Thursday, April 18, 2019



The second day of Pesach is the yahrtzeit, of an important individual who had an indelible impact upon the Jewish people, not just for his generation but for all time. It’s hard to imagine what the world and the Jewish people would look like without him. The yahrtzeit is that of Haman harasha who was hung on the gallows he had prepared for Mordechai on the second day of Pesach. The holiday of Purim which gives us so much chizuk was the unwitting result of his efforts. It’s ironic that the beginning of the salvation of the Purim story actually occurs on Pesach.
Many have the custom, especially in Chassidic courts, to sing Shoshanas Yaakov and to have a “seudas Esther Hamalka” on the second day of Pesach, to commemorate the miracle that occurred that day.
The second day of Pesach is immediately after we have completed the Seder (here in galus for the second time). Our sedorim are extremely precious and Hashem has tremendous nachas from our efforts.
There is a virtually unbroken chain of Sedorim going back thousands of years to the exodus itself in 2448. Families have been elevated by the same mitzvos and rituals we continue to perform today for centuries. However, it’s actually not an unbroken chain. In the year 3404 there was no Seder, no Jew ate matzah or marror, there was no sippur yetzias Mitzrayim, and there was no Haggadah. Instead the entire nation was in middle of a three day fast, in which they were davening and begging for their lives to be spared from the evil decree of Haman.
Why did they have to fast during the day of the Seder? Why couldn’t Mordechai and Esther have instructed the fasts to begin on Chol Hamoed? Wouldn’t the zechus of the Seder have helped them?
The Tiferes Shlomo of Radomsk explains that we cannot fathom the greatness of the Seder: "והנה בחג הפסח הקדוש הזה לא יאומן כי יסופר מקהלות רבבות הסודות והיחודים אשר נעשים בעולמות העליונים על ידי ישראל בסדר ליל שמורים ואכילת מצה ומרור וסיפור יציאת מצרים בהגדה בלילה זאת- Behold during this holy holiday of Pesach it is impossible to even relate a small amount of the esoteric and ethereal spiritual greatness that is produced in the upper worlds through the efforts of the Jewish people on the guarded night of the Seder, and by eating matzah and marror, and relating the story of the exodus in the Haggadah on this night.”
Mordechai and Esther understood that if they were to cancel the Seder that year, it would cause such heartache in heaven as it were, that it would “break the heart of Hashem”, if such a thing could be said. Fasting during the Seder was done purposely to bring about that arousal of compassion in shomayim:

