Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Bloglines - Souls and Brains

Bloglines user ygb (ygbechhofer@gmail.com) has sent this item to you, with the following personal message:

Great post by RMC.

Reuven Meir

Souls and Brains

By Reuven Meir

I just stumbled on a very interesting article on Scientific American's web site.

Here is a quote:

"The operation known as hemispherectomy—where half the brain is removed—sounds too radical to ever consider, much less perform. In the last century, however, surgeons have performed it hundreds of times for disorders uncontrollable in any other way. Unbelievably, the surgery has no apparent effect on personality or memory."

Now, according to most views, memory, intelligence, and personality are three areas that either reside completely in the soul, or are affected and changed by it.
For example, a person born with a angry temperament can work on himself, and become gentile and kind. This "working on it" is a function of the soul which alters the personality of the person.
Another example would be intelligence. At least the function of expressing intelligent ideas through speech ("man became a speaking spirit").

Now of course at some level these parts of our souls connect to the physical world somewhere in the brain, otherwise expressing them would be impossible.

According to this article:

"If the left side of the brain is taken out, "most people have problems with their speech, but it used to be thought that if you took that side out after age two, you'd never talk again, and we've proven that untrue," Freeman says. "The younger a person is when they undergo hemispherectomy, the less disability you have in talking. Where on the right side of the brain speech is transferred to and what it displaces is something nobody has really worked out.""

So in effect, no matter which side of the brain one removes, the person's memory is still there, their power of speech comes back after a while, and their personality stays the same.

Now, if memory is stored all over the brain, then the information in one half would be gone with it's removal. And obviously the brain does not store memory in just the half of the brain that is bound to not be removed! We could suppose that the brain could store duplicate copies of memories in different locations in the brain, but this has never been shown to be true as far as I know.

Also, the ability to express intelligent ideas through speech is a hallmark property of a soul. The fact that it is "relearned" "somehow" on the other side of the brain is not remarkable to those who believe in a soul.

Therefore, I propose that barring any other explanation or experiment, this phenomenon could easily be considered as an additional piece of evidence that the soul is real and interacts with our bodies.

(Not that Torah Jews need such evidence, but it is always nice to see.)

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

JPost Article From Friend

Your friend, YGB, has sent you the following article from JPost.com:

Powerfully Moving

Man who lost wife, 3 kids in attack goes south to help

"After what I went through I can help people, because I understand what they're going through."

Click here to view the entire article:

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Interesting RAYHK thread someone forwarded to me


The Missing Years In Jewish Chronology

Very important contribution:


The Missing Years In Jewish Chronology

posted Monday, 21 May 2007
I have always been fascinated by the "missing years" in Jewish chronology and it is something that I really want to explore in more depth in later posts. For a bit of a background to this issue, see this Wikipedia article

I have addressed the issue once before in this post, which includes R'Biberfeld's solution to the problem. R'Biberfeld preposal can be found in his scholarly polemic "Universal Jewish History" which is available online in its entirety here. It is a very interesting book, which although dated, does contain some fascinating ideas and sources.

A rather new approach which has recently appeared can be found in the 3rd volume of the Hakira Journal. The article entitled "A Y2K solution to the Chronology Problem" is available for download here. I will hopefully analyze this solution in a later post.

What I really want to post up is a fascinating piece by R' Saadia Gaon in his Emunot v'Deot relating to this issue. It can be found in Chapter 9 of the "Treatise of Redemption" (pg 322 of the Yale English Edition). R'Saadia Gaon in his critique of the Christian interpretation of some passages in Daniel, makes the claim that the Christians intentionally altered the calendar so that the dates of their view of redemption would coincide with their understanding of scripture. R'Saadia Gaon makes the accusation that they intentionally added dynasties to their list of kings to achieve this effect (the opposite of the views championed by the article in Hakira and R'Shimon Shwab). Here is the quote in full:

However the clearest [refutation of all lies in the fact that from the time when this revelation was made to Daniel until the date which they believe [to have been the time of the fulfillment of the prophecies regarding the redemption], only 285 years had elapsed. Now the total sum [mentioned in the book of Daniel] is 490 years. Of this number of year 70 were taken up by the period preceding the building of the second temple, and 420 by that of its existence.

I have found, then, that the advocates [of the Christian doctrine] had no other means [of supporting their theory] except the contention that an addition is to be made in the chronological calculation. They maintain, namely, that the government of the Persian over Palestine existed for a period of something like 300 years before that of the Greeks and that the number of their kings during this period was seventeen. However, I have refuted this contention on their part from the text of the book of Daniel itself, [pointing out] that it was impossible that between the time of the government of Babylon and that of the Greeks more than four Persian kings should have rules over Palestine. For the angle said to Daniel, peace be upon him: And as for me, in the first years of Darius the Mede, I stood up to be a supporter and a stronghold unto him. And now, I will declare unto thee the truth. Behold, there shall stand up yet three kings in Persia; and the fourth shall be far richer than they all; and when he is waxed strong through his riches, he shall stir up against the real of Greece (Daniel 11:1,2). The above statement has thus been explained from every aspect.

These are, then, the arguments that may be offered in refutation of the doctrine of the Christians aside from the objections to be raised against their theory of the suspension of the laws of the Torah and those that might be urged against them on the subject of the Unity of God, and other matters, which cannot properly be presented in this book.

The eight treatise has hereby been completed.

Translated Shaarei Kedusha

-------- Original Message --------
Subject: shalom
Date: Sun, 20 May 2007 20:42:19 +0300
From: <webmaster@dafyomireview.com>
To: <ygb@aishdas.org>

For your interest, I have completed a translation of much of shaarei kedusha by R.Chaim Vital. It is a bit advanced but has in my opinion tremendous kiruv value.
please consider linking to it (or the like)
thank you.
all the best,
Yosef Peretz

Thursday, May 17, 2007

YGB has sent you an article from Haaretz

[YGB] [ygb@aishdas.org]
Has sent you an article from Haaretz
The URL is http://www.haaretz.co.il/hasite/spages/859968.html

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Haaretz English

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

My most recent Jewish Observer essay: "Bitachon, Hishtadlus, Histapkus"

Bitachon, Hishtadlus, Histapkus
Rabbi Yosef Gavriel Bechhofer

Blessed is the man who trusts in Hashem, and to whom Hashem alone is the object of his trust.

And he will be like a tree planted by the waters, that sends forth its roots to the rivulet, that will not fear should heat come. And its leaves will be fresh, and it a year of drought it shall not worry, nor shall it desist from yielding fruit.

The heart is evasive above all things, and it is frail — who can know it?

I, Hashem, probe the heart, test the innards, so as to reward each one according to his conduct, according to the fruit of his deeds.

