Parashat Bo 5768

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09 Jan 2008

Parashat Bo 5768

Parashat Bo- Why did Hashem save us?

Question: “What is the reason for the Pesach sacrifice? Because The Holy One, blessed be He, passed over our fathers’ houses in Egypt,” when He killed the firstborn of Egypt. Why would we even think that Hashem would kill the firstborn of Israel? Wasn’t the plague in order to save us?

Answer: The firstborn of Egypt were punished because of their corrupt nature, but the Nation of Israel was not righteous either. The angel of Egypt pointed this out during the splitting of the Red Sea: These and these are idol worshippers. Why are You saving these and killing those? We had also sunk to the forty-ninth level of impurity. We merited being saved not on account of our merit, but because of the treasure of our inner character. Our sins do not weaken the connection between us and the Master of the Universe. The sin is external. This is essential to understanding the relationship between Hashem and the Nation of Israel. From then until now, death passes over our houses. All of the nations disappear and we continue for eternity.

[From Rav Aviner’s commentary on the Haggadah]

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Text Message Responsa
Ha-Rav answers hundreds of text message questions a week. Some appear in the parashah sheets “Ma’ayanei Ha-Yeshu’ah” and “Olam Ha-Katan.” Here’s a sample:

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Stories of Rabbenu – Our Rabbi: Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah Ha-Cohain Kook


A student asked our Rabbi how we know that this is the Redemption. He responded: Is there an ingathering of the exiles or not?!

There is a dispute in the Gemara in Sanhedrin (97b) between Rabbi Yehoshua and Rabbi Eliezer. Rabbi Yehoshua says that there can be Redemption without repentance, and Rabbi Eliezer says that repentance precedes the final Redemption. Rav Elyashiv writes in the book “Leshem Shevo Veachlama” that it is almost explicit that Rabbi Yehoshua is correct (since Rabbi Eliezer was silent – Sanhedrin 98a). Our Rabbi said: What is “almost explicit”?! It is explicit!

Atchalta De-Geulah (The Beginning of Redemption):

Our Rabbi would say: Alchalta De-Geulah is not now; it was a hundred years ago! Now we are in a more advanced stage of the Redemption. (Ha-Rav Eliezer Waldman).

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Shut She’eilat Shlomo – Questions of Jewish Law

A talk given after lunch at the yeshiva –

To wake up or not to wake up – That is the question

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On Air

Every Tuesday and Thursday night Rav Aviner answers questions of Jewish Law and faith on the radio in Israel. On the Air presents a sample of these answers each week.

Two cans from coke machine

Medicinal swimming in a mixed pool

Skipping mishnayot

Late night Torah learning versus morning minyan

Rebuke today

“Shehechiyanu” on gloves

Home with guests or shul

Someone who only knows “Borei Nefashot”

Why don’t my kids visit?

Feeling happy

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What would you say to the President of the US?

It once happened that two writers from outside of Israel, a Jew and a non-Jew, were preparing a book and a film about Zionism in Jerusalem. They met with one of the students of our Rabbi, Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah Ha-Cohain Kook, for many hours and were deeply impressed by him. The student brought them to our Rabbi. After two minutes they were excited by him, and they understood that there was something unique here. One of the writers said: “We are going home, and we will return with all of the necessary equipment to film a movie about the ‘settlements.’” After three months they returned to Israel and came straight to our Rabbi. Searching for a way to open the book and the movie, they asked our Rabbi: “We have a question and the book will begin with it: If you were given ten minutes, not a minute more, in order to explain your position to the President of the United States, what would you say, honored Rabbi?” Our Rabbi gave a lengthy smile, and said: “This is nine minutes too long. I would say only two words: Chazarnu Ha-baita – We have returned home!”

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Reciting a Blessing on Seeing the President of the United States

President George W. Bush arrived in Israel today (January 9, 2008) and Rav Aviner discussed this question today during lunch at the yeshiva.

