BO-- "Come" (to Pharo)
EXODUS 10-1:13:6


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WARNING! This study may upset rigid or fixated (constipated) personalities, per Dr. David Greenberg; some folks, alleged "journalists" of the yellow black press, e.g. Ytad Neeman and Hamodea, have attacked our work without even contacting us or investigating the truth; Yom Hashishi featured a nasty, unsigned and false diatribe against all those who publish free Torah study sheets in 1993; but they repented-- their excellent 1994 Shmini Atzeret article analyzed the phenomenon in depth, appreciating all, noting that this (as the Hebrew Mafdal sheet) was the first of the current generation of parsha sheets, and the most comprehensive.




After 7 plagues, Pharoh still won't let Israel leave Egypt. He continues (A) to "make his heart heavy" and (B) "strengthens his heart". (A): He won't let his "heavy heart" soar, open up, be sensitive, to the 2 great plague messages-- 1) God controls all of nature; 2) All of nature unites to release His Chosen people for their historic mission-- to redeem nature, now corrupted and hostile, in man's fallen world. (B): With foolhardy courage, his "strong heart" ignores the plagues destroying Egypt. After plague #7 (hail), he momentarily opens his "heavy heart", admitting that he and his people are evil, fighting God's purpose and fragmenting His universe. His moment of truth vanishes with the hail. Now come the last 3 plagues-- locusts, darkness, and the death of Egypt's first-born.

God now "strengthens Pharoh's heart", i.e. gives him courage to resist His powerful plagues-- thus he retains free will. Others say that God suspends Pharo's free will here, in order to perform His miracles, which teach Israel and the rest of mankind Who is in charge of nature; also, one can go off the deep end by abusing his free will and forfeit both it and his life; Pharo & Co. have been kept alive only to serve as a vehicle for the plagues, which showed him God's strength, that his Name be discussed all over the world (9:15-16; see T.T. #246). Moshe accepts no compromise-- every Jew and all their animals must leave. Egyptians gradually lose their fighting spirit, and begin to see the greatness of Moshe and Israel. They even give Jewish emigrants valuable gold and silver in the end (better than Russian rubles and pianos), following the devastating death of all Egyptian firstborn males. As the Jews leave, they embark upon their national mission with two Divine fiats:

1) DCT, "Divine Consciousness-Raising Time"-- a lunar holiday calendar, which begins with Nissan, the month of Exodus. 2) Even hitherto idolatrous Egyptian Jews must courageously defy idolatry to deserve redemption. Each family group must take a lamb-- an Egyptian god-- on Nissan 10 and slaughter it at dusk on the 14th. They must eat it roasted, with matzoh and bitter herbs, before dawn of the 15th. They must smear its blood openly on their lintels and door posts. Slaves must become men, ready to battle evil; the next generation will finally be ready to conquer their own land of Israel. In societies where men aren't really men, who can protect and support their wives and children, but only gentle pious scholars or ineffective marginal providers, within their economic system* , women are forced to become the tough men, against their own gentle nurturing leit motif, to the detriment of all-- see Brandeis Prof. Fuchs' The Family (1950).

A Vibrant Generation of Women-- Jewish Grandmothers, edited by Sydelle Kramer and Jenny Masur, is a unique oral history of the trials, tribulations and sacrificial success of 10 women who emigrated from Eastern Europe to Greater Chicago, in the early years of the 20th century. They often had to fend for themselves, both in the terrible old country, when their fathers and husbands were ill, dead or in America, and in the new land, when they just couldn't make ends meet. Thru their interviewees, the 2 American-born editors experienced what it was like to live thru the Russian Revolution, the heartbreak of WWI, the Great Depression, and the drudgery experienced by a poor housewife before the advent of modern conveniences. The Jews in East Europe could put no faith in the people around them, and often had to live as refugees or immigrants, starting from scratch, with no money or fluency in the language; they often lost children to cold and starvation. The interviews dispel the stereotypes which often surround older Jewish immigrant women, and show how their abandonment of their religion was so much a product of their "short spirit" (or disappointment, impatience, or broken spirit) and very hard work; so their broken ancestors in Egypt would no longer listen to Moshe (Ex. 6:9; see Num. 21:4, Micha 2:7, Prov. 17:29). Yet, at some deep level, they retained ties to the faith of their fathers, which may only be blooming now, in their grandchildren, whose lives are so far less traumatic, tho also often less truly human, in their attempts to maintain an orderly predictable life (Rav Y. Hadari).

*e.g. older Ethiopian and Sephardic immigrants-- like males in U.S. minority groups, they aren't educated to function in a society where intellect, rather than physical strength and emotion, is the key to success; Dr. Reuven Feuerstein saves their sons, by training them early in abstract thinking- his methods have been adopted worldwide. His own son, Aharon, stars in a gripping satire of obsessive Israeli secular and religious archetypes, called "Sitre Kama". Drs. Ruth Westheimer and Steven Kaplan explore the strategies and traumas of adaptation of Ethiopian immigrants, who suddenly left their homes in ancient Ethiopia to live in modern Israel, in Surviving Salvation, The Ethiopian Jewish Family in Transition ($20 from TOP). Yet no method can completely overcome grossly inadequate education. If you're lucky enough to be born in late 20th Century U.S.A. or Canada (you have no choice in the matter, like the Yom Kippur goat, chosen by lottery to be a sacrifice to God), your estimated school life expectancy is about 15 years if you're male, 16 if female; but if your bad mazal is to be born in Niger or Guinea (like the Yom Kippur scapegoat, chosen by lottery to be sacrificed to the Devil, per Ramban), it's less than 2 years for girls, 3-4 for boys. Public recurrent expenditures per pupil average $58 a year un Sub-Saharan Africa, $2419 in developed countries (source: UNESCO; see The World's Young People, a Financial Times Survey, 1/31/94). Some parts of the developing world, e.g. South Korea, do give their children universal extensive education anyway, and reap the benefits in rapid social and economic growth. Conversely, a poor child in Chicago, in the booming U.S., which leads the world, may never meet a successful adult.

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The 7-day Passover celebration and prohibition against leavened grain are to be re-experienced eternally; the Hagada, an overview of Israel's history and mission, is recited each year at the seder. A mixed multitude of "fellow travelers" joined the Jews in their triumphal exit (cf. Russian immigrants to Israel), only to cause trouble "after the party's over", in the difficult desert (so we're reluctant to accept converts to Judaism, who lack a background of many centuries of sacrificial commitment to it, especially when Israel's on an attractive roll of success). All Jewish first-born (MALES-- 13:12), human and animal, must be gratefully dedicated to God. Via tefillin (phylacteries), the covenantal message must be placed on the MALE Jewish head, directing its thinking; it must also be bound upon the male Jewish arm, guiding and directing its power, opposite the male Jewish heart (13:9, 16; cf. Deut. 6:8, 11:18). Female heads, arms and hearts are naturally more in tune with God-- they bless Him "... Who has made me like His own Will or Personality", like His Feminine Essence, Shchina, imbuing all their thoughts and deeds.


But the Torah doesn't overtly mention that the arm tefillin, containing God's Word, must also be close to the (MALE) Jewish heart-- are feelings less important than thoughts and deeds? Perhaps true MALE emotional "highs", ecstatic states and sensitivity, coming from within, just can't be commanded or pursued per se; they may come only as A RESULT OF good thinking (head) and deeds (arm)-- so Moshe says: "THIS WORD WHICH GOD COMMANDED-- DO, AND (as a result, without your seeking it per se) GOD'S GLORY (spiritual highs) WILL APPEAR TO YOU (Lev. 9:6)". Thus a left-handed man puts tefillin on his weaker right hand, tho further from the heart-- it may be more important to control his power than to work directly on his feelings. Likewise, some interpret the command to love God as only a command to get to know Him (via science and Torah), perhaps the only (male?) source of true love. If tefillin, even at this stage, are supposed to contain the verses of shma (Deut. 6:4-9, in the 3rd parchment), which are not written in the Torah until Deut. 6:4f, we then find the commandment to love God even at this early stage of the desert trek, vs. Aviva Zornberg's thesis, set forth in our Let's Learn #5 (Arye Kaplan, in The Living Torah; but he suggests the possibility that the commandment to insert these verses, as well as Deut. 11:13-21, in the tefillin may not have existed before the giving of Deut. 6. The other parchments, containing Ex. 13:1-10 and 13:11-16 would temporarily constitute the sign and memorial of Exodus.

