But the shteiging continues
By Chandrea Serebro
Most diligent students worry when they leave their place of learning, whether it be a school, a university, a Beis Midrash, or a Yeshiva, for a holiday or a break that they will lose out. They worry that they will lose not only their flow in whatever it is they were engaged with, but even that they might lose some of the knowledge already gained – or at the very least the groove of their studies and the ease and comfort developed over time. Nowhere is this more true than in Torah learning, where bochurim know that without Torah learning the world would cease to be. And, while others are surely learning even when these students on holiday are not, the sense of responsibility toward the learning plagues many diligent Torah students.
So, when Yeshiva students go home for a well-earned holiday, they often find themselves at a loss for ways in which to fill the gap of Torah learning that the holiday period brings. With this in mind, a Yeshivas Bein Hazmanim (YBH) programme was launched in Johannesburg two years ago during Pesach time, when so many Yeshiva bochurim were home for the Chag. Bein hazmanim refers to the period of holiday between semesters at a Yeshiva, when most bochurim go home. “Our goal is simple, yet limitless; modest, but ambitious: to create a true makom Torah (place of Torah) in South Africa even during the bein hazmanim period, and to create an environment that will ensure that the bochurim maintain and increase on all of their accomplishments that they have worked so hard to achieve throughout the year, even while away from Yeshiva,” says Moshe Moch, one of the programme’s founders. “We were also looking to provide a platform to unify and unite all the bochurim so as to make everyone feel part of a bigger entity” – a grand, South African family, irrespective of background and which yeshiva a person attends.
YBH is exclusively powered by the youth, with the motto, “By the bochurim, for the bochurim.” It is there to assist the bochurim in any way possible, and it is fertile ground for future leaders and thinkers to engage with each other. As Chief Rabbi Goldstein said when he addressed the bochurim at a breakfast, “You (the students of YBH) are the future of the community. Each and every one of you will influence the community in your own way. This is why this programme is so important.”
“The programme enjoyed tremendous success with over 100 bochurim and avreichim [married students] attending daily from Rosh Chodesh Nissan until Pesach. This year we hope to once again run this programme to create an unbelievable makom Torah with hopes to be bigger and better than last year.” The programme starts at 8:15 each morning with a dedicated YBH Shacharis run by the bochurim, followed by a catered breakfast and an inspiring speaker, after which there are a few hours of learning.
“We frequently host special guest speakers at the breakfast including Rabbi Moshe Kurtstag, Rosh Beis Din, Chief Rabbi Dr Warren Goldstein, and Rabbi Yechezkel Auerbach of Ohr Somayach. We were also privileged to have a shiur from the internationally acclaimed Maggid Shuir Rabbi Avi Ziskind. The response exceeded expectations, and the learning is truly a sight to behold.”
In a very short period of time YBH has grown and expanded with the launch of many new projects including learning programmes during Sukkos and hosting the largest Simchas Beis HaShoeva (traditional Sukkos celebration) ever seen in South Africa, with over 300 people in attendance last Chol HaMoed. And to continue this trend, YBH is now looking forward to the next phase of development wherein the youth of South Africa will get the opportunity to give back to the community that raised them, starting by hosting a special father-and-son morning of learning during the Pesach period.
To signal this growth and success, YBH is launching what they like to think of as their “most dynamic project ever” – a home-grown Haggadah by the bochurim, for the community, comprised of divrei Torah (words of Torah) from all the Yeshiva bochurim born and bred in South Africa. It is not only an opportunity to offer something fresh and exciting to the community, but a platform for the bochurim to express their own original ideas.
“The purpose of this project is to highlight and enhance the tremendous unity of the community by utilising home-grown talent to produce a user-friendly and content-loaded Haggadah. And, of course, it also serves as well deserved, tangible nachas and pride for all the parents of the bochrim. We are making this Pesach personal.” The commentary by local thinkers is a highly effective way to engage even the most disinterested reader, and just as the content is unique, so too will the visual appeal of the Haggadah be, with a modern and classy look that is distinctly Jewish South African, appealing to local Jewry.
“To compile the Haggadah we divided the content into many parts and allocated different parts to different yeshivas. We have over 18 different yeshivas represented. The amount of South African bochurim in the yeshiva dictated how many parts were allocated to that yeshiva. After each bochur chose his piece and submitted his thoughts, everything was sent to Rabbi Blumenau and his fantastic team at The Machon who did the editing and typesetting.”
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“We cried out to Hashem…”
The Haggadah explains here what caused Hashem’s mercy to be aroused, ultimately bringing about the redemption of the Children of Israel. Perhaps the message that emerges can be used to bring about the future redemption that we all yearn for.
The words, “The King of Egypt died, and the Children of Israel groaned” indicate that the cries of the Children of Israel came as a result of Pharaoh’s death. This seems odd; surely the death of a king who caused so much suffering should be celebrated. Rashi explains that Pharaoh didn’t actually die. Rather, he was stricken with a death-like skin ailment, which required him to bathe in the blood of Jewish infants as a remedy. It was this outrage that caused the Children of Israel to cry out.
Ramban takes a more straightforward approach. The previous king died and a new king took over. The Jews hoped that the death of the cruel king would bring some measure of relief. When the new king was enthroned and their suffering continued unabated, they lost hope and cried out to Hashem.
It seems that the king’s death was a blessing in disguise. It stimulated the nation to cry out to Hashem, and that prompted the redemption, as the verse continues, “And I have heard the people’s outcry.”
