in the 1970s
Sermon: 20 May 1972 יום ב’ דשבועות תשל"ב
Sermon: 30 September 1972 שמיני עצרת תשל"ג
Sermon: 23 December 1972 שבת פ' ויחי תשל"ג
Sermon: 28 January 1978 שבת פ' יתרו תשל"ח
Sermon: 22 July 1978 שבת פ' בלק תשל"ח
Derashah: 10 April 1976 שבת הגדול תשל"ו
For nearly seven years during the 1970s, I was Director of Jewish Studies at the King David High School in Liverpool. During this period I was sometimes invited to give a sermon or a Shabbos Hagadol derashah at the Childwall Synagogue in Liverpool.
On reading over these sermons about 30 years later, I see that they are just as relevant today as they were when they were given. I have therefore decided to bring out this booklet with these sermons.
I have in my possession the text of these sermons etc. either in almost verbatim form or as very detailed notes. In the former case, I have reproduced them with just some stylistic changes and in the latter case, I have had to reconstruct the sentences.
The two main themes of these sermons is Jewish education and Eretz Israel. Since I left Liverpool, the size of the Jewish community of Liverpool had radically decreased. In order to prevent further decrease it is important to strengthen the Jewish education in the city. Should the numbers decrease even further, let it only be as a result of the members of the community coming on Aliyah to Eretz Israel.
Note: There is a universal problem of how to transliterate Hebrew words into English letters. This is further complicated by the fact that some words are conventionally transliterated in a particular way. For these reasons, I wish to point out that I have not followed a consistent pattern in this booklet.
ממחרת הפסח יצאו בני ישראל ביד רמה לעיני כל מצרים
On the morrow after the Pesach, the Children of Israel went out with a high hand in the eyes of all Egypt.
On the 15 Nissan we left Egypt. We went through the Sinai desert, arrived at Mount Sinai, made various preparations and 52 days after leaving Egypt we received the Torah.
Today, 7 Sivan - the 2nd day of Shavuos is 52 days after 15 Nissan and is therefore the anniversary of receiving the Torah.
On 10 Nissan, of the year of the Exodus from Egypt, we were commanded to take a lamb to offer up as a Passover sacrifice. Although this was the animal the Egyptians worshipped, they were powerless to stop us. This was therefore the beginning of the miracle and by tradition it was a Shabbos - Shabbos Hagadol. We thus left Egypt on a Thursday and by calculation we see that 52 days later, the day we received the Torah, was a Shabbos.
Therefore both in day and date, we today celebrate the anniversary of giving of the Torah - Shabbos 7 Sivan.
What a wonderful Shabbos it was. The Torah was given in 70 languages simultaneously. The blind saw, the deaf heard and everyone paid attention. However, the best achievement of the day was that every Jew in the world observed that Shabbos - an occurrence which has unfortunately never reoccurred.
The Gemara in Shabbos states that if every Jew observed two Sabbaths we would be redeemed. Therefore, just one more Shabbos like that at Mount Sinai and we will be redeemed!
When on this historic day we were asked whether we would accept the Torah we answered נעשה ונשמע “we will do and we will listen”. Note the order נעשה and only then נשמע. The normal thing is that when a person is asked if he will accept something, he says. “let me hear it first and then I will decide” - נשמע ונעשה.
Before giving the Torah to the Jewish people, G-d asked the nations of the world whether they would accept it. They asked what was written in it. When they heard that it contained such prohibitions such as killing or robbing, they answered that they were unable to accept it. However we answered כל אשר דבר ה’ נעשה “all that G-d has spoken we will do.”
We made an oath on Mount Sinai that we will always observe the Torah. If a Jew were to make an oath not to observe a certain commandment - such as not eating Matzah on Seder night, such an oath would not hold, because one cannot make an oath to counteract the oath we made at Sinai.
The reason for us making an oath at Sinai that we will always observe the Torah is obvious - תורת ה' תמימה “G-d’s Torah is perfect” - it needs no amendment.
The acceptance of the Torah advanced us from an era of lawlessness and idol worship to an era of civilisation. Nations who continued living without law and order disappeared since they had no system of civilisation to guide them on the correct path.
Having already seen how G-d’s law is eternal and that today is the anniversary of both day and date of this great day when we received the Torah, we should give serious consideration of how we can pass on the Torah to our children. The Torah uses the expression ושננתם לבנך when phrasing the important law of studying Torah. We can thus see that the answer is by education and example to our children.
In this complex of buildings in this area of Childwall, we are striving to do this. Let us look at what this complex contains. There is the Primary School, the High School, this Shul, Chedarim, and soon to be built, a Mikvah. This is an entire complex devoted to education and Torah observance. But wait a moment! - there is also a telephone exchange. What is a telephone exchange doing in this complex of buildings?
Everything in this world is arranged for a definite purpose. What does a telephone exchange signify? The answer is contact. For the school to contact the Shul, it must go through the telephone exchange. For the a Cheder to contact the school, it must go through the telephone exchange.
A telephone exchange signifies contact. From all this we learn an important lesson, There must be contact between the various units.
Even through statistics show that the percentage of Jewish pupils in Liverpool attending Jewish Schools is the largest in the country, we must not be complacent. The standard of learning and observance of Yiddishkeit has much room for improvement.
We must not be satisfied with pupils attending the King David Schools but not coming to Shul or vice versa. There is an excellent Youth Service for the boys to participate in - they must be encouraged to do so.
We also must not be satisfied with the Torah education received at the School alone - we must supplement it with Cheder or Talmud Torah or at a higher level with the Yeshivah. Once again we can see the contact signified by the telephone exchange.
In this context it is necessary to mention education for girls. Above the age of about 12, there is nothing outside the school. This is a serious problem to which the community must give thought.
Let us return to the telephone exchange. It also signifies contact between school, Cheder, Shul and the homes of the individual children.
An integral part of Jewish education is what the children receive at home, It is no good to see one thing at the school and another at home. This just causes conflicts in the minds of the children.
A lot of parents did not have the opportunity themselves to experience traditional Judaism in their houses, This was possibly due to the war, evacuation and a whole variety of causes and as a result, today they don’t observe the practices of Judaism.
I an sure that all parents want to do the best for their children. So I ask you to give your children the opportunity to experience traditional Judaism at home. Ensure that your home is Kosher, that Shabbos and Festivals are traditionally observed. At first it may be hard but as time progresses I assure you that it will become natural and hence easier.
