Wednesday, February 24, 2010


Erev Shabbos Kodesh Parshas Tetzaveh/Zachor

12 Adar 5770/February 26, 2010

Do you know what our problem is? We talk too much! We do too much yakking and gossiping, and not enough listening. This leads to a pervasive feeling that we hear too many lectures and speeches.

Rabbi Leibel Reznick shlita, a beloved Rebbe from my days in Yeshiva Shaarei Torah, conveyed all his lessons in a unique and witty manner. He began one particular address to the yeshiva’s student-body, by stressing that it was important for each student to recite a brief Torah thought to his family at his Shabbos table each week. In his words, “A yeshiva student arrives home for Shabbos after a week in yeshiva and his parents ask him what he learned that week. The invariable response is “nothing”. He comes home in ninth grade, tenth grade, eleventh grade, and twelfth grade and the response never changes. “What did you learn?” “Nothing”. It costs a lot of money for a parent to send their child to yeshiva to learn ‘nothing’. [At that point Rabbi Reznick turned to the Rosh Yeshiva and asked him how much tuition cost in the yeshiva.] So therefore you have to say over a short Torah thought at the Shabbos table so your parents don’t feel like they are wasting their money completely. It can’t be too short because then you sound ignorant. But it shouldn’t be too long either because then it becomes a speech, and nobody likes speeches. I’m only giving a speech now because the yeshiva hired me to do so.”

The gemara (Shabbos 152a) says that Rabbi Yehuda bar Ilai was the ‘lead speaker at every occasion.’ My Rebbi, Rabbi Chaim Schabes shlita, once told me that there is an old humorous explanation as to why it was specifically Rabbi Yehuda bar Ilai who was granted the distinction of being the lead speaker. In the haggadah shel Pesach, after we recite the ten plagues, we state that Rabbi Yehuda (bar Ilai) devised an acronym for the plagues – D’tzach Adash B’achav. When the people saw that Rabbi Yehuda was an ‘abbreviator’ they decided that he should be the lead speaker.

I recently heard another similar thought: If G-d wanted to destroy the resolve and moral of Egypt during the Ten Plagues, why wasn’t ‘speeches’ one of the plagues? After all, there’s nothing like a long boring monotonous speech to wear down the resistance of even the fiercest despot?

The answer is that our Sages relate that we had to have been redeemed when we did, for if we had lingered in Egypt for even one more moment we would have sunk into the abyss of the fiftieth level of impurity, from which there could be no return. If one of the plagues would have been a long-winded speech, there is always the danger that the speaker would have spoken beyond the allotted time of the plague and the redemption would have been delayed, causing an irrevocable catastrophe!

At one of the Sheva Berachos meals after our wedding, our family friend, R’ Avi Weinberg, noted that Sheva Berachos speeches are an encouragement and chizuk to the eventuality of Moshiach’s arrival. He explained that very often a speaker will drone on and on, causing people to think that he will never finish. But at some point, he eventually does conclude his speech, and dessert is served. That helps strengthen our belief that even though at times we feel like the long-winded exile will never end, eventually Moshiach will indeed arrive.

The holiday of Purim itself does not leave much time for speeches and lectures. The fleeting day contains so many mitzvos that must be performed, so much love and friendship to exude, and so many smiles to share that there is hardly any time for speeches. Perhaps that too is part of the reason why the day is so joyous.

But lest we celebrate too much, the holiday of Pesach is right around the corner, and if you’re not ready to listen to lectures about how to proceed, well then you’re going to feel like you never left Egypt.

But hey look at the bright side, if the speaker goes overtime, it’ll be a chizuk that we too will one day be redeemed.

Shabbat Shalom & Good Shabbos,


R’ Dani and Chani Staum