"לכן אסתר הצדקת כאשר ידעה היא כי כל קיום העולמות תלוי רק בבני ישראל התחכמה בזה לעורר אהבת ה׳ יתברך על עמו לאמר כי בלעדם לא יתקיים העולם אם כן איך יאבדו חלילה – Therefore, the righteous Esther, knowing that the existence of the upper worlds is based on the B’nei Yisrael, was wise in doing this to awaken the love of G-d, may He be blessed, for His people, saying that without them the world cannot exist, so how can they be destroyed, heaven forfend.”
If one thinks about it however, there was a sippur that year. Although there was no sippur yetzias Mitzrayim, there was a very different type of sippur the following day. The Megillah relates ויספר המן לזרש אשתו ולכל אוהביו - Haman arrogantly related to his family about all his prestige and wealth.
We spend the entire Seder night speaking of nothing but the praises of Hashem and expressing our gratitude for all He did for us. וכל המרבה לספר הרי זה משובח. We sing dayenu and Hallel together with great emotion and love.
That year too, Haman fulfilled כל המרבה לספר but it was a self-centered hateful sippur, the polar opposite of what we accomplish on Seder night.[2]
In addition, the night when Klal Yisroel didn’t read from the Haggadah, Hashem arranged that there would indeed be a Haggadah - one that would be the key to the beginning of the salvation. וימצא כתוב אשר הגיד מרדכי על בגתנא ותרש.
The Gemara Megillah relates that on what would be the final day of his life, Haman entered the Bais Medrash to summon Mordechai to parade him through the streets of Shushan as he had been instructed by Achashveirosh.
When Mordechai saw Haman, he assumed Haman was coming to kill him. He told his students to flee, but they refused. Haman waited patiently until Mordechai completed his shiur and davening.[3]
When Mordechai finished, Haman asked him what he was learning. Mordechai explained that when the Bais Hamikdash stood, on that day[4] they would offer the Korbon Omer from barley. Haman replied “come, get up and don these royal robes, because your fistful of barley has outweighed the ten thousand silver talents I offered Achashveirosh to wipe you out.”
What a shiur Haman gave! What a novel idea!
What’s the connection between the Omer and the silver he offered Achashverosh?
The Chinuch explains that the Omer was brought from barley, which is animal food. On Shavuos, on the day of the conclusion of counting the Omer, the Shtei Halechem - two loaves of bread were offered in the Bais Hamikdash. Those loaves were made of wheat.
The goal of the counting of the Omer is to transform us from animalistic creatures who follow our base drives into mentchen - humans who have self-control and self-discipline.
When Haman heard that Mordechai was still learning about that concept, despite the fact that he and his entire people were about to be destroyed, he realized that the Jewish people were indestructible. He thought he could set a price for them, but he now saw that they were priceless. Their quest for greatness could never be squelched and such a people are eternal.[5]
The whole essence of Haman as descendant of Amalek is the force of randomness - There is no G-d, everything is coincidence, luck, and chance. את כל אשר קרהו - just like pasuk says about his ancestor Amalek - אשר קרך בדרך - it’s all happenstance.
The holiday of overcoming Haman is called Purim - lots. Haman used lots which are the epitome of luck and chance.
Haman is destroyed on the day of “Seder”. We call the night “Seder” to remind ourselves that everything that happened at that time including all the miracles and the exodus, as well as the events of our daily lives, are all based on a precise dictated Seder - the order that Hashem has set.
The randomness of Haman and the lottery of Amalek, is overcome on the morning after Seder - the precision of the divine.
שבכל דור ודור עומדים עלינו לכלותינו... והקב״ה מצילנו מידם” – For in every generation they stood against us to destroy us… And G-d saves us from their hand.”
Haman, Pharaoh, Lavan - and continuing to our contemporary enemies - Iran, ISIS, Hezbollah, and Hamas.
The sippur is not a story of the past, but a story of contemporary protection from Hashem in every generation, until we will finally celebrate the ultimate redemption when all our enemies will be destroyed forever.

“For in every generation…
           And G-d saves us from their hand”

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

[1] Derasha given in Kehillat New Hempstead, 2 Pesach 5778
[2] My parents used to have napkins that said “don’t talk about yourself; we’ll do that after you leave!” It’s too bad Haman didn’t have those napkins...
[3] It’s an unbelievable story. The archenemy himself stands respectfully waiting, and then asks about his shiur...
[4] 16 Nissan, second day of Pesach
[5] Such an attitude has been repeated many times during our history. During the Holocaust, knowing that they were about to be arrested by the gestapo, Rav Elchanan Wasserman and Rav Avrohom Grozdenski continued giving shiurim in the Kovno Ghetto, even as they heard gunfire outside. They continued literally until they were led out to their deaths. Haman recognized at that moment that the fistful of barley which symbolized their quest for growth couldn’t be extinguished.

