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Parshas Vayakhel/Pekudei/HaChodesh - The Blood is our Spiritual Lifeline       24 Adar 5783

03/23/2023 12:28:23 PM


This week’s Dvar Torah is sponsored by Shalom and Malke Brookler and family for a continued Refuah Shelaima for Eitan Yakov ben Miriam Esther 

“All my stories are true; just some have not happened yet.” This is a famous opening line of my Rosh HaYeshiva, Rabbi Wein. Rabbi Wein would often tell stories of his trips, meetings, adventures, vacations, and everyday life. A person’s life experiences create a story, providing the opportunity to process, speak about and ultimately write about, particularly through occurrences during  travel. Although I do not and most probably never will travel as much as Rabbi Wein, I nevertheless believe I do my fair share of traveling.   

Most of my trips and layovers are short, so I tend not to take advantage of or even need access to a lounge. On my most recent trip to Israel, I had a longer than usual layover, and thanks to my son had access to a lounge in San Francisco. The lounge has better sitting, more charging stations, worktables, and an array of food and drinks. I only partake of the soft drinks and fruit. As I was relaxing and minding my own business, an Israeli man sat down with some salad and other non-kosher food. As a Rabbi I was so tempted to engage with him about food and blessings, etc. The salad was not bug free but nevertheless  kosher, warranting a bracha. I guess I am getting old because I kept my mouth shut, watching as he ate non-kosher food and salad without a bracha. I didn’t even offer him my kippah to don while eating. We began to exchange some small talk. I asked him where he was from, what type of work he was in and discussed the political situations both here in America and in Israel. He lives in the Kattamon neighborhood of Yerushalayim but said he was born in Iran. He proceeded to tell me he had arrived in Israel about ten years ago. I became very interested in his journey from Iran to Israel; when he told me he was from Iran, he added that he was born a Muslim. My attention now turned from being interested to being fascinated. He related how all members of his family were devout Muslims and adhered to Sharia law. According to Sharia law, alcohol is forbidden. At the age of sixteen, he was traveling in a car with family to a cousin’s wedding. Apparently, one of the passengers had brought along a bottle of alcohol and was discovered by the Sharia police at a check point. They were all arrested, beaten, and endured horrific tortures that I cannot repeat here in writing. He thought to himself that this religion was not so loving after all and questioned his own religious beliefs,  eventually ceasing  believing altogether. Through some introspection and learning, he felt the truth of the world and decided, at great risk to himself and his family, to convert. At this point I grew  mesmerized by his tale, anticipating with a glow and tingle  how he came to make this monumental, life-altering decision. As I sit here writing, sort of grinning now, he told me found the truth… and converted to Christianity! I could not believe what I was listening to - a Muslim, converting to Christianity,  now living in Jerusalem! He then continued telling me how he had found the “light”, continuing on and on about how wonderful this was…and then the hammer dropped as he began to talk to me about Yeshua, JC, attempting to proselytize me. I was polite and listened for a few more minutes, exchanged names and then I excused myself, saying I needed to check in for the flight.  The only silver lining to the story was that I was glad - in hindsight - not to have attempted to teach or convince him to eat only kosher food and make brachos before eating.

I have often pondered why other religions see a need to convert Jews. Jews accept sincere people who seek out conversion, but we do not go out and proselytize. This was not the first time I found myself to be a target; perhaps getting a rabbi to convert fetches a bigger prize. Yet, I processed that  it is the upcoming holiday of Pesach that clearly defines us as devoted to Hashem, confirming our identity and faithfulness in Him. This coming Shabbos we read the final special section that is read before Purim and again before Rosh Chodesh Nissan. Parshas HaChodesh describes the preparation, offering, and eating of the Korban Pesach, the Paschal lamb. The Torah commands the Jews how to avoid being killed during the final plague. In Parshas Bo, Shmos 12:13, the Torah states "והיה הדם לכם לאת על הבתים אשר אתם שם וראיתי את הדם ופסחתי עלכם, ולא יהיה בכם נגף למשחית בהכתי בארץ מצרים"  “The blood will be a sign for you on the houses where you are staying. I will see the blood and pass you by (pasach). There will not be any deadly plague among you when I strike Egypt.” A famous question is asked: ”Why did Hashem require us to place the blood of the lamb on the doorpost?” Rabbi Azarya Piccio [Figo], in his commentary Binah L’Itim, Lublin 1875, explains that the biggest obstacle we had when leaving Mitzrayim was the accusation that the Jews worshipped idolatry, just like the Egyptians. Therefore, the first instruction God gave to Moshe and Aharon was to tell the Jews that on the tenth of the month “they shall take one lamb per household”. The language used was,משכו , to drag the lamb through the streets, openly disgracing the symbolic god of the Egyptians, demonstrating no fear  of the Egyptians who were watching this open act of defiance. The Jews were commanded to display defiance, to exhibit no fear of retribution. But that was only the beginning. The second and greater display of Emunah in Hashem was the slaughtering of the lamb. Hundreds of Jewish families were out in the open markets and streets shechting their lambs on the fourteenth of Nissan. Again, the Egyptians stood, dumbfounded and unable to do anything against the Jews. The third remarkable sign of resilience the Jews displayed took place when they ate the lamb, placing  its blood on their doorposts and lintels for the Egyptians to see, watching, helpless to react as they passed by the Jewish homes. The Egyptians asked, ”What is this blood!”, soon understanding that the  Jews were eating the meat of their god. One would think the Egyptians would be so aroused with righteous fury that they would take up weapons and storm the Jewish homes with the intent of killing the Jews. Nevertheless, this never entered the minds of the Jews who showed complete confidence in Hashem against idolatry. The blood was be a sign not necessarily to Hashem to know which house to pass over. It was, rather, a sign to the Jewish people themselves to be with Hashem. As a result of this dedication, Hashem promised that no Jew will be harmed throughout this night, despite the accurate accusation of the Jews who chose to worship the idol of the lamb, emulating their Egyptian counterparts. Behold, Moshe instructed the Jews not to go out of their houses until morning. This was to strengthen their dedication as they might have been overcome with fear of the enemy attacking them. The sign of the blood reinforced their Emunah as though it were an invitation for the Egyptians to storm in and attack; but the Jews were steadfast and remained defiant and secure in their homes.

So too, today, as the forces of idolatry and other religions surround us, we need to remain strong Jews, knowing in perpetuity that Hashem is there to protect us. We need to be careful never to give in even when we fear we are in trouble. Being in trouble and not running displays our complete, eternal love and security in Hashem, leading ultimately to the Geulah/redemption. This Shabbos as we read about the blood, it should give us strength to defy everything in the world that is anti-Torah, anti-religion, and anti-Hashem. Through this dedication we, too, in our generation will bring forth not only a Geula, but the Geulah Shelaima, ridding us of fear, strengthening our holiness and oneness with Hashem. Amen!   

Mon, March 4 2024 24 Adar I 5784