Thursday, February 23, 2017



A woman and her husband interrupted their vacation to go to the dentist. The man walked into the office and announced, "Look doc, I need you to extract a tooth, but I’m in a big rush, so I have no time to wait for Novocain. Just get the tooth out as quickly as possible, and we'll be on our way."
The dentist was impressed. "You're certainly a courageous man," he said. "Which tooth is it?" The man turned to his wife, "Show him your tooth, dear."

Rabbi Aryeh Levine zt’l, “the tzaddik of Jerusalem”, once walked into the doctor’s office with his wife and said, “Doctor, my wife’s foot is hurting us!”

In regards to the Temple Service there seems to be an emphasis on halves:
·         Each Jew was obligated to contribute a half-shekel in order to take a consensus of the nation[1].
·         The special meal-offering was brought, “half it in the morning and half in the afternoon.[2]
·         The dimensions of the Holy Ark that rested in the Holy of Holies were, “two and a half cubits its length; a cubit and a half its width; and a cubit and a half its height… a cover of pure gold, two and a half cubits its length; and a cubit and a half its width…[3]”   
What is the significance of ‘halves’ in regards to the Divine Service?

At the conclusion of parshas Mishpatim, the Torah records the events that occurred at the time of the giving of the Torah at Sinai[4]:
“Moshe came and told the people all the words of G-d and all the ordinances, and the entire people responded with one voice and they said, ‘All the words that G-d has spoken, we will do… He sent the youths of the Children of Israel and they brought up elevation-offerings, and they slaughtered bulls… Moshe took half the blood and placed it in basins, and half the blood he threw on the altar. He took the Book of the Covenant and read it win earshot of the people, and they said, ‘”Everything that G-d has spoken we will do and we will hear (na’aseh v’nishma)’.”
What changed in the nation’s response that, at first, they responded that they would do everything G-d commanded, whereas after Moshe divided the blood they responded with the legendary words, ‘We will do and we will hear’?
The Be’er Moshe explains that G-d created the world based on a system of ‘provider-recipient’. No one is self-sufficient, and we all need each other in different ways.[5] Everything in the world is nourished and sustained based on this system.
The verse in Bereishis states[6]: “Male and female He created them.” The male represents the provider of the raw materials, while the female represents accepting those materials and nurturing them, bringing them to their full potential. Only together do they compose the complete entity that G-d intended, “He created them male and female. He blessed them and called their name – Adam on the day they were created.[7]” The first man and woman, as a synergistic union, were called ‘Adam’, and represented composite perfection. In that sense, the primordial couple is the prototype for all future unions.
The gemara states that a cow wishes to express its milk to its calf even more than the calf wishes to nurse from its mother. This is true in regards to all such relationships. The ‘provider’ requires and benefits from the ‘receiver’ even more than the receiver requires the provider. The giver-provider connection is inextricable and both draw strength and inspiration from their respective roles. The receiver is granted new materials or knowledge that he requires, and the provider is granted a sense of innate purpose and satisfaction through giving and helping another.
If we desire that G-d shower us with blessing and goodness, we have to initiate that process by assisting others.  
In this sense, every individual must view himself as a half. The novelty is that not only should the receiver see himself as deficient without his provider, but the provider himself must view himself as deficient without the receiver. It is this repeated cycle that unites us and creates a sense of closeness and bonding.

The Mishkan was a perennial microcosmic representation of the Revelation of Sinai[8]. At Sinai, the nation achieved an uncanny level of complete unification, which was a prerequisite for their receiving the Torah. In order to remind them of the need to always feel that sense of fraternity there were many halves in the measurements of the Mishkan. Those halves served as a reminder that no one is complete when he stands alone.
When Moshe divided the blood, he was symbolizing this idea. The two halves of the blood together represented completion. The nation’s declaration “we will do” represents this world, the world of action and physical accomplishment. The declaration “we will hear” on the other hand, represents the higher realm, the world of intellect and wisdom in which the voice of reason, based on the Word and Will of G-d, dominate.
Originally the nation pledged to do all the mitzvos by fulfilling everything demanded of them. After all, the Torah was being given to a physical world of action. But when Moshe divided the blood before them, it symbolized that there is a need for another component in their acceptance – a level of depth and understanding. It isn’t enough to act in isolation, or even to perform actions with others. There is a need for understanding and connection – not only physically, but moreover on a spiritual level. Thus, the next time they added that they would do and they would hear.

