Hashem as the maker or breaker of nature

וארא אל אברהם אל יצחק ואל יעקב באל שדי ושמי יקוק לא נודעתי להם The Parsha begins with Hashem telling Moshe that he appeared to Avraham, Yitzchak, and Yaakov as קל שקי but not with the Shem Havayeh. What is the difference between these two names of Hashem? The Ramban explains that the name שדי is from the word שודד-robber because when Hashem wants to work within the natural world, he takes away the power from the מזלות. As opposed to the Shem Havayeh, which is an expression of Hashem operating completely outside the laws of nature.

לשון הרמב"ן: כי לא תבא על אדם טובה בשכר מצוה או רעה בעונש עבירה רק במעשה הנס, ואם יונח האדם לטבעו או למזלו לא יוסיפו בו מעשיו דבר ולא יגרעו ממנו. אבל שכר כל התורה וענשה בעולם הזה הכל נסים והם נסתרים, יחשב בהם לרואים שהוא מנהגו של עולם, והם באדם עונש ושכר באמת וכו' והנה אמר האלהים למשה נראיתי לאבות בכח ידי אשר אני שודד בו המזלות ועוזר לבחירי, אבל בשמי של יו"ד ה"א אשר בו נהיה כל הווה לא נודעתי להם לברוא להם חדשות בשנוי התולדות

What is the meaning that to the Avos Hashem revealed himself בקל שקי and from here on, to the Jewish people, he will reveal himself with the Shem Havayeh? Furthermore, according to the second Pshat in Rashi, the רבותינו דרשו in Pasuk ו that which Hashem was saying to Moshe וארא אל אברהם אל יצחק ואל יעקב באל שדי was really a complaint. Hashem was saying it should be enough just to reveal myself בקל שקי but for Moshe and the Jewish people it’s not enough. Therefore what is the meaning that to the Avos Hashem revealed himself בקל שקי as opposed to Moshe and the Jewish people going further?

This can all be explained with what the Ramban writes at the end of Parshas Bo. The Ramban says ומן הנסים הגדולים המפורסמים אדם מודה בנסים הנסתרים שהם יסוד התורה כלה. Meaning really Hashem doesn’t want to run the world with נסים גלוים. Rather it’s in order that they serve as a banner, just like a נס is a לשון of a flag which when raised is used to show ownership over the territory beneath it. So to these נסים גלוים come to awaken people and make them aware of the fact that the breaker of the rules of nature is also the maker of the rules of nature. To be able to see Hashem in nature and not only in open miralces.

Hashem was telling Moshe that the Avos didn’t need to have Hashem appear to them with Shem Havayeh-with open miracles, because they were able to recognize Hashem even within nature. They didn’t need outright and open miracles in order to find Hashem rather they were able to see him even in nature-נסים נסתרים. This is why the finding fathers are the founding father. On the word וארא Rashi says אל האבות. What is Rashi coming to explain?

The Sifsei Chachamim tries to explain that Rashi was writing אל האבות as opposed to אל אברהם אל יצחק ואל יעקב because he writes בלשון קצר. But the question is that Rashi usually explains and elaborates on what the Pasuk says so if the Pasuk already spelled out אל אברהם אל יצחק ואל יעקב, then why does Rashi feel the need to shorten that? More so, the Pasuk doesn’t need any explanation because it says אל אברהם אל יצחק ואל יעקב so what is Rashi coming to do?

It could be that Rashi is explaining that to the Avos Hashem revealed himself בקל שקי and not with open miracles because their mission was to find Hashem on their own and they were able to מכח their מדרגה as Avos-finding fathers. As Avos, they were able to find Hashem without him revealing himself to them with open miracles. It’s not because they are just Avraham Yitzchak and Yaakov as individual compared to other individuals. Rather it’s as Rashi is saying that because they were Avos, they were trailblazers and were able to find Hashem in nature. However, Moshe and the Bnei Yisrael, the children of the Avos, need to have more revealed in order for them to recognize Hashem and they will not be able to find Hashem in the world of nature unless Hashem reveals himself through open miracles first. This was the Hakdamah to what Hashem is now going to do with Yetzias Mitzrayim which will be open miracles in order to give them the ability on their level to see Hashem in nature.

This idea could be used to understand the following Gemara in Shabbos 118b:

אמר רבי יוסי: יהא חלקי מגומרי הלל בכל יום. איני? והאמר מר: הקורא הלל בכל יום - הרי זה מחרף ומגדף! - כי קאמרינן - בפסוקי דזמרא.

