The handwriting is on the wall

23 Nisan 5774
One week and one day of the omer


Things Are Looking Up

22 Nisan 5774
Isru Chag

Exclusive: Arab Israeli Refused Sale of Home

...Even her distinguished service in the IDF did not help her with the various agents and homeowners who refused to sell her a house. And they were not ashamed to explain that the reason was that she is an Arab.

... "I try to identify by your accent if you are a Jew or Arab. This agency will never sell Jewish land to a non-Jew."

...Alllah Fakrah, an Arab student also searched for an apartment to rent with 3 friends said, “I called 24 apartments and all gave negative answers." After signing for an apartment, the landlord reneged and tore up the contract after neighbors pressured her.

...The Ministry of Justice recently launched a campaign for equality. The caption reads, "Yesterday, they wouldn't let me sit on the bus, today, they won't rent an apartment to me."

The Jewish people are on the right track, it's the ruling regime of the Erev Rav who have got it all wrong. Perhaps it sounds cruel and unfair to our assimilated ears, but this is Torah law and the only way to keep our land Jewish, which is itself a "racist" idea according to the world. This is why pure democracy can never work for us.


"The courage and faith to work redemption"

20 Nisan 5774
Fifth Day Chol Hamoed Pesach

The seventh day of Pesach: The courage and faith to work redemption
by Daniel Pinner

It is so deeply ingrained in our national consciousness that the Splitting of the Red Sea and the subsequent drowning of the Egyptian Army occurred on the seventh day of Pesach, that it often comes as something of a surprise to discover that the Torah does not record explicitly when it occurred.

The Talmud and the Midrashim, however, are consistent about this chronology, and the Seder Olam Rabbah synthesizes several sources to give a detailed account of the Exodus. “On the 14th of Nisan the Jews slaughtered their Pesach-sacrifices in Egypt [Exodus 12:3-11, 21-22]; that was a Thursday, and that night the [Egyptian] first-borns were smitten [v. 29]. The day after the Pesach-sacrifice, which was the eve of Shabbat [i.e. Friday], they travelled from Rameses… Then from Rameses they travelled to Succoth [v. 37], and from Succoth to Etham [13:20], and from Etham to Pi-hahiroth [14:1], which is three days. On the fourth day [after the Exodus] ‘it was told to the king of Egypt that the nation had escaped’ [v. 5], and on the fifth and sixth days ‘Egypt pursued after them’ [v. 9]. On the eve of the seventh day they descended into the sea, as it says ‘there was cloud and darkness which lit up the night’ [v. 20]. At daybreak Israel came up out of the Red Sea and the Egyptians were drowned. At that moment Israel sang the Song at the Sea, as it says ‘then Moshe and the children of Israel sang…’ [15:1]. That was a Thursday, and it was the final Yom Tov day of Pesach” (Seder Olam Rabbah, Chapter 5).

Naturally, this is the reason that the Talmud (Megillah 31a) decrees that the Torah-reading for the seventh day of Pesach is the section which includes the crossing of the Red Sea and the Song at the Sea – specifically Exodus 13:17-15:26, beginning with “It happened when Pharaoh sent the nation out…” and continuing until after the Song at the Red Sea, celebrating the Egyptians’ drowning in the Red Sea.

The Midrash (Sh’mot Rabbah 21:8 and Mekhilta de-Rabbi Shimon bar Yochay 14:15) cites two opinions as to how we merited the awesome, revealed miracle of the Splitting of the Red Sea.

Rabbi Benaya opined that God split the Red Sea in the merit of Abraham our father: the Torah records that when God commanded him to sacrifice his son Isaac, “he split the wood of the burnt-offering” (Genesis 22:3), using the verb “va-yevakka” for “split”; and 363 years later, when God “made the sea damp ground and the waters split”(Exodus 14:21), the Torah uses the same verb for “split”.

Rabbi Akiva opined that it was in the merit of Jacob: when Jacob slept in Beit El on his way to his uncle Laban in Haran and dreamed his famous dream of the ladder linking Heaven and earth, God promised him that “your seed will be as the dust of the earth, and you will burst forth westwards and eastwards, and northwards and southwards” (Genesis 28:14).

There are at least two different explanations for this. The Matanot Kehunah (commentary to Midrash Rabbah composed by Rabbi Yissachar Ber ha-Kohen Katz, Poland 16th century) picks up on the word God used for “burst forth” – “paratztah” – which also denotes “splitting”, portending that one day in the future the sea would split for Jacob’s descendants.

