Parsha Encounters



Parshas Vaeira:

Learning Your Lesson

Rabbi Aharon Cohen

[Don't forget to see the Halacha Encounters below!]

“VaYomer Aleihem Chotosi Hapa’am, Hashem Hatzadik Va’ani V’Ami Har’shaim.”(Shmos 9:27)
“ And he (Pharaoh) said to them ‘This time I have sinned, Hashem is the righteous one and I and my people are the wicked ones.”

Pharaoh and his servants came to this conclusion after witnessing the devastation of the Barad (hail).

On the other hand one may ask, “How sincere was Pharaoh if no sooner the Barad stopped falling we are told:
“ VaYosef Lachto VaYachbeid Libo Hu Va’Avadav?”(34)
“ And he continued to sin and he made his heart stubborn, he and his servants.”

It seems strange that Pharaoh would continue to sin after reaching this level of understanding. He fully realized that it is Hashem who runs the world, He is righteous, and everything He does is measured.

Rav Eliyahu Dessler, zt”l says that from here we see what happens when someone only pushes aside or ignores the Yetzer Horah (evil inclination) instead of negating it totally. A person who suppresses an urge to sin on a momentary basis finds that the urge only grows more powerful. This is similar to pushing down on a spring where the resistance grows as one pushes down harder on the coil. On the other hand, a person who does complete Teshuva is assuredly not the person he once was. Not so was Pharaoh, who admitted the undeniable truth, but made no effort to transform himself. Of course he would continue to sin.
We are taught (Mechilta) that the Egyptians merited burial because they uttered these words, as we see later on at the Song by the Sea in the pasuk “Natisa Yemincha Tivlaeimo Aretz” – see Rashi there.

Obviously this declaration was not truthful and was only a deceitful ploy to avoid more suffering. Why then were they awarded burial if it was not earned honestly?

Rabbi Yosef Leib Bloch, zt”l says that the Torah is teaching us a very important lesson here. He says that any good deed, word or thought – however trivial or insignificant it may seem, when weighed against serious offenses, will not be erased and will still bring merit to the doer.

Rabbi Bloch zt”l ends with words of chizuk to our generation: People, when pondering the advent of Mashiach, may he come speedily in our days, tend to wonder how we can merit his arrival when previous greater generations could not. The answer lies in the lesson we just learned. Even in our times, when there is an overabundance of treachery – Hashem faithfully guards and protects his followers so that they can earn their just reward.

Rabbi Cohen is a Kollel alumnus and rebbe at Arie Crown Hebrew Day School. He is a member of the Zichron Aharon Mechanchim Division and the Kollel Boker.

Halacha Encounters

Taking Vitamins on Shabbos

Rabbi Ari Friedman

The medical world is fascinating, yet complex particularly to those not intimately involved with it. How much more complicated is the Halachic medical world where our Poskim are required to have a thorough understanding of both medical and Halachic issues to deal with many of the complex “sheilos” [Halachic questions] that arise in this area. In this week’s Halacha Encounters we will discuss one small area of this extensive subject, regarding the taking of vitamins and the like on Shabbos.

The Shulchan Aruch [O.H. 328-1] tells us that one who has a minor ache or pain and is walking around [i.e. not bedridden] is forbidden to engage in any medical activity [on Shabbos]. The reasoning behind this prohibition is that the Sages were concerned that one might get so caught up in finding relief for his pain he would come to grind the herbs to make medication. [See Ketzos Hashulchan 134 b.h. 7 and Tzitz Eliezer volume 8-15 who discusses why today this still applies when the probability of one grinding herbs is almost nil.] Therefore one who is suffering from a mild headache, cough, or cold would be forbidden to take Tylenol or another pain reliever on Shabbos. However, one who falls under the category of Choleh She’ain Bo Sakana, where he is ill enough to be bedridden or feels pain throughout his entire body, would be permitted to take medication on Shabbos.

The Shulchan Aruch adds that any food or drink normally consumed by individuals who are healthy would not be included in the prohibition of Refuah [medical activity] on Shabbos. However, items normally consumed only by those who are unwell is forbidden, but only if the individual is unwell. A healthy person was never included in the prohibition of Refuah, being that there is no concern for him getting caught up in his pain and coming to grind medication. HaGaon Rav Moshe Feinstein ZT”L [Igros Moshe O.H.3 Siman 54] based on the Magen Avraham [328:43] explains that one who is healthy may take medication which is preventative, even if this would slightly improve his health. Only one who is weak, and the taking of a particular pill would help return him to his original strength, would be included in the issur of Refuah. Based on the above we can conclude the following. One who has a cold, sore throat, etc. would be permitted to eat chicken soup or drink hot tea even if his sole intent is for Refuah. Healthy people normally consume these items as well. Rav Dovid Zucker shlit”a ruled that this would also include Aspirin [Bayer etc.] which is taken regularly by many healthy people. Additionally, vitamins that are normally taken by healthy people [i.e. Vitamins C, E, or multivitamins] would be permitted on Shabbos. Concerning vitamins that are normally taken only by those who are weak or unwell it would depend on the individual. If one is healthy and taking the vitamin for preventative purposes or even to slightly improve his health, then this would be permitted. However, one who is weak or has a deficiency would be forbidden to take these vitamins to restore one to his original health. However, if one would have the Halachic status of a Choleh She’ain Bo Sakana then it would be permitted to take these vitamins. A child always has the status of a Choleh She’ain Bo Sakana and would be allowed to take vitamins in any case where it would be necessary. Additionally, a pregnant woman would be permitted to take any medication or vitamin for the sake of herself or her unborn child.

Rabbi Weinrib learns full time in the Kollel and is a frequent contributor to Halacha Encounters.

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