All 4 passages are written on a single piece of parchment for the tefillin of the arm, upon 4 pieces, housed in 4 separate compartments, in the tefillin for the head. Per Rashi and Maimonides, the four portions follow the Biblical order, but Rabenu Tam claims that Deut. 11:13-21 should precede Deut. 6:4-9, as indeed was the case in ancient tefillin found in Qumran. Some pietists put on both types of tefillin, tho they ignore other opinions re tefillin and are not worried about Rambam's strict prohibition against earning a livelihood from teaching or studying Torah.

Even mystic Yosef Karo's dry Shulchan Aruch prescribes only objective detailed patterns of behavior to get close to God,, Weber's "methodology of sanctification"; it seemingly completely ignores the experiential component-- religious emotion, ideology, theology, and teleology. It's permeated, however, with the spirit of it's preface, the nerve center of the entire halachic system and the fountain of its strength, the Service of God, especially, as Rama elaborates it-- "I set God before me constantly" (Ps. 16:8); all "Shulchan Aruch Jews" should indeed be men who strive for saintliness. But, as both one's emotional response to halacha and his understanding of it are individual and subjective, meta-halachic, they have no place in the Code itself-- it's compatible with many, even opposing, spiritual outlooks-- Dr. Isadore Twersky, z"l, in Judaism, 16:2. So Midrashim suggest that, altho each tribal prince brought exactly the same detailed offering at the tabernacle dedication, each experienced it uniquely and gave it unique symbolic meaning.

Traditional Ashkenazic Misnagdim stressed intellectual rigor, talmudic halacha; they opposed the chasidic revolution, distrusted the quest for affect; some Lithuanian Jews (called "cold Litvaks" by their more feminine-emotional hassidic counterparts), as many Lithuanian non-Jews, even discouraged normal expression of feelings, especially by males-- man's deepest religious and interpersonal feelings, his "holy of holies", must remain concealed; their very expression is their dilution and profanation (Rav J. B. Soloveichik, rationalizing Misnagdic opposition to Chassidut, at a Boston Habad Kislev 19 dinner-- Lithuanian understatement of emotions blended nicely with Harvard's milieu; the Rov's father never hugged him, tho he sensed his very deep love; once when I strongly questioned this way of life, as we walked home on Shabbat morning, he turned and hugged me to show me that he could do so, just didn't believe in it!!).

But one's normal daily relationship to God and his fellow man may not be comparable to the inaccessible Holy of Holies, but to the readily accessible tabernacle courtyard. Chasidim, who often emphasize the imagination and passion of Agada and Zohar, can also cite many sources in Bible and Talmud, which seemingly stress service of the heart, and the direct quest of Divinity and affect-- e.g. LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART... (Deut. 6:5; see Sefer Hachinuch 418). WHAT IS THE BEST WAY TO WHICH ONE SHOULD CLEAVE?-- A GOOD HEART (Avot. 2:13-14). The Talmud (Men. 37b) indeed derives that tefillin of the hand are to be placed on the arm OPPOSITE THE HEART from Deut. 11:16-- "you shall place these words upon your hearts and upon your souls, and you shall bind them as a sign upon your hands..."-- our acts and thoughts themselves often indeed express our feelings, some unconscious (cf. Freud's The Psychopathology of Everyday Life).

An excellent exploration of both the tension and the interface between subjective passionate faith and objective abstract reason is Samuel Hugo Bergman's Faith And Reason-- Modern Jewish Thought; a sample--

"The distinctions between faith and reason must not be obliterated. Their methods and concerns are different. Their separation, however, cannot be the last word. Their methods may differ, but the man who applies them is the same. Both represent different relationships to reality, yet they can conceivably find a deeper unity in the heart and life of a man who is both, a scientist and a man of faith. Despite the proper and necessary distinctions between faith and reason, there still remains the ideal of a world view which embodies the insights of reason, yet is grounded in faith. `If', in Franz Rosenzweig's words, `science and religion attempt to ignore each other, tho they have knowledge of each other, both are on shaky ground. There is only one truth. No honest man can pray to a God, whose existence he denies as a scientist. And he who prays cannot deny God. This does not mean that the scientist can discover God in a test tube or historical document. But it does mean that the content of the test tube or historical document does not exist w/o God. The object of science is not God, but the world. But God has created the world and thus the object of science. God is transcendent, but also transcendental, with regard to science, i.e. He makes it possible. Science does not have God for her own, yet could not be w/o Him. He is not a subject of science; science is subject to Him.

"There is no easy formula, by which this synthesis, between faith and reason, can be achieved. There can be no distinction between a scientist who `believes' and one who does not, for, as scientists, both must accept the rules of scientific objectivity, i.e. of checks and controls. Profound inner struggles are involved when a man attempts to bridge and harmonize the two great poles of human existence: the CERTAINTY of his trust in God, which he derives from his faith, and the UNCERTAINTY of search and detached inquiry with which, as a responsible thinker, he must subject his very assumptions to constyantly renewed scrutiny. How it may be possible for us as Jews to harmonize faith and reason can best be illustrated by the thoughts and experiences of some men, who were significant both as thinkers and as men of faith". The book depicts 6 major representatives of modern Jewish thought-- Hermann Cohen, Franz Rosenzweig, Martin Buber, A. D. Gorden, A. I. Kook and Judah L. Magnes-- all men of faith, who confront the issues of the world we live in.

B. R.S.A. & The R.C.A.-- It's Master's Voice!

I spent 5 years studying Torah at the Rabbinical Seminary of America (RSA), after I began my on-going return to T.T.J.-- Truly Traditional (i.e. "Orthodox", a major non-Jewish misnomer) Judaism between 14-16 in Reading, Pa. RSA, one of several yeshivot called "Chofetz Chayim" (the use of Yisroel Meir Hacohen's pen-name was the object of religious litigation among several of God's loyal servants, each of whom claimed to be his true heir, by family or faith, and entitled to support and recognition as such) produced and produces a fair number of dedicated fine neo-Litvak American "Mussar" rabbis and teachers. But, upon further study and reflection, I gradually abandoned their haredi weltanschauung, while recognizing and trying to retain their truly great traits, and adopted that of modern centrist religious Zionists, greatly guided by Rav Dr. Yosef Soloveichik, with a later minor in Carlebachian Chassidut. The Rov's rabbinic disciples formed the Rabbinical Council of America (RCA), to represent truly traditional Judaism in the modern world, which the insular East European Agudat HaRabbanim was incapable of doing. Their The 4th International Conference on Jewish Unity Through Jewish Education, focusing on the inter-relationship between values and science-technology in the shaping of culture and society-- Implications for Jewish Education was co-sponsored by The Committee for the Preservation of the Jewish Character of the State of Israel, in cooperation with The European Conference of Rabbis and The Department of Torah Education and Culture of the Jewish Agency.

Our most active Modern Orthodox rabbis, e.g. Riskin, Brovender, Gafni, Brovender, Hartman, and Rakefet, unfortunately did not attend, perhaps due to ignorance of the event, not well publicized. Shalom Gold did come by. I felt tired and uncomfortable there, perhaps due to being somewhat cut off from nature for several days at the otherwise fine Jerusalem Renaissance Hotel, which has no windows in its dark artificially-lit rooms; a more bright, cheerful and modern ambiance, e.g. the Dan Pearl or Hyatt hotels, might also infuse the aging retired local RCA rabbis with a bit more youthful spirit and energy to carry out their noble and well-balanced goals. The presence of a cadre of young Ethiopian rabbis, as well as rabbis from Mexico, Rumania and Poland, testified to the RCA's concern with all Jews, including the abandoned elderly.