Thursday, April 11, 2019



Jean Francois Gravelot, better known as “Blondin”, is considered the greatest tightrope walker of all time. On June 30, 1859, he became the first person to successfully walk across the Niagara Gorge. During that summer, Blondin completed eight more crossings.
The following year, on September 15, 1860, he again precariously inched his way across the swirling, violent waters roaring below, traveling from America to Canada.
As Blondin stepped off the rope, the crowd erupted with cheers and shouts. As it subsided, Blondin called out to the crowd:
“Do you believe I can cross back over the falls again?” 
The crowd yelled back enthusiastically, “Yes! Yes, you can! We believe.
“Do you believe I could cross back over carrying a man on my back?”
“Do you think I can do it backwards?”
“Yes! Yes, we believe!”
Blondin asked, “So who will volunteer to go on my back while I do it?”
Dead silence.
Blondin pointed to an onlooker nearby, “Will you?”
The onlooker shook his head adamantly – “Not me”.
“Will you?” He asked, pointing to another admirer.
“Umm, No!”
“Is there anyone who will trust me?”
Blondin turned to his manager, Harry Colcord. “Harry, do you believe I can carry you across?” he asked.
“Yes, Charles, I believe you can,” Harry replied.
“Then will you trust me to climb onto my back?” Charles asked.
Harry replied, “I will.”
Harry Colcord stepped onto the platform with Blondin and climbed onto his back.
“Sit still and don’t move,” Blondin said, “I got you and I won’t let you fall.”
Blondin, balancing pole in hand and manager on his back, crossed the Falls.
The crowd really did believe that Blondin could cross Niagara carrying a man. But for someone to go on his back, belief was no longer sufficient. For someone to put their life in Blondin’s hands it required trust.
That’s the difference between emunah (faith) and bitachon (trust).
While emunah is intellectual belief, bitachon is acting upon one’s emunah. Bitachon is the confidence one has even in the most challenging situations, that he is in the security of G-d’s Hands.

“The Kohain shall take from the blood of the guilt-offering, and the Kohain shall place it on the middle part of the right ear… on the thumb of his right hand and on the big toe of his right foot.”[2]
Oznayim LaTorah notes that the only other time blood of a korbon was placed on one’s ear, thumb, and big toe, was just before the consecration of the Mishkan, when all of the Kohanim underwent such a process[3]. What is the connection between the healing metzora and the consecration of the Kohanim?
At the time of the initiation of the Mishkan, the Kohanim were being elevated to their elite status of priesthood, wherein they would perform the avodah in the Mishkan. Similarly, the healing Metzora, who until this point had to remain outside the camp, was now preparing to return to the camp. The placing of the blood in that manner symbolizes an imminent elevation of status.
However, whereas the Kohanim during the melu’im only had the blood of the korbon smeared on them, the metzora had both the blood of his korbon as well as oil smeared on his ear, thumb, and big toe. Oznayim LaTorah explains that it is far easier for one who has already begun his trek along the journey of spiritual growth to reach greater heights, than it is for one who is only beginning his spiritual journey.
The Kohanim were already full-fledged Jews, and were now about to enjoy greater distinction and status. The healing Metzora however, was preparing to re-enter the camp after being shunned and isolated for an extended period. The task of reentering and starting anew presents a far greater challenge. Therefore, the metzora has an additional substance smeared upon him, to symbolize the extra effort his process entails.
Perhaps, we can add, that this is why the gemara[4] states that “in the place where a ba’al teshuva stands even the most perfectly righteous cannot stand.” A tzaddik is aware of his righteousness and spiritual achievements and is therefore constantly inspired to strive for even greater heights. The ba’al teshuva however, who feels isolated and rejected because of his own sins, must overcome much greater internal resistance to convince himself that Hashem is truly awaiting his return, and that he can indeed achieve complete repentance.

