Parshas Vaeira

January 11, 2013
29 Teves, 5773

Parshas Vaeira
Candle-lighting Time: 4:37 PM

This edition of Sparks of Torah is dedicated in honor of Rabbi Efraim Cunningham and his wife Shifra who had a baby girl this week. Mazel Tov!


  • Register now for Wine, Cheese & Chocolate, and make your Toast to R’ Leban and TJE, Feb. 2nd. (303) 316-6412 or
  • Go to Israel! Space available on Men’s Mission, Family Mission and Women’s Mission in 2013.

Take a Deep Breath

by Rabbi Raphael Leban

Last summer on a trip to the East Coast I realized why so many Jews came to Colorado a hundred years ago. As I walked out of the New York airport, the thick, humid air was like hot dog’s breath in my face. By the time I got to the car and put my suitcases in the trunk, my forehead was soaked with perspiration and my lungs were desperate for a mouthful of crisp, clear Colorado air. One of life’s simple pleasures—the delicious air we breathe.

You see from Rashi in this week’s parsha just how significant a thing it is.

When G-d sends Moses to tell the Jewish People they are going to be saved from their bitter slavery in Egypt, they don’t listen. Can you imagine not listening to such news?! The verse explains that they couldn’t accept Moses’ words because of the hard work and ‘kotzer ruach.’ This phrase, ‘kotzer ruach,’ can be translated as shortness of spirit. They felt oppressed, depressed and altogether too downtrodden to hear what Moses was telling them.

Rashi, however, translates the phrase more literally, to mean shortness of breath. They couldn’t breath fully or deeply, a physical symptom of their spiritual state. They were crushed and smothered, and they didn’t have the ‘breathing room’ to be optimistic about their future salvation.

Think about it: G-d’s prophet was telling them they were going to be rescued from slavery in Egypt and they couldn’t hear it! They just couldn’t breathe.

The feeling of having space in one’s life, being able to stop and take a deep breath, is a fundamental aspect of a healthy spiritual life. G-d has plenty of wonderful things to tell us, readily available by learning His Torah. And with a deep breath and plenty of breathing room in our lives, (especially here in Colorado) we’ll be able to hear it.

Is Seeing Believing?

by Rabbi Dovid Nussbaum

In our day and age it is widely accepted that if you can’t prove something, it doesn’t exist. Imagine for a moment that someone tampered with our water supply and it became contaminated and undrinkable. The microscopic organisms that were polluting the water could only be identified through scientific analysis. When the contamination of the water was proven, everyone would stop drinking water immediately. Certainly, if the cause of the contamination was visible to the naked eye, no one would even wait for the scientific analysis. The person who had caused the menace would be tracked down and brought to justice before he instigated further attacks.

Based upon the previous scenario, how could Pharaoh have actually seen the water in Egypt turn to blood and still not submit to Moshe’s demand that he release his slaves? This was real blood, not the facsimile created by his own magicians. Wasn’t he terrified that if he didn’t listen he would be subject to future terrorist attacks that would be even more debilitating?

If you examine the text you will notice that after Pharaoh’s magicians duplicated the blood with their own incantations, the Torah states that he went home and did not pay attention to what had just happened. Is it important to know where he went when he denied the existence of Hashem and the powerful message that had just been sent him?

K’sav Sofer explains that Pharaoh’s house was a bastion of idol worship; it wasn’t simply where he resided. In his house he was shielded from outside influences that might convince him that his outlook on life was highly flawed. Therefore, the Torah points this out by stressing that he returned to his house and therefore he was able to reject the notion that Hashem sent this plague to him. He simply closed the door to his house and was transported to a realm where a different truth prevailed.

We  may find this hard to believe. How could he have witnessed the entire water supply of Egypt become bloody and yet ignore the import of the situation? But upon further introspection, we may find it hard to believe that we don’t do this!

Perhaps the most stark example of this is when we awake in the morning. Our eyes open and we become aware of the world around us. Baruch Hashem, all systems are go. Everything is functioning according to plan and we jump out of bed and get ready to face another day. Did it ever occur to us what would happen if our eyes did not see, if our ears did hear, if our legs did not carry us? Our hearts are still beating and our lungs inhaling and exhaling that wonderful gas called oxygen.

What if something went wrong and, Heaven forbid, something was not working the way it was supposed to. Then we would find our lives compromised and we would be unable to continue living the same way that we had done. How many people don’t wake up one morning because they have died in their sleep? Have we entered into the wrong house or did we just wake up on the wrong side of the bed?

Question for the Rabbis
By Rabbi Mordechai Becher, reprinted with permission from

There are four expressions of redemption mentioned in the Torah portion this week, and according to the Midrash (Bereishis Rabba 85:5) they hint at the obligation to drink four cups of wine at the Seder. A woman asked Rabbi Yosef Dov Soloveitchik of Brisk if she could use milk to fulfill the mitzvah of the four cups. Rabbi Soloveitchik gave her a large amount of money and told her to buy wine. One of his students pointed out that the amount of money that the Rabbi gave her was much more than necessary for wine. Rabbi Soloveitchik answered that since the woman was planning to use milk at the Seder, she obviously was not serving meat, because she could not afford it, so he gave her enough money to buy meat at the Seder as well as wine.

Joke of the Week

5773 Year according to Jewish calendar
4610 Year according to Chinese calendar
1163 Total number of years that Jews went without Chinese food


God told Moshe that He was going to ‘harden’ Pharaoh’s heart. This seems to mean that Pharaoh was not given the opportunity to do teshuva (repent) for what he had done to the Jews. Where was his free will? Pharaoh still had the ability to repent and recognize God, however, he was not entitled to any especial assistance from God to help him achieve it.