Torah Portion of the Week – Bo – Reaching Above the Stars – Astrology and Passover – A Powerful Parable about the Thieves – A Great Story about Rav Bloch and Peace in Your Home – Torah and Blessings
The Torah Podcast Transcript
086 The Torah Podcast – Reaching above the Stars – Astrology and Passover
Torah Portion of the Week – Bo
In Shemos Bo chapter 12 says like this. “And Hashem said to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt saying, ‘This month shall be for you the beginning of months. It should be for you the first month of the year. Speak to the entire assembly of Israel and say on the 10th of this month they shall take for themselves each man a lamb, for his father’s house. A lamb for each household. But if the house will be too small, then he and his neighbor whose house is next to him, according to the number of people who can eat the lamb, so they’ll take a lamb for them. A perfect lamb, a male that is one year old shall be with you, and you should take it. And you should keep it until the 14th. And the entire congregation of Yisroel shall slaughter it in the afternoon.’” So, here you see, first of all you have the commandment of the first month, then Moses tells the Jewish people that they have to take the lamb on the 10th day of the month. We know they tied it to their beds and they kept the lamb there. And the lamb was the God of the Egyptians and here, the Jewish people were taking the lamb and tying it to their beds, and keeping it until the 14th when they were going to shecht it, they were going to ritually slaughter it.
The Kli Yakar says like this – this is unbelievable. Why was the commandment of chiddush hakodesh, the new month, the first commandment that God gave the Jewish people? And why is it right before the sacrificing of the pascal lamb? He explains, “The Egyptians believed that the constellation of Aries, which is symbolized by the sheep or ram (a ram is a male sheep) was their God. And the planetary influence bestows wisdom and wealth, therefore every shepherd was an abomination to the Egyptians. Why? Because it’s not appropriate to tell sheep what to do, because they’re like a God. So, what did Hashem tell them to do? Just the opposite. On the 10th of the month, they should slaughter the lamb because the constellation is then at the height of its influence and the Egyptians would recognize that the God of the Jews has a power greater than their God. And that’s why we have the Pesach lamb, to show that even though astrology really has power and does work according to the Torah. Like it says in Gemara Shabbos 156 that explains the day of the week you’re born, what month you’re born in, but that doesn’t mean we’re limited by astrology. That’s why God told us to shecht the pascal lamb, the pascal lamb is against the avoda zara, the idol worship of the Mitzrim, of the Egyptians who believed in the power of astrology but only in the power of astrology.
The Ramban says like this. Why is it that we have so many different commandments to remember going out of Egypt, zecher yetzias Mitzrayi? He wants to explain that since from the very beginning the world became corrupt with idolatry, why? Because they started to believe in the planets. It’s true that God runs the world through astrology. God brings kochos, certain energies of wealth, of health, of all kinds of hatzlacha, of sickness or darkness or death, everything that happens in our world, Hashem is doing it through the planets. Obviously in this case, we know by the pascal lamb, we know that by Mitzrayim Hashem Himself intervened. He was the one who took us out of Mitzrayim. But in general, the planets have influence. Therefore, the Ramban says that we have many, many mitzvos to help us remember zecher yetzias Mitzrayim, to help us remember the going out of Egypt. Why? Because people were denying God. So, what did they say? They said there is a God. Okay, maybe there’s a God, but He doesn’t oversee them. “And that,” said the Ramban, “Is making man like the fish of the sea. That God does not oversee them, and there’s no punishment and reward for them.” Therefore, since what happened in Mitzrayim, we saw clearly that the Jewish people were chosen and taken out of Mitzrayim. And it was a wonder that every one of the 10 plagues happened. So, everybody saw that. They saw that there was a God greater than all of the planets and all of the forces in the universe. There was a God who was involved intrinsically, intimately with human beings. Therefore, we have to remember that all the days of our lives. In Shema we say it twice, “Zecher letzias Mitzrayim.” Shabbos is zecher letzias Mitzrayim, the remembering of going out of Egypt. Therefore, what did God say? We have chometz, we can’t eat leavened bread for Pesach. We have to eat matzos. It says also in mezzuza also zecher letzias Mitzrayim. And we talk about tefillin, phylacteries. All these mitzvos are zecher letzias Mitzrayim. Sukkos, zecher letzias Mitzrayim. And they made a testimony for those for the generations regarding the wonders, that they shouldn’t be forgotten, and there were no plausible argument for the unbeliever to deny his faith in God. So, we see that many of the mitzvos are kenegged, against zecher letzias Mitzrayim, to help us to remember that there’s something beyond astrology, that God is real and involved with us.
