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Wraps

In the middle of Pesach cleaning we sometimes pause for a quick lunch. That lunch might be ‘wraps’. What is ‘wraps and what brocho do we make on it?

Wraps is a type of sandwich but whereas the traditional sandwich has two layers of bread with a filling in between, wraps is one piece of dough which wraps round the filling. It also tends to be a very thin dough. Is wraps hamotzie or mezonos? Let’s look into it.

In Gemoro Brochos (42a) we read that Rav Huna ate three cakes and did not say Bircas Hamozon. Rav Nachman said to him that even though these cakes were pas habo bekisnin, since he was eating them as a meal, he should have said bircas hamozon.

We already see that even though the food is pas habo bekisnin, if it constitutes a meal, it requires hamotzi and birchas hamozon. If not, we say mezonos and al hamichyo.

What is the definition of pas habo bekisnin?

The Shulchan Aruch (168:7) brings three opinions.

  1. Bread which is baked with a filling of honey or sugar, nuts and spices.
  2. Bread which is made from a dough which contained enough honey, oil or spices to affect the taste.
  3. A dry, thin cracker.

The Ramo comments on the second opinion: “Some say that it is still considered bread unless there is so much of these extra ingredients that they are almost the main ingredient.” The Mishna Berura says that the Ramo’s comment applies to the first opinion as well and that for bread with a filling to be considered pas habo bekisnin there must be enough honey, sugar etc. to have a very strong effect on the taste. The Shaarei Tziun brings the Taz that even the Shulchan Aruch holds this first opinion. Since there are three opinions, what does one do in practice?

The Shulchan Aruch says as we are not sure, we are lenient and if we have eaten food of any of these three types we treat it as pas habo bekisnin and say al hamichyo.

Let us now consider the following question: We have learned about different examples of pas habo bekisnin,as brought down in the Shulchan Aruch. Does this mean that these are pas habo bekisnin and every other type of pas is hamotzi? Or are the types mentioned just examples, but any other type of pas which is also not normally used to base a meal on (either in Chazal’s generation or later) will also have the halocho of pas habo bekisnin?

 The sefer Mekor Habrocho of Dayan Krauszshlita brings two opinions.

  1. The Emek Habrocho who says that we only look at the examples of pas habo bekisnin which were given by Chazal. Any other type of bread, even though it might fulfil the same function as pas habo bekisnin did in the days of Chazal, requires hamotzi and bircas hamozon.
  2. The Nesivos Hamishpot who says that if the usual custom is not to base a meal on this type of pas it will have the halocho of pas habo bekisnin.

The Aruch haShulchan also seems to hold this opinion. In 168:24 he writes that eier kichlech which are made with eggs and water are clearly not normal pas. Later he writes: “Our Sages only said that we should say hamotzi and bircas hamozon on bread that most people base a meal on. They were referring to dough baked in the normal way. If there is any change which causes most people not to base a meal on it, there is no obligation to say hamotzi and bircas hamozon…”

Now this would help for items which are clearly meant as a snack like eier kichlech and for bridge rolls which are intended for a kabolas ponim rather than a meal.. Can it be applied to a wraps? Do people eat wraps as a meal or as a snack? .

There is another factor with wraps which we have not mentioned so far. The Shulchan Aruch mentions another type of dough, nalsilka which is baked in a pan with vegetable leaves and because it is watery and thin, one says mezonos rather than hamotzie. The Shulchan Aruch mentions yet another type of thin dough called trisa and on this dough the Shulchan Aruch holds that we say only mezonos even if one is kovea seuda on it. Can we compare wraps to these types of dough? Rav Eliashev was once shown some wraps and he said that it was like trisa which, as we just said, does not require hamotzie even if we base a meal on it.

According to this reported psak of Rav Eliashev, the brocho on wraps will be mezonos even if we base a meal on it. However it is difficult to be sure that all wraps are made with such thin dough.

In conclusion. If we are eating wraps as a snack, if it is made with enough fruit juice which gives a strong taste to the dough, (which I’m told is the case in Gateshead), we certainly say mezonos. If we are basing a meal on such a wraps meaning that we fill it with a generous amount of filling and this is our lunch or supper, many poskim hold that one should say hamotzie like other pas habo bekisnin. If it is not made with fruit juice, there are opinions which allow us to say mezonos. However it would appear to be the case that many poskim hold that it is usual to base a meal on wraps and therefore the brocho should be hamotzie especially if we are indeed basing a meal on it. However according to Rav Eliashev the brocho on thin wraps will always be mezonos. Because of the doubt, we should take some ordinary bread and make hamotzie on that, have in mind the wraps and then bench as usual. However this only works if we are happy to have the bread but if we really don’t want the bread and we are only trying to solve the question of the correct brocho on wraps, it is questionable if this is a solution. My personal solution is for the kashrus authorities to tell the bakers under their supervision to make their wraps with thicker dough and without fruit juice and then they will be hamotzie without a question.

If you find all this too complicated, you could stick to the traditional sandwich.  And after that, it’s back to pesach cleaning!

Approaching The Month Of Redemption

With a joyful and inspiring Purim now behind us, we come closer to Nissan, the month of our redemption and to Pesach. This week is Parshas Ki Sissa whose central section describes the sin of the golden calf. How does Parshas Ki Sissa bring us closer to Nissan, the month of redemption and to Pesach? The episode of the golden calf is one of the most tragic in the Chumash. A mere forty days after witnessing the revelation on Mount Sinai, hearing the voice of Hashem, seeing Moshe ascend to the top of the mountain to receive the Torah, they were dancing round a golden calf saying “This is your god who brought you out of the land of Egypt.” It is unbelievable and incomprehensible! What can we learn from this episode? Are we supposed to just shake our heads in incredulity or is there, at least something, which we can take out from this national tragedy which can help us prepare for the month of redemption and Pesach?

