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


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