Bring In The Seder Early

The Talmud at Tractate Pesachim 108b-109a relates that

we distribute to them [children] parched ears of corn and nuts on the eve of Passover, so that they should not fall asleep, and ask [the ‘questions’]. It was related of R. Akiba that he used to distribute parched ears and nuts to children on the eve of Passover, so that they might not fall asleep but ask [the ‘questions’]. It was taught, R. Eliezer said: The mazzoth are eaten hastily on the night of Passover, on account of the children, so that they should not fall asleep. It was taught: it was related of R. Akiba [that] never did he say in the Beth Hamidrash, ‘It is time to rise [cease study]’, except on the eve of Passover and the eve of the Day of Atonement. On the eve of Passover, because of the children, so that they might not fall asleep.

The shi’ur of Rav Arele Harel last night noted this instruction, emphasizing that the commandment to “relate to your son” (Exodus 13:8) is an integral element of the Seder night.  If you cannot keep your children up, there’s a failure and not everyone can get his children to take a nap.

The main reason why the Seder is relatively late is that the evening service usually begins at nightfall, there is a long davening including, here in Eretz-Yisrael, the Hallel, and add on to that getting home and the last-minute preparations and we end up with the beginning of the seder, this year for example, at close to 9 PM.

Can anything be done? Rav Arele says something should be done.

Just like during the summer months, so, too, should the davening for the Chag be started earlier.  The main objection would be the instruction to say the Hallel as it belongs to the Chag.  Rav Arele, after consulting with Rav Yaakov Ariel of Ramat Gan and Rav Elchanan Bin-Nun of Shiloh, asserts that since the Hallel is also said during the Seder service, the problem of thinking that the Hallel must be said after nightfall is solved.  There is one Hallel for the prayer service (and that service can start before nightfall) and another for the Chag itself which is at the table.

And so, this evening at Shiloh, there will be a minyan (two, actually. one up the hill, the other in the middle) which will begin at 6 PM (mincha will be recited at 1:30, as we all do here). Then they will go home after finishing just after 7 PM and at 7:25 or so, the Seder begins and right after Kiddush, the Shema is repeated as that prayer need be recited after nightfall.

And the children should be able to enjoy the evening without falling asleep too early.


From Rav Arele:

בהמשך לשאלת רבים בעקבות דבריי אמש בבית הכנסת נעם יונתן, הרי כמה הבהרות:

א. ניתן להתפלל ערבית מוקדמת בערב פסח, בתנאי שהקידוש יעשה לאחר צאת הכוכבים (היינו 19:25);
ב. אמנם הדבר מעורר שאלה הלכתית לגבי אמירת ההלל בתפילה לפני צאה”כ (וחשש לזה הגר”מ שטרנבוך במועו”ז), אך למעשה הדעה הפשוטה היא שאין בזה חשש כלל, וכך פסקו הגר”ע יוסף והגר”מ אליהו זצ”ל ויבדל”א הגר”א נבנצל. כך גם הורה לי למעשה מו”ר הגר”י אריאל, ואף שבתי ושוחחתי עמו היום לאור השאלות ושב ואמר שאין כל חשש בתפילה כזו (והאריך בזה הרב יעקב אפשטיין בשו”ת חבל נחלתו ח”ט סי’ י”ג, בכל צדדי הענין, יעו”ש);
ג. ידידי הרב גבריאל גבאי הי”ו קיבל את אישורו של מורנו המרא דאתרא למנין כזה כבר בשנה שעברה;
ד. מה שכן חשוב להדגיש הוא שחייבים להתפלל מנחה לפני פלג המנחה, ועל כן כל המעוניין להצטרף למנין כזה יתפלל מנחה גדולה (יש כמה מניינים, ככל הידוע לי באחת וחצי למעלה ובשתיים למטה);
ה. כמו כן, יש לשוב ולקרוא קריאת שמע לאחר צאה”כ, והצעתי לעשות זאת מייד אחרי הקידוש.
למעשה, לוח הזמנים (למניין בנועם יונתן, שיתקיים בהיכל פנינה):
17:42 ואילך – הדלקת נרות
18:00 ערבית
סיום משוער ב19:00
עריכת השולחן וכד’  והכנות סופיות
19:25 קידוש
קריאת שמע (שתי פרשיות ראשונות)
המשך הסדר – רחץ , כרפס וכו’.
כל טוב,
בברכת חג שמח וכשר
מלא שמחה ואור,


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Tuna for Passover

Pesach is a complicated and complex holiday.

We do not sacrifice a lamb, although we should and actually could and at least practice for the event.