The proliferation of Zionist kollels and batei midrash thruout the diaspora, led by young Jews who studied Torah here, and by hesder grads, who served in Tzahal, is an exciting and fruitful recent development-- that primary activity should not be left only to haredi non-Zionist, tho pro-Israel, yeshivot, e.g. Ohr Somaach, Aish and Chabad. The Religious Zionist Forum at 54 King George, 625-8833, is a leader in coordinating such efforts. Zeev Schwartz, director of the Department of Educational Programs at Bar Ilan, (03) 531-8139, can also be contacted for further info. The factual state of world Jewry today was well described by the J.A.'s Eliezer Sheffer (who left the Jewish 1/4 on election day to appear!), and by Rabbi A.M. Rose, who described the forthcoming resurgence of Germany as a major Jewish community (how sick!); particularly inspiring was Rav Y. Dayan's tale of his resurrection of the once grand 1200 strong weak Jewish community of Salonika, which he found without a mikva, tefillin and mezuzot, only a few years ago. The political realities and priorities involved in bringing Jews back to Judaism in Israel were well described by both Minister Natan Sharansky and M.K. Yigal Bibi.

RCA Israel is led by Rav Zalman Sharfman, perhaps the greatest grad of RSA, within the social establishment Diaspora Yeshiva Rav Mordecai Goldstein is RSA's greatest, perhaps only, grad who leads followers of the counter-culture, or "hippies", on their road from spiritual diarrhea to spiritual constipation-- many from the 70's, thank God, e.g. inspiring Jewish singer Rabbi Moshe Shur of Queens College, and their fine families, eventually matured and mellowed out in mainstream Orthodox society; non-hippies, searching for their Jewish roots, came later, in the "post-hippy" yuppie 80's, e.g. A-1 Jewish 1/4 contractor Y'hoshua Ben Yehuda and his family; many of them too later left the insular Yeshiva community for the broader modern religious world; others made the Yeshiva and its off-shoot, Bircat Hatora, their life-focus; Religious Zionist Rav Sprecher has returned to Mt. Zion to start a new beginners' yeshiva there. Rav Sharfman, as my former RSA study mate, Rosh Yeshiva and Noachide guide, Israel Chait, has also joined the World of The Rov.

The RCA talks on ideas and ideology were outstanding. The first morning was devoted to Science, Technology and Values-- The Challenge of the Future. Soft-spoken well-balanced Sephardic Chief Rabbi Eliyahu Bakshi-Doron, himself a grad of the RCA's Zionist Yeshivat Hadarom, spoke on the need to address others with respect and honor, even those with whom we strongly disagree, e.g. Pharo and the Reform; he's a welcome contrast to his strident predecessors, whose holy messages were often delivered in the tone and cadence of Machane Yehuda. Sharansky discussed The Challenge of Jewish Unity in a Changing Society Dr. Shimon Glick explored The Interrelationship Between Medicine and Values, between "hardening of the heart" and "violence of the hand", re so-called "mercy killing" and other ethical medical issues.

Prof. Yosef Bodenheimer of JCT (Machon Lev) spoke on Science, Technology and Values-- Synergy and Diversity; he carefully distinguished value-free, amoral and objective "science", the theoretical study of the abstract structure of the universe and "technology", the attempt to develop and utilize the universe, from each other and from "values", a religious and emotional, perhaps more subjective, realm. Edison, a technician with over 1000 patents, was not even interested in scientific principles, accidentally revealed in the course of his work; conversely, scientist EInstein had little interest or ability in high or low tech. Bondenheimer warned against glib facile uses of unconfirmed science to attract lapsed Jews to their faith, e.g. the Codes of Arachim and Aish; while he let them use JCT's computers to do the work, only one scientifically respectable article has appeared on the Codes so far; responses to it's validity will take time. Rav Noach Weinberg of Aish, however, has stated that the Codes are not the essence of their very successful Discovery Program, modeled on Arachim, but merely an interesting application of science, which attracts Jews to explore their heritage in programs of which the Codes are only a small part.

The second morning was devoted to The Future of Israel as a Jewish State-- Jewish Values, their Contribution in the Shaping of Society and Culture. Prof. Kalman Mann probed Jewish Values-- Vision and Reality, followed by Shmuel Hollander who portrayed Justice, Law and Their Values In a Modern Society in a Jewish context; he noted that many of the basic principles of law and democracy are found in traditional Jewish sources, of which so many Israelis are ignorant; when they turn to non-Jewish sources, they also imbibe non-Jewish values, e.g. the functional value of life, rather than its intrinsic value.

The lecture which I found most profound was Values and a Changing World Inside-- Dr. Pinchas Kahn, a self-styled "alingual oleh", explored the need to listen to the innermost feelings and sensitivities of our youth, not merely teach them our truths, if we wish to reach them; Israelis are often still busy fighting old irrelevant battles, e.g. haskala, socialism and nationalism, tho values and focuses change as the world changes. If we fail to address the youth's own agenda, we'll lose them, just as truly traditional Judaism lost most of its adherents before WWI, when it did not address their concerns; Kahn (563-1366), the great father of great Torah and Zionist educators Arie and Yair, described the trend of the 60's and 70's, perhaps the new religion born at Woodstock, to seek truth within oneself, in inner experience, rather than in organized religion and the objective external world, and how Judaism must come to grips with their attitude.

Shlomo Carlebach noted that youth don't frequent establishment houses of worship, BECAUSE they are truly religious! They ask religious ??, but give idolatrous answers, denying all objective external codes of behavior, the laws of human nature, fleeing from the objective scientific side of life in their quest of the aesthetic. We must address their need for inner validation, for good vibes, feelings, not just abstract intellect-- in so doing, we may greatly enrich our own inner experience of prayer and study, and teach experience, the presence of God amidst ethical behavior, not just ideas. Today's personal individualistic orientation requires honest, intense and broad learning. The Rebbe must be close to his students, not just a pious distant professor. Rav Soloveichik described this conflict as man's basic split in The Lonely Man of Faith-- Adam I achieves majesty, success, by conquering the world without, but feels lonely and empty within, until he hears the voice of God, the moral message, to restrain and guide his conquest. So, after the tremendous conquering success of Zionism, Israeli youth seek soul, howbeit in the wrong places, e.g. Indian gurus and rock concerts.

But the next speaker, truly great scientist and Talmudist Rav Moshe Tendler, a Rambamian emotionally passionate lover of science and logic, an ardent debunker of intuition, affect and imagination, seemed uncomfortable with Kahn's inner world, devoid of the clear-cut black and white categories of reason; he characterized Kahn's beautiful poetic and spiritual parlance, his exploration of human feelings, yearnings and sensitivity, as "psychological babel"; but once he got that murky, imprecise and threatening realm off his chest, he presented his usual brilliant and fascinating talk on science and Torah, Science in the Service of Halacha. He postulated that Torah is the only criteria of validity, especially in this mixed age of science and superstition. He noted that the concept of "daf yomi", a daily page of talmud, had been distorted from its original context of day-long preoccupation with that page, becoming a mere 20 minute non-thinking recital of the text. He claimed that faith is to be reserved for those matters which we cannot understand clearly from Torah and science; God indeed does give us insight into most of His works and revelations; like an over-worked heart, faith will collapse, will fail us, is we use it too liberally. Tho Rav J. B. Soloveichik shared Tendler's emotional love of logic, as well as his faith in its accessibility, I heard him comment that his most important decisions and basic insights were intuitive. Tho I was primarily trained in critical logic, especially at HLS and RSA (except vis-a-vis the staff, values and folkways of the yeshiva itself!), I was diagnosed as primarily being "intuitive with feeling" by the MMPT.