This idea is applicable to many facets of life. But it is perhaps no more true than in marriage – the ultimate union[9].
Megillas Esther relates that when Queen Esther risked her life and approached King Achashveirosh unlawfully, it was a moment of incredible peril. Essentially, the future of the entire Klal Yisroel was in limbo. “When the King noticed Queen Esther standing in the court, she won his favor. The King extended to Esther the gold scepter that was in his hand, and Esther approached and touched the tip of his scepter.[10]
The words “in his hand” seem to be extraneous. Where else would the scepter be?
Rabbi Shimshon of Antropoli zt’l explained that a scepter has two parts. The top of the scepter represents the authority and august majesty of the king, and therefore always remains in the hand of the king. The bottom of the scepter was used as the extension of the king’s hand, to symbolize whether the king was pleased with the person’s presence or not.
When Achashveirosh saw Esther standing before him, he was so taken by her charisma, sincerity, and persona that he did something unthinkable. He turned the scepter around so that the top portion which always remained in his hand was facing Esther, as if to say that she was worthy of all his power and prestige. In her extreme humility and wisdom Esther walked up to the king and touched the bottom of the scepter (which was now facing him), symbolizing that she deferred to his authority and majesty.
This exchange between Esther and Achashveirosh represents an ideal marriage. A husband must be ready to forgo his honor to his wife, while she defers it back to him, both with unyielding love and admiration for the other.
The Sages explain that every time the word “hamelech (the king)” appears in the megillah it is an allusion to G-d, the King of Kings. The King represents G-d while the Queen represents us who receive G-d’s blessing and goodness.
Rabbi Hirsch explains that when Moshe divided the blood and placed half on the altar and half in the basin, he was symbolizing that there is a deep relationship between us and G-d, as it were. “The one half of the blood had already been thrown on the Altar and now Moshe threw the other half towards the nation. This would express the idea, that every drop of blood, every ounce of our forces, that we give up to carry out G-d’s Will on earth, is given back to us in full measure that we give it to G-d. We receive it back from G-d, and we only really have true possession of ourselves if we offer ourselves to G-d.”

A few years ago, I read about a new custom that has gained a following in the distorted world of extreme feministic Judaism. They decided that the noise of groggers being spun at the mention of the name of Haman was obnoxious and disturbing (basically it’s too ‘manly’). Therefore, they created flags that have a depiction of Esther on one side and Vashti on the other side[11], and little bells on the bottom. Whenever the names of Vashti or Esther are read, they wave the flags gently.
Such distortion of holy customs emanates from a lack of understanding and appreciation for the Torah’s viewpoint of the woman’s role. In a marriage built on love and trust, such feelings do not arise because the husband ‘turns the scepter’ towards his wife, while she directs it back to him. It is only when a marriage is not built on mutual respect and love, that feelings of inferiority and inadequacy arise.

Kav Hayashar quotes the Zohar which relates the following: “Rabbi Chiya and Rabbi Abba were guests in someone’s home one evening. At midnight, they arose to study Torah. The daughter of their host got up and lit a torch so that they could study Torah. When Rabbi Abba saw her actions he began and he said: (The verse in Mishley (6:23) states -) “For a mitzvah is a candle and Torah is light.” The woman is commanded to light the Shabbos candles, and not the man. The reason is the woman corresponds to the Divine Presence. “Torah is light”, meaning, the Torah that her husband studies, for a man is commanded about the study of Torah. That gives tremendous light like the mitzvah of Shabbos candles. What emerges is that both of them create the light of Torah and Shabbos.”
In a proper home the spiritual light is created by the joint efforts of both the husband and wife.  

Parshas Shekalim always marks the imminent commencement of the month of Adar[12]. The gemara[13] states, “When Adar arrives we increase joy.” There is much discussion about exactly what this means and how one increases joy. But one thing is for certain: Whenever we are able to help another person in any way it fills us with an indescribable feeling of contentment and joy.
The reading of the Shekalim reminds us that we all need each other, not only on a physical level, but also (and perhaps even more so) on a spiritual/psychological level. It is our ability to feel worthy and needed that gives us a sense of purpose and mission[14].
When we appreciate each other, we realize why, as a nation, we are united. The joy that emanates from that awareness is why we were able to reaccept the Torah on Purim and why the joy of Purim is unparalleled.

