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The Psalm of Redemption I: Emet L’Yaakov

The 29th of Adar is the Yahrtzeit of Rav Yaakov (ben Binyomin) Kamenetsky (1891-1986). Born on the 21 Adar, in hamlet of Kalushkove (from which his family moved to Dolhinov), he left for Minsk at the age of 11.

Among his friends there were the future Rav Reuven Grozovsky, and the young Aaron Kotler. Shortly after Pesach in 1905, Reb Yaakov and Reb Aaron traveled to Slobodka to learn under the supervision of the Alter of Slobodka. Reb Yaakov also learned in Slutzk. During World War I he took refuge in Lomza in the yeshiva of Reb Yechiel Michel Gordon. On 22 Sivan, 1919, he married the Rebbetzin Ita Ettel. On 11th Av 1937, he left for America and was appointed Rav in Toronto. In 1945, he accepted the request of Reb Shraga Feivel Mendelovitz that he take up the position of Rosh Yeshiva in Mesivta Torah Vodaas. He stayed there for the rest twenty years, after which he moved to Monsey, officially “retired” but working tirelessly for US and world Jewery. His chidushim were printed in his seforim Emes LeYaakov, on Torah and on Shas. As he requested, he was buried in Mt. Judah Cemetery on the Brooklyn/Queens border, since he pointed out that most of his family live in America and would not always be able to travel to his kever in Eretz Yisrael. From this, his last request we learn yet another chapter of his feelings for others.

This psalm is one of eleven composed by Moshe who struggled with the question of, “Tzaddik, v’ra lo, Rasha, v’tov lo,” a righteous man for whom things are bad, and a wicked man for whom things are good. (Berachot 7a) Although the Psalm’s text does not mention Shabbat,it does address this issue which was surely on the minds of the slaves in Egypt.

“A boor cannot know, nor can a fool understand this: When the wicked bloom like grass and all the doers of iniquity blossom, it is to destroy them till eternity.” “For behold Your enemies, God, for behold, Your enemies shall perish; dispersed shall be all doers of iniquity. You raised my pride as re’eimim, I was saturated with ever-fresh oil. My eyes have seen my vigilant foes; when those who would harm me rise up against me, my ears have heard.” “To declare that God is just, My Rock in Whom there is no wrong.”

Shabbat was the only day when the slaves had an opportunity to think and ask about their suffering. This became the Shabbat Psalm as it addressed their questions. – Emet L’Yaakov – Shemot.

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