Reb Yossi expressed that he hoped his portion should be with the ones who complete Hallel every day. The Gemara asks but we know whoever reads Hallel every day is מחרף ומגדף to which the Gemara clarifies that Reb Yossi was referring to פסוקי דזמרא. Why is it that someone who says the Hallel which we say on Yom Tovim considered a מחרף ומגדף, and what is so significant about פסוקי דזמרא that Reb Yosi wanted his lot to be among those who complete פסוקי דזמרא every day?

Based on what was said before, an explanation could be as follows. The Hallel that is said on the Yomim Tovim ,as the Gemara in Arachin 10b says is משום ניסא is called הללא מצראה ופ' רש"י קורין לזה הלל המצרי (ברכות נו ע"א) because it was the Hallel for the miracles of Yetzias Mitzrayim. So a person saying this Hallel every day is essentially saying he only sees Hashem through outright open miracles, but not through nature. Such a person is a מחרף ומגדף because he is only admitting to Hashem’s existence in open miracles but not in nature. However, the words of פסוקי דזמרא express the idea that Hashem is operating within nature and that he is not only the breaker of rules but also the maker of rules. But even with open miracles, if a person is not in tune, aware, and attentive he will miss things that happen right in front of his eyes. The Psukim in the beginning of the Parsha say as follows:

(ו) לכן אמר לבני ישראל אני יקוק והוצאתי אתכם מתחת סבלת מצרים והצלתי אתכם מעבדתם וגאלתי אתכם בזרוע נטויה ובשפטים גדלים: (ז) ולקחתי אתכם לי לעם והייתי לכם לאלהים וידעתם כי אני יקוק אלהיכם המוציא אתכם מתחת סבלות מצרים:

If in Pasuk ו Hashem says I am the one to take you out from the bondage of Mitzrayim, why does it repeat it again at the end of Pasuk ז by saying because I am Hashem who took you out of Mitzrayim? The pshat is because even while something big is happening right in front of you, you might not realize it and only afterwards.

The following story is brought by the Ridvaz (Reb Yaakov Dovid Wilovsky 1845-1913) in the Hakdamah to his sefer שו"ת בית רידב"ז. In a certain town, there was a group of six Balebatim who got together to establish a school with secular studies which was called at the time a חדר מתוקן-improved cheder. The Rav of the town worked tirelessly against this project at which a certain point he said to these six Balebatim if they were to proceed with such a thing, they wouldn’t be מוציא שנתם-he cursed them that they wouldn’t live out the year. A month or two later, one of them died and nobody thought much about it but contributed it to מקרה-chance in spite of the fact that he was a young man. A few months later another died and so on and so forth and each time it was just assumed to be by chance. He then writes ועל הלויה של החמישי הלך השישי ואמר שאינו מתפעל כלל בגלל שהכל מקרה. And then sure enough this last one also died before the year was over and he writes do you think anything changed. On the contrary, other people continued working on this school and they actually opened it up.

The Ridvaz concluded that this answered a question that always bothered him that Hashem sees how Jews are so why doesn’t He just do open miracles in order to be מקרבן לבם של ישראל לאביהם שבשמים. But the answers is because unless a person is immersed in Torah, open miracles could happen right in front of a person’s eyes and have no effect on him.

The Rav heard from a son in law of Reb Shneur Kotler that he heard from his wife’s grandmother, the Rebbetzin of Reb Ahron Kotler (the daughter of Reb Isser Zalman Meltzer) who was from the town of Sultzk that this story happened with the Ridvaz himself!

So the three levels are one the highest being a person that can see Hashem in nature, the נסים הנסתרים. Another level is being able to see Hashem in the open miracles-נסים גלוים. But unfortunately for some, even when there are נסים גלוים happening right in front of a person, he doesn’t see anything. As can be seen in this week’s Parshah that even as Pharaoh was witnessing open miracles throughout the Makkos, they had no effect on him.

