Parshas Bo

“Take a bunch of hyssop” (Shemos 12:22)

“Through the hyssop, which is the lowliest of trees, Yisrael was redeemed.” (Midrash Rabbah, Bo 14)

   The true measure of the greatness of a person is his lowliness and humility, because only a person who “sleeps in the dust” (feels his own lowliness) will rise at the resurrection of the dead and merit eternal life. As we say in Shmone Esrei, “He maintains His faith to those who sleep in the dust.” The more humble and self-effacing a person is, the more he merits to the resurrection of the dead, eternal life. According to the humility a person achieves each day, so will he merit eternal life and the enjoyment of the World to Come, as it is written, “Awake and shout for joy, you who rest in the dirt” (Yeshayahu, 26:19).

   Every time a person is denigrated, he becomes more humble. The more a person is disgraced, the more he is shamed, the happier he should be. If you know that someone is about to embarrass you in public, then you should first run and toivel in the mikveh. By being humiliated, you will receive such a great light that it is worth your while to prepare vessels for this great light by toiveling in the mikveh. By being shamed a person receives such a light—he could never receive such light through the fulfillment of any of the mitzvos. The humiliation turns the person into “ayin”—nothing, and he merits to such a G-dly light, to such a great light, the light of Ain Sof, the light that is higher than all the worlds and surrounds all the worlds. The more humble a person is, so will he receive more G-dly light, more light of Ain Sof.

   King David said in Tehillim, “Purge me of sin with hyssop and I shall be pure, cleanse me and I shall be whiter than snow” (51:9). Purge me with hyssop! I want to be hyssop. I want to be degraded—that everyone should step on me. Everyone should laugh at me and humiliate me. This is the only true form of teshuva. I need to believe that I am worse than anyone else. I did more sins—more than anyone else. I destroyed more than anyone. My only request is, “Purge me of sin with hyssop and I shall be pure, cleanse me and I shall be whiter than snow.” I want to be like hyssop, “like hyssop on the wall,” (insignificant), like hyssop which everyone walks all over and denigrates. I want that my whole life I will be this way.

   There are two levels of teshuva. There is the level on which a person is degraded and he doesn’t answer back, which is called “not returning insult with insult, hearing their shame and not responding.” He is insulted and keeps silent—he doesn’t respond. “And Aharon was silent.” But there is the level of “acting from a place of love, and rejoicing with one’s sorrows” which is a higher level. This is when a person is insulted and degraded and he remains happy the whole time, singing and dancing. Every single humiliation is like putting healing ointment on a wound. Every time someone demeans such a person, he feels as if he is having ointment smeared onto his wounds—a person’s whole body is like a giant sore, bruised from head to toe. Every time a person is degraded, it is healing his illnesses, like purifying waters, “Then I will sprinkle pure water upon you, that you may become cleansed” (Ezekiel 36:25).

   Humility and lowliness is something which has no limit. When a person is humiliated, he becomes infinite, unlimited, like “ayin,” nothingness. Now that he is limitless, he can feel the G-dly light. People say about such a person, “This guy is a nobody. He’s not worth anything. He’s a liar, a hypocrite.” The more they talk about him, the more “ayin,” (nothing) he becomes. And then he is granted all the success in the world, he receives such an abundance. One humiliation brings in its wake a million successes. After being degraded, the success and abundance is endless—the person can then provide for the entire country. He merits unlimited abundance. “And Yosef was the provider to all the people of the land” (Bereishis 42:6). Yosef became the provider for the whole land, because after they sold him and denigrated him, he became “ayin,” nothing, and all the abundance came through him. So, the more a person is degraded, the more abundance and success he will have.

   Sometimes when a person is humiliated, he says to himself, “I am being humiliated because I am a tzaddik, because I am serving Hashem!” This is pride. A person shouldn’t become haughty because he is being degraded. Rather, he should say to himself, “They are denigrating me because I deserve it, because I am not a tzaddik or a chassid. I don’t learn Torah the way I am supposed to, and I don’t keep my eyes. I am truly a rasha!” A person must admit to the truth. If someone tells you, “You’re a rasha!” you need to think, “Baruch Hashem that he is telling me the truth.” A person must admit the truth. When someone comes and reminds me who I really am, I should kiss him—I should kiss his feet since he is telling me the truth. There is a saying, “Hate the ones who love you, and love the ones that hate you.” Whoever hates you, you have to love. A person needs that people will talk about him and denigrate him as much as possible, but people that love me—they are of no value to me. “The ones who love you, you need to hate.” Whoever loves you only flatters you and confuses you. He gives you the illusion that you’re a tzaddik, that you’re alright. “Hate those who love you!” But “love those that hate you.” They’re the ones that reprimand you and embarrass you—you must love them! They’re the ones you should put on your shoulders. So what will happen if someone tells you the truth? What did you get from your friends who only honor and flatter you?

