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Vol. 4 No. 13
Bein Odom Lamokom - Ve'Lachavero
"And a new king came to the throne of Egypt who did not know Yosef." Rav and Shmuel, explains Rashi, differ here as to the meaning of this possuk. According to one, it was literally a new king who came to power when the previous king (also called Par'oh) died; whereas the other maintains that it was still the old king who simply made out that he did not know Yosef. The Medrash tells the story how the people suggested to Par'oh that he put this Heaven-sent source of manpower to good use by converting them to slavery. Close to a hundred years had passed since Ya'akov and his family had entered Egypt as guests of Par'oh, and they were increasing rapidly. Here was a potential slave-force begging to be tapped.
Par'oh at first refused. on the grounds that they had arrived in Egypt as his guests, and this was hardly a way to treat guests. Besides, how could he simply ignore all that Yosef had done for Egypt in the time of famine, as well as for Par'oh personally, collecting all the wealth in Egypt and in the surrounding countries, and depositing it - every single cent - into Par'oh's treasury?
It was only when the people insisted, threatening to depose him should he not accede to their demands, and then actually translating their threats into reality, by deposing him for three months, that Par'oh, unable to contain his pride any longer, acceded to their demands. He "forgot" Yosef and proceeded to enslave his former guests, on the grounds that "they were increaisng too rapidly and would ultimately join ranks with Egypt's enemies to drive them out of their own land, or to simply escape". At this stage, Par'oh failed to "know Yosef", and it would not be long before he would refuse Moshe's request to send out the B'nei Yisroel at the behest of Hashem with the words: "I don't know Hashem". Rabeinu Bachye, citing the Medrash Tanchumah, wrties: "Anyone who denies the good that another has done for him will ultimately deny the goodness of G-d too. It can be compared to the man who was found stoning the bust of a Duke. The king ordered him to be beheaded, because '"tomorrow he will stone me'". We see clearly from here, R. Bachye goes on to say, how one sin leads to another, and one evil trait brings another in its wake (no less than mitzvos and good traits, since it was through Par'oh's gratitude towards Yosef that he first got to know about Hashem). The extent to which "bein odom la'chavero" and "bein odom la'Mokom" are interconnected becomes apparent.
We have learned from Avrohom Ovinu, who told Avimelech that, in spite of the P'lishtim's fine, gentlemanlike behaviour, he feared for his life because "there is no fear of G-d in this place", that the finest social conduct is only a sham there where the fear of G-d does not exist, as indeed we witnessed so vividly in Nazi Germany.
We now learn that the reverse is equally true. Any claim that our rejection or our ill-treatment of our fellow-man is as a result of his imperfections, but that we still love G-d because He is perfect, is totally unacceptable, and for a number of reasons. Firstly, we must ask ourselves whether we are more perfect than the person or persons that we are rejecting.
Secondly, much in the same way as Moshe Rabeinu refused to strike the water and the dust that had protected him, because the practising of gratitude towards inanimate objects helps train one in the quality of gratitude towards people, so too, someone who develops the habit of hurting other people will not hesitate to hurt Hashem, since hurting will become his second nature.
Thirdly, man is made in the image of G-d, and how can someone who has no respect for the image of G-d expect to respect G-d Himself?
And fourthly, we Jews are called the children of Hashem, and no father can have "nachas" from his children as long as they do not love and respect one another. Consequently, "bein odom la'Mokom" without "bein odom la'chavero" is meaningless. It cannot be genuine and it cannot be lasting.
A true love of Hashem must be preceded by a genuine love towards one's fellow-man. The one cannot exist without the other.
Adapted from the Gro
Bitter But Sweet
Chazal say that it was the intense bitterness of the slavery in Egypt that curtailed Golus Mitzrayim from four hundred years to two hundred and ten. (In one sense one could say that so hard did the Egyptians make the B'nei Yisroel work, that they achieved four hundred years work in two hundred and ten. And in another, that the increased suffering served as compensation for the remaining hundred and ninety years, so they were able to leave earlier.)
The Gro finds a hint for this in the Neginos. The Neginos for the words "And they embittered their lives" (1:14) are "Kadmo ve'ozlo" which actually means - "They went out early". In other words, they went out early, before the termination of the four hundred years, on account of the bitterness of the slavery.
"And the King of Egypt died, and B'nei Yisroel sighed from the work and they cried out" (2:23).
Rashi explains that Par'oh did not really die at all, but he contracted Tzora'as and ordered the slaughter of Jewish children, so that he would become cured by bathing in their blood.
From where do Chazal know that Par'oh did not actually die, but only became a Metzora (albeit that Chazal have said that a Metzora is considered like dead)? The Malbim (quoted in Divrei Eliyohu) offers the following explanation. Citing a parallel Chazal, who explain the possuk, "In the year that King Uziyoh died" (Yeshayoh 6:1)to mean, not that he actually died, but that he contracted Tzora'as, he bases both of these Chazal on the following principle. Whenever T'nach records the death of a king, it always omits his title - "And Sh'lomoh died", "and Rechav'om died", etc. The only two exceptions are those mentioned above. Consequently, Chazal understood that they did not really die, but contracted Tzora'as.
The conventional answer to the question is that, had Par'oh really died, it would have been difficult to understand as to why Yisroel should cry out at his death, when it would have been more appropriate to breathe a sigh of relief.