(Yirmiyahu 17:7-10)

1. Bitachon

Once, Heaven directed the Baal Shem Tov to go to a certain village to learn the trait of bitachon. So the Baal Shem Tov traveled there with his students, where they lodged in the house of the village tax-collector. The tax-collector was very happy to have such eminent guests.
The next day, as they were all praying, one of the village lord’s bailiffs came, knocked a big stick on the table three times, and left. The guests were dumbfounded. They looked at their hosts, who was unmoved. A half an hour passed, they had completed their prayers, and again the bailiff came, knocked three times on the table, and left. The Baal Shem Tov asked their host: “What is the meaning of these knocks?” The tax-collector answered: “That was a warning. Today I must bring the lord the rent. The warning is repeated three times. If, after the third warning, I do not produce the money, the lord will incarcerate me and all of my family.”
The Baal Shem Tov said: “It is obvious from your happy countenance that you have the necessary sum. Please go and give the money to the lord before the meal. We will wait for you, and then sit calmly to eat.”
Their host answered: “As of now I have not even a single penny, but it can be taken for granted that Hashem will provide for me. Since I still have three hours left, let us eat and drink unhurriedly.”
So they sat to a leisurely, calm meal. As the meal ended the bailiff came for the third time and knocked on the table. Still, the tax-collector displayed no anxiety. They recited the grace at length and in tranquility. Their host then donned his Shabbos finery, and said: “Now I must go deliver the rent to the lord.”
Once more, the Baal Shem Tov inquired: “Do you have enough money?”
Their host responded: “I still do not have even a single penny, but Hashem will definitely provide.”
He took his leave and departed. As the Baal Shem Tov and his students stood watching, they saw a fine carriage making its way towards the tax-collector. Their host stood by the carriage and spoke a few words with the traveler within. Shortly thereafter, the tax collector continued on his way, while the carriage departed on its way. However, they saw the carriage then come to a stop, and the traveler calling to their host to come back. They then saw that when their host returned to the carriage, the traveler began counting coins and giving them to the tax-collector.
When the carriage drew closer to the Baal Shem Tov and his student, they asked him: “Why did you call our host back and give him money?”
The traveler answered: “I proposed to him that I would purchase all the whiskey that he produces this coming winter. Initially we could not come to terms, as he refused to settle for any less than his asking price. Realizing, however, that he is an honest man, I felt compelled to pay his price. As he said he had to go deliver the rent, I was not able to spend more time chatting with him.
The Baal Shem Tov then said to his students: “See how great is the power of bitachon!”

(Sippurei Chassidim, Rabbi Shlomo Yosef Zevin zt”l, Parashas Bechukosai)[1]

The theme of this story (and similar ones) has permeated our consciousness. Its theme is clear: If you really, really place your trust in Hashem, all your needs — perhaps even desires — will be met, at exactly the right time, exactly in the right place, exactly in the right measure.

Is there nothing that is beyond the grasp of a “true” Ba’al Bitachon? If you do not attain what you need — and perhaps even what you want — must you conclude that it because you lack bitachon? From these stories, and many others, this would seem to be the case. However, a different perspective is suggested by the Chazon Ish zt”l (in Emunah U’Bitachon).

The Chazon Ish notes that a necessary corollary of the notion that with enough bitachon everything will be for your very own personal “best,” is the assumption that whatever expectations you have or choices you make in life, you may rest assured (assuming you have “true” bitachon) that they will work out to your best personal advantage. Otherwise, how can you be sure Hashem is going to send you the money to pay the rent? Perhaps it is G-d’s will that you should be evicted! Accordingly, a person who doubts the outcome of any decision (made l’shem Shomayim, of course) will be the best one possible for him as a person lacks bitachon.

On the other hand, the Chazon Ish suggests that in the absence of a prophecy we have no way of knowing how we fit into Hashem’s master plan. True, any decision I make, no matter how small, must be configured into the plan. And, ultimately the plan itself leads to the best possible outcome for Am Yisrael and for humanity. However, the eventual positive outcome does not guarantee the best possible result for me personally.[2]

This is even true for a person who would seem to be worthy of the best possible result. There are simply no guarantees. Ya’akov Avinu knew this when he said (Bereishis 32:11): “I have been diminished by all the kindnesses.” Ya’akov did not lack bitachon. He knew that there are no guarantees: “Perhaps I have become sullied by sin” (Rashi from Berachos 4a). As Yirmiyahu tells us in the verses we saw above: Bitachon may lead to many positive results. “And he will be like a tree planted by the waters, that sends forth its roots to the rivulet, that will not fear should heat come. And its leaves will be fresh, and it a year of drought it shall not worry, nor shall it desist from yielding fruit.” But, then again, it may not. “The heart is evasive above all things, and it is frail — who can know it?” We ourselves may not know what is going on inside ourselves. “I, Hashem, probe the heart, test the innards, so as to reward each one according to his conduct, according to the fruit of his deeds.” Our trust is in Hashem’s ultimate awareness, concern and direction.

Bitachon, writes the Chazon Ish, is the belief that everything that happens in this world is the result of Hashem’s decree.

The necessary precondition for such Bitachon is emunah. But emunah is also a victim of misconception. Many people assume that emunah is a belief that one either does or does not possess. They do not perceive a continuum in emunah. Chazal did. They defined people who merely possess the minimal set of beliefs [viz., the Rambam’s thirteen principles] as “ketanei amanah” — “small believers.”[3] Their emunah is weak. Minimal belief may prevent a person from committing major sins, but it will have little impact beyond that.

Beyond the minimal set of beliefs, emunah is a middah, a character trait like any other character trait. Thus, just as a person may possess, for example, more or less anavah (humility) or tzenius (modesty), a person may possess more or less emunah. As a middah, our emunah is measured by the extent to which our perspective on the Creation emerges from a conscious awareness of the wondrous, infinite wisdom of its Creator...[4]

Just as emunah is a middah, and the extent of your emunah is the extent to which you perceive the wisdom of the Creator in His Creation; so too your Bitachon is also a middah.[5] The extent of your Bitachon is the extent to which you perceive that as a participant in the Creator’s master plan you fill an essential role in the ongoing development of this extraordinary Creation.

Were we were to function at higher levels of Bitachon, how would we respond to a difficult situation? How would we react when confronted with an episode that would make most people apprehensive?

Ba’alei Bitachon (people who have “mastered” the middah of Bitachon) never lose sight of the fact that they are not subject to mere chance and happenstance. A Ba’al Bitachon knows that his perspective in the face of adversity does not guarantee him a “positive” outcome. However, his Bitachon provides him the security of the knowledge that Hashem guarantees that the ultimate outcome will be positive.

This Bitachon, anchored in a greater measure of emunah, in and of itself alleviates the anxiety caused by life’s challenges. Moreover, although a Ba’al Bitachon knows that there are no personal guarantees, nevertheless, his middah of Bitachon reminds him that Hashem’s succor may well be at hand. In any event, no situation is irreparable (whether in the long or short term).

