Posts Tagged 'Egypt'

Parshas Balak | The Kollel Connection

Parshas Balak | The Kollel Connection

Bensalem Jewish Outreach Center

June 26, 2015 – Candle lighting 8:14 pm, Shabbos Ends 9:22 pm

Note: Times are for Bensalem; Check your local calendar for exact times in your area.

Rabbi Moshe Travitsky

Rabbi Moshe Travitsky

Welcome to the Kollel Connection.

We appreciate your comments and feedback.

The Kollel Connection this week is dedicated in memory of Joseph Levine, Yosef ben Laib Levine, late father of Adam and Alina Levine. Joe passed away this week, leaving behind an amazing legacy of doing and accomplishing many things for the Philadelphia Jewish community. May Hashem comfort Adam, his brothers Brian and Jonathon, and his sister Lindsey, amongst the other mourners of Israel and Jerusalem. May he be a good advocate above for Adam, Alina, Akiva, Aryeh, and all of his children and grandchildren.

This week we read Parshas Balak. In the Parsha we read of the episode of the  wicked prophet Bilaam, who had an amazing power and was able to curse those who he choose to, and inflict damage and even death to them. Bilaam tried to curse the Jewish people towards the end of their 40 year travel through the desert. When he came to do that, Hashem made a miracle, and instead of giving them curses, he actually ending up blessing them.

The Sages tell us that a person who has the following three characteristics is from the disciples of Abraham – a good eye (looking at people favorably), a humble spirit, and contentment with what they have. Whoever has three other characteristics is from the disciples of Bilaam the Rasha (the evil one) –  an evil eye, a egoistical spirit, and a desire for much more. (Ethics of the fathers, 5:23).

The words of our Sages are puzzling. Bilaam represents terrible immorality, hatred, attempting to annihilate the entire Jewish people, and even heresy in his relationship with Hashem. Yet, the Sages talk about flaws in his character. Isn’t this strange? Isn’t the point simple – the students of Abraham believe in Hashem, and serve Him, and the students of Bilaam are heretics and rebel against Him?

Rav Shlomo Heiman, the late head of Yeshiva Torah Vodaath in Brooklyn, explains a beautiful lesson from this. The Sages are trying to explain not only who these respective groups of people were, but what made these people into who they were. How could the students of Abraham, who lived in a world so full of idolatry, follow their teacher Abraham and cling to belief in Hashem? The answer, the Sages teach us, lies in the fact that they had good character traits. When a person has pure and good character, he will discover and live with the truth.

The same question applies in reverse. How could the students of Bilaam the rasha, who lived in a time when miracles were so open, the Exodus from Egypt and the ten plagues occurred, the parting and crossing of the sea, the revelation at Sinai, …. – how could they live lives so dedicated to immorality and wickedness? The answer, the Sages teach us all boils down to bad character traits.

The powerful lesson that we walk away with is the importance of character. The more we can perfect our character, the more we can address any flaws in it and perfect them, the closer we will become to Hashem , and the more loyal servants of Him we will become.

Wishing you and your family a Great Shabbos!!!!!!!! 

Rabbi Moshe Travitsky

To sponsor an issue of the Kollel Connection, please email BJOC@bensalemoutreach.org  Sponsorships are only $36 a week.

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Parshas Va’airo| The Kollel Connection

Parshas Va’airo | The Kollel Connection

Bensalem Jewish Outreach Center

January 16, 2014 – Candle lighting 4:41 pm, Shabbos Ends 5:50 pm

Note: Times are for Bensalem; Check your local calendar for exact times in your area.

Rabbi Moshe Travitsky

Rabbi Moshe Travitsky

Welcome to the Kollel Connection.

We appreciate your comments and feedback.

This week we read Parshas Va’airo. In the Parsha we read  many times that Hashem tells Moses that He is hardening the heart of Pharaoh. The commentaries ask, how could Hashem harden the heart  of Pharaoh? Is this not denying Pharaoh free will – the ability to choose whether to sin or not?

