Founded in April 1951, Great Neck Synagogue is a modern orthodox synagogue founded on the guiding philosophy that the Torah is the word of God, and therefore applicable to all social situations in all ages.
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שביעי של פסח – תשע”ו
INSIGHTS from the SEDRA
Insights from the Sedra is a project of the Scholar’s Kollel of Great Neck. It aims to provide several questions and answers about the Sedra, culled from various commentaries, including the following: Baal Haturim, Darash Moshe, Vedebarta Bam by Rabbi Moshe Bogomilsky, Torah Treasures by Dov Furer, Wellsprings of Torah by Alexander Friedman, and Kol Dodi by Rabbi Dovid Feinstein, Great Torah Lights by Rabbi Yitzchak Meir Goodman, Something To Say by Dov Wasserman, The Vilna Gaon, and Growth Through Torah by Zelig Pliskin.
7th Day Laining
ואתה הרם את מטך ונטה את ידך על הים
“Take up your staff and raise your arm over the sea…” (Shemot 14:16)
The splitting of the Sea of Reeds was a miraculous and supernatural event. Yet there had to be a natural action to “ignite” the miracle: G-d instructed the people to journey forward and Moshe to lift his staff over the water. G-d always demands some human act first and only then does He perform miracles. This is because events that occur without our involvement do not truly affect us. Only when we expend some effort do we appreciate G-d’s miracle. The same applies in all areas of life. Asking for G-d’s blessings is not sufficient; we must make some effort to serve as a conduit for the blessing. (Lubavitcher Rebbe)
ויבאו בני ישראל בתוך הים ביבשה
“And the Children of Israel went into the midst of the sea on dry land…” (Shemot 14:22)
One of the great miracles of Krias Yam Suf was the fact that every tribe had its own private path. Why was this necessary? On a practical level we can understand that this certainly helped to achieve order and organization among the crowds. But there is a deeper message here. A person’s mazel – his nature, personality, kochos, and even middos – are given to him at birth. Generally, these cannot be changed, but they can be channeled or redirected. Some enjoy learning b’iyun; others find it very dissatisfying. They love to learn b’kiyus instead. Is one greater than the other? No! The greatness of a person is finding out who he is and developing his individuality to the fullest.
Rav Shmuel Rozovsky tz”l said. “A yeshivah is nisht a zekel kartufel (a yeshivah is not a sack of potatoes)!” You can’t just throw everyone together into one room and expect them to all learn the same way and succeed. Chanoch l’na’ar al pi darko – “Educate them according to his way” (Mishlei 22:6) means that we must educate and cater to the individual needs of every child and help him develop his strengths and take pride in his accomplishments! We must all realize that we each have our own unique and individual path in avodas Hashem, and this is the lesson we learn from the fact that each shevet had its own path through the Yam Suf. (Torah Tavlin)
ותקח מרים הנביאה אחות אהרן את התף בידה ותצאן כל הנשים אחריה בתפים ובמחלת
“Miriam the prophetess, sister of Aharon, took the drum in her hand, and all the women followed her with drums and dancing.” (Shemot 15:20)
There were seven prophetesses: Sarah, Miriam, Chana, Devorah, Chulda, Avigail, and Esther. The Torah refers to Miriam as Aharon’s sister. Why was Moshe not mentioned as well, since she was also Moshe’s older sister? Miriam was three years older than Aharon and she was Aharon’s sister even before Moshe was born. At that time she prophesized that a child would be born that would redeem Bnei Yisrael and now her prophecy came true, whereas she was called: Miriam the prophetess. (Torah Gems)
8th Day Laining
נתון תתן לו ולא ירע לבבך בתתך לו
“You shall surely give to him, and let your heart not feel bad when you give him.” (Devarim 15:10)
QUESTION: Why is the money given to the poor called tzedakah (צדקה)?
ANSWER: Tezadakah is one of the noblest mitzvot of our Torah, and everyone should make an effort to set aside at least ten percent of his earnings for charitable causes. The Gemara (Kesubos 67b) says that even one who wants to be more extravagant in his giving, however, should still not give away more than one-fifth (twenty percent).