“Moshe took half the blood”
“When Adar arrives, we increase joy”

Rabbi Dani Staum, LMSW
Rabbi, Kehillat New Hempstead
Rebbe/Guidance Counselor – ASHAR
Principal – Ohr Naftoli- New Windsor

[1] This is discussed in the special reading for Parshas Shekalim. Shemos 30: 11-16
[2] Vayikra 6:12; This meal offering was offered by every Kohen once in his lifetime , the first time he performed the Temple Service. In addition, the Kohen Gadol brought this offering every day.
[3] Shemos 25:10-22
[4] Shemos 24:1-11; There is a dispute among the commentaries exactly when this account transpired. According to Rashi it occurred prior to the giving of the Torah. Ramban, Ibn Ezra, and Rashbam however opine that it occurred after the giving of the Torah.
[5] This is all the more true in regards to our relation with G-d as we are completely reliant on His beneficence.
[6] Bereishis 1:27
[7] Bereishis 5:2
[8] See Ramban (Parshas Terumah)
[9] I heard the following thought from Rabbi Avrohom Chaim Feuer shlita, Kehillas Bais Avrohom (Monsey NY), Shabbos parshas Mishpatim/Shekalim 5762, in honor of the occasion of my afruf.
[10] Esther 5:2
[11] They have decided that Vashti is an underrated heroine because she refused her husband’s demand that she appear in public completely immodestly. Apparently, in their ineptitude, they neglect the fact that the gemara says that she was an incredibly wicked and immoral woman, and that she had every intention to adhere to his request, until she developed some grotesque physical blemishes.
[12] Parshas Shekalim is read the Shabbos prior to Rosh Chodesh Adar
[13] Ta’anis 29a
[14] When elderly or disabled people feel that they can no longer be of benefit to others and are merely a burden, it can be overwhelmingly disheartening for them. When such a person asks to help, perhaps our best response should not be “it’s okay” because we don’t want to burden them. By allowing them to help out we may just be giving them a spark of life. 

Thursday, February 16, 2017



Phillip is getting older and his health is deteriorating rapidly. He moved out to California to enjoy the comfortable climate as his strength continues to ebb away. When he feels his end is nearing he calls his best friend in New York.
Irving” he begins.
“Yeah, what’s doing Phil?”
“I need you to come out to California. I don’t have much time left and I have something I must confess before I go.”
So Irving gets on the next flight out and rushes to his friend’s bedside.
“Phillip, I’m here what is it that you needed to tell me?”
“Irv, I just have to admit it to someone, and you’re my best friend. I gotta tell you I converted.”
“You converted? Phil, what are you talking? You’re becoming delirious.”
“Phil, I know what I’m saying. I converted.”
“I can’t believe it Phillip. Here your whole life you lived as a good Jew. And now in you’re last weeks of your life you convert?”
“Well Irv, I made a calculation like this. You know that there are so few Jews in the world and so many gentiles. If someone has to die, better one of them should die than one of us.”

The most seminal event that ever occurred, which vindicated all of creation, and gave the world purpose and destiny, was the giving of the Torah to Klal Yisroel on Sinai. Far beyond a mere constitution stating judicial law by which to abide, the Torah is the book of life, the key to a meaningful existence and to of all the happenings in the universe.
Rabbi Samson Rafael Hirsch notes[1] that, unlike all other constitutions which are composed by mortals as the code of law for their newfound societies, the Torah transcends man. He explains that because all other religions and laws emanate from contemporary humanity, they evolved into whatever man’s conception was of G-d at the time of the religion’s formation. Just like art, drama, culture, morals, and manners differ based on culture and time-period so do all other religions.
“But the Jewish ‘religion’ and the Jewish law did not emanate from the contemporary convictions of human beings, they do not contain the convictions of any certain people at any certain time of what G-d is and what G-dly and human matters are. They are given by G-d and contain that which according to the Will of G-d, should be man’s convictions in all ages regarding G-d and G-dly matters, and above all, of men, and human matters.”
Rabbi Hirsch continues that the Jewish people are by nature the most obdurate and skeptical of nations. The fact that they were willing to accept the Torah unequivocally is proof that the Torah did not emanate from the people but was given to the people.
This is also why the Torah had to be given in the wilderness, on a heretofore unknown mountain called Sinai. Moreover virtually no one, no person or animal, was allowed to be standing on Sinai when the Torah was given. The day before it possessed no sanctity, and the day after the revelation it again returned to its mundane status. But while the Torah was given no human life was to be in proximity of the mountain, to impress upon them that the Torah is of superhuman origin, and embraces all of human life.       

