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Could Moshe have benefitted from Speech Therapy? Print E-mail
Thursday, 11 January 2024

In Parshat Shmot (Shmot 4:10) when God first chooses Moshe for the job of taking B’nai Yisrael out of Egypt, Moshe explains: “I am not a man of words- not since yesterday, not since the day before- not from the time You first spoke to Your servant, for I am ‘kvad peh’ heavy (slow) of speech and ‘kvad lashon’ heavy (slow) of tongue.”

In Parshat VaEra (Shmot 6:12) when God asks Moshe to speak to Pharaoh, Moshe answers “B’nai Yisrael have not listened to me. How will Pharaoh listen? And I am ‘arel sfatayim’ a man of uncircumcised lips.”

In both instances Moshe is explaining that he is not able to speak properly.

According to Ibn Ezra, the definition of ‘arel sfatayim’, uncircumcised lips is the same a ‘kaved’, heavy. Moshe’s tongue is covered or tied up and therefore it is difficult for him to speak.

In Yishayahu 6:9-10 we have an example of ears being heavy and unable to hear:

God said “Go-tell this people: Hear, you shall hear but not understand, you will see but you will not know. Fatten the heart of this people; make their ears heavy ‘v’oznav hacbed’; coat their eyes with plaster, lest they see with their eyes and hear with their ears, and their hearts understand and they return and are healed.”

In Yirmiyahu 6:10 we see ears being uncircumcised and unable to hear:

God said “To whom shall I speak and warn, that they will listen? Behold their ear is uncircumcised (blocked) ‘arela oznam’ and they are unable to listen! Behold the word of God has become an object of ridicule to them; they have no desire for it.”

The concept of heavy eyes, meaning losing eyesight is found in Breisheet 48:10:

Yisrael’s eyes were heavy ‘kavdu’ with age and he could not see…

Moshe’s speech was impaired and therefore he felt that he wasn’t up for the job.

God answers Moshe (Shmot 4:11): “Who gave man a mouth, or who makes a person dumb or deaf? Who makes a person see or makes him blind? It is not I- God?

God obviously knows that Moshe has speech issues and can work around them.

Rabbeinu Chananel brings the interpretation of Rabeinu Bechaya: The fact that Moshe mentioned two deficiencies shows that he was kvad peh- he had difficulty in forming certain words which are articulated with the teeth as well as kvad lashon- he had difficult pronouncing certain letters.

Ibn Ezra explains that Moshe was born with kvad peh, slowness of speech, he had a problem with labials, as well as kvad lashon, slowness of tongue which is a problem with linguals. In other words, it was difficult for him to enunciate some of the letters. God’s solution was to make sure that the words that Moshe needed to say would not have the letters that were difficult for him to pronounce.

In response, we see in the next verse (Shmot 6:13) “God then spoke to Moshe and Aharon, commanding them regarding B’nai Yisrael and Pharaoh, king of Egypt, to bring out B’nai Yisrael from the land of Egypt.”

Chizkuni points out that here God is telling Moshe that he doesn’t have to worry, his brother Aharon would be there to help him.

This is clear in Shmot 7:1-2:

God said to Moshe, “See, I have made you a master over Pharaoh, and Aaron your brother shall be your spokesman. You shall speak everything that I command you, and Aharon, your brother shall speak to Pharaoh, that he should send B’nai Yisrael from his land.”

Although there was no speech therapy in those days, Moshe was still able to do the job, despite his limitations.

In the end, begrudgingly, Pharaoh let B’nai Yisrael go.

No matter what communication issues or limitations we may have, we must continue to cry out and insist that the hostages in Gaza are set free.

The pest that has not left Print E-mail
Monday, 16 January 2023

In Parshat VaEra, we read about the first seven plagues. The third plague (Shmot 8:12-15) especially resonates with anyone who had an outbreak of lice in their home, school, camp or community:

God said to Moshe, “Say to Aharon, Extend your rod and strike the dust of the earth; and it will turn into lice throughout the whole land of Egypt.” They did so. Aharon extended his hand with his rod and struck the dust of the earth, and there were lice on man and beast. All the dust of the earth turned into lice throughout the whole land of Egypt. The sorcerers did likewise with their magic art. They tried to bring forth lice but they could not, and there were lice on man and beast. The sorcerers said to Pharaoh, “This is the finger of God;” but Pharaoh’s heart remained hardened and he did not listen to them, as God had spoken.

How far back do lice go?

The Exodus took place sometime between 1550-1069 BCE so they were already around at that time.

In 2016, a lice comb made of ivory was found at Tel Lachish in Israel. Just two months ago, in November 2022 an inscription was found on the comb which may date it all of the way back to 1700 BCE. The sentence which was written in Cananite script is translated as: “May this tusk root out the lice of the hair and the beard.”

Many other combs were found in Israel as well. We learn from here that the lice were not only part of the plague in Egypt but they have also been in the Land of Israel for thousands of years. Unfortunately they are still here and parents are still combing them out of their kids’ hair which is still the most effective method of removing them.

It is interesting that the Cananites wrote a prayer on the comb about eradicating lice and based on the fact that they also had them in their beards it seems like they affected the whole population not just the children who primarily get lice today.

Considering that the comb was ivory and had words on it, we can assume that it belonged to someone wealthy. The poorer people used wooden combs which have not stood the test of time. This shows that the lice touched everyone in all classes.