Let us resolve on this anniversary of receiving the Torah that we will give our children a full Jewish education and hence we will pass on the eternal values of Judaism to our successive generations.
ובא לציון גואל במהרה בימינו אמן.
ושמחת בחגך אתה ובנך ובתך עבדך ואמתך והלוי והגר והיתום והאלמנה אשר בשעריך. שבעת ימים תחג לה' א-לקיך במקום אשר יבחר ה' כי יברכך ה' א-לקיך בכל תבואתך ובכל משלח ידיך והיית אך שמח.
And you shall rejoice in your feast, you, and your son, and your daughter and your man-servant and your maid servant and the Levite and the stranger and the fatherless and the widow that are within your gates. Seven days shall you keep a feast unto the L-rd your G-d in the place where the L-rd shall choose, because the L-rd your G-d shall bless you in all your increase and in all the work of your hands and you shall be altogether joyful.
From these verses the Rabbis learn that it is a positive commandment to rejoice on the Chagim - the Festivals.
In particular, the Festival of Sukkos was in Temple times a period for special rejoicing. From the verse in Isaiah ושאבתם מים בששון “and you shall draw water in joy,” our Sages deduced that the Water Drawing ceremony is accompanied by rejoicing. As we know, on Sukkos the world is judged for rain and the water libation ceremony formed an important part of the Temple service.
The Mishnah in Sukkah tells us that at the conclusion of the First Day of Sukkos (namely, the beginning of Chol Hamoed in Israel) they would put up a ladies’ gallery on the Temple Mount to prevent levity between the sexes during this rejoicing. Large candelabras with golden bowls at the top of each were placed on the Mount and these were filled with oil and lit by the young priests. The resulting light was so intense that every courtyard in Jerusalem was illuminated. Men of piety and good deeds would dance before them with lighted torches in their hands. The Gemara tells us that during this rejoicing, Rabbi Shimon ben Gamliel would take eight lighted torches and throw them into the air so that no torch touched another one during this juggling act.
Levites with their harps, lyres cymbals and trumpets were on the fifteen steps leading down from the court of the Israelites to the court of the women - the fifteen steps corresponding to the fifteen Shir Hama’alos - the Songs of Degrees.
Is it therefore any wonder that the Rabbis said that “He who has not seen the rejoicing at the place of the water drawing has never seen rejoicing in his life.”
To return to our verse והיית אך שמח “and you shall be altogether joyful” - what is the significance of the word אך which apparently appears superfluous? The Vilna Gaon gives the following explanation. On Sukkos we have a number of commandments - Sukkah, Arba’as Haminim - the willows, the water libation ceremony and rejoicing. When Shemini Atzeres arrives, all these commandments finish with the exception of rejoicing and we can then understand this part of the verse והיית אך שמח as “you shall have only rejoicing.”
On this second day of this Festival of Shemini Atzeres, namely, Simchas Torah, we have a further cause for rejoicing - we finish reading the Torah and in Jewish tradition, the completion of study of a particular work is a sign for a celebration.
Let us look at the last words in the Torah which we will read tomorrow. לעיני כל ישראל. We can translate the word כל as “all” or as “every” - that is to say “in the presence of all Israel” implying the Jewish people as a collective unit and “in the presence of every Israelite” implying each Jew is an individual.
We can learn an important lesson from this - that whereas every Jew is an individual, he is also a member of the congregation of Israel and shares in communal responsibility. This communal responsibility can be illustrated with reference to the Festivals which we have just celebrated.
On Rosh Hashanah we have the important Mitzvah of blowing the Shofar. There is a law in Shulchan Aruch that a person who has already fulfilled the Mitzvah of hearing the Shofar is still able to blow for somebody else, the reason being that Jews are responsible for one another and hence even though a person has already fulfilled a particular Mitzvah, he can act to enable a fellow Jew to fulfill it.
Coming to Yom Kippur, the integral part of repentance is the confession of sins. If we look through the vidui, what do we notice? We are guilt-laden. We have robbed. For the sin we have committed, etc. The confession of sins is in the plural. The reason for this was given by the Ari, who explained that all Israel is one body and every individual Jew is a member of that body and hence there is a mutual responsibility among all the members.
We can learn a similar lesson of mutual responsibility from the Mitzvah of Arba’as Haminim. The esrog has both taste and fragrance and represents the Jew who is both learned and has good deeds. The lulav bears tasty fruit (dates) but had no fragrance and represents the Jew who is learned but does not do good deeds. The hadas bears no fruit but has fragrance and represents the Jew who is not learned but does good deeds. Finally there is the arovo which bears no fruit and has no fragrance and is like a Jew who is neither learned nor does good deeds.
Now if even one of these species is missing, the remaining three species become worthless and one cannot perform this Mitzvah at all.
There was a case of a Shul which ordered beautiful Arba’as Haminim for its members and at the last moment discovered that the arovos were missing. Without these arovos, all these beautiful esrogim, the long lulavim and the leafy hadassim were quite useless and it was fortunate that they managed to obtain the arovos at the last moment.
What a wonderful lesson we can learn from this analogy - the Jew who is neither learned nor does good deeds is an integral part of the Jewish people and his brethren bear responsibility for him.
We will learn our final lesson on mutual responsibility from the Mitzvah of Sukkah. With regard to this Mitzvah, the Torah states כל אזרח בישראל ישבו בסכות which we can metaphorically understand that “every Jew shall dwell under one roof” - once again we have the concept of communal responsibility.
We have now seen a number of examples of communal responsibility existing between Jews and we must ask ourselves how can we use this important principle in our communal life in Liverpool. The answer is in Jewish Education and as we so sadly know, we have much room for improvement in this field in Liverpool.
A few weeks ago we had the privilege to have the Chief Rabbi in Liverpool. Amongst his many engagements was an educational conference in which the Chief Rabbi reiterated the view that we must consider the problem on a communal basis.
Let us not allow the excellent suggestions made by the Chief Rabbi to be filed away and forgotten but let us use our communal responsibility and consider the ways and means to implement these suggestions.
In a few minutes time, we will be saying prayers for rain. As we all know, without rain we cannot live. Similarly without Torah education we cannot live.
Let us therefore resolve that this year 5733 will mark a turning point in the Torah education of our Community.
