goyim were looking on. “What’s all this?! The Jews are jumping over big fires!” It was to show that we are jumping over a fire and we’re surviving. We’re making our way through the fire of exile and we will survive. It was a dangerous business, but the Jews did it and they went all out for Purim.


In the olden days, every Jew was inebriated on Purim. Every Jew was drunk on Purim. Now, drunk doesn’t mean that he became a meshugah. When somebody gets so drunk that he is הגיע לשכרותו של לוט – that he’s drunk like Lot was drunk and he doesn’t know what happened to him, that’s not Purim anymore. Then he’s a log. If you’re just a log of wood, that’s not Purim anymore. In ancient times the Jews were able to take it. They drank a lot of wine and they went wild with simcha. And they were mefarseim the neis and the lessons of Purim. Purim has that purpose of pirsumei nissa- of making the neis well known. Purim has to be a very big day in the Jewish calendar. Not to celebrate. No, no, not to celebrate.  “Celebrate” is a Gentile word. We are publicizing the neis. We are publicizing the principle that Purim will be forever and ever. That Hashem is with us forever and ever and that His שכינה rests upon us.


So, in addition to the pnimiyus, that we have to build the sh’china within us, we also have a most important function of publicizing and advertising the fact that the sh’china is with us. So when the Jews build a Yeshiva and the goyim pass by in their cars and they see a big building, with big letters “YESHIVA – SCHOOL FOR BOYS,” and they see frum boys pouring out of the doors, it’s a kiddush Hashem. Any Beis Haknesses and even a kosher butcher shop – with a big sign “בשר כשר – KOSHER MEAT” that’s also pirsumei nissa. Certainly! That means that we’re still here. We’re still around and we’ll continue to be around forever.


And another form of pirsumei nissa is the ribui, the multiplication of the number of Jews. When you have a few Jews who are very devoted to Torah and yiras shamayim that’s very good. Very good! But suppose you have, let’s say, troops and troops of Jews. You walk by a big Yeshiva, and when the boys come out, let’s say, on erev Shabbos, there are twenty buses waiting to take them home. Twenty buses! Twenty buses packed with children! You walk by a big girls’ school and there are twenty buses lined up. You go outside on Friday, erev Shabbos, and the streets are filled with buses. Everybody’s going home for Shabbos. And walking home, as well. You find thirty girls walking, with long skirts. צניעות’דיג’ע girls. Thirty girls here. Twenty girls there. Wherever you look, you see people going home from the Yeshivas and girls’ schools. That’s a kiddush Hashem on a very big scale! Hakodosh Boruch Hu wants that we should multiply and those mothers that are busy raising families, they’re the ones who are being oisek in pirsumei nissa in one of the very biggest ways. The Gemara says that if you’re oisek in pirya v’rivyah then you’re being mikayem the shechina to rest on the Am Yisroel. Those who don’t get married and don’t have children are being mima’eit the shechina.

The Gemara says, על מי ישען – On whom should the shechina rest? על העצים ועל האבנים? The shechina should rest on logs and stones?! The shechina has to rest on people. ורוח אלוקים מרחפת. It’s hovering, but on whom will the shechina rest? On people! Not on the water. Not on עצים ואבנים. So those mothers who have more children, are building the foundation for Hashem’s shechina to rest. And those mothers are being oisek in pirsumei nissa every day of the year by raising their children in the derech Hatorah and publicizing that the one Nation that is dedicated to Hashem is still around and that we’re here to stay. And the fathers who work hard to support them, and pay schar limud, as well. And the Jewish people continue to increase and multiply. That’s the dream of Avraham Avinu. He wanted to have many children, many descendants. Hashem said, “Yes, I’ll give you like the stars of the sky.” ככוכבי השמים. But Hashem wants more and more. כחול אשר על שפת הים. That’s pirsumei nissa. Not only in quality but in quantity.

And so, when you see a Jewish truck-driver come out of the delivery truck. A big kosher truck – “MEHADRIN” is written on the side of the truck in big letters. And he jumps out of the truck with a beard and peyos. A truck-driver – it’s a kiddush Hashem. Instead of a bum walking out of the truck, a frum Jew walks out. He’s driving a big truck bringing kosher food to the nation of Hashem. He’s driving a big truck like that. It’s pirsumei nissa. It’s a neis that we’re still around. And we’re increasing and multiplying. It’s such a happiness to see. And it’s a kiddush Hashem!


So if you show that you’re a frum Jew and you walk in the street that way, so all of the goyim are gritting their teeth. Let their teeth fall out! What do you care? Let them grit! Hashem wants you to do that. Hashem wants you to advertise that you’re still around. And that we’ll always be around. And that’s because you’re advertising the name of Hashem. That’s what we’re here for, in this world, to advertise the name of Hashem. Am Yisroel – that’s the kavod shamayim. That’s the honor for Hashem. The more Jews there are, the more honor for Hashem. Of course, quality is also important. If you have many Jews, bnei Torah, who have תורת ה׳ בליבם, no question about it, they are a Beis Hamikdash. Like we said before, they uphold the shechina in themselves. When you think thoughts of Torah, of the yesodei emunah of avodas Hashem and shleimus, then you are creating the makom for the  shechina to rest. That’s the internal function that we mentioned before. But more than that, on all sides we have to work that it should be Purim all year round. Not that yimei hapurim once a year should לא יעברו מתוך היהודים.  No; the days of Purim shouldn’t pass away from the yehudim every day! Every day, לא יעברו מתוך היהודים. Every day should be a Purim. Always, always pirsumei nissa to publicize the name of Hashem in the world.


Every day we say, הודו לה׳ קראו בשמו הודיעו בעמים עלילותיו. Let the world know that the Jewish nation, the Am Hashem, is around. Reformers are not Jews. All the modern Jews who like to drift after the goyim, they don’t belong to us at all. But it’s the Jews who are proud of showing that they’re Jews, those are the Jews who are upholding the pirsumei nissa principle of publicizing Hashem  in the world. It doesn’t mean that you have to go among the gentiles like missionaries. No, no, that’s not necessary. But in your own communities, in your own homes, make a very big Purim in your house and raise the roof with simcha. Dance with the children. Call in the chaveirim. Make it a great day. And the more noise you make, the more pirsumei nissa it is, and the bigger mitzvah it is.

And it’s not only on Purim. Purim is just that special day set aside for reminding us of this truth. But it’s Purim all year round. All year round, whatever you could do, build Yeshivas, raise large families, learn Torah, make shiurim, speak about Hashem – yes, it’s so important to speak about Hashem all day long –  and build a Beis Hamikdash in your heart. All these are various ways of pirsumei nissa in order to fulfill that great principle – that great eternal truth – that the ruach Elokim   should rest on the Am Yisroel forever and ever.



The Sukkah – Tape # 614

TAPE #614

The Sukkah

Bruchim Haba’im. Welcome everyone. We are about to begin, בעזרת השם, number 614.

We read in the פסוק the following words: כל האזרח בישראל ישבו בסוכות – “Every citizen in Yisroel must dwell in Sukkos” (Va’yikra 23:42). This is an unusual introduction to a mitzva. The mentioning of אזרח, a citizen, is peculiar. And so you see that the Torah is emphasizing that even the important citizens of our nation must dwell in the Sukkah. Even the aristocrats who have belonged to the עם ישראל since the days of Avrohom Avinu – they can trace their pedigree all the way back to the beginning of our people – that’s what אזרח means; even they, must dwell in Sukkos.

