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TorahAnytimes Newsletter Special Pesach Edition

Parshat Special Pesach Edition

Compiled and Edited by Torah Time

"The TorahAnyTimes" Newsletter Special Pesach Edition 15 Nissan, 5776 | April 23, 2016 Compiled and Edited by Elan Perchik A Short Message From


Haggadah 3

"The TorahAnyTimes" Newsletter    Print Version

Special Pesach Edition
15 Nissan, 5776 | April 23, 2016

Compiled and Edited by Elan Perchik

A Short Message From

Team TorahAnytime

TorahAnytime is proud to present its latest Special Pesach Edition sure to enhance your Pesach and fill your Seder table with wisdom, inspiration and insights. Culled from the lectures of renowned speakers far and wide, this concise Haggadah Companion provides a mix of illuminating insights and stories for you and your family.

TorahAnytime lectures can now be brought to life at your table and engage the hearts and minds of you, your family and friends with the written word. Infusing meaning and joy to the Pesach aura, it is hoped that this compendium will leave you inspired long after Pesach ends and keep you growing as a dedicated Jew.

Wishing you a Chag Kasher V’Sameach,

Team TorahAnytime

Mr. Charlie Harary
Envisioning Freedom

וַתִּתֶּן לָנו...ּ חַג הַמַּצּוֹת הַזֶּה זְמַן חֵרוּתֵנוּ

And has given us this Holiday of Matzot, the time of our freedom…

When was the first Seder in all of history? While we would assume it to be the first year after the Jews left Egypt, in truth, the night before they left they were already acting as a free nation eating matzah and the Korban Pesach. Why would Hashem command them to have a Seder before actually leaving Egypt? How can you have an anniversary before getting married?

During my time spent at a finance company called RXR, I wound up giving a monthly class in the firm. People would come down to the lunchroom and ask any question on Judaism in an open forum. On one occasion, a broad-shouldered 6’6” man named Josh walked inside and took a seat. Sitting throughout the class, afterwards he approached me. “Charlie, I want to thank you for that lecture.” “It’s my pleasure,” I said. “Would you mind if I come back again?” Josh asked. “You may not know, but I am not Jewish.” “It’s fine,” I said, “you’re welcome to come again.”

At the next session there was Josh. As I was speaking about the power of words, I asked if anyone had a personal story of someone saying or doing something to them while in high school that forever changed their life. Josh raised his hand. “Come on up,” I told him. Josh then proceeded to relate the following story:

Growing up in the South, even as a young kid I was exceptionally big and strong. I was the perfect fit for a great football player. In truth, however, I was not a great player, but only decent. When I finally joined a team, my coach one day came to practice and said, “Josh, do you think you can give me the death crawl?” Knowing that a death crawl meant crawling on the floor only using your hands and feet without your elbows or knees, I knew that doing so would be a challenge. But I would do my best. “Yeah,” I said back to the coach. “How far can you go?” he asked. “I don’t know, but I think the twenty yard line.” “You promise me you are going to go to the twenty?” “Promise,” I replied.

Right before I was about to begin, my coach called me over again. “Wait a minute, Josh. Billy is going to be placed on your back.” “What? You told me to go to the twenty; I didn’t know someone would be on my back?” “Josh,” sternly said the coach, “you promised me.” With little option to argue, I agreed to shoulder the extra pounds.

“But don’t go quite yet,” he added, “there is one more thing.” Pulling out from his pocket a handkerchief, he walked over to me and blindfolded me. Now about to perform a difficult task with a boy on my back and my eyes blindfolded, I didn’t think I would get too far.

But I simply began to move. Inching five yards and then ten yards, my coach yelled out to me, “Josh, you are doing great!” I felt as if I had gone so far, but then my coach signaled only the ten yard line. “Keep on going!” I soon heard being yelled. “You’re at the fifteen!” Working as hard as I could, I soon felt I could go no more. “I can’t do it coach! I have nothing left.” “C’mon,” he yelled, “five more steps.” Putting in a few more steps and getting closer and closer… I collapsed.

Rolling over, I repeated, “Coach, I told you, I can’t even get to the twenty.” And then my coach said, “Josh… turn around. You are at the fifty.”

We often live our lives thinking that who we are is who we are. We get stuck in our own limitations. Before we left Egypt, Hashem had us visualize with a Seder what it means to be a nation free to carry out His mitzvot. Freedom does not merely mean changing your geography or altering your mode of dress. Freedom begins when you decide in your mind that you are going to be free. Only when you can visualize such a reality will you experience true freedom and reach above your limitations.