Shortness of Spirit

וידבר משה לפני יקוק לאמר הן בני ישראל לא שמעו אלי ואיך ישמעני פרעה ואני ערל שפתים (ו, יב)
Moshe says to Hashem that the Jews hadn’t listen to him when he told them everything Hashem had told him to tell them so how will Pharaoh listen him. If not for the קל וחומר (below), an explanation could be as follows. Moshe Rabbeinu is saying if the Jewish people would listen and be interested in leaving Mitzrayim, then this cause could be presented to Pharaoh that the oppressed people want to go free. And even if I, Moshe, am not such a convincing speaker because ואני ערל שפתים, nonetheless the cause would speak for itself. However, the reality was הן בני ישראל לא שמעו אלי and they themselves aren’t on board. So now when Moshe is coming to Pharaoh to free the Jews, he is coming with a request not in the name of the people. Therefore, had Moshe been a good speaker and convincing orator, then he would be able to convince Pharaoh of their cause. But because ואני ערל שפתים, the only way to convince Pharaoh would be if he was coming on behalf of the oppressed people and their cause and since he wasn’t because בני ישראל לא שמעו אלי, then for sure Pharaoh won’t listen.

Another explanation בדרך דרוש could be that הן בני ישראל לא שמעו אלי ואיך ישמעני פרעה that how is it going to look if the Jews don’t listen but Pharaoh does listen. It is going to create a קטרג on Klal Yisrael that they don’t listen to Moshe but Pharaoh does. This is similar to the מי מריבה that Chazal say the reason why Moshe hit the rock was in order to prevent a קטרג on Klal Yisrael that they don’t listen to Hashem but the rock does. In a similar way it says by Yonah the reason he ran away was because he was afraid if theאנשי נינוה did Teshuva would it make the Jews look and it would create a קטרג on them. So Moshe was saying ואיך ישמעני פרעה that how it is going to make the Jews look if Pharaoh listens.

But Rashi says that this is one of the ten קל וחומר found in the Torah and it would seem that this is a flawed קל וחומר because a few Psukim earlier it says the reason why the Jews didn’t listen to Moshe was because מקצר רוח ומעבדה קשה-shortness of breath and hard work. But Pharaoh who wasn’t experiencing that, maybe he would listen to Moshe. The דעת זקנים מבעלי התוספות to explain these Psukim say as follows which also answers this question and reinstates the קל וחומר: לפי הפשט לא שמעו אלי, ואם תאמר כי הניחו מלשמוע מקוצר רוח וכו' לכך הוצרך לומר ואני ערל שפתים, אי נמי שמא משה לא היה יודע מה שאמר הכתוב מקוצר רוח ושמעתי מהר"י מלישבונ"ה שהיה מפרש הק"ו שפירש"י כלומר הן בני ישראל וגו' אף מקוצר רוח שעליהם ואני אומר להם שאני בא מאת הקדוש ברוך הוא לפדותכם מן השעבוד ואדם שהוא בבית הסוהר ושומע שבא אדם לפדותו הוא יוצא ושמח לקראתו ושומע לקולו והם לא הטו אזנם לשמוע אלי כל שכן שפרעה שאני בא להפקיע שיעבודו שלא ישמע אלי

According to the second explanation is that מקוצר רוח is just in the narrative of the Torah and wasn’t necessarily what Moshe said to Hashem. According to this understand, the קל וחומר is logical. The Ohr Hachaim on the words מקוצר רוח says אולי כי לצד שלא היו בני תורה לא שמעו, ולזה יקרא קוצר רוח כי התורה מרחבת לבו של אדם. Being that they weren’t בני תורה, they were קוצר רוח as opposed to a בן תורה because Torah is מרחבת לבו של אדם. Torah makes a person more sensitive, aware, and attentive to his surroundings.

According to the explanation of the Ohr HaChaim, the קל וחומר is logical because if the Jews didn’t listen because they were קוצר רוח, meaning that they weren’t בני תורה and therefore they weren’t alert and attentive, then for sure Pharaoh who doesn’t have Torah won’t listen because he is for sure not in tune and sensitive to what’s going on.

This idea can be seen in Rashi in Taanis 4b. The Gemara there says האי צורבא מרבנן דרתח - אורייתא הוא דקא מרתחא ליה-If a young תלמוד חכם gets angry, it’s the Torah which is getting him angry. Rashi says שיש לו רוחב לב מתוך תורתו, ומשים ללבו יותר משאר בני אדם. It is the same idea that Torah causes a person to become more sensitive and alert more than others and therefore it causes him to get angry.

Similarly in davening it says ותן בלבנו להבין ולהשכיל לשמוע. Why is the לשמוע last if it’s seemingly the first thing a person does? The reason is because only after a person is להבין ולהשכיל does he then develop the ability to be לשמוע.