And immediately we learn a fundamental principle of the mitzva of dwelling in the Sukkah. One of the functions of this mitzvah is to humble the people. Even the important ones – those that dwell in big homes, in palatial residences – must move out of their homes and take up residence in this flimsy dwelling. And the purpose is in order to learn humility. That’s a lesson of the Sukkah.

Now when you say humility, it can be explained with two peirushim, two explanations, and both of them are true. First we will study one peirush – what is intended by the כניעה, by the humility, that we learn by dwelling in the Sukkah.

The Sukkah as you know must be a דירת ארעי, a temporary dwelling. It has to be built in such a way that it could be a temporary dwelling. It can be of stone; you can even have a Sukkah made of steel. But you cannot make it of so high a construction that you will be forced to have sturdy walls. If it’s more than a certain height it’s passul, it’s not a kosher Sukkah, because a certain height requires sturdy walls. And we want a דירת ארעי, something that at least is possible to be flimsy. That’s a fundamental halacha of building a Sukkah.

So we see it’s not merely a leniency. It’s not merely that the Torah gives you a קולא, making it easier for you, so that you can get by with a less expensive sukka. No, דירת ארעי is not a leniency. The Torah is insisting on a דירת ארעי. Hashem says that your Sukkah must be a temporary dwelling.

Also, the Torah insists that the s’chach cannot be a regular roof. It cannot be like a בית של כל השנה, like your home that you use all year long. Even if the year-round roof will be made of גידולי קרקע, of things that grow from the ground which is a requirement of s’chach, it still won’t be כשר. Wooden beams grow from the ground. Planks grow from the ground. Heavy logs grow from the ground. And still, if it’s made in a such a way that it is a permanent construction, like a regular roof, then it’s פסול. It has to be something that is not a דירה של כל השנה. So again we see that there is an insistence on this theme of something that is temporary and flimsy, a dwelling which humbles the one who dwells there.

In the Torah (D’varim 6:10) we find the following warning: When you come into Eretz Canaan, after you disinherit the previous inhabitants, you will dwell in בתים טובים אשר לא בנית – “in good homes that you didn’t build yourselves, “ note the emphasis on good homes. הקדוש ברוך הוא gives you a gift of beautiful homes built by the Canaanites, homes that are fully prepared for you. And therefore, Hashem warns that you must beware of ורם לבבך – “your heart will be proud, arrogant,” and ושכחת את השם – “you will forget Hashem.” Strong and secure homes, filled with good things, can easily cause one to forget Hashem.

So we see now, that one function, one purpose, of this requirement of Sukkah, the requirement that it should be a דירת ארעי, a weak form of construction, is to teach us that while we dwell in that דירת ארעי, we are to remind ourselves that we are not so important. You are not as important as you imagine. And even though you are an אזרח, an important burgher, an established citizen, and you know your יחוס, you’re aware of your pure pedigree. And of course you have your own palatial home – and other things too – still you must move out – צא מדירת קבע ושב בדירת ארעי – “You must leave your permanent home, and dwell in that temporary and flimsy hut” (Sukkah 2a). We already see here a purpose. Hashem wants that you should remind yourself that you are not so important. You’re not as important as you think.

Actually, when you think about yom tov in general, you’ll understand that every yom tov, to some extent has that function. שלש פעמים בשנה יראה כל זכרך את פני האדון השם – “Three times a year every male must present himself before the Master Hashem” (Shemos 34:23). If you’ll study this passuk carefully you’ll see something remarkable. Three times a year every זכר must show himself before the Master. Now the word אדון, Master, is not used ordinarily when describing Hashem – even aleph daled nun yud is rarely used. Yud kay vav kay is what’s used. Now if the word אדון is used here, you have to know that it is emphasizing a basic function of yom tov. Every tom tov they all left their homes. That was the old time system of yom tov. They left their homes and they all went up to the Mishkan in Shiloh, and later to the Beis Hamikdash in Yerushalayim. And what’s the purpose? יראה את פני האדון השם. To show yourself before the Master of the land. To demonstrate that you are only a tenant.

The Torah says (D’varim 4:25), כי תוליד בנים ובני בנים ונושנתם בארץ – “When you will have children and then grandchildren and you become old in the land; you get accustomed to dwelling on your land.” והשחתם – “You’ll become corrupt.” You begin to believe that it’s yours, that it belongs to you. “You’ll forget that it is My land,” says Hashem. That’s a corruption of character. And so, in order to remind yourselves that you are only a visitor here, כי גרים ותושבים אתם עמדי – “You are only visitors here with Me” (Va’yikra 25:23).

And therefore you must come on every occasion of the shalosh regalim to show yourself before the Landlord. Hashem makes the important declaration, that כי לי הארץ – “I am the one who owns the land” (Va’yikra 25:23). I’m the macher here, not you. So we see that is the purpose of yom tov in general.

Of course, every yom tov has more purposes than that. If it is a chag, like chag hamatzos, or if it is zman matan toraseinu, whatever it is, that is in addition to to this fundament principle of אדון, of recognizing the Master. This certainly is a function of yom tov, to demonstrate that Hashem is the owner, כי לי כל הארץ – not only that He owns Eretz Yisroel. He owns America too. כי לי כל הארץ.

And that’s the purpose of Shmita and Yovel. והארץ לא תמכר לצמתות – “You can’t sell the land outright forever” (Va’yikra ibid.). When Yovel comes, the land reverts back to the previous owners. He has no right to transfer ownership of the land. כי לי הארץ – “It’s My land! “ You’re just a visitor, a tenant, in this world.

And so we see that the purpose of these arrangements is to teach humility. It shouldn’t be ורם לבבך. You shouldn’t be arrogant and feel like you are here forever.

Of course anyone who has a little bit of understanding, anyone who thinks a little bit, understands that he is not here forever לפניו יכרעו כל יורדי עפר – “Before Hashem kneel all those who go down to the grave” (Tehillim 22:30). What does that mean “all those who go down to the grave”? It means this: It’s because we know that someday we are going down to buried in the עפר, that’s why we kneel before Hashem right now. If you remember always where you are heading, then you’ll kneel before Hashem always. But most people are forgetful. And therefore, in order to remind them, Hashem gives them certain mitzvos so that they should keep in mind always that Hashem is the owner.

And now we have to understand what כניעה really means and what ענוה really means. It was explained many times here, that when you look in Mussar seforim, and you study the subject of ענוה, humility, you see it is שם הכולל, a general term that includes many good middos. An ענוותן has many good middos. Not only is the ענוותן not arrogant. But he is kindly, and he is patient. Many good middos are in ענוה. But you’ll notice that always the seforim emphasize בין אדם לחבירו – the humility that one is supposed to feel towards his fellow man. Because that is the most usual understanding of humility. Against whom are people arrogant? Against other people! And therefore that is the definition that we usually think of – to be an עניו, a humble fellow, to everybody.

And that is a very great achievement, to learn to be humble towards all people. Like it says, one of the questions they will ask a man in the next world, המלכת את חברך עליך בנחת רוח -Did you make your chaver reign over you with your gentleness? Did you make him a ruler over you with your gentleness? Instead of being a ruler over him by opening a big mouth, did you speak gently to him, and recognize him as important? That’s a question that will be asked. המלכת את חברך עליך בנחת – “Did you make your fellow man a ruler over you with your gentleness.” You’re going to have to answer that question on the great day of judgement. Did you or didn’t you. And so we see how important humility to your fellow man is. Now that is how the seforim talk about humility. And it’s valuable, it’s important.

But the Chovos Halevavos, as you know, if you were here before, speaks about humility in a different sense. He talks about humility not in a sense of bein adam l’chaveiro alone, but in the sublime sense of being an עניו towards Hakadosh Baruch Hu. Now most people will think, “Is that really necessary to tell me, to be an עניו to Hashem?” The Chovos Halevavos considers it extremely necessary! That is the true כניעה – to be humble towards Hashem.

