Or click here:
This is a bit belated, but if you are interested in Pesach posts (and a recipe for traditional Moroccan Pesach soup, which can be adjusted for non-kitniyot eaters), then please click on "Pesach" in the sidebar under "Categories."
Or click here:
I just found out that Rav Miller's Hagaddah: The Making of a Nation, is available as a free PDF for everyone here:
Thank you very much to Toras Avigdor for their dedication to spreading Rav Avigdor Miller's Torah, and also for letting me know about the free Hagaddah.
Chag kasher v'sameach to everyone!
Recently, someone forwarded a short parsha newsletter to me.
It included some very practical life advice connected to the parsha, then featured a family-oriented Q&A at the end.
You might have heard of its author, Rabbi Shimon Gruen, because he also gives talks on Torahanytime.com. (Actually, I only realized after viewing his website that I'd watched a couple of shiurim of his on Torahanytime.com and found his shiur to be full of good sense, insight, and compassion. Very nice, indeed.)
Anyway, I found the newsletter content very "real" and the advice & mussar displayed uncommon perceptiveness, and I also felt the design and color-scheme of the newsletter very pleasant & readable.
To manually subscribe to his newsletter, send an email to this address:
For what it's worth, I'm unusually happy and impressed with his parsha newsletter. (And I generally avoid subscribing to things. But this newsletter is really well-done & not overwhelming.)
Also, this is Rabbi Gruen's website:
(CORRECTION 19/4: Leha'ir mean "to illuminate" in English. As Rabbi Gruen says, his slogan is "to illuminate with clarity and understanding.")
No, I was not asked to blog about Rabbi Gruen or his website, but it's good Torah hashkafah I think others will find refreshing and beneficial.
If you want to check out a sample before you sign up, here's the Pesach issue:
Torah Lessons for the Home by Rabbi Shimon Gruen
Here is an inspiring and encouraging message from Rav Avigdor Miller on Pesach, Tape #116:
In downtown Manhattan, if they wouldn’t interfere, then in a short time you’d be amazed, because the streets would become jungles.
Just think: A grass seed potentially has the power of breaking concrete.
Simply by its innate God-given nature to grow, to thrive and flourish, a seed has the potential to overwhelm and conquer things much stronger and gargantuan.
Just like the Jewish neshamah.
Rav Miller's Hagaddah
You can access the most up-to-date transcriptions of Rav Miller's Pesach lectures and his booklets HERE.
For those in the Flatbush or Lakewood areas, they printed a few hundred more copies of Rav Miller's Haggadah, which you can purchase for $5 at the following locations:
Toras Avigdor subscribers received a free PDF of Rav Miller's Haggadah.
(It seems to be around 240 pages.)
Chag kasher v'sameach - Wishing you all a kosher and joyous Pesach.
On page 220 of the first volume of Words of Faith, we encounter Rav Levi Yitzchak Bender’s Talk #17: Pe-sach — Only Tefillah!
Sach: sach—to channel in another direction (when spelled with a samech), to converse (when spelled with a sin)
So we see from this that Pesach is about a personal & verbal relationship with Hashem.
This makes sense because in the Torah's whole saga of slavery and redemption, Am Yisrael rouse Divine Mercy whenever they cried out to Hashem.
Rav Bender recalls the Ari’s promise that whoever is careful from a little bit of chametz on Pesach is guaranteed not to sin the whole year.
And Rav Bender stresses that if we really want to achieve this, it can only happen through tefillah.
There are 2 advantages to doing this:
Like Elul, Nissan is a month of teshuvah.
I’m not the only one to notice that a lot of kaparahs happen during Nissan leading up to Pesach.
Sometimes, it’s hard to see them because it looks like part of Pesach stress, but closer introspection often reveals something similar to what happens to you in Elul.
The Elul-Nissan Connection
Rav Bender quotes Rebbe Baruch of Medzibuz, an uncle of Rebbe Nachman of Breslov, by comparing Elul preparations to Nissan preparations.
In Elul & the 10 Days of Repentance, Jews are busy with fasting and repentance.
In Nissan, says Rebbe Baruch, Jews are “busy with preparing geese and fat ducks, fish, and eggs for the sake of the festive banquet” (Leil HaSeder).
If only we would switch the order, says Rebbe Baruch, and do in Nissan what we do in Elul, and repent and pray to be saved from a little bit of chametz on Pesach, then we would be sure not to sin the entire year, and THEN we wouldn’t need the fasts and mortification of Elul & the 10 Days of Repentance because we never sinned. (Yay!)