At the end of the parsha, we read of the plague of hail. The Torah tells us that the plague was so strong that it destroyed much of the crops of Egypt. Pharaoh was so overwhelmed by this plague, that he summoned Moses and Aaron and asked them to pray to Hashem that the hail stop, and he will then let the Jews go. ( Exodus 9:28). The Torah then tells us that Moses responded to Pharaoh,  telling him that he will pray that the hail stop,  but he knows that Pharaoh and his servants do not yet fear Hashem. The Torah then mentions that the hail had destroyed the flax and barley, but not the wheat and the spelt… The Torah tells us that they were not destroyed because they were afilos – which means that miracles (niflaos) happened to them. The Torah then proceeds to tell us that Moses went and prayed for Pharaoh that the hail should stop.

The Ohr Hachaim poses a simple question: Why do we have to hear about which crops were destroyed and which were not in the middle of the story? Isn’t that detail out of place? Why doesn’t it just say that Pharaoh asked them to pray, and they did,…?  The Ohr Hachaim answers that this fact – that some of the crops were miraculously spared from the hail – was what prompted Moses to say that Pharaoh would not really let the Jews leave. Once Pharaoh saw that there was a miracle and some crops survived, he let himself believe that there was more than one Deity in control, and that some other Deity prevented Hashem from destroying the crops under its control. That is why it is so essential for the Torah to tell us about this miraculous saving of the crops, to understand the hardening of Pharaohs’ heart.

Nachmanidies explains, this is really the explanation of why Hashem hardened the heart of Pharaoh. Once Pharaoh was under attack from the first few plagues, he would have given in just to escape them. Hashem made his heart harder, so that he will make an objective decision whether to return to Hashem or not.

Often we feel overwhelmed by a challenge that we face in life. If we can just bear this thought in mind –  if the Almighty picked a given situation for us, it’s because we can rise to that situation and overcome the challenges that face us from it, then we will have a much easier time dealing with it. This episode of Pharaoh has to teach us that all details of any struggle that we have are given to us with Divine providence, that will enable us somehow to shine from the circumstance that we have to deal with.

Wishing you and your family a Great Shabbos!!!!!!!! 

Rabbi Moshe Travitsky

To sponsor an issue of the Kollel Connection, please email BJOC@bensalemoutreach.org  Sponsorships are only $36 a week.

Shabbos Hagodal | The Kollel Connection

Shabbos Hagodal | The Kollel Connection

Bensalem Jewish Outreach Center

April 11, 2013 – Candle lighting 7:16, Shabbos Ends 8:25

Note: Times are for Bensalem; Check your local calendar for exact times in your area.

Rabbi Moshe Travitsky

Rabbi Moshe Travitsky

Welcome to the Kollel Connection.

This week we read Parshas Acharai Mos.It is also known as Shabbos Hagodal, the name for the Shabbos before Passover. The preparation for Passover certainly is extensive and comprehensive. Yet, aside from preparing for the Passover seder, getting the matzoh ready, cleaning the house from chometz,… there is also the responsibility of preparing ourselves for the holiday. As we contemplate how we can prepare ourselves to grow from the holiday of Passover, we offer the following thought about the essence of Passover, the concept of freedom.

We all know that Passover is the holiday of freedom. In the prayers of the holiday we call Passover zman chairusainu (the time of our freedom). In the maariv  (evening) service that we say every night, we mention that Hashem took us out of Egypt at this time lchairus olam – for eternal freedom. This coming Monday night we will gather with family and friends, as we mark the most celebrated Jewish occasion of the year – the seder.  Yet, as thinking people, we have to ask ourselves, what does this message of freedom mean to me?  Certainly there are people in this world who are slaves, who are denied physical freedom – but there were Jews who celebrated a seder in the most challenging of circumstances – when they certainly had no freedom. What of those heroes and heroines who said the Haggadah in the concentration camps? Were they celebrating freedom there?