Question: If someone sees President Bush should he recite the blessing of “Baruch…she-natan michvodo le-vasar ve-dam – Blessed are You…who has given of His glory to flesh and blood”? (In the Gemara in Berachot 58a, our Rabbis teach that one who sees a non-Jewish king recites the blessing. It is recorded in the Rambam, Hilchot Berachot 10:11 and Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 224:8. The Magen Avraham (224:5) writes that one should recite this blessing upon seeing any ruler, who judges and metes out capital punishment lawfully, and whose edicts cannot be altered by the king. The Chatam Sofer, Orach Chaim #159, rules that even if one sees the king outside of his area of “rule,” one must still recite the appropriate blessing).

Answer: No, the President of the United States not a king. Halachic authorities mention four criteria in order to be considered a king for this purpose:

1. One must be the absolute ruler of his kingdom or country (Abudraham, Hilchot Berachit #49, Shut Ha-Radvaz vol. 1 #296). The President of the United States does not have absolute authority. He must bend to the will of the Congress whether he likes it or not.

2. The king must have the ability to administer capital punishment (Shut Chatam Sofer ibid.). The President does not possess this power. While he does have the power to grant life by issuing a pardon, he does not possess the power of death (Shut Be’er Moshe of Rav Moshe Stern vol. 2, # 9). If he issues a pardon to Jonathan Pollard, we can discuss this further.

3. The king must have royal clothing. The President of the United States wears a suit like everyone else (Shut Yehaveh Da’at, vol. 2, #28 and Shut Teshuvot Ve-Hanhagot vol. 2, #139).

4. The king must have an entourage (see Shut Teshuvot Ve-Hanhagot ibid. Rav Sternbuch writes there that he heard that Ha-Gaon Ha-Rav Yosef Chaim Zonnenfeld, the great Rav of Yerushalayim before the establishment of the State, once had a private meeting in a tent with the King of Jordan and he recited this blessing). While the President is traveling with 400 guards, it is because he is scared.

People get very scared about what the President says, but there is no need. What he says does not mean that this is the way it is. This is for two reasons: 1. The United States does not help us simply to be kind, but because they profit from it. They need us militarily. We handle this part of the world. They need us technologically. They make planes in the US, and then bring them here and the “chevra” makes them into super-planes. The biggest plane manufacturer has a plant here. It is not to be kind, but to profit. They need us. 2. The President must bend to the will of Congress. The Congress was pro-Israel even before the establishment of the State. The reason is that 98% of Americans believe in the Tanach and it says something as the Land of Israel for the Nation of Israel. The Monroe Doctrine was stated by President James Monroe that Europe would no longer interfere with the affairs of the US: America for Americans. Our Rabbi, Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah, applied this doctrine to us: We will not interfere with what America is doing and America should not interfere with what we are doing here.

The President of the most powerful country, with the biggest army, the largest economy, the super-power of the world is visiting the tiny State of Israel, and some people say that this is not “Atchalta De-Geulah – the beginning of the Redemption.” Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach in Shut Minchat Shlomo (the last responsum in vol. 1) writes that one is obligated to recite four blessings when the Messiah arrives: 1. “Baruch…Chacham Ha-Razim – Blessed are You…Knowers of secrets” which is recited when seeing 600,000 Jews together and certainly at least this many Jews will go out to greet the Messiah. 2. “Baruch…she-chalak mechomato lirei’av – Blessed are You…who has appointed of His knowledge to those who fear him” which is recited when seeing an outstanding Torah scholar and the Messiah will certainly fit this criteria. 3. “Baruch…she-chalak michvodo lirei’av- Blessed are You…who has appointed of His glory to those who fear him” which is recited when seeing a Jewish king. 4. “Shechechiyanu” – Blessing Hashem for having arrived at this moment. We still are waiting for this time to arrive, but we are continuing to advance. After all, the President of the United States is visiting the State of Israel. Instead of reciting a blessing over the President, I recommend reciting two prayers for the Nation of Israel which we recite every day before the Shema: Blessed are you, Hashem, who chooses His Nation of Israel with Love. Blessed are you, Hashem, who love His Nation of Israel.

