Thoughts on the Weekly Parshah by HaRav Eliezer Chrysler
Formerly Rav of Mercaz Ahavat Torah, Johannesburg

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Vol. 17   No. 13

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Parshas Sh'mos

Three Meetings
(Adapted from Rabeinu Bachye)

After his encounter with the Shechinah at the Burning Bush, where he had been appointed, not only as the first leader of K'lal Yisrael, but as the leader who would soon deliver them from the bondage of Egypt, the first thing that Moshe Rabeinu did was to meet with Aharon, who was to be his second-in-command. The Torah describes how the two brothers met at Har Sinai, and the Medrash (cited by Rashi) comments how, remarkably, Aharon, who was Moshe's senior, besides having prophesied before Moshe, felt not the slightest twinge of jealousy at his younger brother's appointment. Moreover, the Torah testifies, he was genuinely happy at his brother's appointment.

Commenting on the Pasuk (4:28) "And Moshe told Aharon all the words of Hashem , and all the signs that He had commanded him (to perform)", R. Bachye explains that Moshe conveyed to Aharon the vision that he had witnessed at the Burning Bush, including his appointment and his initial refusal to accept it, as well as the various Names of G-d that he had been taught there. He taught him about the Name "Eh'keh asher Eh'keh" (Midas ha'Din she'be'Midas Rachamim), its close connection to the Name 'Havayah', and how the Name 'Adnus' is formed from a combination of both Names - the 'Alef' from one, the 'Yud' from the other, and Midas ha'Din ('Daled' 'Nun') in the middle.

Immediately after that, Moshe and Aharon went to gather the elders of Yisrael, where they displayed the various signs to prove that the redemption was about to take place. "And the 'people' believed!"

Following that, the brothers went together on their second mission, to instruct Par'oh, in the Name of Hashem, the G-d of Yisrael to "Send out My people, and let them celebrate before Me (bring a Korban Chagigah) in the desert". Unfortunately, the welcome that Moshe and Aharon received at the hand of Par'oh was somewhat less cordial than the welcome of the previous two meetings

*

The Medrash explains how Par'oh produced his thick ledger containing the names of all the gods, and he began to read 'The god of Edom, the god of Mo'av, the god of Tzidon ' but the Name 'Hashem', G-d of the Jews, was not to be found in his book. R. Bachye explains that Par'oh, in his wisdom, knew about all the seven zones (see first Parshah Pearl) into which the world is divided, and he was conversant with the Names of all the countries in each zone, as well as the Celestial super-powers in the Heaven and over which of the seventy nations each one ruled, but the Name Hashem did not appear among them. And so he declared in surprise 'Who is Hashem, that I should obey His commands?'

He did not know of course that Hashem was above all the other gods and that the rulership and the power to rule that all the other gods possessed was only an offshoot of His Supreme Power!

*

To explain the absence of Hashem from Par'oh's book, Chazal gave the following Mashal: It once happened that a certain Kohen traveled overseas. He owned a stupid slave who left the city to look for him. Arriving in a graveyard, he began to shout to the group of people he saw standing there 'Has anyone seen my master?'

When in reply to their question whether his master was not a Kohen, he answered in the affirmative, they commented 'You stupid slave! Who has ever heard of a Kohen in a graveyard, any more than one has of a king in the slaughter-house?!' And that is what Moshe and Aharon said to Par'oh: These gods of which you speak are dead. But our G-d is a live G-d; He is the G-d of the world; He spread out the Heaven and formed the earth, He uproots mountains and smashes rocks, He sends down the rain and makes the grass grow, He removes kings and He appoints kings. (No wonder that He does not appear in your book!).

'I am the master of the world', Par'oh objected! I created myself as well as my river, the Nile! Who is Hashem that I should obey His commands?'

'Rasha!' G-d replied. (You blaspheme Me with water) I will strike you with water! And He turned the water into blood. Alternatively, says the Medrash, Par'oh replied 'He never revealed Himself to me. He came to Avimelech and said to him 'You acted out of the innocence of your heart!' But all He did to me was to strike me with big plagues. I do not acknowledge Him. "I do not know Hashem and I will not send Yisrael out!" '.