The Sefas Emes says like this. Why do we have to have 10 makkos? It’s this week’s Parsha, why do we have to have the 10 plagues in Mitzrayim? This is simply unbelievable. It’s a similar idea. It’s an offshoot of this idea. The 10 plagues were against, kenegged, to remove the 10 maamaros, the 10 statements Hashem created the world with. These 10 statements are what made nature. The 10 makkos, came here to remove nature. Because what happened? Like the Ramban said, since it is nature and since there are the planets and stars and everything that’s happening, we forget about God. We forget that there’s a higher power. Therefore, God brought the 10 plagues in order to remove the 10 maamaros. And why did He do that? That we should get to the level of the 10 commandments. So, you have the 10 plagues against the 10 statements of nature, to lead us to the higher level of the 10 commandments which is above nature, which is the Jewish people following the will of God. It’s a similar idea. The plagues were there to remind us that there’s something above nature.
This is also unbelievable what the Shem mi Shmuel said. Chapter 13 in Shemos said like this. “Hashem said to Moses saying, ‘Sanctify me the firstborn. God is saying that the firstborn of the Jewish people has to be sanctified. Then it says, “Moses said to the people, “Remember this day whence you departed from Egypt. With a strong hand God removed you from here, and therefore you can’t eat chometz.” All of a sudden we switch gears here. We start talking about that you can’t eat chometz, you can’t eat leavened bread during Pesach. So now you were leaving and it’s the month of spring, and then when Hashem should come to you and bring you to the land of Canaan, he’s talking about going into the land of Israel. It’s a mitzvah to go to live in Israel. Then it says, “Seven days you should eat matzos,” it’s talking about Pesach. And then you have to put a sign upon your hand, and a remembrance between your eyes. This is talking about tefillin. Then it goes back and it starts to say, “And you shall set apart any first that emerges from the womb, for Hashem, and each of the first calves of the livestock that belongs to you. The males are for Hashem.” That’s talking about kosher animals, and also not kosher animals. “And each first donkey you shall redeem.” Not only that, the firstborn person who should be among you should be redeemed. Here we see there’s a change in the order, something wrong; this what the Shem mi Shmuel is saying.
He says, “First it says, ‘Sanctify for me your firstborn for me.’” So then it should continue and talk about the firstborn, the firstborn of kosher animals and the firstborn of non-kosher animals. That’s not what happens. We saw in the possukim, we started to talk about the firstborn person, then we started to talk about chometz, then we were talking about matzos, then we started to talk about tefillin. So, what are the matzos and tefillin doing in the middle here? So, he wants to answer, “His holy grandfather, the Rebbe of Klutz he said, ‘Each of the plagues lowered the Egyptians and rasied the Jewish people. When the firstborn of the Egyptian was killed, so then it injected kedushah, holiness into the firstborn of the Jews.’” In other words, the firstborn of the Egyptians were involved in idol worship and immorality. The firstborn child in the household, the strength of the household, was involved in the wrong thing. When they were killed, so that energy that they had moved to the firstborn of the Jewish people. But he says, “Not only that. It wasn’t just the firstborn, it was anything that was first. All aspects of “first-ness,” he says. That’s how you translate it. “Not only did the firstborn children became sanctified, but every other manifestation of “first-ness.” Why? Pesach, that’s why he started to talk about the Pesach. Pesach is the first month, and the first holiday that the Jewish people had. Eretz Yisroel, which is the Beis haMigdash, is primary, the primary spot on earth, the first place on the earth. Not only that, tefillin, what does tefillin have to do with it? The primary elements of man, his intellect and his emotion, the highest parts of man. The tefillin shel rosh relates to the seichel, the intellect of man, and the tefillin shel yad of the arm relates to the motions of man. So, all the “firsts” became powerful – this is unbelievable. When the first were killed, when the firstborn in Mitzrayim were killed, all their energy was transferred to the first of the Jewish people, and they went up a level. My father-in-law used to say, “Setting the clock back to the right time.” Sometimes with a kid, you have to put the clock back on the right time. So, that’s exactly what happened.