The Rambam in Hilchos Yesodei HaTorah 2:2 writes that the way a person comes to Ahavas HaShem is by thinking about the בריאה: בשעה שיתבונן האדם במעשיו וברואיו הנפלאים הגדולים ויראה מהן חכמתו שאין לה ערך ולא קץ מיד הוא אוהב ומשבח ומפאר ומתאוה תאוה גדולה לידע השם הגדול. However, the Rambam in Sefer Hamitzvos Mitzvah 3 says that the Mitzvah of Ahavas HaShem is achieved through Limud HaTorah as he writes: והמצוה השלישית היא שצונו לאהבו יתעלה וזה שנתבונן ונשכיל מצותיו ופעולותיו עד שנשיגהו ונתענג בהשגתו תכלית התענוג וזאת היא האהבה המחוייבת. ולשון סיפרי (פ' שמע) לפי שנאמר ואהבת את י"י אלהיך איני יודע כיצד אוהב את המקום תלמוד לומר והיו הדברים האלה אשר אנכי מצוך היום על לבבך שמתוך כך אתה מכיר את מי שאמר והיה העולם The Rambam is saying that it’s really both these things because when a person learns Torah, he becomes more sensitive and alert and then he could see Hashem in the בריאה as well leading him to Ahavas Hashem. This idea is seen in the Birchas Krias Shema leading up to Shema. In the first Brachah of יוצר המאורות, it’s discussing nature. Then in the second Brachah of אהבה רבה, it’s all about לימוד התורה and then after that we proclaim שמע ישראל וכו' ואהבת את ה' אלוקיך וכו' because through Torah, it opens up our hearts to appreciate nature and that brings us to be able to be שמע-to hear.

Similarly in Tehillim Chapter 19, the first half is all about creation השמים מספרים כבוד אל ומעשה ידיו מגיד הרקיע that the heavens are telling Hashem’s glory. However אין אמר ואין דברים בלי נשמע קולם that we don’t hear them and can go through life without hearing it. But the second half of the chapter says תורת יקוק תמימה משיבת נפש וכו' and it’s all about Torah. So these two halves of this chapter are similar to the two Brachos before Krias Shema mentioned above that יוצר המאורות is about nature and אהבה רבה is ברכת התורה (one could be יוצא with it, see Brachos 11) because Torah opens up our heart to be able to appreciate Hashem in nature.

In this context, it could be explained that which it says in ובא לציון in davening הוא יפתח לבנו בתורתו וישם בלבנו אהבתו ויראתו וכו'. בתורתו means with the Torah that Torah is the key to open our hearts and once our hearts are open, then וישם בלבנו אהבתו ויראתו.

This past Friday, ב' שבט, was the Yahrzeit of Reb Yisrael Chaim Kaplan who was the son in law of Reb Yerucham Levovitz. He was the Rosh Hayeshiva in Beis Medrash Elyon in Monsey. The Rav said over from him that he would say a person who learns Torah and doesn’t move his heart is like putting Teffilin on your shoulder. As if to say that if one’s heart doesn’t move from learning Torah, then he isn’t doing it right and it’s like a person who puts teffilin on his shoulder that it’s in the wrong place.

ולא שת לבו גם לזאת

This vort was said in the name of Reb Yudel Rabinovitch who was a Talmid Muvhak of The Chebiner Rav and would learn in a Shteeble in Geulah next to the Brisker Yeshiva.

The Pasuk says והמטה אשר נהפך לנחש תקח בידך (ז,טו). What is the emphasis that he should use the staff that turned into a snake for the מכה of דם? By the מכה of דם, the Pasuk says about Pharaoh ויבא אל ביתו ולא שת לבו גם לזאת (ז, כג). Rashi says that Pharoah didn’t only disregard the מכה of דם but also the מופת of switching the staff into a snake. The question is why is that מופת being brought up here and now?

The Panim Yafos brings in the name of the Zohar, and similarly found in the Sforno, that through כישוף, it’s impossible that a דומם should swallow. Based on this, there was a clear proof from the fact that Aarons מטה swallowed theirs that it was the work of Hashem because in כישוף a דומם can’t swallow. Therefore the Mitzriim must’ve thought that the מטה of Aaron was not a real מטה rather it was a snake in the form of a מטה and therefore it wasn’t difficult how the staff swallowed because it was originally a snake and כישוף made the snake into a staff.