As is his wont, Tendler first mocked alternative (non-scientific) medicine, homeopathy; Rambam labelled it "sgula", cures not provable by scientific methods, tho Hadassah is trying to do so; "Chilba", fenugreek, a common folk remedy for high blood sugar, has recently been proven effective scientifically, and will, God willing, be marketed as capsules, w/o the unpleasant odor. Tendler asserts that The Torah's good name is disgraced when ignorant rebbes teach false and obsolete science, e.g. spontaneous generation, to their students-- he gave a number of fascinating examples of such distortions, which would make a great book. Rabbis of yore, e.g. Rashi, as everyone else before 1700, got their science from Galen, whose works included an illustration of a mouse half composed of earth! Only Rambam was skeptical. Rebbes themselves must learn modern science, at least insofar as it is relevant to their Torah teaching. Tendler noted that Tosafot (see Shabbat 75) were unaware that the chilazon, yielding t'chalet dye, could be found on the Israeli coast; recently, the shamir, a worm which engraves stones 2 cm. deep, in the presence of certain lichen, was discovered in the Negav, another step toward rebuilding the temple-- it's needed to engrave the stones on the high priest's breastplate. The RCA conference brochure indeed quotes the Vilna Gaon on Psalms 24:1, "To God is the world and its contents":

When the light of the Torah came into the world, it split. One part went directly into Torah, and one part went into the various wisdoms of the world (The misnagdic Gaon, like emotionally deprived little orphan Rambam, but unlike the Besht, apparently does not recognize the sensitive human soul and imagination as itself being a source of wisdom and divinity). And the time will come when the light that went into the other wisdoms will come back and interact with the light of the Torah, revealing dimensions in the Torah that were not revealed to us before-- cf. Schroeder and Aviezer's works, harmonizing the 15 billion year old universe of Big Bang Theory with the 7 days of Genesis; MK Rav Shlomo Ben Izri of Shas brilliantly and forthrightly addressed and pleaded with anti-Orthodox students (of Ta Chuka L'Yisroel) at H.U. Hillel last night; but he insisted upon making a 5758 year old world a dogma of Torah and upon justifying his party's war of hate upon non-Orthodox rabbis and their conversions, tho it alienates so many Jews from Orthodoxy-- Rav Soloveichik always condemned the "Who is a Jew" campaign as counterproductive, a worthless waste of the religious camp's political and economic capital.

Ben Arzi, Ravitz, etc. are highly intelligent, even somewhat reasonable, folks; but they feel obligated to defend the insensitive and unreasonable views of their own rabbis-- cf. Chabad, re sleeping in the sukka. Leading and learned, but crude, insular and tasteless, haredi rabbis call the Conservative and Reform movements "cults" and "destroyers of religion", trying to get their "claws" into Israel (JP, 1/27/98); the chief rabbis won't even talk to them, ignoring all that they indeed do to keep Jews Jewish and attached to Israel, despite their heretical teachings. Such Rabbinic leaders thus, de facto, turn millions of Jews, including the heretical rabbis themselves, off to authentic Judaism, and garner financial and political support for the breakaway Jewish groups (the Reform should give Shas 20% commission on their Jewish Agency grants). Rav Soloveichik always treated non-Orthodox rabbis, as all human beings, with respect and friendship, tho vigorously disputing their heresies.


Yermiyahu predicts a second and permanent collapse of Egypt; as in Exodus, Israel will survive and surpass their temporarily powerful oppressors. Last week's haftara (Ezek. 29:9) quotes Pharoh: THE RIVER IS MINE AND I CREATED IT. God responds: THEREFORE BEHOLD I'M AGAINST YOU AND YOUR RIVERS (plural) AND I'LL RENDER EGYPT WASTELANDS... Perhaps Pharoh is not telling a big lie or imagining a great illusion. He may be taking credit for the "riverS", the grand system of irrigation canals to exploit the Nile; arrogant Man boasts of his technological achievements; he forgets he's only a YOTZER, who develops and gives form to materials, placed by God in this world, using his God-given energies; only God is BOREY, a creator ex nihilo-- He grants man his life, health, and creative powers. Sometimes, only destruction and failure can teach man this message (Ps. 90, Hirsch-- cf. The Oslo Plan). Those who put their trust in even the greatest of fragile men will be disillusioned, as the Jews who had faith in Egypt-- cf. FDR, the profane ad: "A Buick, something to believe in!", and politicians' justification of any means to retain their power, be they Labor or Likud, Shas or Mafdal, Tzomet or Meretz.

Jeremiah tells Israel to be GOD'S SERVANT. Then no allegedly mighty nation, even USA, can touch them: AND YOU, YAAKOV, MY SERVANT, DON'T FEAR, AND BE NOT DISMAYED ISRAEL (by temporary imperial power), FOR SEE I'M HE WHO SAVES YOU FROM AFAR (cf. Iraq), AND YOUR CHILDREN FROM THE LAND OF THEIR CAPTIVITY (cf. USSR); YAAKOV WILL RETURN, AT PEACE AND TRANQUIL; NO ONE WILL CAUSE HIM TO TREMBLE. FEAR NOT, O YAAKOV MY SERVANT SAYS GOD, FOR I'LL STILL BE WITH YOU, WHEN I SHUT DOWN ALL NATIONS TO WHICH I'VE DRIVEN YOU (they'll abandon their superficial nationalistic identities; perhaps decent Germans or Syrians will no longer so identify themselves). AND YOU I'LL NOT UTTERLY FINISH, ONLY CHASTISE YOU TOWARD JUSTICE, (yet) NOT COMPLETELY CLEARING YOU (of guilt; 46:27-8, M. Hirsch). But, given the Jews' present low state, Jeremiah urges them to bite the dust and accept Assyrian domination (Oslo?). Jewish Repentance may be even more important than, and the only basis for an enduring, Jewish independence.


The Hagada divides the ten plagues into 3 groups, 3-3-4 (see our Vaeira study). In each group's first plague, nature goes berserk-- the Nile turns to blood, wild animals rage thru cities, hail and fire unite. Pharoh's warned, down by the riverside, a natural site, to look beyond seemingly automatic pre-programmed nature to God's overall plan and Will. Pharoh's self-pride is based on Egyptian mastery and manipulation of nature-- technology; God reminds him that only He both grants man such power and takes it away, at his Will. Pharoh's forewarned of each group's 2nd plague at his palace, the site of human power; another object of human pride and false faith is collective Man-- social, political and economic organization and power, e.g. Babelian States, mega-corporations, and unions. Their "progressive humanistic" leaders dictate Everyman's fate and belt-tightening from their luxurious offices and cars (cf. the Chofetz Chayim and Rav T. Y. Kook's few simple rooms; see King of the Jews, a powerful Holocaust novel by Leslie Epstein). This false faith is shattered too-- Pharoh's home and palace are invaded by frogs, disease destroys his animal husbandry, and locusts his agrarian economy.