There was a total revolution. All of a sudden the values became straight. That’s why it said, “Also the tomei animals of the Jewish people had to be sanctified.” He wants to say, that relates to the body of the Jewish people. That’s kenegged the body, in the juxtaposition with the body, which is the donkey which represents material possessions. It also has to be sanctified, and used for the right reasons, to serve God. Not only that, the kosher animals, the kosher animals also, the firstborn were sanctified which means they had to be sacrificed in the Beis HaMigdash. Really, it’s the emotional aspect of a human being, of a Jew. The emotion has to be sanctified and be used for the right thing. Not only that, the firstborn human child, the Jew himself which is his intellect, he had to be sanctified. So therefore, he wants to explain, “That’s why there was a change in the order. We first spoke about the Jewish person himself, the firstborn baby has to be sanctified. He became the Cohen. He became the head of the family. And then we switched, we talked about the Pesach and the tefillin, to show that it’s not just the human being. It’s every aspect of a human being’s life has to be sanctified. And that was the transfer, that occurred. When the firstborn was killed in Egypt, everything was first, everything that had value, everything that God gave value, true value, came to the foreground. This was the going out of Mitzrayim.
You have the Ohr haChaim that says like this. “God declared to Him first, the firstborn of the Jews would be sacred to Him. There would no longer be a firstborn associated with the powers of the clipot, of negativity.” In other words, the value system of the Egyptians was the wrong value system. Everything was not in its place. We know that evil basically, evil only runs off the good. The energy that evil has comes from good. God gives to the sinner, He gives him life, he gives him everything. A person can’t do anything, there would be no life if there was no energy. But it means the energy’s been captured.
This is what the Ramchal explains. Negativity feeds off positivity and whatever is closest to the positivity has the highest level of negativity, because it has the most energy. So, what happened was, Hashem switched it. He took that negativity, that negative energy, and now with the sacrificing of the Pesach and the killing of the firstborn, everything switched. All the negativity has lost its energy, and everything switched in the level of kedushah and holiness. And he says, “This was represented by the by the sacrifices of the sheep for the Pesach, and by tying it on the legs of the bed.” They kept it there for four days, that means they brought it closer to God’s presence. Basically, all the wrong things lost all of their power.
This is also the meaning of why the Pesach had to be kept whole. The Pesach had to be kept whole, and the bones couldn’t be broken. What happened? The dogs would drag away the Pesach. What does that mean? The dog which represents impurities would drag away the remains of the Peasah. It also says the dogs didn’t bark. The possuk says, the verse says they didn’t wag their tongue against the Jewish people. The dogs which represent evil, they had no strength. The fact that the Pesach which was the lamb which represented the God of Mitzrayim was taken away by the dogs and eaten, it was like evil collapsed on itself. Evil collapsed on itself, it’s exactly what happened. When the holiness was taken out of Mitzrayim and the Jews were leaving, they took all that light and all that energy and the whole place collapsed in on itself. Evil was destroyed. Because when evil gets to it’s highest level it destroys itself. There’s 49 levels of impurity, and there’s 50 levels of holiness. Really, evil disappears. When evil becomes so apparent, so expressed, at a certain point it collapsed in on itself. That’s exactly what happened in Mitzrayim.
Now, what happened with this firstborn? Rav Shimshon Raphael Hirsch wants to explain, “The firstborn needs to be the role model. And now we had a new role model. Before, the role model of the world was the Egyptians, who were on the top of the world, they were the greatest society, the most powerful society. You couldn’t escape Mitzrayim, there was no way to get away from them. So, they were the firstborns and they were the role model. The role model for what? For for immorality, for all kinds of bad things, for the wrong things. And now what happened is the Jewish firstborn became the role model. So, the Midrash says like this. “It was not the blood which saved them, the fact that they shechted the Pesach but rather the fact that the Jews smeared the blood on their homes.” We know that one of the commandments was to take the blood and put it on the doorway to stop the evil forces from coming into the house. But that blood was the blood of the lamb which was the God of Mitzrayim, which had to do with astrology. So, they showed that they didn’t have any fear, they weren’t afraid. They were no longer afraid of the Egyptians. It says, The Jews smeared the blood over their house without showing fear of Pharaoh, for having slaughtered his God. They relied on God and from that, they became worthy to be saved.” That’s what the Midrash says.