Maggid - מַגִּיד

Rabbi Benzion Klatzko
Returning Home

כָּל דִכְפִין יֵיתֵי וְיֵיכֹל

Anyone who is hungry let him come and eat…

Having founded an organization called which provides a person with a place to spend Shabbat and enjoy the warm ambiance of another family anywhere in the world, countless lives have been changed. Being that I myself have many guests in my home each week, I decided that it would be a smart idea to host the Shabbat davening in my home as well. I therefore began to look for a Sefer Torah I could purchase. Researching the matter, I found an ad which said that a Sefer Torah was being sold for $35,000. Without further delay, I proceeded to head for the home it was located in.

As I entered inside, I was greeted by an old, secular Jew married to a gentile. He sat me down and we began to talk. After some time, I asked him, “How do you have this Sefer Torah?” “Well,” he said, “my grandfather inherited it from his father who was a religious Jew and had a little Shul in the Catskills. After the Shul closed down I inherited it from him. Here I am now stuck with a Sefer Torah which I haven’t opened in years and know nothing about. I do not learn Torah and have no connection to it.”

Hearing of this man’s predicament, I began to give him an inspirational talk I normally would give to irreligious Jews. I lectured him about Torah and the power of it bringing people back to their heritage. I as well explained how I wanted to have a Sefer Torah in my house so I could use it for the Shabbat davening and return Jews back to their roots. By the time I was done talking, he was in tears. He said to me, “I wish I had a rabbi like you sixty years ago. Now I am already an old man. But you know what? I want you to have this Torah for free. I want this little Torah to be put in your house and bring back as many Jews as it can.”

Unbelievably, I walked out of this man’s home with a $35,000 Sefer Torah for free. Now, all I needed to do was find an Aron Kodesh to store the Sefer Torah. And so, I went online to see if I could find one. After some time, I saw the title, “Religious Christian Aron Kodesh for sale.” I didn’t know what to make of it and if it would be worth my while to try, but I decided I would head over to the place where this Aron was being kept.

As I arrived, I was met by a Christian fellow. “Do you have the Aron?” I asked. “Oh, yeah, I have it. I received this Ark from a rabbi in Europe. It was an Ark which was taken over by the Church, and as you can see they put a little cross on top. Do you want it?” I wasn’t sure what to respond. Looking closely at the Aron, however, my eye caught sight of some inscription on the bottom. Bending down, I was able to make some words out: “Hinei lo yanum v’lo yishan shomer Yisrael” –“He [G-d] does not sleep nor slumber, the Guardian of Israel.” It was a Pasuk from Tehillim (Ch. 121). I was amazed. I immediately told him that I would take it. And with that I headed back home.

When I returned home, I removed the cross and placed it down in my basement. Putting my newly received free Torah in this Aron which had gone through Christian hands, I said to myself, “Isn’t this incredible? Here we are returning this Torah and Aron Kodesh to where they belong. We are uniting them and bringing them home despite all the trials and tribulations they have gone through. What a home this is going to be.”

Sukkot time arrived and I was approached by someone with a question. “I have this girl who is a mess. She is a misfit, on drugs, rebellious against her family and has run away from home. Could you take her in for Sukkot?” “No problem,” I happily said, “she can have a room in my basement.” As I took her into my home, I was in for a surprise. She sat at my table with her head down. She did not speak one word to anyone and was socially inept. I myself approached her and spoke to her a little bit, but otherwise she remained to herself.

By the end of Sukkot, however, she was a different person. She was talking, having a good time, eating with everyone, enjoying Yom Tov and doing all the requisite mitzvot. I didn’t know what to make of it. And so I went to ask her. “If you don’t mind me asking, what happened to you? When you came here you were ignoring everybody and you looked miserable. Now you seem to be the happiest person.” “Let me tell you,” she began.

“You put me in a room in your basement downstairs. As I was there and noticed the Aron and Sefer Torah, I began reminding myself about the story you told me about them. I was thinking of how they had gone on a long journey and finally returned home. And so, every night at midnight when everyone else was asleep, I would go over to the Aron and Sefer Torah and cry and talk to G-d. I said, ‘G-d, if You can find a home for this Aron Kodesh and Sefer Torah after being far away from their rightful home, You can do the same to me. You can bring me home too.’ With tears in my eyes, I told this to G-d every night. Now I feel like a new person. I have decided that I am going to be like that Aron Kodesh and Sefer Torah and return home.”