And that is what is said of Moshe Rabeinu והאיש משה עניו מאד (Bamidbar 12:3). Moshe Rabeinu is praised for his quality of humility. מכל האדם. More than all human beings, Moshe Rabeinu was the most humble.

Now Moshe Rabeinu wasn’t a nebuch’el. He was not a milktoast. He was a strong man, and he spoke with teeth when he had to speak. ויקצוף משה על פקודי החיל. Moshe Rabeinu was angry at the commanders of the troops” (Bamidbar 31:14). Moshe showed anger!

Or when the שעיר החטאת was burnt. דרוש דרש משה והנה שרף. It says The קרבן was burned, and Moshe demanded to know, “What’s the reason for the קרבן being burned? Why didn’t you eat the korban.” ויקצוף על אלעזר ועל איתמר. Moshe Rabeinu demanded! He was tough.

Of course, we understand that a man who is an עניו doesn’t have to be a b’heima. Like the Chovos Halevavos says that a b’heimah is also an עניו. A big ox, you see it being driven down the road by a little boy. A little boy is driving a big ox. Now the ox could step on him and mash him. So the ox is an עניו?! No, it’s not an עניו. Just that the ox has no seichel. The ox doesn’t understand its powers, its own capabilities.

But a man who knows who he is, like Moshe Rabeinu – he knew he was Moshe Rabeinu. He didn’t yield to Korach or anybody else. He was a leader that Hakodosh Boruch Hu appointed and he knew his worth. And still, he was an עניו towards men. Certainly he was humble towards people – when it was in the right place. Everything has its right place and its right measure. Yes, he was certainly a humble man בין אדם לחבירו. He certainly dealt with his fellow man in a most humble manner, when it was called for.

And nevertheless, Moshe Rabeinu was praised for his humility chiefly because ותמונת השם יביט (Bamidbar 12:8). Moshe Rabeinu saw before him, more than anybody else, the image of Hashem. As much as any human being could see, he saw. And just like when a man sees a מלך, a king, standing in front of him, he automatically lowers his head and keeps his mouth closed. If you’re standing in front of a king you automatically become an עניו. If you know you’re standing in front of someone important, and you have even a little bit of seichel, you’ll feel a sense of humility. All the more so, the more you are aware of Hakodosh Boruch Hu, the more of an עניו you become.

So we are learning here that true עונה, the true humility that Hashem desires, is based on הכרה, the recognition, that you’re standing always before Hashem. Humility is dependent on your clarity of emunah; the more דעה you have, the more that you recognize Hashem and the more understanding you have that you’re actually in the presence of Hashem all the time, the more of an עניו you become.

The passuk says השם משמים השקיף על בני אדם – “Hashem is looking down on human beings constantly (Tehillim 14:2). He’s looking at you all the time. And Pirkei Avos teaches us that we need to live with this understanding. דע מה למעלה ממך – “You have to know what’s above you,” עין רואה – “An eye is looking at you” (Avos 2:1). דע means that you have to know it, feel it with all your being. And not just once a year when you learn Pirkei Avos on Shabbos afternoon. All the time! And the ones who keep that in mind, they become the true ענוים, they become the truly humble people, because they are humbled before Hashem.

As it’s been mentioned many times here, that’s why all those who serve Hakodosh Boruch Hu and believe in Hashem implicitly are called ענוים. Like Dovid Hamelech said בהשם תתהלל נפשי – “My soul takes pride in Hashem because He came and saved me from all kinds of troubles throughout my career,” ישמעו ענוים וישמחו – “Let the humble listen and rejoice” (Tehillim 34:3). Dovid Hamelech told his students, his friends, he told anybody who was willing to listen: I am going to tell you now how Hashem came to my help when I needed Him, and you people, you humble people, should listen and rejoice. Where does humble come in here?! Why is he calling them humble? It should be ישמעו צדיקים or ישמעו יראים. Maybe ישמעו מאמינים. Why ישמעו ענוים, “All you humble ones should listen to me”?

And the answer is this: עניוות, humility is everything! The ענוים, the ones who are humbled before Hashem, they are the real מאמינים. They are the ones who believe implicitly in Hashem. A מאמין, to be a believing Jew, is not merely to sign on the dotted line, הנני מאמין – “I am a maamin.” You sign off that you believe in Hashem and that’s all. No. A real מאמין is one who feels the presence of Hashem so strongly that he is נכנע before Him. He actually feels הכנעה, humility, because he knows, he actually knows and senses that he is before the Presence of Hashem all the time. And that’s the כניעה of the Chovos Halevavos – when you’re נכנע through the feeling of being in the presence of Hashem.

So now we come to be subject of Yom Tov. We are told to come three times a year to the Beis Hamikdash to show ourselves אל פני האדון – in front of our Master, Hashem. We come to Yerushalayim for the purpose of standing before our Master. And this is done in order that we should feel His Presence even more.

And this feeling is reinforced every yom tov, when we travel all the way to the Beis Hamikdash. We are going to show ourselves to our Master! The whole nation travelled from all corners of the land to show ourselves before their אדון. And that trek to Yerushalayim, and the going up to the Beis Hamikdash reinforces our feeling that we have a real Master.

And now, when we come to Sukkos, we understand that these days are especially dedicated to this principle. We move out of our affluent homes into a place where there’s almost nothing, a flimsy roof, some paper ornaments hanging from the ceiling, whatever it is. And even though you’ll spend money, but it’s nothing like your home. And you’re reminded that this world is only a דירת ארעי, a temporary dwelling.

Even the palace where the millionaire lives is only a temporary dwelling. צא מדירת קבע והכנס בדירת ארעי – “Leave your home, your home that you think is your permanent abode, and go into a temporary dwelling” (Sukkah 2a).That’s why it’s kosher with just two walls and a tefach. Two walls and a flimsy roof?! That’s a very weak protection against the elements. If cold wind is blowing on Sukkos and you have two walls and a tefach, you’ll need an overcoat. And even if it’s not cold, the people passing by don’t give you much privacy there. You can’t sit like a מלך, like a king when you’re sitting exposed to all the elements and all of your neighbors. You’re exposed to the rain. The rain comes in and suddenly you’ll discover how good it is to have a roof over your head. You never appreciated a roof until you’re sitting in your Sukkah and it starts raining.

And all that is for the purpose of letting you know that you have a Master. The purpose is כניעה, for us to know that there’s an Adon. אדון עולם אשר מלך. He’s in charge of the world. בטרם כל יציר נברא. Before anyone appeared in this world, He already was in charge. We are just latecomers. We came on the last day and we are not here for too long either. And therefore, we should never forget this great principle of גר אנכי בארץ – “I am only a sojourner in this world.”

Now we can understand something about the practices of Avraham our father. Avraham was a wealthy man. ואברהם כבד מאד במקנה בכסף וזהב – He was very heavy, very heavy with wealth. (Bereishis 13:2). He had silver and gold and cattle and servants. Avraham had three hundred and eighteen servants who could bear arms. When he went to war, he had three hundred and eighteen loyal soldiers. And he had older ones and younger ones, and they all had wives, and they all had children. He had a מחנה גדול, a very large camp. With common calculation, you can understand that he had more than a thousand עבדים. In those days, people had children! And certainly, the masters encouraged their slaves to have more children. He had at least a thousand slaves. And probably much more than that.