Rabbi Jonathon Sacks[2] explains that what was transacted at Sinai was not a contract but a covenant. He explains, “In a contract, two or more individuals each pursuing their own interest, come together to make an exchange for mutual benefit. So, there are commercial contracts that create the market, and there is the social contract that creates the state. A covenant is something different, more like a marriage than a deal. In a covenant, two or more individuals, each respecting the dignity and integrity of the other, come together in a bond of love and trust, to share their interests, sometimes their lives, by pledging their faithfulness to one another, to do together what neither can achieve alone.
“A contract is a transaction. A covenant is a relationship. A contract is about interests. A covenant is about identity. It is about two or more ‘I’s coming together to form a ‘We’. A contract can be terminated with mutual consent when it is no longer in the interests of the parties to continue. A covenant binds the parties even in – especially in – difficult times. This is because a covenant is not about interests but about loyalty, fidelity, holding together when everything else is driving you apart. That is why contracts benefit, but covenants transform.”
When the Torah was given, it created an eternal covenant between G-d and Klal Yisroel, as it were. “And now, if you will hearken well to Me and you will preserve My covenant, you will be a treasure to Me from all the other nations, for all the earth is Mine.[3]” It is also very significant to note the geographical setting of the giving of the Torah. The covenant was made in the desert. The Israelites were no longer a band of escaped slaves; now they were transformed into an eidah, a civil people, with a destiny and a mission. This transpired despite the fact that they did not yet have a home. At that point in time they were a nomadic nation without a land. Never otherwise in history did a polity create a constitution before it had a home. But in regards to the Torah, the laws precede – and in a sense supersede – the land.
 In the time of the prophet Shmuel, over four hundred and fifty years after the Torah was given at Sinai, Klal Yisroel became a kingdom, ruled by a dynasty of monarchs. But until then they were a nation. A kingdom is about rulers, government, and the distribution of power. But being a nation is chiefly focused on accepting and fulfilling commandments, morality, and sharing responsibility. Before we became a kingdom we had to become a nation.

Shortly after the Jews’ triumphant and miraculous ascension from the Sea of Reeds, the nation arrived in Marah where they found no water. “He cried out to G-d and G-d showed a tree to him; he threw it in the water and the water became sweet. There He established for the nation a decree and an ordinance, and there He tested it.[4]
Ramban explains[5] that the nation was now commencing a long trek through the desert that would last decades. Moshe was now instructing them about the realities of life in the wilderness that they would now encounter. They would have to learn to tolerate some level of hunger and thirst, and to pray to G-d for their needs. “He established a decree” refers to Moshe informing them of the realities of their situation. “An ordinance” refers to the protocol the nation would have to follow, “namely that each person love his fellowman, and conduct himself in accord with the counsel of elders, and that they act modestly in their tents with regard to the women and children, and that they should act peacefully towards those who might come to the camp to sell them something, and admonitions of restrained behavior that they should not be like the camps of marauders, who shamelessly commit all sorts of abominations…”
The test at that time was to see if the burgeoning nation could indeed commit to such a noble lifestyle, despite the fact that they were living a nomadic and tentative lifestyle. They had to prove their worthiness in this regard before they could be deemed worthy of receiving the Torah. In this sense they had to prove that they could uphold the covenant before they would commit to it.
To be a Jew is to be part of a regal nation who lives for a higher purpose. He is part of a binding covenant, a covenant that demands his unyielding allegiance and commitment.

“You will be a treasure to Me from all the other nations”
“He established for the nation a decree and an ordinance”

Rabbi Dani Staum, LMSW
Rabbi, Kehillat New Hempstead
Rebbe/Guidance Counselor – ASHAR
Principal – Ohr Naftoli- New Windsor

[1] 19:11
[2] Chief Rabbi of Great Britain, Future Tense
[3] 19:5
[4] 15:25
[5] Ramban actually offers three explanations. This is the third. 