The later section of the parsha contains the yud gimel middos, the 13 attributes of Hashem which is one of the most significant concepts in the Torah which comes to our attention particularly at the time of the Yomim Nora’im. “Hashem, Hashem, Keil Rachum Ve chanun.” “Hashem is merciful before we sin and after we sin. The strength of His mercy is even greater than indicated by the Name Hashem, He is compassionate and easies the punishment of the guilty, He is gracious even to the undeserving…” .Our belief in Hashem’s mercy gives us hope that despite our sins we can be successful in our judgement. Rosh Hashonoh 17b reveals the amazing power of saying these thirteen attributes of Hashem’s mercy. “If it were not said in the posuk, we could not have said it. Hashem put His talis on like a sheliach tzibbur and showed Moshe the order of tefila. Whenever the Jewish People sin, they should recite these attributes of mercy and I will forgive them.” If this seems too good to be true, it is. The previous section explains that not everybody merits such mercy. The Gemoro explains the words nosei ovon over al pesha – He forgives sin and overlooks transgression. “Whose sins will be forgiven? Not everyone’s. Only the one who overlooks transgression (in other people). Rashi says that Hashem’s characteristic of strict judgment, will overlook the one who forgives others who have done him harm.” He has shown mercy to his fellow-man; Hashem shows him mercy to him. Is it a coincidence that this vital concept is written in the section following the sin of the golden calf?

There are a number of points we can learn from the sin of the golden calf including a fascinating detail of the way we allocate the aliyos in Parshas Ki Sissa. Normally a parsha is divided into seven approximately equal sections for the seven aliyos. In Ki Sissa the first two aliyos cover over three-quarters of the parsha and the other five are squashed into the remaining quarter. Why do we do it in this way? The explanation is that only the Yisroelim were involved in the sin of the golden calf, not the tribe of Levi. If we called up a non-Levi for the section which describes the sin, he might be embarrassed that his great-great-grandfather would do such a serious sin. Therefore we extend the first two aliyos which are given to a Kohen and a Levi, whose ancestors were not involved in the sin, despite the disproportion in the size of the seven sections, to avoid embarrassing the person having the aliya. Wow! What a lesson in not embarrassing a fellow Jew! Another important detail about the sin was that despite the severity of the sin of the golden calf only a very small number were punished; only those who actually served the golden calf. According to one opinion, those who rejoiced were also punished. (Yuma 66b) But what about all the others who stood there and did nothing to protest? Those who saw the murder of Chur, who did protest, without trying to defend him? In the time of Ochon who took some of the booty from Yericho, all the people were blamed because they didn’t protest. (Yehoshua 7:11). Didn’t they deserve punishment for their serious sin? A golden calf is being set up and people were saying, “This is your god who took you out of the land of Egypt” and they look on silently? Why did they escape punishment?

The answer possibly lies in the words of the navi Yirmiya (2:2). “I remember the kindness of your youth…” Which kindness was the novi referring to? The commentators give different explanations. The Malbim says that it refers to the kindness of the Ovos. Another explanation is that with so many Jews dying in the plague of darkness, there were many innocent orphans. Who looked after these orphans if not the rest of the People. Such wonderful kindness by the People does not go unnoticed by Hashem. “You practise kindness and mercy. I will practise kindness and mercy with you.” According to My attribute of strict judgment you should all be severely punished for your rôle, albeit passive, in the sin of the golden calf but those who are over al pesha – who show mercy to others, I will be nosei ovon – show mercy to them.” This may explains the juxtaposition of the Torah’s description of the sin of the golden calf with the section dealing with Hashem’s attributes of mercy.

As we look forward to Nissan, the month which “In the future we will be redeemed.” (Rosh Hashono 10a), do we imagine that we will merit redemption according to Hashem’s attribute of strict judgment? Who among us can possible claim that we have not sinned and that our mitzvos are done perfectly and with the right intention? Who among us who are living comfortably in golus are even interested in being redeemed, our lip-service when the time of Tisha B’av comes round, notwithstanding? Our only hope is Hashem’s attributes of mercy and kindness. But we will only be treated with mercy and kindness if we treat others the same way. As we learn parshas Ki Sissa and especially the section about Hashem’s attribute of mercy, we remember that Hashem was merciful to the vast majority of the Jews despite their guilt. We remember also why they merited such kindness and mercy – because they practised kindness and mercy in their dealings with other people. And the way we arrange the seven aliyos reminds us how far we have to go to avoid embarrassing others. With such a preparation we can hope that Nissan will be indeed the month that we finally merit our long awaited redemption.

Mi Ke’amcho Yisroel

We remember this week how the army of Amolek attacked the newly freed Jewish nation, beginning with the weaker stragglers. They had no reason to attack. They didn’t live in Canaan where the Jews were going to invade. They just wanted to destroy the aura of invincibility which the Jews enjoyed following their miraculous exodus from Mitzrayim. But, as the Sefer Hachinuch points out, we also remember that, because of their wickedness, Hashem instructed us to wage a war of annihilation against them. And any other nation who will cause harm to us will be equally defeated and destroyed according to their wickedness.

Dovid Hamelech has taught us the correct response when, with Hashem’s help, we are victorious against our enemies. “How can I repay Hashem for all His kindness to me? I will lift up the cup of salvations and call out in the name of Hashem. I will bring korbonos to Hashem in front of all the people.” (Tehilim 116). Calling out in the name of Hashem means announcing that Hashem has done this miracle which will bring glory to Hashem and sanctify His name. Bringing korbonos is another way of publicising Hashem’s role in the victory over our enemies which will sanctify His name. Hashem doesn’t want us merely to say “Thank You” but actively bring honour to Him.

The Novi Micha, however, seems to say that the way to show hakoras hatov to Hashem is not the way Dovid Hamelech taught us. He implies that, on the contrary, bringing korbonos is a mistaken approach. “Hashem brought us out of Mitzrayim, redeemed us from the House of bondage. He gave us Moshe, Aharon and Miriam. How shall we show thanks? Shall we approach Him with burnt offerings, with calves in their first year? Does Hashem want thousands of rams or tens of thousands of streams of oil? Hashem has told us what He wants from us; do justice, love kindness and walk humbly before Him.” (6:1-6). Do we see here a fundamentally different approach between Micha and Dovid? Micha says that practicing justice, love and humility is the way to respond to Hashem’s kindnesses. Dovid favoured korbonos.

In Ahavas Chessed the Chofetz Chaim explains why practicing chessed is so vital. Firstly, he says, we all need it. We may be sick, a mourner, in need of a loan, a baal simcha or on a journey in need of hospitality. And even if we were in none of those situations, eventually we will all need chessed shel emes. Secondly, he says that in the World to Come our source of life and pleasure will be our proximity to Hashem. We cannot be close to Hashem unless we are in some small way like Him. Seeing that He is the ultimate Baal Chessed, if we did not practise chessed during our lifetime, we will have no similarity with Him at all and it will be impossible for us to be nehene miziv HaShechina.

