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March 05 Kosherpages launches 

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Wednesday, 10th January 2018

Pharoh's magicians also made frogs emerge upon the land, but it never mentions in the Torah that they made them disappear. Pharoh called for Moshe (Moses) and Aaron and said, "Pray to G-d, and let Him remove the frogs from me and from my people, and I will send the people to sacrifice to Hashem (G-d)." Moshe asked him, "When should I pray for you?" Pharoh answered, "Pray today that it be destroyed by tomorrow."

The posuk (verse) says that Moshe and Aaron left, and [Moshe] cried out. Rashi writes, "[Moshe] cried out immediately. This one word 'miyad' (immediately) is interesting. Why did it have to write "immediately"? 

An answer can be that Moshe loved having a connection with Hashem. He saw an opportunity to speak to Him, and took it.

Often we procrastinate until the last minute. We see that Moshe enjoyed praying to Hashem, taking any opportunity to communicate with Him. We also see the inner drive Pharoh had, when waking up extra early in the morning because he didn't want the Egyptians to find out he too, relieves himself like any other human. It's not easy waking up early in the morning, but when you have that spark, you are willing to sacrifice some sleep for it. Unfortunately Pharoh was applying his enthusiasm (of keeping his title as G-d) in going against Hashem, as opposed to Moshe, who was using his enthusiasm to connect and get closer to Him. 

When we have an opportunity to do a mitzvah, or to build a connection with Hashem (by praying to Him), we shouldn't push it off. We should grab the opportunity immediately, just like Moshe did.


Monday, 1st January 2018

In this week’s Sedra (Torah portion), Moshe (Moses) is found in a basket by Basya. Miriam who is standing nearby asks Basya if she should go and get a Jewish wet nurse for the baby.

Rashi mentions the Medrash, that first Basya attempted to feed Moshe from Egyptian wet nurses, but Moshe refused their milk. Moshe’s refusal was due to the fact that he was destined to speak with Hashem (G-d), and it was more befitting that the mouth that was going to speak “mouth to mouth” with Hashem should be nursed from a Jew. 

The Shulchan Aruch brings down the Halachah (ruling) that even though it is not forbidden for a Jewish baby to be nursed by a non-Jew it is better to refrain from doing so. The Vilna Goan links the source of this Halachah with the aforementioned Rashi in this week’s Sedra.

Asks Rabbi Yaakov Kamenetsky, how can this be the source of the Halachah? Surely the reason that applied to Moshe does not apply to every one of us; we aren’t going to be speaking to Hashem as directly as Moshe did? 

Rabbi Yaakov answers, that herein lies a fundamental lesson in chinuch (education). Every parent has to know that his child has HUGE potential for greatness; he has the potential to be a Moshe! Therefore every Jewish child should not feed from a non Jew because he has the same potential that Moshe had. We have to educate every child with the knowledge that he can become something great.

Even if he might not end up speaking to Hashem direct, but if he fulfils his potential then he has achieved greatness akin to that of Moshe. It’s not how you measure up against everyone around you; it’s what you do in relation to YOUR unique potential.

Rabbi Chaim Kaufman used to say if you have great aspirations, you won’t fall that much short. When one shoots an arrow towards a target, you have to aim slightly above the bulls’ eye in order to hit it! Similarly Rabbi Sholom Schwadron would say, “if you have big goals then you will score more!”


Thursday, 28th December 2017

Verse 48:20 contains the famous blessing Yaakov gave to Yosef’s sons - a blessing that many people have the custom to give to their children on Friday night; ‘yesimcha Elokim k’Efrayim u’chiMenashe (May G-d make you like Efraim and Menashe).

'Why do we give these blessings to our children - why do we not bless our children that they should be like the Avos (Patriarchs) or like any of the other tribes?'

One idea is that Efraim and Menashe were unique in that they had shalom (peace) between them. Every one of the Avos had to live through some form of sibling rivalry and ‘family issues’ - Avraham with his idolatrous father, Terach, and then with Lot his nephew. Similarly, Yitzchak (Isaac)had to deal with Yishma’el (Ishmael), and Yaakov (Jacob) had to worry about Eisav (Esob) and then Lavan. Moreover, Yaakov’s sons sold Yosef (Joseph) into slavery. Therefore, Efraim and Menashe were the first generation to have serenity and peace at home. This is what we bless our children with - that they should live with constant shalom and without any family feuds or bickering.
Another idea here is that Efrayim and Menashe grew from being ‘mere sons of Yosef’ to being tribes in their own right. Thus, we bless our children that they should grow into being more than is expected of them - that they should (spiritually) grow out of proportion!