The Maharz”u (Rabbi Ze’ev Wolf Einhorn, Grodno and Vilna, died 1862) picks up on the word God used for “westwards” – “yamah”, literally “seawards” – portending that one day in the future Jacob’s descendants would burst forth into the sea (commentary to Sh’mot Rabbah 21:8).

In any event, God split the Red Sea for us in the merit of faith and self-sacrifice, whether that of Abraham or of Jacob.

The Talmud (Sotah 37a) and the Midrash (Mekhilta de-Rabbi Yishma’el, Beshallach, Masekhet de-Vayehi 5) graphically depict the events at the shores of the Red Sea. The Twelve Tribes of Israel stood by the sea, each Tribe proclaiming: “I’m not going down into the sea first!”. While they were bickering among themselves, all frightened of taking the initiative, Nachshon son of Amminadav, a leader of the Tribe of Judah (Exodus 6:23, Numbers 1:7, Ruth 4:20, 1 Chronicles 2:10), leapt forward ahead of them all into the Red Sea.

Nachshon son of Amminadav, too, displayed unwavering courage and faith and self-sacrifice; and it was this that convinced God to split the Red Sea for Israel.

God sends us salvation and redemption in the merit of our courage and faith and self-sacrifice. But to deserve salvation and redemption, at least some of us have to jump forward, ahead of the rest of the nation, if necessary against the counsel of the leaders of the nation, in a brazen display of faith in God.

Let us return to Rabbi Akiva’s opinion that God split the Red Sea in the merit of Jacob. The Ba’al ha-Turim (Rabbi Ya’akov ben Asher, Germany and Spain, c.1275-1343) finds an unexpected connection between Jacob and the Splitting of the Red Sea: when Joseph dreamed his second dream – that the sun, the moon, and eleven stars were bowing to him – and related his dream to his father Jacob and brothers, “his father [Jacob] castigated him” (Genesis 37:10).

The Ba’al ha-Turim notes that the word that the Torah uses here, “va-yig’ar” (“he castigated”), occurs only twice in the entire Tanach; the other occurrence is in King David’s majestically poetic depiction of the Splitting of the Red Sea: “Then He castigated the Red Sea and it became dry, and He led them through the depths as through a desert” (Psalms 106:9). The Ba’al ha-Turim concludes: “So it was in [Jacob’s] merit that it became dry; and this is the inference of ‘Israel saw the mighty hand which Hashem inflicted upon Egypt’(Exodus 14:31) – Israel their ancestor”.

Rabbi Akiva, who opined that God split the Red Sea in the merit of Jacob, was the epitome of unwavering courage and faith and self-sacrifice: it was he who interpreted the command that “you shall love Hashem your God…with all your soul” (Deuteronomy 6:5, incorpoated into the Shema) to mean, “even if He takes your soul” (Berachot 61b, Yerushalmi Berachot 9).

When the Romans forbade public teaching of Torah on pain of death, Rabbi Akiva defied this decree. He was eventually arrested and put to death by having his skin raked off his body with iron combs. While he was thus being tortured the sun rose, and he began reciting the Shema. His students were astonished: “Our master! Even this far?!”

Rabbi Akiva responded: “Throughout my life I was concerned with this verse ‘with all your soul’, which I interpreted to mean ‘even if He takes your soul’. I used to say: When will I ever have to opportunity to fulfil this? And now that I have the opportunity – should I not seize it?!” (Berachot 61b and Tanhuma, Ki Tavo 2).

When God had forged His covenant with Abraham, He promised him: “I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you, and I will make your name great” (Genesis 12:2). The Talmud expounds: “‘I will make you into a great nation’ – we refer to this by saying ‘the God of Abraham’; ‘and I will bless you’ – we refer to this by saying ‘the God of Isaac; ‘and I will make your name great’ – we refer to this by saying ‘the God of Jacob’” (Pesachim 117b).

The name of Israel becomes great through our unwavering courage and faith in God and self-sacrifice for the nation and for God. Since it was Rabbi Akiva who, more than anyone else, epitomised these qualities, it is eminently appropriate that he would expound that the Splitting of the Red Sea was in the merit of Jacob, in whom was fulfilled God’s promise that “I will make your name great”.