The Siach Yitzchok points out another very important reason for us to do chessed. The first of the sheva berochos is shehakol boro lichvodo – He created everything to honour Him. What has this to do with a chuppa? Rashi explains (Kesuvos 8a) that when all the guests assemble around a chuppa to be mesame’ach choson vekallo they are following the example of Hashem who was mesame’ach the first choson and kallo. By imitating the actions of Hashem we are giving Him honour as the saying goes, “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.” Hence the brocho, shehakol boro lichvodo.

Hashem is the ultimate Baal Chessed. Even as He is involved with waging war against His enemies, (Hashem Ish milchomo), He is still mercifully providing for the rest of the world, (Hashem Shemo). (Rashi, Shemos 15:3). When we follow in His ways, even at our low level, when, we practice mishpat and chessed, by imitating Hashem, we are giving Him honour. Micha was saying that when we are the recipients of Hashem’s miracles and kindness, we should not merely bring korbonos to publicise those miracles and bring honour that way. “Does Hashem want thousands of rams or tens of thousands of streams of oil?” He wasn’t disagreeing with Dovid Hamelech that we need to “lift up the cup of salvations, call out in the name of Hashem and bring korbonos in His honour.” Micha was just saying that it is not enough. We must also bring honour to Hashem by imitating His ways, trying our best to “practise justice, kindness and walking with humility before Hashem.” In fact both Dovid and Micha are telling us that the correct way to respond to Hashem’s kindnesses to Him is to honour Him. They just give two different ways of honouring Hashem and both are correct.

On Purim we remember the kindnesses of Hashem when He saved us from Homon, Amolek’s descendant. And we show our hakoras hatov both in the way taught to us by Dovid Hamelech – reading the megila and publicizing the miracle (kriosa zu halila) – and in the way of Micha by practicing chessed when we do the mitzvos of mishloach monos and matonos l’ovyonim. In fact we place great emphasis on these two mitzvos on Purim. We try to fulfil the words of the Rambam (Hilchos Megilla 2:17) “There is no greater and more honourable simcha than bringing simcha to the poor, orphans, widows and strangers. Because one who brings simcha to these less blessed members of our community is comparable to the Shechina about Whom it is said, “lehachayos ruach shefolim ulehachayos lev nidkaim.

Our Seuda too will ideally be an embodiment of the two ways of our showing hakoras hatov. We lift up our cup of salvation and drink wine in the honour of the miracle of Purim. And we invite to our tables family, friends and others, as the Rambam instructed us.

Yuma 20a says that Hasoton has the numerical value of 364 to show that the soton does not accuse us on one day of the year – Yom Kippur. And what about Purim, one may ask. Does the Soton accuse us or not? If he doesn’t accuse us on Purim either, the numerical value should be 363. If he does accuse us, this is a question, because Yom Kippur is known to be Yom KePurim – a day like Purim. The answer could be that the Soton has permission to accuse us on every day of the year except Yom Kippur. Hence the numerical value of Hasoton which is 364 and he has permission to accuse us on Purim. However, seeing all the Jews celebrating in such a beautiful way, reading the megilla not just once but twice and practicing chessed lemehadrin by giving tzedoko and sending out mishloach monos to friends, family, neighbours, rabbonim, teachers, those we have had a disagreement with during the year and others, all in a spirit of love and friendship, the soton has nothing to accuse us about. Hence Purim is like Yom Kippur, a day that the soton does not accuse us; not because he may not but because he cannot. Mi ke’amcho Yisroel – who is like the Jewish People?

Ashreinu Ma Tov Chelkeinu …..

Mishenichnas Adar marbim besimcha; the time of simcha has arrived and we are supposed to increase our simcha from the beginning of Adar. In case we are searching for help in this important mitzvah, the Beis Yosef (Siman 45) is a good place to start.

He is discussing the section in Birkas Hashachar which says, “A person should always fear Hashem both in private and in public.” What chiddush do these words contain? We know that the test of yiras shomayim is when a person is beyond the gaze of others. How does he conduct himself when he is alone? One explanation which the Beis Yosef gives is that this statement refers to a time when it was forbidden for the Jews to say the Shema. The only possible way to say the Shema was to find somewhere very private and secretly say this basic expression of our emuna. In other words, when we can say the Shema in public, we should do so, as normal, but in a time of a gezeira when it is forbidden to say the Shema we should at least try to say it in private. Simply contrasting such a situation when it was forbidden to say the Shema with our experience with shuls packed full of mispallelim calling out krias shema, davening Shemone Esrei, singing Kabolas Shabbos without any interference is a source of great simcha.

Gittin (16b) tells us about a discussion on an intricate halocho in hilchos Gittin at the home of Rabba bar bar Channa who was ill at the time. Suddenly one of the chaveirim (a group who forbade the use of fire on certain days of the year) entered Rabba bar bar Channa’s  home and took away his candle, leaving them in the dark. Rabba bar bar Channa was so disturbed by this that he called out to Hashem, “Either in your shade or the shade of the Romans.” The Gemara explains that even though Hashem had exiled the Jews to Persia because it was ‘impossible’ to survive under the Bnei Eisav  (Romans), this was before these chaveirim arrived in Persia. After they arrived, it would have been easier under the Bnei Eisav. Thinking about this, when we can learn in light and in comfort in our Botei Medrash  or in our homes is another thought which should give us much simcha.

And we all know about Elisha Ba’al Kenofayim (Shabbos 130a) who lived at a time of a gezeira that if anyone wore Tefilin on his head, his brain will be removed from his head. Not to be deterred, a Jew called Elisha wore his Tefilin as normal, When a Roman soldier saw him, Elisha ran away, with the soldier in hot pursuit. Elisha removed his Tefilin and held them in his hand. The soldier caught up with him and demanded to know what was in his hand. Elisha opened his hand to reveal a dove’s wings (kanfei yona) into which the Tefilin had miraculously been transformed. That is why he was henceforth called Elisha Baal Kenofayim. We should think of this as we put on our beautiful Tefilin, some of us Rebbeinu Tam Tefilin as well, without any fear of arrest. Another source of simcha if we would think about it. These are just a few examples.

This explanation of the Beis Yosef, that the paragraph “le’olom yehei odom” was written at a time when we were not allowed to do mitzvos might explain why the sentence continues with the mitzvos of modeh al ho’emes (acknowledging the truth) and dover emes bilvovo (speaking the truth in our heart). Both are mitzvos we can do in the recesses of our hearts undetected by those who made this cruel  gezeira.

