Tuesday, April 07, 2015

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The Firstborn

   by Reb Gutman Locks  

The Firstborn


     The final blow to Pharaoh was the death of all of the firstborn in Egypt. He himself was a firstborn and when he saw that Hashem was killing all of the firstborn, he finally relented and rushed the Jews out of Egypt.

     The problem was that in all rights the Jewish firstborn should have been destroyed too, but Hashem had mercy on them and spared their lives.

     To atone for their needing forgiveness to survive that plague, it is a custom for Jewish firstborn to fast each year on the day before Pesach. 

     However, if someone who is supposed to fast hears the completion of a tractate of the Talmud the celebration of that Torah accomplishment overrides the need to fast.

     Almost always someone comes to our neitz minyan (sunrise quorum) right after davening on the day before Pesach and completes a tractate so all of the firstborn present can hear it and be excused from the fast.

     This year it seemed that no one showed up! The firstborn were getting very nervous. "Oh No!" But then two young boys, one not even bar mitzvah yet, announced that they were each finishing a gemora (a tractate of Talmud). Joy!

     We all stood close as the young boy began. That is his brother standing next to him wearing his tefillin. You can see the firstborn listening intently and the very proud father's hand resting on his son's shoulder as he read the end of his tractate out loud. After the two boys finished, their father handed out small pieces of chocolate to be sure that no one fasted.

     What do we learn from all this. We see that our history is not merely our history but it is the ongoing story of our lives today. These firstborn were born thousands of years after that plague, yet they still fast each year to thank Hashem for His kindness.

     The story of the Jews going down into Egyptian slavery and our liberation when we relied on Hashem is the ongoing reality of our lives. If we go out into the world to work for money we will become horribly enslaved by that work. However, if we go into the world, even to that same job to make that same money but to use that money for a mitzvah, then that work will become holy work and we will live holy lives instead of the miserable life of a burdened slave. 




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