Rav Shlomo Wolbe ztl, described a whole different aspect of freedom. We all have areas in life that we know we should change – but we tell ourselves, “right now I can’t”. Whether it’s a challenge to put on tefillin daily, to quit smoking, to give up soft drinks, or to stop speaking loshon horo about others, we all have things that we want to change – but…. Rav Wolbe explained, that the minute we use that word but our freedom has been compromised. We are saying that we are not free to do what we are supposed to.  We are still enslaved to Pharaoh – and to his values.

The freedom that we were given on Passover was not just a freedom from physical tyranny and subjugation. It is a freedom to rise to a challenge and choose, to grow and improve, and to serve our Creator with every fiber of our being. When we left Egypt, we didn’t only escape a physical bondage of subjugation. We were given the ability to choose to break free from any constrictions that have limited us. Indeed,  Maimonides tells us that Pharaoh and Moses are the two foes that are in each of us. We all have that voice of Pharaoh trying to pull us down, to keep us tied down, and that voice of Moses, trying to lift us up. The very word Mitzrayim (Egypt) is related to the word Maitzar which is a boundary, or an area that is confined. On Passover we celebrate that freedom to taste freedom, and to break out of being confined, to find our space and ability to serve Hashem with all our power.

May we all experience real freedom this Passover, and next year be together in Jerusalem!!!

Wishing you and your family a Great Shabbos and a Happy Passover!!!!!!!! 

Rabbi Moshe Travitsky

To sponsor an issue of the Kollel Connection, please email BJOC@bensalemoutreach.org  Sponsorships are only $36 a week.

Parshas Metzora | The Kollel Connection

Parshas Metzora | The Kollel Connection

Bensalem Jewish Outreach Center

April 4, 2013 – Candle lighting 7:09, Shabbos Ends 8:18

Note: Times are for Bensalem; Check your local calendar for exact times in your area.

Rabbi Moshe Travitsky

Rabbi Moshe Travitsky

Welcome to the Kollel Connection.

This week we read Parshas Metzora. We also marked the beginning of the month of the Jewish month of Nissan. At first glance, this may seem to be of little significance. Twelve times a year we mark Rosh Chodesh, as a new Jewish month starts. Is Nissan any different than the other 11 months of the year?  Yet, our Sages tell us something very unique about the month of Nissan. They tell us that just as our first redemption from Egypt occurred in Nissan, so too our final redemption will be in Nissan, when the messiah comes. This month ushered in tonight, is the month of redemption. Something in the message of Rosh Chodesh Nissan gives us the potential to be redeemed. What is that message?

What put us into exile in the first place, and what is the power that takes us out? The Torah tells us that the enslavement of the Jewish people began, when “A new king arose over Egypt, who didn’t know Joseph”. Our Sages tell us, that in fact this king was not physically new, and in reality he knew Joseph very well. The description of him being ”new”, and not knowing Joseph, is merely a reflection of his attitude. The old policy of respect and decency towards Joseph and his people was out. The “new” policy, of persecution and subjugation of the Jews, was in.

The commentaries teach us to understand this on a deeper level. When we serve G-d, when we do commandments, there’s the physical act we do. However, any mitzvah, any good deed, does not end there. There is the attitude, the feeling and emotion, that we put into our relationship with G-d. Is my prayer, my act of kindness, or my study of Torah just a repeat of something I did yesterday? Or there a vibrancy, energy, freshness, and excitement, in the way I am serving Hashem.

When we do mitzvahs properly – we have that freshness and that attitude of being “new”. When we lose it, when we feel like there no meaning in what we are doing, just actions that we do by rote, then the freshness is given to others. G-d sends other nations like Pharaoh who develop their own “new attitudes” and “new approaches “ to the Jews. We end up being subjugated and persecuted.