Arrogant secular man also places his trust in his academic think tanks, his "wise men"-- professors and experts, who confidently predict the future, from world climate to birth rates, from Malthusian disaster to the exchange rate of the yen; the UNANNOUNCED 3rd plagues proclaim that MAN PROPOSES AND GOD DISPOSES-- human plans are subject to God's overall plan and purpose; sensitive Jews always qualify their promises and predictions, adding: "without a vow", "if the good Lord's willing", etc. The Kotzker Rebbe portrayed both the greatness of a humble spirit, unsure of himself and his destiny, and the unspoken, perhaps even unconscious, agony beneath seemingly normal existence-- e.g. Jews assimilated into rich, yet perverse, civilizations or amidst family tension: "There's nothing so whole as a broken heart and no cry more shrill than silence...". His message penetrates and permeates 20th Century Israel, via Naomi Shemer's music. The Dale Carnegie ideal-- a confident, egocentric and poised man of decision and action-- is rejected for the self-questioning other-oriented Moses model: "Fortunate is one always afraid (cautious, unsure of himself), but he of hard (inflexible) heart will fall into evil"-- Ps. 28:14; so R. Bachya describes Pharoh (Introd. to BO). The Egyptians' bodily security and freedom are undermined in the 3rd plague of each triad-- lice, boils, and paralyzing palpable darkness (cf. Dust storms). So, per some rabbis, the Divine tzaraat affliction for sin begins with one's house, then spreads to his clothes and finally to her body, tho the reverse order may have applied in the desert (Lev. 13-14; Mid. Tanchuma; see The Midrash Says, Vayikra, pp 137, 164).

Rav Gafni notes that "house", "bayit", is a literary theme of the Torah thruout these Torah portions-- we often must destroy a false or illusory house, an "infected unclean" house, in order to build our real home. One's wife, a "bat" (daughter) is considered one's only true home, "bayit", in one talmudic view (Gittin 52a, beginning of Yoma, Zohar 3:178b).


GOD SAID TO MOSHE:"COME (BO) TO PHAROH, FOR I'VE RENDERED HIS HEART AND THAT OF HIS SERVANTS INSENSITIVE, THAT I PLACE THESE, MY SIGNS (OTOTAI), IN HIS MIDST" (10:1). B-O , COME, = 3 (Beit= 2, alef= 1)-- the last 3 plagues appear this week; Pharoh began to REPENT after the hail, but recanted when relieved; now much harsher plagues come; Pharoh & Co. haven't yet deeply internalized their repentant stirrings, so God places His SIGNS IN THEIR MIDST-- i.e. WITHIN THEM (Alshich). Some translate OTOTAI as LETTERS, referring to the initials of the plagues, engraved on Aharon's stick-- DTZACH, ADASH, BACHAV. 2+1 also hints that the next 2 plagues finish the 3 sets of 3, Pharoh's test; but only unique #10, killing Egypt's firstborn, brings Israel freedom.

Indeed, when Moshe first left Midian, dying from ambivalence re accepting God's mission, God gave him one message for Pharoh-- "Israel's my son, my firstborn**. I've told you to send forth my son to worship Me and you've refused... behold, I'll kill your son, your firstborn" (Ex. 4:23)-- but we don't read that Moshe delivered the message! He warned Pharoh just before the last plague (11:4ff), but didn't refer to Israel as God's firstborn. Per Ramban, this message was to be delivered only AFTER Pharoh paid no attention to "the miracleS" (4:21)-- as only one miracle, stick-to-crocodile, was done before Pharoh (7:8-10), miracleS must refer to the first 9 plagues-- they enable sensitive Egyptians to repent and also gradually wean the Jews from idolatry. But only killing the firstborn is intended to FORCE Pharoh to free Israel. God tells Moshe that He'll bring "one more plague", unnamed, on Pharoh (11:1). Moshe then tells Pharoh (11:4-5) that God will "kill the firstborn"-- Moshe knew, from the beginning, that this was the last plague. But Ramban later (11:4) says that God probably told Moshe about the firstborn plague again in 11:1-- the Torah often reports only PART of a conversation. So we read that God told Moshe of the locusts only AFTER reading that he so warned Pharoh-- 10:1-4, 12.

** Rav S. R. Hirsch (Introduction to Psalms-- he attended only non-Jewish public schools as a child) notes that God does not call Israel His "only son", but only his "firstborn son" (ALL human beings are His children). He explains: "The Torah has also taught us not to conceive of this our destiny... in terms of isolated phenomena. Even as it has taught us to acquire the proper thoughtful appreciation for nature thru God, and for the place of man in nature, so it also demonstrates to us that the founding and the destiny of our people is most intimately linked with the course of the history of mankind as a whole, no less guided by God than is our own. It teaches us to recognize that the purpose of our founding, and our introduction into the midst of the nations, was that we might teach mankind, and reclaim it for the knowledge and recognition of God, and of its own destiny and task, as assigned it by Him. At the very beginning, Avraham was appointed to be `the spiritual father of the multitude of nations'. It was thru him, and thru his descendants, that the blessings would come `to all the families of the earth'. The aim of the miracles in Egypt is `that His Name be proclaimed thruout the earth (9:16)'; it is repeatedly stated that a reason for preserving Israel among the nations was that all nations might be brought back to a purer knowledge of God (Numbers 14:13ff)".

Israel's raison d'etre, the very purpose of its national existence, is to serve as a "big brother", a teacher and guide, to its brother and sister nations and cultures everywhere, to bring them back to themselves, God and Eden (see Ex. 19:6, where God proclaims Israel's task, to be a model kingdom of priests and holy nation, for the whole earth is His). Ben Izri tried very hard to get hostile H.U. students to share this outlook, to experience Judaism and Jewish history.

But just as there are a small percentage of "ugly" American and Israeli tourists-- loud, vain, narrow and vulgar hotel towel thieves, who destroy their nation's good name, so, unfortunately, there are some "ugly" Orthodox Jews, who equate piety with xenophobia and hostility, tho we're commanded to love all God's creatures and greet all folks pleasantly-- some of these allegedly "religious" folks even yell with anger at nice tourists, who try to photograph them at the Wall, due to an odd mystical belief that photos will detract from their Divine Image!!! They're serving the Devil, not God, in my opinion, in so doing, and may very well be way below the innocent foreign tourists in His eyes (they could greet the tourists pleasantly and ask them nicely to please not photograph them, explaining why); such pietists won't try to understand others' outlook, as passionate extremists of every religious and political stripe, acting out their frustrations and anger; rather than helping fellow socialist revolutionaries in the Spanish Civil War, Russian communists tried to destroy them-- their ideals were only for the party faithful to carry out (see Homage to Catalonia, George Orwell, pp. 53ff). Such spiritually constipated bitter souls angrily view peace and tolerance, prime Torah values, as "goyish" or assimilated "baalei tshuva" concepts. They often similarly abuse kashrut, imagining that God's happy if they won't eat in the homes of fellow Jews, who choose to follow the kosher supervision of different rabbis.

For the sake of God and Israel's good name, both Orthodox rabbis and laymen must clearly reject the views and style of such misguided pietists and guide them back to true Torah. Several great articles in Tehilla magazine, by Rav Benyamin Walfish, Stephen J. Kohn, and Marc Garson, strongly stress this theme.

LOCUSTS are just organized grasshoppers, traveling in collective swarms; when food supplies dwindle and migratory conditions are right, grasshoppers produce giant babies, with oversized mouths-- eating machines, whose swarming response consumes all in their way, as they travel to greener pastures. After they've devastated an area, they themselves may be the only food supply; God kindly permitted certain grasshoppers to His folk-- tho our Ashkenazic ancestors, exiled from the Middle East, forgot which ones, our Yemenite and Moroccan brethren can identify them for you; there's no reason not to trust them-- even one witness suffices for ritual ??, whereas two are required re monetary or personal status ??. Tho there are about 10 minor differences between Ashkenazic and Yemenite Torah texts, they affect no halachic issues. Hail, destroying most vegetation, and an East wind would likely give rise to a plague of locusts (Y. Gelobter-- mnemonic: "Hail, hail, the gangs all here"). Their Hebrew name "arbeh" (lit. "I'll multiply") reflects the exclusively collective identity of locusts; the English (i.e. Latin) name implies that they completely occupy a locus.