Not only were lice in the land of C’naan, they were also in Egypt when the plague was not in place, just on a much smaller scale. In order to try to avoid lice as much as possible, many Egyptians shaved their heads or had short hair. Wealthy Egyptians chose to wear wigs as lice prefer to stay in hair that is attached to the head.

May we figure out a way to eradicate lice once and for all!

The difference between frogs and lice Print E-mail
Monday, 27 December 2021

 Sponsored by David Frankel commemorating the 5th yahrzeit of his mother, Basha bat David z”l

According to the Midrash, Shmot Raba 10:7, the dust in Egypt was transformed into lice to punish the Egyptians who forced B'nai Yisrael to sweep up the dust in the streets and marketplaces. During the plague of lice, when the Egyptians needed dust, they went to dig but all that they were able to come up with was lice.

In Shmot 8:12-14, we read about the plague of lice:

God said to Moshe, “Say to Aharon, Extend your rod and strike the dust of the earth; and it will turn into lice throughout the whole land of Egypt.” They did so. Aharon extended his hand with his rod and struck the dust of the earth, and there were lice on man and beast. All the dust of the earth turned into lice throughout the whole land of Egypt. The sorcerers did likewise with their magic art. They tried to bring forth lice but they could not, and there were lice on man and beast.

The Midrash continues: “The sorcerers were not able to bring about lice with their magic art”. Rabbi Elazar said: “We learn from here that the sorcerers were not able to use their demons to create something that is smaller than a barleycorn.” The rabbis taught: “They wouldn't even be able to create a giant animal like a camel since a demon can't create anything, they can only gather animals from far places. Big animals can be brought over but small creatures such as lice could not be brought over.”

In the first two plagues, blood and frogs, the sorcerers thought that Aharon was using demons. However, when the sorcerers couldn't bring about lice from the dust the way that Aharon did, they acknowledged that Moshe and Aharon's work was the "finger" of God and we no longer see them trying to copy any of the other plagues.

In Shmot 8:2-3 we read about the plague of frogs:

Aharon extended his hand over the waters of Egypt, and the frog emerged and covered the land of Egypt. The sorcerers did likewise with their magic art, and made the frogs emerge upon the land of Egypt.

In Shmot Raba 10:4 we see an argument over how the frogs were brought about:

It was taught: Rabbi Akiva said: “There was one frog and it produced a swarm of frogs and it filled the land of Egypt with frogs.” Rabbi Elazar ben Azaryah said to Rabbi Akiva: “Akiva, what do you have to do with Aggadah (legend)? Cease your discourses and focus on Halacha, the laws of Negaim and Oholot! Rather, what happened was that there was originally one frog and it croaked and the others came.”

It wasn’t a big deal for the sorcerers to bring frogs because one frog croaked which brought the others over. However, the lice were too small to bring their friends and actually had to be created directly from the dust, a miraculous task that only God could perform. 

Enjoy the good times Print E-mail
Wednesday, 13 January 2021

In Parshat VaEra (Shmot 6:23), we are introduced to Elisheva:

“Aharon took Elisheva, daughter of Aminadav, sister of Nachshon, for a wife and she gave birth to Nadav, Avihu, Elazar and Itamar.”

We learn in the Talmud, Zvachim 102a and in the Midrash, Vayikra Rabba 20:2:

Elisheva experienced five joys more than the other daughters of Israel as she saw six of her relatives crowned on Rosh Chodesh Nisan, the day that the Mishkan (Tabernacle) was dedicated:

1. Moshe, her brother in law was crowned as king

2. Nachson, her brother was inaugurated as the Nasi, the prince of the tribe of Yehuda who brought the first korban (sacrifice) out of all of the Nesiim (princes). As we read in Bamidbar 7:12:

“And he that offered his offering the first day was Nachshon ben Aminadav, from the tribe of Yehuda.”

3. Aharon, her husband was trained and sanctified to be the Kohen Gadol (High Priest).

4. Nadav and Avihu, her sons became S’ganei Kehuna, deputy priests.

5. Pinchas, her grandson (Elazar’s son) was chosen to be the Kohen Mashuach Milchama, the priest who was anointed to lead the army in war. We read about this role in Dvarim 20:2-4:

And it shall be when you come near to the battle, that the kohen shall approach and speak to the people, and shall say to them, Shma Yisrael, Hear O Israel, you draw near today to do battle against your enemies; let not your hearts faint, fear not, and do not tremble, nor be terrified because of them; for the Lord your God is He that goes with you, to fight for you against your enemies, to save you.

Unfortunately, Elisheva’s happiness was short lived (Vayikra 10:1-2):

And Nadav and Avihu, the sons of Aharon, took each of them his censer and put fire in it and put incense on it and offered strange fire before God which he commanded them not. And a fire went out from God and devoured them and they died before God.

Sadly, Nadav and Avihu were killed and Elisheva’s joy turned to mourning.

There is no complete happiness in this world as it says (Vayikra 16:1-2):

God spoke to Moshe after the death of Aharon’s two sons, when they came near before God, and died; and God said to Moshe: Speak to Aharon, your brother- he shall not come at all times into the Sanctuary, within the Curtain, in front of the Cover that is upon the Ark, so that he should not die; for in a cloud I will appear upon the Ark-cover.

