Rabbi Yehoshua Weber

Dedicated as a זכות for the רפואה שלמה of יצחק מאיר בן חיה פייגא and for אברהם בן גיטל אידל.

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It’s the story of the chassid who had been hurt in every which way.

The hurt began when his partner emptied the chassid’s business accounts and disappeared with the funds. Left penniless, the chassid reached out to friends for a bridge loan. Those friends didn't respond, so the chassid’s business and his personal finances collapsed.

Overwhelmed by this downfall, the chassid’s parents-in-law told their daughter to desert her now penniless husband - which she did.

Penniless, alone and broken, the chassid went to his rebbe.

The chassid opened his heart and shared his - legitimate - complaints against all those who had wronged him. He cried about all that he had lost and that he had nothing to live for.

The rebbe responded with the following advice: ”Take a sack and fill it with bricks - one brick for everyone who wronged you. Include all offenders - friends, relatives and business associate - don’t let anyone get away,” the rebbe warned.

“Once that sack fills with bricks, spend an hour, daily, carrying that sack on your back. Do this daily and you’ll see the solution.”

The chassid followed the guidance, filled a sack with bricks and carried that sack on his back every day.

After a few days, the chassid told his rebbe: “I can’t carry these bricks on my back anymore. They’re just too heavy.”

With love in his eyes, the rebbe replied: “You can’t carry bricks on your back but you can carry bricks on your heart? Aren’t your resentments the heaviest of bricks? What was done to you was wrong but your resentments over those wrongs are causing you great harm. Stop looking back at resentments and then you’ll be able to look ahead and plan a future.

On some level, this message may lie within the following possuk: “For as you have seen Egyptians today, you will not see them again.”[1]

This possuk, of course, introduces the prohibition against living in Egypt which the Rambam codifies as follows: “one may live in the entire world but not in the land of Egypt.”[2]

Despite this prohibition, great Jewish communities – and Jewish leaders, even the Rambam himself – lived and flourished in Egypt.

Why did Jews live in Egypt despite that prohibition?

Some say the Torah only prohibited living in Egypt during a rarefied, holy period when “all Jews live in Israel.”[3]

Others say the Torah never prohibited living in Egypt. It, rather, prohibited travelling the specific route that we travelled in our journey from Egyptian slavery to Eretz Yisrael.[4]

Others say the Torah wasn’t distancing us from the land of Egypt per se. It was, rather, distancing us from the degenerate people[5] that lived in ancient Egypt.

That distancing may be unnecessary today. Why? Because today’s Egyptians are not the same people who lived in Egypt back then – those people emigrated from Egypt many years ago.[6]

For these - and for other – reasons, we are permitted to live in Egypt today.

If we are permitted to live in Egypt, then we may wonder: how does the prohibition against “seeing” Egyptians express itself in our lives today?

The answer to this question may lie – at least homiletically – in realizing that the Torah wasn’t just discouraging “seeing” Egyptians. It was also discouraging “seeing” – i.e., focusing on – dispiriting memories of Egyptian slavery, infanticide and loss. It was inveighing against squandering time and energy on past pains and missed opportunities.

Our Torah commands us to, instead, look ahead at the opportunities that are still available and at redemptions that can still occur.

And isn’t that what living – not just for the generation of the exodus but also for us – is really all about?

Rabbi Weber, founder of Ohr Tzvi Montebello-Monsey, is a rav to the young men and women at Kochvei Ohr and Ateres Bais Yaakov and is Rabbi Emeritus of Toronto’s Clanton Park Synagogue. Please visit his website, ohrtzvi.org, to sign up for his weekly email message or for information on his live or zoom shiurim. Rabbi Weber will be mara d’asra at the Hudson Valley Resort for Pesach. For information, please email or call (845) 794-6000.

[1] Shemos 14:13. See also Devarim 17:16 and 28:65

[2] Rambam, Melachim 5:6

[3] Ritva, Yoma 38a

[4] Rebbi Eliezer MeMitz, quoted in the Ritva, Yoma 38a

[5] Sefer HaChinuch 500:2

[6] Semag, Lavin 226, according to initial supposition. See also Rabbeinu Bachya who, following this line of reasoning, limits the prohibition to just the generation of the Exodus.


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