As we invite “everyone who is hungry to come and eat” we ought to remember that it is not merely a call for one to enjoy the Paschal Sacrifice and Yom Tov meal. It is a call for every Jew to nourish their hungry soul for Torah and reconnect to their Father in Heaven. We can never know what will bring a person back home to Yiddishkeit. Even one completely distant from any relationship with Hashem has hope of returning. No Aron Kodesh, Sefer Torah or Jewish neshama is ever to be given up on. Our loving Father always welcomes us home and tells us, “No matter where you are, you can return to Me and I will embrace you.”

Rabbi Paysach Krohn
Will You Remember our Children?

הֲרֵי אָנוּ וּבָנֵינוּ וּבְנֵי בָנֵינוּ מְשֻׁעְבָּדִים הָיִינוּ לְפַרְעֹה בְּמִצְרָיִם

We, our children and our children’s children would have remained enslaved to Pharaoh in Egypt

Chief Rabbi of South Africa, Rabbi Warren Goldstein, came up with a wonderful idea: Sinai Indaba. Indaba is a South African word meaning, “Conference for important matters.” Gathering speakers from around the world, the annual Sinai Indaba held in South Africa serves as a forum for topics of great importance to be addressed.

In 2013, Rabbi Goldstein called me and said, “Rabbi Krohn, would you be able to come to South Africa? We are gathering thousands of Jews together in three locations – Johannesburg, Cape Town and Durban – and bringing in speakers from all around the world. We would like you to speak to four-thousand Jews on Saturday night along with three other speakers. On Sunday, there will be sessions continuing all day and another four speakers addressing the audience on Sunday night.” Hearing of such a wonderful idea, I said that I would be honored to attend. “But, if I may ask,” I continued, “could you tell me who the other speakers are?”

As soon as I asked this question, Rabbi Goldstein immediately took to it. “I actually wanted to speak to you about that. One of the other speakers is Rabbi Berel Wein. He and I have together written a book about Lithuanian Jewry called “The Legacy,” and were actually looking to publicly speak about it. Do you think you would be able to mediate an interview at the four o’clock session on Sunday?” “Of course,” I said, “it will be my pleasure.”

Arriving in South Africa a few days before the Sinai Indaba, I spoke on one of the South African Jewish radio stations. As I was just about finishing and getting ready to leave, in walked Rabbi Wein. “Oh Rabbi Wein,” I said, “it is so nice to see you. I am planning on interviewing you and Rabbi Goldstein on Sunday about your new book. Do you want to tell me what questions I should ask you?” “No, it is okay,” Rabbi Wein replied, “whatever you would like to ask will be fine.”

It was now Sunday afternoon. With every session starting and ending punctiliously on time and lasting forty minutes, as four o’clock arrived we began. After asking numerous questions, I was left with five minutes. Having one particular question in mind, I knew that now would be my last opportunity to ask. Turning to Rabbi Wein, I said, “Can I ask you a question which has been bothering me for forty years?” Rabbi Wein looked up at me. “Forty years? Please, go ahead.”

“Rabbi Wein,” I began to say, “do you remember how forty years ago you were the Rabbi in a big Shul in Miami? One Chol Hamoed Pesach you called me and asked if I could perform a brit for someone in the Miami community during the last two days of Pesach. Replying that I would be very happy to do so, I came to Miami to perform the brit and spend the last few days of Yom Tov with you and your family.

As Yom Tov drew to a close and we were just about to daven Maariv in your Shul, I began looking around the room and noticed something very interesting. You were the only man in Miami without a suntan. I then starting thinking to myself, “It is amazing that you never leave your house to go outside. You are always writing, teaching, making CDs, videos, newsletters and books. You have produced in forty years more than companies have produced. It is unimaginable that one person could do so much! Don’t you ever get tired?”

As I asked this question, Rabbi Wein grew very serious and said, “Let me tell you a story that happened to me when I was a child.”

It was 1946 and I was an eleven-year old boy growing up in Chicago. One day my father told me that we are going to the airport because a big tzaddik, Rav Isaac HaLevi Herzog, is coming to Chicago and will be addressing all the rabbis and yeshiva boys. As we all came to the airport, Rav Herzog arrived. We then proceeded to the Synagogue where Rav Herzog lectured to all the Rabbis. And then, after the lecture, he said, “Now I want to speak to all of you, especially the young boys.”