Israel’s task in this world is to make God’s Name great in the world; “You are in our midst, O Hashem, and Your Name is called upon us” (Jeremiah 14:9). Countless times throughout the Tanach, the Prophets proclaim that Israel is called by God’s Name, and the degradation of Israel is therefore the desecration of the Name of God.

And the obvious corollary is that the glory of Israel is the sanctification of the Name of God. When He performed the magnificent miracle at the Red Sea, His Name was sanctified and glorified throughout the world. Indeed – “I will make your name great”, and He made His own Name great too.

This is the connection between Jacob and the Splitting of the Red Sea. And this is the power of the Splitting of the Red Sea. And this is the power of unwavering courage and faith and self-sacrifice. And this is the power of the seventh day of Pesach.


Shabbat Chol HaMoed Pesach - 5774

18 Nisan 5774
Third Day Chol Hamoed Pesach
Erev Shabbat Kodesh

Shabbat Chol HaMoed Pesach – Torah perspective: They really must go – Rabbi Meir Kahane

“Beware of what I command you today: Behold I drive out before you the Amorite, the Canaanite, the Hittite, the Perizzite, the Hivvite and the Jebusite. Be vigilant least you seal a covenant with the inhabitant of the land to which you come, lest it be a snare among you. Rather you shall break apart their altars, smash their pillars, and cut down its sacred trees. [...]Lest you seal a covenant with the inhabitant of the land, and they will stray after their gods and slaughter to their gods; and he will invite you and you will eat from his slaughter. And you will take their daughters for your sons, and their daughters will stray after their gods and entice your sons to stray after their gods.” (Ex.34:11-16)

G-d established the Jewish People as a holy nation, chosen, treasured and lofty, His select anointed. Their task was to accept the yoke of His kingdom, sanctify His name on earth as Supreme King and subjugate their pride, selfishness and evil impulse by accepting and preserving G-d's attributes and values, His laws, judgments and statutes. G-d knew that such a nation could not maintain its perfection unless it were set apart from the foreign culture of the nations.

G-d, therefore, established for His holy nation a holy land. It would be a vessel to house the Jewish People and their society, the Torah state G-d obligated them to create, and to separate them from the straying nations and their culture which both errs and leads others astray. After all, whatever separates between Israel and the nations necessarily separates between holiness and the non-holy. Thus, Eretz Yisrael, once Israel were chosen to be G-d's people, became the only holy place on earth, while all other lands are impure. G-d established this distinction, because He wished His people Israel to be set apart from the rest of the nations. He, therefore, established that the Divine Presence would not rest outside of Eretz Israel, that there would be no blessing for the Jewish People except in Eretz Yisrael itself, and that all holiness and all mitzvot would be confined to Eretz Yisrael. It is clear that even inside Eretz Yisrael, G-d wished Israel to be set apart from the non-Jew and from his culture and wished the Land to be free of their influence.

There are two components to this separation. On the one hand, Israel must leave the exile and live only in their special land, lest they be influenced by the nations and their culture. On the other hand, even in Eretz Yisrael itself, Israel must separate themselves from that evil culture.

Regarding Eretz Yisrael [...], non-Jews are divided up into two groups. The first is non-Jewish nations who were in the Land when Israel arrived there to conquer and occupy it. The second is all the rest of the non-Jewish nations, including idolaters, descendants of Noah, and foreigners and alien residents. The Torah saw a twofold danger in the nations who dwelt in the Land before Israel arrived to conquer it, namely the seven Canaanite nations. On the one hand, like all the nations, the Canaanites constituted a spiritual danger to Israel, who had been commanded to establish a Divine, Torah-oriented state in Eretz Yisrael, isolated and set apart from the abominations of alien cultures.

Moreover, the Canaanites posed a unique danger in that they viewed Israel as conquerors who had taken their land. They would hate Israel forever and would forever dream of revenge and seek opportunities for reconquest.

Following is the great commentator Abarbanel (on Ex. 34:11-12, see top of article): Verses 11-12 inform us that since G-d is driving out the Amorites and the other nations, it is improper for Israel to forge a covenant with them. If a nobleman helps someone by fighting his battles and banishing his enemies, it is morally inappropriate for that person to make peace with them without that nobleman's permission. So, too, with G-d driving out Israel's enemies, it is inappropriate for Israel to forge a covenant with them, for that would profane G-d's glory.