The ideal role models for a Ba’al Bitachon are Lulinus and Papus.[6] When confronted with imminent death al kiddush Hashem at the hands of the Roman governor Turinus, these two tzaddikim told him: “We are [evidently] liable to death before Hashem. If you do not kill us, He has other executioners. He has many bears and lions in His world who can kill us. The reason Hashem has delivered us into your hands is because He intends to revenge our blood upon you” (Ta’anis 18b). It may not be the best thing personally for a person to be killed, but it is part of the master plan.

Returning to the story with which we began, from the Chazon Ish’s perspective, if the tax-collector is confident that Hashem will provide the needed funds, he possesses incomplete Bitachon. A more complete sense of Bitachon would be that whatever happens, Hashem has His plans and even if I end up suffering, I trust that He knows what he is doing.[7]

However, even according to the Chazon Ish:

There is another aspect to Bitachon — that there rests a holy spirit upon a person who possesses unique Bitachon. It is a spirit of confidence that Hashem will help him, as King David says: If a camp encamps against me my heart will not fear; if a war arises against me etc (Tehillim 27:3). This aspect is relative to this special person’s unique Bitachon and special measure of his sanctity.[8]

Because he attained this lofty level of Bitachon, Nachum Ish Gamzu was secure in the knowledge that “gam zu l’tovah” — “this, too, is for good” (Ta’anis 21a). Since Nachum Ish Gamzu attained a unique level of Bitachon, his holy, confident spirit afforded him serenity in his trust in Hashem.

No matter what level of Bitachon one attains, to the extent that a person trusts in Hashem, he will be equipped to face adversity, perhaps even to attain happines: For there is no sadness in the world for the one who recognized the light of all lights of truth (Kovetz Igros Chazon Ish 1:36); and leads to happiness: And the one who trusts in Hashem is full of happiness (Sefas Emes Acharei Mos 5654; see also Sukkos 5645).

However, says the Chazon Ish, there are people who piously espouse Bitachon when they feel secure, but whose Bitachon dissipates the moment that their sense of security is disturbed. For example, a storekeeper who possesses true Bitachon would not be distressed if a competitor opened a similar store nearby. On the contrary, a true Ba’al Bitachon would even help his competitor establish his business! The Ba’al Bitachon trusts that Hashem will bring both of them success — or failure — as required by the master plan.[9]

Indeed, the person who possesses false Bitachon is worse than a person who lacks Bitachon: While a person who lacks Bitachon is lacking a primary component of Judaism, a person who possesses false Bitachon suffers from an even more dangerous — and contagious — disorder. How so? A person who lacks Bitachon is so obviously not a role model that he will not influence others.

However, a person who possesses false Bitachon may serve as a role model. Indeed, he may even presume to educate others, inculcating them with his false Bitachon! Moreover, since so little is expected from a person who lacks Bitachon, he will not come to cause a Chillul Hashem. On the other hand, when sufficiently provoked, the person who possesses false Bitachon will display his underlying repulsive character and cause a Chillul Hashem. People will inevitably remark: This person who [purports to] practice mussar, how repugnant are his deeds and how disgusting are his schemes!

Another defining characteristic of a true Ba’al Bitachon is that he does not publicize his acquisition of that trait. He is a paragon of Hatzneia Leches (walking modestly; see Michah 6:8). In fact, a Ba’al Bitachon will invariably bemoan his lack of that trait That he does possess Bitachon is only manifest to others, in the strength that he derives from his trust in Hashem. Hence, a Ba’al Bitachon does not worry if a rival opens an identical store down the block, but will assist him as much as possible. The Chazon Ish notes that such a person, one who even does chesed with his competitor, increases sanctity within the Creation the greatest possible extent. Such an individual is truly mekkadesh shem shomayim. How praiseworthy he is and how blessed is his generation!

2. Hishtadlus

And I shall bless you in all that you do (Devarim 15:18)

[And the Butler did not remember Yosef] and he forgot him — Because Yosef pegged [his hopes] on the Butler remembering him, he was incarcerated for another two years... (Rashi to Bereishis 40:23).

At first glance, there seems to be an apparent contradiction here: On the one hand, Hashem promises us blessing in what we do. We will not be blessed if we do not “make our Hishtadlus” — exert ourselves — to begin with. Yet, on the other hand, Yosef is criticized for having exerted himself. Should he have remained idle, trusting Hashem alone?[10]
Rabbi Eliyahu Dessler (in the last speech he ever gave, in 1954 — vol. 4 pp. 28-31) explains how one must balance one’s personal efforts and exertions vs. his trust in Hashem. If your emunah is strong, you are able to discern the spiritual trends that are active in the world, in what direction they are propelling the world, and you within it, and accordingly to direct your own efforts. The goal is to know and be conscious of a basic principle of Bitachon: That any exertion or effort that is not motivated by spiritual aspirations — an exertion or effort that is motivated by materialistic aspirations — clashes with emunah.

Admittedly, concedes Rav Dessler, the balance between legitimate and necessary Hishtadlus — your quest for resources that are required so as to fulfull your spiritual aspirations and their needs; and illegitimate and unnecessary Hishtadlus — your quest for resources that you desire so as to fulfill your materialistic aspirations and their prerequisites — is very fine. Much prayer, and much divine aid, are required to attain that balance.

It was in the maintenance of that precise balance that Yosef did not meet with success. He was not punished with the additional two years in prison because he asked the butler to help him out. Every person is required to act to save himself, and Yosef was correct in approaching the Rather, it was because he “pegged his hopes” on the butler. For what was, perhaps, a momentary lapse, Yosef was focused on the material means of deliverance, forgetting that it is only the spiritual means — Ratzon Hashem — that directs the world and the pathways of a person. That was enough to “send him back to the drawing board,” to spend another two years working on his emunah u’Bitachon.

Every person has his or her unique role in Hashem’s master plan. Each unique role requires a unique set of resources. Some roles require more funding; others less. Some roles require more training, others less. Some roles require a Klal focus; some a personal focus. And, the roles sometimes change, and the circumstances in which those roles are to be filled almost inevitably change. Thus, the difficulty in striking a balance. It helps to have help in sorting such matters out, and it is necessary to reassess one’s role on a regular basis: Is it time for me to learn, or time for me to work? Is it time for me to teach, or to stay home with my children? The questions are myriad. And they must all be answered on the basis — and only on the basis — of Ratzon Hashem, of the Emunah I have attained, and the Bitachon I have achieved. Thus, to appropriately define the parameters of your Hishtadlus, you first have to acquire the trait of Bitachon.

3. Histapkus

While one’s Bitachon delineates his Hishtadlus; both are predicated upon Histapkus.
The word Histapkus is difficult to translate into English. Some times it translates as contentment, other times as restraint, some times as simplicity and other times as frugality — but it transcends all those definitions. It is the focus, the perspective on life and living, that Hashem expects us to develop. Unambiguous words from the Gra define Histapkus and stress the importance of the twin traits of Bitachon and Histapkus (from Even Sheleimah 3:1-2):
Bitachon and Histapkus. These are the principles for all good middos. They are the the antitheses of desiring and coveting,[11] and the root of all [middos] is Bitachon.[12] One who lacks Bitachon cannot retain Torah (Gra to Devarim 32:20).