Rav Bender emphasizes the importance of tefillah in Nissan, especially in the days leading up to Pesach when it is hardest to find extra time for prayer.
“All beginnings are difficult,” he acknowledges as he encourages us to do our best.
You can also talk to Hashem while you’re scrubbing or sweeping or making charoset.
You can thank Hashem and force yourself to smile at least for a millisecond even when you’re stressed out.
Let's finish off with Rav Bender's final words on the topic on page 223:
Adar and Nissan are two months that a person has to make a special soul-accounting.
The post on angels at Shirat Devorah got me thinking about the angel in Gidon’s story in Shoftim/Judges 6.
Shoftim 6:11 opens with the following statement:
“And an angel of Hashem came and sat under the oak tree in Ofra that belonged to Yoash Aviezri; and Gidon his son was threshing wheat in the winepress in order to flee from before Midyan.”
Please note that at this point, NO ONE SEES THE ANGEL.
It does not yet exist for them. (But it's there.)
Gidon is the youngest son in the smallest family (Aviezer) in the smallest tribe (Menashe) in a Nation that is terrorized under the thumb of the camel-riding, crescent-sporting Midyanites. (Gosh, this sounds so familiar...)
In other words, Gidon isn’t a remotely important or notable personality — yet.
Commenting on this verse, Rashi describes Gidon as saying to his father:
“Abba, you are old and if the Midyanim will come, you will not be able to flee. You go, and I will thresh.”
Radak describes the conversation similarly:
"My father, you are old. Enter into your home and I will thresh because if the Midyanim will come, you don't have within you the strength to flee."
What a truly nice Jewish boy!
Then verse 6:12 states:
“An angel of Hashem appeared to Gidon and said, ‘Hashem is with you, mighty one of valor’.”
Whoa, what happened there between verse 11 and verse 12?
From Nebbuch to Navi!
When we first encounter Gidon (with the help of our mefarshim), he is in such a nebby, lowly situation. Pretty unspectacular status too.
An authentic honest-to-gosh angel of Hashem pops out in front of Gidon and declares him a “gibur chayil—a mighty one of valor” to his face.
That's when the angel said in the name of God, "You have upheld the mitzvah of honoring [honoring your father] and you are suited to that all of my children shall immediately be redeemed by your hand." (Radak)
But there was one other reason why Gidon was chosen.
How did Gidon merit an angel waiting outside for him in the first place?
Radak explains that the night before was Leil Haseder of Pesach. So Gidon said to Hashem (in addition to the text of the book of Shoftim):
"Last night, we read the Hallel and my father recited to me, 'When Yisrael went out of Egypt' — If our forefathers were tzaddikim, then perform a miracle for us in their merit. And if they were reshaim, then just as you performed for them, perform a miracle for us too."
And Hashem responded:
"By your life! Because you acted as a defender [sanigor] for My children, you are worth Me speaking with you immediately."
And in one spectacular moment, Gidon went from nebbuch to Navi.
Just like that.
How to Activate an Angel
It's also important to emphasize something here:
After Gidon innocently made his pro-Am Yisrael comment privately to Hashem, he kept going about his business.
(Also, Gidon was not doing any overt act of kedushah. On the contrary, the whole thing SEEMED quite mundane & harassing.)
Yet in the merit of that private statement of merit for Am Yisrael, the angel popped over to wait nearby.
So as Gidon was threshing away under stress, the angel was there THE WHOLE TIME.
It was waiting for Gidon’s next big moment (which Gidon did not perceive as big, but just normal concern for his father).
Radak comments on the oddness of verse 6:11's description of the angel sitting under the tree:
“It doesn’t mean 'sitting' because angels aren't seen sitting but standing — like 'and the angel of Hashem stands and behold, a man stands before him.'
As far as I can tell, Gidon had no idea there was an angel loitering outside under the oak. So of course Gidon did not turn to the angel. He couldn’t perceive it!
It only appeared once Gidon triggered its manifestation with his words.
(See? There are some good triggers in life.)
And I think that’s a massive lesson.
Maybe you unknowingly triggered an angel to your area...yet you have no idea.
Maybe it’s waiting for you to activate it with your "simple" innocent deeds of good-heartedness.
We're still not long after Pesach (even if it feels like Pesach was ages ago) and now we're heading into Shavuot to receive the Torah and solidify ourselves as a committed Nation of God after the initial Redemption from the spiritual darkness of Mitzrayim.
Pesach brings to fore the core of the Jewish people and Judaism. It's all about birth, rebirth, sea-splitting emuna, and Redemption.