This is especially so considering that this friendship and this covenant will not succeed. With Israel having taken their land, there is no doubt that they will constantly seek Israel's downfall. This is why it is said, “[the land] where you are coming.” Since Israel came to the land and took it from its inhabitants, and they feel that is has been stolen from them, how will they make a covenant of friendship with you? Rather the opposite will occur. “They will be a fatal trap for you.” When war strikes you, they will join your enemies and fight you.

How exalted and true are Abarbanel's words! This is the real reason for the approach taken by Halachah to the seven nations. G-d understood the mentality of these nations. He knew that they would view Israel as conquerors and thieves and would forever relate to them with resentment and hatred. The Torah explicitly commanded, at least regarding driving out the Land's inhabitants, because if they remains via a peace treaty, they will become “barbs in your eyes... causing you troubles in the Land.” (Num. 33:55. Not in vain are the words “yerushah” - inheritance, and “horashah”- driving out, so similar in Hebrew. G-d knew that without driving out the nations of the Land, the Land would not be an inheritance for them. Rashi explained the same way: (on Num, 33:52-53): “Vehorashtem”: Drive them out. “Vehorashtem et ha'aretz”: If you first “clear out the Land of its inhabitants”, then - “viyeshavtem bah” - you will be able to survive in it.

Otherwise, you will be unable to survive in it. And Or HaChaim writes (Ibid., v. 55): “They shall cause you troubles in the land” (Num. 33:55): Not only will they hold on to the part of the land that you have not taken, but the part which you have taken and settled as well. “They shall cause you trouble” regarding the part that you live in, saying, “Get up and leave it.”

Here is the plain truth before us, and it will defeat those who warp and distort the Torah. The Torah commanded us not to hesitate about annihilating the nations in the Land, lest they harbor enmity and seek revenge for Israel's taking the land they viewed as their own. Certainly, Israel did take it from them, but that has no importance, because G-d, Master of all the earth, promised the Jewish People – and them alone – the Land. G-d “uproots some inhabitants and brings in others” (Pesikta deRav Kahana, page 123). G-d uprooted the Canaanites and brought in Israel, “that they might keep His statutes and observe His laws. Praise the L-rd!” (Ps. 105:45).

It follows that those same laws that applied to the seven nations apply to all the nations that live in Eretz Yisrael in every age. This includes those of our day, who view Eretz Yisrael as their own land and soil, and who view the Jewish People as a nation of conquerors, robbers and thieves. That same danger looms over the Jewish People and its control over Eretz Yisrael in our time as then.

After all, what difference is there as far as G-d's warning that “those who remain shall be barbs in your eyes and thorns in your sides, causing you troubles in the Land” (Num. 33:55), between the seven nations and between any nation that dwells in the Land, views it as its own, and then Israel come and conquer it from them? Surely, it will feel that same hatred and that same fierce will for revenge as did the seven nations, as explained by Abarbanel (quoted above).

This logic appears already in Or HaChaim (on Num. 33:52): “You must drive out”: Although the verse said of the seven nations, “You shall not allow any people to remain alive” (Deut. 20:16), here, the Torah is talking about other nations found there besides the seven. It therefore was careful to say, “all the Land's inhabitants,” meaning, even those not of the seven.

Any fair and honest person, who has accepted G-d's yoke upon himself, knows from simple logic that this is the truth, that today's Ishmaelites – as far as their dwelling in the Land – are considered like the seven nations (and in this regard, lacking any reason to distinguish between the seven nations and others, the same laws apply).

As far as the seven nations, inhabitants of the Land, we learn (Jerusalem Talmud, Shevi'it 6:1): Joshua sent three proclamations to Eretz Yisrael before Israel entered the Land: “Whoever wishes to leave, should leave; to make peace, should make peace; to make war, should make war.”

Joshua gave the seven nations three choices: to leave the Land, to fight – and if so, to be killed – or to make
peace, via absolute surrender, with taxes, slavery and abandonment of idolatry, steps constituting an admission that the L-rd is G-d, Supreme King of Kings, that He has given their land, the Land of Canaan, to His people Israel, and that henceforth it is Eretz Yisrael. It seems clear that the possibility of “making peace” was given to these nations only before Israel entered the Land.

After all, if they agreed to peace only after Israel entered and began to be victorious and conquer the Land, then their overture was obviously insincere and motivated only by fear. We must then suspect that they are only waiting for the right moment to revolt.