As we have written, all transgressions and sins result from coveting. Lo Sachmod encompasses all of the commandments and the entire Torah. Histapkus, the converse [of Lo Sachmod] is the foundation of the entire Torah. It consists of complete belief, of not worrying the worries of tomorrow... One whose heart has been enhanced by the trait of Bitachon — even if he transgresses severe transgressions — is superior to someone who lacks Bitachon, for [through lack of Bitachon] one comes to jealousy and hatred. Even if he is involved in Torah and Gemilus Chesed [his activities are meaningless] because he only does so to glorify his own name (Gra, Likkutim to Rabba bar Chana in an explanation of Sabbei d’Bei Athuna d”h Iysai Budia).[13]

A final Chassidic tale captures the mindset of a Ba’al Bitachon who possesses the trait of Histapkus:

The holy Gaon Reb Shmelka of Nickelsburg zt”l asked his Rebbe the great Maggid of Mezritch zt”l: How is it possible to fulfill the dictate of Chazal: “A person must make a blessing over the bad just as he makes a blessing over the good” (Berachos 9:5).

The Maggid responded that he should go to the Beis HaMedrash, and find Reb Zushya of Hanipoli who would explain the mishnah to him. So Reb Shmelka went to Reb Zushya and related that the Rebbe had sent him to learn the interpretation of the mishnah.

Now, Reb Zushya was always downtrodden and destitute. His situation was extremely bad and strained. Yet Reb Zushya declared: I am astonished that our Rebbe directed you to ask me about this. This is a question that should be asked of someone who has undergone some difficulty, chas v’shalom. But I so not know of such difficulties, for nothing bad has ever befallen me, even for a moment. Baruch Hashem, from the day I was born until today I have had all that was good. How can I know what it means to accept the bad with happiness?

Reb Shmelka then understood the obligation to “make a blessing over the bad just as he makes a blessing over the good:” A person must be in such a state of happiness that he never feels the bad at all. (Sippurei Chassidim Parashas VaEschanan).

[1]Another example: Once, the Alsheich spoke about bitachon without effort. In the audience there was a man who carted clay for a living. After hearing the Alsheich he said to himself: “Have I gone mad? If all my efforts are empty and inappropriate, why do I toil...? Since all this work is for sustenance that is already mine, that was decreed for me [by Heaven] in any event, why should I toil and tire myself for naught? If I have bitachon then without doubt it will come to me automatically...”

So he sat down by his stove, and started saying Tehillim. When his wife and children demanded that he take to his cart, he rebuked them: “Are you crazy, Heaven forfend? Did I not hear explicitly from the Alsheich that if a person trusts Hashem his sustenance comes to him even without effort?... You too, my children, should follow my example, and our sustenance will come to us automatically.

Eventually they sold the cart and donkey to a non-Jew. While the non-Jew was out with the donkey and cart, digging clay, he found a buried treasure. He filled sacks with the treasure and placed them on the cart. Suddenly, a rock fell from the mountainside and struck him dead. Out of habit, the donkey returned to the carter’s house, drawing the gold-laden cart... Upon finding the sacks full of gold, his children came to the carter and conceded: “Your bitachon provided your salvation!...”

The Alsheich’s students asked the Alsheich: “Can the carter’s bitachon be greater than ours? We have striven to achieve bitachon, yet have remained unsuccessful. The carter, on the other hand, heard you but once, sat by his stove, and attained a treasure!?” The Alsheich responded with an analogy: “There is a difference between pounding a peg into hard ground, in which the peg will stand firm and immobile; and pounding a peg into crumbling soil, in which the peg will shake and will not stand firm. What the carter heard from me he took as a solid fact, with neither doubt nor anxiety... This is not the case with you. Since the greater a person the greater his yetzer ho’ra, you are like the crumbled soil, turning the matter over: “Yes, no, perhaps this would be a miracle, perhaps this is not the way.” You have many doubts, and your bitachon is crumbling... You must pound the peg so deeply down that it reaches a bedrock that has not been weakened by doubt. Then the peg will stand firm...” (Madreigas HaAdam, Darchei HaBitachon chap. 5).
[2]Indeed, there is no guarantee that the positive result will happen anytime soon. We see numerous places in Chazal where positive outcomes may come many generations after a decision was made. For example, see Rashi to Bereishis 33:16: “And on that day Esav returned to his way — Esav himself. But the four hundred men that went with him sneaked away from him... And where did Hashem reward them? In the days of David, as it says (Shmuel I 30:17): “But only the four hundred lads that rode the camels [eluded David].”
[3]See the description of Noach in Rashi to Bereishis 7:7.
[4]The Chazon Ish lists several modes of contemplation, study and other tools that can enhance a person's emunah.
[5]According to the Chazon Ish, Bitachon as a middah is very much in sync with its literal translation as “trust.”
[6]See also the Gemara in Pesachim 53b concerning Chanania, Mishael and Azaryah.
[7]Similarly, in the second story, the carter must not expect automatic sustenance. If it is proper for him to sit and say Tehillim he should do so regardless of whether he will receive his living effortlessly — or not.
[8]Nevertheless, certain situations cannot be changed no matter how great a person's Bitachon (see Michtav Mei'Eliyahu vol. 4 pp. 98-100 that it would have been necessary for Hashem to destroy the world and start it from scratch to make the impoverished Rabbi Elazar ben Pedas rich — and that even then he might not be rich the next time around — as it would spoil the Heavenly plan if he were a wealthy man).
[9]Evidently the laws of hasagas gevul were meant for the masses that function at the lower levels of Bitachon.
[10]A well-known jest illustrates the point that Hashem expects some effort on our part: A flood came and a man had to climb onto the roof of his house. As the waters rose a neighbor in a rowboat appeared, and told him to get in. "No," replied the man on the roof, "Hashem will save me." Then a firefighter appeared in a speedboat. "Climb in!" shouted the firefighter. "No," replied the man on the roof, "Hashem will save me." A helicopter appeared and the pilot shouted that he would lower a rope to the man on the roof. "No," replied the man on the roof, "Hashem will save me." Eventually the man drowned and went to heaven, where he asked Hashem why He hadn't helped him. "I sent a neighbor, a firefighter, and helicopter," said Hashem. "What more do you want?"

[11]From the Gra to Chabakuk (2:4): Bitachon is the antithesis of coveting [chemdah] while Histapkus is the antithesis of desiring [ta’avah].
[12]From Shaarei Kedushah by Rabbi Chaim Vital (2:4): Coveting is the av hatumah [colloquially: the root of all evil], as it leads to hatred and results in theft, false oaths and even murder. And it [Lo Sachmod] is the tenth of the ten commandments because it is equal in weight to all of them. [And one who covets] denies Hashgochoh, [divine control of events] and does not believe that everything results from Hashem’s hashgochoh. But [on the other hand] there is no trait as great as Bitachon.
[13]See note 3 (ad loc.) for the Gra’s explanation of how the signs of kashrus of birds and animals allude to the traits of Bitachon and Histapkus, and why the difference between the Bitachon and Histapkus possessed by the nation at the time of Galus Bavel and the Bitachon and Histapkus possessed by the nation during our current Galus resulted in their galus of limited duration, and in ours of unending duration.