Rosh Chodesh represents rebirth: The new moon is reborn. What happened in the past happened – but now we are starting fresh. When the Jewish people received the mitzvah of Rosh Chodesh Nissan, we got a lot more than a day to celebrate: We got a chance to start fresh. Maybe in the past we lost the right attitude of how to serve G-d – but on Rosh Chodesh Nissan, the first month, we started anew. With that attitude, we had the merit to leave the servitude of Egypt, and to emerge as free people, serving our Creator.

If we think about new attitudes this Rosh Chodesh Nissan, there is a lot to think about. The Jewish people in America clearly need a “new” direction, if we are going to survive as a people. When the Pew report tells us that most American Jews are intermarrying, and will disappear within one or two generations as Jews, there is a clear need for a “new” approach. When Rabbis are scared to tell their congregations that the right thing to do is to marry another Jew, that intermarriage is wrong, that we are a proud people who were chosen by G-d to bring His message to the world, then something is very wrong. Clearly the old approach of watering down Judaism to our congregants, of telling them that they can do whatever they want and still be good Jews, is not working – and not true. The wakeup call that should be emerging from this Pew report has yet to be heard. It’s clearly time for a new approach – of telling it the way it is. We need make no apologies for the Almighty. He has clearly told us what He expects of us – and we have to follow His direction. The old notion that we can’t tell our youth what is expected of them, has to change. We have to develop a new attitude, recognizing the greatness in every Jewish boy and girl, in every Jewish man and woman, and telling them what the Almighty really wants from them. With a new approach let’s hope that this Rosh Chodesh Nissan will herald in a new era of redemption and relief, as all Jews return to their Creator and unite to serve Him together.

Wishing you and your family a Great Shabbos!!!!!!!! 

Rabbi Moshe Travitsky

To sponsor an issue of the Kollel Connection, please email BJOC@bensalemoutreach.org  Sponsorships are only $36 a week.

Parshsios Tzav/Zachor | The Kollel Connection

Parshsios Tzav/Zachor | The Kollel Connection

Bensalem Jewish Outreach Center

March 14, 2013 – Candle lighting 5:47, Shabbos Ends 7:56

Note: Times are for Bensalem; Check your local calendar for exact times in your area.

Rabbi Moshe Travitsky

Rabbi Moshe Travitsky

Welcome to the Kollel Connection.

This week we read Parshas Tzav. It is also Parshas Zachor, the Shabbos that we read in the maftir aliyah, the last aliyah on Shabbos morning, about the war that Amalek waged against the Jewish people when they left Egypt. In contrast to the Torah reading that we do every Shabbos, which is only Rabbinical, this Torah reading is a Torah commandment.

In the Parsha, the Torah tells us about the procedure for a sin offering – a Korban Chatas. The Torah tells us that the sin offering is to be slaughtered in the same place as the sacrifice of an olah (an offering that is totally burnt). (Leviticus 6:18)  The wording of this verse is rather puzzling. We know that the place for both a sin offering and an olah offering is on the North side of the Temple. Why does the Torah tell us that the sin offering should be in the place of the olah offering? Why doesn’t it just say that the sin offering should be on the North side of the Temple? Is there a connection between the fact that the sin offering is on the North side, and that the olah offering is on the North side?

The classic commentator the Kli Yakar, explains that in fact there is a connection between the place for slaughtering the sin offering and the olah offering. A sin offering is brought for an accidental transgression of one of the most serious of all sins – one that if done deliberately would carry with it Karais, an early death and the cutting of the soul from its source. An olah offering is brought for thoughts of doing a sin, certainly a bad thing, but not even close to the reasons for bringing a sin (chatas) offering. If the sin offering and the olah offering were made in different places, than it would be obvious to everyone watching when a person was bringing a sin offering for doing a most serious sin. This would cause the person a lot of embarrassment. In order to avoid this, the Torah said that a person should bring both offerings in the same place – so no one would realize whether a person was now bringing a sin offering or an olah offering. This teaches us the importance of making sure that there is no embarrassment caused to any Jew, even if he or she is a sinner.