In Egypt, after nine plagues there was no doubt that the burgeoning Jewish nation believed in G-d. They had witnessed His strength and omnipotence in a most candid manner, and how He had effortlessly ravaged the greatest superpower of its time. But before they could merit the final plague and the actual exodus, they had to demonstrate bitachon. They had to place their complete trust in G-d by placing their lives on the line in order to adhere to G-d’s command. That process began on Shabbos Hagadol, their final Shabbos in Egypt.[5] It required incredible fortitude and faith to openly set aside a sheep, the god of Egypt, to be slaughtered four days later.
What’s more, before they were able to partake from the Korbon Pesach, every male had to have a b’ris milah (circumcision). During the exile, only the members of Shevet Levi had maintained the practice of circumcision. With the exception of the Levites, every male of the Jewish people circumcised himself just prior to the exodus. Aside from the fact that it’s a painful process, and the last thing one would logically do before emigrating with their families into the desert, there was great danger involved.
Years earlier, on the third day after the males of the city of Shechem underwent circumcision, Shimon and Levi killed out all the men, who were too weak to fight back.[6] In Egypt, the Egyptians were already seething with rage at the incredible affront of their former slaves to willfully sacrificing their god. Now that the Jews would be weakened and vulnerable, the Egyptians would have their chance to exact revenge and destroy the burgeoning nation. The fact that the Jews paid no heed to that danger and placed their full trust in G-d, showed that they were indeed worthy of redemption.
During the b’ris bain habesarim[7], G-d informed Avrohom “You should know that your progeny will be strangers in a land that is not theirs, and they will be enslaved and oppressed for four hundred years…. And afterwards they will go out ברכוש גדול with great wealth.”[8] Although Rashi notes that the great wealth refers to money, the Emes L’Ya’akov explains that the true ‘great wealth’ referred to their spiritual treasure, receiving the Torah. At the time of the exodus however, the nation was too spiritually callow to appreciate the true wealth that awaited them, so G-d gave them monetary wealth to pacify them, so they wouldn’t be upset that the prophecy had not been fulfilled.
The nation was leaving Egypt to receive the ultimate rechush gadol which awaited them. What merit did they have to receive it? The merit of complete trust in G-d, which began to be displayed the Shabbos prior to the exodus, when they proudly walked through the streets with the sheep they would offer to G-d. Perhaps that is part of the reason why we refer to the Shabbos prior to Pesach as Shabbas Hagadol, for it was that day that began the process that enabled them to attain the rechush gadol that awaited them. 

The exodus was not merely a physical redemption, but more significantly a spiritual renaissance.
On the night before the exodus, the nation also had to smear blood. It wasn’t the same process as that of the metzora, but they had to take the blood of their Korbon Pesach, the symbol of their complete sacrifice and faith in G-d, and smear it upon their doorposts. That smearing of blood too was a symbol of transformation and elevation.
The haftorah recited on Shabbas Hagadol comprises the final chapter of sefer Malachi[9]. As Malachi is the final prophet to have prophesized, these are the final words of prophecy conveyed by G-d through a prophet. Its message is obviously particularly poignant and meant to resonate with us until the era of Moshiach.
One of the most powerful verses is, “For I, Hashem, have not changed, and you, sons of Yaakov, have never been destroyed.” The prophet reassures us that He will never change, all future religions, and their billions of adherents, notwithstanding. The greatest miracle of all is the fulfillment of the latter half of the verse that we have never been, and never will be destroyed. In our time we know how incredible and unlikely the veracity of those words are.
The prophet continues that in times when faith is challenged, “Then, those who fear G-d will speak to each other.” Even during times when it is not in vogue to believe and it seems that those who maintain their faith are doing so in vain, “G-d pays attention and hears it. Their words are recorded in a ledger kept before Him, for those who fear Him and think about His Name.”
Malachi’s final advice contains the secret of our eternity: “Remember the Torah of Moshe My servant which I commanded him at Har Chorev (Sinai) for all Yisrael.” The prophet then concludes by informing us that the great day will come when the prophet Eliyahu will inform us of the imminent redemption. At that time the hearts of fathers will be reunited with their children and the hearts of children with their fathers.
We believe that that great and awesome day is not too far off. Just as our forefathers needed to demonstrate their complete allegiance and unyielding faith to merit it, so do we need to reawaken our faith and strive to reach the lofty level of complete trust. That is the blessing of the holiday of Pesach and the spiritual injection it infuses within us.  

 “And afterwards they will go out with great wealth”
“For I have not changed, and you have never been destroyed.”

