Shulom Aleichem!

HaBucher HaChushev Ploni ben Nistar here for shtick, news and fun. You know, a Chassidic life isn't as boring and heavy as most people might think! ;-)

מצוה גדולה להיות בשמחה תמיד


Don't hesitate to send me an 'ask' if you have any questions. I don't bite at the first time.

DISCLAIMER: Questions on Jewish Law (Halacha), I will try to answer to the best of my ability. Note that my understanding may not be accurate nor be the final word on asked topic. One should consult an Orthodox Rabbi before drawing any conclusions.

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So yesterday in the car to Bnei Brak I was talking to a ruv, a chief rabbi of a certain major city. We were on our way to a bris of a bucher doing geirus so we started to get into a discussion about certain hilchos geirus (since for most of us these are usually just theoretical cases). He didn’t agree with my conclusions and I thought he was wrong.

When we arrived in Bnei Brak we were able to ask one of the poskei hador (major authorities on Halacha) about our discussion… And of course the Tambler rebbe was right on everything I said before. Then a friend of mine turned to me and was like “See? You were right. You’re always right!” xD

Tonight is Shevi’i shel Pesach, the last day of Pesach, when the Yidden arrived at Yam Suf and miraculously crossed the sea.

After crossing the sea the Bnei Yisroel broke out in song and sang Shirah. 

"Then Moshe and B’nei Yisroel sang this Song (of the Sea) etc. (Oz Yashir Moshe …)" (Shemos 15:1)

There is an remarkable Midrash in Shemos Rabboh which will help us to understand the extraordinary nature of the Shira (inspired Song of praise) that the B’nei Yisroel sang at the Sea. The midrash says:

"She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue." (Mishlei 31, from Eishes Chayil) From the day that Hashem created the world, until the day that Israel stood at the banks of the Sea, nobody ever sang Shira for Hashem. He created Adam, but he never sang Shira. He saved Avrohom from the fiery furnace, and from the warring Kings, but he didn’t sing Shira. He spared Yitzchok from the knife of the Akeida and he didn’t sing Shira. Yaakov was saved from Esav’s angel, from Esav himself, and from the men of Shechem and still he didn’t sing Shira. When Yisroel came to the Sea and it split for them, they immediately sang Shira to Hashem, as it is written, "(אז ישיר משהThen Moshe and the B’nei Yisroel sang this Song (Shiras HaYam) etc. “She opens her mouth with wisdom… .” Said Hashem, “This is what I have waited for!” For the word אז denotes only joy as it is written, “(אז ימלא שחוק פינו) Then our mouths will be filled with laughter.” (Tehilim 126:2) 

The common translation of the word “אז" is "then". The Midrash precedes itself with a verse in order to define the word “אז”.

What wisdom can there be in just opening the mouth? A parable can help us. When a person appears before a King and wants to thank him for some favor he received, he doesn’t just open his mouth and say the first words that come into his head. Just the opposite is true. The person will carefully prepare his words first, deciding what he wants to say; all in deference to the honor of the King. Then he will rehearse the speech until he is able to express himself intelligently and fluently before the monarch. This is the way of a person who feels indebted to the King and must show his gratitude and honor.

The Song (Shira) of B’nei Yisroel was different. When the source of the Shira is a deep, abounding love for the King and a realization that the King has showed him special favor, then there is no holding back, no time to prepare one’s thoughts. The words gush forth unrestrained with a sense of urgency in an attempt to capture the moment of enlightenment and elation.

So too with the Yidden. When they came through the Sea they immediately broke into shira (song); they opened their mouths and spontaneously began to sing. Even though it was spontaneous, the Midrash testifies, "She opens her mouth with wisdom." The song that came forth was full of wisdom, perfectly and eloquently expressed by each member of Bnei Yisroel. So profound and recondite was the Shira, that it was included in the Torah.

