051 Special Holiday Edition – How to Make Your Faith Real – Why Passover is so Important – A Powerful Parable about Returning the Suit – A Great Story about Rav Shach and Peace in Your Home – Making Compliments Fit – The Ultimate Torah Podcast
The Torah Podcast Transcript
051 –The Torah Podcast – How To Make Your Faith Real – Why Passover Is So Important
Special Holiday Edition – Pesach
In the Haggadah that we read on Pesach, the verse says, “Even if all of us were wise, all of understanding, all of us aged, all of us knowledgeable in Torah, we would still be commanded to tell the story of the Exodus from Egypt. And whoever expands upon this tale of the Exodus merits praise.” That verse is telling us that we need to speak about yetzias Mitzrayim the entire night. The more we speak about yetzias Mitzrayim, the more praiseworthy it is. The question is, why is the story of yetzias Mitzrayim, going out of Egypt, so important and so fundamental to the Jewish faith?
If you look in the Ramban at the end of parshas Bo, he explains there the importance of the story of yetzias Mitzrayim. He says, “God commanded us that we should constantly have a reminder and a sign for what our eyes saw in Egypt. We have to transmit this matter to our children, and to our children’s children, until the last generation. And it’s very stringent.” How do we know? We know that if someone eats chometz on Pesach for example, he eats bread on Pesach, the punishment is death by the hand of Heaven. And if someone doesn’t bring a korban Pesach also the punishment is death by the hand of Heaven. It’s a very strict punishment, and we have to say it over to our children for all the generations. Not only that, we know that it has to be written in our tefilln, on our arms and between our eyes. The parshiot of the tefillin talk about the going out of Mitzrayim. Not only that, the mezuzah on our doors. In the mezuzah it speaks about the parsha of going out of Mitzrayim. And twice a day we have to mention it, and it’s d’oreisa, it’s from the Torah itself, that we have to mention after the Shema, we have to mention possukim about yetzias Mitzrayim. Like the verse says, “That you will remember the day of your departure from the land of Egypt all the days of your life.” It’s also by Sukka, “zecher yetzias Mitzrayim.” We built a sukka, booth to remember going out of Mitzrayim. And there are many other commandments, for example Shabbos. Shabbos is zecher yetzias Mitzrayim, the remembrance of going out of Egypt. And also by the redemption of the firstborn, we mention going out of Egypt. So, it’s everywhere. It is the most fundamental concept in Judaism, that spreads throughout the entire Torah. And we see to this day that almost every single Jewish family, whether they’re Orthodox, Conservative or Reform, they still do the Pesach Seder, it’s in our blood. It’s everywhere. The Haggadah itself is a book that’s found in every Jewish home. The question is, what is so essential about remembering going out of Mitzrayim? We put it between our eyes, we put it on our arms, we put it on our doorposts. We remember it on Shabbos. We say it twice a day. What is so important about remembering going out of Mitzrayim?
The Ramban wants to answer. He says that from the time that idolatry came in the world, people became corrupted. Corrupted in what? In their faith. The worst corruption is, kofer b’ikar. A person does not believe at all that there’s a God. He believes the world is eternal. It was here and always will be here. No God at all. The next level, he believes there’s a God, but he doesn’t believe that God has knowledge of what’s going on in this earth. He’s somewhere else. And the third level is, he believes that there’s a God and he believes that God knows what’s going on. But he doesn’t believe in hashgacha pratis. He doesn’t believe that all the particulars in his life are being led by God, that God is with him in every moment. This he doesn’t believe. So, in order to fight these problems of faith, God commanded us to remember yetzias Mitzrayim, the going out of Egypt. How does it work? He says, “When God favors a group of people or an individual and performs wonders for him, it becomes clear to all that God is all-powerful. And not only that, if a Prophet declared beforehand that these things are going to happen, it’s all the more so, that people will believe in God.” He says, “Through this, the entire Torah is sustained.” In other words, the experience that we had in Mitzrayim removed any possibility that there was no God, that God’s not involved, that God doesn’t care, that God’s not with us. It removed all that. And therefore, we need to remember it every day in every which way.
