Toronto Torah

Beit Midrash Zichron Dov
8 Shevat 5773/January 19, 2013 Parshat Bo
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Vol.4 Num. 18

Narrative, Nomos and In Between
Rashi, in his first comment on the Torah, asks why the Torah didn't begin from our parshah – or, more accurately, from the middle of our parshah (Shemot 12), rather than from Creation. Only here do we encounter a mitzvah being given to the whole nation for the first time, and as the Torah, supposedly, is a practical book of instruction, it should begin with instructions. Rashi, in the name of Rabbi Yitzchak, answers that Torah begins with Cr eati on i n ord er to coun te r arguments against the morality of the Torah: The Torah commands Bnei Yisrael to conquer the land of Canaan; this may be seen by the nations as injustice, as the land was inhabited by seven nations. Therefore, the Torah begins by telling us that G-d created the world, and therefore G-d can give any share of it to whomever He wants. According to Rabbi Yi tzchak 's explanation, the narrative part of the Torah comes to serve its nomos part – the part with the laws. The story gives moral justification to the Torah's halachot. In contrast to this view, Ramban contends that the first mitzvah in the torah – "This month shall be to you the head of the months" – is meant "to serve as a memorial to the great miracle (of exodus)." At face value, this statement means that the mitzvah comes to serve the story; the purpose of the law is to commemorate the narrative. These different views stand in contrast, but are not necessarily contradictory. In a paper from 1982, Robert Cover, a Jewish professor of law at Yale, argued for the need to see the law in light of the narrative from which it emerged. In the paper, named 'Nomos and narrative', Cover argues that on one hand, "No set of legal institutions exists apart from the narratives that locate it and give it meaning," but on the other hand, "Legal precepts and principles are not only demands made upon us by society, the people, the sovereign, or G-d. They are also signs by which each of us communicates with others." In other words: The way we interpret our behaviour, and that of others, is often affected by the light of the law. The narrative of our life accepts its meaning from its relation to the law, and this is true even when one does not follow the law. Eating a snack on a weekday is perceived differently from eating on Yom Kippur. Thus, there is a two-way connection between law and narrative. We draw meaning and justify the mitzvot by the stories, as in Rabbi Yitzchak's answer quoted by Rashi, but we also remember, explain and give meaning to the stories

Rabbi Baruch Weintraub
by referring to their associated mitzvot. Reading about Yaakov and his wives, for example, is entirely different when we take into account the prohibition against marrying two sisters, just as understanding the prohibition against putting the younger son ahead of the firstborn as an heir can be seen in a different light when one realizes that our patriarchs were not firstborns. Our knowledge of the law changes our interpretation of the story, and vice versa. Keeping that idea in mind, let us consider the difference between the reasons the Torah gives for two mitzvot which appear together in the text. One is the mitzvah to eat matzah, which is explained to a wondering son, "Because of this, Hashem acted for me when I went out of Egypt." (Shemot 13:8) The next mitzvah is to sacrifice or redeem the firstborn. Here, the mitzvah is explained to the son with these words: "Hashem slew every firstborn in the land of Egypt, both the firstborn of man and the firstborn of beast. Therefore, I sacrifice all males that open the womb and every firstborn of my sons I will redeem" (ibid. 13:15) The difference between the two explanations is striking. The second mitzvah is explained as a way to commemorate the memory of the firstborn plague. The first mitzvah is not the outcome of a miracle, but rather the very reason for it; for the purpose of eating matzah, Hashem acted for us when we went out of Egypt. The story happened in order to serve the halachah. As we said earlier, these views of the relationship between nomos and narrative supplement each other. Together they should help us build a consciousness in which our national as well as personal story of life becomes fully integrated, influencing, and being influenced by, halachah.

Mazal tov to Elyssa and Rabbi Ezra Goldschmiedt on the birth and brit of Hanan! Mazal tov to Gillit and Yair Manas on the birth of a baby girl!
May they grow to Torah, chuppah umaasim tovim!

