Posts Tagged 'Pharaoh'

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.

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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 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.

Parshas Vaaira | The Kollel Connection

Parshas Vaaira | The Kollel Connection

Bensalem Jewish Outreach Center

December 27, 2013 – Candle lighting 4:23, Shabbos Ends 5:31

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 Vaaira. The Parsha begins with the answer of Hashem to Moses (at the end of last week’s Parsha) who had complained to Hashem about the harsh slavery that the Jewish people were being put through. Moses had said to Hashem “why did You do evil to this people, (the Jews), why have You sent me (to Pharaoh)?  (Exodus 5:22) Hashem answered Moses, telling him that he was mistaken to say this, as the Patriarchs had never questioned Hashem’s ways, but had believed in His salvation. The commentaries point out that Moses was not faulted for crying out to Hashem to end the pain and oppression of the Jewish people. On the contrary, it is the job of every Jewish leader to worry and cry out on behalf of the Jewish people, and to try to bring about their salvation. Rather, Moses was faulted for using the words “You done evil to this people”. This is wrong. Nothing Hashem does to anyone is evil. Everything, ultimately, whether we understand it or not, is for the best.

If we think into it, we realize that the intensity of the persecution and hardship that the Jewish people endured in Egypt actually did cause something good to come out of it. Originally the decree against the Jewish people was that they should be enslaved for 400 years. (Genesis 15:13)   Why did they merit to leave Egypt earlier? Our Sages tell us that this was because of the intensity of the enslavement and persecution of the Egyptians. Because the persecution was so strong, the Jews merited to leave Egypt 190 years early. This very episode of slavery, that seemed so tragic as it happened, in the end caused the Jewish people to be freed from slavery close to 200 years early.

We learn from here a very important principle. When we feel like questioning Hashem on why certain things happen to us, we have to remember that while we don’t know the reason why specific things happen to us, we do know that whatever is happening is for the best. We have to try to say to ourselves, “this too is for the best”, and to accept whatever Hashem bestows upon us.

The story is told that the great Sage Rav Yehoshua ben Levi asked Hashem to reveal to him why a righteous person may have bad things happen to him, and a wicked person may have good things. Elijah the prophet revealed himself to Rav Yehoshua ben Levi, and agreed to take him with him for a day, as long as he asked no questions. They spent much time together, leaving Rav Yehoshua startled with a bunch of questions. Among the incidents they saw, was the following one. Rav Yehoshua ben Levi and Elijah arrived in a little village as darkness descended. They approached a small, old hut where an old couple resided  with one cow. When the couple saw them, they invited them to join them for the meal and the evening. The couple was totally poverty stricken, with almost nothing in their house. Yet, they tried to share whatever they had with their guests.  In the morning, Rav Yehoshua ben Levi heard Elijah praying to Hashem, that the cow of this poor family should die. When the couple found out that their cow had died, Rav Yehoshua ben Levi heard the wife crying, asking how they would be able to support themselves from now on. Later in the day, when Rav Yehoshua ben Levi could contain himself no longer, he asked for an explanation, and thereby finished his visit with Elijah. Elijah explained to him:  “the wife of this man was scheduled to die the next day. I prayed that Hashem allow her to live and take the cow instead, to allow this great woman to live. Would not this man have given his cow up gladly, to save the life of his wife?”

How often is it that we face a challenging situation and throw up our hands? Hopefully we can learn from Moses and all the other righteous people, to accept what Hashem bestows upon us with joy. Let this joy help us recognize and feel that whatever Hashem does for us, is for the best for us and our people.

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 Shemos | The Kollel Connection

Parshas Shemos | The Kollel Connection

Bensalem Jewish Outreach Center

December 20, 2013 – Candle lighting 4:19, Shabbos Ends 5:28

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 Bar Mitzvah of Binyomin Kahn. Mazel Tov to Rabbi and Mrs. Kahn and the entire Kahn/Goldman Family!

This week we begin the book of Exodus – Shemos, with Parshas Shemos. In Parshas Shemos, we read of the beginning of the enslavement of the Jewish people. The Torah tells us that a “new” king arose in Egypt, who didn’t know Joseph, and who told his people that he wanted to enslave the Jewish people. The Talmud cites one opinion that in fact this Pharaoh was not really a new king, but was the same old king who decided on a new approach to the Jewish people. The question arises, why would this king suddenly decide on a new approach to the Jewish people? What caused his sudden change of heart?

Rav Yissochar Frand, the famed author and speaker from Baltimore, quotes the words of the Mikdash Mordechai, written by Rabbi Mordechai Ilan. When the Torah describes the arrival of Jacob and his family to Egypt, the words used are that they were the Jews who were “Habaim Mitzraima” – the ones who were coming to Egypt (Exodus 1:1). The wording is strange, because they had already come to Egypt. Why would the Torah use the present tense? At the end of that verse, the Torah tells us “ish ubaiso bau – each man and his family had come” – in the past tense. Why is the tense changed?

In a beautiful thought, Rav Frand points out that often people think that when we act as Jews should, we are looked down by our Gentile neighbors; when we act like our Gentile neighbors, then they look up at us. In reality, the opposite is often the case. When we live as Jews are supposed to live, stick to our principles and observe the commandments, then we are respected by the Gentiles. When we compromise our principles, and try to act like the gentiles, they lose their respect for us.

The first generation of Jews that came to Egypt with Jacob always felt like they really belonged in Israel. They felt like strangers in Egypt, and were always living with a feeling as if they were still coming now to Egypt. Their identity was always like a Jew who happened to be in Egypt. Therefore, they had respect in the eyes of Pharaoh. The next generation, already developed a different attitude. As the Torah tells us, the land was full of them” (Exodus 1:7). They left the land of Goshen that Joseph had put them into, and spread out among all of Egyptian society. They already felt that they were Egyptians, who happened to have come from a Jewish background. That is why the Torah says that they had come – in the past tense – to Egypt. They looked at their past as history. When looking at this type of Jew, Pharaoh did not feel respect for them. He developed a “new” policy for this “new” Jew, that was a total change of how he had treated the first generation of Jews.

The lesson that we learn from the Torah, is to try to instill in ourselves and our children pride in what we are. There is no reason to feel any shame in being a Jew, and in observing the commandments. We have to look at the commandments as a badge of pride that the Almighty has given us to wear as we go through life.

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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