And besides that, he had כסף וזהב. He had trunks full of money. And he had huge herds, huge flocks. Avraham was a very wealthy man. And he could have built himself a beautiful home. Anyplace. He could have bought himself a plot of land and built a beautiful home surrounded by gardens and orchards. So it’s interesting that Avraham always dwelt in a tent.

Now you could say, there was a reason for the tent. Avraham was always on the move, הלוך ונסוע (Bereishis 12:9). He was always moving around. And that was because he had a purpose. And that was to preach to everyone that there is an אדון העולם, a Master of the World. Wherever he went, that was his business. ויקרא בשם השם קל עולם (Bereishis 21:23). He went from place to place proclaiming to anybody who would listen that Hashem is the Master. He’s the Master of the whole world. That was Avraham’s business. He went around from place to place spreading awareness of Hashem. So you could say that he couldn’t build a palace for that reason. He was always on the move.

But that wasn’t the only reason. It was a principle of his to always dwell in a tent. And it was so that he should never become arrogant. He should always remind himself that he’s only a visitor in this world. A very important principle.

לוט who broke away from his rebbi, Avraham, and went away to סדום lost out on this principle. At first it says ויאהל, he made tents. He pitched his tent just like he had learned in the home of Avraham. But finally he gave up Avraham’s way of life and he moved into a house. Ohhh, to give up that great principle of recognizing that you’re only a visitor in this world, that you’re only here temporarily. That was the big mistake of לוט. We know that in Sedom he lived in a house. It says openly that he lived in a house in Sedom. So he gave up the ways of his rebbe.

But Avraham and Yitzchak, they dwelt in tents. Even Yakov, who built a house, moved out of it soon and went back to the tents. And so we see that it was a principle of the Avos that they should never forget this great principle that they’re only visitors in this world.

Now when we come to Sukkos, the Torah tells us specifically the reason for this mitzvah of building and living in the Sukkah. Now we have to pay attention to the plain words without going into any סודות, any secrets of the Torah, or any fanciful explanations and דרושים. We have to learn פשוטו של מקרא, The plain meaning of Hashem’s words. And the passuk says למען ידעו כי בסוכות הושבתי את בני ישראל You should dwell in sukkos, in order that your generations should know that I caused the בני ישראל to dwell in sukkos. Not that they dwelt in sukkos, but that I caused them to dwell in sukkos. הושבתי – “I seated them in sukkos.” בהוציאי אותם מארץ מצרים – “When I took them out of the land of Mitzrayim.”

We still think according to what we learned when we were little children in the cheder, when we started chumash. We think that the entire plan of the דור המדבר, the generation of the wilderness, was nothing but a punishment because of the מרגלים, the spies who spoke bad about Eretz Yisroel. The דור המדבר was sentenced to wander around for forty years as a punishment because of what happened with the מרגלים.

And it’s certainly not false to think so, but it’s certainly not enough. Because Hakodosh Boruch Hu had a plan that He had foreseen from the beginning. Hashem’s plan was that there had to a הקדמה, a preparation before going into Eretz Yisroel. Eretz yisroel was זבת חלב ודבש. It was flowing with milk and honey and all good things. לא תחסר כל בה. It was lacking nothing. It was a new kind of existence, an existence of luxury. It was a land of ואכלת ושבעת, a land of eating and satiation. Especially in the early days when they entered the land, the fruit of the land were fabulous. We know this from the passuk about the אשכול ענבים, the cluster of grapes that the מרגלים carried. They needed a bunch of people to carry one bunch of grapes.

The peiros were fabulous. The Gemara is full of stories how huge the peiros were. How luscious they were! The dates used to split because they were so fat, and the honey dripped out all over. Figs were so swollen by the sweetness inside, that they burst, and the juice spread out on the ground!

It was a very great peril, this kind of existence. But Hakodosh Boruch Hu was giving the Am Yisroel a big opportunity for success. But it was also a big test. It’s a big opportunity to achieve, but a big opportunity to fall into grave error. And that’s the opportunity of wealth. And not just the wealth of a wealthy millionaire, but the wealth of all good things that all of us possess.

Great happiness is a form of serving Hakodosh Boruch Hu with the utmost success. “תחת אשר לא עבדת את ה’ אלקיך בשמחה ובטוב לבב מרוב כל (D’varim 28:47). You are expected to serve Hashem bi’simcha, in happiness, b’tuv leivav, with a merry heart, mei’rov kol, because of the abundance of all good things that He provides you. The greatest form of עבודת השם is when you’re wealthy, and you have plenty to eat, and you’re enjoying it, and you serve Hashem in the midst of this happiness. That’s the greatest success.

Like I always say, to do teshuva while you’re eating watermelon or ice cream, is the best kind of teshuva. The חובות הלבבות says that.

And so they were given an opportunity when they entered ארץ ישראל, to achieve more than any other situation could afford them. The opportunity in the midst of luxury to become so grateful to Hakodosh Boruch Hu, to sing to Him all their days, and to shout in happiness to Him; That’s the highest form of עבודת השם.

However, Hashem couldn’t suddenly plunge people into such a test without some preface. He needed a big הקדמה, a big introduction, and the הקדמה was, ויענך וירעיבך, ויאכילך את המן. For forty years, they had the opposite! They didn’t have everything. They were very limited! They didn’t have בתים טובים; they didn’t have any homes at all! They didn’t have any מנוחה! Every day they had to be on the alert, maybe they’ll hear the חצוצרות, the sound of the trumpets that summon them to pull out the stakes of their tents, and start moving.

They never had any kind of security, any assurance, in the מדבר that they would remain in one place for longer than a day. It’s true, in one place they remained eighteen years. But the entire eighteen years, every day, they were in trepidation. Every minute, the trumpet might sound and say: get moving!

You understand what a disturbance that is for חיי עולם הזה, for a normal feeling of security in this world. Let’s say you move into a home. But you know that at any moment you might be summoned to leave, with you and your family, and never to return. You won’t do anything! You won’t try to make any repairs, nothing. Any minute, you might get a notice to move out! And even if you lived there fifty years, you never had a minute of מנוחת הנפש.

The purpose in the מדבר was ויענך. “I afflicted you!” said Hashem. He afflicted us! וירעיבך ויאכילך את המן – “And I afflicted you, and I fed you only mann.”  And they were limited. Very limited. For breakfast and for supper, it was מן, always! Of course, we know what the Chazal tell us, that they were able to feel various tastes in the מן. But don’t be deceived by that. These tastes were very hard to achieve. It wasn’t as simple as you learned in the cheder. You needed a lot of אמונה! You had to sit down before the סעודה, and say הנני מוכן ומזומן to feel a taste of meat in this mann. You had to work on מוסר!

And many times you learn מוסר it has no effect on you. You have to learn a lot of it, until it enters your mind! And then when they sat down to eat with אמונה שלימה, they were able to have a taste. But suppose somebody was late; he came late to the מוסר סדר! And he just sat down to eat, without the preparation -”This Mann again!”  לחם הקלוקל! נפשנו קצה בלחם הקלוקל! “Our souls are loathe with this light and insubstantial food” (Bamidbar 21:5). Every day the same old stuff! Some people were lazy, they didn’t enjoy life at all there. And even the good ones, it’s a little bit tiresome! They would like to sit down to בשר ממש! To a red steak, to some wheat bread! Always, day after day, to eat something that just your mind is telling you tastes good? That’s very difficult! It was ויענך, it says openly, “He afflicted you”. וירעיבך – “He made you hungry.”

But the good ones, and most of them were good, passed the test. But the achievement of all this was, to humble them! ויענך means, “He made you low,” He made you an עני. He gave you ענוה, humility. עונה and עני are the same word you know. An עני is an עניו.