How is it that what happened in Mitzrayim gave us faith? The possukim say – in Shemos it says, “So you will know that I am Hashem in the midst of the land.” That was talking about the wild beasts, the plague of the wild beasts. That shows divine providence, that Hashem separated the Jews and kept them safe when these wild beasts were running around. So, you see there’s hashgacha pratis, you see there providence.
Another possuk says, “So that you shall know the earth is Hashem’s.” That was talking about what? That was talking about the hail, which shows us that God created the world, because he has shlita, because he has control over the hail. Another possuk says, “So that you shall know that there is none like me in all the world.” That’s talking about the killing of the firstborn, that God is omnipotent. He rules over everything. We saw it with our own eyes.
I’d like to bring Rabbeinu Bachye at this point, who explains that the plagues were kenegged, against the four elements, what we call teva, nature. He said, “The fact that the water turned to blood and that there were frogs, that showed that God had control over the water. The lice and the wild beasts, that showed that God controlled the earth. The fact that all the animals died and then there was darkness, that showed that God had control over the air. The locusts showed that God had control over the vegetation. So, we saw from the plagues that God has control over the earth. God has control over the wind, the air, the atmosphere. God has control over fire, and God has control over the water, all four elements.” And Rabbeinu Bachye brings down last but not least, from the fact that the firstborn died, that shows that God has control over life. So, we experienced in Mitzrayim, and we saw with our own eyes, that God controls everything. There is no teva, there is no nature. We reached a state of pure faith. We experienced faith. We saw that nature was just a mask. Underneath everything, God’s controlling everything.
The Ramban goes on to explain that God does not perform a sign and wonder in every generation, in the sight of every evil person, a non-believer. He doesn’t show everyone. But rather, He commanded us to have constant signs to remember yetzias Mitzrayim. That’s why it’s such a fundamental point in the Torah, because it’s the foundation of our faith. The remembering of going out of Mitzrayim and the Pesach Seder is what keeps us Jewish throughout all the generations. Without it there would be no Jews left. We’d be lost. We would have lost our faith. And the Pesach Seder is now the time to get back our faith, and to strengthen our faith. Because now is the eis ratzon, it’s the time when it’s happening. Yetzias Mitzrayim actually happens on the night of the Seder. It’s a time when we can build our faith.
I want to bring Rav Yerucham of Mir who explains the Ramban. He says, “There’s many shades of belief, there’s many levels. Each individual has to grow in his own faith, it’s not black and white faith. There’s how much faith do you really have?” He brings a Gemara in Sota that says, “Someone who has food for today, he doesn’t have food for tomorrow. He has food for today. But if he’s worried about tomorrow, he’s considered a person of little faith. Because the same God who gave him food today is the God that’s going to give him food tomorrow.” He explains that at the time of the Exodus, faith was as clear as a bell, shining and clear. He brings Rav Moshe Cordavero who explains, “Every hint of skepticism ceased to exist. Faith shone forth, bright and revealed.” That was good for then, but what about now? Now we have all the mitzvos that have zecher yetzias Mitzrayim, the remembrance of going out of Egypt. And we have the Pesach Seder. The more we speak, harei ze meshubach, the more praiseworthy it is, because the more it’s going to penetrate our hearts, real, real faith. He says, “A man doesn’t lie to his children.” When it comes to things that are important, a man doesn’t lie. This tradition went on for generation after generation, from father to son, to grandson and it continued all the generations until today. The Jews at the Pesach Seder are still speaking about yetzias Mitzrayim, the going out of Egypt. And the more we think about it, and the more we talk about it, the more faith we’re going to have.
I always heard that Rav Chatzkel used to speak about yetzias Mitzrayim all the time, it is a famous thing. Now I finally understood what it means, because yetzias Mitzrayim is the foundation of our faith. It’s understanding that there is no teva, nature, that’s God is controlling everything. Every person you meet, everything you hear, everything you see. Your parnassa, your finances, your health, everything is dependent upon God.