ובא לציון גואל במהרה בימינו אמן.
This verse which forms part of today’s Sidrah, is the verse which we read after calling up the boys on Simchas Torah.
The reason for calling up the boys under Barmitzvah who stand under the Tallis and recite Birchas HaTorah together, is to train them in the performance of Mitzvos. This Shabbos, Parashas Vayechi which contains this posuk, is therefore a most appropriate day for the young men of Liverpool to conduct the service and laining in this Synagogue. For these boys it is not a once a year show put on to impress the town, but services are fully conducted by them throughout the year. Every Friday night and Shabbos morning, their services take place in a room in this building and on weekdays they take place in the Bes Hamedrash of the King David School. We must not be complacent about this, however. The young people who attend and conduct these services only represent a small percentage of our young people in Liverpool, although happily this percentage is slowly increasing.
We know that people tend to take a pride and care in things which are their own and perhaps if these young people would organise all their services in the framework of a constituted Minyan with its own name (for example “Zeirei Liverpool”), more young people would be attracted to come and participate.
When the boys are called up to the Torah on Simchas Torah, we hold a tallis over their heads, and we learn a lesson from this. On the four corners of this tallis are tzitzis. The numerical value of tzitzis is 600 and this together with the five knots and the eight threads on each of the tzitzis makes 613, corresponding to the Taryag Mitzvos which we are teaching these boys to observe. To observe these mitzvos one must “go and learn” and to do this we require a Torah education framework. The roof which this tallis makes over these boys’ heads is symbolic of this Torah education framework.
The establishment of places of Torah education is not a new idea. The Gemara in Megillah tells us that between the time that Jacob fled from his brother Esau and his arrival at the house of his uncle Laban, he spent 14 years studying at the Yeshivah of Ever. It is important to note that whereas Jacob was later punished for not being able to keep the commandment of Honour to Parents whilst he was staying at Laban’s house, he was not punished for not observing this commandment whilst he was studying at Yeshivah. This illustrates the importance of Torah learning.
We also learn from Rashi on last week’s Sidrah that Jacob arranged for the first Yeshivah in the Diaspora to be established in Goshen. From then on, throughout the generations, wherever we have resided, we established places of Torah study.
In this city of Liverpool we have a very good record for the establishment of Torah institutions. The Yeshivah which has an honoured history used to be one of the foremost Yeshivas in the country. In fact the Liverpool Yeshivah sent about a dozen of its students to start off the Yeshivah in Gateshead which, today, has become probably the best Yeshivah in Europe and we in Liverpool can take some of the credit for this. Although our Yeshivah has in the past had its ups and downs, we are very pleased to see that in the last few years the number of boys attending has sharply increased.
Another Jewish institution providing Torah education in Liverpool is the King David Schools, and, only a couple of weeks ago we commemorated the one hundred and thirty second anniversary of the setting up the original Jewish Day School in Liverpool and we must pay tribute to these men who in 1840 had the foresight to set up an institution which would provide a Torah education to the community at large.
The Gemara tells us that the sanctity of a Bes Hamedrash is greater than that of a Synagogue, since the former is a place which is specially set aside for the study of Torah, We have a principleמעלין בקודש ואין מורידין one goes up in holiness but does not go down, and we are thus able to elevate a Synagogue to a Bes Hamedrash. I am happy to say that this has now happened in the School’s Synagogue. Until recently it was just used as a place for davening and for the rest of the day, the sound of Torah was not heard between its walls. Today, however, it is transformed to a Bes Hamedrash and Gemara and Halachah Shiurim take place in it throughout the week.
What is perhaps most encouraging is that we have boys at the top of the school - boys who do not attend the Yeshivah and are fully occupied with their A-level studies, but who come along voluntarily to learn Gemara and one can see that they derive great simcha from their learning.
In the book of Bereshis, we on several occasions encounter conflicts between Jacob and Esau. The first conflict occurred even before they were born.
ויתרוצצו הבנים בקרבה “And the children struggled in her.” The Midrash explains this that whenever Rebekah passed by the doors of a Yeshivah, Jacob struggled to be born, and, whenever she passed by the gates of a pagan temple, Esau struggled to be born. Thus the struggle between Jacob and Esau personifies the struggle which occurs between Torah and anti-Torah forces.
The final struggle occurred when Jacob’s sons came to bury him in the Cave of Machpelah in Hebron. As we know this was the place where Abraham and Isaac and three of the Matriarchs had already been buried. Jacob had during his lifetime anticipated that Esau would try and be buried in this cave instead of him and so he had purchased all Esau’s possible rights to the Cave. A document to this effect had been written and sealed and deposited in safe keeping in Egypt.
Despite all this, however, when Jacob’s sons who had come up from Egypt to bury him, arrived in Hebron, Esau appeared at the entrance to the Cave and claimed that the one burial recess remaining in the Cave belonged to him.
Jacob’s sons reminded Esau that he had given up his rights to the Cave and the relevant documents were in Egypt. Esau then demanded that they produce this document and Naphtali who was a fast runner was dispatched post-haste to Egypt to bring it.
Meanwhile Hushim the son of Dan, who was deaf, and could not follow the proceedings saw that Esau was delaying the burial and so he chopped off Esau’s head which then rolled into the Cave.
This Midrash, in which we saw how the wicked Esau tried to obtain by force a burial place amongst the righteous Patriarchs and Matriarchs is an illustration of anti-Torah personalities trying to obtain a position in a Torah community.
We thus see that the struggles and fights between Jacob and Esau are not just fights between individuals but fights between Torah and anti-Torah forces. Sadly, these fights are not just limited to bygone days but occur today even more so.
We must therefore be on our constant guard and do all in our power to strengthen Torah in our Community. The conducting of the entire service by our young men is an important step in this direction, for the young men of today are our leaders of tomorrow.
Today we finished reading the book of Bereshis and, as is customary, when we finish a book we add the words חזק חזק ונתחזק “Be strong, be strong and let us strengthen one another”. Let us take away with us today this motto - we must all do our utmost to fight and strengthen Torah education in Liverpool and in this way we will strengthen one another. If we fight for Torah, we can be sure that G-d will help us and we will be victorious.
ובא לציון גואל במהרה בימינו, אמן.