However, the Gemara in Sanhedrin 67b says that כישוף expires on water and the moment כישוף comes in contact with water, it becomes undone. Therefore by the מכה of דם when Aaron used his staff to hit the water, they saw that the staff remained a staff and didn’t revert back to being a snake like they had thought and therefore it was only at that point that they were amazed and impressed with that original מופת of the staff turning into a snake and then eating the other snakes as a staff and they had to be מודה on that. That’s why specifically by דם was it גם לזאת, because now he wasn’t only not being מודה to the מכה of דם but he also wasn’t being מודה to the מופת that the staff swallowed the other snakes even though it was now clear that the מטה was really a מטה.

Snake or Fish?

כי ידבר אלכם פרעה לאמר תנו לכם מופת ואמרת אל אהרן קח את מטך והשלך לפני פרעה יהי לתנין
ויבא משה ואהרן אל פרעה ויעשו כן כאשר צוה יקוק וישלך אהרן את מטהו לפני פרעה ולפני עבדיו ויהי לתנין (ז,ט-י) In Pasuk י on the word תנין, Rashi says נחש. The question is why does Rashi wait until Pasuk י to say that a תנין is a נחש is the Pasuk mentioned the word in Pasuk before, Pasuk ט?

In the newer Chumashim, they print that Rashi on Pasuk ט to avoid this question. However, the Sifsei Chachamim say in Pasuk י the following: כי שם התנין ביבשה הוא נחש ובמים הוא דג. According to this, the reason why Rashi waited to explain what a תנין is because in Pasuk ט, it’s just saying speak to Pharoah and show him the מופת. But being that no one went to the יאור when he did and it was only Moshe and Aaron, so by the מים it could have been a דג. But once it actually happened in Pasuk י in front of פרעה ולפני עבדיו, then it was clearly occurring on land and not by the water and there Rashi knew to write now that it was a נחש because a תנין in the context of land is a snake.

Yahrzeit of Reb Yechiel Yaakov Weinberg

This Sunday, ד שבט, is the Yahrzeit of the Sridei Eish, Reb Yechiel Yaakov Weinberg who died in 1966. He was a tremendous Talmid Chacham and he was a very broad individual. Very little is known about his upbringing and who his father was. However, a pamphlet was discovered in Jerusalem that was written by a lady who wrote the following. She writes that her uncle was Reb Moshe Weinberg, father of Reb Yechiel Yaakov Weinberg. Reb Moshe Weinberg was a cantonist and the son of a cantonist (Cantonists were underage sons of conscripts in the Russian Empire who were enlisted in the army from age 9 for 25 years).

After Reb Moshe Weinberg was let out of the army, he was very ignorant in Judaism and he married a simple young orphan and they had Reb Yechiel Yaakov Weinberg. In the town they lived, there were not secular schools so they sent him to the local Cheder. Young Reb Yechiel Yaakov once came to a drashah given by Reb Elyah Baruch Kamai and Reb Yechiel Yaakov asked him question and he was so impressed with the boy that he made up to learn with the boy privately in his home. He wasn’t a Bar Mitzvah boy yet. When Reb Elyah Baruch Kamai was offered the rabbinate position in Mir, he asked Reb Yechiel Yaakovs parents if he could take the twelve year old child with him to Mir. His parents were older already and were okay with this. Reb Yechiel Yaakov Weinberg went on to learn in Mir and Slabodka and became who he became. This background of Reb Yechiel Yaakov Weinberg should serve as another reminder to us that אין התורה ירושה and כל הרוצה ליטול יבוא ויטול. There was a great Gaon known as the Minsker Gadol and his name was Reb Yerucham Yehuda Leib Perlman and he died in 1896. He was above and beyond the other Gedolim of his generation. His father was a tailor and he used to say in the name of his father that a new suit is better than an old suit repaired, referring to himself who didn’t come from any special lineage and nonetheless became who he became.

In a similar vein, the Ostrovtser Rebbe (Reb Meir Yechiel Halevi Halstock 1852-1928) who if one looks at his seforim could see what a genius, was once attending a gathering of Chassidish Rebbes. Each of them were saying over a vort from their father, the previous rebbes. But he, whose father was a baker, said over that his father used to say that fresh bread is better than stale bread.


Thursday Night Parsha Shiur