Thursday, February 9, 2017



The world’s greatest superpower lay in ruins. The elite country of Egypt was ravaged and devastated. Even more pronounced was the decimation of Egyptian pride. The infallible became vulnerable; the unconquerable was vanquished. 
Still the redemption was not complete. The burgeoning nation of Klal Yisroel proudly marched out of Egypt unhindered by their former captors into the vast and desolate desert. It didn’t take long before the stubborn Egyptians led by Pharaoh himself took up the final pursuit, cornering the hapless nation at the banks of the raging sea.
In one of the greatest candid displays of Divine Might this world has ever witnessed the sea split. But the sea bed isn’t flat and the terrain beneath the surface is treacherous, deep, and vast. Not only did the sea split but it leveled evenly so that the Jews hardly had to descend at all. The entire nation walked across the dry river bank of the sea as if it were a botanical garden, with beautiful sights and gifts along the way.
As soon as the Egyptians pursued, the waves crashed down upon them. At the same time, the smooth pathway gave way from underneath them and the ground boiled, scalding their chariots, and thrusting them into the bowels of the sea. Final retribution had been served and mighty Egypt was no longer.
In the vernacular of Chazal this epic event is referred to as “K’rias Yam Suf”. It is an event that is very much at the fore of our national consciousness and we refer to it constantly by that well-known title.
However, it is difficult to understand why that is the title of choice. No where in any of the twenty-four Sifrei Tanach (Holy Scriptures) do we ever find that terminology used. When the Torah speaks of the event it states, “Vayibuku hamayim – And the waters split.[2]” In our daily morning prayers we utilize this terminology too[3]. In Tehillim[4], King David wrote, “L’gozer Yam Suf ligzarim – To Him Who divided the Sea of Reeds into parts.” But the miracle is never referred to as a ‘k’riah’[5].
Why did ‘K’rias Yam Suf’, which literally means ‘the ripping of the sea’ become the de-facto title for that seminal event?

Rabbi Asher Weiss shlita relates the following story[6]:
A father was once sitting with his son on the night of the Seder discussing the fifty miracles that occurred during the splitting of the sea[7].
At one point the son asked his father, “Why are we so amazed by the splitting of the sea? Isn’t it obvious that the G-d Who created the world could split the sea?”
The father replied with a parable:
An expert sculpture once sculpted a horse that was so lifelike, no one could tell that it was not real. The sculptor erected his work where everyone could admire it. But, to his chagrin, no one even stopped to look at it. Days passed and the sculptor became increasingly dejected. Finally he stopped a passerby and asked him, “Why aren’t you interested in seeing this work of art?” The man shrugged, “I’ve seen many horses. What’s so good about that one?” The sculptor was confused, “But that is a sculpted horse.” The man stopped and stared at the horse for a few moments, “Why that’s incredible! Do you know why no one has stopped to marvel at it? Because you did such an impeccable job in creating it that people assume it’s real, so they don’t even bother to look at it.”
The sculptor began rebuking himself for creating such a perfect model. If only he wouldn’t have made it so perfect, at least people would realize his work. A wise friend heard of his situation and gave him an idea. “Cut your horse in half, and then place it outside. A horse that looks lifelike and is split in half is sure to attract everyone’s attention.”
The father explained to his son, “You see if we were all on a proper spiritual level we would be inspired by the very existence of the sea, and by the miracles of nature that are omnipresent every day of our lives. We would be awestruck by the augustness of a sunrise and sunset, and by the miracles of our daily bodily functioning. We would not require miracles or unusual events to make us recognize G-d’s Hand. But because we are so accustomed to the ‘hidden miracles’ within nature we are no longer inspired by them and we take them for granted. So G-d performs miracles – and we recount those miracles – to remind us that every aspect of our lives is a miracle.
When we recount the epic miracle of the splitting of the sea it reminds us that the very existence of the sea, and all of its underwater landscape, and the marine life contained in it, is all miraculous.
This is the meaning of the verse[8], “The earth will be filled with knowledge of G-d as water covering the seabed.” When the final redemption occurs, all will see G-d’s Hand clearly in every aspect of nature and world events. At that point we will no longer require the splitting of the sea to realize the wonders of the sea. We will be sufficiently inspired by the sea itself.