The siddur goes on to contrast our insignificant physical and mental strength compared with the greatness of Hashem. Avol anachnu amcho bnei brisecho…our comfort is, however, that we are the people who have a covenant with Hashem and we are the descendants of our holy forefathers Avrohom,Yitzchok and Yaakov, whom Hashem loved and swore an eventual great future for their descendants. Most people are not their descendants and have not inherited the love and fear for Hashem which we have. Their lives consist, for the most part, of a nonstop chase after the pleasures of this world, wealth and power, which they can never achieve to their satisfaction. We know about Koheles’ warning that all is vanity and the pursuit of physical pleasures, divorced from Torah and Mitzvos, is an exercise in futility.

Lefichoch.. Therefore we have to thank You and praise You and bless You and to sanctify Your name. We should feel a surge of simcha at our good fortune to be heirs to such a spiritual treasure, to know what the purpose of life is, to appreciate what real values are and to have been given the keys to achieving inner happiness, to say nothing of the spiritual pleasures which await us in the next world.

Ashreinu ma tov chelkeinu… How happy we are that our neshomo is a chelek eloka mima’al, a part of the Ribono Shel Olom Himself, that Hashem has guided us to choose a spiritual life (uvocharto bechaim) (Eitz Yosef) and that He gave us the heilige Torah as our inheritance, (moreshet lekehilat Yaakov).  Ashreinu she’anachnu mashkimim umaarivim v’omrim pamayim be’ahavo. How happy we are that we are not living at a time of gezeira, that we are not restricted in the mitzvos we keep and nobody is stopping us from declaring in the morning and evening with pride, love and enthusiasm, Shema Yisroel Hashem Elokeinu Hashem Echod.

Gateway to Proper Behaviour

“These are the judgments which you shall put in front of them. When you acquire a Hebrew slave, he shall work for six years and in the seventh year he shall go out free.” Many commentators ask why the laws of a Hebrew slave should be the very first subject discussed in Parshas Mishpatim, the first parsha after the giving of the Torah in Parshas Yisro. Wouldn’t learning what happens if they become slaves again be the last thing the Jews would have been interested in immediately after being freed from slavery themselves? We can imagine the Jews saying, “Don’t talk to us about slavery, we’ve just come out” to Moshe Rabeinu. Clearly Hashem had a good reason to begin Parshas Mishpatim with this subject.

Iyov is known as a righteous man. Tanach describes him as wholesome and upright; he feared Hashem and shunned evil. In Chapter 29 he describes his own righteousness. “I would rescue a pauper from his wailing and an orphan who had no-one to help him … I would bring joyous song to a widow’s heart. I was eyes to the blind and feet to the lame. I was a father to the destitute.” And in Chapter 31 he says, “If my steps ever veered from the proper way or if my heart ever went after my eyes or anything ever clung to my hand.” Iyov claimed that had he been guilty of sin, he would have accepted his tribulations. Apparently he never did anything wrong, so where is justice?

These words of praise are mind-boggling if we think of Gemara Sotah (11a). “Before Pharaoh began enslaving the Jews he consulted three of his advisors. Bilaam encouraged him, Iyov was silent and Yisro fled.” Bilaam harosho encouraged him because he hated the Jews and tried later, more than once, to destroy them. Yisro fled because he could not countenance even being part of such injustice. Iyov was silent, apparently not wanting to support Pharaoh but also not willing to speak out against Pharaoh’s cruel plan to enslave the Jews. If he had spoken against Pharaoh or fled like Yisro, Pharaoh would have been left with one supporter out of three. With Iyov sitting on silently, he could perhaps claim that a majority of his advisors did not oppose his plans. Pharaoh went on to afflict the Jews with back-breaking slavery and to throw the Jewish boys into the river. Is this Iyov, Pharaohs advisor, the same person who claimed to be “eyes to the blind, feet to the lame and father to the destitute?” If he was such a tzaddik why didn’t he oppose Pharaoh or run away like Yisro? The Gemara indeed concludes that “Bilaam who encouraged Pharaoh was killed, Iyov who was silent was punished with yesurin and Yisro who ran away, he was blessed that his grandchildren sat later in the Sanhedrin”. But what was Iyov thinking when he claimed to be righteous? And how could the posuk say he was wholesome, upright and feared Hashem.

Imagine you are walking behind another Jew and you see money fall from his pocket. A few moments later he puts his hand in his pocket, realizes that his money is missing and you hear him say, “Oy veh for the money I have lost!” You know exactly where that money is. Do you have to tell him where his money is or can you rejoice in your sudden windfall and keep the money yourself?

Your Jewish domestic help puts your best china dishes in the sink — (not everybody has a dishwasher!) — rather too enthusiastically and your best set of eight fleishige plates has just become a set of five. You estimate that it will cost you £100 to replace it. You know this girl is an orphan and has barely enough money to live. Will you charge her for the damage? At the end of the day she comes to you for her wages as normal. Will you pay her or explain politely that since she has caused such damage, much more than the amount she normally earns, you are under no obligation to pay her?

In last week’s parsha (18:20), Yisro told Moshe Rabeinu, “And you should tell them the statutes and laws and you shall tell them the way they should go in and the deeds that they shall do.” Bobo Metzia (30b) interprets the last words of the posuk, “the deeds that they shall do,” as referring to going lifnim mishras hadin, beyond the strict halocho. In the cases we mentioned, the strict halacho allows us to keep the money ourselves, charge the orphan the full damages and certainly withhold her wages. However, lifnim mishuras hadin, Bobo Metzia (83a) says that it is correct not to charge damages and even to pay the wages as usual, although this could depend on the circumstances of the case. Rebbe Yochanon said that Yerushola’im was destroyed because the people followed the strict halocho and didn’t go lifnim mishuras hadin.(Bobo Metziah 30b).

Iyov may have been someone who shunned evil and feared Hashem in the sense that he was careful to do what he was strictly required to do, but he did not go beyond the letter of the law. When Pharaoh asked his opinion, he may have seen that Pharaoh was determined to begin his plan of slavery and disagreeing with him wouldn’t have changed anything. According to the strict moral requirements of his situation, he could sit there in silence. He was an oness, unable to do what should normally have been done in those circumstances.

Yisro, however, went lifnim mishuras hadin, as he later taught Moshe Rabeinu. To sit there and not protest was not an option for him. To argue was useless. But, at least, he could run away. Let no-one even think that he agreed with Pharaoh.