This explains why the Torah connected the two offerings – for the reason that the sin offering is on the North side of the Temple is exactly because the olah offering is offered there also, and will thus save a Jew from being embarrassed.

Rav Chatzkel Levinstein, the famed Mashgiach of the Yeshiva of Ponovez, is quoted as having told someone “We have a tradition that if someone would have a chance to build the third Temple, it would come at the cost of causing someone to feel bad, they should refrain from building it.”

This lesson comes at a most appropriate time. Even as we prepare for the joyous partying and merrymaking of Purim, we must be careful not to cause any bad feelings or hurt emotions to another person.

Wishing you and your family a Great Shabbos!!!!!!!! 

Rabbi Moshe Travitsky

To sponsor an issue of the Kollel Connection, please email BJOC@bensalemoutreach.org  Sponsorships are only $36 a week.

Parshas Beshalach | The Kollel Connection

Parshas Beshalach | The Kollel Connection

Bensalem Jewish Outreach Center

January 10, 2013 – Candle lighting 4:35, Shabbos Ends 5:35

Note: Times are for Bensalem; Check your local calendar for exact times in your area.

Rabbi Moshe Travitsky

Rabbi Moshe Travitsky

This week’s Kollel Connection is dedicated in honor of the births of Shalom Mermelstien and Naama Malka Beshansky. Mazel tov to Rabbi Binyomin and Naomi Mermelstein, and to the entire Mermelstein and Pollack family. Mazel tov also to Rabbi Ephraim and KB Beshansky, and to the entire Beshansky and Katz family.

This week we read Parshas Beshalach. In the Parsha, we read of the episode of the crossing of the sea by the Jewish people, when the waters miraculously split, and then came together to drown the Egyptians. The Jews had left Egypt on Thursday, the fifteenth of Nissan. The following Tuesday, Pharaoh chased after them with six hundred chosen chariots and warriors, and lay siege against them at the sea. The Jews found themselves hopelessly surrounded, by Pharaoh and his armies on one side, and by the waters of the sea on the other. Hashem told the Jews to walk into the Sea, they did, and the waters split. The Egyptians then pursued them into the sea and were drowned. This miracle is celebrated on the Seventh day of Passover, when we make a holiday commemorating this event.

The commentaries pose a most basic question: When the Egyptians surrounded the Jews, there were far many more Jews than there were Egyptians. True, the Egyptians were armed heavily and trained, but doesn’t it seem odd that the Torah does not describe any thought of the Jews challenging the Egyptians?

The Ibn Ezra comments, that since the Jewish people had been slaves to the Egyptians, they were brought up with a mentality of subjugation to their masters. They were psychologically unable to challenge the Egyptians and fight against them (Exodus 14:13). He adds that this is another factor in why Hashem had it come out that the generation that had grown up as slaves died out, before the Jews came to Israel, so that a new generation that did not have this slave mentality would be ready to fight against the people of Israel (Canaan).

Rav Chaim Shmualevitz points out, that this concept of slave mentality is a challenge that we deal with all the time. So often we feel that we would like to improve in a certain area – but we say to ourselves “I can’t!” We know we tend to get angry, and we really don’t want to get upset – but we give up by saying to ourselves, “this is what I am”. We want to take the time to help our spouse with some house chores, but we say “I just can’t!” We want to spend time calling or visiting our parents, but we just feel “I am not able to!”

We know we should keep kosher or keep Shabbos, but we tell ourselves that we can’t change! The list goes on and on. If there is something that we have to take from this thought of the Ibn Ezra, Rav Shmualevitz says, it’s that we have to rise above being slaves. We have to recognize that we are free, are without restraints, and really can do what we know that we are supposed to do. We just have to try. When we do, we will suddenly discover the power of change that we really have within us, and the reservoirs of strength that we can tap into within ourselves.

Wishing you and your family a Great Shabbos!!!!!!!! 