Still, the source of the Yidden’s great inspiration needs to be more carefully examined. The end of the midrash provides a clue. "For the word אז denotes only joy as it is written, "(אז ימלא שחוק פינו) Then our mouths will be filled with laughter.” (Tehilim 126:2) The Shira of the Bnei Yisroel was inspired by complete, flawless joy. The word “אז” is now more accurately translated as “because” instead of “then”. The Bnei Yisroel sang their shira because of the great joy they experienced after crossing the Sea.

Nevertheless, the midrash in Bereishis Rabboh says the Avos did sing Shira! Adam sang "Mizmor Shir L’yom HaShabbos" (Tehilim 92). Avrohom sang “Maskil L’Eitan HaEzrachi” (Tehilim 89). And Yaakov sang the 15 Chapters of "Shir HaMaalos" (Tehilim 120-134). Why does the midrash now say that no one sang Shira until The Bnei Yisroelsang at the Sea?

The Shira of the Avos was not like that of the Bnei Yisroel. The joy when they sang their Shira was different. The Avos experienced a tzara (difficulty), and Hashem provided them with relief. Nevertheless, they knew that the difficulties they experienced would be experienced later by their progeny. (Ma’aseh Avos Siman l’Banim) They weren’t fully able to rejoice over the relief when they knew that the difficulty and it’s full consequences were still to be felt. When the Yidden came through the sea they experienced a complete simcha. They fully understood the experience of servitude in Egypt and all of it’s ramifications. They understood that the period of servitude was an integral part of the geula. Experiencing the full providence of Hashem and vanquishing any doubts as to His utter kindness, is a source of profound joy. It is the ultimate joy known to a living person.

This explains the doubled use of גאה גאה (Hashem is most exalted) (Shemos 15:2). One time refers to Yetzias Mitzrayim and it’s accompanying freedom. The other refers to the period of the servitude. Even for that, they understood that Hashem is to be exalted. As it is written, ”הודו לה’ כי טוב כי לעולם חסדו”. Praise Hashem for He is good, His Kindness is forever.

The Apter Ruv said that the purpose of the creation is that man should be happy with Hashem and at peace with His ways. The Shira of the Bnei Yisroel was rooted in an abundant and profound joy. It is the joy a Jew knows when he is happy and satisfied with Hashem. It means he understands that everything, no matter how it appears on the surface, is from Hashem and it is absolute chesed. That is the level our ancestors reached at Yam Suf. They understood the whole episode of their enslavement in Egypt and the ensuing Exodus in context and it now made perfect sense.

This explains the Chazal in Sanhedrin 91b, “Anyone who says Shira every day, will merit to say it before Hashem in the world to come.”

One who is able to say shira every day the way our ancestors said it at the Yam Suf, is one who already understands that everything comes from Hashem and it is all chesed. This is the truth that everyone will understand in the world to come. Happy is the one who is capable of this understanding while still in this physical world!

This is the significance of shira that Hashem declared, "This is what I have waited for!" 

May we all be able to say shira with such a conviction as the Bnei Yisroel did back then!

What is the meaning of “L’shonah habo b’Yerushalayim?” Why don’t we say “This year in Yerushalayim?”

The Satmer Rebbe zt”l answered, “The month of Nissan is the first month of the year, since it is the month of geulah.However, when Moshiach will come, it will be an even greater simcha, and the miracle of Yetzias Mitzrayim will take second place. When Moshiach will come, the day of his arrival will be a true yom tov.”

The Satmer rebbe explained, “The Gemora says that when a king is inaugurated on the 29th day of Adar, a day later, on Rosh Chodesh Nissan, it is considered as if he had been king for a year. Since Moshiach’s arrival is even greater than Pesach, that day will be the dawn of a new year. Thus, if Moshiach come tomorrow, it will already be next year!”

May we merit the geulah sheleimah, speedily, in our days.

Tonight will be the beginning of Pesach. The holiday of geula and yeshuos when the Yidden merited to be saved from the hands of the Egyptians. During Chol HaMoed I won’t be writing anything but I do have some queues coming up.