The parsha begins with the laws of a Hebrew slave. We would have thought that if we have a slave, we can treat him like a slave but the Torah later (Vayikra 25:39) tells us that this is explicitly forbidden. The halocho forbids us to tell him to him to do unnecessary work as well as telling him to work until we come back without indicating when this will be which is psychologically difficult.  Further, Kiddushin 22a says that the slave should not have an inferior bed to his master nor be given inferior food. Even a Canaanite slave for whom these halochos are more lenient, should be treated well by his master. “Mimidas chasidus we should treat our (Canaanite) slaves with mercy, feed them generously, speak to them respectfully and listen to any complaint they may have.” (Shulchan Aruch Y.D. 267:17).

What better way could there be to begin parshas Mishpatim? It is not just the laws of slaves. It is a gateway to proper behaviour; not always insisting on our rights; going beyond the strict halocho; showing mercy, generosity and respect to everyone. This is the way Yerushola’im will be rebuilt and this is how to receive Hashem’s blessings, for us and our families.

The Deal of all Time

President Trump has recently been talking about his “deal of the century,” in connection with Israel and the Arabs. Parshas Yisro contains the “deal of all time,” arranged by Hashem and affecting the Jews and the rest of mankind. The Heavens and Earth were waiting nervously. A deal means their continued existence. No deal meant a return to nothingness. The stakes could not have been higher.

Shemos 19:6 tells us: “And now, if you will listen to My voice and keep My covenant, you will be a treasured nation out of all the nations for the whole world is Mine.” In exchange for a commitment to keep the words of the Torah, the Jewish People would become Hashem’s treasured nation. But what were the ramifications of this new status and what would be their precise role in the new world order?

When Moshe Rabeinu ascended Har Sinai, Hashem’s first words to him were, “Don’t they say sholom where you come from?” Moshe Rabeinu responded, “Does a servant say sholom to his Master?” Hashem said, “You should have helped Me.” Moshe Rabeinu responded, “May the strength of Hashem be increased.”(Shabbos 89a).  This borders on the humorous. The exchange between the Creator of the world and mankind’s representative at the beginning of a unique event which was to map out the future of the universe centered on how we should greet one another. It is important but this is the world-shattering topic appropriate for the day the Heavens and Earth have been waiting for, for three thousand years? And what did Hashem mean that He needs our help?

Shabbos 119b tells us that when we say Vayechulu on Friday night we become partners with Hashem in the creation of the World. A partner with Hashem? He needs us to partner Him? What does this mean?

The Bnei Yisosschor’s posuk for Shevat is homer yemirenu vehoyo hu – If a man wants to exchange the sanctity of an animal for another animal, the sanctity of the first animal remains. Does the fact the parshas Yisro is always read in Shevat help explain why this posuk was chosen?

When Hashem first spoke to Moshe Rabeinu at the burning bush, he told him, “So shall you say to Pharaoh. This is what Hashem said, My son, My firstborn son Israel.” What did Hashem mean that Israel is Hashem’s son? If He meant that He created us physically, He created every person and indeed every animal, every plant and the whole of creation. In this sense we are all the children of Hashem. Why should just the Jews be called Hashem’s children?

 The sefer Derech Hashem tells us that after the aveira of Odom Horishon and his subsequent teshuva, Hashem hoped that mankind as a whole would honour Hashem in their actions and thus, Hashem’s purpose in creating the world would be fulfilled.  There was no plan to have a treasured nation. Hashem waited ten generations but the people were corrupt and wicked. He brought the flood but there was no significant improvement, the next ten generations were equally wicked, but this time there was one notable exception —  Avrohom, the son of Terach. He was not only righteous in himself but he had the ability to influence his descendants. Now Hashem decided that a new stage in world history should begin. Avrohom’s family and descendants would be the Hashem’s flagbearers in the world. Their mission was to influence the rest of humanity. (Ramban in Devarim 32:26 and Seforno in Shemos 19:6) From their devotion to Hashem, their publicising His miracles, and their example in leading lives of moral rectitude, the nations of the world would also learn to believe in Hashem, even if they only accepted seven basic mitzvos. In a sense this was Hashem’s back-up plan to bring the world to its fulfilment.

If we proclaim our belief that Hashem created the world by saying Vayachulu, we become partners with Hashem in bringing the world to its fulfilment. He asks us to help Him bring the world to its fulfilment by sanctifying His Name amongst the nations of the world. Only when the whole of mankind is ready to serve Him will we have done our job.

Being a partner with Hashem is an awesome responsibility but it also brings us tremendous blessings. Firstly, because of the vital role we play in bringing the world to its fulfilment, we will receive a huge reward in the world to come. Secondly, Hashem takes special care of us in this world. We are His partners and partners do everything to help each other. Even if we sometimes slip, according to the Ramban (ibid), He shows us great patience and mercy. He “has to.” We are already in plan B. There is no plan C; only a return to nothingness. We learn in Kiddushin (36a) that however much we fall from the required standards, we are still referred to as Hashem’s children. Not in the physical sense, as we explained earlier, but because we are building a world of honour for Hashem. We have a joint mission.

 We are indeed Hashem’s “firstborn son.” We are Hashem’s chariot. We are Hashem’s flagbearers. Out of all the nations, we devote ourselves to increasing Hashem’s honour in the world. He will not exchange us for another nation as the Bnei Yisosschor implied. Hashem was not just telling Moshe Rabbeinu merely to greet people when you meet them, important though that is. He was telling him the reason for the universe’s existence and our national mission. If the Jews don’t take on this mission, it will mean a return to nothingness. If we don’t ‘help’ Hashem, there is simply no point in the universe continuing to exist.

To be Hashem’s treasured nation does not just mean being chosen for Hashem’s special protection. It is a lifelong commitment to be loyal to Hashem’s Torah in all circumstances and to sanctify His Name amongst all the nations. Indeed, the deal of all time.

Our Personal Yetzias Mitzrayim

“And the king of Egypt was told that the people had fled and the attitude of Pharaoh and his advisers towards the Jewish People changed and they said, “What did we do that we sent away the Jews from being our slaves?” (Beshalach 14:5).

We laugh at Pharaoh. What kind of diminutive idiot was he? Just a few days before he had got up in the middle of the night and searched desperately for Moshe Rabeinu to tell him to leave with all the people and animals. Even though he had said earlier, “Who is Hashem that I should listen to His voice?” after makas habechoros he decided that he could not stand against the power of Hashem and freed the Jews unconditionally.

Yet a few days later he changed his mind again. His chopping and changing, his promising and reneging on his promise, his admitting he was a rosho then continuing in his obstinate ways had been going on for months. A person with sechel comes to a decision and keeps to it. He was clearly unbalanced and totally unreliable and that is how we remember him. Is there anything we can learn from such an idiot? Surely not; but read on.