Yet the destructive Erev Rav forces quietly tear at the edges of even this most transformative earth-shattering process.
Authentic Jewish tradition tells us that a mind-boggling 80% of Jews in Egypt didn't survive the Plague of Darkness.
Astoundingly, they didn't want to leave the slavery of Egypt.
Ultimately, only 20% made it to the Exodus.
Recently, I was pondering the movement within non-Torah Judaism that refers to itself as "Conservative." (Boy, is that a misnomer!) I grew up within this movement and this was the community and synagogue to which we belonged.
And I was thinking about how much destruction they've wrought upon the Jewish people, all under the cheerful auspices of "progress" and good intentions.
What's insidious about the leaders within this movement is that they're knowledgeable enough to present their fallacious views in a convincing manner to Jews who aren't knowledgeable at all or only minimally knowledgeable.
Recently, Batya Medad blogged about her experiences with this movement (among other topics), saying:
"The vast majority [of Jewish teachers] were actually strictly practicing and believing Orthodox Jews, but they had to dilute their teaching to suit the Conservative theology and the even less Jewishly committed parents, who would have had them fired or pull their kids out of the school if there were signs of 'brainwashing'."
[Emphasis mine -- MR]
This isn't progressive, but dishonestly restrictive -- exactly what the Conservative movement's adherents accuse Torah-true Judaism of being.
The Conservative Movement's Contradictions
A boy I grew up with became a Conservative rabbi a few years ago. This boy possesses a very nice personality; he's warm and caring, and also enthusiastic about Judaism. He attended the rabbinical school of this movement where the indoctrination is very skillful and convincing, and he's brought his theories and enthusiasm to his own congregation.
This is heartbreaking because such a precious Jew could do so much good within the Torah world, but it's very hard to untangle such indoctrinated Jews from the Conservative movement's finely woven heresies. And I've known several Conservative rabbis with this same kind of personality. They care about their congregants and have genuine affection for a lot that Judaism has to offer.
Why? Because Judaism is genuinely beautifully and the thirst within the Jewish soul is only slaked by Torah spirituality.
(Not to mention the Conservative rabbis who are merely good administrators and enjoy the nice home provided by the congregation in addition to the 6-figure salary common among such communities, particularly the larger communities. And yes, I'm aware that some Orthodox rabbis fit this description too.)
To make things more confusing, Conservative rabbis near major Orthodox areas (like New York) practice Judaism similarly to many Modern Orthodox Jews. In fact, I was shocked when one Conservative rabbi told me that he required his female converts to commit to mikveh and taharat hamishpach (the laws of Family Purity) after marriage, in addition to Shabbat and kashrut. (Taharat hamishpacha isn't generally valued or even know about within the Conservative movement.)
But in many parts of the US, the Conservative rabbi and cantor may be the only people who don't drive on Shabbat. Yet even th rabbi and cantor's Shabbat observance is lacking. With no respect for the millennia of interpretation by Sages possessing the intellectual level of Albert Einstein, the Conservative leaders simply pick and choose according to convenience.
God is a far and distant figure subject to their own imagination. And they deal with the personalities within Torah according to their own grasp, meaning that they bring all the greatest of the greats down to their own level (which is low indeed) instead of striving to lift themselves to follow the example of the Patriarchs, Matriarchs, and Prophets.
The result is that there is nothing to aspire to -- except whatever the lowly rabbi or Conservative teacher determines according to his or her own ego and personality limitations.
I remember one Conservative rabbi who rarely even made it to Shacharit services during the week; he just showed up on Shabbat (a "once-a-week" Jew!). Usually, there wasn't even a minyan (even when including the women) for weekday Shacharit despite its location in a predominantly Jewish area. The elderly guys complained about how "the rabbi doesn't even show up for Shacharis! What kind of a rabbi is that?"
A Conservative rabbi, apparently. With a 6-figure salary.
It's also common within the Conservative movement to pick a scene or person from Tanach, ignore wholesale the millennia of Sagely scholarship (mostly because they lack the skills to study it or understand it), then distort it so that the Conservative Jew ends up more religiously observant than, say, Avraham Avinu. (And yes, this is a real example. They believe that Avraham Avinu did not keep kosher, but the Conservative Jew does, so look who's the frummer Yid!) And that's how they justify their lack of observance.
It's incredibly egocentric.
The Progressive Lech
More evidence of the great Conservative ego is their attitude toward women and women's mitzvot.