Even though Nadav and Avihu were righteous and tried to get close to God, they transgressed and in an instant, all of the joy turned to mourning.

May we enjoy the good times as we never know how long they will last.

The goal is getting back to Israel Print E-mail
Tuesday, 21 January 2020

In the beginning of Parsha VaEra (Shmot 6:1-3), Elokim, God appears to Moshe and says: I am HaShem, the Lord. I revealed Myself to Avraham, to Yitzchak and to Yaakov as E-l (Almighty) Shaddai, but by My Name the Lord (HaShem) I did not make myself known to them.”

According to Rashi, God made promises to the forefathers, but they were not yet fulfilled as the time for their fulfilment had not yet arrived.

Ramban quotes Ibn Ezra who brings the opinion of Shmuel HaNagid that the word Shadai is from the root Shodded (robber or pirate) meaning that God is the victor and prevailer over the hosts in heaven.

Ramban explains that Shadai was used in reference to the hidden miracles that delivered our forefathers from death, kept them alive in the famine and redeemed them in the wars. The blessings and the curses are all miracles as it is not in nature that the rains should come in their due season when we worship God, nor are the skies to be like iron if we plant our fields in the seventh (Shmita) year and similarly all promises in the Torah. They are miracles where natural law is overpowered, except that no change in the natural world is noticeable (as opposed to the miracles done through Moshe which openly changed nature and were used with God’s name HaShem, the Tetragrammaton).

We see the covenant with our forefathers in verse 4:

“I established My covenant with them, to give them the land of C’naan, the land of their sojourning where they lived as strangers.”

The first promise was made to Avraham in Breisheet Chapter 17:1-2:

When Avram was ninety-nine years old, HaShem, the Lord appeared to Avram and said to him “I am E-l Shaddai walk with Me and be tamim (perfect). And I will make My brit (covenant) between Me and you, all will multiply you exceedingly.”

In sentences Breisheet 17:4-7, Elokim, God, promises Avram that the covenant will be that he will become the father of many nations. His name will be changed to Avraham. The covenant will be with Avraham and his descendants forever.

The covenant is described in Breisheet 17:8:

I will give to you, and to your descendents after you, the land of your temporary residence, all the land of C’naan as an eternal possession, and I will be their Elokim, God.

God then commands Avraham (and his future descendents) to perform the mitzvah of Brit Milah (circumcision).

The Lord, HaShem then reaffirms his promise to Avraham when he speaks to Yitzchak in Breisheet 26:2-3:

“The Lord, HaShem appeared to him (Yitzchak) and said: ‘Do not go down to Egypt. Settle in the land that I will make known to you. Stay temporarily in this land and I will be with you and bless you, for to you and your descendants I will give all these lands. I will thus keep the oath that I swore to Avraham, your father...’”

Before Yitzchak sends Yaakov away to Padan Aram to look for a wife, he blesses Yaakov using the name E-l Shaddai (Breishhet 28:3-4) “And E-l Shaddai will bless you and make you fruitful and multiply you that you may be a multitude of people; and give you the blessing of Avraham, to you, to your seed with you, that you may inherit the land in which you are a sojourner, and which God gave to Avraham.”

God’s official promise to Yaakov (Breisheet 35:11-12) comes after he returns to the land of C’naan with his family and after God changes his name to Yisrael:

God, Elokim said to him: “I am E-l Shaddai. Be fruitful and increase, a nation and a community of nations will come from you, and kings will come from your loins. The land that I gave to Avraham and Yitzchak, I will give to you; and to your offspring after you I will give the land.”

Through hidden miracles, Avraham, Yitzchak and Yaakov lived in the land, yet it was not yet theirs. The promise was that their future descendents would inherit the land after the Egyptian slavery and that is why Avraham bought Mearat HaMachpela in Hevron, Yitzchak had trouble from his neighbors when he tried to dig wells and Yaakov bought a plot of land in Shchem.

God recounts all of this history to show Moshe that he is the next link in the chain and the goal is to get B’nei Yisrael back to the land of C’naan (Israel), the land that was promised to them. This time, B’nei Yisrael will officially inherit the land, fulfilling the promises that God made to our forefathers.

The State of Israel today is nothing short of a miracle. On a daily basis, we are threatened from all sides yet we prevail. We see God’s power as E-l Shaddai, His Hashgacha, Divine protection constantly watching over us.

The Shin on the mezuzah on our doorposts reminds us that the Almighty, Shaddai watches over our homes as Shaddai represents the acronym of Shomer D’latot Yisrael, Guardian of Israel’s doors. May He continue to watch over and protect our private homes as well as the State of Israel.

Why Raanan Shaked* is wrong Print E-mail
Thursday, 03 January 2019

In Memory of David Margolin z”l on his 36th Yahrzeit

I made aliya 14 1/2 years ago with my husband and two young children. We all read Yediot Aharonot every day. We are Israelis with citizenship and ID cards just like our third son who was born in Israel. We speak English at home and Hebrew fluently outside. We left a house and good jobs in NY to come to Israel for one primary reason.

We came to Israel to fulfill a promise. That promise was given to Avraham (Breisheet 17: 7-8): “I will sustain My covenant between Me and you, and between your descendants after you throughout their generations as an eternal covenant, to be a God to you, and to your descendents after you. I will give to you, and to your descendents after you, the land of your temporary residence, all the land of C’naan as an eternal possession, and I will be God to them.”