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

[1] The following is based on the lecture I delivered at Kehillat New Hempstead, Parshas Metzora/Hagadol 5776
[2] Vayikra 14:14
[3] During the seven days of melu’im (the last seven days of Adar when Moshe performed the avodah and acted as the Kohain Gado, prior to the official inauguration of the Mishkan on the first of Nissan
[4] Berachos 34a
[5] The Tur at the beginning of his discussion of the laws of Pesach (Siman 430) records, “The Shabbos before Pesach is known as “Shabbos HaGadol-the Great Shabbos”. The reason for the unique title of this Shabbos is because of the great miracle that transpired during this Shabbos. In Egypt, on the tenth of Nissan, just prior to the exodus, G-d commanded the Jews to choose and set aside the lamb they would offer as their paschal Sacrifice. If the actual exodus transpired on the fifteenth of Nissan which was a Thursday, then the tenth of Nissan occurred on Shabbos. Every family gathered their own lamb and tied it to their bed posts. When the Egyptians saw what the Jews were doing, they demanded an explanation. The Jews explained that G-d had commanded them to set aside a lamb to be offered as a sacrifice to Him. When the Egyptians heard that the Jews were going to offer their god as a sacrifice (the lamb was the god of Egypt) they became incensed, yet their teeth were blunted, and they were powerless to say or do anything to impede the sacrifices from being offered. In commemoration of that great miracle the Shabbos became known as ‘Shabbos HaGadol-the Great Shabbos’.”
[6] See Bereishis 34
[7] “Treaty between the pieces”
[8] Bereishis 15:13-14; these pesukim ae read in the Haggadah in the paragraph beginning “Baruch shomer havtachaso”
[9] The last of the Trei Asar

Thursday, April 4, 2019



TED Talk delivered by Mark Bezos[2]:
“I’m a volunteer firefighter in Scarsdale NY. In Scarsdale, the professional firefighters are always on duty, and they are the first responders. After they are already on their way to the fire, the volunteers are called as well. Because we are supplementing a highly skilled career staff, we have to get to the fire scene pretty early to get in on any action.
“I remember my first call well. At around 3 am my charger went off. At first I didn’t know what it was, and I was running around my room searching for the source of the noise, until my wife told me it was a call about a fire.
“I quickly ran out to my car and sped off. It was terrible weather that night; rain was coming down horizontally, and visibility was terrible. I arrived at the scene, put on the gear, as flames were shooting up from the home. The homeowner was standing next to the Fire Chief, in her pajamas, barefoot in the rain watching her house burn. She was very excited, screaming that her dog was still in the house.
“So, I rushed up to the captain to receive my orders. But there was another volunteer who had arrived moments before me. The captain asked him to go inside and get the homeowners dog.
“You do a lot of training to become a volunteer, and you have visions of having the opportunity to go into a fire and save someone from a burning building. Then you come back home, and your children look at you like you’re ten feet taller, and bullet proof.
“But that’s not what happened.
“I must admit that at that moment I was very jealous. The volunteer before me, some lawyer or money manager would, for the rest of his life, get to tell people that he went into a burning building to save a living creature, just because he beat me by five seconds. 
“Then the captain waved me over, and said, "Bezos, I need you to go into the house. I need you to go upstairs, past the fire, and I need you to get this woman a pair of shoes." 
“It was not exactly what I was hoping for, but off I went -- up the stairs, down the hall, past the 'real' firefighters, who were pretty much done putting out the fire at this point, into the master bedroom to get a pair of shoes.
“I brought the shoes out and handed them to the homeowner and remarked, "You might be more comfortable if you put these on.” She didn’t even acknowledge them, still very excited about her dog, who was now being carried out of the house by the volunteer who beat me by a few seconds.
“Then I headed home, feeling like I went from hero to zero.
“But then a few weeks later, the fire department received a letter from the woman whose house was on fire. In it she effusively thanked everyone for all they had done for her, in saving her house, property, and dog. Then she noted, that someone had even gone into the building to get her a pair of shoes, which touched her greatly.
“In both my vocation at an anti-poverty group, and as a volunteer firefighter, I am witness to acts of generosity and kindness on a monumental scale. But I'm also witness to acts of grace and courage on an individual basis. I learned that they all matter.
“My message to people who either have achieved, or are on their way to achieving, remarkable levels of success, is to offer this reminder: don't wait! 
“Don't wait until you make your first million to make a difference in somebody's life. If you have something to give, give it now. Serve food at a soup kitchen. Clean up a neighborhood park. Be a mentor.
“Not every day is going to offer us a chance to save somebody's life, but every day offers us an opportunity to affect one. 
So, get in the game. Save the shoes.”