In the Hagada we read, “Reb Yehuda used a mnemonic to list the ten makos: Detzach Adash B’Achab.” He divided the ten makos into three sections. The plagues of blood, frogs and lice. The plagues of wild animals, pestilence and boils and the plagues of hail, locusts, darkness and the killing of the firstborn. The Malbim explains that the first group of plagues prove that Hashem exists. Pharaoh said that the first two plagues were the result of black magic and only after the third plague did he admit that it was “the finger of Hashem.” The second group show that He involves Himself in this world, making sure that only the Egyptians suffer and not the Jews. The third group of plagues prove that there is no power to challenge Hashem who is the Master of everything.

The Rambam writes, “It is a mitzvah of the Torah to cry out and blow trumpets whenever a community suffers a tragedy. This is part of the way of teshuva because when we cry out, we all realise that the tragedy has happened because of our sinful deeds. But if people say that that what has happened was just ‘natural,’ or a ‘coincidence,’ this is the way of cruelty and causes people to continue in their sinful deeds. (Hilchos Taanis 1:1-3)

In another place he writes, “What is complete teshuva? This is when a person is in the same circumstances as before and has the possibility of sinning and has an equally strong yetzer horah but does not sin. This is complete teshuva. If a person does teshuva in his old age and has no possibility of repeating his sin, he is still called a baal teshuva. What is teshuva? If a person stops doing his sin and decides never to do it again and he regrets having sinned and the One who knows secrets can testify about him that he will not do this sin again. (Hilchos Teshuva 2:1-2).

Kiddushin (33a) brings the view of Reb Issi ben Yehuda which is the accepted halacha that we have to stand up for an elderly person, even if he is unlearned. Rebbe Yochonon used to stand up for elderly people even if they were not Jewish. He explained that any elderly person has undoubtedly experienced many crises during their lifetime and had seen many miracles. (Rashi).

Hashem is the ultimate Baal Chessed. He wants us to earn our place in the World to Come through successfully confronting our challenges in this world. And He wants us to grow through our experiences in this world. As He did in Mitzrayim, He sends many signs of His existence, of His involvement in even the mundane matters of this world and of His unmatched power. This is all for our good. However we may not always respond in the right way. Like Pharaoh, we can dismiss events as magic, luck or coincidence until we accept that what happened was truly the “finger of Hashem.” When events happen in our family, neighbourhood or community, we can fail to realise that Hashem is sending us a message. Contrary to the clear words of the Rambam, we may be tempted to carry on with our normal lives, failing to take advantage of the potential for spiritual growth that Hashem is offering us. When we see how much He helps us extricate ourselves from various crises and are aroused to thank Hashem for His many miracles, the danger is that this arousal may be short lived. We can make promises but, like Pharaoh, a few days later, we can forget them.

Finally we can fall into the “death trap”. If we have certain yetzer horas that we find difficult to overcome, we can fool ourselves into thinking that all will be well in the end. We intend to say the vidui sincerely before passing away, doing teshuva for everything. After all, didn’t the Rambam say that teshuva in old age is still teshuva, even if it is not the best teshuva. However there is a problem with this plan; the Rambam says that even if a person cannot prove his teshuva is sincere, because he has no opportunity to do that sin again, the teshuva in his heart must be strong enough that the “One who knows secrets can testify that he would not sin again.” Let’s say a person, facing death, finally realizes the folly of his actions and regrets having done them but then unexpectedly recovers and goes back to his old ways. Obviously his teshuva was not sincere. Pharaoh too, facing death during Makas Bechoros went through the motions of complete teshuva and sent out all the Jews, but a few days later, when the danger had passed, he was back to his old antics. His teshuva was not on the Rambam’s level one or level two.

Yes, we can learn from Pharaoh, not to be like him. Not to spiritually zigzag, not to promise and not keep our promises and not to claim that miracles are really just a lucky coincidence. But, on the contrary, we should take advantage of every event in our lives to grow in emuna, to become more and more certain that Hashem exists, that He involves Himself in even the mundane matters of this world and that there is no power besides Hashem. Then we will have completed our own personal yetzias Mitzrayim.

A Reservoir of Merits

“And it was on that day Hashem brought out all the hosts of the Children of Israel from the Land of Egypt.” (Shemos 12:51). In the parsha we read that following our long exile in Mitzrayim, Hashem finally brought us out. We have a mitzva to remember this unique miracle every day. However the Hagodo goes further and tells us that a person is obliged to see himself as if he himself just left Mitzrayim, no matter where he is living. This extra obligation is widely regarded as being extremely difficult to fulfil. (Women sometimes find it easier than men!) The intensity of the slavery, the continuous back-breaking work, the cruelty of Pharaoh’s decrees are so foreign to those of us who, fortunately, have always lived in peaceful societies, that we cannot appreciate that feeling of joy which the Jews must have felt when they were freed from the slavery of Mitzrayim. Is this mitzva then not relevant to us or is there some way we can have a connection to it?

The Mesilas Yeshorim (Chapter One) discusses our purpose in this world, which is to earn our portion in the next world. Were we to enter the World to Come without living through the challenges of this world, we would not feel so happy. It would be like living off charity. We will feel much happier if we earn our reward by having our loyalty to Hashem tested and successfully standing up to those tests. These tests, says the Mesilas Yeshorim, come constantly. We are often faced with difficult situations such as illness, poverty or exile during which our faith in Hashem may be challenged. At other times we may be tested by excellent health and wealth. Then the challenge is to believe that our success is solely due to Hashem and not to our business acumen or the skill of our doctor.

It is clear from the Mesilas Yesharim that every day brings different challenges. However each challenge is also to an opportunity to be used for our eternal good and shouldn’t be wasted. How can we utilise a moment when we have just escaped from a major or minor difficulty? Obviously we must thank Hashem profusely. But perhaps we can also use this moment to claim part of the mitzva we mentioned, feeling as if we have just come out of Mitzrayim. True, our suffering was not as great that of a slave in Mitzrayim but we can share some of his exhilaration on being freed. We can use even recovery from a relatively minor illness or crisis to feel part of this mitzvah.

But what about during the difficulty itself? How can we best utilise that time? The Mesilas Yesharim mentioned maintaining our faith in Hashem, so beautifully exemplified by Sholom Mordechai Rubashkin very recently. How else can we best use time of suffering, even for less serious challenges than R’ Sholom had to face?