This promise was later affirmed to Yitzchak (Breisheet 26:3): “Live in this land and I will be with you and bless you, for to you and your descendants I will give all these lands. I will thus keep the oath that I swore to Avraham, your father. I will make your descendents as numerous as the stars of the heavens, and I will give your descendents all these lands. Through your descendants shall be blessed all the nations of the world.”

Yaakov received the blessing as well (Breisheet 35:12): “The land that I gave to Avraham and Yitzchak, I will give to you; and to your offspring after you I will give the land.”

When God appeared to Moshe, He reminded him of His former promises which had not yet been fulfilled (Shmot 6:4): “I also established My covenant with them, to give them the land of C’naan, the land of their sojourning where they lived as strangers.”

Finally, God promised to fulfill his promise (Shmot 6:8): “I will bring you to the land regarding which I raised my hand in oath that I will give it to Avraham, Yitzchak and Yaakov, and I will give it to you as an inheritance. I am God.”

We see from these promises that the Land of Israel is a gift to the entire Jewish people and this is where God wants us to be. There are no specifications about having to be born in Israel, having to master the language or having to be in a specific political camp. God wants you in Israel whether you are a lawyer or whether you serve French fries at a restaurant.

Raanan Shaked can’t understand this. Why would a Jew leave New York and take a lower paying or less prestigious job in Israel? Why would they give up a house and move to an apartment? There must be something wrong with them. He will never understand us no matter how many Nefesh B’Nefesh flights he observes and no matter how many olim (immigrants) he interviews. We are here because this is our homeland.

Those who question olim may not realize that there are many opportunities in Israel that we would not have had in the USA. Israel is far ahead in the areas of Torah study and Jewish education and opportunities for Modern Orthodox Jews to break into fields like joining the Knesset or teaching Zionism through sports, culture and technology are a dream come true.

Instead of judging us, native Israelis should appreciate the contributions that olim are making and realize that we are not a threat but rather people who want to consciously fulfill a promise and make the State of Israel a better place.

Raanan Shaked was wrong to judge us. He owes all olim an apology.

*Raanan Shaked is a journalist for Yediot Achronot who wrote that olim from the United States are a sub-stream of lunatic Isra-mericans, who would doubtfully get jobs as waiters. 

The hidden prophecies in the butler’s dream Print E-mail
Thursday, 11 January 2018

A few weeks ago, in Parshat Vayeshev (Breisheet 40:11) we read Pharaoh’s butler’s description of his dream which mentioned Pharaoh’s cup three times: “Pharaoh’s cup was in my hand. I took the grapes and squeezed them into Pharaoh’s cup. I then placed the cup in Pharaoh’s hand.”

What is the significance of the cup?

One interpretation, as found in Yishayahu 51:17, is that a cup can be used as a metaphor for punishment:

“Awaken yourself! Awaken yourself! Arise O Jerusalem, you who have drunk from the hand of God the cup of his fury. You have drunk from and drained the sediments of the cup of bewilderment.”

In the Talmud, Sotah 9a, Rava asks: Why are three cups stated regarding Egypt? One that is drank during the days of Moshe (when the Egyptians were punished at the time of the Exodus), one that is drank in the days of Pharaoh Necho (who was defeated by Nevuchadnezer the king of Babylon, mentioned in Yirmiyahu 46) and one that it will drink in the future with its fellows, in the days of the Mashiach (when the Egyptians along with the other nations will once again be defeated).

In the Torah reading for Parshat Vaera we read the story of the Exodus where Moshe and Aaron ask Pharaoh to let B’nei Yisrael out and are refused over and over again eventually leading to the redemption of B’nei Yisrael and the downfall of Pharaoh and the Egyptians (the first part of the butler’s prophecy).

This week’s Haftara from Yechezkel, speaks about Egypt’s downfall centuries later and next week’s Haftara from Yirmiyahu continues with the same theme of the Babylonian defeat of Egypt (the second part of the butler’s prophecy).

The prophecies in Yechezkel and Yirmiyahu emphasize that unlike Egypt, Israel will endure forever. Those who relied on Egypt rather than on God saw that they were mistaken.

Rashi comments on the Talmud, Sotah 108a that three of the four cups which we drink at the Passover seder correspond to the three cups from the butler’s dream, but with a positive spin (the fourth cup is not unique to the seder night as a cup of wine is usually part of Birkat HaMazon, Grace After Meals).

According to Rav Yaakov Homnick, the cups of wine at the seder show that we are now kings in our own right. We are no longer slaves. When we sit at the seder, we are like Pharaoh with the cup of majesty being placed in our hands.

Rav Homnick adds that the wine cup which was placed in the butler’s hands represented the fact that he was once again a free person as he was released from jail and was restored to his position in the palace.

At the seder, we too rejoice as free people, celebrating the past redemptions and the hope that the future redemption is upon us.


Don’t bite the hand that feeds you Print E-mail
Friday, 27 January 2017

In Parshat Vaera, God requests that Moshe ask Aharon to perform the first three plagues:

Shmot 7:19, God said to Moshe, “Say to Aharon, ‘Take your rod and extend your hand over the waters of Egypt- over the rivers, over their canals, over their lakes, and over every place where their water is gathered, and it (the water) will become blood.’”

Shmot 8:1, God said to Moshe, “Say to Aharon, ‘Extend your hand with your rod over the rivers, over the steams and over the lakes and bring up the frogs upon the land of Egypt.’”