Wednesday, 20th December 2017

In this weeks Sedra (Torah portion), Yaakov (Jacob) meets Pharaoh, the king of Egypt and the most powerful man in the world. What would they have likely discussed? The meaning of life? The famine? No. 

Instead, the Torah records that meeting as having to do with something quite mundane. Age. Yet that discussion had severe ramifications for Yaakov.

The Torah relates how Yoseph (Joseph) presents his father to Pharaoh. "Pharaoh asked Yaakov, 'How old are you?' Yaakov answered, 'the years of my sojourns are one hundred thirty; few and bad ones; they have not reached the days of my forefathers in their sojourns.' "

There is a Midrash (interpretation of and commentary on the written scriptures) that notes the bitterness of Yaakov's response and makes the following amazing calculation. Yaakov lived to the age of 147 years, yet his father lived 'till 180. There is a difference of 33 years. Yaakov lost 33 years of his life due to the 33 words that were used as he cursed his life's struggles.

The Midrash needs explanation. Yaakov did not use 33 words to curse his fate? That number is only arrived at if the original question of  "How old are you," and the words "and Pharaoh asked Yaakov," are also counted. We can understand that Yaakov was punished for the words that he spoke, but why should he be punished for a question posed to him, even if the response was improper? Why count the words that Pharaoh used, and even more difficult, why count the words, "Pharaoh asked Yaakov," which are obviously the Torah's addition?  At most, Yaakov should only be punished for the 25 words that he actually used.

In order to understand the Midrash,  Ramban (Nachmanides) notes: World leaders do not normally greet each other with mundane questions such as, "how old are you?" Yet those are the only recorded words of the conversation that ensued between Yaakov and Pharaoh. "Obviously," explains the Ramban, "Yaakov looked so terrible and so aged that Pharaoh could not comprehend. He therefore dispensed with diplomatic etiquette and asked the discourteous query. Yaakov's response explained why his appearance overbore his numeric age.

Rabbi Shmuelevitz, explains why the Midrash is upset with Yaakov. Had Yaakov worn his suffering with more cheer, at least on the outside, he would not have looked as old as he did. Pharaoh would not have been astonished and would never have asked the undiplomatic question, "how old are you?" Yaakov was punished for prompting a query that resulted in open discontent of the fate he endured. That was the reason why an entire portion of the Torah was added - 33 words - Yaakov therefore lost 33 years of his life.

The Torah teaches us a great lesson.  No matter what life serves you, do not let the experience dwindle your spirit.


Wednesday, 13th December 2017

Rashi seems to hold that the main miracle of Chanukah was the miracle of the oil; the miracle of victory in battle is not the main thing we are celebrating on Chanukah, according to Rashi. 

The question is why is this so - after all, the battle was a huge, world-changing and lifesaving miracle which essentially ensured our survival. Whilst the oil miracle, on the other hand, was seemingly unnecessary - we could have survived without pure oil; the worst that would have happened was that we’d have had to wait another week or so for pure oil to be produced. Why is the miracle of the oil something to celebrate at all, and why does it take centre stage? 

Rabbi Chaim Shmulevitz explains that it is precisely the unnecessary nature of the oil miracle that sees it thrust into the foreground. The very fact that HaShem (G-d) went out of His way, so to speak, to provide us with pure oil showed us that He loves us and cares for us. For a father who really loves his son makes sure to tend to every little detail - even seemingly the smallest and most unnecessary - of his son’s needs and wants. Thus, the miracle of the oil showed us a fuller extent of HaShem’s love for us.


Friday, 8th December 2017

Yosef (Joseph) is in Mitzraim (Egypt) and is in charge of the household of Potifar. The Torah testifies: Vayehi Hashem Es Yosef Vayehi Ish Matzliach, “And Hashem (G-d) was with Yosef and he was a prosperous man.”

The Chafetz Chaim makes a very interesting observation. When we say the prayer for the new month we repeat one particular phrase. Twice we ask for Yiras shomayim (fear of Heaven). No other request is repeated. His explanation for this is that in between these two times we have a request for Osher v'Kovod (wealth and honour).

He makes the observation that it is often the nature of people who attain the position such as Yosef's of wealth or honour to draw away from his closeness to Hashem.  We, therefore, ask again for Yiras Shomayim implying that even if our prayer for wealth and honour be granted we still want Hashem to help us maintain our close contact with Him.

This is what the Torah testifies about Yosef. Even though he was Prosperous, Hashem was still with him. He never lost his Yiras Shamoyim.


Thursday, 30th November 2017

Yaakov's (Jacob's) parent's told him to go to the house of Lavan and find a wife.  He did that, but only after a 14 year detour to the Yeshiva (college) of Sheim and Eiver.  Why did he stop over for 14 years instead of going direct and getting the job done that he set out to do?