But we do banish chometz and any and all manner of leavened bread and grains.  The kitchen can become a battle place, with all the cleaning and scrubbing and covering and separating and hiding all-year-round food stuffs.

It can become even more difficult when you go to purchase items and seek out a Rabbinical supervision label. Which Rabbi, which Rabbinate, which company?

And here in Israel, with not-so-friendly rivalry, I found a problematic instance:


If you pay attention you can see that the tuna fish can on the right has contradictory declarations as to whether the contents can be eaten on the Pesach holidy.

Arrow 1 on the can to the left points to “Bishul Yisrael [prepared by Jewish employees], Kosher for Pesach” on the label.

Arrow 2 on the can to the right points to the same text and both are from the Tirat Carmel Rabbinate.

Arrows 3, however, pointing to a yellow label on the can to the right from the Badatz declares the tuna non-edible for Pesach.



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Dvar Torah on Parshat Ki Tissa

This Shabbat my wife and I were luncheon guests at Ilana and David B’s table and this is a summary reworking of my Dvar Torah.

I first mentioned that the whole series of instructions we have been reading these past weeks in the Mishkan (Tabernacle) presents an odd building plan.  The first thing to be described in the Aron (Altar).  But that’s like, as an example, noting a fireplace first and then working out.  But that was done to stress the importance of what is in the Mishkan, spiritual labor, rather than just the physical elements.

Then I noted two language oddities.

In the conversation Moshe has with God during the fiasco of the Golden Calf in Exodus Chapter 32, God tells Moshe verse 7

וַיְדַבֵּר יְ-וָה אֶל מֹשֶׁה, לֶךְ רֵד, כִּי שִׁחֵת עַמְּךָ אֲשֶׁר הֶעֱלֵיתָ מֵאֶרֶץ מִצְרָיִם

That is,

And the LORD spoke unto Moses: ‘Go, get yourself down; for your people, who you brought up out of the land of Egypt, have acted corruptly;

But Moshe comes right back and tells God

לָמָה יְ-וָה יֶחֱרֶה אַפְּךָ בְּעַמֶּךָ אֲשֶׁר הוֹצֵאתָ מֵאֶרֶץ מִצְרַיִם

That is,

LORD, why are you angry against your people, that you brought forth out of the land of Egypt

It is almost comic.

Your people, no your people.

So, whose people are they? Of Moshe? Or of God?

Moshe does not retreat and argues: they are your responsibility. Do not pass it off to me.

A second language item that interested me was that the making of the Golden, or Molten, Calf had a second stage.  Aharon builds an altar.  Did he need to do that? Why?

וַיַּרְא אַהֲרֹן, וַיִּבֶן מִזְבֵּחַ לְפָנָיו

The Hebrew word for ‘saw’ there is very close to ‘he feared’. Did he fear or,as the Midrash implies, he sought to delay as much as possible so that Moshe would return and resolve the difficulty?  He had what to fear as Hur, who was first asked to make the Calf, was killed after he refused (input from Shabtai).

But the main theme is connected to these verses at 30-31:

וַיֹּאמֶר מֹשֶׁה אֶל הָעָם: אַתֶּם חֲטָאתֶם חֲטָאָה גְדֹלָה, וְעַתָּה אֶעֱלֶה אֶל יְהוָה אוּלַי אֲכַפְּרָה בְּעַד חַטַּאתְכֶם. וַיָּשָׁב מֹשֶׁה אֶל יְהוָה וַיֹּאמַר, אָנָּא חָטָא הָעָם הַזֶּה חֲטָאָה גְדֹלָה


And it came to pass on the morrow, that Moses said to the people: ‘You have sinned a great sin; and now I will go up unto the LORD, peradventure I shall make atonement for your sin.’ And Moses returned unto the LORD, and said: ‘Oh, this people have sinned a great sin

The Rebbe Yitzchak  Kalisch of Worka comments that of all the things to say, why does Moshe seemingly increase the seriousness of the sin of the people? He had to say “a great sin”? Why needle God? What could he gain speaking thus instead of placating him?

His insight is that the situation could be compared to a case when a small child is playing on a table and falls off. If the injuries are minor, the father most probably would yell at the child and maybe even strike him.  But if they are more serious, the father would rush to the child, comfort him and take him quickly for medical attention. The admonition would be saved for later, if at all.

Similarly, Moshe seeks to appeal, in a psychological sense, to God’s realization that, yes, the sin was great, almost unforgivable, but now is not the time to admonish or even punish but to reach out and save the people of Israel. The danger of losing the nation of Israel is in the balance.