Shmot 8:12, God said to Moshe, “Say to Aharon, ‘Extend your rod and strike the dust of the earth; and it will turn into lice throughout the whole land of Egypt.’”

Why was Aharon asked to perform the plagues of blood, frogs and lice and not Moshe?

In Shmot Raba, Vaera 10:4, Rabbi Tanchum explains that God told Moshe: “The water that saved you when you were put in a basket in the Nile will not be whipped by you.”

In Shmor Raba, Vaera 10:7, Rabbi Tanchum continues: “The dust that protected you when you killed the Egyptian (when you buried the dead body in the sand so that nobody would know) should not be whipped by you.

We learn from here the concept of “Hakarat HaTov”, appreciation for the good that others have done for us, even in the case of water and sand. How much more so should we appreciate the good deeds that other human beings do for us every day which should not be taken for granted. 

Did the Egyptians Deserve to be punished by the Plagues? Print E-mail
Wednesday, 06 January 2016

Sponsored by Barbara BEISS Muskin

in memory of, zecher nismat 


If Pharaoh was the one who had the idea to enslave B’nai Yisrael, then why did the plagues affect all of the Egyptians? Did the Egyptians deserve a collective punishment?


Shadal (Rabbi Shmuel David Luzatto) explains that the entire Egyptian nation was responsible for the enslavement of B’nai Yisrael.


When reading Shmot 1:9 we read: “He (Pharaoh) said to his people: ‘Behold, the people of B’nai Yisrael are becoming too numerous and strong for us.’” If the Egyptians weren’t evil, they would have tried to calm Pharaoh down and convince him not to hurt B’nai Yisrael. Instead, they kept quiet and in sentence 11 they went along with Pharaoh’s plan: “They (the Egyptians) appointed taskmasters over them (B’nai Yisrael) to afflict them with their burdens.”


It doesn’t say that Pharaoh himself appointed taskmasters rather it says that “they”, meaning the Egyptians appointed taskmasters.


In contrast, when the midwives (who according to Josephus and Abravanel were Egyptian women) were asked to kill the baby boys, they did not comply. The midwives let the baby boys live yet Pharaoh didn’t punish them. If the whole nation wouldn’t have gone along with Pharaoh’s plan to afflict B’nai Yisrael, what could he have done to them?


Shadal concludes that since the Egyptians did not protest the harsh decrees placed on B’nai Yisrael, they were punished along with Pharaoh and that is why the plagues affected the entire Egyptian population. 

When we see that something wrong is happening, we must follow in the footsteps of the midwives and stand up for justice. According to Rabbi Saadya Gaon, the reward that God gave the midwives was that He protected them. May we too merit God’s protection.


Why I Don’t Plan to Return to France Print E-mail
Thursday, 15 January 2015

As a teenager from New York, I spent three summers in France immersed in the Jewish community through a program called The French Jewish Connection.


My high school math teacher, Mr. Harvey Blech z”l couldn’t understand why I went to France on vacation instead of to Israel. He said that after the Holocaust he could not understand why Jews would want to go to France. I tried to explain to him that the best way to learn a language and culture was through immersion but he was not convinced.


In the summer of 1988, I spent a month in Nice, on the Riviera studying French and living with a Jewish family originally from Tunisia, owners of a kosher bakery. I sampled all sorts of Tunisian foods, went to the beach, the Chagall museum and a perfume factory. On Shabbat I prayed in a Sephardic synagogue. After class I enjoyed shopping for the latest French fashions. By the time I returned to New York I was speaking French fluently.

The summer of 1990 was spent in Paris at a Jewish Community Center called Centre Rachi. I studied French in the morning, toured Paris in the afternoons, visited the Chateaux in the Loire Valley, Giverny- The home of Claude Monet and Versailles and spent Shabbatot with the Moroccan community of Paris. I lived in a dormitory on a street that had an open market in the mornings, boutiques in the afternoons and nightlife in the evenings. A sobering moment was a visit to the Veldrome d’Hiver indoor sports stadium in Paris where as part of the Vel d’Hiv roundup in 1942, 7000 Jews were packed in as they waited shipment to the death camps.


In the summer of 1993 Josh (now my husband) and I led a group of thirteen teenagers from North America to Paris. In addition to visiting the Louvre and Disneyland Paris we visited the Consistoire- the Grand Synagogue where the Rabbinate of Paris is housed.


Everything went smoothly until one Saturday night when we were attacked on the Metro (Subway) returning from the homes of our Shabbat hosts.


A group of teenagers noticed that the boys were wearing kippot under their baseball hats and tzitzit under their shirts. They grabbed one of the boy’s hats and started throwing it around. As we were about to get off of the train they tried to push one of the boys between the doors of the train as they were about to close. Josh helped free the boy who was stuck just in time but not before the teenagers smashed Josh’s head into the wall.


Luckily we all made it out of the train but at that moment we were all shaken up.


After that incident I thought about Mr. Blech and understood why he was not interested in going to France.


When the summer came to an end, Josh and I made a decision not to return to France.


Twenty-two years later things have not gotten better in France, they have gotten worse.


Were all of those years of studying French wasted now that I would no longer be going back to France?