A few weeks ago, we read about יציאת מצרים, the Exodus from Egypt. Following the Exodus, our ancestors went through the ֶSinai desert and in the third month arrived at Mount Sinai to receive the Torah
Tradition tells us that the Torah was given on a Shabbos. What a wonderful Shabbos it was when the Torah was given simultaneously in 70 languages. The blind saw, the deaf heard and everyone paid attention. But the best achievement of the day was that every Jew in the world observed that Shabbos - an occurrence ֶwhich has unfortunately never happened again.
When on this historic day, we were asked whether we would accept the Torah, we answered נעשה ונשמע - we will do and we will listen. Note the order - נעשה and then נשמע. This seems a strange order, since normally when a person is asked whether he will accept something he says, let me hear it first and then I will decide - נשמע ונעשה.
Before giving the Torah to the Jewish people, G-d asked the nations of the world whether they would accept it. They asked what it contained. When in answer, one of the nations was told "Thou shalt not kill", they replied that they were killers and could therefore not accept the Torah. When another was told "Thou shalt not steal", they replied that they were robbers.
The Jewish people, however answered, כל אשר דבר ה' נעשהall that G-d has spoken we will do.
The acceptance of the Torah advanced us from an era of lawlessness and idol-worship to an era of civilisation. Nations who continued living without law and order disappeared since they had no system of civilisation to guide them on the correct path.
The receiving of the Torah was not an isolated incident in our history, but part of a general pattern. The first part was the Exodus from Egypt - physical freedom. The second part was the Revelation - receiving of the Torah. The third part was the conquering and settling of the Promised Land - lead us up in joy into our land.
These three themes: freedom, receiving the Torah and joy, correspond with the three Foot Festivals - ,זמן חרותנו זמן מתן תורתנו and זמן שמחתנו.
This pattern did not just happen, but as we see from earlier verses in the Torah was predetermined.
G-d said to Avrom, "Your seed will be a stranger in a land that is not theirs and they shall serve them, and they shall afflict them four hundred years", and this is immediately followed by G-d's promise, "Unto your seed I have given this Land from the river of Egypt unto the great river, the river Euphrates."
Furthermore, at the beginning of the Book of שמות, G-d promises Moshe, "and I am come down to deliver them out of the land of the Egyptians and to bring them out of that land into a good and large land flowing with milk and honey", and a few verses later, "when you bring forth the people out of Egypt, you will serve G-d on this mountain" - which is Mount Sinai.
The Torah is not a story book - it is a book of law and as such should logically begin with שמות chapter 12. Why then the Book of בראשית and the first 11 chapters of שמות? This is answered by the first Rashi in the Torah which asks the very same question. The answer given is that if the Torah did not begin with בראשית, the nations of the world would say to the Jewish people, "You are robbers because you took by force the lands of the seven nations of Canaan." The Jewish people would then reply to them, "All the earth belongs to G-d. He created it and gave it to whom he pleased."
We therefore see that Eretz Israel is the land of the Jewish people, whose claim to sovereignty over all of it is clear and as ancient as G-d's decision to grant that sovereignty. Over the rest of the world the Jewish people have no claim. Conversely, no other people in the world can establish a claim to Eretz Israel.
Our rights were not conferred by the Balfour Declaration or the League of Nations Mandate - they only confirmed our Divine given title. As Ben-Gurion summed it up before the British Royal Commission in 1936, "The Bible is our Mandate."
Recently a pupil was giving me his ideas for a Jewish Studies programme. "Phase out Bible, phase out Mishnah, phase out Gemara. Instead, teach facts all about Modern Israel and all about people such as Moshe Dayan." My answer to him was that without our Torah, we would have no claims or rights whatsoever to Eretz Israel. Only by a study of these books can Israel become meaningful to a Jew.
Our borders are clearly defined in the Torah. If we question our rights to live in Yamit in Northern Sinai, we similarly question our rights to live in Tel-Aviv.
We often hear the criticism that our Rabbis are still living in the Middle Ages. Anyone reading contemporary responsa will see that this is not the case, and that they are abreast with all the developments in the world. In 1937, when the Peel Commission proposed the partition of Eretz Israel, the Moetzes Gedolei HaTorah - the Council of Sages - ruled that the "boundaries of the Holy Land have been established by the Creator and recorded in the Torah for all time to come. The Jewish people cannot possibly compromise these borders." Two years ago, a special Beis Din of 72 Rabbis unanimously gave an identical ruling.
Despite all the difficulties, persecutions, massacres and expulsions, Jews have maintained a continuous presence in Eretz Israel. Great works such as the Jerusalem Talmud, the Zohar, the Shulchan Aruch, Rabbi Bartinura's commentary on the Mishnah, were all written in our Land, whilst under foreign domination. The Kabbolas Shabbos service was compiled by the Kabbalists in Safed.
In every generation there was Aliyah to Israel encouraged by such great people as Yehudah Levi, the Vilna Gaon and the Baal Shem Tov.
Even those not fortunate enough to go on Aliyah, remembered Eretz Israel several times a day, every day of their life. An Amidah or Birchas Hamazon would not pass without a mention of Eretz Israel. In a few minutes time we will be saying ֶin Mussaf: שתעלנו בשמחה לארצנו ותטענו בגבולנו To lead us up in joy into our Land and to plant us within our borders.
Wherever in the world a Jew prayed, he would face Eretz Israel - whether it was in a Marrano Synagogue in Spain, in a bunker in the Warsaw Ghetto, behind an outhouse in Auschwitz, or in a salt mine in Siberia. Everywhere there was this great yearning to return to Eretz Israel.
Soon after the Six Day War, Jews started arriving in Israel from Russia. One of the first groups was met at Vienna by Rabbi Kirshblum of the Jewish Agency. The first thing that these Jews said to him was, "Don't give away the West Bank; it's for us to live in when we arrive." From this incident we can see that despite Soviet attempts over half a century, to eradicate all vestiges of Judaism, Russian Jews still had Eretz Israel in their hearts, and a deep concern that parts of it should not be given away to non-Jews.
The Exodus from Egypt, the Revelation at Sinai, and the settling of Eretz Israel, all have a special lesson for young people.
With regard to the Exodus from Egypt, when Moshe stood before Pharaoh to state his demands as to who will go out of Egypt, he began with בנערנו, our young ones. If our young ones remain enslaved, then the Jewish people have no future. Enslaved does not only mean actual slavery. Today, young people are enslaved to ideas completely alien to Torah, and we must do our best to ensure that they return to the ways of the Torah.