The Chidushei HaRim once said that the Noda B’Yehuda would open the door on the Seder night at 'shefoch chamoschah' and would then escort Eliyohu Hanovi down the stairs.

The Chidushei HaRim added, “It wasn’t that he saw Eliyohu Hanovi. He believed with his heart and soul that Eliyohu comes to every Jewish home, and that powerful emunah is greater than gilui Eliyohu!

May we all merit to have this kind of emunah and see our own personal yeshuos and geulos -along with those of Klal Yisroel- not only speedily in our days, but even this very same year!

A Koshere & Freilichen Pesach!

I have a question. It seems that in most families, the custom is for the adult to hide the afikomen and for the kid to find it, but my family has always done it the other way around. My mother and I were talking about that yesterday and I said it could have been a custom from my grandfather's (hasidic) town. In your story, the child also stole the afikomen. Is this a hasidic thing?
bennistar bennistar Said:

I don’t know if it’s specifically a Chassidish thing. As far as I know this has always been the custom everywhere they hide the afikoman. To keep the children awake for the whole meal (which goes on until the late night hours).

Usually since the father (or zeidy) is the one leading the seder, he is the one to break the middle mitzvah and hide a piece of it. It could be that in some families, like yours, the custom is for the one who leads the seder to give the afikoman to the child and for the child to hide it. I suppose the effect would’ve been the same (i.e keeping the child awake).

But again, most families -Chassidish or not- go by the former.

A koshere and freilichen Pesach.

[Click here for ‘afikoman story’ about Rav Yonasan Eibeshutz as a boy]

Tatty is going to tie the afikoman to these balloons. They hid them in my room.
Now let’s see which kid will be able to get it. xD

As tonight is already Leil Seder and we have a custom of children ‘stealing’ the afikoman from their fathers I thought to share the following cute story.

When Rav Yonasan Eibeshutz was a young child, he plotted to steal the afikoman during the Seder. Young Yonsason waited until the middle of maggid, and then he secretly reached out and took the afikomen, putting it in a secure hiding place.

When shulchan oruch was over, Yonasan’s father reached into his matzah holder to remove the afikoman, but it was not to be found.

“Who stole the afikoman?” he cried.

Yonasan grinned slyly. “I did, Tatteh. Here it is.” And Yonasan quickly removed the afikoman from its hiding place. “I only agree to return it if Tatte buys me a new silk bekishe.”

“A silk bekitshe? Hmm…” said his father, deep in thought. “That is a very expensive gift. Can I give you anything else instead? A sefer, perhaps?”

But Yonason stood his ground. As it was nearing chatzos, his father saw he had no choice, and capitulated. Yonason returned the afikoman, and his father handed out pieces of matzah to everyone at the table, except for Yonason.

“Tatte, where is my afikoman?”

His father smiled. “I will only give you your portion if you agree to forego the bekishe,” he replied.

Yonasan was unperturbed. He reached into his pocket and removed a tiny piece of the afikoman.

“Where did that come from?” asked his father.

“I cut off a piece of the matzah, just in case Tatteh would not give me from the afikoman. I wanted to take care of myself first,” Yonason cleverly replied.

So tattes, be very careful of your afikoman!

Chag Sameach!

The Kaliver Rebbe Shlita, who is BA”H well into his 90s, broke from tradition and granted Channel 2 News an interview last week. The rebbe explained that while he does not feel it is proper to speak with the secular media, he feels the current situation warrants an exception.

The rebbe cried as he commented on the growing poverty in Eretz Yisroel, citing how as a young boy in Auschwitz they had no food, asking how Israel can permit so many children to go hungry today.

The rebbe spoke of the need to get out and assist those families that do not have basics for yomtov.

Regarding the violence and demonstrations seen in response to the new draft law, the rebbe remains opposed to the protests, explaining there are those whose job it is to serve while others are supposed to be learning. He opposes the violence however.