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Lessons of a Hardened Heart
Perhaps the most popular question regarding Parshat Bo is the classic challenge to Divine justice: How may G-d harden the heart of Pharaoh after the sixth plague, as recorded in the opening sentence of our parshah? Do we not believe that the human being is granted the freedom to determine his course of activity? Here are six approaches to the problem: Pharaoh wasn't going to repent fully Rashi (Shemot 7:3) writes, "It is revealed before Me that the idolatrous nations are not inclined to repent with a full heart. Therefore, it would be better for Me to have his heart hardened; this will enable Me to multiply My signs, so that you will recognize My might." To defeat false repentance Rabbi Yosef Albo (Sefer Ikkarim 4:25) states, "When a wicked person is struck, he becomes pious and he returns to G-d out of fear of the punishment he is suffering. Thus Pharaoh declared, 'I have sinned this time; G-d is the righteous One, etc.' (Shemot 9:27) Because this resembles coercion rather than free choice, G-d toughens his heart, giving him other options on which to blame the plague, saying it was coincidental and not a product of Divine supervision. This is to remove the plague-induced softening from his heart, so that he will remain in his true nature and choice, without compulsion. Then the level of volition in his repentance will be tested." See Ramban (Shemot 7:3), too. G-d did not harden his heart actively Rabbi Avraham ibn Daud (Ha'Emunah haRamah 2:6) suggests that G-d did not harden Pharaoh's heart, but simply neglected to help him repent. "When one comes to purify himself, G-d assists

Rabbi Mordechai Torczyner

Hitoriri: Jewish Spirituality

him, for the Divine supervises one who puts G-d upon himself. When it is the opposite, though, then the person is distant from G-d, abandoned to the evil of his own counsel. Regarding this they say: When one comes to render himself impure, G-d opens the path for him." His punishment was incomplete Rabbi Avraham ibn Ezra (Ibn Ezra 7:3) writes simply, "To strengthen his heart, to bear the suffering." See Rav Saadia Gaon's Emunot v'Deiot (Maamar 4), too. Pharaoh abused his free will Rambam (Mishneh Torah, Hilchot Teshuvah 6:3) contends, "He sinned of his own volition at first, harming the Jews who dwelled in his land as is written, 'Let us be wise against him.' (Shemot 1:10) Justice demanded that repentance be withheld from him until he was punished." See Ramban (Shemot 7:3), as well. Measure for measure We might suggest yet another approach: Pharaoh's loss of free will was a measure-for-measure response to his sin of seeking ultimate control. Whether in declaring to Moshe, "I do not know this G-d," (Shemot 5:2) or in ordering his magicians to replicate the plagues rather than end them, or in refusing to back down despite his nation's suffering, Pharaoh demonstrated his belief that the assault on Egypt was a personal showdown between himself and G-d. Therefore, G-d punished Pharaoh by removing his control – first of his environment, then of his nation as they challenge his decision to enslave the Jews, and finally of himself.

Don’t Seize the Day
Yair Manas
Carpe Diem-- Horace The aphorism carpe diem, usually translated as “seize the day,” indicates that we should push ourselves to take immediate advantage of opportunities that come our way. The original phrase, in its entirety, reads: “Seize the day, put as little trust as possible in the next ( d ay) .” [ tr an sl ati on tak en fr om Wikipedia] From a Jewish perspective, we agree wholeheartedly regarding hishtadlut and our requirement to accomplish in this world, but perhaps “seizing” is not the verb we would use. The Talmud (Berachot 64b) teaches that when one seizes the moment, the moment seizes him. Rashi provides an example from Avshalom, son of King David. Avshalom attempted to seize the monarchy, and not only did his attempt fail, but it led to his demise. Conversely, one who does not seize the moment, but who waits with patience, will receive his just reward. The talmud explains that Rav Yosef delayed becoming Rosh Yeshiva by twenty years, and therefore he lived and ruled longer than he had been Divinely allotted originally. Perhaps the Jewish problem with “seizing” something is that the person does not believe that G-d will provide what he needs, and he acts aggressively because he thinks that his success depends solely upon his own efforts. This belief demonstrates a lack of trust in G-d, as if to say, “I don’t believe that You will give me what I want, so I will take it for myself.” Avshalom attempted to take that which did not belong to him, and not only did he fail to become king, but he gave up his life in the process. As Rav Yosef demonstrates, a person must have faith that trust will be rewarded. We all must work hard, and try to accomplish and achieve, but we must also put our faith G-d that in the next day, or in Rav Yosef’s case, in twenty years, our efforts will be rewarded.