Tosafot adds: The option to “make peace” must have only been available before Joshua began his first war. Rahab, too, accepted Judaism upon herself before they started the war. R. Yehuda and R. Shimon argued only about whether Canaanites outside the borders could be accepted afterwards.

Yet those within the Land could not be accepted once Joshua had started the war, and “You shall not allow any people to remain alive” applied to them. Their options were either to fight and die or to flee the Land. Once again, this was for the simple reason that we do not believe them, due to the clear, reasonable suspicion that those who fought and only after defeat proclaimed their desire to make peace, are not sincere. They are doing it only out of fear, because they have no choice. It is patently clear that for that same reason, we cannot tolerate the Ishmaelites' presence today in Eretz Yisrael. Not only did they not submit before the war began in which they were defeated, but they murdered, burnt and tried to wipe out the Jews who arrived in Eretz Yisrael years and decades beforehand. In this way they are no different form the seven nations.

Clearly, the Ishmaelites, too, think that Israel, who arrived in the Land and wished to establish a Jewish state there, are thieves. They, too, will always harbor resentment against Israel and will never resign themselves to us, but will await the “right moment” to rebel. As for their ostensibly having submitted nowadays, that is only out of fear and the inability to claim victory for the time being. Moreover, their “submission” lacks legal force, because according to G-d's decree, any non-Jew given the right to ask to live in Eretz Yisrael must accept hard and fast conditions in accordance with the Halachah, namely tribute and servitude.

This applies whether he is actually from the seven nations or classed as such (i.e. those in the Land before Israel arrived to take it from them), and assumes that he asks before war breaks out. It also applies where he is from another nation, i.e. from outside the Land. The reason for these conditions is both because of the danger he poses to Israel's security and the danger of his influencing Israel with his alien culture.

The conditions are as follows: 1) acceptance of the status of ger toshav, resident alien, with abandonment of idolatry and acceptance of the seven Noahide laws; 2) tribute 3) servitude. Because an argument has arisen among medieval scholars regarding [the status of] ger toshav, let us leave it aside until we explain the two others, tribute and servitude, regarding which all agree that without these, a non-Jew cannot live in Eretz Yisrael.

As the Torah explains, these two conditions are the main ones applying to the non-Jew who wishes to dwell in Eretz Yisrael, because these serve to ensure in advance the security of the Jewish commonwealth. Thus, either the enemy is banished or annihilated, or subjugated through tribute and servitude. This is why in Deuteronomy 20, where the Torah discusses the laws of conquest, it first sets forth these two conditions. If there is no security, Israel will be unable to establish a stable regime as a center of Torah and holiness. The question of peace in the Middle East is a question of the Arabs and the world acknowledging the total sovereignty of the Almighty. There can be no compromise on this. It is only a peace that comes with Arabs submitting to the yoke of the heavenly kingdom that will be a permanent one and the Jew who gives up part of his land as a compromise, violates the entire purpose of the rise of the Jewish State and the demand of the Almighty that the nations acknowledge Him as King. There can be no retreat from land because that is in essence a retreat also from the Kingship of the L-rd. No, not hatred of the other nations, but an understanding and deep assurance of belief that the Jews are indeed the blessed recipients of Divine truth; that that truth is a thing to be studied and acted upon and lived every moment of the Jew's life and that he and his children and theirs must live in a society of Divine holiness that is unique and untouched or influenced by the profanity and commonness of the other nations. Not hatred for others, but deep pride and thanksgiving that we are the Chosen.
Compiled by Tzipora Liron-Pinner from “The Jewish Idea” of Rabbi Meir Kahane, HY”D, last two paragraphs excerpted from an article (couldn't identify which) from Barbara Ginsberg's blog "Rabbi Meir Kahane's writings" and from Rabbi Kahane's "Uncomfortable questions for comfortable Jews".


Shir HaShirim

18 Nisan 5774
Third Day of Chol Hamoed
Erev Shabbat Kodesh

With great thanks to G-d in honor of my "chai" year of aliyah on "chai" Nisan 5756.

"I am my Beloved's and my Beloved is mine."

Megilat Shir HaShirim is traditionally read on Shabbat chol hamoed Pesach. This is what the Artscroll Pesach Machzor says about it...