Rav Yerucham continues and he brings down a possuk from Dovid Hamelech. “When a multiple of thoughts are within me, Your comforting bring joy to my soul.” He explains that the more a man reviews his knowledge and understanding, and thinks about his faith, the more they are absorbed and influence him. By multiplying the signs of remembrance, the radiance of faith becomes evident with every step, beyond the shadow of a doubt. This is exactly why the more we speak about yetzias Mitzrayim at the Pesach Seder, the more praiseworthy it is. Why? Because it goes deeper into your soul, into your neshama, that you should really be a person of true faith – really believe in God, trust in God. Don’t worry about tomorrow. God is taking it to today. He says, “If you don’t reach his level of faith, it must be that the Exodus, the redemption, has become dim in your eyes, because if you would go over again the redemption, your faith would be strengthened.” The fact that you don’t have faith means by definition, it’s become weak. Your conceptual understanding of it is not there.” Now the question is, what’s so important about faith? Okay, faith. Faith is a very nice thing, obviously. It gives you menuchas hanefesh, you could be relaxed. You could be calm. But the Rambam explains there’s much, much more than that. You’ve got to here this, this is unbelievable. He brings the Pirkei Avos that says, “You should exacting in the performing of a minor commandment just as you are in a major commandment.” Why is that? Because in fact, they’re all major. They’re all huge. Why? Because even the smallest mitzvah that a person does, he’s acknowledging that there’s a God. And he says, “For the ultimate objective of all the commandments is that we should believe in our God and acknowledge Him, that He created us.” This is the purpose of creation. It’s not a question of faith just for us, that we should be relaxed. No. Faith is the purpose for which you were created – to see the Creator, to know the Creator, to be connected with the Creator. This is why you were created. It’s unbelievable. And that’s why the Pesach Seder is so important, because this is the avodah, this is the work we do on the night of the Seder, to reconnect with God – the purpose of our creation. Listen to this – he says, “Besides the fact that we should believe in God and acknowledge that He created us, we have no other explanation for what we were created for. There is no other explanation.” He says, “The most high has no desire for earthbound creatures except this, that man should know and acknowledge his God, that He created him” Unbelievable! There is no other purpose to life. This the Ramban speaking. He says, “This is the purpose of a synagogue, a place where we go to pray. We go there and we publicize and we declare before Hashem, ‘We are your creations.” The possuk says, “And they call loudly to God.” From here we learn that when you pray, you should pray with a loud voice, because it’s a kddush Hashem. Just walking into a beit knesset and davening, praying a little bit, or saying, “Yehei Shemei Rabbah,” to a kaddish is an unbelievable thing. It’s the purpose for which you were created, to acknowledge that there’s a God. This is unbelievable. This is unreal. Even the smallest mitzvah shows that you admit that there is a God, that you have faith. And that’s the purpose for which you were created. Instead, if a person doesn’t have this, he has no share in the Torah. If he doesn’t admit that all of life is a hidden miracle, he’s not part of the Jewish people. He has to know and believe that if you do the mitzvos you’ll be rewarded. And if you sin you’ll be punished. And this is the purpose for which we were created.
The possuk says, ”And then all the peoples of the earth will see that the name of Hashem is proclaimed upon you. And they will revere you.” We as Jews know that Hashem is the one who’s controlling everything. Hashem is the one who rewards us, and Hashem is the one who punishes us. How do we know that? Because it’s been passed down to us, generation after generation, it’s in our blood. It’s the Pesach Seder. It’s in the Haggadah, it’s in our intelligence. It’s obvious. This is what we’re supposed to work on during Pesach, to have real, real faith – real trust in God, to believe that everything that happens is min hashemayim, it comes directly from God, to not have anger, and to be humble, and to understand that every little thing that happens to us comes directly from God. That’s real faith. There is no teva, there is no nature. God has control over the earth, the wind, the fire and the water. He has control over everything. That’s real faith.
This is what Rav Moshe Feinstein says on a different verse in the Haggadah. The verse says, “Even if we were all men of wisdom, it would still be an obligation upon us to tell about the Exodus from Egypt.” Even if we’re chachamim, we still have to talk about it, because there’s no end. He explains, “Even though we are obviously familiar with the concept of going out of Egypt, it demands a very high level of contemplation. For the miracles which occurred in the course of the Exodus came from a source way, way far beyond the intelligence of any human being. The more a person delves into the details of the story of Exodus, no matter what is own level, no matter how much knowledge he has, he gets more appreciation for God’s infinite wisdom.” There’s no end. That’s why we say, “harei ze meshubach.” He is praiseworthy, if he stays up the whole night and speaks about it, that it should penetrate his heart. That’s called praiseworthy, that’s the greatest thing that a Jew can do, to build his faith, because that he is created for.