The Chovos Halevovos gives several explanations of the mitzvah of loving Hashem bechol levovcho, uvechol nafshecho, uvechol meodecho. One is that we are obliged to love Hashem even if we have no money, no possessions and almost no life. Even if a person is suffering the tribulations of Iyov, he still has to love Hashem. But how likely is it that we will have a chance to fulfil this mitzvah? And even if we did, are on a high enough madreiga to fulfil it? It seems to be hardly relevant for us. But if we continue the theme we began earlier, it can indeed be relevant. Yes, the extreme situation as faced by Iyov is, hopefully, unlikely but we are often lacking something. We are often in some pain, physical or emotional. At any moment of challenge, before the healing or salvation has come, we can think to ourselves and even say out loud, “Despite this pain, despite not having what I would dearly like, I still love You, Hashem. You have given me life. You have given us Torah and Mitzvos. You have given us the World to Come. I still have more than enough reasons to love You.” This way we can also have a connection to one of the loftiest mitzvos, loving Hashem with all our heart, albeit on our very limited madreiga.

But now let’s move on to our most joyful moments which have pearls of opportunity hidden in them if we take advantage. Obviously these simchadik moments should be used to feel full of thanks to Hashem for His kindnesses. Yaakov said the Shema at the very moment he was being embraced by Yosef to use that moment of great simcha to express his love of Hashem. There is, however, another way we can respond to moments of simcha to earn eternal reward, if we think about it.

In the Shemone Esrei we say “ki lishuosecho kivinu kol hayom – We have hoped for your salvation the whole day.” Who amongst us actually hopes for the geula the whole day? To justify our saying this, perhaps we could suggest that our lives are divided into three aspects; when things are going badly, when things are going well and other times. When things are going badly, it is easy to yearn for the geula. When things are going well, and even very well as at a chupa, we break a glass to remind us that however great our simcha, it cannot be complete until Yerushalayim is rebuilt, with the Beis Hamikdash. So even during these happy times we still are yearning for geula. And if we are well, we have a parnoso and there are no crises, that is also a good situation to be in and we can also think that however good things are, they would be even better were we to merit the geula. So during all the different times of our life, we yearn for the geula and we can say lishuosecho kivinu kol hayom with sincerity.

Now we have a way to utilise our moments of simcha and even our everyday moments when we are not suffering, for our eternal benefit; by thinking that however good things are, how much better it would be, were we to merit the geula. Thus we can have the merit of the mitzva of “yearning for salvation” and be able to answer the question we will all be asked in the next world, “Did you yearn for the salvation?” And we can do this in any situation in which we find ourselves.

Life is full of opportunities; moments when we can create a connection to certain mitzvos which ordinarily are beyond us. It is up to us to grasp every opportunity and every moment to create a reservoir of merits for our future.

Let’s Make the Name of Hashem Great, Together

The posuk chosen by the Bnei Yisosschor to symbolize the month of Teves is “Gadlu L’Hashem iti uneromemo shemo yachdov – Let us make the Name of Hashem great, together.” It would seem to be a strange choice in a month that should have had three fasts on the eighth, ninth and tenth to remember the translation of the Torah into Greek, the death of Ezra and the beginning of the siege of Yerusholayim, with no festivals except the tail end of Chanuka. It is, apparently, a rather gloomy month, so why choose a pasuk elevating the name of Hashem in His praise?

At the beginning of Parshas Shemos, we are told, (1:8), “There arose a new king in Egypt who did not know Yosef.” Considering that Yosef had been Prime Minister of Mitzrayim for eighty years and had been responsible for achieving for Pharaoh great wealth and power, clearly the posuk cannot be taken at face value. What does it mean? (See Rashi).

The posukim (1:11-17) go on to describe how Pharaoh began enslaving the Jews but amazingly, “as he afflicted, so they increased.” Pharaoh told the Jewish midwives to kill the baby boys but with enormous courage they, “did not obey the king of Mitzrayim.”

In Parshas Vayechi (49:12) Yehuda is blessed that, “his eyes will be red because of the abundance of wine and his teeth will be white because of the abundance of milk.” Kesuvos 111b darshans, “Chachlili eina’im miyoyin uleven shinayim mechalav.” The Jewish People said to Hashem, “The glow from Your eyes is better to us than wine and a smile from Your mouth is better to us than milk.”

The Abarbenel explains that when the kohanim say, “Yevorechecho Hashem veyishmerecho” during birkas kohanim, it refers to Hashem’s brocho to us of our physical needs, from which we have to be protected because an abundance can do us much harm, The next section, “Ya’er Hashem ponov eilecho vichuneko – May Hashem make His face to shine upon you and be gracious to you,” refers to spiritual blessings; Hashem should give us opportunities to do mitzvos and learn Torah. So when the Jewish People were asking Hashem to show them a shining face rather than milk, they were saying that although we all need our physical requirements, Torah and Mitzvos are more important to us. As distinct from the rest of the world which puts a priority on enjoying the pleasures of this world, our priority is learning Torah, keeping Shabbos and Yom Tov, doing acts of chessed etc. If there is a clash between doing the will of Hashem and taking an easier path, doing the will of Hashem will always be our preference.

The release of R’ Sholom Rubashkin has been greeted with much joy throughout the Jewish world. But possibly more significant than the miracle of his release on the last day of Chanukah has been the emuna and bitachon he showed throughout his incarceration. He was imprisoned for the equivalent of a life sentence on the basis of perjured evidence at his trial, but we didn’t hear any words of bitterness from him. We only heard how everything was min hashomayim and that, just as Yosef was released from prison “in a blink of an eye” so he will be released by Hashem “in the blink of eye.” Many gave up hope but he was a beacon of bitochon b’Hashem for the rest of klal Yisroel. And indeed he was released “in the blink of an eye” to everyone’s joy.

In another story, a Jew in America left an asifa to avoid the danger of the new technologies with a determination to discard his i-phone with internet connection and buy a kosher phone. A short time later he was looking for employment when an offer came up with a starting annual salary of $100,000 with significant additions on the horizon. The job was more or less sealed when the head of the company told him that he would need the most modern i-phone for the job. The Jew said he only uses a kosher phone. A possible compromise of a heavily filtered i-phone was rejected by the firm and the job opportunity was lost.

A Holocaust survivor in Project Witness related how he was standing in line in Auschwitz when the Jew next to him was found ‘not standing straight enough’. A Nazi beat this Jew for his ‘crime’ but then to increase his “fun” ordered his neighbor, who was relating the incident, to continue to beat the other Jew. He refused. “I will not hit another Jew.” Despite a warning that he would suffer an even more violent beating if he continued to refuse, he remained steadfast. He was indeed beaten mercilessly and left for dead. Miraculously this hero survived his vicious beating and lived to the end of the war and beyond.