My most recent Jewish Action essay, "Some English Haggados: Short Reviews and Snippets"

Some English Haggados: Short Reviews and Snippets
Rabbi Yosef Gavriel Bechhofer

The English-reading public has been blessed with an extraordinary array of Haggados. We have come a long way from our forefathers' story of the Exodus, which was largely based on the Maxwell House Haggadah (which, of course, is still available, for the Traditionalists among us…). Here are some brief reviews and excerpts from some recently published, widely available Haggados, in no particular order:

1. Studies on the Haggadah From the Teachings of Nechama Leibowitz
Edited by Yitshak Reiner and Shmuel Peerless
Urim Publications, 2002

The Leibowitz Haggdah will appeal to the greatest extent to the many students she acquired through her Gilyonot on the Torah. The work is very didactic, and pertains mostly to the sections of the Haggadah that are based on pesukim in the Torah – reflecting the material's source in Dr. Leibowitz's shiurim and writings on that material. There are interesting personal vignettes from Dr. Leibowitz's life scattered through the Haggadah.

Nechama liked to refer to the four questions to demonstrate the difference between a kushyah and a she'eilah. The four questions, she pointed out, are referred to as the Arba She'eilot rather than the Arba Kushiyot. This is based on the way in which the questions are framed. Each of the four questions follows the same format: On all other nights we __, but tonight we __. According to Nechama, this format represents a kushyah, as opposed to the simple she'eilah format which would be: Why on this night do we __? The she'eilah is a simple informational question. The kushyah, on the other hand, takes note of something that deviated from the norm… The kushyah is the fundamental pedagogic instrument of both the Pesach Seder and of Biblical exegesis. Nechama's insight turns what many think of as the child's part of the Seder ritual into a sophisticated paradigm for Torah learning.

The Staff

The staff was used in the performance of signs in Egypt and at the sea. According to the midrash, its function changed in the process.

Lift up (Harem) your staff and stretch out your hand over the sea and divide it (Shemot 11:16).

The Egyptians said: "Moshe could not do anything without the staff with which he smote the river and brought all of the plagues." When Israel came to the sea, God said to Moshe: "Cast aside your staff so that they not say that you could not split the sea without the staff." As it says: "lift up your staff" (Shemot Rabbah 21:9).

1)How does the midrash interpret the word "lift up" (Harem)?
2)What compelled the midrash to interpret it in this way?

Suggested Answers:
1) The midrash translates the word Harem as "throw" rather than "lift."
2) This interpretation is based on the fact that God did not tell Moshe to "lift up the staff and stretch your hand over the sea." It seems from this that the staff was cast aside and that Moshe only used his hand in parting the sea. According to the midrash, this was to wean the people of their dependency on the staff as an integral element in bringing signs and wonders.

2. The Chazon Ish Haggadah
Compiled by Rabbi Asher Bergman;
Adapted into English by Rabbi David Oratz and E. van Handel
Mesorah Publications, 2006

Among the Haggados in this review, this is the only one that we find it necessary to caution our readers against. The Haggadah is replete with strange anecdotes of dubious credibility, sprinkled with a liberal amount of gratuitous swipes at the State of Israel and its leaders. The following excerpts are among the more innocuous!

On the seventh day God completed His work

A true Shabbos observer not only abstains from forbidden work, but also believes that Hashem created the world and that on Shabbos he abstained from creating.

The Chazon Ish ruled that one who keeps Shabbos according to Halachah but denies any of the Thirteen Principles of Faith has the law of a gentile with regard to touching wine. "There are Jews," he said, "who have glatt-kosher kitchens but false beliefs. Their food may be eaten, but their wine may not be drunk."

We cried out to Hashem, the God of our fathers.

Prayer has always been the Jewish people's weapon.

Once, when the Holocaust was discussed, the Chazon Ish told his brother-in-law, R' Shmuel Greineman, "Heaven hid the matter from me. Had I known, I would have stopped it. When the Germans were poised to enter the Land of Israel, I knew and I stopped it."

In 5708 (1948), the Arab Legion shelled Jerusalem day and night, killing many Jews, The Chazon Ish told his sister Rebbetzin Tzivia Greineman, "The Brisker Rav requested we do something about the shelling. More than that I am forbidden to reveal."

3. Light of Redemption: A Passover Haggadah Based on the Writings of Rav Kook
Gideon Weitzman
Grow Publications/ distributed by Urim Publications, 2005

Rabbi Weitzman writes: The commentary here is based on the writings and thoughts of Rav Koo, particularly those that appear in the second volume. However, other sources have been used as well. All translations are my own and, while all the ideas here are based on Rav Kook, they are not necessarily direct translations."

The Simple Son

In the Torah this son appears before the wise son. The verse, "What is this?" is taken from the book of Shemot (13:14) and the question of the wise son appears only later, in the book of Devarim (6:20).

The message here is that one needs to be simple before he can be wise. The initial stage of learning is to understand the basic concepts and to ask simple questions. The simple son wants to know what to do and he receives a clear answer. The wise son looks deeper for meaning, rhyme, and reason. This knowledge is important but it cannot be attempted before one has grasped the basic understanding of what to do.

Therefore we are obliged to give thanks

This starts the first half of the Hallel that we recite at the Seder. A question is asked as to why we do not recite the blessing over the Hallel during the Seder. After all, when we say Hallel as part of our prayers, we do make the blessing.

We could answer that on all other occasions that we recite the Hallel, we do so as part of our religious obligation. When we remember that God commanded us to observe the festivals due to past events, we recite the Hallel. As it is a religious requirement, we recite the blessing.

However, at the Seder we do not recite the Hallel only as a religious requirement. Rather, if we see ourselves as coming out from Egypt we feel a deep appreciation to God. The Hallel is a natural reaction and a way to show our thanks and praise of God. The Hallel is an essential response to having relived the story of the Exodus. Therefore we do not recite the berachah before saying the Hallel; we simply turn to God to praise Him.

4. The Pesach Haggadah through the Prism of Experience and History
Rabbi Berel Wein
Shaar Press, distributed by Mesorah Publications, 2004

This Haggadah is, as the title of a book of Rabbi Wein's stories, puts it best, "Vintage Wein." The commentary is wonderful, but the Haggadah (which is written in first person, an innovation that I had previously seen) is outstanding when the comments are personal.