This is hinted to in the word צדקה itself. The numerical value of “ק” is 100, and “צ” is 90. The numerical value of “ה” is 5, and “ד” is 4. If one has ק – 100, one should give away ten percent of it, leaving for himself צ – 90. One who wants to be extravagant may give one portion from each ה – 5, with ד – 4 remaining, which amounts to giving twenty percent. (Maharal)
QUESTION: Why does the verse repeat “naton titien lo” which literally means “give you shall give to him”? It could have just said “tein lo” – “give to him.”
ANSWER: Some have an inner struggle when it comes to giving tzedakah. In their heart they rationalize “I worked very hard to earn this money; why give it away?” The way to overcome this hesitancy is through “naton titein” – “continuous giving.” Thus, besides instructing us to give tzedakah, the Torah is also suggesting a method to facilitate fulfilling the mitzvah. By continually practicing giving tzedakah, one will become accustomed to it and not only will his heart not grieve when he gives, but he will enjoy giving and be pleased to put his resources to good use. (Kli Chemdah)
Rabbi Ismach’s Letter
As I am sure you have heard, my father, Michael Ismach, Michael ben Yosef, passed away late Thursday night.
Many of you probably remember my father from when he would visit on Rosh Hashana and beam from his seat when I would speak and daven. Growing up in a tiny shul, he would always challenge me to daven and speak when there was an opportunity. Opportunities were constant. I would always challenge him and say: “What’s the point, there is hardly anyone here.” And he would always respond, “If you get used to it here, it won’t matter if it’s a small shul or a large one.” And, as it often works with fathers, he was right.
He has not been to shul in some years due to severe dementia and was not ill before he passed. This was all very sudden. Processing this and thinking ahead towards shiva brought me to a reflection I would like to share.
Much of our tradition’s response to loss is built on the phrase we repeat again and again at houses of mourning: “HaMakom yenachem eschem…” “HaMakom” refers to the Omnipresent, to G-d. Today, I am vividly reminded that in most other cases, it is “hamakom,” our actual place, our location, and neighborhoods that offer the consolation as well.
This is a challenging time for us all and aside from health and logistical concerns, “social distancing” undermines some of our tradition’s most powerful tools for managing loss and grief.
We are unable to gather en masse for a levaya to offer kavod hameis to the one who has departed and kavod hachaim to those that remain bereft.
We are unable to visit a family during their week of mourning to hear and to be inspired by memories of their loved one and to share our presence and words of comfort.
We are unable to gather for minyanim to rally behind the mourner with his declarations of “Borchu” and “Yehei shmei rabba mevarach.” (I will not be holding a minyan this week in my home. I will not be able to say kaddish.)
We are unable to offer the family most of the types of help and assistance that we usually do during the week of shiva. We are unable to “be there” for them, to “show up” and represent their “makom.”
There are technological patches to some of these problems, but there are no real solutions. Physical, visceral, presence has not yet been made obsolete.
There is one thing we are able to do. Our tradition also speaks of the power that the living have to continue the work of those who have passed. That is why we say kaddish, learn Torah, make siyums and give tzedakah over the course of the mourning period and on a yahrtzeit.
While I hope this will be the only loss our community sustains over the course of this “distancing,” in case it is not, I humbly recommend that our community adapts our reaction from being focused on “kovod hachai,” to being focused on “kovod hameis.” Instead of frustrated attempts to assist and maintain the dignity of those who are in mourning, let us instead attempt to do something to bring dignity and maintain the legacy of one who is no longer in this world, but whose echo should continue to reverberate.
Learn something extra, do something extra, or give something extra. Even the smallest thing matters. Feel free to let a mourner know or to keep it to yourself. G-d knows, and may He add your actions to the merit and accomplishments of those who have passed.
I know how meaningful this would be to me and I am sure it would be a powerful expression to others in these “distanced” days.
Thank you for your outpouring of love. I know that I simply cannot wait until our “place” is put back together.