A Russian survivor of Communism’s spiritual holocaust who lives near to us and who insists that I squeeze in a twice weekly learning session with him straight after Shacharis, sometimes tells me of the time, before he even knew he was Jewish, that he and his father had a narrow escape from huge wild boar which were charging towards them in a Russian forest. He became a baal teshuva and now lives in Ramat Beit Shemesh with his wife and children.

Pharaoh “lo yoda es Yosef – did not know Yosef.” “Yoda refers to intimate knowledge. (Bereishis 4:1). He did not know that “as they afflict us, so will we increase.” He did not know that the Jewish midwives would have the courage to disobey him. He did not know about Jewish determination and resilience as exemplified by the heroes we have quoted. He did not know that we may enjoy wine and milk, but Hashem’s shining Face enabling us to learn Torah and keep mitzvos in all circumstances is far more important to us.

Teves is the month of Gadlu L’Hashem iti uneromemo Shemo yachdov – of being determined to make the name of Hashem great. True, the month contains tragedies but it also contains the seventh and eighth days of Chanukah whose Nesi’im were Efrayim and Menashe, Yosef’s two sons. And Yosef, who remained a loyal Jew despite all his trials, is our symbol of courage, loyalty and emuna so that we are inspired to follow his example. Teves, therefore, is precisely the month when all of us, in whatever our circumstances, can make the name of Hashem great, together.

Shabbos – Our Spiritual Pit-Stop

At the beginning of Parshas Vayeitzei we read:  “ And Yaakov went out of Beer Sheva and he went to Choron.(Bereishis 28:10) Rashi asks why we need this posuk. We already know that Yaakov was coming from Beer Sheva and was going to Choron.

There are a number of answers.  One of them pertains to far more than this particular journey of Yaakov Ovinu. It is an answer which the Pirkei Ovos says is so important that we have to remember it constantly, throughout our lives. We always have to know where we have come from and where we are going to.

Where do we come from? Every Jew is a ‘ chelek eloka mimaal’. Within us we have a spark of Hashem. Our neshomos come from the holiest and purest source. As we say in our daily Brachos, “The soul that You gave me is pure. ”And when you have something so valuable, you treasure it, you make sure it remains pure.

And if we think, “Sure, our neshomo came from a holy place but now we live in this world and our neshama is bound to lose its purity.” —t hen we have to remember the next part. Where we are going to? We will all eventually go back to Shomayim. And Hashem will ask us, “How is the neshama I gave you. Is it still pure and holy?” If we remember this, we won’t let our neshama be sullied. We don’t want to be shamed by having to show Hashem that the beautiful neshomo tehora He gave us, is now impure.

The trouble is that we forget. We look at our neighbor. Compared to him or her I’m not bad. We so easily ignore our final destination. This World is so overpowering. We want to be successful in this world and sometimes a little lie, a little loshon hora would make life easier. We like to be popular and we are tempted to be one of the boys just once, just twice, just three times…How can we remember our destination and keep our neshomos untainted?

To preserve the wholesomeness of our neshamos we have Shabbos every week. True, the World is a spiritual quagmire. It’s easy to slip and fall. But Shabbos reminds us. Shabbos brings us back. And if our neshomo is not quite so clean, Shabbos is the great cleanser. It’s our spiritual pit-stop for us to re-assess, refuel our neshama and get back on track. If during the week, we veered from the narrow path, Shabbos stretches out her hands to help us back. Not with harsh words but with love and warmth.

We just have to say and hear “Lechu neranana” and we want to come back home. When we say shiru l’Hashem shir chadash we want to join in the singing. When we sing Lecho Dodi and we feel and enjoy that closeness to Hashem that we have missed for the last six days. And when we turn round and sing “Bo’i veshalom ateres baala, …toch emunei am segula,” we’re proud and happy to be part of that Am Segula, Hashem’s treasured nation. We say “Never will I go away again. Never will I leave the daled amos shel halocho. Never will I distance myself from the mechitzo of Hashem.” And if, despite all these beautiful intentions, I do slip again, next week Shabbos will again embrace me and bring me back.

Shabbos is me’ein olam habo. But not just in the usual understanding that we are removed on Shabbos from all material distractions and can concentrate on ruchnius like olam habo. It is also in the sense that we expereience the Shechina just as we will in olam habo (Reb Shimshon Pinchas).Yet there is a difference. In the real olam habo we have to present our neshomo for judgement. There are no more chances. On Shabbos, although we meet the Shechina, we have another chance. If we can be inspired to try to grow from now on, our journey through olam hazeh can still be successful. Shabbos is our weekly opportunity to get back on track, to make sure we are going in the right direction. And just in case we have temporarily forgotten, Shabbos will remind us about our true destination – where we are going to and in front of whom will we have to give din vecheshbon.

The parsha says more about Yaakov’s journey:“And he came to the place and stayed there ovenight because the sun had set. He took some stones and put them under his head and lay down for the night. He had a dream and behold there was a ladder standing on the ground and the top reached to the heavens. And behold, the angels of G-d were going up and down on it. And Hashem was standing at the top.”

If we think about it, Yaakov Ovinu’s journey is similar to the journey we travel in our own lives. We also have our dreams — what we want to achieve; how we see our future, materially, spiritually. Sometimes the malochim who represent us go up and everything we touch turns to gold. At other times our malochim go down –we have our failures, our disappointments. But as in Yaakov’s dream, Hashem is at the top of the ladder to help us, support us and when necessary to comfort us. As the pasuk continues…“And He said, I am Hashem, the G-d of your father Avraham and your father Yitzchak…I am with you and will look after you. I will guard you and will not forsake until I have fulfilled what I said to you.”

And when each of arrives at our destination, after 120 years, we will appreciate that everything which happened to us was for the best. The successes and the failures, the happy times and the disappointing times, peaceful times and times of war were all according to Hashem’s precise plan.

“And Yaakov woke up from his sleep and he said, surely G-d is in this place and I didn’t know.”

We will realise that even when we could not see Hashem, He was with us all the time.

We have to remember where we came from — the highest levels of sanctity and purity. Where we are going to– back to Hashem’s loving embrace. We should use Shabbos as our weekly inspiration to maintain the purity of our neshomos and to strengthen our emuna and our bitachon. Then when we come to our appointment with Hashem, He will congratulate us on a job well done and welcome us Home.