I have always enjoyed looking at Haggados from different periods of Jewish life and history. On of the more fascinating things that I have discovered in perusing these Haggados is the illustrations that are used to represent the evil son. He is always portrayed as wearing the most stylish and provocative clothes of that period, be it Roman armor and toga, Renaissance Italy, Dutch feathery, Cossack Eastern Europe, foppish Victorian England, or Roaring Twenties America. These depictions of the evil son may well be inaccurate and even unfair, but they reflect the belief that being too radically up to date and "cool" is not really the Jewish way. The wise son always seems to be dressed more conservatively than his evil brother. Apparently, appearances do count in this world of ours, even in our illustrated Haggados. It is true that a person may be wise and pious and yet dress wildly differently from the norm, and a person may dress in rabbinic garb and have "his tzitzis showing on the outside visible to all while his heart may be far away from his Father in Heaven," in the words of R' Menachem HaMeiri (Sotah 20b). Yet, how a person looks and dresses often says a great deal about his character, beliefs, and behavior. One can also note how the garb of the wise sin has changed over the centuries of illustrated Haggados.

In life, all of us know that many times it is the small things that count. A great event can be ruined or diminished by a small flaw in planning or execution. I have often seen how the wonder of transcontinental flight in a jumbo jet is erased by a minor discomfort or a surly flight attendant. God, therefore, knowing our human frailties all too well, arranged for a "perfect" Exodus and sojourn in the desert for the Jews. Even this perfection did not prevent the people from complaining, but there is no doubt that it was God's intent, so to speak, to please us completely.

5. From Bondage to Freedom: The Passover Haggadah with a commentary illuminating the liberation of the spirit
By Rabbi Abraham J. Twerski, M.D.
With Rabbi Hirsh Michel Chinn, MSW
And Rabbi Benzion Twerski, Ph.D.
Shaar Press, distributed by Mesorah Publications, 1995

This was my personal favorite among all the Haggados included in this review. It is chock full of original, brilliant – yet realistic and relevant – psychological and philosophical insights. The treatment of Hebrew names is somewhat curious (Phineas?), but that does not detract from the work's utility and vitality.

We cried out to Hashem, the God of our fathers.

…We say that we cried out onto [sic] God to be merciful and relieve our distress and that he heard our prayers. Yes, but why all the years of suffering Why did he not intervene earlier?

While this question does not always have an answer that satisfies our logic, I did gain some insight on this in a pediatrician's office.

A mother had brought her infant to the doctor for immunization. As soon as the child saw the white-clad doctor he began crying, remembering only too well what had befallen him at this man's hands just several months earlier.

The mother assisted the physician by forcefully restraining the child, who clawed and kicked here. If we could enter the child's mind, we would no doubt discover that he was violently angry at his mother who had suddenly betrayed him, and who, instead of protecting him from harm as she always did, was now collaborating with this brutal aggressor who was going to stab him with a sharp instrument.

The moment the physician withdrew the needle and the mother released her restraining hold, the infant embraced her and clung to her for dear life. But why? Was she not the very person who had just betrayed him and had subjected him to such intense pain?

Obviously, the infant's trust in the mother was so great that even though he thought she had allowed him to be hurt, he nevertheless turned to her for comfort, protection and relief from the pain. This is precisely how we relate to God. Although we cannot understand why He subjects us to suffering any more than the infant can understand his mother's behavior, our trust in Him is so great that it is not shaken by our own suffering. Even when we angrily protest, we are nevertheless aware that God is a loving and caring Father, and that is why we appeal to Him in our distress…

A kid, a kid

…Even people of great spirituality must exert caution when motivated by zeal. The Torah states that Phineas was handsomely rewarded for avenging the desecration of the Divine honor when he slew an adulterer who publicly profaned the Torah. Years later, in his other identity as Elijah, he fled into the desert because he could not tolerate the Israelites' idolatrous behavior, but the Midrash states that this time God rebuked him for his zeal. The commentaries ask: Why was he rewarded for his initial zealousness but chastised for its repetition?

The answer, they say, is that a single act of zeal may be assumed to be genuine, and a person who overcomes his natural passivity to avenge injustice is praiseworthy. However, if he commits repetitious acts of zealousness, it must be suspected that his motives are not purely in the interests of righteousness and justice, but are tainted by a trait of intolerance. Phineas's first act of zealousness was therefore considered virtuous, but a repetition thereof was suspect as being less that one hundred-percent unadulterated zeal.

In the Had Gadya hymn, the first offender, the cat, is the real villain, having attacked the innocent kid, and all subsequent characters can be seen as heroes, each one meting out just punishment for what it saw as an evil act. Why are they then all punished, and why does God intervene at the end to punish the Angel of Death? It is because no one is beyond acting out of personal interest, and even the Angel of Death, a totally spiritual being, is considered to be acting sadistically rather than carrying out the mission for which he was created…

6. Rav Shlomo Zalman Haggadah: The Pesach Haggadah with insights, halachic rulings and customs of Rabbi Shlomo Zalman Auerbach
Compiled by Rabbi Yisroel Bronstein
Adapted into English by Rabbi David Oratz
Mesorah Publications, 2005

While Reb Shlomo Zalman zt"l was one of the most (if not the most) universally admired and beloved Poskim of our generation, the Haggadah that has emerged – primarily from his Halachic perspectives – is a bit dry. It will appeal mostly to those readers interested in Reb Shlomo Zalman's psakim and minhagim, and may not be that useful for readers looking for a Haggadah that will galvanize them on the night of the Seder.

The mitzvah of eating matzah also comes to remind us about the creation of the world ex nihilo. Maharam Mintz writes that ordinarily, bread requires a previous "sourdough" as a starter, creating a never-ending chain of sourdough, dough, sourdough, dough, etc. Eating matzah teaches us that it is possible to start at the beginning and bake a "bread" that satiates even without a pre-existing sourdough. This hints at a world for which there was absolutely nothing before its creation.

The matzah must be eaten before midnight (chatzos). According to Rav Shlomo Zalman, this ideally should be considered the midpoint between nightfall (not sunset) and dawn – about twenty minutes before the time listed in the calendars (Minchas Shlomo Vol. II 58:19).

7. The Palace Gates Haggadah: Parables for the Pesach Seder
Compiled by Rabbi Shalom Wallach
Feldheim Publishers, 1995

8. The Redemption Haggadah: Commentary of the Dubno Maggid
Commentary translated and adapted into English by Menachem Silver
Feldheim Publishers, 2005

Both of these Hagaddos are wonderful resources for fans of parables (and who is not a fan of a good parable?). Nevertheless, they are somewhat impractical for the Seder. A parable often takes a long time to relate, following a long time to read, so by the time the reader finishes reading the parable he may be several paragraphs behind the other Seder participants – and by the time he finishes relating the parable (and its message!), his listeners may be getting antsy. Best to read up ahead of the Seder and try to compact the material efficiently. The following excerpts are essentially the shortest pieces from The Palace Gates Haggadah. (By virtue of its being an anthology, it contains more material than, and somewhat overlaps, The Redemption Haggadah.)

Afterwards they shall go forth with great possessions.