The mishna[3] notes that Rosh Chodesh Nissan is one of the four “Roshei HaShanah – New Years” during the year. Nissan is the first of the months, and on Rosh Chodesh Nissan the cycle of months begins anew.
What is the nature of this “Rosh Hashanah” and how does it contrast with the holiday we refer to as Rosh Hashanah at the beginning of the month of Tishrei?
The New Year of Tishrei is the day when every individual’s actions are analyzed and scrutinized by G-d, and the of every being on the following year is determined. Therefore, we engage in a process of introspection and repentance prior and following that great Day of Judgement, in the hope that we will emerge meritoriously from the painstaking judgement. Once we have analyzed our personal actions and our behaviors during the previous year, we seek to broaden our perspective and determine if we have properly cared for our brethren and whether we are sufficiently unified with others. This is symbolized by the fact that when we recite viduy (confession) it is in the public tense (e.g. “we have been guilty, we have betrayed, etc.), and the Four Species taken on Succos symbolize four categories of Jews. We hold them together to symbolize national unity.
During the days of Nissan, we employ the opposite focus. While on Tishrei our focus is from inside outward, during the days of Nissan our focus is from the outside inward.
The pasuk says, “Or has any god ever miraculously come to take for himself a nation from amidst another nation, with challenges, with signs, and with wonders, and with war, and with a strong hand, and with an outstretched arm, and with greatly awesome deeds, such as everything that Hashem, your G-d, did for you in Egypt, before your eyes?”[4] The Jews’ state in Egypt was analogous to a fetus within its mother’s womb, which lacks any external identifiable features and is completely reliant on its mother for sustenance and life.[5] The exodus was the national birth and genesis of the Jewish people. That was the moment when we became a people, whose destiny would shape and drive that of all of humankind.
Therefore, the month of Nissan warrants a focus on our national vitality, and how each individual is associating himself and contributing to public needs and growth.
All of the laws of Korbon Pesach contain this focus. The lamb/goat used for the Korbon Pesach was brought by families and neighbors. They had to pre-register and it had to be eaten together in jovial celebration.
The laws of the Korbon Pesach were instructed to Moshe on Rosh Chodesh Nissan 2448, just two weeks prior to the exodus. G-d prefaced the instruction about the Korbon Pesach by stating: “This month shall be for you, the first of the months.”[6] It was to be a new beginning and the nation needed to be aware of the incredible transformation that was about to take place. The preparation entailed unifying in defiantly offering the god of their former captors and assertively serving G-d with joy.
The Rosh Hashanah of Nissan is a time for us to contemplate whether we have been faithful members of our people, and whether we have sufficiently invested enough in the spiritual, physical, emotional and psychological welfare of our brethren. Do we think about others and seek to improve their lives, and are not only focused on our own personal growth and religious commitments? The main focus is on our national identity and whether we as individuals are doing our part in that regard.