And also Rav Dessler brings a similar story. He says like this, “The power which killed the firstborn and triggered the redemption from Egypt was the courage of the Jewish people which they had from slaughtering the lamb of Pesach sacrifice before the very eyes of the Egyptians. It says, ‘God commanded the Jewish people to shecht the korban pesach in front of the Egyptians’ eyes. And it says, ‘Moses heard this and he was amazed. He said, ‘How can we do such a thing? The Egyptians worship the lamb, they’re going to kill us,’ which Hashem answered him, ‘By your life, Israel will not leave this place before slaughtering the God of Egypt in front of their eyes, and showing to all that their Gods are worthless.’ Like it said, “God said, ‘You slaughter the korban pesach, and I’ll slaughter the firstborn. Your God was worthless.’”
I just wanted to talk about this idea of astrology. Basically, if you believe only in astrology, so that means you believe in predetermination. Your wealth is determined by the stars, your health, who you are going to marry, everything that’s happening in the world, whether there’s wars or whether there’s peace is determined by astrology. And now you’re stuck. So, what kind of society is that? What kind of life is that? What if a person does not believe in free will? What kind of life does he have? Basically, he just believes he’s a cog in the wheel. His life has no purpose. He comes into the world, God’s going to do this to him, God’s going to do that to him. He’s going to make him rich, he’s going to make him poor. He’s going to make him healthy, He’s going to make him sick. All these different things are going to happen to him, and really he’s just at the mercy of the stars. This person has no relationship. What kind of life does he have, he doesn’t have a relationship to the Creator? He believes that the Creator created the universe, beseder, okay. And he sent it into motion and the wheels just run like a Chinese prayer wheel. You spin the wheel and the wheel prays for you. There’s no pressure, no growth. Why does he have to strive to do anything? How much wealth he’s going to have is determined by the stars. What kind of life is this? This is no mesirus nefesh, there’s no growth. This, in a sense, was the God of Mitzrayim, because Mitzrayim’s whole culture was based on taava, which means hedonism. The hedonistic person doesn’t want to work too hard. So it’s a great philosophy, you know, everything’s taken care of, what can I do? Like the Indians say, shanty, shanty, let’s take a rest. And they’re relaxed, everybody’s happy, good things happen, bad things happen, what can we do? There’s nothing we can do about it. It’s a life of total irresponsibility, and together with that, it’s a life of taavas, of sexuality, or overeating, of doing whatever you want to, because any you’re just an animal. And anyway, the stars are running everything and you don’t any responsibility.
That was Mitzrayim. They believed in astrology. The first astrological sign is Aries. Aries was the ram, the lamb. That’s why God had us kill them. It says in Chazal, the Jews were also influenced by this. That’s why He wanted the Jews to shecht the ram in the month on the 10th, they took the ram when the astrological sign was the strongest. That’s the strongest on the 10th of the month. And they shechted it on the 14th of the month. And when they did that, they wanted the Jews themselves to say, “Listen, it’s true there is astrology. But we’re not limited by it. There’s a God in the world.”
Now, what’s the opposite of a philosophy that believes in astrology? A philosophy that believes that there’s a God. That’s a whole different story. It says like this, I want you to hear this – this is Rav Moshe Sternbuch. He says, They had to make sure everybody had a bris milah. You couldn’t eat from the pesach sacrifice unless you had a bris milah. So, you had the blood of the milah and the blood of the korban Pesach on the doorposts. The Blood represents mesirus nefesh, completely giving yourself over to God’s will, even if it’s difficult. We start the life of an eight year old boy with the blood of a bris milah, it means a life of responsibility. It means you have to have mesirus nefesh. It’s not a life of astrology. It’s not a life where everything is just running by itself, and we don’t have any responsibility. It’s a life of total responsibility.
This is exactly what the Ramban says at the end. Don’t forget, this was all the same Ramban that said that the reason why we have to have “remember the going of out of Egypt” for everything is to acknowledge that really there’s a God – a God beyond astrology. It says, “Be as scrupulous in performing a minor commandment,” a person should be strict in a minor commandment that Hashem gave us just like a major commandment. “For all of them are major, and exceedingly beloved.” Why? “Since through them a person is constantly acknowledging his God, for the ultimate objective of all commandments is that we should believe in our God and acknowledge that he creates us.”