The Revelation at Sinai: The Midrash tells us that when G-d was about to reveal the Torah to the Jewish people, he asked for guarantors. The Jewish people offered Avrohom, Yitzchok and Yaacov, but they were told that they can be no security for later generations. They then offered their children and G-d accepted them as guarantors saying, "It is only through the young generation that the future of the Jewish people is assured.
Settling the Land of Israel: Here again our children must be in the forefront. Even if we cannot settle in Eretz Israel ourselves, we must ensure that our children settle there.
The miraculous events witnessed in the Six day War, liberated large areas of Eretz Israel and has given a great challenge to the Jewish people in settling our Holy Land. Your children will have a far greater spiritual satisfaction pioneering and living, during the first stages of settlement, in a one roomed house without modern amenities, in Shechem or Jericho, than by living in a 3 or 4 bedroomed house in Liverpool with all its mod. cons. and trappings.
Let us not pretend this is easy. There will be pressures by those who for their own selfish ends pretend to be our friends and offer us advice - that is advice to suit them and not us. But remember the Pirkei Ovos: "They appear as friends when it is to their own advantage, but they stand not by a man in his hour of need."
Our so-called friends are only concerned with their self-preservation. There is the story of the worm called Jimmy who used to live on peanuts and now survives by licking boots coated with oil.
To fortify us against any pressure, let us not forget that Eretz Israel belongs to us not by right of might but by might of right. Any attempt to knuckle under, would not only be a betrayal of the Torah, but also a betrayal of Jews who in the Warsaw ghetto, Auschwitz, and Siberia never forgot Eretz Israel. It would also be a betrayal of Russian Jews who are planning to settle on the West Bank when they are released from the prison called the Soviet Union.
The Gemara states, "If Israel merits the redemption by repentance and faith in HaShem, then He will hurry the redemption before its time. But even if Israel does not merit it, it will surely come in its appointed time."
Let us pray that we will merit the Moshiach to come speedily and bring all our people home to Eretz Israel and create a land that will be a light unto the nations.
ובא לציון גואל במהרה בימינו אמן.
ועתה לכה נא ארה לי את העם הזה כי עצום הוא ממני אולי אוכל נכה בו ואגרשנו מן הארץ כי ידעתי את אשר תברך מברך ואשר תאר יואר.
Come now therefore, I pray you, curse me this people, for they are ֶtoo mighty for me, perhaps I shall be able to bring it about that we deal him a blow and that I may drive them out of the land, for I know that he whom you blessest is blessed and he whom you cursest is cursed.
In this week's Sidrah, we find that Balak the king of Moab is persistently trying to persuade the heathen prophet Bilam to curse the Jewish people.
Instead of cursing them however, Bilam is swept away in admiration of the Israelite encampments that he proclaims: מה טבו אהליך יעקב משכנתיך ישראל How goodly are your tents O Jacob, your dwellings O Israel.
At this stage of history, the Jewish people were about to enter upon the last stage of their journey to the Promised Land. If we extract the narrative passages of the Torah, we find that it directed towards the goal of entering and conquering Eretz Israel.
Eretz Israel was not just an arbitrary piece of land on the face of the globe which happened to become the Jewish homeland. Right back to the creation of the world, it was imbued with a unique destiny. Consequently, our Rabbis were most concerned to use opportunities which superficially had nothing to do with Eretz Israel in order to bring out our link with the land.
Our Written Torah begins with a general statement: בראשית ברא אלקים את השמים ואת הארץ In the beginning G-d created the heaven and the earth
Our great commentator Rashi uses the opportunity to quote from the Midrash Tanchuma, to tell us that G-d as creator of the world is its owner and he assigned a portion to be known as Eretz Israel to the Jewish people.
The Oral Torah begins with the question. "When do we read the Shema in the evening?" We would normally expect the answer to be, "when the stars come out." But we don't find this. Instead we find the answer, "At the time when the Kohanim go out to eat their Terumah." The Shema is a law which applies to Jews all over the world. Terumah, however is a law linked with the holy soil of Eretz Israel.
We can therefore see how the Rabbis have made a special point of identifying Eretz Israel with the beginnings of both the Written and Oral Torahs.
And this has gone on throughout every generation -ֶwhether in golden ages or in pogrom ages, Eretz Israel was always woven into the Jewish fabric. Even during the years of the holocaust the cry לשנה הבאה בירושלים "Next year in Jerusalem", was on Jewish lips.
This unparalleled holocaust was preceded by the decade of the 1930s, when the Nazis came to power in Germany and introduced their Nuremberg laws which were to severely restrict the rights of the non-Aryans, particularly the Jews.
The places where Jews could live were severely ֶcurtailed. Judenrein, the Nazi term for an area cleansed from Jews, were created. The cat-call "Juden raus" became the expression of the day.
Today we see a concerted attempt by the National Front to reenact Germany's Nazi Nuremberg laws. To combat this, the Board of Deputies Defense Committee is taking special action. Millions of leaflets are being printed and Synagogue levies are being increased to meet the expense, in order to be prepared for any eventuality that may arise from the National Front gaining popular support.
However, at the same time as precautionary measures are being taken against a possible resurgence of the National Front in this country, the nations of the world are trying to dictate to Israel not to make settlements in parts of Eretz Israel, our eternal homeland. This amounts to nothing less than the application of the Nuremberg laws of the Nazis to the Jews in Israel. They are saying, "You can only settle on the West Bank if you are not Jewish." They want to make Judea and Samaria, a Judenrein, an area cleansed of Jews. Any Jews already living there should dismantle their settlements and get out. We have the situation of "Juden raus" once again, but this time not in a foreign land, but in our own State.
In the U.S.A. in the state of Pennsylvania, there is a place called Bethlehem; in the state of Nebraska, a place called Hebron; and in the state of Tennessee, a place called Shiloh. Could you imagine the outcry if Jews were barred from living in any of these places? There would follow speeches in the Congress, cases in the Supreme Court, invocations of the Constitution, and charges of discrimination. Yet the very same people who would make all this fuss against discrimination against Jews in the United States, quite happily condemn Jewish settlement in the original Bethlehem, Hebron and Shiloh in our Holy Land.