Their great hero, Solomon Schechter, initially dismissed the eloquently written bilingual (maybe even trilingual?) journal of Gluckel of Hameln simply because it focused on women's daily tasks (in addition to her Torah knowledge, business acumen, high intergrity, and much more).
Also, it's telling how they dump women's mitzvot to the side while promoting men's mitzvot. Women are encouraged to don tallis and tefillin, yet men aren't encouraged to light Shabbat candles, even though they are halachically obligated to if a female isn't lighting for them. In realtime, you see girls in their youth groups wearing tallis, tefillin, and kippahs, but almost none of the boys light Shabbat candles.
And I already mentioned their attitude toward taharat mishpacha...
Apparently, progressive "enlightened" men can't let inconvenient laws get in the way of their taavos.
I remember a Conservative rabbi who got booted out for having an affair with his secretary. This devastated me as a child because I'd liked her so much and couldn't believe such a warm-hearted nice lady could've done such a terrible thing. I remember impassionedly pleading something to parents like, "Are you sure it was with her and not with someone else? Are SURE it was her?"
Furthermore, go to some Conservative synagogues, and you'll see young woman reading from the Torah surrounded by a group of oh-so "helpful" and attentive middle-aged men who were probably too pathetic and Woody Allen-looking to get anywhere near attractive girls in their younger years. Who knew a girl needed so many gabbais to help her out?
Girls also help lead parts of the service.
But where are the boys? Or the middle-aged women?
Teenage and college-age girls are more fun to watch on the pulpit, I guess. (Although these helpful old guys will insist that girls are simply more interested and "more mature." How convenient.)
By the way, I heard this word all the time among the male congregants to describe teenage girls: mature.
Many Conservative rabbis and their male adherents enthuse over young female participation, and are oh-so encouraging of young females while lauding young female "maturity," all under the auspices of "progression."
It's just a load of weasel words, quite frankly.
They care about women's issues in the way that feminism cares about women's issues, which means that it's all about getting women to emulate negative male traits and valuing traditionally male contributions over traditionally female contributions (i.e. careers are in, but childbearing is out, etc.).
Note: The above may not be the case at every single Conservative synagogue across the entire 50 states. But what I wrote of aren't outliers either, despite what a Conservative adherent will otherwise insist.
Oh-So Stringent & Smart!
While conversing with a Conservative rabbi who required some kind of adherence to the laws of taharat mishpacha for his female converts, he mentioned his experiences in archeology and told of an ancient archeological site indicative of Jewish presence in Eretz Yisrael.
"And there was NO evidence of a mikveh!" he proclaimed.
(See? This is yet again an example of how they try to make themselves out to be frummer than our ancestors. "We do mikveh and they didn't! We're more machmir than the Avos!")
"How do you know?" I said. "Maybe you guys missed it. Maybe you just dug around it without even realizing it was there. Anyway, a woman's mikveh was often located a bit away for reasons of modesty."
He frowned as he thought this over, then declared, "No, we excavated pretty thoroughly!"
Knowing the technical difficulties and limitations of excavation, I was highly skeptical regarding the proclaimed thoroughness of their excavation. But I went with it and said, "Was there a natural body of water nearby, like a river or something?"
"Yes," he said.
"Well, maybe they just used that," I said. "I mean, we're talking about a Middle Eastern climate, not a Russian climate." These women also spent most of their years nursing and pregnant, which meant they mostly only needed a mikveh once every year or two. "Maybe they didn't feel the need to carve out a whole mikveh when they had a river right there," I added.
He fell silent for several moments, then said, "Hm."
And this is the really sad thing: At that time, this Conservative rabbi was a highly educated guy with degrees from university and his "rabbinical" seminary while I was just this twentysomething housewife pregnant with my second child and working in a little store part-time while my husband learned in kollel. Yet in an argument centering on his area of expertise, the little newly frum kollel wife bested him within a couple of sentences. Logically speaking, that shouldn't have happened.
But embarrassingly, he still managed to get me in the end.
How? He simply twisted over to another topic and distorted it in a way so that I couldn't recognize what he was talking about (although I was definitely familiar with it), and left me stammering, much to my embarrassment and frustration.
At the time, I hadn't yet read up on the different kinds of tactics utilized to manipulate arguments (strawman arguments, sloganeering, distractions, ad hominem attacks, cherry-picking, etc.), so I wasn't aware of what he was doing and got caught in it.
(If you'd like, you can see the continuation of that conversation in a previous post: How to Distort the Torah: A Guide for Apikorsim and Their Victims.)
If Ya Can't Beat 'Em, Convert 'Em!