“I just returned from visiting Pope Pius in Rome. The purpose of my meeting with him was to discuss the names of ten thousand Jewish boys and girls who have been indoctrinated and baptized into the Christian belief. “Give me back these children!” I said to him, “they are ours! They survived the war and you have taken them away from us.”

But the Pope would not hear of it. “I am not going to give you back even one child. We have a rule that if any child has been baptized he cannot be given back to any other religion. All these ten thousand children have been baptized.”

Despite begging and pleading with the Pope, it was all in vain. He would not give me back even one Jewish boy or girl.

As Rabbi Herzog was relating this disheartening news to us, he put his head down on the podium and wept hysterically. And then he picked up his head and with his face red like a lion screamed, “I can’t do anything for those ten thousand kids anymore! But what are you going to do for the future children of Klal Yisrael? Are you going to remember what I said? You are the ones who are going to save the future Jewish children of our nation!”

And then he stopped.

As everybody afterwards passed Rabbi Herzog to shake his hand, when my turn arrived, he stopped and looked me straight in the face. “Are you going to remember what I said? What are you going to do for the future children of Klal Yisrael?”

And then Rabbi Wein concluded answering my question. “I am able to accomplish so much because every time I get tired, every time I want to put down my pen, every time I want to put my head on my pillow, I am haunted by those words: what are you going to do for the children of Klal Yisrael?”

That is the question each of us must ask ourselves tonight.

Rabbi Yossi Mizrachi
The Last Moment

הִגִּיעַ זְמַן

The time has arrived…

As a man living in Israel started becoming religious, he came into contact with a rabbi to whom he took a liking. After some time, he and his friends began attending a lecture given by the rabbi every night for an hour or two. One day, however, he was the only person who showed up to the lecture. It was the day of a big game for the Maccabi Tel-Aviv basketball team.

Seeing only one person in attendance, the rabbi inquired where everyone else was. “Rabbi,” explained the man, “nobody will show up today. There is a big sports event.” “If that is so, we will resume the lecture tomorrow.” “Tomorrow? Rabbi, I came all the way here; you have to give the lecture now!” “Listen,” the rabbi replied, “I have a rule. I only teach the public. I need there to be at least one other person for me to teach a class.”

Listening to the unprecedented rule his rabbi mentioned, the man wondered where he would ever find anyone else. “Try going out onto the street,” the rabbi told him. Making his way outside, the man began waving people down. But nobody wished to come. And so the man headed back inside alone. “Rabbi, I tried, but no one wants to come.” “Listen,” said the rabbi, “you are not trying hard enough. Come, let me show you what to do.”

Taking the man outside, the rabbi met an empty street. “If no one is here on the street, then let’s go inside the apartment building. We will be able to find someone there.” Making their way up the steps, they knocked on one of the apartment doors. A man opened up. “Excuse us, but we are trying to hold a Torah lecture. Today, not that many people have come; would you consider participating for an hour?” Within moments, the man fainted and fell to the floor.

Panicking and unsure if they should phone for help, the man soon came to his senses. “What happened? Are you alright?” “I’m okay,” reassured the man, “just come with me.”

With tears in his eyes, the man took the two of them to his shower. Pulling back the shower curtain, the rabbi and his student were shocked to see a noose hanging from the ceiling with a chair underneath. “You see the rope over here,” said the man as he pointed upward toward the ceiling. “I was ready to hang myself. I got on top of the chair, put the rope around my neck and was about to kick the chair from underneath when I heard a knock on the door. If you would have knocked five seconds later, I would not be here now. As the noose was tightly secured around my neck, I said to G-d, “If You exist and everything these religious people are saying is true, please give me a sign. Don’t let me take my life and later regret it. If, however, You do not exist, then I would rather be dead. I am begging You, give me a sign.”

“As those words left my mouth, I heard a knock on the door. It was you asking me if I would like to attend a Torah lecture.”

Today this man is a complete baal teshuva.

Sometimes we are looking for Hashem to give us a sign and open the door for us to return to Him. And then, at the very last moment when we are least expecting, a knock is heard at the door. “It is Me,” Hashem says, “come listen to the beautiful words of My Torah. Instead of letting a noose embrace your neck, let Me and My Torah embrace your neshama.”