Suppose a new suburb were to be built in Liverpool and it was to be decided that Jews would not be allowed to live there. The Rep. Council would go into continuous session, the Board of Deputies would be alerted, M.P.s would be lobbied, Chanukah candles would be lit outside Lewis's, the Shofer would be blown outside the Town Hall, Sifrei Torah would be paraded through St. John's Market - in fact all steps would be taken to nullify such a decision.
But what happens when the nations of the world try to dictate to Israel that Jews be barred from parts of Eretz Israel, when they try to reactivate the Nazi Nuremberg Laws, when they want to set up a Judenrein in our own country, when they scream out the Nazi cry "Juden raus" to Jews who have already made their homes in Eretz Israel. There is almost a total silence from world Jewry.
How can we explain this difference in reaction. When there is just a chance of a National Front emergence in the Diaspora, massive preparations are made, yet when nations want to apply Nazi ideas to Jewish settlement in Israel, there is no action.
At a Jewish function we sing: עוד לא אבדה תקותנו, התקוה שנות אלפים Our hopes and dreams for two thousand years of resettling Eretz Israel is now possible. Why are we then silent when the nations of the world try to thwart it?
My friends, the answer is simple. Our trust and confidence is in the wrong place. This can be summed up by an incident which happened a few months ago, after the U.S.A. decided to sell fighter planes to the Arabs. A member of the community came to me and said, "Israel's existence depends on America. ""No," I replied, "it depends on the Almighty." הנה לא ינום ולא יישן שומר ישראל Behold, he who guardeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep.
We only have to look at miracles during the last 30ֶyears to realise that they cannot be explained in military terms. On its birthday in 1948, Israel almost unequipped, was attacked simultaneously by seven Arab nations, yet she defeated them all. A parallel to the Six Day War would be the Allies going from Dunkirk to Berlin in six days - it in fact took them five years! On Yom Kippur 1973, the Arabs made a surprise attack with a task force equal to that of N.A.T.O., yet within weeks, Israel defeated them. Even Israelis calling themselves "non-believers" acknowledged the miracles they witnessed during these wars.
We must always remember that the nations of the world think of their own self-interest. נראים כאוהבים בשעת הנאתם, ואין עומדים לו לאדם בשעת דחקו They appear as friends when it is to their own advantage, they stand not by a man in his hour of need.
When Jimmy Carter was a Sunday school teacher he surely taught the verse from Koheles: טוב שם משמן טוב A good name is better than precious oil. He now seems to have inverted it to read that "Precious oil is better than a good name."
If the State of Israel were to decide to give all their land, including Tel-Aviv, to the Arabs to form a Palestinian Arab State and the Jews would move into the sea, would the world praise them for such a decision? Nothing of the sort - they would be condemned for wanting to cause ocean pollution!
On the other hand, however absurd a proposal Sadat would put forward, it would earn him world praise for his initiative. The latest example is Sadat's latest proposal that Jewish settlements on the West Bank, including Jerusalem, need only be removed after five years. He is very kindly giving us five years grace before establishing a Nazi Judenrein in Eretz Israel. In mitigation for Sadat, we must remember that he was a Nazi agent during World War II, and even in the 1950s when the Nazi atrocities were well known, Sadat publicly praised Adolf Hitler.
After the destruction of the second Temple, when the situation was very bleak for the Jewish people, Rabbi Akiva took great comfort and inspired hope from the words of the Prophets. The Gemara at the end of מכות relates how Rabbi Akiva was walking up to Jerusalem with some other Rabbis when they saw a fox emerging from the Holy of Holies. The Rabbis starting weeping, but ֶRabbi Akiva began to laugh. Seeing that his comrades were perplexed by his behaviour, Rabbi Akiva then explained why he laughed. Prophecies are given on both the ploughing up of Jerusalem and also on its rebuilding. "So long as the prophecies concerning Jerusalem's ploughing up had not been fulfilled," explained Rabbi Akiva, "I had misgivings that the prophecies about its rebuilding would not be fulfilled. Now that I can see that the prophecies concerning the destruction of Jerusalem have been fulfilled, I am certain that the prophecies concerning its rebuilding will also be fulfilled." The Rabbis thereupon replied, "Akiva, you have comforted us! Akiva, you have comforted us!"
Surely we can apply the same lesson to today's situation. We find promises of peace in the land, given by the Torah and the Prophets, but we must earn them:
אם בחקתי תלכו ואת מצותי תשמרו ועשיתם אותם If you walk in my ways and keep my commandments and do them... and then the Torah continues ונתתי שלום בארץ and I will give peace in the land.
The road to peace in Israel is not to rely on the nations of the world but to observe the Mitzvos of the Torah. To keep Shabbos, to observe Kashrus and family purity, to lay Tephillin every weekday morning, to keep the Mitzvos towards one's fellow man.
If we all do this, we can be sure that instead of the nations of the world cursing Israel, they will find themselves emulating Bilam, who came to curse Israel, but found himself praising them.
Let us pray for a speedy fulfillment of the words of the Prophet Zechariah, צום הרביעי, the fast of Tammuz which we commemorate tomorrow, together with the fast of Av, the fast of Gedaliah and the fast of Teves יהיה לבית יהודה לששון ולשמחה will be to the house of Judah for joy and for gladness. Amen.
The Shulchan Aruch begins הלכות פסח by quoting from the Gemara in
פסחים ו'. שואלים בהלכות פסח קודם פסח שלושים יום. One asks on the laws of Pesach 30 days before Pesach.
There are a number of explanations of what this statement means. For example, the explanation of the Ran is that if two students ask their teacher a question, one on the subject currently being taught and the other on another subject, the teacher must first answer the question on the subject being taught. However, if during the 30 days before Pesach, one of them asks a question on the subject being taught and the other concerning Pesach, then the teacher must first answer the question on Pesach.
I don’t tell my pupils this explanation until just before Pesach, otherwise they could sabotage every lesson from Purim onwards by continually asking questions on Pesach!
From this statement of שואלים בהלכות פסח קודם פסח שלושים יום , the מגן אברהם explains that the Rabbi gives a Derashah on Shabbos Hagadol.
In a few days time, we shall be performing the Mitzvah of והגדת לבנך ביום ההוא, which is the Mitzvah of the Seder.