Pharoh, who abused the collective power of numbers, now suffers from the power of numbers (cf. USSR); Yosef consolidated Egypt-- its national strength was later used to abuse his people (cf. Germany). The Egyptians had destroyed Jewish families by sending the men far off to grow crops, which were later consumed by the locusts (Tana D've Eliyahu 8O:7). The little fressers consumed all the food of Egypt's sensual Fressian civilization-- do things go better with Coke? Egyptian Jewish Olim long craved the glatt fleshpots of Egypt, the corned beef on rye and pickles of the lower East Side (Carvel, 5th Avenue bars, cranberry sauce, root beer, Cheerios and schav are already in Israel).

JEWS DIED TOO: 8O% or more of all Egyptian Jews died in the plague of darkness-- but the Egyptians couldn't see their death, lest they conclude from it that the Jews were equally evil; see Rashi, lO:22, l3:l8: these were EVIL JEWS, WHO WOULDN'T LEAVE EGYPT! No matter how low a Jew sinks abroad, he often shapes up, after he gets picked up at the Wall, in holy Israel: AND YOUR PEOPLE ARE ALL RIGHTEOUS-- THEY'LL INHERIT THE LAND FOREVER... (Is. 60:21). Thus there were few Levites in the census, tho they never worshipped idols-- per Midrashim, Levites were exempt from servitude and Jews who had it good in Egypt (i.e. the Levites) refused to leave (cf. Western Orthodoxy, Jewish Press culture, LA Lamplighters). Perhaps that small % of Leviim, who left their status and wealth in Egypt, the finest olim, were to lead God's holy folk at this stage (such U.S. olim may make the best MKs-- cf. U.S. educated Netanyahu and Arens).

REPARATIONS: God gave the Egyptians insight into the beautiful Jewish soul, yet had to persuade the Jews to accept Egyptian donations of gold and silver to the UEJA, a token of their apology (the Vatican recognized Israel only at 45, despite Crusader & Nazi holocausts-- read Charles Reznikoff's searing novel of Crusader England, "The Lionhearted"). The Egyptians now admit that Pharoh II erred in enslaving Israel, not "knowing" Yosef's heartfelt devotion to humanity and his adopted nation.

Per Rav Hertz (p. 2l7) and B. Jacob, VAYINATZLU ET MITZRAYIM, l2:36, should be translated "THEY SAVED", rather than "THEY SPOILED", THE EGYPTIANS-- the Jews, accepting reparations, saved what little bit was left of Egypt's good name and humanity, despite its evil leadership (cf. Germany). Per Hirsch, placing blood of the paschal lamb on the lintel and door posts, as the blood of circumcision, symbolizes two ideals for which a Jew sacrifices his life-- God and family. Egyptians worshipped animals-- man's animal impulses, his primal drives. The Jew is to "sacrifice" his transient natural impulses to focus on his eternal spirit, intellect and deepest relationships. He directs himself upward, toward God (over him, symbolized by the lintel) and inward, toward home and family (symbolized by the door posts); his roof, in turn, protects him from the elements above, and his walls from invasion of his family privacy. Bilaam's paean-- "How goodly are your tents, Yaakov, your dwelling places, Israel"-- is a prelude to eventual pagan appreciation of Jewish homes and sanctuaries (Esav's angel finally "blesses" Yaakov, recognizes him as the source of man's blessings-- Hirsch).

ISRAEL'S MISSION: "THIS MONTH SHALL BE FOR YOU THE HEAD OR BEGINNING OF MONTHS, FIRST FOR YOU OF THE MONTHS OF THE YEAR" (l2:2). This, God's first commandment to Israel, should have begun His Code, the Torah, per R. Yitzchak (Rashi, Gen. 1:1; Yalkut Ex. 12:2); Creation should have been a separate book, or part of the oral tradition, taught to each on his level (JBS; see Ramban). But God began with Genesis to inform humanity that the Creator has given the State of Israel to Israel, architect of humanity's redemption. If Israel doesn't return to itself and God in the holy land, Man will never return to himself, God and Eden.

In 12:2, God commands Israel: l) to base its calendar on 12 LUNAR months, each 29-30 days, totaling 354.3+ days per year. This teaching translates: THIS NEWNESS ("chodesh", or, by derivation, "first stage of the moon", "lunar month") SHALL BE HOW YOU BEGIN YOUR MONTHS. But the ll day difference from the 365.25 day solar agricultural year had to be made up, as Pesach and Sukkot must retain their agricultural connections with spring and fall-- spiritual redemption and rebirth must be integrated with the sun-linked world of natural death and rebirth; both our calendar and land must combine "heaven and earth". A l3th month, Adar ll, is therefore added 7 times in l9 years; ordinary lunar years vary from 353-355 days, leap years 383-5. 2) the holiday calendar and cycle must start with Nissan, the month of Passover-- thus when I mention any month, e.g. "the 2nd month", I'm reminded of Exodus-- Ramban. We can also translate: "THIS NEWNESS SHALL BE (a model) FOR YOU..."-- JEWS ARE LIKE THE MOON; IT ALMOST DISAPPEARS, THEN RETURNS TO FULL GLORY, CONSTANTLY SELF-RENEWING-- Hirsch.

Emunah Witt explained: THIS MONTH'S FOR YOU-- liberated Jews now will be in charge of their own time. May God help us use every precious moment of our brief existence to its maximum potential-- THE DAYS OF OUR YEARS ARE 70 YEARS... SPEEDILY GONE... TEACH US TO COUNT OUR DAYS, THAT WE MAY ATTAIN A HEART OF WISDOM (Ps. 90). So we must all painfully give up some things, themselves beautiful and important, in order to have sufficient time and resources free to achieve others, still more important. We are now renting out our premises at 52 Habad St. to Bnei Akiva, in order to continue our work at 54 Habad. Only depressed or dull people have enough time to do all they want to do. "No true man dies but with half his desires still in his hands". While I enjoy doing these studies, and many benefit from them, should I spend much more time perfecting them, or are there now more important things for me to do? Books, disks, E-mail and WWW are available if their future hard copy distribution is more limited.

After the Passover laws, we read: YOU SHALL TELL YOUR SON ON THAT DAY SAYING: "BECAUSE OF THIS (which) GOD DID FOR ME WHEN I WENT OUT FROM EGYPT" (13:8). "Because of this" may mean that God took me out "so that I will do these commandments"-- Rashi, OR "(I do these commandments) because God took me out". ...WHICH GOD DID FOR ME (and not you!) is the Hagada's answer to the Evil son-- he would NOT have been redeemed! (Mechilta). Per Rashi, this isn't the verse's true meaning.

IT SHALL BE FOR YOU A SIGN UPON YOUR HAND AND A REMINDER BETWEEN YOUR EYES, THAT GOD'S TORAH BE IN YOUR MOUTH... (l3:9). Rashbam explains: God's word should always be in your consciousness, as tho it were written on your hand (actions) and forehead (thoughts). He rejects his granddad Rashi's view that 13:9 refers to tefillin, later commanded to Israel-- see lbn Ezra, cf. 13:16; truly traditional Jews argue every detail with their ancestors, while sharing their values, mission and basic beliefs-- Rav M. Gafni. Sefer Hachinuch learns laws of tefillin from Deut. 6:8 (Law #421)-- only males are so commanded; women too will be rewarded if they don them, but not as much-- were it important for their development, God would have commanded them too; see Eruv. 96a; cf. ruthless "religious" persecutors of the Women at the Wall. Ohr Hachayim's wife wore tefillin all day at the Wall, praying for Israel's restoration. For a father to "tell" his children anything, his own Divine Image must reflect holy and integrated thought, feeling and deed. An ignorant, but deeply religious and kind, parent may be more successful with his children than one uninspired or aloof, tho sharp and erudite. Rav Shach's son repented and became a modern religious Zionist; his father allegedly attributed his "failure" to not singing at the Shabbat table.

