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Bo 5778

Bo (Exodus 10:1-13:16 )

by Kalman Packouz

GOOD MORNING!  Recently I was asked "How do I become wise?"

Immediately, I thought of two things. First, the old adage: Don't say anything and be thought a fool rather than open your mouth and remove all doubt!" So, I did the wise thing. I kept my mouth shut.

My second thought was more productive. Our Sages already answered the question over 2,000 years ago! In the sixth teaching of the sixth chapter of Pirke Avos, Ethics of Our Fathers -- concise wisdom about life from the Sages -- it instructs us that Torah (Wisdom) is acquired through 48 ways and then enumerates them.

Rabbi Noah Weinberg, of blessed memory, the founder and leader of Aish HaTorah, would often engage a new student with the question: Would you rather be wise, rich or happy? Many people would immediately respond, "Happy" as our society so often reinforces the idea "as long as he/she's happy." However, those who would take a few moments to think would invariably respond, "Wise!"

Why? If one is wise he can figure out what are true riches and happiness and how to get them!

This is why Rabbi Weinberg's flagship class to attract students to study at Aish HaTorah in the Old City of Jerusalem was the 48 Ways to Wisdom. If you can demonstrate to someone that our heritage can teach wisdom, spiritual riches and happiness, who wouldn't want to stay and learn?

The 48 Ways to Wisdom book by Rabbis Nechemia Coopersmith and Shraga Simmons is readily available. It is available via audio at or in articles on

The question "How do I become wise?" is one of the most important questions in life. Below are some thoughts that deep down we all know, though we may ignore them or not focus on them:

1) Think. Before you act or before you respond to a question -- think. Turn over the question in your head and look at it from different angles. Consider ways to present an answer or to act. Consider the consequences.

2) Clarify. Ask questions. Define terms. How many times have you gotten into a discussion only to come to a point after a great length of time and said, "Oh, if that's what you meant, of course I agree!"

3) Listen. Don't speak until the other person has completely finished. Be sure the person has finished and isn't just pausing to collect his/her thoughts. Often times a person just needs someone to listen. If you interrupt, without the whole story and all the information, you may have missed the point. Your may end up answering the wrong question!

4) Study Torah. Particularly study Pirke Avos, Ethics of the Fathers. Also, Mishley, Proverbs -- insights into life from King Solomon. Study the 48 Ways to Wisdom -- and apply them! If you prefer audio, there are thousands of brilliant insights into life on,,,, and among others. For articles:, ...

5) Learn from your mistakes. Better, learn from the mistakes of others. Rabbi Weinberg used to say, "A wise man learns from the mistakes of others, a fool learns from his own mistakes." Life is too short for us to make all the mistakes ourselves! I once asked Rabbi Weinberg, "And what about the person who doesn't learn from his own mistakes?" He replied, "He's not living!" Life is about growth, perfecting our character and our souls.

6) Associate with wise people. Pirke Avos 1:6 teaches, "Make for yourself (choose) a Rav (rabbi/teacher), acquire for yourself a friend." We are influenced by those with whom we associate.

To share with you the impact the 48 Ways can have on one's life and family -- I was once sitting with Rabbi Weinberg when he received a letter from a stranger, a non-Jew. The man wrote that he was given an audio set of the 48 Ways and found them so compelling, that he transcribed them into a 10,000 word-document which he printed for each of his children and grandchildren. To express his tremendous sense of gratitude for the benefit his family received, he wrote, "I am enclosing a check for $10,000 in appreciation."


Torah Portion of the week

Bo, Exodus 10:1 -13:16

This week we conclude the ten plagues with the plagues of locusts, darkness and the death of the first-born. The laws of Passover are presented, followed by the commandment to wear tefillin, consecrate the first-born animal and redeem one's first born son. The Torah tells us that at some time in the future your son will ask you about these commandments and you will answer: "With a show of power, God brought us out of Egypt, the place of slavery. When Pharaoh stubbornly refused to let us leave, God killed all the first-born in Egypt, man and beast alike. I, therefore, offer to God all male first-born (animals) and redeem all the first-born of sons. And it shall be a sign upon your arm, and an ornament between your eyes (Tefillin), for with a strong hand the Almighty removed us from Egypt." (Ex. 13:15)

* * *

Dvar Torah
based on Growth Through Torah by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin

After the Almighty instructed regarding Pesach, the Torah reports to us:

"And the Children of Israel went and did as the Almighty commanded Moshe and Aharon, so they did" (Exodus 12:28).

Why the seemingly superfluous "so they did" at the end of the verse?

Rashi was bothered by this question, too. He comments that "so they did" refers to Moshe and Aharon. They also did as the Almighty commanded about the Paschal lamb. The Torah tells us this as a lesson to anyone who wants to have a positive influence on others. It is not enough just to tell others to do good deeds. Your own behavior should serve as a model for them to follow.

Action is much more difficult than words. The way to influence others is to be the type of person you wish others to be.

If you want your children to act with wisdom in their lives, you must give them your example!

* * *

Dvar Torah
based on Growth Through Torah by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin

The Torah states:

"And Moshe said, 'This is what the Almighty said, "Around midnight I will go out in the midst of Egypt and all the firstborn in the land of Egypt will die" ' " (Exodus 11:4).

Rashi cites the Sages of the Talmud that the Almighty actually told Moshe that exactly at midnight He would cause the plague of the death of the firstborn. Why did Moshe then change His words to "around midnight" when he repeated the Almighty's words to the Egyptians?

Rashi brings the answer of the Sages that "Perhaps Pharaoh's astrologers will err in their calculation of the precise midpoint of the night and say that 'Moses is a liar' " (Talmud Bavli, Berachot 4a).

Amazing! Nine plagues have already hit the Egyptians. Moshe has warned them and been correct each time. Now the firstborn of each family throughout Egypt dies. What difference does it make whether it is a few minutes before or after midnight?

The answer: This illustrates the power of a person to find fault. From what might have been a minor discrepancy -- and perhaps a discrepancy due to their own calculations -- they would seek to call Moshe a liar and discredit him totally. When a person wants to find fault, he will find something.

Our lesson: 1) Be aware of when we fall into the trap of finding fault when we should be focusing on the positive in others and on the bigger picture. 2) Be aware when others are fault-finders ... and tread gently because these personalities are easily irritated and difficult to deal with.


Candle Lighting Times

January 19
(or go to

Jerusalem 4:26
Guatemala 5:37 - Hong Kong 5:45 - Honolulu 5:55
J'Burg 6:47 - London 4:09 - Los Angeles 4:53
Melbourne 8:24 - Mexico City 6:04 - Miami - 5:37
New York 4:40 - Singapore 6:59 - Toronto 4:53

Quote of the Week

The beginning of wisdom is
to desire it
--  Solomon ibn Gevirol



In Loving Memory of

Jules Abels and
Milton Lippman

Michael & Jackeline Abels

With Deep Appreciation to

Dr. & Mrs.
Lawrence J. Kanter



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