The above doesn't even begin to cover the devastation of intermarriage that these Conservative "rabbis" have wrought on the Jewish people.
With all their pseudo-"conversions" of people who are either pressured into it by well-meaning yet presumptuous Conservative Jewish in-laws or non-Jews who like aspects of Judaism without feeling compelled to commit wholeheartedly or for people who enjoy having the now-coveted status of being a minority, the Conservative "rabbinate" decimated the Jewish people in America.
(And yes, I realize there are also Orthodox rabbis who do not take conversion as seriously as they should and thus produce converts who are ill-prepared and ignorant of important aspects Judaism, and whose status is also questionable.)
Anyway...this year, I received emails from members of my old Conservative community (and the accompanying Reform community) which enthused about the family get-togethers for the Pesach Seders. Some were 50% Jewish. Then one enthused, "We had 13 people at the Seder!"
But only one participant was actually Jewish.
So you had non-Jews cooking up and conducting a whole Pesach Seder and chanting about how God took them out of Egypt (when He didn't), and opening the door for Eliyahu Hanavi to come in and take a sip of wine.
Now on the positive side, these predominantly non-Jewish Seders are likely Hashem's way of getting the basic message across to the one sickly elderly Jew at the table. That Jew at least heard the Haggadah and ate some matzah, so maybe some soul-healing will spark from that.
Anyway, the Conservative leaders are hard to argue with. They cherry-pick their knowledge from a wide array of sources within authentic Judaism, science, political movements, and philosophy. Then they distort things to their perspective, something which they are previously taught to do in their seminaries and classes.
So it's all very ingrained.
Then you have the natural human ego and the leadership resistance to admitting that they're living a lie and giving up their nice home and their 6-figure salary.
It's all too human, of course. Which is exactly why you need traditional authentically Jewish mussar to have any chance of battling problematic character traits like greed, the need for honor, ego, and all that.
I'm not really different than them in that respect. The only real difference between me and them is that Hashem has allowed me to access these traditional authentic Jewish sources with an open mind, and these leaders and adherents do not do so.
Having said that, even an entrenched Conservative Movement leader can still do teshuvah.
Starving Out the Soul
As I look this over, I'm aware of how biting it will sound to those who don't see the Conservative Movement in the same way.
But I'm looking over a long wide swathe of destruction.
Furthermore, so many Jews in this movement have warm Jewish hearts and shining souls. Yet where their beaming hearts and souls channeled?
Into a meaningless vacuum.
Many of the good adults I knew as a child are aged and dying now.
It pains me that, depending on their situation and life choices, they're dying without ever knowing the real beauty and depth of Torah. They only ever tasted a watered-down version.
They're dying with disillusions and confusion about why their children and congregations are so apathetic to that which was so important to their parents and grandparents.
Many are dying without ever having been in an authentic Jewish marriage.
Some die leaving self-hating assimilated progeny behind them.
Others die without leaving behind them even one Jewish child or grandchild.
And some of these non-Jewish children and grandchildren are even antisemitic (in a goody-goody politically correct way, of course).
Within their seventy, eighty, or ninety years, these precious Jews never do even a moment of teshuvah.
And whose fault is that?
B'ezrat Hashem, Mashiach will come soon and sort us all out.
He'll gather all the Jewish neshamas out of whatever Galus (Exile) he finds them in and bring us all Home, hopefully enveloped in within Hashem's Great Loving Revealed Compassion.
In the words of Gidon the Judge at his own family's Pesach Seder around 3100 years ago:
"If our forefathers were tzaddikim, then perform a miracle for us in their merit. And if they were reshaim, then just as you performed for them, perform a miracle for us too."
Aliyah, Moving To Israel (Batya Medad's blog post)
Sinking in a Deluge of Quicksand while Dancing the Hora
How to Distort the Torah
True Greatness Hides Itself (more about Gidon the Judge)
Each year, we end the Pesach Seder with the words:
"L'shanah haba b'Yerushalayim habnuya! -- Next year in the rebuilt city of Jerusalem!"
Furthermore, it has always been a great mitzvah for a Jew to make aliyah and live in Eretz Yisrael if at all possible.
Yet like everything else, this mitzvah needs a lot of prayer.
In fact, a major life-change like this calls for copious heartfelt prayer, whether you feel like you'll never be able to make aliyah or whether you're already on your way. Fortunately, Rabbi Eliezer Papo (author of the Pele Yoetz) wrote a book of prayers for all occasions (called Beit Tefillah) including this prayer for "Diur b'Eretz Hakodesh -- Residing in the Holy Land."