Rabbi YY Jacobson
4 Lessons for the 4 Sons

כְּנֶגֶד אַרְבָּעָה בָנִים דִּבְּרָה תּוֹרָה

Concerning four sons did the Torah speak

These few words contain volumes of lessons about education and pedagogy. In particular, there are four messages to be learned from this brief statement.

1) אַרְבָּעָה בָנִים –There are four sons. There is no one child because everyone is different. Never make the mistake that one cookie cutter model encompasses all children.

2) בָנִים –They are all your children. Never look at any of these children and write them off and reject them. They may be from one extreme to another, but they are all your children.

3) דִּבְּרָה תּוֹרָה –Torah has something to say to each one of these children. No child is ever too far for Torah to inspire and uplift them and provide them with joy and wholesomeness in life. The Torah speaks to every child’s needs.

4) אַרְבָּעָה בָנִים דִּבְּרָה תּוֹרָה –The conversation the Torah has with each of them is a different one. The Torah offers a unique message for every individual and every circumstance of life.

Rabbi Yigal Haimoff
On Condition

וּבְנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל פָּרוּ וַיִּשְׁרְצוּ

And the Children of Israel were fruitful, increased greatly…

A man living in Israel with eleven children was faced with a dilemma. It was time for his daughter to get married but he had no means of paying for the wedding.

Flying to America, he immediately headed to a number of Shuls in search of financial assistance. Finding little success, one day, he broke down in tears while saying Tehillim. Noticing him crying in the corner of the Shul was another man. “Why are you crying? Can I help you?” Looking up teary-eyed, the man sighed and began to detail his woeful story. “Look,” the other man said, “there is one wealthy individual in the community who is very generous. If you go to him, he will surely help you.”

Realizing that there was nothing else left to do, the man began to feel hopeful. “Really?” “Yes, he is very kind. But I must tell you, he can easily change his moods. If you catch him at a time when he is in a good mood, he will be more than gracious to you. But if you catch him when he is not in the best of moods, don’t expect him to be too generous.”

Making his way to the wealthy man’s home, he was immediately welcomed inside. “How can I help you?” “Well,” the man began, “my daughter is getting married soon and I don’t have the wherewithal to afford a wedding.” Hearing of the man’s plight, the gentleman said, “If I may ask, how many children do you have?” “Eleven,” replied the man with a straight face. “Eleven children? How can you have eleven children when you cannot afford to support them? I have one child and I am able to give him everything he needs. How could you be so foolish?”

Sitting there and now realizing that the man was in a bad mood and that no money would be coming his way, he fell silent. What could he say? And then it hit him.

“The Talmud says that there are three partners in the creation of a child: the mother, father and Hashem. That means that I am a partner with Hashem eleven times. I have a contract with Him with each of my children and I am fully confident that he will support me and my family in some way. My children are His children and I know He will never abandon His children.”

Hearing these words, the wealthy man was taken aback. “I never heard such a thing before.” Taking out his pen, the man wrote out the full amount to cover the expenses of the wedding. Stunned, the poor father began to profusely thank the gentleman for his kind-heartedness. “But I have one condition,” the wealthy man added, “I am also a partner now. From now on, anytime you need anything for any of your children, you come to me.”

While this poor father received a great degree of support for his family, he perhaps taught this wealthy man an even more valuable lesson: what it means to have a child. Oftentimes, a child is viewed as a burden. But we would be much happier and wealthier to think again. A child is the biggest gift we can have. He or she is worth more than all the precious diamonds in the world.

Rebbetzin Ruthie Halberstadt
Oh Rats!

דָּם, צְפַרְדֵּעַ, כִּנִּים, עָרוֹב...

Blood, frogs, lice, wild animals…

At one point in my life, things were very hectic. My family had just moved from one apartment to another in Jerusalem. I was also soon expecting to have my third child and was feeling very ill from the pregnancy. Upon returning home after having been out of the country for a family simcha, we noticed a funny smell in the apartment. The first few nights we were home, we in fact heard a scratching noise in our bedroom. I never met the creature, but it was clearly something of a sizeable proportion. Moving the couch, we saw that it had made a hole and built a nest close to the wall. To our distress, we had rats in our apartment.