Our Sages tell us that the "great possessions" promised to Avraham Avinu at the Covennat between the Portions was the Torah which his children received at the foot of Mt. Sinai. But if this is indeed true, why were we commanded, before leaving Egypt, to ask the Egyptians for money and goods?

The Maggid of Dubno answered with one of his most famous parables.

A wealthy merchant needed a young boy to deliver packages to his customer's houses. It was vacation time, so he offered the job to his friend's son with the promise that he would be handsomely paid with a purse full of silver coins. The boy felt fortunate for being given the opportunity, and he worked earnestly for the entire vacation. When the time came for him to take his leave, it occurred to the merchant that a purse full of silver coins was too small a payment for the splendid services the boy had rendered him. He therefore put the silver aside, and instead wrote out a check for an amount many times the total value of the silver. But the boy, instead of thanking his employer for his generosity, sullenly stuffed the piece of paper into his pocket and went home weeping.

The next day, his father called at the merchant's house and said to the wealthy man: "You have been most generous to my son and I want to thank you. But the boy is still a child and does not understand the value of a check. All he knows is that he expected to receive a bag filled with shiny new coins, and that instead he got a plain sheet of paper. Therefore, I would be most grateful if you would let him have at least part of his wages in silver coins"…

Joyful in Your sacrificial service.

…This need to seek outside entertainment is a sign of inner emptiness. It is also the subject of a parable given by the Maggid of Dubno.

A father and son were traveling together, and stopped at an inn on the way. The innkeeper served them a heavily spiced meat dish. The father refused to eat it, but the smell of the spices wafted into hi son's nostrils and made his mouth water.

"Why don’t you eat, Abba?" the boy asked. "The smell of this food is irresistible!"

"That's the problem, my son," the father replied. "The meat is spoiled. It has already become putrid and begun to stink. The spices testify to this. If the meat was good, not nearly as much spice would be needed!"

9. The Heritage Haggadah
Eliyahu Kitov
Feldheim Publishers, 1999

While The Heritage Haggadah contains an excellent commentary, it is even more valuable – and very much so – for its 95 pages of introductory material and its 107 pages of four appendices. The introductory material on all aspects of the preparations for the Seder, the other observances that precede the Seder, and the structure of the Seder; and the appendices: "A Compendium of Midrashim" and "Those Who Would Devour Yaakov: Persecution and Blood Libels," are phenomenal contributions to the experience of Pesach.

Customs of the Rabbis

In many Jewish communities, it was customary for rabbis and other halachic authorities to delay the start of their own Seders, until long after the rest of the townspeople had begun theirs. Compared to other nights of the year, many more questions of law are liable to arise on the Seder night, for the laws forbidding chametz are more stringent than the laws regarding other types of forbidden foods, and punishment for violations of these laws is more serious, too. Were the rabbis to have begun their own Seders along with everyone else, they would not have been able to issue halachic rulings. Once they had made Kiddush over wine, they would be prohibited from ruling, since anyone who drinks a revi'is (86 grams) of wine is considered not to be in complete control of his faculties.

It is told of two of Jerusalem's great rabbis, Rabbi Shemuel Salant and the Saba Kadisha, Rabbi Shelomo Eliezer Alfandri, zt"l, that they came up with a brilliant way of helping to deal with this problem. They would pray Ma'ariv at the earliest possible time, quickly begin and finish their Seders, and then would rest for half an hour, in order to free themselves of the influence of the wine they had drunk. Then they would male themselves available for questions from their congregants, though at that time, practically everyone in the town would just be starting to recite the Haggadah. Congregants who had questions earlier, while the two rabbis were rushing to complete their Seders, would take them to other rabbis who had delayed their Seders!

The Haggadah in Any Language

Since the Haggadah;s primary purpose it to teach the children about the Exodus, and to publicize the miracles and wonders to all those attending the Seder, the leader must explain the Haggadah's different elements and supply additional explanations, in a way that is understandable to all those present. He must be especially careful to make sure that the children understand, as well as the Seder participants who are unfamiliar with the language and the expressions used by our Sages. Outside the Land of Israel, where Jews do not usually speak lashon haKodesh – Hebrew, the language of the Haggadah – one should recite the Haggadah in the language of that particular country, for that is the language which is familiar to everyone.

On this point, the Beis Yosef writes (Orach Chaim 473):

It should be recited in a language that the women and children understand, or it should be explained to them. This was the practive of R' Yitzchak of Londerres [one of the ba'alei hasafos who lived in London], who would recite the entire Haggadah in English so that the women and chidren would understand.

It is said of the Chasam Sofer that he would recite the entire Haggadah in both Hebrew and German.

10. The Historical Haggada
Nachman Cohen
Torah Lishmah Institute, 2002
(also available in Hebrew)

Rabbi Dr. Cohen's Haggadah is a treasure trove of very interesting and engaging material, much of which takes a refreshing, novel approach to the Haggadah. Historical context and insights, along with comprehensive analyses (such as his tabular correspondence of the twenty-six lines of Hallel HaGadol to the twenty-six generations from Adam until the Exodus) make this a truly innovative work.


Referring to God as HaMakom (the place) began in Talmudic times. God is never referred to by this noun in the period of Tanakh. The Midrash explains that HaMakom infers that "God is the space (place) of the universe and the universe is not His space (place)." What exactly does this mean, and more importantly, what gave rise to the use of this connotation?

The answer can be elucidated with the aid of ancient Greek thought. Greek philosophers were enthralled with the problem of change. Simply stated: How is change possible? If an object, x, truly changes into another object, y, this would mean that when x changes into y, x is annihilated and y is created from nothing. The Greeks rejected the notion of creation ex nihilo [something from nothing].

Several attempts were made to solve this problem… Paramenides… argued that change was but an illusion. Change was logically impossible. Hence, it does not occur. The world is really composed of an unchanging oneness.

Paramenides had a student named Zeno. To reinforce his master's point, Zeno devised many paradoxes which showed that change was not possible…

The Paradox of Space

To exist, an object must be confined within a physical area. The room I am sitting in is within my office. This is within my home, which is on my street in Yonkers, which is in New York State, which is in the United States of America, which is within North America, which is on Earth, which is in our solar system, which is in the Orion Arm of the Milky Way Galaxy, which is in the Virgo Supercluster, which is in the visible Universe. But within what is the Universe contained? Since we are faced with an infinite regress, that is, everything must be contained within something else, and since there cannot be a last item which can exist without being contained, this proves that space is but an illusion.

The Rabbinic Response

The Rabbis responded to this last paradox of Zeno. Their response consisted of calling God "HaMakom." By this they meant that "the world is encapsulated within God and not that God is encapsulated with the world." It was God who created space. Only physical entities require space [and time] for existence. God, the Creator of space [and time] does not.

This response was important. The fallacy of the Greeks was that everything had a physical component. The pre-Socratics did not accept the notion of a totally spiritual being. The use of the term "HaMakom" serves to emphasize that the Greek scope of the Universe was incomplete and insufficient.