So should we all relate to those close to us, or even farther away, who have erred or strayed.



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שתי פורים תורות

פורים תורה


עוד פורים תורה



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Aryeh as an Acronym

As the Shelah HaKadosh, Rabbi Yeshayah Horowitz, records in his “Two Tablets of the Law“,


The period of Ellul through to Hoshanna Rabba is suggested by the word Aryeh – אריה – in the verse “The lion has roared, who will not fear?” (Amo 3:8) as an acronym.

The alef – א is Ellul.

The reish – ר is Rosh HaShana.

The yud – י is Yom Kippur.

The hey – ה is Hoshanna Rabba.

These are the four time elements of a month and days that instill in us awe, respect and even fear – of our doings this past year, of the things we could have done, of the things we could have done better, of the things we shouldn’t have done as we did them. And of what awaits us in this coming year and can we do better.

I thought to add that we have just celebrated Shmini Atzeret/Simchat Torah, a holiday of joy, of happy expressions. We have the Torah and we have the way to do better.

If we engage not in a feeling of fear and awe but, in a feeling of joy, we use the tools by which to do good, our joy and happiness will exponentially increase and erase that feeling of dread.

May we be blessed with a good new year.


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On Going, Together As One

My Dvar Torah this Shabbat at the table of Ilana and David Lev with guests Sophie Simons, Glenda Kantor and my wife, Batya.


The word, to go, is quite present in this week’s Torah portion.

It opens with וַיֵּלֶךְ, מֹשֶׁה; “and Moshe goes”.

And the people of Israel are told that God goes with us: הוּא הַהֹלֵךְ עִמָּךְ as is Yehoshua told the same: וַי-וָה הוּא הַהֹלֵךְ לְפָנֶיךָ, “It is He that goes before you…fear not, neither be dismayed”.

And, of course, that verb is used multiple times throughout the Torah. In Genesis Chapter 22, Abraham arises early and goes to bind his son Yitzhak: וַיָּקָם וַיֵּלֶךְ

But my attention was caught at this verse, 31:14

  וַיֹּאמֶר י-וָה אֶל-מֹשֶׁה, הֵן קָרְבוּ יָמֶיךָ לָמוּת–קְרָא אֶת-יְהוֹשֻׁעַ וְהִתְיַצְּבוּ בְּאֹהֶל מוֹעֵד, וַאֲצַוֶּנּוּ; וַיֵּלֶךְ מֹשֶׁה וִיהוֹשֻׁעַ, וַיִּתְיַצְּבוּ בְּאֹהֶל מוֹעֵד.

And the LORD said unto Moses: ‘Behold, the days approach when you will die; call Yehoshua, and present yourselves in the tent of meeting, that I may give him a charge.’ And Moses and Yehoshua went, and presented themselves in the tent of meeting.

The verbs’ conjugation in the Hebrew go from plural וְהִתְיַצְּבוּ – ‘both of you should present yourselves’ – to singular – ‘went’ – to the plural of ‘presented themselves’.

To make it clear: the verb, in the singular, refers to two persons, and is definitely in the plural relating to the two persons as illustrated by the cantillation marks that join Moshe and Yehoshua:

וַיֵּ֤לֶךְ מֹשֶׁה֙ וִֽיהוֹשֻׁ֔עַ

Even the Aramaic Targum confirms this: וַאֲזַל מֹשֶׁה וִיהוֹשׁוּעַ.

To explain this, let’s look at two comments by Hassidic Admorim.

The first is Yaakov Yosef of Polnoye, a foremost disciple of the Baal Shem Tov, and one of the earliest champions of the Hassidic movement.  In his Toldot Yaakov Yosef, published in 1780, he interprets Moshe’s ‘going’ as proceeding from one level to the next:


as if moving from one spiritual level to another.

Another Admor, Kolonymus Kalman Epstein, a pupil of Elimelech of Lizhansk, notes in his Maor VaShemesh,


that the ‘going’ is to be interpreted as at the end of his days, Moshe is preceding to shed off himself his physicality and, in the process of leaving this world, becoming more and more spiritual and at one with God.

Nevertheless, I did not yet find a specific address to the question of the verb alterations. Why use a singular form for two people?

My suggestion is that in their going to the presence of God at the Tent of Meeting, Moshe and Yehoshua become as one.  Moshe is talking, we can imagine, with Yehoshua. He may be imparting wisdom, instruction, tips, insight. The pupil is to become soon the master, the leader, the conqueror of Eretz Yisrael and Moshe is trying, just prior to God finalizing this transfer of authority, both spiritual and national, to assure that Yehoshua is prepared.