Parshas Tazria contains the laws of tzara’as which afflicted a person primarily for violating the sin of loshon hora.
The poignant underlying message to be gleaned from the Torah’s warnings about tzara’as is that what we say matters! If a vagabond mulling in the dirt says something against the king, no one pays him any attention. However, if a high-ranking minister maligns the king that will have far more severe consequences, because what he says carries far more weight. The very fact that any individual would be afflicted with tzara’as even for a comment said in private, demonstrates that the words I utter matter, which of course means that I matter.
Rabbi Dovid Orlofsky muses that during the 1950s and 1960s hardly any student was ever expelled from yeshiva. If a student threw a brick through a window, or shot a spit ball at a teacher, he might have been severely reprimanded, but he wouldn’t be kicked out. At that time the feeling was that we needed every student to rebuild the world destroyed by the Nazis. So many Jews had been murdered, and so many more were assimilating. No student was dispensable, even if he was challenging, and required extra effort and attention.
Today however, the attitude has changed. G-d has blessed us with miraculous resilience and our yeshivos are bursting and can’t extend quickly enough to keep up with the demand. There is an unverbalized message that difficult student’s sense – “we don’t need you! We can easily feel your spot with a more conscientious student who won’t make trouble!” 
Girls applying for seminaries often have their self-esteem destroyed, because they know that there are eight other applicants vying for their spot. The girl may be intelligent and have wonderful middos, but she doesn’t get in to the school of her choice because there were other girls who were ‘better’ than she was.
This is a very serious challenge that we must contend with. It is our responsibility to ensure that every child - and adult - recognizes his value, and that no Jew is replaceable or dispensable. The Torah relates that our inestimable value is not in our numbers, but in our intrinsic greatness. “It is not because you are the most numerous from the nations that G-d desires in you and has chosen you, for you are the smallest of all the nations”[7].
The renewal of Nissan is a stark reminder of the value and importance of every single Jew, on whatever level he or she is on. If a toxic and damaging word of loshon hora which we utter is so damaging, how much greater is the value of every word of Torah, prayer, and encouragement that we share.
The recognition of how special we are is an importance preface to redemption. It helps us to recognize that G-d loves and values us, and that was why He chose to save us from bondage, and raised us to become His eternal, chosen people.
In addition, the Torah refers to matzah as ‘lechem oni’[8]. The gemara[9] offers two explanations of what that means. The first is that oni is similar to the word ani (poor), in the sense that matzah is ‘poor man’s bread’. We fulfill this explanation at the Seder during yachatz, when we break the middle matzah, symbolizing the fact that the poor consume scraps and broken pieces of bread, not complete loaves.
The second explanation is “lechem sheonin alav devorim harbei – bread upon which many words have been spoken”. We fulfill this explanation by having the matzah uncovered on the Seder table while the haggadah is recited. We subsequently eat the matzah over which the haggadah had been recited.
Parshas Tazria and Metzora remind us of the value and potency of words. During a leap year[10] that lesson serves as a perfect introduction to Pesach, the holiday when we learned how to express ourselves [11], which was the key and foundation for freedom. The night of the Seder is a time when the more one tells over the more praiseworthy he is[12]; the power of words at their best! 

“This month shall be for you, the first of the months.”
“G-d desires in you and has chosen you”

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

[1] The following is the lecture I delivered at Kehillat New Hempstead, Parshas Tazria/Hachodesh 5776, in honor of the bar mitzvah of Tzvi Pesach Kohl
[2] March 2011
[3] Rosh Hashanana 1:1
[4] Devorim 4:34
[5] The gemara (Gittin 23b, Chullin 58a) rules that a fetus is considered part of its mother – "עובר ירך אמו"
[6] Shemos 12:2; these are the opening words of the special reading for Parshas Hachodesh
[7] Devorim 7:7
[8] Devorim 16:3 "...שבעת ימים תאכל עליו מצות לחם עני..."
[9] Pesachim 115b
[10] During regular years, Tazria and Metzora are read together the second Shabbos following Pesach
[11] As the Arizal famously noted that “Pesach” contains the words “Peh sach – a soft mouth”. A slave lacks freedom of expression and speech. In Egypt we didn’t even know how to properly pray. The Torah relates that we groaned and cried out to G-d. At the time of the exodus we sang shira, a symbol of our newfound expression and connection.
[12] Loose translation of the words recited in the haggadah "כל המרבה לספר הרי זה משובח"