You’ve got to hear this, this is crazy stuff. This is the Rambam. “The Most High has no desire for earthbound creature except this – that man should know and acknowledge through his God that God created him. For a person has no share in Toras Moshe unless he believes that our affairs and experience are miracles, and that God is the one doing them.” You’ve got to hear this. “Rather, if one observes his commandments his reward will bring him success, and if he transgresses them, his punishment will destroy him. This is the decree of the Most High. And in the end, everybody will see it. All the people on the earth will see that the name of Hashem is proclaimed over you, and they’ll revere You.” In other words, once you take astrology out of the picture, what do you have? You have God. And if you have God, that means if you do God’s will you get rewards. And if you don’t do God’s will, you get punished. And that’s the whole purpose to creation, which is against the Egyptians, against the idea of astrology that there is a God but He forgot about us. You could do whatever you want, any way the wheels are turning. The universe is turning, the stars are turning, the energies are moving. It’s just a thing that goes by itself. No. At every single moment, God is intimately involved with us. If we do good, if we grow and we have to have mesirus nefesh. Mesirus nefesh literally means “giving over your soul” like by the Nazis or whatever, a person gives himself over to God. He says Shema Yisroel, and they said if you don’t become a Christian or you don’t become this or that, so the person has to die. That’s literally the meaning of mesirus nefesh. But mesirus nefesh also means getting up for the minyan, prayers. Mesirus nefesh means davening. Mesirus nefesh means learning. Mesirus nefesh means doing mitzvos. This is our relationship with God, and this is what we learned in Mitzrayim. We shechted the lamb, we got rid of astrology. We came into the reality that God is running our lives. And if we have mesirus nefesh.
There’s another point, a very important point that I just remembered, thank God, in the zechus of doing this – a very important point. If everything in astrology means that your nature, how much brains you have, how much strength you have, how much memory you have, all the different parts of your personality were given at birth. When you have a lot of kids you see this kid is completely different than that kid. Where did that come from? It came from the time they were born. It just came with them. It says Chazal says, “If you’re born on the 5th day, the 6th day, each different day of the week has a different strength, different energies. Each different month according to astrology, has its energy. Now, if you just believe in astrology and you don’t believe there’s a Creator, that’s who you are. That’s it. This week I have that strength, and that’s who I am. No, the answer is no. The Zohar explains in this week’s Parsha that if you push forward you can take all your negative qualities and make them positive. You can use your negative thinking, and turn them around. And that’s the purpose of why we’re here. If not, we’re just spinning our wheels – well, we’re spinning in a wheel. The world’s spinning and here we are, and that’s it. So good, you wake up in the morning, you eat, you go, you do whatever you do, and that’s life. And you do that for 120 years and then that’s it, you die. No, that’s the Egyptian point of view. That’s the Egyptian’s way of looking at things. And you’re here to have fun. Eat, drink and be merry, that’s what you’re here for – to have fun, and to have pleasures, and that’s what it is.
Is that the Jewish way? No! It’s true that God created you this way, but you’re here to fix it. The Vilna Gaon said, “Lama li chaim?” If you’re not here to change yourself, if you’re not here to grow, why are you alive? The Jewish perspective is that you’re alive in order to grow, in order to do mitzvos, in order to God’s will. God’s will is not simple, it’s not easy. You have to get up early in the morning, you have to stay up late at night. All these things that you have to be religious, and you can’t go swimming whether you want. And so many different halachas, and so many things that you have to guard yourself. And you have to dress modest and you can’t wear any kind of clothes you want. You can’t just go out the way you want. On Shabbos you can’t drive your car. There’s a thousand things, you have all these things going on, and all of them are to perfect us. All of them are to fix us to become more pure, to perfect the physicality with which we were born with. The whole point of astrology is that the whole system is just one big physical system. There’s four elements, earth, wind and fire, and everything’s spinning around. The planets have these elements, and all this different energy. They’re just balls of energy that just keep spinning around and moving around. And we have no relationship, we’re just part of it.
