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Parshas Va'era 5775
Candle Lighting Time: 4:43 pm
January 16, 2015
Volume 11 Issue 10
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Dvar Torah


 The Weather and Exile
  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, is not one of the Children of Israel.'" Like the weather, expressions of the hidden "face" of G-d are a expected seasonal part of the Jewish Nation's existence.


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 the ultimate purpose of exile was not punishment, rather the means to achieve that great spiritual "wealth," closeness to G-d, e.g. 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
Halachos of Netilas Yadayim   part 2


By Rabbi Yochanan Eskenazi




Last week, we mentioned the reasons of both the Rosh and the Rashba as to why we wash netillas yadayim each morning. As mentioned, only if both their reasons are met do we recite a brachah. It is important to note, that the opinion of the Zohar is since sleeping is a form of partial death (see Gemara Brachos 57b) when one wakes up there is still a little bit of tumah (ritual impurity) left on your hands known as ruach raah, that needs to be washed off. This will impact many halachos regarding when we are required to wash our hands.

The correct order of washing your hands is: fill the cup while holding the cup in your right hand. Then switch the cup to your left hand, and proceed to first wash the right hand (Shulchan Aruch 4:10). Then wash the left hand and repeat another two times on each hand alternating between the right and the left hand [totaling six times] (Shulchan Aruch 4:2). This order applies to a left-handed person as well (Mishneh Berurah 4:22). The opinion of the Vilna Goan is to wash each hand four times [totaling eight times]. The reason for this extra time is because there is still an impure spirit left on his hands after the third set of washing which needs to be washed off (Mishneh Berurah 4:10). It is important to note, the only way to remove this impure spirit is to wash the hands in the above mentioned alternating manner (Mishneh Berurah 4:10).


It is preferable to wash using a cup, clean water, have koach gavra (man power) (Shulchan Aruch 4:7) and wash until the wrist. The Mishneh Berurah [4:9] suggests tilting your hand while washing, in order to ensure the entire hand is washed. It is also preferable to use a reveis of water (approximately 3.3 fl. ounces) (Shulchan Aruch 4:6 & Mishneh Berurah 4:15). Bedieved, if you are lacking one of the above things, the washing counts (Rama 4:7).


If one does not have all the above criteria, he can dip his hands into running water [e.g. river] or snow. If that is also not an option, he should wipe his hands on a wood surface and recite the brachah "Al nekiyas yadayim" (on the cleaning of the hands) (Shulchan Aruch 4:22). It is important to note, although wiping your hands helps to permit you to daven and make blessings, it will not completely remove the ruach raah (Shulchan Aruch 4:12). Therefore if the opportunity to wash properly presents itself later, he should (Mishneh Berurah 4:26).

If when one wakes up feels the need to relive himself, it is not proper to make a blessing until after he goes to the bathroom (Mishneh Berurah 4:4). There is a machlokes haposkim when is the ideal time to recite the above blessings. One opinion holds that one should recite it immediately after washing his hands [after he went to the bathroom]. There is another opinion that he should recite it together with birchas hashachar (the morning blessings) as part of davening (see Mishneh Berurah 4:4 & Biur Halachah 4:1 s.v. v'afilu).


If one wakes up from a shenas kevah and does not feel the need to use the facilities, he should wash netilas yadayim right away and make a birchas "Al netilas yadayim" (Rama 4:1).









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