I just want to end off with the Maharal. There’s a Gemara in Berachos 33B that says, “One time somebody went to pray in front of Rav Chanina, and he started out praying. He said, ‘The great, the mighty, the awesome, powerful, strong, fearful, omnipotent, all-powerful, incontestable, honored God.’ The Rav said to him, ‘Have you finished all the praises of your Lord? Why do you need so many praises?’” It’s only because Moshe said in the Torah these three praises which is, “Great, mighty and awesome,” which is what we use during the shemona esrei, that that we’re allowed to say them. Why? Because it’s comparable to a human king who had millions of golden dinars, and people stopped praising him for his silver. So of course it can be the meaning to the king. The Maharal’s question is, “Why is it harei ze meshubach?” Why if we talk about the going out of Egypt all night is that called meshubach? There’s no end to God’s greatness. We can talk for the next billion years, it doesn’t mean anything. Ada rabba, just the opposite. It tends to be a genai because we can’t say everything. The Maharal explains, “When it comes to praising God you’re right – there’s no end. So, whatever you say is not going to be enough. Better to limit it to a couple of things, and leave it like that. But when it comes to expressing gratitude, we don’t say there’s a limit. You can say all you want, and say it the entire night.” According to this, the Haggadah is in the subject of gratitude. We speak all night to say, “Thank you, Hashem. Thank you for everything. Thank you for our existence. Thank you for creating me.” And this is exactly what the Ramban said, “The most high has no desire for earthbound creatures except this – that man should know and acknowledge his God, that He created him.” So, for that we can could about the entire night.
I hope this helps to change your Seder. We have an opportunity now to build our faith. The leil Seder, the night of the Seder, we can reach higher and higher levels that can change our life completely and we can become a new person – a Jew who has real faith in his Creator, and knows that God is taking care of him, and loves him, and wants him to come close to Him.
A Powerful Parable
The Maggid Mi Dubno brings this verse which says, “When your children will ask you, ‘What is this service of yours?’ We know that’s a possuk they bring on the Haggadah. The Haggadah says, ‘What does the wicked son say? What is this service to you – to you, but not to himself.’ Since he excludes himself from the group, he denies that which is fundamental. He’s kofer b’ikar, he doesn’t believe in God. You too should set his teeth on edge and say to him, ‘It is because of this that Hashem did for me when I went out of Egypt.’ For me, but not for him. Had he been there, he would not have been redeemed.”
He brings a moshul, a parable. One time there was a poor man who saved penny after penny. Finally he had all the money he needed for the upcoming holiday. He went to the city to go buy everything for the holiday. He saw a man selling beautiful clothing. What did he do, he decided to use all of his money to buy himself a nice suit for Yom Tov. What happened? He gets home, his wife starts yelling at him, ‘Where’s all the stuff? What are you going to make Kiddush on, your suit?’ She tells him, ‘Go back to the man and tell him you’ve found a flaw in the garment, and you want your money back.’ The man ran back fast. He said to him, ‘Please give me back my money. I’ve found a flaw in the garment, and I don’t want it.’ The merchant said, ‘Fine,’ and gave back the money. When the workers saw what happened they said, to the owner, ‘Why did you give him back his money? You should have just given him another suit?’ He said, ‘Listen, this poor man didn’t want to buy a suit. He just needed his money back. Look how he asked for it. First he said, ‘Give me back my money.’ And afterwards he said, ‘I’ve found a flaw it the suit.’ If I would have given him a different suit, he also would have found a flaw in that one.’” The nimshal, conclusion is, there are two types of people. There are people who ask about the mitzvos because they really want to keep the mitzvos. There are God-fearing people and there is a second type of person who asks about the mitzvos. Why? Because he wants to find a flaw. No matter what you answer him, he’s going to find a new flaw. We have to make sure we’re not one of those people.