I now live in Jerusalem and I still use my French when speaking to senior citizens who attend my classes in Jerusalem’s nursing homes. Even though they understand Hebrew, those who made aliya from French speaking countries when they were already older can often express themselves better in French and much of their wisdom would get lost in translation.


The younger immigrants from France are anxious to integrate into Israeli society and are very quick to pick up Hebrew. Over the last few years we have seen many Jews from France buy apartments in Israel, some making aliya. There are many more French students in our children’s schools in Jerusalem now than there were ten years ago.


Although I don’t plan to return to France, I now have French neighbors who are just as warm as the members of the Jewish community that I spent time with while visiting France.


In addition to coming with a sense of style and culture, the French Jews who are making aliya are bringing values that Israel desperately needs: a commitment to Judaism, to Zionism and to religious tradition.


French immigrants are also contributing to Israeli society. One example is Golan of Golan Telecom who started a cell phone company which offers low rates and has helped lower the rates of his competitors.


In Parshat Vaera (Shmot 6:6-8) God promises to bring the Jews out of Egypt, save them, redeem them, take them as a people and bring them to the Land of Israel.


May God continue to help the Jews of France and Jews from throughout the world fulfill the prophecy of making aliya to the State of Israel.


Where was Yocheved Buried? Print E-mail
Saturday, 28 December 2013

In Parshat VaEra, we read about the genealogy of the tribe of Levi.


In Shmot 6:11 we read: “Amram took his aunt Yocheved for his wife and she gave birth to Aharon and Moshe. The years of Amram’s life were 137 years.”


Rashi explains the word aunt to mean “Amram’s father’s sister” since she was Levi’s daughter, Kehat’s sister.


In Bamidbar 26:59 the Torah states that Miriam was Yocheved’s daughter: “The name of Amram’s wife was Yocheved, daughter of Levi whom (her mother) bore to Levi in Egypt. She bore to Amram: Aharon, Moshe and their sister Miriam.”


Rashi states that Yocheved was born in Egypt but she was not conceived in Egypt. As they entered the walls of Egypt, she bore her and completed the number of the 70 children of Israel who went down to Egypt (even though only 69 people were listed in the Torah as going down to Egypt).


In Otzar HaMidrashim, Yocheved is listed as one of the 23 most righteous women of Israel. The list includes Sara, Rivka, Rachel, Leah, Yocheved, Miriam, the five daughters of Zelophchad, Devora, the wife of Manoach (Shimshon’s mother), Chana and Avigail.


There is a tradition that Yocheved is buried in Tveriya (Tiberius) in a “Tomb of the Mothers” along with Tzipora (Moshe’s wife), Elisheva (Aharon’s wife), Bilha and Zilpa (Yaakov’s wives) and Aviagil (wife of King David). They are thought to be buried in the Kiryat Shmuel neighborhood of Tveriya.


Since we don’t have any evidence to the fact that they are for sure buried there, it could be that these graves were set up as a place for women to pray but are not where they were actually buried. Many women go to Tveriya to pray at their graves for fertility.


After all, it would make sense that Bilha, Zilpa and Avigail would be buried in the Land of Israel as they were living there but what about Yocheved, Tzipora and Elisheva? We don’t have any concrete information about whether they came in to the Land of Israel.


The fact that a grave was set up to honor these women (whether or not they are really buried there) shows how much they were looked up to by the entire Jewish nation.


Why is Yichus so Important? Print E-mail
Friday, 11 January 2013
In Parshat VaEra, Shmot 6:23 we read: “Aharon took Elisheva, daughter of Aminadav, sister of Nachshon, for a wife and she gave birth to Nadav, Avihu, Elazar and Itamar.”


Why does the Torah bring us so much background information about Elisheva, listing who her father and brother were?


According to Eben Ezra, the Torah specifically mentions that she is the sister of Nachshon to teach us about the secret of the Kehuna (priesthood). The children of Aharon had special “yichus”, in other words they came form a good family, from their mother’s side as well, since Elisheva was the sister of Nachshon the son of Aminadav, the nasi (prince) of the tribe of Yehuda.


Ramban says that Elisheva, the mother of the Kehuna is the sister of the most important nasi.


Sforno says that Nachson was the most important nasi of his generation and Elishava was the mother of important people who would later become the Kohanim.


A lot of people feel that when choosing a spouse their yichus is important.


It says in Masechet Yoma 85a: Rabbi Yochanan said: “Whoever is a Talmid Chaham and his son is a Talmid Chacham and his grandson is a Talmid Chacham, the Torah will never stop from his descendents.”


The problem is that we can’t only rely on yichus. A person can have wonderful ancestors, but they must continue to follow in their footsteps.


Unfortunately, two of Aharon’s sons, did not follow in Aharon and Elisheva’s footsteps and were put to death by God. As it says in Vayikra 10:1-2: “And Nadav and Avihu, the sons of Aharon, took each of them his censer and put fire in it and put incense on it and offered strange fire before God which he commanded them not. And a fire went out from God and devoured them and they died before God.”


We read in Midrash Raba 20:10: “Rabbi Levi said: Nadav and Avihu were conceited. Many women wanted to marry them but they said: Our uncle is King (Moshe), our other uncle is head of a tribe (Nachshon), our father (Aharon) is the Kohen Gadol (High Priest) and we are his two assistants. Who could possibly be worthy enough to marry us?”


We learn from here that our yichus is only as good as the effort that we put in to cultivate the next generation.