And therefore, the purpose of the סוכות in the מדבר were, to humble our people. They sat under a roof that couldn’t protect them. The walls were pretty flimsy and it could be many of the walls were only two walls with a טפח! They certainly weren’t walls of brick. Who’s going to waste effort building a brick building if the next minute he might hear the חצוצרת and that means that you have to move? And so they didn’t have any conveniences. And the purpose was, that it shouldn’t be ורם לבבך ושכחת את ה’ – “That your mind will become arrogant and you will forget Hashem.”

Now we have to realize what a great disadvantage we are suffering today. And that’s because we have all of these conveniences, and in addition, we have the idea that we’re here forever! Who doesn’t think that he’s here in this world for the next ten thousand years? Everybody!

There was a man next door to me once, he moved in next door, and he wasn’t a young man! He put up a big iron fence, a fancy wrought iron fence, with a big “P” in the middle – that was his initial – a big P of iron. A fence like that would stand for a thousand years! The black man who owns the house now still has the P on his gate! The black man next door has a big fancy wrought-iron gate with a big P. The man who made the P, didn’t last long very long though.

We have a big disadvantage. There’s nothing to remind us that we’re not going to be here for a very long time. And so people put everything they have into the house, and of course expensive rugs. It’ll last forever! We’ll be here forever!

But Hakodosh Boruch Hu was preparing His people for a career of success. Hashem was preparing the Am Yisroel so that they should be able to utilize the opposite – when they would leave the wilderness and go into permanent homes; when they would stop eating mann, and they would eat whatever they desire. And in this situation of being showered with the חסד השם, although it would be a great opportunity for becoming aware of Hashem, it would also be a very big temptation to forget Hakodosh Boruch Hu.

And so He prepared them in the מדבר, in the סוכה, to learn the מדה of עונה. For forty years in the wilderness the Am Yisroel learned the lesson of being humble before Hashem.

So when they came into Eretz Yisroel, and they saw all the plenty that was waiting for them; the beautiful homes that were מלאים כל טוב, they moved in humbly. They moved into these big beautiful houses of stone with feelings of הכנעה and humility. “Ahhh,”they said. “Baruch Atoh Hashem. Thank You Hashem. This is not ours. Thank You for giving us this!” And as soon as they could, they were oleh regel to Shilo, to the Mishkan. יראה כל זכורך את פני האדון השם. They came to the Master, and they declared to the Master, “You’re our Master! We’re only tenants!”

But how long would that last? Hakodosh Boruch Hu wanted it to last forever! למען ירבו ימיכם וימי בניכם, כימי השמים על הארץ. You should be on the land, like the heavens are over the land, forever. I want it forever! Only, you have to keep on working very hard! You have to constantly remind yourself that I am the Master.

So every Sukkos they reminded themselves. Everybody moved out of his beautiful home, that he had found when he moved into the land. He left everything, and went into the Sukkah, a flimsy little booth and sat there. And he thought, “Ah! כי בסוכות הושבתי את בני ישראל. This is how our forefathers sat for forty years, and they prepared to remember Hakodosh Boruch Hu. And we will also keep that in mind. “We’ll never forget!” they said – At the beginning they said that. At the beginning they said that they wouldn’t forget.

It’s a very big danger. כי תוליד בנים ובני בנים – “You’ll have children, and your children will have children,” ונושנתם בארץ – “And you’ll be long in the land,” ושחתם – “You’re going to be spoiled!” It doesn’t mean you have to be spoiled, and it doesn’t mean everybody was spoiled. Not everybody was spoiled.

However, it’s not easy, it’s very difficult to have conveniences and to remember Hakodosh Boruch Hu. And that’s why every added convenience that you get, makes it a requirement that you learn more and more יראת שמים. Every added benefit should be a spur to learn more fear of Hashem. No question that it’s a סכנה. A rich man has to keep a מסילת ישרים open on his table all the time! Because he’s sure to fall into the pitfall; it’s a snare. Any kind of wealth is a סכנה, a grave danger.

And the סכנה is, ורם לבבך – You’ll become conceited, ושכחת את השם – And you’ll forget Hakodosh Boruch Hu. It’s an open פסוק! It says: You’ll eat well, and you’ll build beautiful homes, and then ורם לבבך, your heart will be proud, ושכחת, you’ll forget Hashem!

You’ll forget Hashem?! That’s impossible! They never forgot Hashem in ארץ ישראל! But it means, you won’t think about Him as your benefactor. You’ll forget that He gave it to you. Certainly you’ll daven every day. And you’ll say קריאת שמע every day and you’ll mention יציאת מצרים every day. Certainly! But you’ll forget Hashem. It’s possible to do all these things, and still to forget that Hashem is the One that gave you all these things that you have.

And therefore the סוכה is a דירת ארעי, a flimsy, temporary dwelling, and it’s a glorious opportunity once a year, to go out in the סוכה and remind ourselves that we dwelt in the מדבר in such flimsy habitations. And we sit there for seven days in order to teach us that כל האזרח, even though you’re an aristocrat, an important fellow, and you own many things of your own; still everybody in Yisroel must ישבו בסוכות, to teach us that nobody has anything. We’re all visitors here, and Hakodosh Boruch Hu is the Landlord.

Now, since we’re on this subject, that the Sukkah has to teach us this great principle – by the way, that’s not the only principle, we’ll soon see another important principle – but that’s one of the very great lessons. So you must understand: Why is it that the סוכה cannot be very high? We learned one reason so far: Because if it is a very tall סוכה, then it must be built with sound and solid construction and then it won’t be a דירת עראי. You can’t make a flimsy building that’s very high. It would have to be a strong building.

There’s another reason however, and the other reason is, so that you should be able to see the s’chach. If the s’chach is too high, you won’t crane your neck to look at it that way. But if the s’chach is not too high, you can be sitting in the Sukkah and see the s’chach.

למען ידעו דורותיכם. You should remember when you sit in the סוכה, what the סוכה is for. If you sit in the sukkah, but you don’t think what the Sukkah is about, it’s a רחמנות on you! The תורה says a reason, למען ידעו דורותיכם כי בסוכות הושבתי את בני ישראל – “In order that you should remember that we once sat in Sukkos in the מדבר!

So you see that the purpose of sitting in the Sukkah is to remind yourself. So when you sit in the Sukkah, immediately the first result should be, you’re נכנע, you’re humbled before Hashem. It’s very important to keep that in mind when you come into the סוכה.

And one of the most important means of כניעה, one of the most necessary demonstrations of כניעה is to keep your mouth closed. You have to be careful what you say in the Sukkah. You cannot fool around, you can’t joke around in the Sukkah. No place for ליצנות. A מושב לצים in the Sukkah is entirely contradictory to the purpose of being humbled before the Presence of Hashem. The purpose of the Sukkah is עונה – you have to be humble in the sukkah.

And the Rambam says that, לעולם ירבה אדם בשתיקה – “A person should always produce a lot of silence.” Not only in the Sukkah, but always. In this Sukkah of Olam Hazeh, where we are – we are only temporary visitors here in the דירת ארעי of Olam Hazeh. לעולם ירבה אדם בשתיקה. You know what that means? A man should always produce a lot of silence. Not just to keep quiet. You have to produce silence. That’s what you have to produce in this world. You have to produce silence. Silence is an achievement.

Now, why is silence such an achievement? It doesn’t say לעולם ישתוק – that you should always be quiet. It says ירבה בשתיקה – that means that you should produce a lot of silence. What’s so important about producing silence?

And the answer is this: Because silence is ענוה. Silence means that you know that you are standing in the presence of someone. חכם אינו מדבר בפני מי שגדול הימנו – If you’re a chochom, a wise man, you won’t talk when you know that someone bigger than you is in front of you. And therefore שתיקה, silence, is a golden achievement.

