The Gemara (Chulin) says that rich people are stingy. Rav Shimon Sofer zt”l explains that if a rich person was not stingy, his tz’dakah would be meaningless. Hashem makes him stingy by nature so that parting with his money will be a challenge, even though financially speaking it is not. This way, he, too, can earn the great mitzvah of tz’dakah with m’siras nefesh just like his less affluent brethren, who are parting with money that they can ill afford to part with.

Pharaoh asked Moshe to pray to G-d to remove the frogs. Moshe Rabbeinu prayed and the frogs went away. The same thing happened with the plague of wild animals. Pharaoh suffered and begged Moshe and Aharon. They davened to Hashem and the wild animals left. Likewise, with the hail and the locust. Pharaoh begs Moshe to daven for him, Moshe davens, the hail stops, and the locust leave. Why was it necessary that every single time, Pharaoh would ask him to pray, Moshe would daven, and only then the plague would cease? The answer, says Rav Yerucham Levovitz zt”l (Mir Mashgiach) is that this narration teaches us something very fundamental about life: The way to obtain things in this world is to pray for them. This is the only way to achieve things in this world. Without prayer, not even Moshe could have prevailed.

The Torah tells us that one who owns a Jewish slave must release him after the sixth year. He is to leave his master the same way he came. Rashi explains that the expression “b’gapo” in the pasuk means that he is not married. He leaves “with his cloak”; in other words, if he came only as he was, alone within his clothing, that is how he is to leave. According to Rashi, the metaphor for being single is one’s garment.

In every generation, the Jewish people are blessed by the Almighty with a leader to whom, regardless of the domain – be it communal or individual life – nothing is done without his advice or consent. Rav Yitzchak Elchanan Spektor zt”l was known as “Rabban shel kol Yisrael” (Teacher of all Israel), and although he led various communities during his almost 80 years of life, his greatest renown arose from the city of Kovno, Lithuania, where he served as Rav for more than 30 years. It was there that he established his reputation as the Poseik HaDor, and he maintained a large correspondence with rabbis, roshei yeshivah, laymen, communities, philanthropists, and representatives in many parts of the world, who sought his advice and instruction on all conceivable subjects relating to klal Yisrael. His sound reasoning and love of peace established him as truly one of the great leaders of world Jewry. The N’tziv, Rav Naftali Tzvi Yehudah Berlin zt”l of Volozhin, once said that Rav Yitzchak Elchanan merited all this because of his exceptional diligence in Torah study. “He is the greatest masmid of our generation,” said the N’tziv, who was also known for his exceptional diligence.

The Jewish people are the only people in history to predicate their survival on education. The most sacred duty of parents is to teach their children. Judaism is a religion whose heroes are teachers and whose passion is study. The Egyptians built pyramids. The Romans built the Coliseum. Jews built schools. That is why we alone, of all the civilizations of the ancient world, are still alive and strong, still continuing our ancestors’ vocation, our heritage intact and undiminished. In this parshah, Moshe speaks of the duty of parents to educate their children. We should encourage our children to ask questions, so that the transmission of the Jewish heritage would be not a matter of rote learning but of active dialogue between parents and children.

It was the chasunah of a relative. A happy time, a special time, and Reb Anshel was filled with gratitude to be there. A retired businessman with a large and ever-growing family immersed in lives of avodas Hashem, Reb Anshel is known and respected in the Toronto community and beyond. As a guest myself, I was also participating in the beautiful simchah. During the chasan’s tish, waiting for the badeken ceremony to begin, I noticed Reb Anshel coming out of the crowd, toward me.