Pharaoh the Crocodile Print E-mail
Friday, 20 January 2012

In Parshat Shmot we read about when God appears to Moshe at the burning bush. Moshe asks God how the Jewish people will believe that he was sent by God. God tells him (Shmot 4:3) “Throw it (the rod) on the ground. He threw it on the ground and it turned into a nachash (snake)…”


In our Parsha, Vaera (Shmot 7:9) God told Moshe and Aharon: “When Pharaoh speaks to you, saying, ‘Give yourselves [credibility by displaying] a marvel; you should then say to Aharon, ‘Take your rod and throw it down before Pharaoh. It will become a tanin (dragon or crocodile).”


Why was Pharoah given the sign of the tanin while Moshe was given the sign of the nachash?


According to Cassuto: Instead of the nachash (snake), most appropriate to desert, in which form the sign was transmitted to Moshe, comes here the tanin (dragon or crocodile), most appropriate to the Egyptian milieu.


The Midrash, Torah Shlema by Rav Kasher explains that there is a deeper meaning:

God said: This villain boasts and calls himself a tanin as it says in Yechezkel 29:3 “Thus says God; behold, I am against you, Pharaoh, King of Egypt, the great tanim that couches in the midst of his rivers (the Nile and its canals) who has said, My Nile river is my own, and I have made it for myself.” Go tell him: See this staff, it is a piece of dry wood; it will become a tanin with life and soul and swallow up the other staffs and it is destined to revert to a dry piece of wood. You, Pharaoh, likewise, I created from a putrid drop and gave you empire and you boasted and said “My Nile river is my own, and I have made it for myself.” Behold I shall turn you back to nothingness and chaos.


Unfortunately, Pharaoh looked at himself as a God and didn’t learn from the message that was hinted to. Pharaoh remained haughty and his downfall eventually did come.


The lesson that can be learned here is that no matter how much we may have accomplished we must not be haughty because at the end of the day, everything that we have comes from God and everything is in God’s hands.



God is Working Behind the Scenes Print E-mail
Thursday, 30 December 2010

In Parshat Vaera, we see that Pharaoh’s sorcerers through their incantations were able to duplicate the staff turning into a snake as well as the plagues of blood and frogs.


When it came to the third plague, the sorcerers were not able to produce the lice. At that point (Shmot 8:15) the sorcerers said to Pharaoh, “Etzba Elohim Hi- It is the finger of God!”


Even though the sorcerers were not able to conjure up the lice they were careful to only say that it is the “finger of God” as opposed to the “Hand of God.”


Ramban points out that they did not use the name “Hashem”, meaning God of Israel but rather “Elohim”, a generic term for God, making it sound more like a natural phenomenon and less like the God of the Jewish people performing miracles in order to save them.


The fact that the sorcerers were not able to remove the first two plagues and were not able to produce any of the other plagues points to the fact that God was in control.


You can look at the plagues and say that they were just coincidences, natural disasters that have been known to occur in Egypt throughout the ages. However, the bottom line is that the fact that they happened when they did and were stopped only when God wanted to stop them shows that it was not a coincidence.


When looking around at the modern State of Israel as well, we see many things that could be looked at as standard yet when we take a closer look it is clear that there are miracles taking place here all of the time. The fact that many terrorists are stopped before carrying out an attack is just one example.


Let’s keep our eyes open in order to find the hidden miracles that take place each day.

The Frogs Sanctified God’s Name Print E-mail
Friday, 15 January 2010

“…Behold I shall strike your entire boundary with frogs. The river shall swarm with frogs and they shall ascend and come into your palace and your bedroom and your bed and into the house of your servants and of your people and into your ovens and into your kneading bowls. And into you and your people and all your servants will the frogs ascend.”(Shmot 7:27-29)


The Gemara in Pesachim 53b brings the following story:


Todos of Rome asked the following question: What did Chananya, Mishael and Azarya (from the Book of Daniel) see that caused them to deliver themselves to the fiery furnace for the sanctification of God’s name?


Todos answered: They took out for themselves a Kal VaChomer argument concerning themselves from the passage of the frogs (in Sefer Shmot) as follows: Whereas regarding the frogs, which are not commanded in the mitzvah of sanctifying God’s name it is written: “The river shall swarm with frogs, and they shall ascend and come into your palace…and into your ovens and into your kneading bowls” (Shmot 7:28). And when are your kneading bowls found next to an oven? At the time that the oven is hot! The Maharsha teaches that the frogs did a wondrous act of sanctification by jumping into the burning ovens since frogs are water creatures who left their natural environment and entered the exact antithesis, the fire of the ovens. We, who are commanded in the mitzvah of sanctifying God’s name should all the more so be willing to sacrifice our lives for that purpose.


Rabbi Yonatan Aivschitz taught when he was eight years old that we learn from this Gemara that all of the frogs were willing to sacrifice themselves and jump into the ovens and they did not fight over who would get to go in the house and who would get to go in the beds- they all went wherever was necessary in order to sanctify God’s name.


There have been many Jewish people who have sacrificed their lives in order to sanctify God’s name. Isn’t it time that we live our lives in a way that sanctifies God’s name?

Why Blood? Print E-mail
Thursday, 03 January 2008

In Shmot Raba 9:8 the following question is asked: “Why were the waters first transformed into blood? The answer: Pharaoh and the Egyptians worshiped the Nile. God said “I will strike first his god and then his nation!”