   The Rebbe brings in Likutei Moharan in Torah 260, that through mesirus nefesh a person makes yechudim (unifications). But at a time when there are no tzaddikim making yechudim, when there is no one who gets up at Chatzos and cries out in the middle of the night, and there is no one who really is serving Hashem with mesirus nefesh, then the only way for the yechudim to get done is for people to get killed. But there is one other way to accomplish the yechudim, and that is by accepting humiliation with love. A person who accepts humiliation with love saves his generation from bloodshed. Every time a person remains happy when he is disgraced, he can be sure that he is saving a Jew from being killed. And the more famous a person is, the more important he is, the more he is able to save people from being killed when he is humiliated and talked about and accepts it all with love. And there is one tzaddik who does this intentionally, and looks for all kinds of ways to get people to talk about him, how to get them to humiliate him. And the Rebbe says, “He does this with will and forethought.” This is how he makes the greatest and most awesome yechudim. This is called “dying al kiddush Hashem (for the sanctification of His Name).” He sacrifices his name, because the name is the soul. And everyone is speaking against him, the most terrible things, and this is how he saves the nation of Israel from being murdered, because by having his own blood spilt [through being humiliated] at every moment and every second and by accepting it all with happiness and love, he is saving the generation from terrible decrees, from calamities that are supposed to happen to them, chas v’shalom. So anyone who sees that he is being humiliated should simply accept it with love because who knows how many evil decrees he is saving Israel from.

   Rabbeinu said in Siach Sarfei Kodesh (2:65), “People who oppose me, I cannot hate them.” I cannot hate anyone who is against me, anyone who hates me—how can I hate such a person. They are doing me a favor—such wonderful favors they are doing for me. I can literally see the good they are doing for me, because when someone opposes me and speaks against me, I receive such lights that I just want to hug him and kiss him.

   The moment a person accepts upon himself humiliation, at the same moment he gets a million dollars. It is told of Reb Zushia and Rebbe Elimelech from Lishensk that they arrived at an inn, and at night went to bed. There were a bunch of drunkards that were kicking one another, until they spotted Reb Zushia. He was lying on the outside bed, with Reb Elimelech next to him, against the wall, and they grabbed and started hitting and kicking Reb Zushia until they almost broke all his bones. And then the No’am Elimelech said to Reb Zushia, “My brother, you are taking all the blows. I also want to get hit and humiliated. I also want Olam HaBa. What? Am I not also a human being? Shouldn’t I get a little bit? I also want a few merits—let me have a turn! Do you want everything for yourself?” For an entire hour he tried to persuade him, and begged him to switch places with him. In the end, he convinced him. The No’am Elimelech took the spot toward the inside of the room, so that they should take him and hit him, and Reb Zushia took the bed next to the wall, and after they changed places, the drunken goyim said, “Enough with that one. Let’s take care of the other one, who we haven't touched yet!” And they grabbed and started hitting Reb Zushia all over again. Reb Zushia said to Rebbe Elimelech, “You see, I'm the one who really deserves it.” A person cannot touch what has been prepared for his friend, not even the slightest amount.

   One affront can atone for a thousand reincarnations of a person’s sins. With one affront a person receives atonement for an infinite number of sins. One humiliating experience can achieve for a person what a thousand good deeds cannot. Every humiliation is worth thousands of fasts, thousands of mortifications. It is instead of going into the fire, into the ovens. A person doesn’t know what tikkunim he is doing. “No eye has seen it, G-d, apart from You.”



   Please, merciful and compassionate One, You can do everything. May I merit accepting all the embarrassment in the world with the utmost happiness. May I know that all forms of humiliation are a way of connecting to the honor of Hashem Yisborach, as it is written, “In His palace, everyone speaks of His honor.” And I should merit to fulfill the words of Chazal (Shabbat 88), “They are insulted and they do not return the offense. They hear their disgrace and they do not respond. They do this with love and rejoice with their suffering.” About them it is written, “Let those who love Him be like the powerfully rising sun” (Shoftim 5:31). May I merit, from now on, never to get angry, even at someone who makes me suffer terribly or insults me. I should only love him with a whole heart, because he is also a G-dly soul carved out from the Heavenly Throne.