Redemption can only occur once we feel that we have nothing to rely on except Hashem. The haftarah for Va’eira contains a prophecy about the downfall of Egypt through the hand of the Babylonians. The verse then states, “On that day I will cause the strength of Israel to blossom.” The Navi was prophesying that, until the downfall of Egypt, the Jews would rely on Egypt, one of the contemporary world powers, to save them from the Babylonians. However, one day, the Egyptians would be conquered. At that point, the Jews would have no choice but to rely on Hashem. Because of this, the strength of Israel would blossom on that day.
When we believe that our strength comes from Hashem and place all our trust in Him, He will strengthen us and bring the redemption.
Dovid Tzvi Auerbach
Yeshivas Toras Chaim
“In every generation each person is obligated to see himself as if he left Egypt.”
How does a story remain relevant for 3 000 years, through times of prosperity and persecution, elation and desolation? We can answer this question with the words of the Rambam (Chametz U’Matzah 7:1), who teaches us that the phrase should not be “to see”, but “to demonstrate”. What he means is that on seder night, one has to act out the Exodus story as if one is actually there, a custom still practised today.
However, there is another approach to answering our question: The Pesach story was not an isolated event of Jewish redemption from slavery in Egypt, but rather the story of the Jews themselves. The fact that the Jewish nation has outlived every empire that oppressed it or sought to destroy it is nothing short of miraculous. In every stage of Jewish history, we have faced persecution, and every salvation was a continuation of the original Exodus. The famous words of V’hi She’amda tell us exactly this: “It is this covenant that stood for our fathers and us. Not just one enemy has risen against us. In every generation they try to destroy us, and Hashem saves us from their hands.” Jewish history is indeed Jewish memory.
Literally translated, the word seder means “order”. On the first night of Pesach, every Jew recounts the story of the Exodus from a script that transcends age, nationality, and generation. By unifying individuals in the worship of G-d, we are able to create communities and, in turn, a nation. However, despite the ordered nature of the Haggadah, no two seder nights are the same. Each time the story is told, insights are added, discussions vary, and visions are formed. Each generation views the seder through the perspective of its reality. This is how an ancient story stays young.
To see ourselves as if we personally left Egypt does not only mean that we should imagine ourselves as having been present at that momentous night. The seder night is not simply the recounting of a story. It is the recognition of Hashem’s hand in the continued prospering of an eternal nation. In this way, we are active participants in developing the Exodus story, ensuring its relevance for our times and for generations to come.
“Rabbi Elazar ben Azaryah said…”
According to Ben Zoma, we are required to mention the Exodus from Egypt twice daily, once during the day and again at night. Night is associated with darkness and fear. It is symbolic of the unknown and the unfamiliar. It is also a time when people are usually tired.
The Exodus represents the exact opposite of this. When the Jews left Egypt, Hashem appeared to them; there was nothing that was threatening to them. The Jews had no fear because they had the utmost trust in Hashem. They knew that He would not let anything bad happen to them. They were neither tired nor weak. Instead, they were invigorated by the fact that they were leaving slavery. Therefore, the requirement to mention the Exodus at night seems counterintuitive, as the two concepts appear to contradict one another.
Ben Zoma is teaching us an important lesson: by mentioning the Exodus at night, we remind ourselves that even though we are in exile now, where everything seems dark and frightening, there is still something we can cling to that will help us through this difficult period. There is something that can motivate us to move through the dark times. It is the knowledge that one day Hashem is going to redeem us, just as he redeemed our ancestors in Egypt.
Just as our ancestors lived in a time of darkness in Egypt and then experienced the great light of redemption, we live in the darkness of exile now. But through our faith in Hashem we will again experience the great light of redemption. Then, as in the past, the night will become bright as day.
Jess de Jongh
Ohr Somayach Jerusalem
“Go out and learn what Lavan the Aramean attempted to do to our father Yaakov!”
After reciting V’hi She’amda, the Haggadah states that in every generation the Jews face enemies who plot to destroy them, and that Hashem saves us from them. The Haggadah cites Lavan as a prime example of such an adversary. But, why is this paragraph introduced with the words, “Go out and learn”, which seem to be superfluous?
These verses about Lavan are said when a person brings up his bikkurim (first fruits) to the Beis HaMikdash. What is the connection between bikkurim and Lavan?
The Vilna Gaon explains the purpose of the phrase “go out and learn”. Most often, we do not see the miracles that Hashem performs on our behalf, but they are still there. We see this in the interaction between Lavan and Yaakov. An independent observer could have mistakenly thought that Lavan loved Yaakov, but that was not the case. It was not until Yaakov left Lavan’s home that Lavan’s hatred for him became clear. Though his machinations may have been concealed, from the very beginning Lavan’s intention was to destroy Yaakov, as indicated by what we further say, “An Aramean attempted to destroy my father”. And subtly, all along, Hashem was protecting Yaakov.
“Go out and learn” teaches that, even if we fail to see the miracles that Hashem performs, this does not mean that they do not happen. We need to express gratitude for the miracles that we do not see also.
Returning to bikkurim, the Sefer Hachinuch explains that one of the reasons that bikkurim are brought is to show that we recognise Hashem’s goodness. We do this by bringing the first fruits of our harvest to the Temple, thereby acknowledging that we received them from Hashem.
As we mentioned, the verse about Lavan wishing to destroy Yaakov teaches that Hashem performs miracles for us even though we may not realise this. Since the purpose of bikkurim is to demonstrate that we recognise the kindness of Hashem, the verse about Lavan is the ideal vehicle through which to express this idea – that Hashem’s kindness is always with us, even if we cannot always see it.