613 Mitzvot: #239

Tell people what to do
Rabbi Mordechai Torczyner
Mitzvah 239 may well be the most difficult mitzvah in the Torah: To instruct others who are acting inappropriately, as the Torah says, "You shall not hate your brother in your heart; you shall surely instruct your friend, and you shall not bear sin for him." (Vayikra 19:17) Several different rationales are offered to explain why I would be obligated to instruct others. One view (Sefer haChinuch 239, Sefer haMitzvot 205, Minchat Chinuch 240) suggests it is a form of chesed, aiding a person in correcting his wrongdoing. A second approach contends that this a product of my obligation to serve G-d; I must reinforce observance of His commandments and avert desecration of His Name. A third view argues that I am personally responsible for another's sin if I do not correct it; we are part of a community, and the actions of individuals are shared by that community. (Sanhedrin 43b; Shevuot 39a; Ramban Vayikra 19:17)


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Biography: Rabbi Ovadia Yosef

R’ Mordechai Torczyner

This Week in Israeli History

Rabbi Ovadia Yosef was born in Baghdad, to a working-class family, on the eleventh of Tishrei, 1920. At the age of four, he moved to Israel with his family; due to their penury, young Ovadia alternated time between studies Rabbi Ovadia Yosef and work. He studied at the Porat Yosef Yechaveh Daat 4:1 yeshiva in Jerusalem under Syrian sage Translated by Adam Frieberg Rav Ezra Atiyeh, and was ordained by Sephardic Chief Rabbi Ben Zion Uziel at Question: Need the kippah on one's head the age of 20. Beginning in 1945, he cover one's entire head or the majority of his served as a judge on rabbinic courts in head? Or perhaps, is there no designated Jerusalem. measure for the size of a kippah, and any size will suffice? In 1947, at Rabbi Uziel's request, Rabbi Yosef moved to Cairo to serve as Chief ….Therefore, the essential law is that as a Rabbi. The arrangement did not last, measure of piety one's kippah should cover though; Rabbi Yosef found himself at his entire head, or at least the majority… but odds with the communal leadership even regarding a smaller kippah there is regarding halachic matters, particularly room to rule leniently, as long as it is easily kashrut. He returned to Israel in 1950, visible from all sides of the head, whether becoming a judge in Petah Tikvah, and front or back, and not a small kippah which then Jerusalem; in 1965, Rabbi Yosef can be distinguished only with difficulty. As joined Israel's Supreme Rabbinical the great rabbi, Rabbi Ovadia Hadaiya wrote Court. (Yaskil Avdi 6), he would often scold those who were lenient to wear tiny kippot that During this time, Rabbi Yosef's responsa only covered a very small portion of their and other writings became immensely heads. popular. In 1954 Rabbi Yosef won the Rav Kook Prize for Torah literature, and In responsa Simchat Kohen, the author was in 1970 he received the Israel Prize. He asked about those who wear a small kippah became Chief Rabbi of Tel Aviv in 1968, at the back of their heads, such that it and then Sephardic Chief Rabbi of the cannot be seen from the front. Should they State of Israel in 1973. be prevented from receiving aliyot to the Torah until they adjust their kippah so that Rabbi Yosef's re sponsa address it can be seen from the front? He replied that contemporary issues of all kinds, and he did not see great benefit in this; that stand out for the breadth of the works which will be covered near the face will be cited in these encyclopedic writings. uncovered near the back of the neck. Rabbi Yosef is also known for political Therefore, it would be proper to instruct involvement, as the founder and them to wear a larger kippah. Where this is spiritual leader of Israel's highly not possible, it would not be appropriate to successful Shas party; he retired from prevent them from ascending to the Torah the bench in 1986 because of legal because of this issue, lest we cause them to limits on the political activity of the completely abstain from coming to shul and judiciary. His style of public address is praying. that of the study hall, interweaving biblical passages and rabbinic teachings However, during Shema and the Amidah, with caustic rebuke and hyperbolic when one accepts upon himself the yoke of rhetoric; the result sparks frequent Heaven, one must be careful to wear a controversy, particuarly because Rabbi kippah that covers the majority of his head, Yosef is one of the leading authorities in since the verse says, “Prepare to meet your G Jewish law today. In June 2012, Forbes -d, O Israel.” (Amos 4:12) And see what is Israel ranked Rabbi Yosef as the "most written in the book Magen Giborim (91:3) in influential rabbi in Israel". In January the name of the Meiri: Those who take off 2013 Rabbi Yosef suffered a minor their hats when they walk into shul because stroke, from which he is recuperating. of the heat, leaving only the small kippah on their heads as they do at home, and who recite Shema and the Amidah in this manner, are definitely guilty of chutzpah, since this is not the way they would stand in front of great people. The Mishneh Berurah (91:9) ruled this as well.