The truth is that in our daily lives we fail to appreciate the bounty of blessing we are granted. Very often it takes some sort of ‘K’rias Yam Suf’, i.e. some sort of ‘tearing’ us out of our ‘banal stupor’ to realize just how fortunate we are. Not every ‘K’rias Yam Suf’ in this sense is pleasant. Sometimes it takes illness before we appreciate our health, and the loss of someone/something before we appreciate just how much that person means to us.
We would be wise to appreciate our families, homes, community, being a Torah Jew, heat in our homes during a frigid evening, food to eat, friends, knowledge to understand, etc.
Perhaps when we refer to the event that occurred at the sea we title it – not based on the actual miracle that transpired – but more importantly by the inner transformation that occurred within our hearts and souls. As the prophet exhorts us, “Tear your hearts and not your clothes.”
At the sea, the nation witnessed an incredible revelation that eradicated the last vestiges of faithlessness left within them. “Israel saw the great Hand that G-d inflicted upon Egypt; and the people revered G-d, and they had faith in G-d and in Moshe, His servant.[9]” At that point their hearts were filled with utter and complete devotion and obedience to the Word of G-d. It was when they reached that level of inner connection that they arose and sang the Song of the Sea. It was a heartfelt song that emanated from heartfelt devotion.
Whenever we refer to that event we refer to that inner transformation, the ‘Tearing – of their hearts and souls – at the Sea of the Reeds’. That spiritual mental revolution is something we must connect with every day of our lives. It reminds us to never take life for granted. We must always see the Hand of G-d and never allow the triteness of life to obscure the vivacious beauty that the world exudes. 
On the words in Psalms, “The sea saw and fled”, the Medrash wonders, “What did the sea see that caused it to flee?” The Medrash answers, “It saw the coffin of Yosef.”
Yosef was able to maintain his feeling of connection with G-d even in the spiritual doldrums of Egypt. He was a living daily ‘splitting of the sea’, for he did not allow the banality of life to mask the Hand of G-d. Therefore, when the sea saw the remains of Yosef it followed the example he lived, and split.
    The holiday of Tu B’Shvat marks the beginning of the sap’s ascension through the tree in anticipation of the coming of spring. Spring may still be many weeks away but we begin to celebrate it now.
If we truly want to appreciate the beauty of spring, we have to ponder it now when the trees are still bare, and the buds have not even begun to sprout. After a snowfall, before pulling out a shovel one should take a moment to marvel at the breathtaking beauty of a world blanketed by snow and G-d’s preparation for the resurgence that is to come. Tu B’shvat is a day to ponder and appreciate the beauty of life and the world around us.
Part of the reason we recount the Song of the Sea each morning is to remind us to appreciate every aspect of life, not just when miracles occur[10]. Tu B’Shvat is inextricably bound to this same idea. The wonders that are contained in every fruit and the very process of its growth are miracles unto themselves.
The not-too-distant holiday of Purim and the month of Adar are celebrations of life. The preceding holiday of Tu B’shvat is the celebration of G-d’s World and our ability to enjoy its treasures.
“Filled with knowledge of G-d as water covering the seabed.”
Israel saw the great Hand and they had faith in G-d”

Rabbi Dani Staum, LMSW
Rabbi, Kehillat New Hempstead
Rebbe/Guidance Counselor – ASHAR
Principal – Ohr Naftoli- New Windsor

[1] Based on lecture delivered at KNH on Shabbos Kodesh Beshalach 5770
[2] 14:21
[3] In ‘Ezras’ just prior to Shemone Esrei we state, “V’Yam Suf bakata”
[4] 136:13
[5] The word K’riah means to tear. If, G-d forbid, one is in mourning for one of his seven closest relative he must perform ‘k’riah’, i.e. tear his clothes not on the seam.
Note: Although I propose a possible explanation, it is more of a homiletical approach. From a grammatical perspective it is a very potent question which begs explanation.
[6] Introduction of Minchas Asher on Maseches Pesachim
[7] See Me’am Loez
[8] Yeshaya 11:9
[9] 14:31
[10] As the Ramban explains at the end of parshas Bo, “From the open miracles one can recognize the hidden (daily) miracles.”

