Rabbi Baruch Bodenheim – Associate Rosh Yeshiva – PTI – Passaic Torah Institute – Pre-Pesach Stories Versus Testimonies: Both Count

One of my talmidim loves giving me a newly published sefer before each Yom Tov. For Pesach, he just gave me the new Chasam Sofer Haggadah by Rabbi Yisroel Besser. Last year, it was the Rav Chaim Kanievsky Haggadah, and the year prior, the Rav Aharon Leib Shteinman Haggadah. It’s easy to find new material for the Pesach Seder—each year many new Haggadahs come out. In fact, the Haggadah Shel Pesach has the most explanations of all Jewish texts.

Still, we’re retelling the same story each year. Why the need for so many new commentaries? One of the pivotal mitzvos of Seder night is Sipur yetzias Mitzrayim—telling the story of leaving Egypt. The section in the Haggadah of Maggid focuses on this mitzvah. Why does the Haggadah not call that section “Sipur”? What is the connotation of maggid—telling over something—as opposed to sipur?

There are two pesukim in the Torah that instruct us to retell the story of our journey from bondage to freedom. “Lema’an tesaper b’oznei vincha”—in order that you tell the story in the ears of your children. And “vehigadita lebincha”—and you shall tell your children. Here, both terms of sipur and maggid are used about retelling the story. What is the difference?

The Malbim explains that maggid means to tell something that is hidden to the person who needs to hear it. We see this in the pasuk about testimony—“v’im lo yagid”—if he doesn’t testify. When someone testifies, he is informing the court about information unknown to it, which the court needs to hear in order to deal with the case at hand. Similarly, Maggid in the Seder has us testify about what occurred in Mitzrayim and to disclose unknown details

Rav Avrohom Schorr explains this is perhaps why there are so many new commentaries printed each year about the Haggadah. To enhance the concept of “Maggid” in the Seder, providing new information or another perspective that wasn’t mentioned the prior year keeps the story fresh and exciting. Further, the Rambam tells us that the story of our redemption must be communicated to children according to their personalities, as the Haggadah discusses regarding the capabilities and outlooks of the Four Sons. It takes time and thought to creatively engage our children…and ourselves.

The aspect of sipur—retelling the story of Yetzias Mitzrayim—is also very important. Everyone loves a good story. Indeed, a good storyteller vividly brings out the details that helps the listener visualize and feel like he is actually experiencing the story, which is another specific mitzvah of Seder night!!

Rav Matisyahu Salomon adds that telling a story makes an impression on both the listener and the person telling the story. The pasuk that instructs us to tell the story concludes with the words “vidatem ki ani Hashem” and you (both the teller and listener) will know that I am Hashem. Both the elements of maggid and sipur are critical in communicating the story of our exodus from Egypt.

In a study at Princeton University, Israeli professor Uri Hasson found that when you listen to a well-told story, the parts of the brain that respond are the same as those that would respond if you were actually there. He connected people to an MRI machine while they listened to a story.

He found that if a storyteller describes an experience—like throwing a football, their motor cortex responds, specifically the part associated with hand and arm movement. The research found that this effect also happens to the person telling the story. So, as the story is being told, both the storyteller and the listener’s brains start lighting up in sync with one another! This is the powerful connection we feel when listening to a well-told story.

Maggid tells the story as a reality, disclosing new details about the past, while sipur makes it live and real so we can see ourselves in the story. To really fulfill the potential of this special night of Seder takes much thought and preparation. That’s part of why the Shabbos Hagadol drasha is normally given the Shabbos prior to Pesach. This year, we do this one week earlier, since Shabbos is Erev Pesach.

Let’s use this week to help make our Seder exciting and relevant to the children and participants of all ages! Personally, I like using props for the makkos (plagues). My favorite are the many “mini wild animals” I have, or the golden chariot I use for Pharaoh chasing the Jews. I even have a 5-foot skeleton in my closet that I don’t take out anymore, since it scared one of my daughters. New commentaries and explanations should be relatable to each child’s age and maturity. Consider having prizes and incentives for active participation as well. By making it exciting and actively listening when someone is talking, we make our Seder into a transformative experience for the whole family!