AND YOU SHALL GUARD THIS LAW AT ITS TIME FROM DAYS TO DAYS (l3:lO). THIS LAW may refer to either preceeding mitzva-- relating the Passover Saga or donning tefillin. I guard the former FROM DAYS TO DAYS, from festival to festival, via related high-impact symbolic mitzvos, such as sukkah and first fruits. I guard tefillin by periodically checking the condition of both boxes and parchments. Another translation: YOU SHALL GUARD... ONLY AT CERTAIN TIMES-- tefillin are not worn on holy days, themselves a sufficient "os", a "sign". The ?, "WHAT IS THIS WORK TO YOU?", elicits a pleasant response in l2:26-7, tho deemed the evil son's arrogant scoffing in the Hagada! But so much depends upon intonation; one can mock or seriously ?, using exactly the same words. Our tradition thus values face-to-face oral learning, rather than books; your teacher's face and tone is part and parcel of his message-- does he enjoy, find sweet and comforting, his learning and prayers, or are they a sad burden, which he dutifully bears, perhaps even with angry resignation and resentment (you must read Chaim Grade's The Yeshiva).

We end with the simple son's ?-- WHAT'S THIS? (l3:l4). Our simple reply is: "WITH A STRONG HAND GOD TOOK US OUT OF EGYPT FOM THE HOUSE OF SLAVES" (Not "THE HOUSE OF SLAVERY"-- the Egyptians were slaves to their own lower instincts, while the Jews went out toward the greatest freedom-- self-conquest via Torah; cf. "free", "chofshi" secular Israelis, out to all hours in their discos, with yeshiva students learning until they collapse in sleep; but also compare the infinitely greater sacrifice of combat soldiers, vis-a-vis yeshiva students; my son, Ariel, just completed his combat training course in Gaza).


God tells Moshe: "COME (BO)" to warn Pharoh in his palace, in each 2nd plague-- but GO TO, or STAND BEFORE Pharoh, used in the first plagues, seems more correct! Perhaps Moshe senses God's presence with him in nature, down by the riverside, but feels alone in the decadent artificial setting of Pharoh's Las Vegasian palace-- cf. rooms w/o windows; idealistic, but heretical, human rights activist and reform rabbi Henry Sobel of San Paulo claims that the most sacred object in the synagogue is the window, the link between the sanctuary and the street. "We must not only go into the synagogue, but also out into the street-- and where there is poverty and injustice, offer the Jewish example". So truly Grand Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach noted that the world needs street rabbis far more than pulpit rabbis in our era, for most of the people are in the streets, not in the synagogues. God, in effect, says: "DON"T WORRY! COME WITH ME or COME TO ME-- I'M THERE TOO!" Even where Man tries to drive God away, He permeates the atmosphere, beneath the surface of evil; per Rav A. Y. Kook, every path, even the longest detour, ultimately leads Man to God; so the scapegoat is presented before God before being sent off to Azazel-- see our Yom Kippur study.

Should one remain cloistered in his kollel to retain intimate contact with God? If he ventures out to redeem others, caught in depths of degradation, he may himself discover hitherto unrevealed aspects of God, in the process. Yosef Mendelovitch found God amidst atheist Siberia; Moshe requests and receives greater insight into God's ways when he leaves Sinai Kollel to rescue Jews trapped in the Golden Calf Disco (cf. Rav Grossman in Migdal Emek).

Per M. Faberman, LECH, GO, emphasizes movement and departure, while BO, COME, stresses the destination; LECH is used when Avraham starts his wanderings with an undefined goal, and when Moshe is to "take a walk" down by the riverside and "bump into" Pharoh; BO is used to stress the destination, the palace. Both terms appear together, when both trip and destination are stressed-- 2K5:5, ls. 22:l5, 26:2O, Ezra 3:4, 3:ll-- RF. Much of our precious short lives seems wasted on long "trips", whose destinations we may never reach. Some goals turn out to be illusory, or of little value; very often, however, the trip itself, our self-realization and development in overcoming obstacles, or in finally seeing thru illusions, is the achievement. Human energy is never wasted-- sooner or later, it brings man to his destiny; nothing's destroyed, only transformed. So Rav Avigdor Hacohen (in Touching Heaven, Touching Earth) retells the hassidic tale of the traveler who gets lost in a vast forest; he's overjoyed when he finally meets an old man. But his sudden happiness quickly fades, when the elder tells him that he too got lost, many years ago, and knows no way out; when the traveler complains that he feels even worse now, the elder tells him that he does indeed have valuable info for him-- all the ways he's already tried, which lead nowhere! So while many rabbis and teachers can't fully answer many existential questions, they can point out those paths and approaches that lead nowhere, saving you lots of valuable time and energy!


So R. Shimon proclaims (Zohar, published in 1278, 34a; Sulam 11:36): IT'S NOW OK TO REVEAL MYSTERIES OF THAT ABOVE AND THAT BELOW. WHY WRITE "BO", COME (TO PHAROH)? WRITE "LECH", GO!... But God guided Moshe thru chambers within chambers to a supernal mighty dragon, from whom lesser levels (e.g. Pharoh) emanate-- and who is it?-- The secret of the "great dragon" (BO means COME with Me to Pharoh's source-- the dragon). Moshe feared it and only approached its subsidiary streams. When the Holy One saw this, and that no supernal messenger was able to approach it, He proclaimed: "Behold I am against you Pharoh, king of Egypt, the great dragon... who's said: `My river's my own and I've made it for myself'" (Ezek. 29:3). God Himself had to combat this dragon, as said: "(then) all who dwell in Egypt shall know I'm God (29:6I)"; the secret of the wisdom of the GREAT DRAGON is thus explained for those who know their Master's mystery.

SOME ??? ON THIS PASSAGE: 1) Who believes in supernal dragons? 2) Why abandon the above down-to-earth explanations of BO? 3) Why repeat BO on all 3 of Moshe's visits to the palace? One visit to the dragon is quite enough! 3 hypotheses may obviate these 3 ??:

1) Rav J. Soloveichik claims that ancient mystical texts embody great insights, but express them in the then prevalent cosmology or world view, e.g. a medieval world populated and guided by dragons, evil spirits and evil eyes (see our Ki See-saw study). But today we live in a world of laser beams, gravity, space travel, cloning, and genetic engineering. We must abstract, extract and translate ancient great ideas, using today's language and world view. The Zohar may posit that even the most extreme individual expressions of evil reflect a universal force, or innate tendency and temptation of everyone to self-corrupt and self-destruct, ultimately dragging the rest of the world down with him (cf. Lebanon's Shiites and Freud's death wish). This force can and will be counteracted by those with faith in a good God and world. Even the greatest man CANNOT fight the force and source of all evil alone; he can and must, however, with God's help, fight its manifestations and effects, especially within himself. As we remove the fermented grain from our pre-Passover homes, we try to also burn out our inner corruption, using the torch of Torah.

2) PSHAT is the clear intention of Torah's Divine words, fitting every detail of grammar and structure; but other teachings are implied in words isolated from context, and still others from a free gestalt reading. The above concept is also implied in Yaakov's fight with Esav's angel, his spirit, before meeting Esav himself; when God tells Moshe to COME with Him to Pharoh, a similar explanation may be appropriate.

3) Sometimes rabbis used verses to teach a certain idea, or to lend authority to, and help students remember, the teaching, regardless of their relevance. The weekly Torah drasha or midrash was the best, often the only, way to reach the people. Important teachings had to be conveyed within it (Rav Hadari; cf. parsha study sheets!-- should they stick to the parsha, as the world, literally and figuratively, "goes to pot"?). Perhaps mystics used colorful tales of dragons, etc. as metaphors, when addressing a variegated public. The sophisticated understood the allegory; others enjoyed a good story, grasping a bit of the message. All passed down the tales intact, a challenge for each new generation's understanding. The Zohar doesn't describe real situations in this world, only uses them as metaphors for sublime spiritual realities-- Rav Brandwine, citing Rav Ashlag; cf. its claim that women at a funeral cause death, revived as a vibrant social institution several years ago, in Migdal Haamek! Can one identify with only certain aspects of great leaders and works?