Biur Pnei HaMelech

The Chalal HaPanui – The Vacated Space

   A person can be in all kinds of states. He can be in a state of terrible suffering, chas v’shalom, or simply in a state in which things are not going well, whether in regards to his income, child raising, or shalom beis. Or, a person can just be unhappy with himself: he doesn’t pray well, he’s not happy, etc. All of this is because he doesn’t feel that Hashem is right there next to him. He is in the challal hapanui. He is in a state of ayin (nothingness), as opposed to yesh (somethingness). Though it’s true that Hashem is found everywhere, a person doesn’t always feel the G-dliness—each person according to his level. There are times that he feels it more and times that he it feels less. Sometimes it looks like a person is in a state of “yesh,” from the outside—he’s really happy. He marries of a child, makes a bar mitzvah, or wins some large prize. He has some kind of major success. Suddenly, he has shalom beis, or his child gets into an excellent yeshiva that he never thought he would get into. All of a sudden, he has such success and miracles, and is the happiest person in the world. But he is in the challal hapanui. He doesn’t see Hashem. He sees only himself and his own happiness and success. The challal hapanui is the aspect of concealment. It is when I don’t see any good point in myself or in others. 

   To see the good point is to see paradise, to see orchards filled with fruit, full of good points. But there are times when a person doesn’t see any good points. He sees only empty fields. Suddenly, he sees only black. He sees that he has no good points. He doesn’t know what to do. Everything is lost. The G-dly light is gone, and he can’t see anything. Before, you used to say Tehillim, you sang, you danced, you prayed word by word in deveikus, you did acts of kindness. All of a sudden, you don’t feel Hashem. You eat, drink, chat, but at the same time you are in the challal hapanui. This is your test. You have to deal with it. Don’t get confused; rather try to draw as much light as is possible into the challal hapanui. Try to reveal this small point that remains safeguarded for you, this point of connection to Hashem.

   This is Hashem’s mercy: that He wants to give us this pleasure of struggling to reveal the G-dliness within the challal hapanui, that he gives us the satisfaction of working to see the G-dly light. We can’t see this light when Hashem is in the aspect of Ain Sof (Infinite One). We can see it only when we don’t see Hashem—this is where we do the work. Within the vacated space, within the darkness and uncertainty, within the great hiddenness, there is something. There is a drop of light. We need to go with faith and with melody, and sometimes with silence, until we are able to see something. You have a problem with someone? Shut up. Don’t answer. Everyone should think that you are a golem, that you don’t understand anything at all—until the wave passes by. You won’t have to remain like this all the time. Better times will come. Keep your mouth shut until you feel Hashem, until you hear the melody, the melody of faith, the melody of the tzaddik.

   Our talking won’t accomplish anything—only the melody will. This is what made the biggest heretics return in teshuva. They heard all kinds of explanations, but were not convinced. But when they heard the Jew next door praying shacharis with such a sweet melody, it gave them so much delight that they realized that this is what they were looking for. This is Hashem’s mercy: that we should stand up to the test of the challal hapanui, of not seeing Hashem at all, of not feeling Hashem at all with no answers to the questions that are awakened. But really there is an answer. The answer is silence. Silence is an awesome thing. When Moshe Rabbeinu went up on high and saw that which he saw, he asked HaKadosh Baruch Hu, “Why don’t you give the Torah through Rebbe Akiva, who is more fitting than I am?” What did Hashem answer him? “Silence! This is how it arose in My thought to do.” When Moshe asked to see the reward of Rebbe Akiva, Hashem showed him how they combed his flesh off with iron combs. “This is the Torah and this is its reward?” Moshe asked. “Silence! This is how it arose in My thought to do.” This was his answer. Silence. It seems like this answer is saying, “Don’t ask questions. Keep quiet.” But no! Silence here means: here is the point of silence. Here speech is not relevant: upper silence, silence which is essentially sweet silence, awesome. You don’t need to speak. You somehow feel things. You believe. And this will bring about such a melody. “Then, Moshe sang.” “Come and sing from the peak of Amana ” (Song of Songs 4:8). A melody of faith. A melody of the light of Ain Sof.


Parparos L’Torah

“They shall take each man a lamb for [his] family, a lamb for each household.” (12:3)

"אשל" = איש שה לבית אבות שה לבית

   The rashei taivos of the word “eshel”(tamarisk tree) is found twice, in order to recall the merit of Avraham. One is for the physical aspects: eating, drinking and sleeping - אכילה שתיה לינה. The second is for the spiritual aspect: taking people under the wings of the Shechina. The Passover sacrifice can be either a goat or a lamb. This recalls the merit of Yitzhak who is hinted to by a goat’s skin, and the merit of Yaakov as in “Yaakov separated the sheep.” Avraham is recalled only with a hint since it was through his ‘going down to Egypt ’ that the exile of Egypt was decreed (Ramban, parshas Lech Lecha).


Parparos L’Torah 2

“So that you should relate in the ears of your son and grandson…” (10:2)

   Chachmei Yisrael say that there are two places in the Torah that the word “v’lemaan” (so that) is found. One is at the beginning of parshas Bo: “So that you should relate in the ears of your son and grandson…” The second one is in parshas Eikev: “So that you will live long on the land” (Devarim 11:9). This is to tell us that anyone who puts much effort into the education of his children and grandchildren will merit to a long life on the land that Hashem promised His nation.