The purpose of the Seder is not to rush through it as quickly as possible until one reaches the meal - the meal is probably the least important part of the Seder. We can clearly gauge the purpose of the Seder by the wording used by the Torah for this Mitzvah - והגדת לבנך ביום ההוא - and you shall relate it to your son on that day. It is incumbent upon the father to explain and discuss with his children the Exodus from Egypt. As one goes through the מגיד part of the Seder, one should analyse and find deeper meanings and explanations of the contents of the Hagaddah. Every Seder should be unique.
Therefore, in preparation for your Sedarim, I shall go through portions of the Hagaddah and illustrate them with explanations. Needless to say, there are numerous commentaries on the Hagaddah in both Hebrew and English and the explanations I shall bring are far from being exhaustive.
This afternoon we began our reading of the Hagaddah with עבדים היינו לפרעה במצרים - we were slaves to Pharaoh in Egypt.
This paragraph ends with the words: וכל המרבה לספר ביציאת מצרים הרי זה משובח - the more a man tells of the coming forth from Egypt, the more he is to be praised.
The Gemara ברכות לג: relates of a Reader who said, “O G-d, the great, mighty, terrible, majestic, powerful, awful, strong, fearless, sure and honoured.” When he had finished, Rabbi Hanina said to him: “had Moshe not said the first three praises in the Torah and the אנשי כנסת הגדולה incorporated not them into the prayers, we should not be able to say even these. Since we cannot give G-d all his praises, it is an insult to give him a few. It is like a king who owns a million pieces of gold; if we praise him as possessing silver, it would be an insult.”
Furthermore, the Gemara in מגילה says that we must not dwell in excess on the praises of G-d. This is an example of familiarity breeding contempt.
From all this it is difficult to understand the line וכל המרבה לספר ביציאת מצרים הרי זה משובח, since by doing so, we are praising G-d in excess.
The Rashba in the name of Rabbi Hai Gaon explains that this only applies to prayer - otherwise it is permitted. In contrast, the Rambam in his מורה נבוכים - the Guide to the Perplexed - says it applies even outside prayer. However, the relating of the Exodus from Egypt is not in this category.
In addition, we can learn an important lesson from this. A person might think that he is clever enough not to have to discuss the Exodus from Egypt. Hence the paragraph states ואפילו כולנו חכמים, כולנו נבונים - and even if we are all wise, all men of understanding - and this is immediately followed by the story of the five great Sages of the age who studied the entire Seder night.
What a wonderful lesson to learn from this incident. Even the wisest man can learn. The Pirkei Avos says: איזהו חכם - הלומד מכל אדם.
מעשה ברבי אליעזר.... It happened that Rabbi Eliezer, Rabbi Yehoshua, Rabbi Elazar ben Azaryah, Rabbi Akiva and Rabbi Tarfon were reclining in Bnei Brak and discussing the Exodus from Egypt all that night.
A number of interesting problems arise from this incident. To understand them we must first look at the laws of reclining at the Seder.
Pesach is זמן חרותנו and we know from the מה נשתנה about reclining at the Seder. The source of this reclining is the Gemara in פסחים קח.. Even the poorest man must recline. However a pupil in his teacher’s presence does not recline since the fear of your teacher is as the fear of Heaven.
Rabbi Akiva was a pupil of Rabbi Eliezer and Rabbi Yehoshua. How then could he recline? The answer is that the Seder took place in Bnei Brak. Rabbi Akiva was the Rabbi of that city and was therefore permitted to recline in his own city.
A further problem is that Rabbi Eliezer and Rabbi Elazar ben Azaryah hold that the Paschal lamb sacrifice must be eaten before midnight. It follows that the Hagaddah must be finished by midnight. Why then did they discuss it throughout the entire night?
There are two aspects - one is discussing the Hagaddah and the other is the relating of wondrous things of G-d bringing us out of Egypt. The first only applies to midnight, the second always applies. Therefore, until midnight they discussed the Hagaddah and after midnight, they discussed the wondrous things of G-d bringing us out of Egypt.
If קריאת שמע were not a Mitzvah which had a fixed time, they would not even have stopped discussing the going out of Egypt when morning arrived!
אמר רבי אלעזר בן עזריה I am like seventy years of age - כבן and not בן - it does not say 70 years but like 70 years. We learn from the Gemara in ברכות that Rabban Gamliel was originally head of the Sanhedrin. However after he publicly insulted Rabbi Yehosua he was removed from this post. Rabbi Elazar ben Azaryah was appointed in his place but he was only 18 years old at the time. That night 18 rows of his hair became white and he thus looked like a 70 year old.
The Torah in addition to the Mitzvah והגדת לבנך ביום ההוא also has a Mitzvah למען תזכור את יום צאתך מארץ מצרים כל ימי חייך. We observe the latter every day when we read the third paragraph of the שמע.
It is interesting to note that the Rambam does not list the Mitzvah למען תזכור את יום ... in his enumeration of the 613 commandments. An explanation of this omission has been given by Rabbi Chaim Soloveitchik זצ"ל of Brisk. To understand his explanation , we must consider the dispute between Ben Zoma and the Rabbis.
The Rabbis understand the words ימי חייך to mean “in this world” and the words כל ימי חייך to mean “in the days of the משיח.” On the other hand, Ben Zoma understands the words ימי חייך to mean “the days” and the words כל ימי חייך to mean “the nights.” Thus according to Ben Zoma, in the days of the משיח, there will not be the Mitzvah to remember the going out of Egypt.
At the beginning of his ספר המצוות, the Rambam lists the principles for his identification of the 613 Mitzvos in the Torah. One of these principles is that the Mitzvah must always apply. (For example - laws concerning the collecting of the Manna are not listed by the Rambam amongst the 613 commandments.)
The Rambam holds the הלכה is like Ben Zoma. Hence this Mitzvah will only apply in the days prior to the coming of the משיח.
According to the Rabbis, what will be the position regarding the Exodus from Egypt in the days of the משיח? The answer is that the deliverance from other kingdoms will take first place - the deliverance from Egypt will only take second place.
This may be compared to the parable of a man who encounters a wolf but manages to escape. He will then relate of this escape. He then encounters a lion but escapes. From then on he will relate of his escape from the lion. He later encounters a snake but escapes. He then relates this incident, forgetting his previous escapes. So with Israel. The later troubles make them forget the earlier ones.
כנגד ארבעה בנים From the four sons of the Hagaddah, one can make an analogy of the four different types of people who come to live in a town.
חכם - the wise son: מה העדות והחוקים - what mean the testimonies and statutes? The wise son will ask where is the Bes Hamedrash, the House of Study - Torah is his first consideration.