In that process, the two become as one and the verb form indicates that.And this is unlike what occurred when Avraham walked together with his son Yitzhak: וַיֵּלְכוּ שְׁנֵיהֶם, יַחְדָּו. There, the two ‘went’, in the plural, even though they went ‘together’.

Moshe and Yehoshua are the true ‘together’, as one.

That becoming as one is perhaps one of Moshe’s last successes.


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Labor, Not Commerce

My dvar torah this week, Parshat VaYishlach, at the table of Sophie Simons:

In his words seeking to convince Yaakov to be absorbed and dwell together in full integration with the Shchemites after the rape of Dina, Hamor states

ח  וַיְדַבֵּר חֲמוֹר, אִתָּם לֵאמֹר:  שְׁכֶם בְּנִי, חָשְׁקָה נַפְשׁוֹ בְּבִתְּכֶם–תְּנוּ נָא אֹתָהּ לוֹ, לְאִשָּׁה. ט  וְהִתְחַתְּנוּ, אֹתָנוּ:  בְּנֹתֵיכֶם, תִּתְּנוּ-לָנוּ, וְאֶת-בְּנֹתֵינוּ, תִּקְחוּ לָכֶם. י  וְאִתָּנוּ, תֵּשֵׁבוּ; וְהָאָרֶץ, תִּהְיֶה לִפְנֵיכֶם–שְׁבוּ וּסְחָרוּהָ, וְהֵאָחֲזוּ בָּהּ.

8 And Hamor spoke with them, saying ‘The soul of my son Shechem longeth for your daughter. I pray you give her unto him to wife. 9 And make ye marriages with us; give your daughters unto us, and take our daughters unto you. 10 And ye shall dwell with us; and the land shall be before you; dwell and trade ye therein, and get you possessions therein.’

And further on, in turn, appealing to his fellow town-dwellers, Hamor, as well as his rapist son, speak so:

כא  הָאֲנָשִׁים הָאֵלֶּה שְׁלֵמִים הֵם אִתָּנוּ, וְיֵשְׁבוּ בָאָרֶץ וְיִסְחֲרוּ אֹתָהּ, וְהָאָרֶץ הִנֵּה רַחֲבַת-יָדַיִם, לִפְנֵיהֶם; אֶת-בְּנֹתָם נִקַּח-לָנוּ לְנָשִׁים, וְאֶת-בְּנֹתֵינוּ נִתֵּן לָהֶם.

21 ‘These men are peaceable with us; therefore let them dwell in the land, and trade therein; for, behold, the land is large enough for them; let us take their daughters to us for wives, and let us give them our daughters.

The use of the word to trade or, to engage in commerce, in the relationship with the land indicates a purely materialistic attitude, looking at the physical and fiscal benefit that the land can provide.

The land is a tool for growing food for man and beast but little more.

Judaism seeks to apply to the land a more spiritual value, to raise it above the mundane and materialistic and, in doing so, to uplift man.  The land not only provides sustenance but, as per the paradigm of commandments dependent on the land, as explained here, there is a:

category of mitzvot that can only be observed in a specific place is Mitzvot ha-Teluyot ba’Aretz, commandments that are dependent on the Land of Israel. These are mitzvot that can only be observed if you are in the
Land of Israel. Out of the 613 mitzvot, there are approximately twenty-five that are dependent on being in the Land of Israel.  These mitzvot can generally be divided up into two categories. There are mitzvot that play a social role within society, and there are mitzvot whose purpose is to either accentuate, or perhaps to create, the sanctity of the Land of Israel.

Rav Avraham Yitzhak HaKohen Kook added that

the primary holiness of the Land is reflected in the mitzvah to settle it, and the obligation of mitzvot ha-teluyot ba’aretz is an expression of this special holiness.

These mitzvot are a major social tool which even a secularist like Ze’ev Jabotinsky recognized when he based his social-economic approach for the future state of Israel on the Bible.  As observed:

Jabotinsky viewed economy as a huge game of monopoly: The players can buy and sell assets, some get rich and some get poor, but once in 50 years, the game is over. Just like in the game, the “rich” willfuly return their “property” to the game box in order to start a new game, so it should be in economy: the rich should understand that it’s only a game, and return all their wealth to the public once in 50 years.

To simply exploit the Land of Israel for its commercial value is not Judaism.  We are commanded to work the land — לעֲבֹד, אֶת-הָאֲדָמָה, and the inference of ‘work’ is also a religious intimation.

The land is more than earth; it is a base for heaven.



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