*

One final point: Moshe's response to Par'oh's refusal was to repeat the request "The G-d of the Ivrim called to us ". Having heard Par'oh refuse once, what was the point of repeating the request, asks Rabeinu Bachye? Why did Moshe think that Par'oh might concede this time any more than he did last time?

Par'oh did not deny that 'Elokei Yisrael' was G-d, Master of the world, he answers (though this seems to contradict what he wrote above). He himself had used the term 'Elokim' when addressing Yosef (see Mikeitz 41:39). It was the Name Hashem (Havayah) with which Par'oh was not familiar, and Moshe and Aharon had referred to 'Hashem Elokei Yisrael", as they had been commanded. Consequently, after Par'oh introduced his refusal with the words "I don't know Hashem ", they remembered that he did know and acknowledge the Name of 'Elokim'. So to dispel any doubt in Par'oh's mind as to who was issuing the command, and in the hope that he may respond favourably this time, they repeated the request in the Name of 'Elokei Yisrael'.

* * *

Parshah Pearls
(Adapted from Rabeinu Bachye)

The Seventh Zone

"Re'uven, Shimon, Levi, Yehudah, Yisachar, Zevulun and Binyamin" (1:2/3).

The Torah lists the six sons of Le'ah according to the order of their birth, comments R. Bachye. But why does it place Binyamin, the youngest of Ya'akov's sons, next?

*

And he answers with the scientific fact that the world is divided into seven zones. Eretz Yisrael, he explains, with its moderate climatic conditions, and situated as it is in the middle of the inhabited world, is the seventh. Hence the Torah lists Binyamin as number seven, a hint to the Beis-Hamikdash (the centre of Eretz Yisrael) which was built in his portion. This in no way contradicts the opinion of some philosophers, who list Eretz Yisrael as being in the fourth zone, since the middle (seventh) point is also the fourth with regard to the three zones that flank it on either side.

*

In fact, it is comparable to Shabbos, which on the one hand, is the seventh day, whilst on the other, it is also considered the fourth (the middle of the week), in that it casts its influence on to the three days that precede it and the three days that follow it, Indeed, it is the fourth of the Ten Commandments! And its status as the middle of the week affects a number of Halochos pertaining to it, in the realm of Havdalah and things that one is forbidden to begin, starting from Wednesday. In fact, says the author, G-d placed the luminaries in the sky on Wednesday (the beginning of Erev Shabbos) in honour of the Shabbos.

*

And Yosef Last

" .. and Yosef was in Egypt" (1:5).

Rabeinu Bachye gives two reasons as to why Yosef is mentioned last, even though he was not the youngest, as we explained earlier.

Firstly, he explains, the Torah places the sons of the 'maidservants' (Dan Naftali, Gad and Asher) between Binyamin and Yosef (rather than at the end) to raise their esteem and to prevent the other brothers (sons of Leah) from denigrating them.

Secondly, to lower the prestige of Yosef, precisely because he was the greatest of the brothers, for so is the way of Tzadikim to humble themselves, like we find by Yehoshua bin Nun, to whom the Torah refers as 'Hoshei'a' even after Moshe had already appointed him as his successor, as Rashi explains in Ha'azinu (32:44). Indeed, Yosef himself did exactly the same thing, as we explained in last week's issue (See Highlights 50:20).

*

Even though R. Bachye's two explanations are based on Medrashim, I am surprised that he did not cite the most obvious reason for placing Yosef right at the end - namely, that since the Pasuk begins by listing all those who came down to Egypt with Ya'akov, it would not be appropriate to include Yosef, who was already in Egypt, in that list. That is why the Torah itself concludes " and Yosef (who) was (already) in Egypt".

And this is all the more puzzling bearing in mind that the author himself, albeit in a slightly different context explains the Pasuk to mean that 'the off-spring of Ya'akov numbered seventy, including Yosef who was (already) in Egypt'. Clearly then, Yosef has to be mentioned at the end, as we explained.

