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Bo 5767

Bo (Exodus 10:1-13:16 )

by Kalman Packouz

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GOOD MORNING! About one month ago was the 10th of Tevet Fast Day, which was established to remember the start of the 3 year siege of Jerusalem by Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar in 424 BCE. My wife asked my 8 year old son, Akiva, what he would like for lunch. (Children are not required to fast.) Akiva replied, "Nothing." "But you always eat lunch. Why don't you want to eat today?" asked my wife. (She suspected that he was striving to be a tzadik and fast even though he wasn't required to fast.) After much hemming and hawing, Akiva finally said, "Because today is a fast day and though I don't have to fast, I don't want you to be teased by having to make food for me."

My wife explained that she has been preparing meals for kids for close to 30 years on fast days and was able to handle the situation ... so he requested a tuna sandwich.

Sensitivity to others! What a key to a happy life. So often people complain about what others have done to them and invariably say, "I would have never done that if I were him." If given a chance, I point out, "You would have done EXACTLY what he did if you were him. If you had his genes, his upbringing, his education and philosophy on life along with his desires and attitudes ... you would have done precisely what he did. The proof is... that's what HE did! The difference is that you are not him and you think that with all that you are, that you would have acted differently. Hopefully, if you were in his situation, you would not do what he did."

There is a saying in Pirkei Avos 2:5 ("Ethics of the Fathers" - a compilation of wisdom of the Sages which is found in the back of most Siddurim, Prayer Books; I highly recommend the Artscroll Pirkei Avos Ethics of the Fathers Treasury available at your local Jewish bookstore, at or by calling toll-free to 877-758-3242), "Hillel says, 'Don't judge your fellow human being until you have been in his place.' " It is upon us to try to put ourselves in someone else's situation before passing judgment.

(I have heard that there is an old Indian adage, "Do not judge someone until you have walked a mile in his moccasins." As one wit commented, "Because then you are a mile away ... and you have his moccasins!")

Also in Pirkei Avos 4:3, Ben Azai says, "Do not scorn any person, nor be disdainful of any thing, for there is no person who does not have his hour and no thing which does not have its place."

The Torah source for this mitzvah, commandment, is "You shall judge your fellow human being with righteousness" (Leviticus 19:15). This verse obligates us to give someone the benefit of the doubt when we see him performing an action that could be interpreted in his favor.

People are so unaware of the imperative of judging favorably that this transgression makes the Rambam's (Moshe Maimonedes) list of the 5 transgressions for which people violate and usually do not do teshuva (correct their misdeed, set a plan to avoid transgressing in the future and ask the Almighty for forgiveness). One will usually justify his suspicion by saying, "I haven't transgressed. What did I do to harm that person?" He doesn't realize that he commits a transgression by considering an innocent person a transgressor. (Hilchos Teshuva 3:4)

This does not mean that you are so trusting that you let others take advantage of you. The Torah tells us in Deuteronomy 18:13, "You shall trust wholeheartedly in the Lord, your God." The Chofetz Chaim, a major proponent of loving others, used to say, "The Torah obliges us to trust wholeheartedly in God, but not in man. A person must always be on the alert not to be cheated!" The Talmud puts it succinctly: Honor him and suspect him.

The Torah also teaches us, "Love your fellow human being as yourself ..." (Leviticus 19:18). The Baal Shem Tov used to say, "Love others as yourself. You know that you have many faults, nevertheless, you still love yourself. That is how you should feel toward your friend. Despite his faults, love him" (Likutai Abraham, p. 221).

To some this may sound like a simple thing to do. However, if we could all judge others just a little bit better, the world would be a far better place!

For more on "Sensitivity to Others" go to!

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Torah Portion of the Week

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

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 or 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 seeing 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.

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Jerusalem 4:32
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We don't see things as they are,
we see things as we are.
-- Anais Nin

In Loving Memory of
Rabbi Ralph
-- Zevulon Glixman


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