Keeping Hashem’s Holy Mitzvos – Sacrifice or Reward?

These days we seem to live in a results-oriented society where people expect practical action to yield tangible, predictable and often immediate rewards. Conversely, popular perception posits that indulgence in frivolous, irrational behavior will produce nothing of worth. Against this backdrop, as committed Jews, our steadfast performance and observance of G-d’s holy mitzvosoften earns us the derision of non-Jewish society at large and, sadly, the scorn of unaffiliated or uncommitted Jewish brethren who have not yet been privileged to experience the beauty of a life filled with Torah and mitzvos. They fail to understand two fundamental aspectsof the nature of heeding G-d’s directives:

  1. The primary reward for mitzvah performance is not found in this temporal, finite world, but rather, in the eternal World to Come.
  2. Mitzvos are Hashem’s instructions for life and will, in fact, provide tangible benefit in this world.

Our Rabbis taught that the way to reap the reward for mitzvah observance here and now is to enhance its performance both quantitatively and qualitatively. A quantitative increase is achieved quite simply by spending time focusing on the mitzvah before, during and after its performance. A qualitative increase is determined by the level of joy, passion and sacrifice one brings to the mitzvah performance.

For example, Torah study is, perhaps, the most elemental of all of G-d’s mitzvos. After all, every Jew must learn Hashem’s word to know what is expected of him. Moreover, immersing oneself in Torah’s sublime lessons builds our character and ennobles us, allowing us to achieve the highest levels of human perfection attainable. But, how do we approach Torah study? Do we view it as an onerous chore to be dispensed with as quickly as possible?

The quantitative approach we spoke of demands that we study as much as possible. But even when we are not engaged in formal study, as we go about our work day, if we think about and eagerly anticipate the daily time we have designated for study, then every moment of our day is occupied with Torah. This elevates even our most mundane experiences and infuses them with the spirit of the Divine.

Furthermore, when we engage in Torah study, we must do so with full appreciation of how fortunate we are to have the gift of Torah. This will raise our level of our study, intellectually, emotionally and spiritually.

So too, the opportunity to perform a mitzvah is reason for great joy.When we reflect upon the beauty of the mitzvah in advance of its performance,we build up our sense of wonder and excitement and will, thus, perform the mitzvah with great joy and intensity, the qualitative increase mentioned earlier.

As we celebrate Pesach, we note that these approaches to mitzvah performance were instilled in us at the very outset of our national formation. Our redemption from degrading enslavement in Egypt to the uplifting service of G-d was marked by the gift of a mitzvah that would initiate us into the ranks of Hashem’s chosen people and served to distinguish us from our depraved Egyptian captors.

The Jews were told to take a sheep and tie it to their bedposts for four days in preparation of slaughtering it and eating it in fulfillment of the mitzvah of Korban Pesach. Thus, the last thing they saw before going to sleep at night, and the first thing they saw upon awakening in the morning, was the object of the first mitzvah they would soon perform.This served to heighten their excitement and anticipation for the mitzvah. It also increased the “quantity” of the mitzvah by drawing out its observance over time. Finally, when the Jews actually performed the great mitzvah, they did so with great zeal and emotion, qualitative elements that elevated its value.

Additionally, Hashem had commanded, “So shall you eat it, with your belts girded, your shoes on your feet, and your staff in your hands.” Typically a walking stick is the last thing somebody takes in hand before embarking on a journey. Why did G-d command all of this? The Al-mighty wanted the Jews to eat the sacrifice without having to worry about any other preparations for their exodus from Egypt. Thus, they could focus solely on the mitzvah of eating this holy sacrifice without distraction. Further, this would provide time, from midnight until dawn, for Jews to assemble and sing and dance with inspired souls and great joy through the stories of the miracles and the performance of the mitzvah.