רשע - the wicked son: מה העבודה - what is all this work? The wicked son will ask where can he do business - money is his first consideration.
תם - the simple son: בחוזק יד - with a strong hand “superman”. The simple son wants the cinema - entertainment is his first consideration.
ושאינו יודע לשאול - the son who does not know how to ask: This son does not know what to do when he arrives in a town.
If we carefully analyse the questions of the חכם and the רשע, we find something very interesting. Why is the רשע a רשע? Because he says לכם - you - he excludes himself. But the חכם also says אתכם - you?!
There are several answers to this problem:
(1) the חכם says ה' א-לקינו proving he has not excluded G-d.
(2) In the book of Joshua, the term אותכם is used, meaning אותי ואתכם - I and you.
(3) The ירושלמי and one version of the Rambam’s Hagaddah have אותנו instead of אתכם, thus disposing of this difficulty.
(4) The Torah is talking to the generation which went out of Egypt. Because of this, the חכם wishes to learn and be instructed and therefore says: “You father, heard the voice of G-d; teach me the testimonies, statutes and ordinances that I may learn to obey them.”
The answer we give the חכם seems strange: אין מפטירין אחר הפסח אפיקומן - we may not eat anything after the Pesach Afikomon. The following explanation can be given for this answer: In the Gemara פסחים קט.)) it states that we distribute nuts to the children so that they will notice a difference and ask about other things at the Seder table. Normally a child keeps nuts for after the meal. So that he should not do on that night, we tell him to eat them immediately because אין מפטירין אחר הפסח אפיקומן.
יכול מראש חודש - One might think that one should start to relate the going out from Egypt from Rosh Chodesh Nisan. Why should one think this and why from Rosh Chodesh Nisan? The previous month is Adar - Adar has a link with Nisan by virtue of גאולה - redemption. ( Adar - the גאולה from Haman, and Nisan - the גאולה from Egypt.)
The Talmud Yerushalmi at the beginning of מגילה states that one can already read the Megillah from the beginning of Adar and it learns this from the verse in the Megillah והחדש אשר נהפך להם מיגון לשמחה - the month which was turned for them from sorrow to rejoicing.
Similarly one might think that the verse שמור את חודש האביב ועשית פסח - Remember the month of Aviv and do the Paschal sacrifice - namely, one can observe Pesach from Rosh Chodesh. Hence the Torah says והגדת לבנך ביום ההוא and you shall tell your son on that day.
מתחלה עובדי עבודה זרה היו אבותינו In the beginning our fathers were worshippers of strange gods but now G-d has brought us to his service
The story is related of Rabbi Yitzchak Elchanan from Kovno, who was very popular amongst all Jews, even the Reformers, because of his "כוחה דהיתרא" - giving lenient decisions (within the framework of the Halachah). One day he was passing through Vilna on a train and a Reformer saw crowds of Jews going towards the train. The Reformer asked why and on hearing the reason ran to see the Rabbi. When he saw him with his beard and peyos and wearing tallis and tephillin, the Reformer was petrified. He said to the Rabbi, “I thought you were a modern Jew, not an old-fashioned type” Replied Rabbi Yitzchak Elchanan, “I am a modern Jew - you are an old-fashioned type מתחלה עובדי עבודה זרה היו אבותינו - in the beginning our fathers were worshippers of strange gods but now G-d has brought us to his service.
The moral is quite clear. The Jew who observes the Torah is the modern Jew. Those who wish to abolish Mitzvos in the Torah are old-fashioned and have retrogressed to the days when our ancestors (such as Terach) were idol-worshippers.
והיא שעמדה לאבותינו This faithfulness it is that has stood by our fathers and us. The Ari says that this refers to the שכינה, the Divine presence, which has stood over our fathers and us. Of this there is a proof from the Gemara מגילה כט.) ). Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai taught. Come and see how beloved are Israel in the sight of G-d, in that to every place to which they were exiled the שכינה went with them - Egypt, Babylon - and when they will be redeemed in the future the שכינה will be with them. In פ' ויגש appears a list of the names of the 70 people who went down to Egypt. However only 69 names are listed. The Midrash says that the remaining one is G-d and brings a proof from the verse in פ' ויגש which reads אנכי ארד עמך מצרימה I will go with you to Egypt.
Let us therefore always remember that where-ever we are exiled to - for until we return to Eretz Yisroel we are in exile - whether in England, Russia, U.S.A. - the Divine presence is with us and when we return to Zion, it will accompany us.
צא ולמד Come and learn what Laban sought to do to Jacob our father. Pharaoh issued his edict only against the males but Laban sought to uproot all.
How can we conceive that Laban wanted to kill everyone. We know he was wicked - but to kill everyone?
The following explanation has been given. The Rabbis teach that a man should never pick a favourite from among his children. As a result of the coat of many colours given by Yaacov to Yosef, Yosef was sold to Egypt and consequently there was the slavery in Egypt.
However, the Torah gives the first-born a double inheritance. If Yosef had been the first-born, there would have been no jealousy from his brothers and hence no going down to Egypt.
Why was Yosef not Yaacov’s firstborn. Because Laban deceived Yaacov and gave him Leah instead of Rachel. Thus Laban was the cause of the Jews going down to Egypt.
Let us end by looking at the wording of כורך, incorrectly translated “Hillel’s sandwich” Before eating it we say לקיים מה שנאמר על מצות ומרור יאכלהו In fact these words in the Torah are used in connection with פסח שני. Surely it would be more logical to use words in connection with פסח (ראשון) namely, צלי אש ומצות על מרורים יאכלהו.
We might suggest that the answer is that on פסח we hope that the Temple will be rebuilt by פסח שני and we will then offer on it the קרבן פסח.
This however cannot be so today because if the majority of the people are spiritually unclean on פסח, then the קרבן פסח is still offered on פסח, and פסח שני does not apply.
However the Talmud Yerushalmi brings the opinion of רבי יהודה that we still offer it on פסח שני and hence the wording in כורך is thus in accordance with רבי יהודה.
Let us pray that the Temple will be rebuilt by פסח or at the very latest by פסח שני and then ונאכל שם מן הזבחים ומן הפסחים - and we will eat in Jerusalem the Paschal lamb sacrifice.
ובא ציון גואל במהרה בימינו אמן.