But the reality is we have a relationship with God. We can take who we are, and change ourselves and grow by pushing forward. And this is what the Jewish people did when they shechted the Pesach. They were mesirus nefesh, they said, “Yes, there is a God. Yes, there is a Creator, one who judges us, one who says good is good, and bad is bad, and not just everything is ownerless and you can do whatever you want. And anything goes, with this liberal attitude that everything doesn’t matter. No meaning in life. Life has meaning. If you do good, good things happen. If you do bad, bad things happen. Ah, bad things happen to good people. We don’t have the cheshbon, we don’t know. The Chofetz Chaim said, there’s like a guy who walked into shul that he doesn’t know, and he sees this guy getting an aliya, and that guy getting an aliya. The poor guy in the back. So he says, “Why don’t you give the rich guy the aliya? He says, “Listen, you weren’t here last week. Last week there was a bar mitzvah of this boy…” You don’t know the accounting. We don’t know what was going on back 1,000 years, 100 years, what happened with our ancestors. We don’t understand why these different things are happening to us. They’re happening to us because who knows why, because our ancestors did something both in the positive and the negative. Maybe we’re rich because our great-grandfather did a big mitzvah, or our grandfather did a mitzvah. Or maybe we’re poor because who knows what he did. Maybe somebody stole back then, who knows what. We don’t have the accounting but we for ourselves, we have to do good. We have to do right.
And this is our freedom. That’s is why Pesach is the zman, time of our freedom. That’s what it says in Chazal, it’s the zman of our freedom. What do you mean, freedom? Free will. Free – we can do what we want to do but we have to use it to serve God.
A Powerful Parable
The Maggid mi Dubno brings a moshul, parable. He brings a possuk like this that says, “Hashem graced the people with favor in the eyes of the Egyptians, and he granted their request. The Bnai Yisroel thus drained Egypt of its wealth.” In other words, Rashi says there, “What does it mean, he granted the request? The Egyptians would say to a Jew, ‘You asked for one, now take two and go.’ Hashem told the Jewish people to go borrow, to go take the gold and all the silver out of Mitzrayim. So he asked them and they said, ‘Listen, take, take, even more.’ Like it says in Tehillim, “And he took the note with silver and gold. Egypt was glad with his departure.’” So, the question is, what were they happy about? They were not happy. They shouldn’t be happy, they’re losing all their money and all their gold. So, why were they happy? He wants to bring a moshul.
He says, “Sometimes there is a decree against a person that he has to lose $100, or 100 gold coins,” he says. “So, what happens? He knows the person’s going to be very, very upset if he loses it. So, what does he do? Instead, he has these thieves come. Instead of stealing 100 gold coins, they steal 1,000 gold coins. What happens? He hires a group of people, he’s all nervous he lost 1,000 gold coins, so he hires a group of people. The group of people find the thieves, and they bring back all the gold to the guy. But the thing is, he has to pay this group of people 100 gold coins. But he’s happy. He’s happy, because listen, I got back my 1,000 gold coins. But really he lost 100 gold coins. Hashem made a decree against him that he has to lose 100 gold coins. But he’s now happy because instead of losing 1,000 gold coins, he only lost 100.
The same thing by the Egyptians. They thought they were going to all die. Here, the first born were dying in every house, you had a couple of people dying. As we know, there were many more than one firstborn in each house. So, they were dying and they thought they were all going to die. So, they were happy. They were just happy to be alive. And that’s why it says, “He took them out with silver and gold and Egypt was glad of their departure.
Great Stories – Rav Eliyahu Meir Bloch
This is a story about the Rosh Yeshiva from Telz, Rav Eliyahu Meir Bloch. It says like this. One day, we came to the room of the Rosh Yeshiva’s room in the hospital. He wasn’t there. After a while, he entered, dragging his feet. He was very heavy, it was hard for him to walk. He was sweating. He had trouble breathing. I couldn’t even look at him. He could hardly say, ‘Shalom Aleichem,’ he couldn’t answer because he did not have strength to say hello. He nodded. He acknowledged us with his eyes. With great difficulty, he was helped to an armchair and sat there breathing heavily. After a moment he said two words. ‘It’s a hard judgement, a painful punishment.’ That was the first time I ever heard the Rosh Yeshiva say a complaint.”
Then he explained, “What was his hard judgement?” He says, “It’s not the pain that I’m having now. That’s not the hard judgment. But from the time that I grew up, I never known what it meant to sit idle. I would be learning, myself. I would be teaching others. I would be writing or speaking, or reading, or even fixing something around the house. But just to lie in bed and do nothing, that is a terrible punishment. This fits in with the idea that Jews are here to do something. We are here to grow, not just sit around and do nothing.