Aleeza Ben Shalom – Money And Dating

Money can come up at different stages throughout the dating process. It is an important conversation to have, but we don’t want to let money be the deciding factor either. Here are a few tips on how to broach the topic of money and how to handle the discussion of finances generally – from first date to chuppah.

Splitting the bill splits the connection.

Ladies, let the gentlemen treat you. Gentlemen, take her out – your treat.

Sometimes money comes up right at the beginning. It starts off innocently enough – a nice first date, an enjoyable meal and great conversation, and then the bill arrives. The dreaded question: do you want to split the bill?

Don’t say it. Gentlemen, just take the ladies out. No, really, insist that you pay for her. Ladies, don’t set him up to fail by insisting that you pay your half. For the first few dates, take her out. If she says, next one is my treat, then okay, let her do that. It’s still major brownie points if you insist on paying even when she chooses the date and venue, and offers to pay.

The psychology behind this is that men want to take care of a woman, and women want to be taken care of. The act of paying for the date signifies that the man likes you enough to take care of you. It isn’t about the dollars and cents, or who makes more.

We develop love through giving. Taking her out, driving her, picking and dropping her off, and walking her to her door, is about giving. This is how men give. So ladies, let him give to you.

How do women give? Women tend to be more emotionally ready and available – we draw someone out of their shell. We spend time preparing – hair, makeup, clothes, nails – whatever is important to us. Statistically, women spend a lot of money on these types of things, and time on it. We create an energy on the date, and put in time and effort into dates this way.

By taking the bill out of his hand, we aren’t giving him a place to give. It’s about a give and take, not just splitting everything. It creates an element of romance – I take care of you, you take care of me, versus just treating everything like a financial arrangement. Splitting the bill splits the connection. The goal is to build the relationship. Each person takes care of the other one at a different time. In the beginning, it is nice for the man to pay, “the gentlemanly thing to do.” Learn how to receive graciously and accept his gift – say thank you!

Money talks can break a relationship.

Decide if there is a future before bringing finances into it, but do discuss it before things get too serious. Before opening up the conversation about money, take the time to get to know each other and make sure there is a real connection. Once that is established, discuss what you want your life to look like. Do you rent or own? Do you have a car? What is your career path? What do you envision yourself doing in 5 years? Will things look differently when you have a family?

When do you start to have these conversations? It really depends on the level of the connection. The first few dates should be spent enjoying the person’s company and getting to know them. Decide if you like them, if you want to continue seeing them, if there is something significant here. Figure that out before money enters the picture because money can make or break things. You want a solid foundation before it enters the conversation.

Once you feel comfortable, you can start to discuss these things. Do either of you have student loans, or are you in school, or planning to go to school in the future? Where do you want to live? What kind of debt do you have, if any? At what point do you share these things?

It’s a good idea to have these deeper conversations once you realize you feelings start to develop, but before you’ve lost all ability to be objective. Your own personal comfort level will determine when you are ready – it could be the sixth date or the sixteenth. We all have different experiences of money, how we view it, and how we think about it.

Get on the same page before you bring your families into it.

Make sure your relationship is solid enough to handle an extremely difficult time period. It won’t just be one conversation; it might take a few dates. Take it in small doses. Once there is a wedding to discuss and plan, money can get very complicated. Talking about money when dating is very different than discussing it with parents and families. The conversation could involve pre-nuptial agreements, family money in a trust, no money and tons of debt, or anything in between. When you stand under the chuppah, now one person’s debt is the other person’s debt. It gets really heavy.

Know your own finances. If you’re not good at it, hire someone or ask someone for help. Have a real conversation. Who is paying for the wedding? Which part? It can be emotional and complicated and extremely difficult. The two of you must be stuck together like glue. It doesn’t matter what is happening around you. Do not let anyone make you choose between each other and family when it comes to money. Keep the close connection, and let the families duke it out if need be.

In general, you should bring up the topic of finances, but be prepared to leave the conversation unfinished and go have fun. It can take a while to cover everything. At the end of the discussion, decide what you both agree on in the conversation. Know where you are compatible and likeminded, and focus on it. It takes so much effort to find a someone you like and want to marry – don’t let money be the stopping point. If you have something solid, figure out the money, bring someone else into the conversation, perhaps a money coach. Finding a great relationship is difficult, so don’t let money get in the way.