*

Their G-d is Still With Them

"And Yosef and all of that generation died and the B'nei Yisrael increased " (1:6).

R. Bachye cites the Medrash, which explains that even though Yosef had died, the G-d of Yisrael was still alive. That explains why immediately after informing us that Yosef had died, it goes on to tell us about the multiple b'rachos that He bestowed upon them before the slavery began

1. They increased; 2. Six babies in one go (like rodents); 3. They grew tall (unlike rodents); 4. Strong and 5. Very, very much - very much in this world, very much in the World to Come!

Once the slavery began however, says the Medrash, the B'rachos were reduced to two - they increased to the tune of six babies in one go. All the remaining B'rachos were withdrawn.

*

Twelve Tribes - Twelve Months

Reuven was born on the 14th KISLEV, and died at the age of a hundred and twenty-five;

Shimon was born on the 21st TEIVES and died at the age of a hundred and twenty;

Levi was born on the 16th NISAN and died at the age of a hundred and thirty-seven;

Yehudah was born on the 15th SIVAN, and died at the age of a hundred and nineteen;

Dan was born on the 9th ELLUL, and died at the age of a hundred and twenty-five;

Naftali was born on the 5th TISHRI, and died at the age of a hundred and thirty-three;

Gad was born on the 10th MAR-CHESHVAN, and died at the age of a hundred and twenty-five;

Asher was born on the 20th SH'VAT, and died at the age of a hundred and twenty-three;

Yisachar was born on the 10th AV, and died at the age of a hundred and twenty-two;

Zevulun was born on the 7th TISHRI, and died at the age of a hundred and fourteen;

Yosef was born on the 1st TAMUZ and died at the age of a hundred and ten;

Binyamin was born on the 11th MAR-CHESHVAN, and died at the age of a hundred and nine.

The only two months in which none of the tribes were born were Adar and Iyar, and that's where Efrayim and Menasheh, who were born in these two months, stepped in - R. Bachye, quoting the Medrash Tadshei.

The footnote however, points out that our version of the Medrash itself gives a different birthday or age for a number of tribes than the author, as does the Seider ha'Doros.

*

Houses

"And it was, when the midwives feared G-d, that he made them houses" (1:21).

R. Bachye explains that when Par'oh saw that Shifrah and Pu'ah's fear of G-d surpassed their fear of him, and that they persisted in ignoring his decree, he built houses, one between every two Jewish houses, where he placed Egyptian guards to keep track of all the births.

And he cites others, who interpret "houses" as prisons, in which he incarcerated the midwives (though it is not clear as to why the Torah then refers to houses, in the plural). The footnote ascribes this explanation to the Tur, who in fact learns both of the above explanations, plus two more. In one of the two additional explanations, he explains that Par'oh built special maternity centers, where the women had to go in order to give birth, thereby enabling him to keep track of all the Jewish births.

*

The author then quotes the Medrash (also cited by Rashi), which, interpreting "He" as G-d, and "them" as the midwives, explains that G-d rewarded Shifrah and Pu'ah with two dynasties - the dynasty of Kehunah (from Yocheved), and the dynasty of Malchus (from Miriam).

And he prefers this explanation, he concludes, a) because the Torah writes "And He commanded" (and not 'And Par'oh commanded'), and b) because according to the previous explanations, the Pasuk ought to have added that Par'oh commanded 'his people'.

* * *

HIGHLIGHTS FROM THE BA'AL HA'TURIM

" and they kept the boys alive" (1:18).

The Torah writes this twice in the Parshah, a hint to what the Gemara states in Sotah - not only did the midwives disobey Par'oh by not killing the babies, they also supplied them with water and food!.

*

"And a man went (Vayeilech ish) from the house of Levi " (2:1).

The same two words "Vayeilech ish " appear at the beginning of Megilas Rus (in connection with Elimelech and his family leaving for Mo'av). Just as the going here resulted in the birth of the first redeemer (Moshe), comments the Ba'al ha'Turim, so too, did the going there result in the ultimate birth of the last redeemer (Mashi'ach).