"Without question, King Solomon's Song of Songs, Shir HaShirim, is one of the most difficult books of Scripture - not because it is so hard to understand, but because it is so easy to misunderstand. Not only is it a love song, it is a love song of uncommon passion. No other book seems to be so out of place among the twenty-four books of prophecy and sacred spirit. Nevertheless, one of the greatest and holiest of all the Sages of the Talmud, Rabbi Akiva, said: 'All of the songs [of Scripture] are holy, but Shir HaShirim is holy of holies.' "

It is an allegory of the love between G-d and His people Israel.



14 Nisan 5774
Erev Pesach

Have a safe, happy and kosher Pesach!


"Seder Night: The Invitation"

13 Nisan 5774

Seder Night: the invitation
by Daniel Pinner

As befits a Jewish celebration, the master of the house introduces the Seder Night with an invitation: Ha lachma anya… This is the bread of affliction which our fathers ate in the land of Egypt; all who are hungry – let them come and eat!

This seems appropriate enough. After all, the Rambam defines how a Jew is supposed to celebrate a Festival – any Festival: “There is no rejoicing without meat and there is no rejoicing without wine. And when he eats and drinks he is obligated to feed ‘the convert and the orphan and the widow (Deuteronomy 16:11) together with other poor and unfortunate people. And he who locks the doors of his courtyard and eats and drinks, he and his sons and his wife, and does not give food or drink to the poor and the desperate – this is not the celebration of a mitzvah, but rather the celebration of his stomach. And about people like this, the Prophet said ‘their sacrifices will be like the bread of mourners for them, all who eat it are defiled, because their bread is only for themselves’ (Hosea 9:4). And a celebration like this is a disgrace for them, as the Prophet said: ‘I will scatter filth – the filth of your festive celebrations – on your faces’ (Malachi 2:3)” (Laws of Festivals 6:18).

The Mishnah Berurah (529:17), the Shulchan Aruch ha-Rav (Orach Chayim, Laws of Festivals 529:11), and the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch (103:9) all say much the same as the Rambam.

So on the Seder Night, as on all Festivals, one is obligated to invite and feed the poor and indigent. So the invitation “all who are hungry – let them come and eat!” seems highly appropriate.

Yet there is something extremely strange about this invitation. Have you ever looked closely at the words and their inference? “This is the bread of affliction which our fathers ate in the land of Egypt; all who are hungry – let them come and eat!”. Doesn’t this sound like a somewhat meagre, stingy, even grudging invitation? The master of the house is saying: I’ve got a miserable piece of bread – but if you’re hungry it might do.

This is a serious invitation? Why not be a bit more generous? Why not, Soon we’re going to have a veritable feast: all who are hungry – let them come and eat! Wouldn’t that be a more generous, a more appropriate, a more welcoming invitation?

I suggest two answers here.

The first is that this “bread of affliction”, this miserable piece of bread that the Haggadah (and therefore the master of the house) mentions in this invitation, is the entire reason for this celebration. Without this humble matzah, without this flat, uninspiring, somewhat tasteless bread of affliction, there would be no festival and therefore no celebration to which to invite the poor and the lonely, no beautifully arranged table at which “the convert and the orphan and the widow” could recline and feast.

Let us see the context in which the Torah commands this. After commanding us to celebrate Pesach and Shavuot, the Torah continues: “You shall rejoice before Hashem your God – you and your son and your daughter, and your slave and your maidservant, and the Levite who is within your city gates, and the convert and the orphan and the widow who are in your midst, in the place wherein Hashem your God will choose to rest His Name; and you shall remember that you were a slave in Egypt, and you will keep and do these decrees” (Deuteronomy 16:11-12).

That is to say, this “bread of affliction” which is the remembrance “that you were a slave in Egypt”, is the sole reason that we celebrate, is the sole reason that we invite the convert and the orphan and the widow. Hence it is supremely appropriate that the Haggadah (and therefore the master of the house) begins the invitation, “This is the bread of affliction which our fathers ate in the land of Egypt; all who are hungry – let them come and eat!”.

The second answer is rooted in our earliest history. On the 15th of Nisan 2047, exactly 3,727 years ago, “Hashem appeared to [Abraham] in the pains of Mamre, when he was sitting at the entrance of the tent in the heat of the day” (Genesis 18:1). That was the day when three angels passed by Abraham’s tent, and Abraham invited them in to show them hospitality.