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Which Kosher Certification for Guests?

Question: I invited a guest for a Shabbat meal and he told me that he only eats from a particular kosher certification of meat. Do I need to buy that type of meat or can I buy meat with the kosher certification which I usually use?

Answer: There are two possibilities: A. Buy what he wants. There is a guest, go out to greet him. B. You can tell him, “No, I always buy this kosher certification.” Does a guest dictate what you do it your house? I once heard a story about a Rabbi in North Africa who had an event at his house, a bar mitzvah or something, and he honored one of his guests, who was also a Rabbi, to lead the “Birkat Hamazon” (blessing after eating). The guest replied, “Thank you, but I do not eat from this kosher certification.” When he heard this, the host took a key, locked the door, stood next to him with a chair and said: “You will eat this right now or I will break this chair over your head.” “Kol Ha-Kavod” – Way to go! What is this? You are invited by people, and you say that what they are eating is not kosher?! If this is how you feel then don’t come, or say that you have a stomach ache or I don’t like this food. You are not obligated to eat everything, but don’t come to someone’s house or event and say it is not kosher enough.

One Sukkot, students came to visit the sukkah of Ha-Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach. He served them fruit. They took the fruit and separated “Terumot and Maasrot” (tithes) right under his nose. He took the so-called “Terumot and Maasrot” that they separated, ate them and said: “Bal Tashchit” (It is forbidden to wantonly waste things). What nerve! You are invited to a Rabbi’s house and you say “Terumot and Maasrot” have not been separated from his food?! My father-in-law z”l once told me that he visited Ha-Rav Eliyahu Dessler on Pesach. The Rav put out oranges and my father-in-law ate them. Rav Dessler said: “You are the first person who ever ate the oranges I put out (others fears that the ink of the seal was chametz – leaven).

One who wants to act strictly may do so. May a blessing come to anyone who is strict. The Talmud Yerushalami quoted by the Tosafot in Avodah Zarah (36a) says, however, that one of the conditions of one who is strict is that he does not shame other people. Being strict is praiseworthy, but shaming others is forbidden. There are many people who are strict in their home, but they eat what is served when they are guests; obviously, provided that the food is kosher. It says in the Book of Tehillim (101:2), “I walk with wholeness of heart within the confines of my house” – in the confines of my house I am strict, with other people I am not. In the book “Ve-Alehu Lo Yibol” (vol. 2, p. 66), which contains stories about Ha-Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach, Ha-Rav was asked by female seminary students about eating at certain families’ homes which were not as strict as they were. He said: “I do not understand what you are asking. Will they serve you non-kosher food there?” “No.” He responded: “Then eat.” They asked him: “Ha-Rav also acts this way?” He said: “Yes. When I am invited to a wedding, I eat what is there. What I do not eat in my home, I eat when I am invited.” Someone who is invited and feels in his soul that he must be strict should not go.

The Shulchan Aruch (Yoreh De’ah 112:13) says that some people who live outside of Israel eat commercially baked bread which is produced by non-Jews (called “Pat Palter”). There are others who are strict and only eat bread baked by Jews. If a host does not eat “Pat Palter” and his guest does, and the guest wants to eat “Pat Palter” because it tastes better, the Shulchan Aruch rules that the host should say the blessing on the “Pat Palter” and eat it in order to honor his guest. This means that the host should give up a stricture for the sake of the good feeling of the guest. And all the more so, a guest should not place his strictures upon his host.

This is from the side of the guest. From the side of the host, if you are willing, give the guest what he wants. He is ready to eat from your utensils, so he does not think that you eat non-kosher there.

[This answer was once given by Rav Aviner on one of his radio call-in shows]

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Special thank you to Fred Casden for editing the Ateret Yerushalayim Parshah Sheet

Ha-Rav Shlomo Aviner is Rosh Yeshiva of Ateret Yerushalayim. All material translated by Rabbi Mordechai Friedfertig. For more Torah:

The words of this author reflect his/her own opinions and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Orthodox Union.