Opening the door for Eliyahu

…In this regard, the following excerpt from Josephus (Antiquities, Book 18: Ch. 2) is of some interest:

2. (29) As Coponius… was exercising his office of procurator, and governing Judea, the following accidents happened. As the Jews were celebrating the Feast of Unleavened Bread, which we call Passover, it was customary for the priests to open the Temple gates just after Midnight. (30) When, therefore, those gates were first opened, some of the Samaritans came privately into Jerusalem, and threw about dead men's bodies in the cloisters; on which account the Jews afterward excluded them out of the Temple, which they has not used to do at such festivals, and on other accounts also they watched the Temple more carefully than they had formerly done.

While Josephus gives no reason for the Temple gates being opened at Midnight on Pesach, there is not apparent reason to doubt his account… it is interesting to consider that our custom of opening the door after the meal might be as ancient as the Temple.

11. Touched by the Seder: The Pesach Haggadah with soul-stirring stories and commentary
Rabbi Yechiel Spero
Mesorah Publications, 2006

Touched by the Seder, part of Rabbi Spero's popular Touched by… series, is not just stories. It is a warm, homey, and ultimately uplifting work. It too, as the From Bondage to Freedom Haggadah (above, #5) is written in the first person, adding to its aura.

…The symbolism of the kittel, as perceived by the Tiferes Shlomo, Rav Shlomo of Radomsk, is perhaps the most striking, and powerful. Rav Shlomo, as he donned his kittel befor the Seder would declare… And then he would pause and begin to cry, "Heilige Bashefer, may all the neshamos that join us here tonight find the proper tikkun (rectification) for their needs."

In other words, the Tiferes Shlomo implied that when one wears a kittel he is representing all the neshamos from generations past; all those who have gone to the next world now come to join us at the Seder. Zeides and bubbies, opas and omas, sabas and savtas, and grandpas and grandmas. Tonight, at the Seder, they come to shep nachas from their offspring.

The Haggadah states: "Bechol dor vador chayav adam liros es atzmo k'ilu hu yatza MiMitzrayim, In each and every generation one is obligated to view himself as if he went out of Mitzratim." But there is another depth of meaning – "Bechol dor vador, together with each and every generation." As we don our kittels, we sense that our ancestors have joined us to celebrate the past and, even more, to anticipate a glorious future.

The Wicked Son

…Let us examine the pesukim which introduce us to the rasha. In these pesukim we find the word Vehayah, which, the Gemara tells us, always signifies joy. Isn't it odd that the word "joy" is associated with the rasha?

But there is reason to be joyous. Think about it – this rasha could have been anywhere tonight. But instead, as uncomfortable as it may be for him to sit among family members who do not think highly of him, he is at the Seder. And he cares enough, and is brave enough, to speak his mind in front of the group!...

…Let us take a look at the word rasha itself, at the letters that form the word, and another layer of meaning will be uncovered, The Belzer Rebbe revealed a penetrating insight. The letters resih and ayin, spelling ra, are found at the outside ends of the word rasha, but a shin is what fills the middle. On the outside he appears to be ra, but on the inside he is just a little boy crying for help. The shin has three crooked branches sprouting forth from the same root. Perhaps it is telling us that at the very core of this "rasha" is a confused child who is linked forever, eternally, to the root of Avraham, Yitzchak, and Yaakov, never to be detached. And that is another reason for simchah.

12. Haggadah Simchas Yaabetz
By Rabbi David Cohen
Translated by Rabbi Zev Meisels
Mesorah Publications, 1993

Rabbi David Cohen is one of the foremost Poskim in the United States, and at the same time a true scholar and an insightful person. Hence, his Haggadah (whose publication preceded all the others reviewed here) includes aspects that resemble Rabbi Wein's Haggadah (#4 above) – the insights; the Rav Shlomo Zalman Haggadah (#6 above) – the halachos and minhagim; and The Historical Haggadah (#10 above) – the historical and contextual explanations.

We were slaves.
It was because Egypt was so enmeshed in carnality that in Egypt the Jews were told (see Sotah 12a, Hoshivah B'Aperion) to marry their wives with chuppah. Chuppah, in which the bride and groom are sequestered in a private place, symbolizes the togetherness of the couple and their constancy, and thus separated the Jews from the Egyptians, who were renowned for their marital laxity.

(My friend, Gavriel Iseson n"y, pointed out that historically the Egyptians were the first to use yeast to prepare bread. This fits with their history of immorality, for the yetzer hara, the evil inclination, is compared by Chazal to yeast in dough.)

The Machzor Vitri (Seder Leil Pesach L'Rashi, quoted in Siddur Otzar HaTefillos, Tikkun Tefillah) writes that some claim that Nishmas was written by Shimon Kipah or Keifa (whom the Christians know as the apostle Saint Peter); this is followed by the emphatic statement that it is not so, and that anyone who repeats the story will be obligated to bring a sin-offering when the Beis HaMikdash is rebuilt.

The Machzor Vitri is referring to the popular legend that Shimon [Peter] was actually a Tanna who, in order to distance a nascent Christianity from Judaism,pretended to become a Christian, and instituted laws for Christians designed to accentuate the break from Judaism, so that no Jew would find any similarity between the two religions and be fooled by it (see Jellinek's Beis HaMedrash, Volume VI). It is evident that the Machzor Vitri disbelieved the tale; however, R' Yehudah HeChassid (Sefer Chassidim #91) refers to Shimon Keifa as a righteous tzaddik who had followers who were evil, indicating that R' Yehudah held the story to have basis in fact. Some say that he was known not as Shimon Keifa, Simon the Rock, but Shimon Kipa, Simon of the Dome, because he confined himself to a dome (or basilica) to avoid desecrating Shabbos, and lived on bread and water.

From the Gemara (Pesachim 118a) we can deduce that Nishmas dates from the time of the Anshei Knesses HaGedolah, the members of the Great Assembly, for we find Nishmas mentioned as part of the Haggadah (according to R' Yochanan), whose precise text was probably established by the Anshei Knesses HaGedolah…

…It is very odd that on weekdays we recite only the Yishtabach portion of Nishmas. The source for this division is unclear, for the Gemara mentions only Nishmas in its entirety.

13. The Interlinear Haggadah: The Passover Haggadah with an Interlinear Translation, Instructions and comments.
Edited by Rabbi Menachem Davis
Mesorah Publications, 2005

Finally, last, bust certainly not least, we would be remiss were we not to mention this superb tool – part of the series of Interlinear tracts that Rabbi Davis has compiled and continues to compile. He and Mesorah Publications deserve much credit for this truly ingenious format. It not only enhances the understanding of the beginner, but even that of the "scholar," who may not generally "take the time" to glance at a translation that is on the opposing page or even line – after all, that is time consuming and beneath his dignity to boot! I myself have had my davening enhanced by Rabbi Davis' work, and highly recommend it.