Of course דברי תורה is something else. The Gemara says מה אומנותו של אדם – What is a man’s profession in this world? אלם – יעשה עצמו כאלם – He should make himself like an אלם, like a mute fellow, as if he cannot talk. That is a man’s profession in this world. And you have to learn that profession. You go to school to learn how to be a doctor, to be an accountant. You have to go to school to learn how to keep your mouth closed too. You have to learn that.

מה אומנותו של אדם. What’s a man’s profession in this world? אלם – יעשה עצמו כאלם. He has to make himself as if he cannnot talk. It takes a lot of work! It doesn’t mean he shouldn’t talk. יעשה עצמו – He should make himself as if he couldn’t talk. He has to talk but whatever he says, he is talking like an אלם. That means he is limited in what he talks. You have to say good Shabbos. Good yomtiv, you have to say. You can’t be can’t be a mute mamash. But you have to be like an אלם.

Then the Gemara says יכול לכל – I might think that for everything you have to be quiet. תלמוד לומר צדק תדברון – Righteousness and divrei Torah you should speak. Yes, words of Torah you can speak. Words of chesed, kindness, you can speak. Otherwise in this Sukkah, of this world, we don’t talk. We have to remind ourselves that we are only visitors here. And so, in Olam Hazeh, in this great Sukka of Olam Hazeh, the job is to learn כניעה. And especially when you enter the Sukkah on the Yom Tov of Sukkos, it’s so important to keep in mind the great opportunity to learn this מידה טובה of humility in front of Hakodosh Boruch Hu.

Now there is another important lesson that we should thinking about when sitting in the Sukkah. Our only true security is Hakodosh Boruch Hu. They didn’t have walls around the מחנה in the wilderness. Everyone else, all the nations, had walled cities. And therefore, they were vulnerable to attack, and yet in the forty years in the wilderness they were more safe than at any time in their history. There wasn’t a single instance of anybody attacking them, and nobody would even dare. Overhead were the ענני כבוד. There was Moshe Rabeinu leading us, and Hakodosh Boruch Hu was standing guard over the Am Yisroel.

And that’s the symbolism of the Sukkah: that we don’t need anything to protect us. Because only Hashem is watching over us. That’s why the s’chach is so flimsy, because what is the s’chach a symbol of? The ענני כבוד that protected us. We sit outside in an exposed hut, with flimsy s’chach in order to reenact that journey in the wilderness where we sat for forty years exposed to all the nations and all the elements. But we were more secure than any other people, because we were sitting under the watchful eyes of Hakodosh Boruch Hu.

So the Sukkah says bitachon. The Sukkah says emunah. Hakodosh Boruch Hu is protecting us, protecting us. When a man moves into a substantial home, he thinks that it’s his home that that stands between him and the cold. He thinks it’s his home that protects him from the rain. But suppose a man is in a Sukkah, then only Hakodosh Boruch Hu is going to protect him against the cold and the rain.

And that’s what happened! The enemies couldn’t do a thing to them. And they were sitting there for forty years and learning the lesson ברוך הגבר אשר יבטח בשם והיה השם מבטחו. Hashem is the only trust of human beings. All else is self-deception. That’s a great lesson that they studied for forty years.

They didn’t have any fields to cultivate, so what would they eat? And it fell from the sky! לחם מן השמים. It was unbelievable that people could exist in a place where nothing grew. ארץ צמאון אשר אין שם מים. Even water you couldn’t find. And who was there? Not one person; it wasn’t one traveling Arab. It was a nation of millions. And it didn’t happen for one day. It happened for forty years! For forty years we lived in a wilderness where food and water were not available, and where danger lurked at any moment. And yet this nation of millions was protected and sustained. And this teaches us that lesson that it is solely Hashem that is sustaining us.

And so למען ידעו דורותיכם, we have to sit in Sukkos in order that your generations should know כי בסוכות הושבתי את בני ישראל, that the Am Yisroel were seated in Sukkos, in Sukkos and nothing else. That they were seated in sukkos and nothing else! And still they were safe בהוציאי אותם מארץ מצרים. For forty years! And as we sit in the Sukkah we’re learning the lesson of bitachon.

The lesson that even though we do everything to protect ourselves – and you should; you should have locks on your doors, and you should have alarms if necessary. You should do everything. On the contrary, it’s a chiyuv to protect yourself. But while you are doing all these things, you must beware of falling into the trap of thinking that you are protecting yourself.

כי חיזק בריחי שעריך – He is the One who fortified the bars of your gates. So you see that there were bars on the gates of the cities. They had bars. But Dovid Hamelech told them, “When you are lowering those heavy bars in place and you retire for the night and you feel secure behind the walls of the city, forget about it! It’s Hashem Who is protecting you. כי חיזק – “Because He is the One who is strengthening those bars.”

Otherwise, it’s like the man who came into his house, and locked the door and went to bed with security. All night he slept secure in his safety. He knows he has a strong iron door, not a plain wooden door. He slept well. He got up in the morning, walked outside to go to Shul, and he saw that his keys were sticking in the door from the outside. He saw that he left his keys sticking in the door from the outside. That’s how I slept all night with security?!! [In a different shiur, the Rav revealed that he himself was the man in this story] Oh, it’s a glorious opportunity, a real lesson in bitachon. And it’s always that way. It’s only imagination.

Of course you have to do the mitzvah. ושמרתם את נפשותכם. You have to watch yourself. Next time don’t do such a stupid thing. But it was a glorious lesson. I slept geshmak last night! Oh, it was a pleasure. I was so secure. But it was nothing; it was only a dream. I wasn’t secure at all! Certainly I was secure because Hakodosh Boruch Hu is my security.

And so when you get into the sukkah, that is one of the great lessons to study. And even though we must do everything, we must guard our health, we must protect our homes, we have to go out and look for parnassah; yet we are still in the מדבר, in the wilderness. There is still mann that falls from the sky. The check that your boss gives you every week, is nothing but mann. The food that you buy in the store, it’s Hakodosh Boruch Hu, not the grocer who is handing you the food. נותן לחם לכל בשר. He is the One that is handing you the food. כי לעולם חסדו. All kindliness is from Him.

Of course, it needs a lot of training to get our minds out of the habit of gashmiyus, but that’s necessary. And therefore because they had such a הכנה, they were prepared for forty years in the Midbar to think it’s Hashem that’s doing everything. Forty years of training that Hashem is doing everything and we are nothing. We don’t have any farms in the Midbar. We don’t have any homes in the Midbar. We don’t have any springs of water. We have nothing and still we existed for forty years. We did more than exist. We increased and multiplied, and nobody could harass us. We were one hundred percent safe.

And now we are going into Eretz Yisroel, and we are going to have walled cities, and we are going to have stone houses. We have farms and orchards and vineyards and everything else. Ahhhh, now we are going to be on guard not to deceive ourselves. We were prepared for this test. That forty years of living in Sukkos was the lesson, that was the hakdama.

So don’t think that being in the Midbar was just a punishment alone, like we learned in cheder. It was a very important preparation for a career of success. And the warning was כי תוליד בנים ובני בנים ונושנתם בארץ. You might start thinking that you are the author of your happiness. After all, you plow your fields every year. You plant grain every year. The trees are producing the fruits every year for you after your work in the orchards. So you could forget that behind all this is a hand of Hashem. He is the one that is giving all this, and you have to remind yourself constantly.