A local returnee yeshiva invited Palestinean spokesmen, among others, to present their views to students in their crash-course seminars in Judaism, to teach them to refute them and to deliver our side back home. A local hassidic rebbe strongly opposed this, especially because this Yeshiva strongly discouraged its students from attending his kabbala classes-- he believes that Israel's ultimate redemption is linked to its involvement with Jewish mysticism. As a result of their disagreements, their mutual students had to think thru the issues themselves, stimulating their own independence and growth in Torah; this is also an advantage of large yeshivot, e.g. Y.U. and Ohr Somaach, and large university departments, where many great scholars debate issues, rather than only one man's viewpoint being expressed. Such disagreements, if not ad hominem, are good-- they lead to deeper, broader and more subtle insights, the essence of the masculine talmudic process (cf. the Socratic method, Tendler vs. Kahn above).

OR maybe there is indeed something comparable to a great dragon somewhere out there-- something may exist, tho we can't presently apprehend it with our senses, or understand its workings! Electricity functioned long before Franklin was told to go fly a kite! Vast realms of psychic energy ("evil eyes"? Red strings?) and other forces in the universe may still be undiscovered; much tangible ancient knowledge, e.g. long-term embalming and herbal cures, has been lost.


Midrashim translate 12:1-2: GOD SPOKE TO MOSHE FOR PUBLIC RELEASE: "THIS NEWNESS (God POINTING to a particular stage of the new moon) SHALL BE FOR YOU (the sign to proclaim) THE BEGINNING OF EACH MONTH...". In Mechilta d' R. Yishmael, we read: R. YISHMAEL SAYS: "MOSHE SHOWED THE NEW MOON TO ISRAEL AND SAID TO THEM: `IN THIS MANNER SHALL YOU OBSERVE THE NEW MOON IN COMING GENERATIONS AND FIX THE BEGINNING OF THE MONTH BY IT'". R. AKIVA SAYS: "THIS IS ONE OF THE 3 THINGS WHICH WERE DIFFICULT FOR MOSHE TO UNDERSTAND, ALL OF WHICH GOD POINTED OUT TO HIM..." (see Menachot 29a). Zvi Arie Yehuda (The 2 Mekhiltot, YU PHD, 1974) sees two different views of Divine Revelation reflected here. Is God's Biblical STYLE Divine or human? The laws of scripture are presented as a record of both Moshe's prophetic revelation-- his encounter with God-- and his mission-- to teach it, his encounter with Israel.

The former occurs on a theological stage, the latter in a human-social framework. Within the fundamental concept of Revealed Torah, does the Biblical text record the words of God to Moshe, or only those which he transmits to His Folk (per God's word-- YF)? Yehuda brings this midrash as proof that R. Akiva held the former view, R. Yishmael the latter. But if God only revealed Torah by day, how could He point to the moon? R. Akiva's pupil, Rashby, applies R. Eliezer's dictum-- God spoke near nightfall, pointing afterward (ibid)! Only per R. Yishmael does Torah speak in the language of Man; only R. Akiva expounds every letter, even every crown, of the text as a Divine code system. Per Proverbs 8:22-31, Torah predates Creation.

The Hagada's saga of Israel in Egypt doesn't cite Exodus, only Deut. 26:5 ff.-- the Israelite's declaration of thanksgiving upon bringing his first fruits. Rav Y. Hadari explains-- the Hagada portrays Exodus as God's direct act, without mentioning Moshe; such is the perspective of those 4 verses. The short passage is also appropriate, when everyone's hungry and must perform Passover's gastronomic commandments! If Jews composed their own first fruits' prayer, they'd have to also mention Moshe in gratitude. God, in this unique Biblical fixed prayer, does not. Retelling of history from a higher or different vantage point is characteristic of Biblical process. So Moshe recasts earlier tales (e.g. of the spies and the delegation of judiciary authority) in Dvarim, when addressing the new generation. Psalms 78 and 105 recall our adventures in Egypt. Hosea 12 retells Yaakov's escape to Lavan and Jeremiah adds God's moving response to Exodus: I REMEMBER FOR YOU THE KINDNESS OF YOUR YOUTH, THE LOVE OF YOUR ESPOUSALS-- GOING AFTER ME INTO THE DESERT, INTO AN UNSOWN LAND. Deuteronomy combines God's Word with Moshe's flashbacks-- so it's called Mishneh (&) Torah (Rav J. Soloveichik, based on Ramban). We must learn the whole Bible to fully understand any part of it-- THE WORDS OF TORAH ARE POOR IN ONE PLACE AND RICH IN ANOTHER (Yer. R.H. 3:5, cited in Tos., elah, Keritot 14b). The Woman of Valor is ALSO a metaphor for Torah: SHE'S LIKE MERCHANT SHIPS, SHE BRINGS HER FOOD FROM AFAR (Prov. 31:14, Jer. R.H. 3:5). For example, the Torah warns of plague if Moshe counts the Jews (Ex. 30:12, see Rashi)-- carefully compare II S. 24 and I Ch. 21.

Unfortunately, most English speaking students at Yeshivat Hakotel are hardly exposed to hassidic Rav Hadari's teachings, which are in Hebrew and not part of their formal program; but he is that yeshiva rabbi most likely to give them profound and relevant great understanding (Rov Bina) in life and Judaism; the humanists among them, e.g. future sociologists, psychologists and artists, will certainly benefit; while the scientists and accountants may prefer measurable clear-cut abstract halachic teaching, they can broaden their imaginative and emotional faculties via Rav Hadari.


Exodus does NOT end Jewish-Egyptian relations. Egyptians plague us for many generations, perhaps in revenge (see B). Solomon was brought to an inglorious end by his marriage to Pharoh's daughter, a political alliance. The Torah thrice warns the Jews never to live in Egypt again; yet we may not hate an Egyptian, for we were once strangers in his land (Palestinean Arabs help us build Israel-- many also try to destroy it); 3 generations after Egyptians convert, their descendants may marry Jews from birth. They, despite their frightening cruelty, were once kind to us, unlike the Moabites, with whom we may never marry (fast and sharp Sprintze Herskowitz of Isralight, teaching "Chesed"-- the true meaning of kindness). The Talmud authorizes temporary trips to Egypt for business, etc.; per Tzuf D'vash, we may even dwell there today, for the original Egyptians and their pernicious idolatrous orgiastic influence are gone (but Rambam felt guilty living there). Is T.D. saying that a Torah law's limited to its ostensible purpose, or that the law itself implies a sociological definition of "Egypt"?-- cf. Conservatives; both Ohr Hachayim, misquoted by Kahanists, and Rav Kook allow peaceful monotheistic Arabs to dwell in our land, tho we must deport idolaters. So some authorities permit men to hear women sing holy or choral songs (see Contemporary Halakhic Problems, Bleich, II, and our Vayera study sheet).


Pharoh's arrogance, his refusal to acknowledge God, brings on his dismal downfall (R. Bachye). Likewise, many an arrogant non-compromising person gets involved in endless quarrels, which lead to his eventual abasement and degradation. So God "MAKES THE HIGH & HAUGHTY LOW (once they repent, they too are included in--) AND RAISES HIGH THOSE LOW & ABJECT" (Siddur, in Ezrat Avotanu). HE WHO SEEKS A NAME LOSES A NAME; WHO'S HONORED?-- HE WHO HONORS OTHERS (Avot). Moshe told Pharoh the firstborn would die ABOUT midnight, tho it would be exactly midnight, lest he miscalculate the time and scoff at God's miracle being a few minutes off. Such arrogant people seek the smallest fault to belittle the greatness and power of others, no matter how blatant. One who's sensitive suffers from living with such a person, who lacks a sense of proportion in his criticism. The Stipler highly praised his wife's cold food, when the stove went off on Shabbat (from Growth Thru Torah, Zelig Pliskin).

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