Unnerved, we contacted a fumigation company who later informed us that the biggest rat was the size of a small cat. This was not a comforting thought considering that we had two little children running around the house. We locked our bedroom door and slept in the kids’ room, and all I could do was panic.

Spending as much time as I could out of the house, one afternoon as I was sitting in the park, I simply broke down. I was really having a hard time. The fumigation company was making little progress, and we felt like victims in our own home. But then, a woman who I hardly knew walked over to me and sat down. By the look on my face she could tell I was sulking and that something was wrong.

“What happened?” she asked. “We have rats in our apartment and we need to get rid of them,” I half-heartedly said. “Oh rats! That’s terrible. I myself learned a lot from rats. I remember how two weeks after I gave birth to one of my children and my family had moved apartments, we also discovered we had rats.” Listening to this woman’s similar predicament, I sat there intently. “Someone then told me to look up the rat in Perek Shira, where every creature in the world is described as singing its own unique song of praise to Hashem. You should also research the rat in Perek Shira. If this is the creature you are plagued with, you ought to find out what its message is to you.”

I was very intrigued. Heading home, I began sifting through my books on Perek Shira with its commentaries. When I found out what the rat’s praise to Hashem was, I was very humbled. The rat says, “Every soul will praise Hashem, Hallelukah!” Taken from the culminating lines and crescendo of Tehillim, the highest praise of Hashem emanates from the rat. This was particularly meaningful to me.

This song is said by the rat because the rat has the lowliest kind of lifestyle on earth. It lives in the gutters and sewers where even air is hard to come by, and toxic if any. But the rat appreciates its life and feels that it is worth living. Despite its struggles to stay alive and low quality of existence, it doesn’t give up. That is one lesson we learn from the rat: any type of life is worth living.

As I read this, I was very moved. I was experiencing a hard time adjusting to our new apartment and dealing with my pregnancy and had forgotten to focus on this one simple thought: the greatest gift we have is life itself. I then proceeded to write an entire page of everything I ought to be grateful for. I was alive, carrying a healthy baby, and living in Israel with a roof over my head.

While I may have wished that the rats never entered my home in the first place, in hindsight, they taught me an invaluable lesson I will always remember.

Every experience we have in life is there to teach us a lesson. While we may sometimes have to search high and low to find some meaning, we can be assured that nothing is coincidental. Even a lowly rat has a profound message to teach us.

Rabbi Dovid Orlofsky
Changing the World One Bite at a Time

עַל שׁוּם שֶׁפָּסַח הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא עַל בָּתֵּי אֲבוֹתֵינוּ בְּמִצְרַיִם

Because the Holy One, Blessed be He, passed over the homes of our forefathers in Egypt

A woman once came to me after I delivered an inspiring lecture and said, “Rabbi Orlofsky, I hear what you are saying and I want to change the world.” I said to her, “Listen, you have three little children and a husband and a home to take care of. You have plenty of things to keep you busy with. You are fine.” “No,” she insisted, “I want to change the world.”

“Alright, what is your degree in? “I don’t have a degree; I never received a higher education.” “Okay, what special talents and abilities do you have?” I continued to ask. “I don’t have any special talents or abilities.” “Is there anything you do which is exceptional?” I finally asked. I was hoping she would come up with some kind of answer. “I bake,” she said.

The next day she called me back with a plan. “I figured it out. There is a school for special children in my neighborhood and I am going to bake cupcakes for them on Rosh Chodesh. For fifty kids, I’ll make fifty cupcakes. I make good cupcakes with filling and frosting.” It sounded like a good idea.

The day after Rosh Chodesh I received another call. It was her and she was flying. She told me, “The principal of the school called me and said, ‘You don’t know what you did. These are kids who don’t see very well, hear very well or move very well. The one thing that works well for everyone, though, is their sense of taste. And you made them very happy.’”

A few months later I was talking with the same woman and asked her how everything was going. “Good, I am setting up a website.” “Okay,” I replied, “I am not that technically savvy, but don’t you bake cupcakes? Why do you need a website? You can’t email them.” “Well,” she said, “after a couple months of baking cupcakes for this one school, I started getting calls from schools all around Yerushalayim. They asked me, “Do you think you can bake cupcakes for our children too? They would also like a special treat.” Being that I couldn’t bake a thousand cupcakes, I gathered some friends together who could help. One of them said she would help twice a year, another every other month, and a third friend every three months. I am now setting up a website to coordinate the schools with the women and if anything falls short I will make sure it gets covered.”