And therefore on Sukkos we have two big tasks that the Sukkah is supposed to teach us. One is the job of learning how weak we are, how unimportant we are. That we are standing in the presence of Hashem and that we are only visitors in His Sukka in this world. We have nothing on our own.

We have to work on that, and understand that we are living in a דירת ארעי, a temporary world. And we are נכנע in this דירת ארעי. We learn כניעה, humility, ענוה. We keep our mouths closed as much as possible, and open them only for Torah and chessed – especially in the Sukkah. And also in this Sukkah of this world, the Sukkah of Olam Hazeh, דע לפני מי אתה עומד – We remember at all times that we are standing in the presence of Hashem. And you’re careful before you say anything because of that.

And the second lesson we learn is to remind ourselves that Hakodosh Boruch Hu is supplying us with all that we have. Everything comes from Him. Everything. And as you walk to the refrigerator – a refrigerator is a big benefactor; it keeps your food fresh – No, it doesn’t keep your food fresh! It’s Hashem Who is keeping your food fresh. Forget about the refrigerator. It’s only a dream.

You have gas ranges and they cook tasty meals, and you think what a good things it is to have such a stove. In the olden days when they wanted to cook something they had to build a fire of wood and put over it some bricks, and now, look, you press a button and the flame springs out and it starts cooking efficiently – no, nothing is being done by the gas range. Hakodosh Boruch Hu is doing everything.

You have a degree or you have a store that’s supplying you with parnassa, you have some sort of business – forget about it. It’s nothing but mann. Hakodosh Boruch Hu is giving you everything. And only Hakodosh Boruch Hu! That’s how we have to train ourselves as we sit in the Sukkah and learn the lesson of bitachon in Hashem.

And this brings us to understand a little bit better the inyan of Hallel. As an example we will speak about the first mizmor of Hallel. הללויה – Praise Hashem. Now the word הלל means specifically something more than just praise. Hallel means to be excited about Hashem. To be excited!

How do I know? Because the word הולל means “wild.” אמרתי להוללים אל תהולו – “I said to those who are jovial and wild, ’Don’t be wild’ ”(Tehillim 75:5). “Hallel” means to be wild. And the word is what you call onomatopoeic. It’s a word that it expresses itself through the sound of the word itself. “Hallel!” It’s a word of excitement and shouting!

When people get drunk they say Hallel – only that it’s not to Hashem. They are shouting “HALLEL! HALLEL!” about all the wrong things. The word “hallel” is suited to shouting.

So Dovid Hamelech says, “Yes, you have to shout in this world! You have to shout with happiness. But to whom should you shout? הללויה – Shout out in wild simcha only to י-ה, only to Him. Shout out in happiness and gratitude only to Hashem.

It means this: If you’re happy, then He’s the One to express your gratitude to. He is the author of your happiness. And י-ה means an abbreviation of היה, הוה, ויהיה. He is the One who is around always, י-ה means “being,” “existence,” the One that has true existence. We don’t have any true existence. We’re only imaginary; we’re only the imagination of Hashem.

Of course, we would like this imagination. We want to keep up this imagination for a long time, but it’s only imagination. He is the only one that has true being. And therefore, He is the one Who is providing you with everything you have. He is the only One. The words השם אלוקים אמת, the Rambam says it means הוא לבדו אמת – He is the only One who is really true. We are only a dream that Hashem dreamed up into existence.

And so we say הללו עבדי השם – “You, who are the servants of Hashem, should be wild over Hashem” (Tehillim 103:1). The word עבד means those who are humbled before Hashem. You are נכנע before Hashem. So your job in this world is – if you’re an עבד השם do you know what your job is in this world? Your job is to הללו את שם השם – Call out in excitement to give thanks to Hashem” (ibid.).

Now, listen to that. Your job is to הללו את השם. What does this mean? It means that an eved Hashem has his work cut out for him in this world. In this world your job is to praise Hashem! All the time, to attribute everything to Hashem. Everything!

You have two good eyes? “I have two good eyes,” you think. “I’m born with two good eyes.” No, you’re not born with two good eyes! You have two good eyes that are given to you every day by Hashem. Every day, it’s a special gift. Two good eyes! That’s how to think, if you’re an eved Hashem. And you have to say every day,ברוך אתה השם אלוקינו מלך העולם פוקח עיורים “You open up the eyes of the blind.” Why don’t you say “I thank You that You gave me two good eyes”? No! You have to act like you’re blind, and now you got two good eyes. Ohhhh!! A blind man who suddenly gets two good eyes, he wouldn’t say “ubububu” [the Rav mumbled the bracha and laughed]. No! He would say it with dancing! He would be meshugah! He would be drunk with happiness! He would shout! He’d say hallel! Not half hallel – the whole Hallel! And that’s how you have to say the bracha of פוקח עיורים – “He opens up the eyes of the blind.”

And that’s the function of avdei Hashem. You have to thank Hashem for everything that you have. You have teeth? Most of you have teeth, don’t you? Your own teeth. Ahhhhhh! Ah ah ah! How lucky you are! You have to thank Hashem for that great gift. Teeth are a great gift! Now, people say that’s silly. They think, “You came here for such foolish talk?! You came here to say this?! You came here to say סודות and סתרי תורה and חידושים! But such things – thanking Hashem for your teeth – you can’t waste your time with that.” But you have to know that what I’m telling you now is the biggest chiddush. The most important סתרי תורה is what I’m telling you now! To thank Hashem that you have teeth! And if you don’t, then you have to know that you’re not an eved Hashem.

HALLELU-KAH!! Who? Who has the function of הללויה? Avdei Hashem, You the servants of Hashem. הללו עבדי השם! That’s your job in this world. Thank Him for your teeth! It’s the first time you heard it? You’re lucky you came tonight.

Now, why does it say “Sheim Hashem”? הללו שם השם. “Sheim Hashem” means whatever we heard about Hashem. We heard a lot of things. We heard that he took us out of Mitzryaim. We heard that he created the world. We heard that he gave us the מן. We also heard that he causes the sun to shine every day. Yes, we heard that he causes the sun to shine every day. We heard that he gives us our garments. We heard that as well.

ויעש השם אלוקים לאדם ולאשתו כתנות עור וילבשם – “And Hashem made for Adam and his wife garments for their skin, to cover their skin, and He clothed them” (B’reishis 3:21). How do you get garments? Hashem gave us garments! Rabeinu Sadya Gaon says that this passuk means that Hashem caused linen to grow and wool to grow. Why should linen grow? You can’t eat linen. If the world is made only for animals, like the scientists say, and man is only an accident that came along later, so what do you need linen for? Linen is not something animals can eat. Animals can’t eat wool. You know that don’t you? Animals don’t need wool.

So you see that it’s made especially for human beings who want clothing. Oooooh! ויעש אלוקים כתנות עור לאדם ולאשתו וילבשם – Hashem gave garments for their skin, to cover their skin. So it’s a neis. It’s a miracle that wool grows on sheeps’ backs. Why should wool grow on a sheep’s back? What do you need wool for? It’s a miracle! And therefore, everything is the sheim Hashem. It’s the “name of Hashem,” – everything that we hear and see, proclaims, “It’s Me, Hashem!” His name fills the world!

And so you say יהי שם השם מברך מעתה ועד עולם – The name of Hashem should be blessed forever and ever” (ibid. 103:2). How often should you do this? On Rosh Chodesh? Once a month you should say Hallel? No! You should say Hallel מעתה ועד עולם – forever and ever. And if you do it in this world, then you’ll continue to do so in the next world as well.