The chronology is simple enough: the angel promised Sarah that she would bear her son Isaac exactly one year hence (18:10), and the 400 years of Abraham’s seed living as “strangers in a land not their own” (15:13) began with the birth of Isaac and finished with the Exodus from Egypt. Since the Exodus occurred on the fifteenth of Nisan, Isaac was born 400 years to the day earlier, i.e. also on the fifteenth of Nisan. And since the angelic prophecy to Sarah was one year to the day before Isaac was born, this episode also happened on the fifteenth of Nisan.

We note however that according to the Midrashic commentary Yefeh Toar (Rabbi Shmuel Yaffe Ashkenazi, Turkey, 1525-1595), this happened on the 14th of Nisan: he interprets the phrase “pros ha-Pesach” (Bereishit Rabbah 48:12) to mean not “the season of Pesach” (the 15th of Nisan) but rather the second half of Pesach-eve (the 14th of Nisan), at the time when chametz is already forbidden.

Abraham invited the three men (whom he did not yet know to be angels) into his tent with the very modest words, “Let a little water be brought now for you to wash your feet, and rest under the tree; and I will bring bread for you to eat – and then pass on” (Genesis 18:4-5). In the event, Abraham told his wife Sarah to make cakes from three se’ah of flour; three se’ah is equivalent to about 25 litres (6½ US gallons), which gives an idea of the size of the feast that Abraham prepared. And this was just the appetizer! He also prepared an entire calf – a veritable feast fit for a king.

This is the paradigm for Shammai’s famous dictum, “say little and do much” (Pirkei Avot 1:15). Or, in the words of Rabbi Elazar, “From here we learn that tzaddikim say little and do much” (Bava Metzi’a 87a).

The Alshich ha-Kadosh (Rabbi Moshe Alshich, Israel, 1508–1593), following the idea that this was the day of Pesach, suggests that when Abraham told Sarah “Hasten – knead three se’ahs of meal, fine flour and make cake cakes” (Genesis 18:6), he was instructing her to hasten to complete the baking within 18 minutes, to prevent the dough from leavening. This was also the reason that he did not entrust the cooking to any of his servants.

Two of these angels in the form of men continued on their way to Sodom, there to warn Lot and his family of the impending annihilation of the metropolis. And that evening, in Sodom, Lot invited the two men into his house with an even more modest invitation than his uncle Abraham had extended earlier that day: “Behold now, my lords, turn aside please to your servant’s house; rest, wash your feet, get up early and go on your way” (Genesis 19:2).

Lot did not mention so much as a slice of bread or a cup of water. But when they reached his house, “he made a feast for them, and he baked matzot, and they ate” (verse 3).

And on the phrase “he baked matzot,” Rashi simply says: “it was Pesach”. (According to most understandings, it was the second night of Pesach; according to the Yefeh Toar cited above, it was the Seder Night.) This is an incredible tribute to Lot, putting him on the level of the Forefathers: just as Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob kept the mitzvot before the Torah was yet given, so did Lot. And the fact is that Lot and his family merited to be saved from the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah.

Both Abraham and Lot demonstrated tremendous self-sacrifice by inviting those men (who only later would be revealed as angels) into their respective homes, as Abraham was just recovering from his circumcision three days earlier, and Lot risked severe punishment for hosting foreign guests which was forbidden by Sodomite law. And both invited them in with very modest invitations, but later treated them to feasts.

So it is appropriate that we, year by year, begin our Seder service with a similarly modest invitation: “This is the bread of affliction which our fathers ate in the land of Egypt; all who are hungry – let them come and eat!”.

We begin with this modest, meagre, stingy, even grudging invitation. But like Abraham and Lot 3,727 years ago this night, we “say little and do much”. A veritable feast awaits.


To The Holy Warriors of Yitzhar - Chazak!!

11 Nisan 5774
Erev Shabbat Hagadol

I intended to respond to a horrible op-ed regarding the horrendous events in Yitzhar this past week, but the more I thought about it, the more depressed I got, so I'm not going to do that. Hashem does not want to be hearing complaints from us: "Why are you crying out to me? Speak to the Children of Israel and let them journey forth." (Shemot 14:15)

Know that this, too, is all part of the plan and the process to bring the geulah shleimah. I want to encourage the Holy Warriors of Yitzhar to hold fast to Hashem and to each other and know that you have brothers and sisters all over the Land of Israel who empathize with your pain and who support your holy battle against the Erev Rav wholeheartedly.  Just continue to be strong and courageous and the Holy One, Blessed Be He, will rescue you and reward you for your faithfulness.  

We will rise up and they will be defeated!!
Shabbat Shalom~