Mishnat R. Eliezer 19 asks the same question, but has a very different answer: God brought upon the Egyptians the plague of blood because they threw the children of the Israelites into the river as it says “every male child shall be cast into the river…” Therefore he punished them through the waters of the Nile.

Lekach Tov adds that it is because the Egyptians spilled the blood of the Israelites like water.

Nechama Leibowitz points out that while Mishnat R. Eliezer and Lekach Tov interpret the plagues as a punishment, measure for measure, Shmot Raba emphasizes the theological aspect, through the plagues they will begin to recognize the true God.

Last Friday, two off duty Israeli soldiers, Ahikam Amihai z’l and David Rubin z’l were killed while hiking near Kiryat Arba. We can’t sit idly by and let this happen. Jewish blood is not cheap!

Just as our enemies in Egypt were punished measure for measure, so too should our enemies be punished today.

Let’s hope and pray that all of the nations of the world will recognize God as well as value human life.


The True Redemption Print E-mail
Thursday, 18 January 2007

In Parshat Vaera (Shmot 6:6-8) God tells Moshe "Say to B.nai Yisrael I am God Vehotzeiti- I will bring you out from under the burdens of Egypt, Vehitzalti- I will save you from their slavery. Vega.alti- I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with acts of great judgments. Velakachti- I will take you to Myself as a people and I will be your God. You will know that I am your God who is bringing you out from under the burdens of Egypt. Veheveti- I will bring you to the land regarding which I raised my hand in oath that I would give it to Avraham, Yitzchak and Yaakov, and I will give it to you as an inheritance. I am your God."

In these three psukim we see five words of redemption- vehotzeiti, vehitzalti, vega.alti, velakachti and veheveti.

In the Gemara (Yerushalmi Psachim) Rabbi Yochanan asks: "Why do we drink four cups of wine on Pesach?" The four cups of wine correspond to the four words of redemption vehotzeiti, vehitzalti, vega.alti, velakachti.

Why don.t we drink a fifth cup to correspond to the word veheveti?

According to Torah Temima, this last promise has not fully been fulfilled. Even though B.nai Yisrael were brought to the land of Israel, they were subsequently exiled and many of the Jewish people still remain in Galut (exile).

Another idea is that the exodus from Egypt was certain- God took care of everything while the settling and building up of Israel is up to us and has not yet been completed.

At the Pesach seder, we pour a fifth cup of wine, the cup of Eliyahu, which we don.t drink, to symbolize the fact that we hope that the full promise of redemption will be fulfilled and that all of the Jews will return to Israel. We pray that speedily Eliyahu will come and at that time the full redemption will take place.

Don't Take Israel for Granted Print E-mail
Tuesday, 24 January 2006

In the beginning of Parshat VaEra, God appears to Moshe and reestablishes the covenant that He made with Avraham, Yitzchak and Yaakov. The Land of Israel will be given to the Jewish people.

God is now ready to take B'nei Yisrael out of slavery and bring them to the Land of Israel. In Shmot 6:8 we read "And I will bring you to the land regarding which I raised my hand in oath and I will give it to you as an inheritance (morasha), I am God."

According to the Maharam (Rabbi Meir b. Baruch of Rotenberg), there is only one other time that the word morasha is used in the Torah. The word morasha appears in Parshat VeZot HaBracha, Devarim 33:4, "Torah Tziva Lanu Moshe, Morasha Kehillat Yaakov", The Torah which Moshe commanded us is the heritage of the congregation of Yaakov.

Maharam explains that the Torah is not an inheritance that easily comes to each person. Rather, we must work hard studying the Torah day and night and constantly be involved in it. As it says in Pirkei Avot 2:12, "Make your self fit for the study of Torah, for it is not yours by inheritance." The Torah does not pass genetically from parent to child and no one acquires it without the necessary mental exertion.

The same can be said for the Land of Israel. In order to inherit the land we have to constantly be working for it. We can't rely on God's covenant to our forefathers.

After the destruction of the first Beit HaMikdash, we read in the Book of Yechezkel 33:23 "The word of God came to Yechezkel saying: They that inhabit those waste places in the land of Israel speak saying: Avraham was one man and yet he inherited the land, the land is given to us for inheritance (morasha)." God tells Yechezkel to respond: "You eat with the blood and lift your eyes toward your idols and shed blood and shall you possess the land? You stand upon your sword, you carry out disgusting deeds. and you shall possess the land?I shall make the land most desolate and the pride of her strength shall cease and the mountains of Yisrael will be blighted so that none shall pass through. Then shall they know that I am God when I have made the land a total blight because of the disgusting deeds that they have committed."

Throughout the Torah and Jewish history we have seen that God is only going to give the Jews the privilege of being able to live in Israel if we earn it.

How do we earn the privilege of living in the Land of Israel?

By observing the mitzvoth between a person and God

By observing the mitzvoth between a person and their fellow person

We also have to protect the land on a practical level with a strong army and tight security.

Those who are not living in Israel must do what they can to help Israel's economy, social service institutions and educational programs.

Each time that I pass a park in Jerusalem I am touched to see the sign that a family from overseas cared enough to help provide a beautiful and safe place for our children to play.

Let's continue our efforts to tirelessly study Torah and do all that we can to preserve and beautify the land of Israel which should never be taken for granted.