Torah in Translation

Kippah Size

Shevat 13 1951 Drying the Hula
Hillel Horovitz
Tuesday is 13 Shevat The operation to dry the Hula Valley was a major engineering project undertaken in the 1950's, draining Lake Hula and the swamps around it. Begun on the thirteenth of Shevat, 1951 and continuing into 1958, this was one of the most important engineering projects in the early years of the State of Israel. The major objective was to add agricultural land for development in the Upper Galilee. It is customary to think that elimination of malaria was among the goals of the project, but this is a common mistake; malaria had been wiped out from the region earlier. Syria opposed the drying operation, and the process was accompanied by heavy daily bombings targeting workers and engineers. The attacks killed nearly forty Israelis and injured one hundred. At that time there was little awareness of environmental issues. There was some resistance from experts who claimed that the dried surface would sink and wouldn't tolerate agriculture, b ut the government claimed, "Zionist turf does not sink". A spontaneous network of researchers and nature lovers convened, though, establishing The Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel (SPNI). SPNI did not manage to prevent the drying, but they raised awareness of conservation among the general public. Ultimately, recognition of actual environmental damage to the Hula Valley led to environmental awareness in the rest of the country. Hula Valley rehabilitation began only in the 1990's, after the recognition of irreversible damage to the lakes and swamps. Some of the former marsh areas were flooded intentionally, and the Hula Valley was recreated. The Hula is considered a world-class attraction for birdwatchers and nature lovers. JNF conducted waterrouting works to assist the r e h ab i li tati on of th e a n im a l population. Restoration is ongoing at several levels: return of animals to their natural habitats, controlled floods of the areas and monitoring of growth regions.

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Our Haftorah: Yirmiyahu 46:13-46:28
Who is the prophet of our Haftorah? Yirmiyahu was the last major prophet of the first Beit haMikdash, and his experience may well have been the most bitter of any prophet in Tanach. He lived in the 6th century BCE, and his task what to warn the Jews of his day that time was short and destruction was coming. The nation did not heed Yirmiyahu's words; instead, they beat him and imprisoned him (Yirmiyahu 20 and 37), threw him into a cistern (ibid 38) and threatened to kill him. (ibid) Rembrandt's Jeremiah Weeping Over the Destruction of Jerusalem is hauntingly evocative of the mood of Yirmiyahu’s book; the image of the despairing prophet of G-d, leaning upon his book of warnings, backlit by flame and devastation, has captured the imagination of millions over the past four centuries. Indeed, the word "jeremiad" was coined to refer to a prophecy of doom and gloom. Throughout his misery, though, Yirmiyahu carried with him a Divine promise, "I am with you, to save you." (ibid 1:8) At times, Yirmiyahu was instructed to act out scenes in order to convey a message to the nation. These ranged from wearing a yoke upon his neck to demonstrate the enslavement of the Jews by the Babylonians (ibid 27), to smashing a jug to demonstrate the smashing of Judea (19), to purchasing a field and preserving the deed in order to demonstrate our eventual return to the land. (32) According to the Talmud (Bava Batra 15a), Yirmiyahu authored his own book, the book of Melachim, and the book of Eichah. What is the message of our Haftorah? Yirmiyahu depicts Egypt as a pretty calf, fat and pampered, (46:20-21) and he emphasizes an anticipated Babylonian demolition of her idols as well as her population. (46:25) This is the link between the haftorah and our parshah, which also depicts the destruction of Egypt and its idols. The prophets of the 7th and 6th century BCE saw the growing Babylonian Empire as a Divine tool, a sword to be wielded in punishment of the rapacious Assyrians and idolatrous Egyptians. So Nachum 2:12-14 is understood by some commentators as a direct prediction that G-d would bring the Babylonians – symbolized by a lion – to destroy Nineveh, the Assyrian capital. And so Yirmiyahu predicted in our haftorah, "I will give them into the hand of those