Pesach is a time when, like Hashem did in Egypt, we can make quantum leaps. It is the time when we can go above and beyond ourselves and achieve the exceptional. Every so often we hear stories of people who start organizations and build great movements. And then we say to ourselves, “I know I may not be able to do anything like that, but I know I can bake cupcakes.” And we all have something special we can do. This was an ordinary person with no extraordinary abilities. She was just a person who cared. Yet she turned around and did something extraordinary that changed countless lives. She took hundreds and hundreds of children whose lives were very gloomy and made them a little sweeter and a little brighter.

Rabbi Mashiach Kelaty
In Your Merit

בְּצֵאת יִשְׂרָאֵל מִמִּצְרָיִם בֵּית יַעֲקֹב

When the Jewish people left Egypt, the house of Jacob…

As the Jewish people miraculously passed through the Red Sea and beheld miracles even greater than those seen in Egypt, they jubilantly sang Az Yashir. The Torah then goes on to describe how Miriam led the women in song, “And Miriam the prophetess, sister of Aharon, took the drum in her hand and all the women went forth after her with drums and dances.”

While the women sang the entire song of Az Yashir as the men did, the Torah chooses to highlight one Pasuk in particular which the women sang: “Sing to Hashem for He is exalted above the arrogant; he hurled horse with its rider into the sea.”

Why does the Torah single out this Pasuk as being sung by the women if they in fact sang the entire Az Yashir? Additionally, while it is understandable that the Egyptian riders drowned in the Yam Suf, what did the horses do to deserve drowning as well?

I once heard a beautiful idea in explanation. Chazal tell us, “In the merit of the righteous women of that generation, the Jewish people were redeemed from Egypt” (Sotah 11b). Besides bolstering Klal Yisrael’s spiritual state and population growth throughout the long and harsh exile, the Jewish women remained firmly convinced that Hashem would one day redeem them. It was in the merit of such self-sacrifice and belief that the entire nation was released from slavery.

When the Jewish people later left Egypt and the men took the lead in the forefront, the women began to wonder what had happened. “Wasn’t Klal Yisrael freed in our merit? Shouldn’t we receive equal glory as the men?” It was in response to this that Miriam answered, “Do not think that you are any less important than the men and any less a part of the redemption. To the contrary, it was rightfully in your merit that we were redeemed. Just look at the fate of the Egyptian horses. Why did they drown? Because they enabled the Egyptians to reach us at the Yam Suf. If not for the horses, the Egyptians would have been unable to pursue us. The same is true of us all. Had we not facilitated the redemption and enabled it to come to fruition, we would still be in Egypt. On that account, we have all the reason to be proud and exult.”

We would be greatly remiss if we were to overlook the tremendous degree of gratitude we owe our wives, mothers and sisters for making such a Yom Tov possible. For over three thousand years, they have been the stronghold of Klal Yisrael on all fronts. Creating the infrastructure of the Jewish home within and without, in their merit we were redeemed from Egypt and in their merit we will be soon herald our future redemption.

מוֹצִיא מַצָּה – Motzi Matzah

Mrs. Devorah Stieglitz
Glamorous Chametz and Pure Matzah

After growing up in a secular household and becoming religious at age twelve, I continued on to the Bais Yaakov in Brooklyn and from there to seminary in Israel. During one of my years spent in seminary, I returned home for Pesach intent on cleaning the house and readying it for Yom Tov.

One morning I sat down with my older sister over a cup of coffee. A successful, pretty and popular girl, my sister was well-liked by literally everyone she came across. It was therefore a bit odd when she said, “I found your high school yearbook.” Knowing that the pictures in the yearbook of me and the rest of my classmates were not overly impressive compared to my sister’s standard, I felt like apologizing for having her see it. But then she said something which blew me away.

“How old are these girls?” “They’re about seventeen or eighteen,” I said. “They look amazing!” my sister exclaimed. “These girls look so pure and wholesome. Just looking at their faces it is clear that they are motivated and focused on what they want in life. I wish I was like them; I am jealous.”

Hearing this from my sister was very uncharacteristic of her. Known to have a great life by societal standards and receiving lots of attention, I was shocked to hear that she admired a bunch of religious girls who spent their days learning and growing instead of partying and having fun.