As is usual by tzaddikim, you'll see that in his great love for his fellow Jews, Rav Papo doesn't leave out anyone. Also, while Jews outside of Eretz Yisrael have an obligation to help and support Jews living within Eretz Yisrael, Jews within Eretz Yisrael apparently have a special obligation to pray for their fellow Jews still stuck outside.
We're all in this together!
The following prayer is presented in Hebrew, English transliteration, and English translation:
דיור בארץ הקודש
ויהי רצון מלפניך ה' אלוקי ואלוקי אבותי, שתעזור לעמך ישראל ותזכם שיקבעו דירתם לשכון כבוד בארץ הקדושה. ולא יאמר אדם, צר לי המקום שאשב בארץ הקדושה. ולא יצטרכו לצאת ממנה, אלא ישבו בה כל ימי חייהם בקדושה ובטהרה, ושם תהא מיתתם, שם תהא מנוחתם כבוד. ותתן כוח וחיל ורצון טוב ליושבי חוץ לארץ, להיותם עוזרים ותומכים ביד יושבי ארץ ישראל בגופם וממונם, למען ישבו שם בהשקט ושלוה, עובדים עבודתך ומתפללים על עמך
V'yehi ratzon milfanecha Hashem Elokai v'Elokai avotai, sheh ta'azor l'Amecha Yisrael u't'zakem sheh yikba'u diratam lishkon kavod ba'Aretz Hakadosha. V'lo yomar adam "Tzar li hamakom sheh eshev ba'Aretz Hakadosha. V'lo yitzarchu latzet mimenah, eleh yeshvu vah kol yamei chayeihem b'kedushah u'v'tahorah, v'sham tahei mitatam, v'sham tahei menuchatam kavod. V'titen ko'ach v'chayil v'ratzon tov l'yoshvei chutz l'Aretz, l'hiyotam ozrim v'tomchim b'yad yoshvei Eretz Yisrael b'gufam u'mamonam, l'man yeshvu sham b'hashket v'shalvah, ovdim avodatcha u'mitpalelim al Amecha.
May it be Your Will Hashem, my God and the God of my fathers that You will help your Nation of Israel and grant them the merit to permanently fix their abode to reside honorably in the Holy Land. And may no person say, "It's difficult [narrow, too tight] for me, this place I will reside within the Holy Land." And may they not need to leave it, but may they remain within it in holiness and purity all the days of their lives, and there shall be their death and there shall be their resting place of honor. And grant strength and valor and good will to those who dwell outside the Land, to be helpers and supporters in hand with the settlers of Eretz Yisrael, both physically and financially, so that they can dwell there in peace and tranquility, toiling in Your Divine Service and praying for Your Nation.
To download as a PDF, please press the pretty azure button:
Rav Papo published Pele Yoetz in the Ottoman Empire's Bulgaria in 1824. At that time he wrote of the Jews in Eretz Yisrael (who were also under Turkish Muslim rule):
"They live like chickens in a coop; they are not able to earn a living, and there is almost no one who has pity upon them."
But regarding the great mitzvah of aliyah, which he encourages if at all feasible (emphasis mine -- MR):
The primary purpose of going to Eretz Yisrael is for the rectification of the soul.
Jews in Eretz Yisrael often feel like we're making the big sacrifice on behalf of world Jewry. But in reality, a move to Eretz Yisrael carries with it a tremendous responsibility:
heartfelt prayer on behalf of our precious brothers and sisters (in addition to raising our own standards of piety and religious commitment).
The lives of the Jews in chutz l'Aretz depend on our "mouths"! We need to buckle down and care about everyone and beg for Hashem's Mercy for EVERYONE.
Rav Papo provides an important list of what Jews in Eretz Yisrael must pray for:
He concludes with:
One who resides in the Land of Israel must be continuously happy with his continuous mitzvah.
There's an interesting couple of posts over at Emunaroma (links below) that fit right into what's going in the current parshas (Shemot & Va'era).
Throughout his commentary on the Torah, the Kli Yakar emphasizes that Hashem chooses the "מעט /m'at" -- the lesser, the minor, the small one, the insignificant.
Whether it was the more diminutive Har Sinai or the younger sibling (Yitzchak, Yaakov, Moshe Rabbeinu, etc.), God chooses the m'at.
I'm mean, look at Yehudah, the progenitor of Mashiach: a middle child.
And Tamar? She comes out of nowhere, has been married twice without ever producing a child (not ideal shidduch material), and is pretty quiet. In fact, our Sages note that the whole reason why Yehudah didn't recognize her on the road (despite her having been his daughter-in-law twice) was because of her great modesty and refinement when at the home of her father-in-law...she even covered her face, so he really didn't know what she looked like.