Rabbi Mordechai Torczyner
who seek their lives, in the hand of Nevuchadrezzar, king of Babylon, and in the hand of his servants." (46:26) The haftorah also supports a warning Yirmiyahu continually expressed to the Jews, that they should not depend upon Egypt as a source of salvation from the Babylonians. To the end, there were Jews who hoped to ally themselves with Egypt and so escape Divine retribution at the hands of Nevuchadnezzar's forces, but they were unsuccessful. What is that king's name? The Babylonian king of our haftorah is named Nevuchadrezzar, and this is how his name is presented in much of the book of Yirmiyahu and throughout the book of Yechezkel. On the other hand, the same king is named Nevuchadnezzar in some passages in Yirmiyahu, as well as in Daniel, Ezra, Nechemiah and Divrei haYamim. According to scholars of ancient languages, the more accurate version of the king's name is Nevuchadrezzar, and it is Akkadian. [Akkadian was the central Babylonian tongue before Aramaic became dominant.] It means, "May Nebo [a Babylonian deity] protect my heir."

Highlights for January 19 – 25 / 8 - 14 Shevat
Shabbat, January 19 7:45 AM R’ Baruch Weintraub, Reasons for mitzvot and the parshah, Or Chaim not this week 10:20 AM R’ Baruch Weintraub, Parshah, Clanton Park Derashah Adam Frieberg, Shaarei Tefillah 4:00 PM R’ Mordechai Torczyner, Daf Yomi, BAYT After minchah R’ Mordechai Torczyner, Gemara Avodah Zarah: Cheese and Oil, BAYT 6:50 PM Yair Manas, Parent-Child Learning: Honouring the Torah, Shaarei Shomayim Sunday, January 20 9:15 AM Hillel Horovitz, Parshah Preview, Zichron Yisroel, Hebrew (Shacharit 8:30 AM) After maariv R’ Baruch Weintraub, Contemporary Halachah in Israel, Hebrew, Clanton Park, men 8:30 PM R’ Baruch Weintraub, Contemporary Halachah in Israel, Hebrew, 4 Tillingham Keep, mixed Monday, January 21 8 PM Mon. Night Beit Midrash: Clanton Park, Bnai Torah 8 PM Hillel Horovitz, Sefer Melachim, Chap. 3-5:14, Bnai Torah 8 PM R’ Ezra Goldschmiedt, Mesilat Yesharim, Bnai Torah, high school students 9 PM Hillel Horovitz, Rav Kook’s Ein Ayah, Bnai Torah Tuesday, January 22 1:30 PM R’ Mordechai Torczyner, Daniel: The King and the Vegetarians, Shaarei Shomayim, Mekorot 8 PM Yair Manas, Chaburah: Sanhedrin, 33 Meadowbrook 8:30 PM R’ Baruch Weintraub, Rambam’s Laws of Kings, Shomrai Shabbos, men Wednesday, January 23 10 AM R’ Mordechai Torczyner, Jonah: Week 1, BEBY, Melton 12:30 PM R’ Mordechai Torczyner, Business Ethics, York University Hillel with JLIC, lunch 8 PM R’ Mordechai Torczyner, Israel 2013: Why do we think Israel is ours?, Forest Hill Jewish Centre, Mediterranean refreshments, fee Thursday, January 24 8 PM Adam Frieberg, The Blessings for Torah Study, Village Shul 8:30 PM R’ Baruch Weintraub, Sotah, Clanton Park

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