Parshas Va'era 5776
Candle Lighting Time: 4:34 pm
January 8, 2015
Volume 12 Issue 12
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Dvar Torah


Having Emunah to Establish Emunah

  By Rabbi Yosef Prupas

The parshiyos that describe our exile and redemption from Egypt rate at the top of any list of the "most exciting Torah stories." From early childhood, we were enthusiastically taught, with stories and projects, about this monumental moment in Jewish history. Indeed, the Torah tells us that the very purpose of the exile and redemption was to imprint into the DNA of the Jewish Nation the truth of the existence of G-d.   But with all the excitement we tend to miss a few fundamental questions. The Nesivos Shalom makes them clear to us.
When Avraham was informed of the future exiles of his descendants at the "Bris Bein Habesarim," why did he not pray to prevent these exiles from ever occurring? Avraham had pleaded on behalf of Sodom. He surely could, and perhaps should, have done the same for his own children!? Additionally, why would Hashem reveal to Avraham exiles that came as punishment for the Nation's sins prior to them ever sinning? And finally, where does the Egyptian exile fit in the big picture? Seventy righteous people descended to Egypt, not sinners!?
The answer can be found in the reasoning behind the ten plagues. The Talmud tells us, as we read in the Haggada, that Rabbi Yehuda placed the plagues into three groups, representing:  1.beneath the earth, 2. above the earth, and 3. the heavens, reflecting G-d's sovereignty over them all. This was because the goal of the ten plagues was to imbue the people with deep belief in their Creator. This is why we find at the beginning of each group expressions of "knowledge of G-d," for the plagues which spanned all of the physical earth and the heavens imprinted the Jewish nation with true "emunah," belief, in G-d.
This focus on emunah began with the onset of Egyptian exile. The Medrash tells us that in the beginning of creation there are hints to future exiles, teaching us that exile is part of nature itself! The explanation for this is found in the reasoning behind the purpose of creation. The Mesilas Yesharim famously teaches us that ultimate joy is found in our getting closer to G-d.  In order for the Jewish People to strive, appreciate, and earn that closeness, G-d created the natural reality of exile.  As the gemara in tractate Chagiga states: "Rav Bardela bar Tavyomi said in the name of Rav: 'Anyone who is not subject to hester panim concealment of the Face of G-d, is not one of the Children of Israel.'"  Like the four seasons, expressions of the hidden "face" of G-d are a expected seasonal part of the Jewish Nation's existence. These are the opportunities to forge a close relationship with Him
However a pressing difficulty remains. How is it possible that G-d placed His people into a situation where they would clearly be compelled to sin? Was it not a given that the Jews in Egypt would descend to the lowest levels of impurity?
The answer that the Nesivos Shalom gives, based on various sources, is surprising but revealing. The ultimate purpose of exile is not to bring repentance for our sins. Rather, it is there to cleanse our soul and shape it into a proper receptacle for a closer relationship with G-d. It is our desire to remain close with Him even in the most trying of situations that is the deciding factor, between redemption or not, as was the case in Egypt. The mitzvos direct and cultivate our relationship under normal circumstances. But another normal is a creation called "exile" with its seemingly unfortunate trials and tribulation.  Exile tests the Jewish nation's very existence, yet serves to bring us closer despite the "sin" price tag. In the Egyptian exile, those who clung to their belief in G-d were redeemed. The prophet, Chavakuk tells us that "Tzaddik b'emunaso yichye," the righteous will merit life through their belief in G-d, and that will be the deciding factor for the ultimate redemption. With this clearer understanding of exile, we can understand why Avraham did not pray that Hashem not test the Children of Israel with exile.  Avraham understood that exile was not punishment, rather the means to achieve that great spiritual "wealth," closeness to G-d, when leaving Egypt. And those opportunities were destined to repeat itself through each one of the exiles.
May we internalize this timeless lesson, and keep our belief strong despite these trying times, to merit the redemption speedily in our day.
Dvar Halacha
Laws of V'Sein Tal U'Matar      
Part 2 
  By  Rabbi Yochanan Eskenazi
It was mentioned in a recent edition of the "Menucha V'Simcha," that if one forgot to recite Vsain tal u'matar in the brachah of Baraich aleinu and did not remember until after he completed Shemoneh Esrei, he is required to repeat the entire Shemoneh Esrei (Shulchan Aruch 117:4-5).  If one is in doubt whether he said the right text, the assumption is that he said what he is accustomed to saying.  The halachah tells us that for the first 30 days or until one has said the new way a total of 90 times, he has to assume that he said what he was used to saying until now (Shulchan Aruch 114:8 & Mishneh Berurah 114:37).  Therefore, if it is within 30 days of when he started saying V'Sain Tal [this year until Maariv of January 4, 2016] , unless he "practiced" saying V'sain tal u'matar liv'racha 90 times, he must assume that he said the incorrect phrase of V'Sain brachah and would be required to repeat Shemoneh Esrei.  It is important to note, when "practicing" one should say the whole phrase V'es kol menay tzi'vuasah l'tovah v'sain tal u'matur l'vrachah and not just V'sain tal u'matur l'vrachah (Mishneh Berurah 114:40).  If one practiced in increments [i.e. he did not say 90 all at one time], whatever number he already did, counts towards the 90 times  (Mishneh Berurah 114:42).  Therefore, if for example, he wants to do 30 three separate times, that would be sufficient.  Additionally, if one practice sometime after December 5th, all the Shemoneh Esrei's he already davened until that point, would be accredited towards the total.
It is important to note, it only considered a case of safek (doubt) if one knows that at some point while davening Shemoneh Esrei he planned on saying the correct text, and immediately after davening he is unsure.  However, if some time has passed and then he is unsure, we assume he recited the proper text (Mishneh Berurah 114:38). 
To end, since we recite the brachah of Baraich aleinu many times each week, it is befitting to understand some background of this brachah.  The Tur (OC 116) explains this brachah has thirty words, which corresponds to two different verses that are asking Hashem to be generous with our livelihood.  The Posuk [Devarim 28:12] "Yiftach Hashem luch es ohtz'roh ha'tov" etc. has 23 words, and the Posuk [Tehillim 145:17] "Po'sayach es yadecha" etc. has 7 words.
Additionally, at first glance, it appears that Chazal established as one of the brachos of Shemoneh Esrei that we ask Hashem each day that this year we should be blessed with livelihood.  Harav Shimon Schwab, zt"l, points out that this cannot be correct, for we know that a person's livelihood for the year is decided on Rosh Hashana (Gemara Beitzah 16a).  If so, why are we davening each day for livelihood if seemingly we cannot affect that which was already decreed?  Rav Schwab, zt"l, explains it must be that if Chazal established that we recite a brachah for parnassah each day, that one can assume that each day there is room to increase one's parnassah.  The Gemara [Beitzah ibid] teaches that even though one's total income is decreed at the beginning of the year, there are a few exceptions that are not determined at Rosh Hashana; money spent on Shabbos, Yom Tov, and Jewish education/ supporting Torah.  Therefore, the meaning of this brachah is that we ask Hashem to bless the efforts that we have made to earn our livelihood, so that we will be able to use them for these other things (Rabbi Schwab on Prayer pg. 461- 463).

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