Rabbi Moshe Travitsky

To sponsor an issue of the Kollel Connection, please email BJOC@bensalemoutreach.org  Sponsorships are only $36 a week.

Parshas Bo | The Kollel Connection

Parshas Bo | The Kollel Connection

Bensalem Jewish Outreach Center

January 3, 2013 – Candle lighting 4:28, Shabbos Ends 5:37

Note: Times are for Bensalem; Check your local calendar for exact times in your area.

Rabbi Moshe Travitsky

Rabbi Moshe Travitsky

This week we read Parshas Bo. In the Parsha, we read of the last three plagues that came upon the Egyptians – locusts, darkness, and death of the first born. The Sages tell us that one of the reasons that Hashem brought the plague of darkness was because there were many Jews – (in fact 80% of the Jewish population) who actually did not want to leave Egypt. These Jews died during the days of darkness. If the Egyptians would have seen that so many Jews were being punished, this would have brought tremendous joy to them. In order to conceal this from the Egyptians, so that they should not rejoice in the suffering of the Jews, Hashem brought the plague of darkness, to hide the death of so many Jews. The commentaries pose a question: Why did Hashem wait until the ninth plague to kill all these wicked people all in such a short time, and make it necessary to have the plague of darkness to hide it from the Egyptians? Couldn’t He have done it over the year, have had these wicked Jews die little by little, thus not requiring a plague to hide what was happening?

The late mashgiach of the Ponovez Yeshiva, Rav Chatzkel Levenstien, offered the following observation of human nature. Very often people will tell of many grand ideas and plans that they have, and how they are just waiting for circumstances to allow them to implement them. “I will start a diet as soon as this project is over”. “I will quit smoking when I have a baby”. “I will start to keep kosher when I move to a new house”. “I will begin to put on tefillin when I turn 30”…. Yet, when the point that they set to begin arrives, they suddenly find it too hard to start. Why is that? Weren’t they sincere when they said that they would make a change at that point?

Rav Levenstien explains that Hashem created our evil inclination to challenge us, only when we are actually ready to do something good. As long as it is not relevant to actually doing something, our good intentions find themselves unopposed. There is no reason for the evil inclination to fight us. Only when it comes time to actually doing something good, does the evil inclination suddenly emerge. All of a sudden we find ourselves getting tired, lazy, hungry, or preoccupied.  Now a real battle confronts us, as we are challenged to actually change and improve in reality, not just in theory.

Based upon this, Rav Levenstien explains, we could theorize that the very same Jews who did not want to leave Egypt at the time of the plague of darkness, and therefore had to die, were agreeable to leave Egypt when the plagues first started. As long as it was only in theory, but of no practical value, these Jews were willing to say that they also wanted to leave Egypt to go to the promised land. Only when the time of redemption started approaching, and Pharaoh himself acknowledged that Hashem was right, and that he (Pharaoh) was wrong, did these Jews begin having second thoughts about actually leaving Egypt to travel into the desert. Now, when they decided that they really wanted to stay in Egypt, was they first time that they became deserving to die and not to be redeemed. Therefore, they could not die earlier – because until now, they did not deserve to die.

The very practical lesson that we must take from this, is not to expect our challenges in life to be so easy. It may be easy in the middle of the day to commit to rise early to study before services in the morning, but it will certainly be harder to do so the next morning when we are in bed and the alarm clock goes off. It may be simple to accept to eat only kosher when we are in a religious neighborhood with lots of kosher eatery’s, but it will not stay that simple when we are back home without that convenience. As long as we are aware that in life the challenges will come when it is not easy to overcome them, and we recognize that this the way it is supposed to be, and this is what helps us become better and stronger, then we can successfully meet our life challenges and grow from them.

Wishing you and your family a Great Shabbos!!!!!!!! 

Rabbi Moshe Travitsky

To sponsor an issue of the Kollel Connection, please email BJOC@bensalemoutreach.org  Sponsorships are only $36 a week.


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