“I don’t know what it is,” continued my sister, “but I feel so hollow inside. I have a great and glamorous life, but I feel empty and as if I am missing something.” As I took to heart my sister’s words, I knew exactly how she felt. “You feel this way because you are more than just your body; you are also your soul. And if you starve your soul, you will be hungry and feel a void within yourself.”

The difference between chametz and matzah is the difference between body and soul. While chametz rises and looks from the outside quite glitzy and glamorous, it contains nothing more than air. Matzah on the other hand is pure and unadulterated. It represents the individual who does not live a life of fantasy and disillusionment, but rather focuses on accomplishing his or her goals. And being so, it is the perfect recipe for achieving meaning in life and actualizing one’s potential.

הַלֵּל – Hallel

Rabbi Aryeh Sokoloff
Thank you, Thank you, Thank you

אוֹדְךָ כִּי עֲנִיתָנִי וַתְּהִי לִי לִישׁוּעָה

I thank You Hashem for You answered me and became my salvation

My son attends a yeshiva in Brooklyn exclusively for boys with Down syndrome. Before sending him to that school, however, my wife and I took a little tour around the school to a get a feel for what it was like.

Entering one of the classrooms in which all the boys were Down syndrome, I was met by an energetic sixteen year old boy. “I have a Dvar Torah for you!” he said. “I’m all ears,” I replied, “go ahead.” “There is a Pasuk in Tehillim, ‘I thank You Hashem for You answered me and became my salvation.’ We repeat this Pasuk twice in Hallel. Do you know why we say it twice?” I didn’t want to tell him that I didn’t know the answer, so I said, “That’s a very good question!” “Well,” the boy continued, “I’ll tell you the answer!”

If someone came over to you and offered you an orange, what would you say? “Thank you.” But what if someone came over to you and offered you an iPod; what would you say? I’ll tell you what I would say? Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you. I would never stop saying thank you.

“Don’t you understand? That’s exactly what happened when Hashem took the Jewish people out of Egypt. He redeemed us and made us free people. Do you understand that leaving Egypt was like getting an iPod!” So what do we say to Hashem in return? Thank you, thank you, thank you. We can’t stop saying thank you!”

Rabbi Zecharia Wallerstein
The Strange Stick

וְאָתָא חוּטְרָא וְהִכָּה לְכַלְבָּא

And the stick came and hit the dog

As a tzedakah collector once came to my office and I was about to write him a check, he told me to wait a minute. “Before you give me a check, would you mind if I ask you a question on the Haggadah? It is the easiest question you have ever heard. If you can answer it, I don’t want the check; however, if you cannot answer it, I want double.”

Being presented with this deal, I liked what I heard. “It’s an easy question?” I confirmed. “It’s the simplest question you ever heard on the Haggadah!” “Okay, go ahead,” I said.

“In Chad Gadya, we read how a man purchased a goat for two zuzim. Along came a cat and ate the goat; along came a dog and ate the cat; along came a stick and hit the dog; fire then burnt up the stick; water then extinguished the fire; the cow then drank the water; the slaughterer then slaughtered the cow; the angel of death then killed the slaughterer; and then Hashem smote the angel of death.

Everything naturally makes sense in the sequence of events. Cats eat goats, dogs eat cats, water extinguishes fire, cows drink water and so on. But I have one question. How did the stick hit the dog? Sticks don’t walk. It should have said that a person came with a stick and hit the dog. But it doesn’t say that.

Thinking to myself how I have been reading the Haggadah for decades and never even considered this, I sat there silently. “Double the check please,” he said. And I did.

“Let me tell you the answer,” he continued. “The Haggadah was written in this way for a reason. When you read the story of Chad Gadya everything appears to occur naturally. But there is something the author of the Haggadah put into the middle of the story that doesn’t make sense. A stick appears on its own and hits the dog. When you read this, you immediately raise your eyebrows and say, “Wait a second! How did the stick get there?” And then you realize that it must be Hashem holding the stick. And that being the case, the same is true of all the other “natural” sequence of events. Nothing is natural and happens by itself. Even the cat eating the goat and the water extinguishing the fire is the hand of Hashem.”

After the man finished explaining this, I said, “I will triple your check.” I was taken aback by this answer.

All throughout the hardships in our lives, we can never think it is natural. At the end of the Haggadah when we read about the events of Chad Gadya, we are meant to think of all the events in our own personal lives. And then we are to realize that even the stick that hits and the hardships that confront us are from Hashem. He is behind our lives every step of the way.

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