(You're not obligated to cover your face when visiting your in-laws. The Sages just note that Tamar chose to of her own accord, which later proved advantageous.)
Further down the line, you have Ruth. Again, her refined modesty and reluctance to stand out are what actually make her stand out. Her refinement and concern for modesty is even more startling considering that she comes from a particularly brazen nation. Furthermore, she's a convert from a nation despised (with good reason) by the Jews. To make things even more complicated, she looked different. Apparently, the Moavites had a distinctive look, making Ruth identifiable at first glance.
In other words, she was an ethnic minority of one from a most unpopular ethnic group.
(Note: I looked up Moavite archeology to get an idea of what the Moavites might have looked like, but found very little. Almost nothing remains of that once-powerful nation.)
Yet very quietly and unassumingly, Ruth swept up all the Moavite sparks of vitality with her when she left and elevated them with her conversion to Judaism.
And that was the beginning of the end for Moav.
Later, she married the great Boaz and their great-grandson ended up being King David...again, the direct line of Mashiach. Ruth also merited to have her story written out and an entire megillah named after her.
The Reluctant Leaders of Israel
In Shemot and Va'era, we have Moshe Rabbeinu, the baby of the family and a stutterer. He actually spends significant parts of his life undercover:
Moshe Rabbeinu actually tries to get out of the leadership position Hashem has chosen for him. After his first official meeting with Pharoah leads to increased suffering for his beloved people, Moshe Rabbeinu tells Hashem: "Perhaps I was the cause, since You sent a stutterer like me to him?"
Moshe Rabbeinu is definitely not engaging in any self-promotion here. In fact, he thinks he's the wrong man for the job and is not afraid to tell this to God Himself.
Also, it's worth noting that Aharon Hacohen shows absolutely no jealousy over the fact that his younger and less silver-tongued brother is chosen as the great redeemer. Due to Aharon's profound humility and willingness to play second fiddle his entire life, his descendents are rewarded with the eternal priesthood.
Devorah Haneviah led the nation to military victory, but first she tried to avoid doing so.
There are many, many examples throughout Tanach of the lesser person, the one trodden upon or ignored, being chosen by Hashem for an exalted role.
Here's one of my favorites: Gidon.
The Small-Tribe Boy Achieves Greatness
The story of Gidon in Judges has always been one of my favorites. When I finally studied it with the commentaries, I found even more to love.
We come across Gidon during a downturn in Jewish history. Gidon is born to the Jewish nation as it's oppressed by the camel-riding crescent-bearing Midyanites (the precursors of today's Arabs).
Initially, Gidon is a member of the smallest tribe, Menashe. Furthermore, his family is one of the smallest and least significant of the Menashi families. And within his immediate family, Gidon is one of the younger brothers.
In other words, in terms of external status, Gidon is about as unimportant as you could be within the trodden-upon Jewish people at that time.
Gidon is working away in the threshing house.
Unbeknownst to Gidon and his father, an angel is invisibly waiting outside in the courtyard under a tree.
Knowing that discovery means death, Gidon tells his father, "Abba, you are old. And if the the Midyanim will come, you will not be able to flee. You go, and I will thresh."
That's according to Rashi. According to Radak, Gidon tells his father, "My father, you are old. Enter into your home and I will thresh because if the Midyanim will come, you don't have within you the strength to flee."
That's when the angel said in the name of God, "You have upheld the mitzvah of honor [honoring your father] and you are suited to that all of my children shall immediately be redeemed by your hand."
The angel became visible and declared, "God is with you, mighty one of valor."
(Please note that Gidon did not tweet, "Dude! Angel just appeared to me and declared me 'mighty one of valor'! Please follow me!" Nor did he upload a selfie of himself and the angel to Instagram. Nor did he update his Facebook page with the new twist of events along with a request to "like" the "angel 'n' me" post. In fact, he was rather hesitant about his newfound status. Okay, I'm kidding about the social media. I know there was no such technology back then.)
Both Radak and Malbim state that Gidon's mesirut nefesh for kivud av (putting his father's safety and well-being above his own) ignited the merit which caused the angel to make itself known and everything else that followed.
But there was one other reason why Gidon was chosen.
Radak explains that the night before was Leil Haseder of Pesach. Gidon said (in addition to the text of the book of Shoftim), "Last night, we read the Hallel and my father read me, 'When Yisrael went out of Egypt' -- If our forefathers were tzaddikim, then perform a miracle for us in their merit. And if they were reshaim, then just as you performed for them, perform a miracle for us too."