*

"And there was a boy crying" (2:6).

This refers to Aharon, says the Ba'al ha'Turim, whom Tziporah had placed near the box\cradle to keep watch over it. That explains why the Gematriyah of "na'ar bo'cheh" is equivalent to that of 'zeh Aharon ha'Kohen' .

*

"And the priest (u'le'Kohen) of Midyan had seven daughters" (2:14).

The word "u'le'Kohen" appears twice in T'nach (in Shoftim), in connection with the image of Michah - where the Pasuk describes Yonasan ben Gershom ben Menasheh as 'a father and a priest' (le'av u'le'Kohen).

Yisro was a priest for Avodah-Zarah, the Ba'al ha'Turim explains. That is why, when Moshe married his daughter, he had to swear that their first son would be a priest for Avodah-Zarah too. He did so only because he knew that he would succeed in changing Yisro for the better, as indeed he did, since the latter became a Ger Tzedek.

Nevertheless, he was punished, in that his grandson, the afore-mentioned Yonasan, whose grandfather was not Menasheh at all, but Moshe (and the 'Nun' is suspended, as Chazal explain), became a priest for Avodah-Zarah.

*

"And Moshe hid (vayaster) his face, because he was afraid to look at G-d" (3:6).

The Pasuk in Iyov (3:10) uses the same word "And he hid (vayaster) misery from my face", says the Ba'al ha'Turim.

Had Moshe looked at the glory of the Shechinah which was enshrined in the Burning Bush, and beseeched G-d to have mercy on K'lal Yisrael, they would never again have gone into exile. This is because the Burning Bush symbolized the Pasuk in Tehilim "I am with them in their troubles". Hence when Moshe hid his face, he lost the opportunity of 'hiding misery from my face'.

*

"I have surely seen (ra'oh ro'isi) the affliction of My people who are in Egypt" (3:7).

The Ba'al ha'Turim points out that the word "ra'oh" is spelt with a 'Hey' - hinting at the five expressions that the Torah uses in connection with the hard work: 'back-breaking', 'bitter', 'pressure', 'affliction' and 'hard work'.

Correspondingly, he adds, the word 'Sneh' (bush) appears five times in this Parshah.

* * *

THE MITZVOS AND THEIR MEANING
(Adapted from the Seifer ha'Chinuch)

Please bear in mind that the rulings in this article reflect the opinion of the Seifer ha'Chinuch and are not necessarily Halachah.

Mitzvah 442:
Not to Eat Ma'aser Sheini
of Corn Outside Yerushalayim

It is forbidden to eat Ma'aser Sheini of corn outside Yerushalayim. Regarding this prohibition the Torah writes in Re'ei (12:17) "You may not eat within your gates the Ma'aser of your corn ". The Pasuk that follows it indicates that it is talking about Ma'aser Sheini, as it says "Only before Hashem your G-d shall you eat it, you and your sons, your servant and your maidservant". Because other Ma'asros are eaten, either by the poor (Ma'aser Oni) or by the Levi'im (Ma'ser Rishon). The author will define Ma'aser Sheini in the Mitzvah to separate Ma'aser Sheini (Mitzvah 473); whereas the reason as to why it must be eaten in Yerushalayim he explained in Parshas Bechukosai , in the Mitzvah of Ma'aser Beheimah (Mitzvah 360). Some of the Dinim of the Mitzvah - The Gemara at the end of Makos(19b) states that there is no Malkos for eating Ma'aser Sheini, unless one eats it without redeeming it, after it has entered the Beis-Hamikdash The author has already discussed in detail the Din of designating fruit for Ma'aser Sheini, in the Parshah of Korach in the Mitzvah of Ma'aser Rishon (Mitzvah 395) and the remaining details of the Mitzvah are discussed in Maseches Ma'aser Sheini and in the Rambam (in the third Perek of Hilchos Ma'aser Sheini).

(cont.)

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