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Pesach 5782 - The Legacy of our Life              13 Nissan 5782

04/13/2022 12:54:47 PM


There’s an old joke about a young Jewish boy going off to college who asked his father if he does well would his father buy him a car at the end of the year? The father thought about it  yes, on one condition. The son asked, sure dad, what is it? The father said, “Yes, if you promise to put on your tefillin and daven every day,  you will have that brand-new car!” The boy said, ”Great!” As he was getting ready to leave, his father reminded him, ”Son, don’t forget your tefillin.” The son immediately picked up his bag and replied, ”Of course, Dad. Got them right here with me.” One year later, returning home from college,  the son and said to his father, ”Well Dad, I’m ready for that new car you promised me.” The father said, ”Son, did you fulfill your end of the deal? Did you put on your tefillin every day?” The son replied, ”Sure did, Dad”. “Every day?” the father inquired. “Yes Dad, I put on the tefillin every day.”  The father then responded, “Oh really!? I left the keys to the brand-new car in the tefillin bag!”

It is a cute but very sad joke, one which is, unfortunately, a very telling sign of the times. A few months ago Rabbi Yoel Gold was our first scholar-in-residence following a two-year delay due to Covid.  His primary lecture on Shabbos focused on the legacy that we need to create for our children and future generations. Just as our grandparents sacrificed and created all we have today, so, too, must we provide for our progeny. An important component of the future is to tell over our story to our children and grandchildren. Rabbi Gold is all about incredible stories that take on a life of their own, vividly describing how one incident leads to another, crossing  over to another part of the world, each event, each story interconnecting with each other. He stressed that there is a story to be told regarding every situation in life, and that each and every story needs to be told. More than that, there are objects that are found, bought, sold, stolen, each of which carries amazing stories, some still unfolding, some yet to be told.  

About a week after the Shabbaton with Rabbi Gold, I received a text from a congregant who was at a swap meet and told me he saw an old pair of tefillin for sale. I asked him how much they wanted for them. He said they were asking fifty dollars, but he believed he could get them for twenty-five. I told him to try to get them for less, but  not to leave without buying those tefillin, even if they cost more than fifty dollars. He picked them up, bought them for me, and when he dropped them off, I paid him the full amount. We saved a pair of tefillin from possibly being disgraced and desecrated. Holding this pair of tefillin  took me back to Rabbi Gold’s lecture. I wondered what  story lay hidden behind these tefillin. I was deeply moved with the reality that there is surely a story, perhaps a powerful, moving story, behind these tefillin, but we are not likely to ever learn about it.

The significance that tefillin play as an important role in the Galus and Geula - the exile and redemption of the Jewish people from Mitzrayim - is understated. Although the Torah reading for the first day of Pesach is the last thirty verses from Shmos, chapter twelve, it stops short of Shmos 13 that mentions tefillin not once but twice! In Shmos 13 the Torah states: "והגדת לבנך ביום ההוא לאמר, בעבור זה עשה ה' לי בצאתי ממצרים"  “On that day, you must tell your child, ‘It is because of this that God acted for me when I left Egypt’.  What is the this the Torah referring to? The very next passuk, 13:9 states: "והיה לך לאות על ידך ולזכרון בין עניך למען תהיה תורת ה' בפיך כי ביד חזקה הוצאך ה' ממצרים"  “These words must also be a sign on your arm and a reminder in the center of your head. God’s Torah will then be on your tongue. It was with a show of strength that God brought you out of Egypt”. Then a similar verse about tefillin is repeated in Shmos 13:16: Reb Chaim Moshe Gestinski (Niftar November 1, 1952/13 Cheshvan 5713) in his sefer Nachalas Chamisha (printed 1949) explains: Yetzias Mitzrayim, going out of Egypt will be the sign to you. When the verse says על ידיך “Al Yadecha” on your hand, meaning your left. Therefore, the word ידכה  “yadcha” at the end of the section expounds, saying it means your weaker arm. Rashi and others comment that is the hint that the Mitzva is to wrap the tefillin on one’s weaker hand to show that it is not in the hands of man to do anything. Rather, the hands and arms are given the strength to perform, to do great things.  The exodus from Egypt was the sign - everyone had a certain feeling through the wonders and signs - that it was Hashem’s hand that did all of this and the power of man is really nothing without Hashem.

Although man cannot do anything without God, Hashem nevertheless gives us the ability to create something from nothing. Hashem gives us intellect and strength as the keys to accomplish. When we left Mitzrayim, we did not have anything and yet with the help of Hashem we created and built a people. The juxtaposition of tefillin to the exodus is that following the exodus we have the mitzva of tefillin, a mitzva which combines two parts of the body, the head and the arm - the head representing thinking with our intellect, the arm representing carrying out the ideas of the mind.   Pesach is a time when, on one hand, we recognize and understand that our abilities and strength come from Hashem, and at the same time the tefillin represent the thinking and action of what
Hashem has given us. Tefillin represent the story and legacy that we have the opportunity to create. It is the story of our future, a future to share with our children and grandchildren. Let us use this Pesach to tell our story that our “Tefillin” have offered us in our lifetime. With God’s help and our effort, our tefillin will not be the story left at the table of a swap meet. Rather our tefillin will have a story that speaks out from one generation to the next.

Wishing you all……

Ah Gutten Shabbos & Ah Koshern Pesach

Rabbi Avraham Bogopulsky

Sat, November 26 2022 2 Kislev 5783