   Rebbe Yehoshua from Ostrova, the author of Toldos Adam, connects the beginning of the pasuk, “So that you should relate in the ears of your son and grandson,” to the end, “You will then know that I am Hashem.” We can derive mussar from this about the importance that must be placed on the children’s education. If we place in our children’s and our grandchildren’s hearts the recognition of Hashem’s greatness in the world, then we ourselves will also rise to the highest level of knowing Hashem, and thus to the fulfillment of the pasuk, “You will then know that I am Hashem.”


Story on the Parsha

“This is how you must eat it, with your waist belted…” (12:11)

   On one the Chida’s (Rebbe Chaim David Azulai) trips to Italy, a Jewish merchant who was carrying a large shipment of non-kosher cheese was sailing on the ship with him. During the voyage, the merchant tried to persuade the Chida to give him a hechsher for his non-kosher cheese so that he could sell it also to the Jewish communities on arrival. However the Chida knew that the cheese was not kosher, so he firmly refused the tempting proposals of the merchant. Seeing that persuasion wasn’t working, he decided to coerce the Chida into giving the hechsher by force. He hired a few of the ship’s sailors, and they attacked the Chida in the middle of the night and threatened to throw him into the sea if he didn’t meet the merchant’s request. With no other choice, he was forced to write a hechsher for the evil merchant. He wrote: This person’s cheese is kosher l’mehadrin; humble people can eat it and be satisfied, etc. And at the end he added, “This is how you must eat it, with your waist belted” ספר שמו״ת (from the book of Shemos), Written In the Year 5513. When the merchant arrived in Italy, he advertised that he had cheese from the Holy Land which was kosher l’mehadrin with the hashgacha of the famous Gaon, the Chida. As was customary amongst Jews, the merchant was invited to present his hashgacha to the local Rav. The Rav carefully read the wording of the hechsher, and when he reached the concluding sentence, he stopped, astonished at why the Chida would add the words “from the book of Shemos” after writing the pasuk “This is how you must eat it, with your waist belted.” Everyone knew that this pasuk was found [not in parshas Shemos, rather] in the parsha of “this month should be to you” [parshas Bo]! The Rav thought about it for a while, until it suddenly became clear to him. The Chida’s intention of the word Shemos was not to the name of the parsha, rather to the rashei taivos "שנים מקרא ואחד תרגום" (the weekly reading of the Torah portion twice and the translation into Aramaic by Unkolos once). The Rav then looked at the Targum Unkolos on the pasuk and “your waist belted” which can also be translated as “the cracks of cheese are forbidden.” The Rav immediately ordered the merchant to be imprisoned in the community jail, and during the investigation the merchant admitted that he obtained the hechsher from the Chida with force and violence. The Rav rose from his place excitedly and blessed the Chida, “Blessed is the One who gave wisdom to those who fear Him.”


Story on the Parsha 2

How to behave with evildoers

   Once there was a Jew who came to the Admor, Sar Shalom of Belz and complained: For many years I leased an inn from a Polish nobleman, and a little while ago a Jew convinced the nobleman to lease him the inn, and I have been left without an income. The Rebbe immediately called this Jew and asked him, “Why did you do this? You infringed on someone else’s livelihood.” The Jew answered him, “In fact what I did was a great mitzvah, because the previous tenant was an evil Jew who wanted to open the inn on Shabbos!” “And isn’t it a mitzvah to do harm to evildoers?” the Rebbe asked. “You will see that the Torah teaches us just the opposite. In parshas Bo, when our forefathers were in Egypt and were sunk in the 49 gates of tumah and the time of their redemption came, HaKadosh Baruch Hu didn’t let them fall to the 50th gate. When HaKadosh Baruch Hu saw that Israel did not have a single mitzvah that would give them the merit being redeemed, he gave them two mitzvos: Pesach and milah. But surely, in fact, they actually did already have one mitzvah: the mitzvah of burying the dead. Many evil Jews had died during the three days of darkness, and the Jews would bury them so that the Egyptians wouldn’t see their dead and rejoice at their misfortune. And this is a very great and important mitzvah in Hashem's eyes, since it is called in the Torah a true mitzvah of kindness. If so, why wasn’t this mitzvah enough? Rather, the Jews should have spoken to the Jewish evildoers that they should abandon their evil ways and return in teshuva, and then HaKadosh Baruch Hu wouldn’t have killed them. So the great mitzvah of burying the dead actually counted for nothing. So it is with you,” continued the Rebbe. “You didn’t have to take someone else’s source of income. You should have spoken with him heart to heart, that he make teshuva and not open the inn on Shabbos.”



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