Thursday, February 2, 2017



Rabbi Binyomin Rabinowitz[1] related the following story about his father, Rabbi Yisroel Rabinowitz zt’l[2]:
“During his adolescence, my father learned in the Lomza yeshiva in northeastern Poland. When the Germans began bombing in 1939, the air-raid sirens immediately began blaring, and everyone in the town would immediately escape into the shelters[3]. The shelters were located in the middle of the street. Everyone would climb down a ladder into the shelter and tensely wait for the bombing to cease.
“During one such raid my father was with a large group of people in the shelter, where a baby kept crying. The relentless wailing intensified the already tense feeling in the shelter, but the baby could not be soothed. After some time my father approached the man holding the baby and asked him what was bothering the baby. The father replied that the baby was thirsty and they had no water to give him. My father turned around and started heading for the ladder leading to the street. The father called after him, “Where are you going? If anything, I should be the one going to risk my life for my son.” My father replied, “You have a family. If anything happens to you, you will leave behind a widow and orphans. But I am just a bochur. My parents are far away. If anything happens to me no one will have to cry for me.” 
“With that my father climbed out of the shelter and began hastily running towards the nearest building. As he did so he noticed a German plane flying frightfully low, as it neared him it let loose a barrage of bombs. One of those bombs fell directly into the shelter he had just departed from, instantly killing everyone inside.”

The time of the redemption had finally arrived. Just as G-d had promised, the night before Pharaoh had aimlessly circulated the streets of Goshen in desperation to locate Moshe, whereupon he begged Moshe to leave the country immediately. The Egyptian pride had been shattered and the former captors hurried the Jews to leave their land.
The Torah then relates: “The Children of Israel carried out the word of Moshe; they requested from the Egyptians silver vessels, gold vessels, and garments. G-d gave the people favor in the eyes of the Egyptians and they granted their request; and they emptied Egypt.[4]
Rashi notes that they carried out Moshe’s earlier instruction which was to adhere to G-d’s command[5], “Please speak in the ears of the people: Let each man request of his friend and each woman from her friend silver vessels and gold vessels.”
Truthfully, the verse seems to be redundant. If in fact the Torah already recorded that the Jews solicited the gold, silver, and clothing of the Egyptians, why does the Torah repeat it again just prior to their hastened departure?
The Vilna Gaon explains that Rashi was bothered by the lexicon of the earlier verse, “Please speak in the ears of the people: Let each man request of his friend and each woman from her friend”. How can the Egyptians be referred to as friends after all of the tormenting and oppression they had subjected the Jews to[6]? Furthermore, why did G-d need to initiate this instruction by asking the Jews to ‘Please’ do it? Wouldn’t they be more than happy to demand of the Egyptians a small portion of compensation? 
The Gaon answers that in order for the Jews to be granted their request that the Egyptians hand over to them all of their valuables and wealth carte blanche at the time of the redemption, they had to merit it. First, they had to demonstrate selflessness and love to each other. That was G-d’s original request that he “please” speak to the people and request that they borrow and share with their own friends – their fellow Jews, and demonstrate fraternity and devotion. Because they did so, at the time of the redemption they were indeed able to ask the Egyptains for their wealth. This is the deeper meaning of the latter verse, “The Children of Israel carried out the word of Moshe” i.e. which was to create a spirit of kindness and devotion, and therefore, “They requested from the Egyptians… G-d gave the people favor in the eyes of the Egyptians and they granted their request.”

A well-known businessman once arranged to have a private audience with the Chasam Sofer. “Rebbe,” he began, “I’m sure you are aware that I am known to be a very wealthy person. But recently business has been difficult and I have lost all of my wealth. Please give me a blessing that my fortune should turn around and I should regain my wealth.” The Chasam Sofer answered, “You have an impoverished brother. Help him and your money will return.” The merchant replied, “Rebbe, as soon as I regain my wealth I will help him generously.”
The Chasam Sofer shook his head, “At the beginning of parshas Va’era when G-d informed Moshe that the commencement of the miraculous redemption was imminent, G-d declared[7], “And also I have heard the groans of the Children of Israel whom Egypt enslaves.” What did G-d mean “And also I have heard”, as if someone else heard first?
“The answer is that when the enslavement became unbearable and there was almost no hope for the Jews, they began to help each other. Despite the severity of their oppression when one Jew cried out another came to his aid despite utter exhaustion. When that occurred G-d declared, “Just as they have heard each other’s cries, And also I have heard their cries. It was their selflessness that granted them the merit to redemption.
The Chasam Sofer concluded, “I didn’t mean that you should only help him when you are again financially comfortable. You need a merit right now. Help him despite your difficult situation and that will give you the blessing to regain your wealth.”

