On Monday evening, February 3, Rabbi Pinchas Winston, the author of over 50 books on Torah philosophy, the weekly parshah sheet PERCEPTIONS, and his site thirtysix.org, shared a shiur on g’ulah with community women at the home of Rabbi Dovid and Nechama Mirsky. The shiur was dedicated by Mrs. Linda Davidson l’ilui nishmas her father, Efrayim ben Chananyah Yom Tov Lipa, Mr. Efry Steinmetz, who was a warm, exuberant individual who loved people. He dedicated his life to family, spreading Yiddishkeit, and helping others. He was a baal tz’dakah and baal chesed par excellence. He was a pillar of the Jewish community in Caracas, Venezuela, where he lived most of his life, and a devoted chasid of the Lubavitcher Rebbe.
The shiur was also dedicated l’ilui nishmas Rabbi Avram Neumark, Rav Chaim Avraham Eliyahu ben Moshe Yosef a”h, the grandfather of Mrs. Nechama Mirsky. Rabbi Neumark was born in the Soviet Union and escaped from the Communists with his family at the end of World War II. He was part of an underground yeshivah in Russia and helped establish a yeshivah in Lud. He traveled through war-torn Europe to Eretz Yisrael, where he helped establish that yeshivah, and then joined his family in Canada. He was a master m’chaneich and rav who spread Torah in Memphis, New York, and Montreal. Rabbi Neumark made aliyah with his wife Roz tblc”t about 17 years ago, where he continued to learn Torah and teach others with devotion.
Mrs. Mirsky welcomed everyone and introduced the speaker.
Rabbi Winston then began his shiur by speaking about the mitzvah of Matzah. “Klal Yisrael loved the mitzvah of Matzah so much that they carried it on their shoulders when they left Egypt. This is the source for the custom to carry matzah on our shoulders at the Seder.
He then posed the question of why the Jews didn’t have time to bake bread when they were leaving Egypt. They knew they were leaving and there so many people. It must have taken them a while to go. The Brisker Rav says that Avraham ate matzos 400 years before, and he had time to bake bread. “Do we eat matzos because we left quickly? Hashem wanted us to eat matzos, so He pushed us out so we would eat matzah. Matzah was meant to be from Creation.
Rabbi Winston asked, “Why did we have to leave so quickly?” An answer given is that the Jews had reached the 49th level of impurity. If they had gone down one more level, there would be nothing to save, so we had to leave quickly. He then asked, “Why are we still in galus?”
He then taught that holiness and spiritual impurity are two forces in Creation and both can’t be up at the same time. He shared that in the beginning of the plagues the tum’ah was stronger. At the end of each plague, the k’dushah was stronger. When klal Yisrael finally left Egypt, they were on a much higher spiritual level than at the beginning of the plagues; so the argument that they had to leave quickly because they were on the 49th level of impurity doesn’t make sense. That low level was at the beginning of the plagues. Though we left Egypt, he taught, we didn’t finish the job. We will leave the final galus the same way we left Egypt.
Rabbi Winston noted that really only one plague was needed to destroy Egypt. Why did Hashem send so many? Also, darkness was the only plague that affected the Jewish people. He explained that the ten plagues were for klal Yisrael. Each plague was simultaneously a r’fuah for klal Yisrael. So, this means we didn’t leave because we were on the 49th level of tum’ah.
He then posed another question. Why was blood the first plague and the last when they did bris milah, korban Pesach, and putting blood on the doorposts? The Egyptians viewed the Nile River as a god, so that was why Hashem afflicted their god, but why specifically with blood?
Rabbi Winston taught that when Hashem made Adam, Adam named all the animals because he could understand the essence of something and the name was a description. He called himself Adam because he came from the adamah. He understood that he was composed of two opposite components: a physical body and a soul. The letter alef symbolizes the soul. Dam, blood, symbolizes the body. The first plague demonstrated to the Jews that this is where you are holding. Dam symbolizes that you are steeped in physicality. Every plague had the purpose of expanding them spiritually. Each plague increased the revelation of Hashem in the world. By the time of the fifth plague, Hashem has to harden Pharaoh’s heart because, at this point, he could not hide from the fact that Hashem is running the world. When it is time for the last plague, the killing of the first-born, the alef is the proper size.
The Hebrew word adam has the same g’matria as the Hebrew word g’ulah. This means that the definition of g’ulah is when a person becomes a complete person. When a person is personally, spiritually, and physically balanced perfectly, then he will enter g’ulah. “So, you can enter your personal g’ulah in your lifetime.” If enough of us do this, this will bring the world to g’ulah.
He returned to his original question: “So, why did we leave Egypt quickly?”
He answered that we left Egypt to save the Egyptians and Pharaoh, not the Jews. He then clarified this idea. In every generation, one nation embodies the yeitzer ha’ra. As long as there is evil in the world, then there is free will in the world. If all the Egyptians were destroyed, then there would have been no evil and no free choice. That is the time of Mashiach.
Rabbi Winston taught that we eat matzah at the Seder because “we still have not chosen redemption. We haven’t finished the job.” Thousands of years later, we still have not chosen redemption. May it come speedily in our days.
By Susie Garber