Thursday, January 18, 2018



Rav Shabsi Yudelevitz zt”l, one of the great maggidim of Yerushalayim of the last generation, recounted an experience he had during one of his visits to America.
He was invited to speak at a bar mitzvah celebration of an American boy, whose family’s religious commitment was somewhat wanting. In his speech, Rav Shabsi noted that ultimately there are no secrets. He quoted the Gemara[2] which says that the walls of a person’s home testify about him on the Day of Judgment. The objects we own, the chairs we sit on, the walls of our homes, and even the food we eat, testify about our mitzva observance before the celestial courts.
Rav Shabsi continued that it’s vital for a Jewish male to put on tefillin every weekday of his life. He then lifted a golden ladle off the table in front of them, and announced to the bar mitzvah boy that if he wouldn’t put on tefillin, the ladle itself would testify against him! With that, in front of the entire assemblage, he placed the ladle in his pocket.
The next morning, Rav Shabsi helped the boy put on tefillin for the first time.
After davening, the boy’s father told Rav Shabsi that the ladle he had taken was not only very expensive, it was also a family heirloom, and was part of a set.
Rav Shabsi replied that he had no intention of keeping the ladle, and it would be returned imminently. He asked permission to hold onto it a bit longer. He explained that since he had announced to everyone that the ladle would testify about whether the boy put on tefillin or not, he wanted to wait until after shachris so he could ask the ladle if the boy put on his tefillin that morning.
The father thought the Rav was mocking him, but he didn’t say anything.
The next day, the father asked Rav Shabsi what the ladle said. Rav Shabsi replied that the ladle began crying that the first day after his bar mitzvah, the boy already neglected to don his tefillin. The father asked Rav Shabsi why he was falsely accusing his son. Rav Shabsi said he would ask the ladle again. He walked out of the shul, and came back a few moments later shaking his head. He insisted that the ladle was still crying that his son hadn’t put on tefillin.
At that point, the father became annoyed, and demanded that the ladle be returned. Rav Shabsi replied that he he wanted the boy to put on the tefillin in front of everyone, so they could see the ladle testify. They agreed that the next morning, the boy would put on tefillin before shachris at the bimah, in view of everyone.
The next morning the shul was packed. Everyone wanted to see how the ladle would testify. The bar mitzvah boy nervously began taking out his tefillin, as everyone tensely watched. Suddenly, there was a loud thud. Everyone looked down to find the ladle lying on the floor at the bar mitzvah boy’s feet.
People were stunned; the Rav had performed a miracle. The ladle had truly testified!
Before Rav Shabsi left, the Rabbi of the shul asked him what forces of kabbala he had employed to make the ladle appear. Rav Shabsi replied that the day before, when he had helped the boy put on tefillin, he had snuck the ladle into his tefillin bag before closing it.
When the father demanded that he return the ladle, it became clear that his son hadn’t put on tefillin, otherwise he would have discovered it in his bag. The following morning, when he began to don the tefillin, the ladle fell out!

During my youth, we had a book at home called “If a Siddur Could Talk”[3]. The book opened by asking the reader, “Of course a siddur can’t talk. But if it could… what do you think it would say?” The book then related the purported experiences of various children with davening, and what their siddurim mighty say about how they daven.
Its an intriguing concept, especially because the gemara[4] seems to say that the question isn’t merely what our siddur would say, but also what would our tefillin say, what would our action say, and what would our Shabbos table say.
The Mesillas Yesharim[5] writes that regarding self-improvement, there is a concept of יפשפש במעשיו and another concept of ימשמש במעשיו. יפשפש implies that one should search his actions, to discern whether they are positive or negative. One then must strive to increase his good deeds and decrease his negative behaviors. ימשמש literally means ‘to feel out’, or probe his actions. One should analyze his positive and laudable actions, so that he can improve them constantly, never settling for ‘good enough’, at the sacrifice of ‘even better’.
Any person who is serious about accomplishing greatness in whatever endeavor he wishes to achieve mastery, understands this concept. He must first recognize his deficiencies, so he can circumvent them and work on improving his performance despite them. However, he also realizes that his greatest achievements will come from building upon his successes, and striving to improve what he already excels at. 
At the Seder on Pesach night, we state “Blessed is the One who has guarded his promise to Yisroel, blessed is He.” Hashem did not merely fulfill His pledge to Avrohom Avinu that he would take his progeny out. He guarded that pledge, and anticipated the opportunity to redeem it. Then He did so, in a most magnanimous and loving manner.
When it became evident that the nation could not endure another 190 years of servitude and affliction, Hashem “calculated the end” and used a tactic of counting the promised four-hundred years from the time of the birth of Yitzchak[6]. When the physical exodus occurred, the nation left with tremendous wealth and a feeling of dignity and glory. They did not rush out like fugitives escaping in the night. Their former captors and persecutors waved them on meekly and reverently.
The Torah describes the fateful night of the exodus as “Leil Shimurim”. That terminology is mentioned twice in the same verse: “It was a night of שמרים for Hashem, to bring them out of Egypt; that same night is Hashem’s one of שמרים for all of the B’nei Yisroel for all generations.[7]
Rashi explains that the second time the word שמרים is used it refers to divine protection. The anniversary of the night of the exodus is a night of divine protection for Jews throughout the world. However, the first time the word שמרים is used it refers to anticipation and excitement. That night was a night of anticipation for Hashem, as it were, as He excitedly waited for the opportunity to redeem His nation.
One guards something he feels is precious and valuable, and wants to protect. In the Haggadah we bless Hashem who, not only fulfilled His promise, but guarded it with anticipatory love. 
When we recognize that Hashem loves us and treasures our every action, it becomes evident that we should seek to at least reciprocate, by trying to perform mitzvos and serve Hashem with that same feeling of love and yearning.
On Shabbos morning we sing about the one who is “השומר שבת הבן עם הבת”. We aren’t singing about one who merely fulfils the laws of Shabbos, but one who safeguards the Shabbos with excitement and love. It’s a feeling that he passionately shares with his children – his son and his daughter.
Part of what we remember when we recount the experience of the exodus, is how Hashem clearly acted out of love. He didn’t just fulfill His promise to ‘be done with it’. He demonstrated that there is a relationship and a partnership.
Our goal must be to serve Hashem with those same feelings.

“Blessed is the One who has guarded his promise“
“A night of anticipation for Hashem, to bring them out of Egypt”

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

[1] Based on the lecture given at Kehillat New Hempstead, Shabbos Kodesh parshas Bo 5772.
[2] Chagiga 16a
[3] Published in 1987 by Yocheved Yosef; the book was more recently reprinted in 2005
[4] ibid
[5] Chapter 3 (based on Gemara Eiruvin 13b)
[6] The promise was that “the descendants of Avrohom would be strangers in a land not theirs” for four hundred years. As soon as Yitzchak was born, and at that time Eretz Yisroel was not the property of Avrohom, the four hundred years could technically begin, even though that wasn’t the original interpretation of the decree.
[7] Shemos 12:42


Post a Comment