Tanna D’vei Eliyahu[8] writes: “When the Children of Israel were in Egypt, they gathered together and sat together, and the all formulated one group, and they made a covenant together that they would perform kind deeds with each other, and they would preserve in the hearts the covenant of Avrohom, Yitzchok, and Yaakov, and to serve their Father in Heaven alone…”
The Chofetz Chaim explains that when the Jews saw that their situation was virtually hopeless from a natural perspective, they decided to make this covenant together. They knew that if they performed acts of kindness with each other G-d would perform kindness with them.
This idea is expressed clearly in the Yerushalmi[9]: “The Holy One, blessed is He, said to Israel, “My son, if you see that the merits of the patriarchs and the merits of the matriarchs have been depleted, go and cling to kindness…”  
The Chofetz Chaim explains that this is the meaning of the words that Klal Yisroel recited in their magnificent Song at the Sea[10], “With Your kindness You guided this people that You redeemed.” It was in the merit of the kindness they performed with each other that G-d redeemed them out of kindness.
This is also the meaning behind the beautiful words of the prophet[11]: “So says G-d, ‘I recalled for you the kindness of your youth, the love of your nuptials, your following me into the desert, into an unsown land.” It was our kindness that served as the catalyst for G-d’s kindness.

The prophet states: “Behold, I will redeem you – the end as the beginning.” The miracles that we will yet witness with the advent of Moshiach and the process of redemption will in many ways parallel the redemption from Egypt.
At times, we may wonder if we possess sufficient merits to be worthy of the ultimate redemption. But there is one area in which Klal Yisroel still excels and is unquestionably worthy, i.e. in our kindness and helping each other. One need look no further than at the classified section in the back of one of the major Torah-Jewry newspapers on any given week where there is an entire section dedicated to announcing different gemachs (free-loans). There are gemachs for cribs, tables, equipment, tools, and clothing.
If one G-d forbid needs to be in the hospital there is a Bikur Cholim room set up for any Jew, no matter what his level of religiosity is. The room is regularly re-stocked with free food, and reading material, and the room itself provides for a brief respite from the intensity of the hospital. When a woman in our community has a baby, there is an immediate mobilization to ensure that meals are provided for the family for some time. The same holds true in the face of a tragedy, G-d forbid.
What a nation! What a people! With all of our shortcomings and despite all of our internal and external challenges, the covenant that our forefathers made in Egypt lives on. We revel in it and it is one of our defining features, and ultimately, we will again merit redemption because of it. 

“And also I have heard”
“The end as the beginning”

Rabbi Dani Staum, LMSW
Rabbi, Kehillat New Hempstead
Rebbe/Guidance Counselor – ASHAR
Principal – Ohr Naftoli- New Windsor

[1] Rabbi Binyamin Rabinowitz is the founder of Yeshiva Bais Hachinuch. He related this story, as well as the following thought from the Chasam Sofer, at the bar mitzvah of Avrumy Lazarnik, Sunday, 26 Teves 5771.
[2] Rabbi Yisroel Rabinowitz was the Rabbi at Kehillas Ohel Moshe in the Bronx, and the author of two volumes of ‘Kol Bo’ on the Shulchan Aruch.
[3] The Germans bombarded Lomza mercilessly because it was the first major city near the East Prussian border.
[4] 12:35-36
[5] 11:2
[6] See Bava Kamma 37b where the gemara explains that when the Torah refers to ‘a friend’ it refers exclusively to a fellow Jew.
[7] 6:5
[8] Eliyahu Rabbah 23:9
[9] Sanhedrin chapter 11
[10] “Az Yashir” in parshas Beshalach
[11] Yirmiyah 2:2