Great Stories – Rav Shach
Rav Shach’s son-in-law before he got married to his daughter, had the minhag, the custom of not eating gebrochs on Pesach which means not mixing matza with water. It’s a minhag. His custom was to be more strict. After he was engaged, Rav Schach invited him for the Pesach Seder. He asked the Rav, he asked Rav Shach, “What’s your custom? Do you eat gebrochs or not?” He said, “No, we don’t eat gebrochs.” Shortly after that, his son-in-law happened to be speaking with the Steipler. The Steipler asked him if he ate gebrochs. He said, “No.” He said, “And what about your father-in-law, Rav Shach, does he eat gebrochs?” He said, “No, he also doesn’t eat them.” The Steipler smiled. He said, “Listen, Rav Shach is no youngster. I’m sure it’s hard for him to refrain from eating it, he’s accustomed to softened matza, softened with water. I think you should go to a Beis Din and annul your custom that you have to eat gebrochs, because you’ll make it much easier for your father-in-law.” After that, when the son-in-law mentioned to Rav Shach that he annulled his custom with the Jewish Court, Rav Shach returned to eating his matza soaked in water.You see the good middos, characteristics that Rav Shach had, to make his son-in-law feel comfortable.
Peace in Your Home
Rav Simcha Cohen talks about making compliments fit. He says, “If you give praise to your wife or your husband, you should verbalize it at some length. It shouldn’t be so short. You should make it a little bit longer. Also, your face has to match what you’re saying.” The possuk says, “Whatever comes from the speaker’s heart enters into the listener’s heart.” Also, you should repeat your compliment a second time, and make it genuine.” A lot of newly married people don’t understand why do I have to give all these compliments? A man will say, “Can’t my wife see from my face that I’m enjoying the food? Do I have to tell her, do I have to spell it out?” The answer is, yes. A wife wants to hear her husband praise her. Why? Because it rings in her ears for quite a long time after that. Thank you is not enough, you have to praise your wife and tell her how good the food is. And you mention again also later, how delicious dinner was. On the other hand, you can have overkill, and that you definitely don’t want to do. A man shouldn’t say things to his wife like, “You’re the best educator in the world,” and a wife shouldn’t say, “You’re the greatest Torah scholar of the generation,” because everybody knows it’s not true.
This is what the Maharal explains in the Gemara that says that one should only tell a part of a person’s praise in his presence. Why? Because if you say all the praise, that would be considered flattery. A person feels you’re manipulating him. But if you say part of the praise, that’s going to bring love, because it shows that you value the other person. It has to conform with the self-image of the other person, not beyond. Praise has to fit and the compliment has to fit the person. However, the greater danger is not to say enough. That’s what most of us do. We don’t give enough praise. But you also have to be a little bit careful not to give too much.
There’s another problem with compliments. Your spouse could feel that you’re trying to manipulate him. The husband says, “I only get compliments like this when she’s getting ready to ask for something big.” He says, one time he was counseling a couple and he says, “It’s very hard for me to compliment my wife. I just don’t know the right words. I’m just a plain, simple man.” The wife burst out, “You don’t know the right words? When you want something from me, you do. All of a sudden you become a poet, an author, a professor, you name it. You have the right words.” A person should be giving compliments just to meet the emotional needs of the other person, and not to gain something. If there happens to be a situation later where you also gain something, so it’s not so bad if you constantly give compliments. But you have to give compliments with a pure heart, not for any alternative reasons. It’s best to praise your spouse when you don’t want anything from them.
Also, you have to be careful when you give them compliments that people make diyukim, they make inferences. For example, if somebody says to somebody, “You’ve been very good recently,” They can infer that before, I wasn’t good, which gets a person aggravated. Or for example, in therapy the husband said, “My wife never praises me,” and she said, “I’m always telling him he’s a wonderful father to our children.” He says, “Yeah, what does that mean? I’m a wonderful father to our children, but I’m a lousy husband.” That’s what she means by that.” So, you have to be careful that your compliments are really not just a put down.
One good way to give a compliment is when you see your children behaving well, you say, “Oh, you’re just like ima,” mommy, which gives a compliment to your wife. Or you can give other indirect compliments. For example, at the Shabbos table, the woman says, “Your father’s saying something very important.” Or later in the conversation, the father says, “Your mother just said something very intelligent, related to what I was speaking about.” We see there’s a lot of indirect ways to give compliments also.
Okay, that’s it for this week’s podcast. I hope you enjoyed it. Please share it with your friends. Please do me a personal favor and go to iTunes and leave a comment, and rate it. It’s the only way that this Torah is going to spread.
Rabbi Eliyahu Mitterhoff