(Again, Gidon said this privately to God and the angel. He spoke quietly from the heart; he did not pass it on to the town crier.)
And Hashem said, "By your life! Because you acted as a defender [sanigor] for my children, you are worth Me speaking with you immediately."
VERY powerful stuff, as you can see.
Just the quiet self-sacrifice for his father and then arguing with God to perform a miracle not just for himself, but for the ENTIRE Jewish people...Gidon was suddenly catapulted from oppressed insignificant little Jew to prophet and national redeemer.
Not bad for a boy from a small tribe, eh?
There was no audience for Gidon initial actions. Just his father and an angel.
But Gidon's vocalized care and concern for everyone else apparently went viral in Shamayim.
The sparks Ruth's conversion swept out of Moav:
The Powerful Secret of Sincere Conversion
When you grow up Ashkenazi lite and marry a religious Moroccan, there are many tradition-based surprises in store.
For example, I was disappointed that Moroccans are one of the only Sephardi groups who DON'T eat most kitniyot (legumes) on Pesach (Passover).
No rice, no corn, no garbanzo beans, no soy oil, and so on. However, they do eat certain kinds of fresh kitniyot like:
Fava beans, also known as broad beans, and called fulim (FOO-leem) in Hebrew, play a starring role in Moroccan Pesach meals.
(For example, Moroccan Pesach cholent includes fulim that have only been shelled once, which is exactly what you get when you buy a bag of frozen fulim in the freezer section in Israel.)
After discovering that I really never will eat rice on Pesach, I then discovered that Moroccans have a traditional soup served at the Seder (the first night of Pesach in Eretz Yisrael, the first 2 nights of Pesach everywhere else) that has absolutely nothing to do with chicken (or matzah balls, for that matter).
My initial reaction to the thought of eating boiled cabbage instead of chicken soup with lots of fluffy matzah balls was “Yuck!”
But upon tasting this traditional Moroccan soup of fulim and cabbage, my reaction immediately transformed into “YUM!”
I also fell in love with fulim.
The ful bean is an absolutely delicious bean that doesn’t provoke any embarrassing digestive reactions later. Now, every time I read an article on fulim, it always mentions how some people are allergic to this bean. I have never personally encountered someone with a fulim sensitivity, but I guess you’re supposed to warn people anyway.
So there's your warning.
This is an incredibly healthy soup, as you’ll soon see.
It’s also low-gluten (or possibly gluten-free?) and low-carb.
Feel free to make this during the year if your custom forbids you to eat fulim on Pesach.
My mother-in-law (who grew up in Tafilalt and moved to Meknes to marry and birth her first 3 children — including my husband) taught me how to make it.
The exact amounts depend on the size of your pot and your personal taste. We always use a huge pot for this because everyone loves it so much.
The time-consuming part is preparing the fulim. Initially, I thought it was impractical to shell mounds of fulim Erev Pesach. Who has time or energy for that? But believe me, it really is worth it. Originally, Moroccan women finished their Pesech cleaning in a timely fashion and then sat down together the morning of Erev Pesach to shell out all the fulim. (Remember, you had large homes and several guests and/or multi-generational families back in Morocco, so you had a bunch of sisters, grandmothers, mothers, and daughters available for copious social fulim-shelling.) My sons help me, but they don't have the same dedication and patience for it that my mother-in-law and I have.
So when I don’t have Moroccan females on hand, I start preparing the fulim the night before.
Or, more accurately, I TRY to prepare it the night before.
So here’s the recipe and variations will follow…
Note: Depending on your geographical location and what brand of cabbage you buy, you may need to rinse off each leaf and check for bugs. Ditto with the cilantro/coriander/kusbara.
Note #2: Also, sometimes it happens that you buy pods with massively swollen bumps that hint at gargantuan fulim inside only to discover tiny fulim. This usually doesn't happen, but you may run into a couple of deceptive pods like this. Forewarned is forearmed! Just remember that this, too, is for the best!
Now comes the patchky part.
Dig in your fingernail and just scrape or peel the soft shell off. Sometimes, you can even pop the fulim out of this second shell, depending.
The plumper and larger the fulim are, the easier this will be. (That’s why when you were shopping for fulim pods, you went after the plumpest looking ones.)
The cabbage should be pretty soft. Yeah, cabbage never seems to get so soft, but it should be nice and limp.
And there you have it: your very own authentic Moroccan Pesach Seder Soup.
Tips & Variations:
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