And finally, G-d commanded Moses, Our Teacher, to instruct the Jews to approach the Egyptians and borrow from them gold and silver vessels before their departure from Egypt. This was necessary in order to fulfill His promise to our forefather Abraham that after hundreds of years of slavery and torture his descendants would leave the land of their oppressors with great wealth. The Jewish people certainly feared entering the houses of the Egyptians, but did so with great dedication to fulfill G-d’s mitzvah. And when a Jew would timidly ask for one gold or silver vessel, the Egyptian would reply, “Take two.” The Talmud thus records, “Every Jew left Egypt with 90 donkeys laden with much treasure.” And so, in the end the Jews saw and understood that Torah and mitzvos protect and save them and provide life and wealth.

It is for this reason that we are commanded on Seder night to view ourselves as if we had personally been at the Exodus from Egypt, so that we might come to the fullest and most profound appreciation for the spiritual and material benefits inherent in keeping G-d’s commandments. We recite the verse, “It is because of this (i.e., the mitzvos) that Hashem acted for me when I left Egypt.” Interestingly, in Hebrew this is translated as Zeh, which is spelled with the letters zayin and hey. These letters form the first letters of the words Zerizus and Hachana, meaning zeal and preparation. When we prepare properly to do a mitzvah and then perform it with great zeal (quantity and quality) we merit reward for the mitzvah both tangibly in this world and eternally in the World to Come.

Thus, the holiday of Pesach, which celebrates the establishment of our Jewish national identity, teaches us the true power of Torah and mitzvos and instructs us to always remember the day of our exodus from Egypt. For it was on that very day that we came to recognize that all blessing depends on commitment to G-d and his mitzvos alone.

With best wishes to you and your families for a meaningful and spiritually uplifting Pesach, may Hashem shower upon you all of the blessings He promised to those who faithfully perform His mitzvos

A chag kasher v’somayach!

A few points to do (or not to do) on Erev Pesach.

  • Siyum for Bechorim Monday morning.
  • All male firstborn to either parent must fast, as well as a firstborn following a miscarriage.
  • Some Sefardim have the minhag that female firstborn also partake in the siyum.
  • Fathers should attend siyum in place of a minor firstborn child.
  • Do not say Mizmor Lisoda and Lam’natzeach.
  • Stop Eating Chometz end of 4th hour. (Jerusalem 10:06 am, NYC 10:20 am)
  • Brush teeth thoroughly before end of zman Achilah.
  • Complete Burning of Chometz end of 5th hour. (Jerusalem 11:23 am, NYC 11:38 am)
  • Say Kol Chamira - Bittul (Nullification) of Chometz in a language that you understand.
  • Remove vacuum cleaner bags with chometz before zman biur chometz.
  • Chometz garbage that will not be collected by sanitation before z’man biur should not be left in garbage cans. Rather, it should be left in bags at the curb.
  • Dentures, bi-plates, etc. should be cleaned (and kashered if removable) before zman biur.
  • Work restrictions begin after Chatzos (Jerusalem 12:40 pm, NYC 12:57 pm).
  • No haircuts or shaving after Chatzos.
  • All kitchen and dining areas must be covered before Yom Tov.
  • Prepare for the Seder: Roast the Zeroah, Beitzah. Grate the Maror, Make the Charoses, Check the Maror leaves, mix the salt water.
  • Set Shabbos clocks to allow lights to stay on very late for the Seder (Sedorim).
  • Many have the minhag to immerse in a mikvah in honor of Yom Tov.
  • Prepare Kittel for the Seder. Open any staples or tags left on by the Dry Cleaners.
  • For those who eat gebrockts one may only eat boiled foods with matzoh meal (e.g. kneidlach).
  • One may not eat baked matzoh meal products at any time during the day.
  • After Mincha Ketanah (Jerusalem 4:25 pm, NYC 4:48 pm) one may not eat kneidlach, drink wine, or fill oneself.
  • Many have the minhag to recite the order of the Korbon Pesach (printed in many Haggados) after Mincha, thereby meriting as if having offered a Pesach sacrifice in the Beis hamikdash.

A Koshere & Freilichen Pesach!