That’s our job as avdei Hashem. We have to attribute everything that we have to Hashem. If you’re able to walk – look how many people cannot walk. How many people need wheelchairs? How many people have walkers? Or crutches? Or canes? And you’re able to walk! And even those who have canes have to thank Hashem. Even those who have crutches have to thank Hashem. Even those who have wheelchairs have to thank Hashem. As long as you can open your mouth and say something, you have to thank Hashem!

Because there are many people who can’t even talk – they know sign language, that’s all. And even with sign language you have to thank Hashem in sign language. At least you have hands to make the motions.

And so we have our job open for us for our whole lifetime. מעתה ועד עולם! It’s not just a figure of speech, some poetic words to make a nice tune, tra-la-la, and then you forget about. No. It’s a career for your whole life.

That’s the truth of what Succos is saying. That’s the lesson of Succos. Only that everything else in the world is saying it too. And therefore, Hallel keeps on going. It says ממזרח שמש עד מבואו מהולל שם השם – “From the rising of the sun until the setting of the sun, Hashem’s name is to be praised.” That means, that there’s so much to be said in this world – if you look around this universe, this world and outside of the world, the sun, the moon, the planets, the far off stars. There are so many wonderful things for our benefit, that there is never an end to this task of praising Hashem.

Now Dovid Hamelech says – I’ll skip something to save time – מקימי מעפר דל – He raises the poor man up from the dirt. The poor man was sitting on the dirt; he had nothing. And now he is raised up, he became wealthy. מאשפות ירים אביון – “He raises the poor man from the dung heaps.” A poor man was finally evicted from his cottage because he couldn’t pay the rent. So he went and sat on the dung heaps. It’s a pile of manure and it’s not a very pleasant place to sit. But at least he’s sitting there. He has someplace to sit. So he’s waiting, and finally what happens?

להושיבי עם נדיבים – “Hashem seats him with the nobility, ” עם נדיבי עמו – “With the nobility of the land.” So he thinks, “How did I get here?” Something happened in between. He got busy, he invested, he bought a little business, he got rich, he bought a bigger business , and finally he’s sitting in the palace, with all the wealthy people of the country, עם נדיבי עמו.

So what is he thinking? He’s thinking, ”Look, I worked hard. It pays to work hard. I got up early, I saved my money instead of wasting it. I invested wisely.” No. He’s saying, “מקימי מעפר דל – It’s You Hashem, You’re the One who did this.” That’s what happened to this rich man. A rich man is sitting in his palace and he remembers that he was sitting on the dirt once. He was a poor boy once, sitting on the dung heaps, with nothing in his pockets. And he was thinking, “Where will I get my next meal from?” And today he is a millionaire! So his job is to remember that always, and to say Hallel to Hakodosh Boruch Hu מעתה ועד עולם. And it’s not only the millionaire. It’s all of you as well. Everything you have is only from Hashem.

A woman that is childless, מושיבי עקרת הבית – “A woman with no children in the home.” So Hakodosh Boruch Hu made her אם הבנים, a mother of a lot of children. What does that mean?

It doesn’t mean a woman is barren and suddenly she has six or seven children at once. No, it didn’t happen that way. She was a barren girl when she was 14 years old. She was barren; she didn’t have any children. She got married, let’s say, at sixteen, and she got busy having babies, one after the other. Now she has a big family. Baruch Hashem, Baruch Hashem! And her sons and daughters are married, and she has granddaughters, grandsons, and great-grandchildren. And she sits at the weddings of her grandchildren and she looks around. Huge family pictures are being taken. She and her husband are in the middle, her daughters and sons are here, and sons-in-law and daughters-in-law next to them, the granddaughters and grandsons next to them, and the great-grandchildren are next to them. It’s a tribe! Where did this tribe come from? And she says, “Well, I was interested in having a big family” Noooohhhh! That’s not what she says. She says,  “You Hashem! It was You! מושיבי עקרת הבית – You took a barren woman and you made her אם הבנים שמחה. And therefore, I am going to praise You forever and ever.

That’s how we have to live! if you’re an eved Hashem, then you must attribute everything to Hakodosh Boruch Hu. That’s what that first mizmor of Hallel is saying. So therefore, הללו means not only to thank Hashem, but thank only Hashem, and to remember always that whatever you have, Hashem gave you.

That’s what it says: Hashem pokeach ivrim, Hashem malbish arumim, Hashem matir asurim. Hashem, Hashem, Hashem. Without Hashem, a man would be lying paralyzed in bed. There are so many people lying in bed, they can’t even move. They have to be turned over in order to diaper them in bed. But you’re not that way. You don’t have to be diapered by a colored woman. So you must remember that really, you ought to be that way. It’s only that Hakodosh Boruch Hu changed the situation and gave you the ability to walk and to take care of yourself.

And therefore, “Hashem zokef kifufim” doesn’t mean that you were once bent over, you were a cripple, a hunchback, and then by a miracle He straightened you out. No! You were always were straight, but you were straight only because Hashem straightened you. So as you walk in the street, with a straight and erect stature, and you see somebody walking like this in the street [the Rav bent himself over], you should think, “If not for the chesed Hashem, that would be I.”

And therefore, you have to praise Hashem, all your life, for everything. That’s our big job. Don’t think that you’ll do it once in a while, and then you’ve fulfilled your obligation. You have to remind yourself all the time about this career of yours. השמר לך פן תשכח את השם אלוקיך – Be on guard always, lest you forget Hashem your G-d. And that’s what Succos comes along to tell us. Remember what you once didn’t have. You dwelled in Succos and now Hakodosh Boruch Hu gave you בתים טובים, beautiful and spacious palatial homes. He gave you an ארץ זבת חלב ודבש.

So forever and ever, in this blessed land, your function is to do one big thing, and that is to say Hallel always to Hashem. Hallelu Avdei Hashem!! You, the servants of Hashem, forever and ever that’s your job, to say Hallel to Hashem.

But if they neglected that, if they weren’t avdei Hashem in this sense that I explained to you now; let’s say they kept the Torah, but they forgot to thank Hakodosh Boruch Hu for all that He gave them. So then it says, תחת אשר לא עבדת את השם אלוקיך בשמחה ובטוב לבב מרוב כל. Ay-yai-yai! תחת, instead, אשר לא עבדת את השם – You weren’t avdei Hashem, בשמחה ובטוב לבב ומרוב כל – then they went into galus, where they didn’t have anything. And they look back, and now they reminded themselves what they were remiss in doing when they had everything.

And so, when people are still young and still healthy, and you still have parnassa, and more or less things are going well, it’s our job to use the lesson of Succos, to be constantly aware that Hakodosh Boruch Hu is showering us with numberless gifts. And we have to say hallel all the time! Not only during the set times of tefillah – we must say hallel all day long.

טוב להודות להשם להגיד בבוקר חסדיך ואמונתך בלילות. From the morning till the evening, and all day in between, that’s the job of the avdei Hashem. And this is one of the functions of sitting in the sukkah.

So for a little while we retire from our palatial homes, and we sit in the דירת ארעי, to remind ourselves, that soon we’ll go back to our rugs from wall to wall, to our telephone, and to our air conditioner, and to every kind of convenience that we have. But we should remind ourselves now, while sitting in the succah where we don’t have all these things, and soon we are going to go back and have them again, that it’s הללו עבדי השם.

And these ideas we spoke about tonight are the two big functions of the sukkah. One is to learn to be נכנע at all times because we are aware of the presence of Hashem. And that we must keep our mouths shut as much as possible and produce as much silence as we are capable of producing because of this awareness of Hashem.

And the second is to produce bitachon and to be aware that Hashem alone is the one that is giving us everything. And therefore we are going to thank Him and be His servants always. And that’s called Avodah, the gratitude that you express to Hashem all your life, and all day long.