Peace in Your Home
Rav Aharon Stern speaks about Torah and blessings in the house. He says, “Sometimes couples come to me and I insist that the husband must fix times each day to learn Torah.” The couple asked, “What’s so important, why does the husband have to sit and learn? Every single husband has to learn Torah every single day?” So, he said, Yes, because without Torah study, there’s no protection. There’s no blessing in the house. The blessing in the house comes through Torah study. He brings the famous proof. It says that techias hameisim, after people die lo aleynu, there will be techias hameisim. Hashem will revive the dead. But that only comes from Torah that is learned for its own sake. The reviving dew there invigorates the soul and bring back the dead to life. It only comes about through Torah that’s learned for its own sake.
Listen to this, the Gemara in Brachos. Rav Pinchus brought the same idea. He says, “How do women receive their revival of the dead? How do women receive it if just men learn Torah? The only way that women will get techias hameisim is if they wait for their husbands to come home from the beis medrash. Ah, they have many mitzvos they could do. Yes, but the only mitzvos that produces techias hameisim, the revival of the dead, is the mitzvah of learning Torah. So therefore, they have to be involved in the Torah of their husband. The woman is involved in the Torah of their husband. She also gets revival of the dead.
Chazal says that a ben sorrer v’marer, a child, God-forbid, who goes off the derech and eats meat, drinks wine – what happened? They kill him. It never actually happened, but the parents bring him to the Beis Din. They say that he gets killed. It never happened. But it says what will happen. The possuk says, “He will steal from people and kill them. And eventually he’ll forget his learning.” The kasher is, what do you mean? This guy’s going to kill, he’s going to murder. What do you mean, he’s going to forget his learning? Rav Chaim Shmuelevitz wants to explain that as long as he’s connected to Torah even if he’s a ben sorer v’marer, there’s a chance of him coming back. And as long as he learns, if he learns there’s a chance he’ll do teshuva. If not, all hope is lost.
One time he says, “The Chazon Ish wanted to go see somebody who was learning lishma, for it’s own sake. He went to a big Rav and he saw him. The Rav was sitting and learning Bava Kama. ‘God says that the ox that gores the cow…’” In other words, he was learning, he was clinging to Hashem. The Jewish people hold that the words of the Torah are the words of God. And really, if a person would think about it, if he would open a Torah book, he would faint, he would pass out. Really, this is the masterpiece, the words of the Master of the Universe. Can you have such a thing? It’s an unbelievable idea. So, this Torah learning brings blessing into the house. It brings shalom bayis. You want to have peace in your home, you have to have Torah learning in your house.
Not only that, a person has to explain to his wife and to his children, and to his daughters, the value of Torah because otherwise it’s going to be difficult. Because what’s going to happen? As time goes by, the man is going to want to learn at night. So, then his wife’s going to complain, “Why, you’re away the whole day, you want to learn at night also?” And then they’ll start to fight, and then he won’t have peace of mind the whole day either. He has to explain the benefit that they’re both going to get by him going out for an hour, an hour and a half, to learn at night. He said, “You shouldn’t forge ahead without her approval, though. You have to get your wife’s approval if you want to leave the house at nights to learn Torah.”
He brings a proof that you should push a little bit. Be like the talmidim of Aharon who have peace, pursue peace, love people, and bring them close to Torah. Rav Chaim of Volozhin said on this, “It’s said that even though we love peace like Aharon says, you have to have peace. But still, you have to bring people close to Torah. Which means that even though you want peace in your house, you have to push a little bit to bring Torah into the house, even though it’s going to make a little bit of a problem. For example, a couple may worry that devoting the time to learn Torah may damage their livelihood. That’s talking about during the day. So he says, Rav Chaim said, “It’s true that even though you have to have peace, but you also have to the Torah. What about the Torah?” He brings a proof that it’s not going to happen, everything will be fine. Why? When Hashem is satisfied with man’s ways, even his enemies make peace with him. Who is his enemy? He says here, “His wife.” He’ll have peace in his home if he brings Torah into his house, it’s going to bring peace into his house.
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Rabbi Eliyahu Mitterhoff