Rabbi Elyashiv (Divrei Aggada) says that Yaakov had big plans and intended to carry on the legacy of his forefathers.  He wanted to go to Charan, a city of Avodah Zara (idol worship), and do what Avrohom (Abraham) did.  He had planned to call out in G-d's name and convince the people to become Baalei Tshuva (to return to Judaism).  

However, on his way, he was robbed by Elifaz and was left penniless.  Yaakov understood that to be successful in kiruv (winning people over), you need money.  Avrohom won people over with his very successful hotel and hospitality.  After wining and dining the people, he turned them towards G-d.  Without the financial clout, Yaakov knew he didn't stand a chance in Charan.

Yaakov had to forge a new path of kiruv and decided that he would bring people close to G-d through Torah.  To succeed using this method one has to be very well versed in the Torah. 
He did not yet feel that he was well enough equipped to even stand up to Lavan, let alone having the capability of being able to convince others.  To accomplish this he needed new training in the form of Torah learning without stopping even to sleep, for 14 years. Only then was he able to continue his journey and carry out the original job that he had set out to do and look for a wife for himself.


Thursday, 23rd November 2017

We find that after Leah had six sons, she was pregnant with the seventh son.  Since she knew that there would only be 12 tribes she calculated that since the two maidservants had 4 sons between them, 2 each, if she would have a 7th, that would leave only 1 for her sister Rachel. This would be embarrassing for Rachel as she would have less than the maidservants. Leah prayed and it changed to a female and she was named Dinah.

This was a tremendous sacrifice that Leah had done for her sister Rachel, to give up the merit of having another holy Tribe.

One would imagine that such a daughter, born as a result of Leah’s self-sacrifice would merit great blessings and a tremendous Choson (groom).

But what happened?   She gets taken by Shechem a Gentile!

Is this Leah’s reward for her sacrifice?  Is this the Nachas (the pleasure) Leah is supposed to get from Dinah for her self-sacrifice?

A daughter was born from the union of Shechem and Dinah.  Her name was Osnas (Osnat).  She was considered Jewish as her mother was Jewish.  Nevertheless, the brothers wanted to kill her so people shouldn’t say there was immorality in the “House of Yaacov (Jacob).”

Yaacov wrote the Holy Name of G-d on something and hung it around Osnas’s neck and sent her away.  G-d, who sees everything, sent the Angel Michoel to take her and bring her down to Egypt to the house of Potiphar and his wife.  The wife of Potiphar was barren and brought up Osnas as her own daughter.  Eventually she married Yoseph (Joseph).

Yoseph and Osnas had two children, Menashe and Ephraim.  They were counted among the 12 tribes.

So now we have the amazing answer to our question! Leah gave up one tribe and gained two tribes Menashe and Ephraim, her great grand children!!

In the beginning, when Leah made this sacrifice, we didn’t see immediate beneficial results.  Only much later do we see the final benefit that she merited double.

We learn from all of this that we have to have patience.  We won’t always see immediate results for our sacrifices.  But if we have patience we may see it in the end.  With this outlook we can make peace with the difficult present.


Thursday, 16th November 2017

Yaakov (Jacob) gave Esav bread and lentil stew, and he ate and drank, got up and left; and Esav belittled the birthright. Ch.25/34

Esav had only asked for the lentil stew. Why did Yaakov add bread to the menu?

The answer is that Yaakov wanted to close the deal for the rights of the firstborn with Esav being required to take an oath. The problem was that because of Esav’s extreme hunger, his oath would have been considered “under duress” and therefore invalid according to Jewish law. So, Yaakov first fed Esav bread to take away his raging hunger, so that Esav could take his oath with a clear mind, thus making it binding.


Chayei Sarah

Wednesday, 8th November 2017

“And G-d blessed Avrohom (Abraham) with all.” (Bereishis 24:1)

What is the meaning of “all”? If G-d blessed him without specifying a particular area, surely that means that he was blessed with all?

The true tzadik (righteous person) is, by definition, a model of selflessness. His main concern is what G-d wants of him, and what other people want and need. His own material substance, beyond maintaining his health and strength to serve G-d, is of little concern to him.

Therefore, when the tzadik prays, he doesn’t pray to G-d only for himself, he prays for the welfare of the whole community. Even if his prayers are answered, and G-d blesses him, it’s not a blessing in his eyes if others are not included.

Therefore, if G-d wants to really bless the tzadik, He will bless the whole community, as well. That’s the meaning of the verse, “And G-d blessed Avrohom with all.” G-d acceded to Avrohom’s wishes, and blessed all the people, not just him. 


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