May you broach the topic of money sensibly and sensitively with the right person at the right time, and walk down to the chuppah with a sense of calm and connection.


Originally Published On Aish.com.


Rabbi Baruch Bodenheim – Associate Rosh Yeshiva – PTI – Passaic Torah Institute – Parsha Vayakhel-Pekudei – Maintaining a Relationship Grounded in Torah

I recall getting a phone call from a wife who was distressed regarding her shalom bayis at home. I met with her and her husband, who were married over 15 years and have children. Alas, it was clear the husband had no clue what it meant to be married. He had no concept that a wife needs to feel loved and considered special by her husband. The wife, meanwhile, had no idea of how to make her husband feel important and be attentive to his needs. In my eyes, I saw two people living in the same house, paying the bills and taking care of their children, but there was no caring relationship. Baruch Hashem they both realized there was a major issue and wanted to improve. In time…and with some hard work…they could have a beautiful relationship. That kind of relationship can be derived from one of this week’s parshios: Vayakhel.

Parshas Vayakhel lists the utensils that were brought into the Mishkan. Yet, it seems one item is omitted. It lists the Shulchan, Menorah, Mizbeach, the Aron and the Kapores, the cover. But it does not mention the Keruvim (angels resembling youths) on top of the Kapores. Why not?

The answer is implicit in the pasuk in Parshas Terumah, where Hashem instructs that “the Keruvim must be fashioned from the lid.” The Keruvim and the cover of the Aron must be one piece of gold. The Keruvim are not listed independently, since the Keruvim are an outgrowth of the cover of the Aron.

What is the significance of Keruvim and the cover being one entity? Rav Hirsch explains that the function of a Keruv is to be a guardian—a protector, as mentioned in Bereishis, where Keruvim were placed to protect the entrance to Gan Eden. Keruvim also function as bearers of Hashem’s glory, as mentioned in Sefer Yechezkel. The Keruvim on top of the Aron served in a double capacity: as guardians of the Aron and as bearers of Hashem’s glory. Their wings spread upward over the cover of the Aron to serve as a protection.

On the surface, the Keruvim appear to be protecting the contents inside the Aron—the Luchos (tablets). However, the Torah emphasizes their wings are actually protecting the kapores—the lid—and not the contents inside the Aron. The cover (Kapores) itself—protects the Luchos inside the Aron, and then, having accomplished this task, the cover itself forms its own Keruvim. This introduces an incredible idea, as Rav Hirsch says, “By keeping and guarding Hashem’s Torah, the Kapores becomes like a live Keruv—a protector of the Torah and a bearer of Hashem’s glory.”

For this purpose, one might say it’s sufficient to have just one Keruv. Why the need for two?

Rav Hirsch further explains that inside the Aron, underneath the Keruvim, were the Luchos that consisted of two tablets. The first half of the Luchos list five commandments between man and Hashem. The second half list mitzvos between man and man. Each Keruv on the Kapores was a separate outgrowth, deriving from each tablet.

Moreover, the Keruvim had different faces—one was the face of a young man and the other a young woman—like a newly married couple. I believe the Torah is hinting to us that every married couple serves as protectors of the Torah and bearers of Hashem’s glory.

It’s also a great lesson for a happy marriage. A couple consist of two people, the husband and wife, who see the world from two entirely different perspectives. Neither has a stronger claim to the truth. They stand and look at things from entirely different vantage points and each may differ yet be independently correct.

Just as the Keruvim faced each other and looked down at the Aron, so too, each spouse needs to carefully look at the face of the other to understand what the spouse is seeing and feeling from the other’s perspective. Each needs to understand that their viewpoint is not absolute; an entirely different perspective may be correct as well. That’s the mandate we take on in marriage. Young or old, we need to picture the youthful faces of the Keruvim, representing a youthful couple grounded in Torah observance, to keep our marriages vibrant…and flexible.

Finally, let’s remember to emulate the Keruvim in their gaze—toward the Aron. A couple must always look to the Torah, with all its mitzvos and perspectives on life, for guidance. This focus on Torah will help couples create and maintain a healthy and vibrant marriage, guarding the Torah and becoming bearers of Hashem’s glory.