"The Gro assumes that Par'oh really did die, and although he is dealing with another question entirely, he nevertheless answers the previous question adequately. He explains how the Jewish midwives were able to get away with not killing the Jewish babies by claiming (truthfully), that the babies were born before they arrived. "So what?" he asks. "Why did they not kill them after they were born - if that is what Par'oh wanted?"
No," he replies, "that was not Par'oh's intention at all. Par'oh, at that stage, wanted things done diplomatically. He wanted the midwives to kill the babies before they were born, so that it should appear as if they were stillborn. Should the parents have suspected the midwives' role in the babies' deaths, they would have raised a hue and cry, and demanded justice, and that was something that did not suit the king (the symbol of justice), at all - not yet, at least.
But that facade could only be put on as long as there was a king. The moment the king died there was anarchy. The people took the law into their own hands, and all semblance of diplomacy died with him - and that explains why the people cried out after Par'oh died.
Buy and Build
"And the task-masters of the people and the officers went out and said to the people" etc., "go and fetch for yourselves straw from wherever you find it, because nothing will be subtracted from your work" (5:10).
The meaning of the possuk is not clear, unless one explains it like the Gro. The Gro takes the work "K'chu" to mean "Kinyan" in the sense of buying. "It is better," he therefore explains the words of the taskmasters, "that you buy (ready-made) straw, rather than that you go and search for it (out in the fields). Because nothing will be subtracted from your full quota of bricks" - (even though you will no longer be supplied with the free straw). Buying straw will therefore save you time and will enable you to fulfill your expected quota.
All this seems to have been another way of squeezing out of the hapless Jews, any money that they still had (a practice that has been copied by the nations ever since).
You Can't Have Your Cake and Eat It
That's what we wrote in last week's Midei Shabbos, regarding the talmid-chochom who cannot expect to sell half his Torah and then to get reward for it. Someone queried this and requested a source.
It does seem obvious, considering that the above is a serious legal contract and that the one who provides the money, really does "lose" it to the talmid-chochom, so why should the deal not cut both ways?
But in any event, the Shach in Yoreh Dei'ah 246:2 writes specifically that both the reward for Yissochor's Torah and Zevulun's income are shared.
In its opening possuk, the Haftorah recalls how Ya'akov's descendants increased rapidly in Egypt, and it goes on to relate how G-d provided the Egyptians measure for measure. They drowned the Jewish babies, therefore He drowned them.
In the course of the Haftorah, the Novi makes a number of references to the ultimate Ge'ulah, a further connection to the Parshah, which deals with the early stages of the ge'ulah in Egypt. He mentions the blowing of the Shofar to herald the ingathering of the exiles from the land of Ashur, referring to the ten lost tribes who are hidden behind the River Sambatyon. Interestingly enough, he also mentions the exiles that will come from Egypt. Together they will bow down to Hashem on the Holy Mountain in Yerusholayim. It is not at first clear which exiles in Egypt the Novi is referring to. Certainly today, there is no contingent of exiles in Egypt worth speaking of. The Redak however explains that, on their way back from Golus, the exiles will gather in Egypt, from where they will go up to Yerusholayim.
Yeshayoh has mentioned the name Ya'akov a number of times in the course of the Haftorah, and it is clearly predominantly in the z'chus of Ya'akov in his capacity as the b'chir she'be'Ovos, that we will ultimately be redeemed. His name appears again at the end of the Haftorah, where the possuk writes, "Therefore, so says Hashem to the House of Ya'akov, who redeemed Avrohom, Ya'akov need not be ashamed now, and his face need not turn white with embarrassment".
Nowhere do we find Ya'akov redeeming Avrohom, asks the Gemoro in Sanhedrin (19b)? So what does the Novi mean? Ya'akov redeemed Avrohom from "tzar giddul bonim", the Gemoro answers. Rashi explains that Ya'akov relieved Avrohom of the onus of bringing up the twelve tribes. In other words, Avrohom should have fathered the twelve tribes but, for some reason, the burden was transferred to Ya'akov - perhaps because his Midah was that of Torah, which is the foundation of Klal Yisroel. (See also the Maharsho there.) But there is another way of explaining Ya'akov's redemption of Avrohom. The Medrash Rabbo connects it to the episode of Nimrod casting Avrohom Ovinu into the furnace. Avrohom was saved on the merit of Ya'akov. Presumably, what the Medrash means is that Avrohom was saved from the furnace on the merit of his grandson Ya'akov, who would father twelve righteous children - the twelve tribes, father-founders of Klal Yisroel. Avrohom himself lacked this z'chus. He could not claim that all of his descendants were tzadikim, for he would be the father of Yishmo'el and the B'nei Keturah. They would mar his perfection.
To carry this idea further, it is written in S'forim that Avrohom Ovinu had a son Yishmoel, because his Midah was Chased, and excessive Chesed breeds immorality, which the Gemoro ascribes to the B'nei Yishmoel. On the other hand, Yitzchok, whose strength lay in Gevurah, fathered Eisov the murderer, because the result of excessive Gevurah is murder.
It was Ya'akov, whose Midoh was Tif'eres, a perfect blending of the two Midos of his father and grandfather, who was zocheh to have twelve children all of whom were tzadikim. That is why Klal Yisroel are called the "B'nei Yisroel", and not the "B'nei Avrohom" or the "B'nei Yitzchok".
And that is possibly what the Medrash means when it says that Ya'akov saved Avrohom from the furnace. However great Avrohom Ovinu may have been - indeed was - there was no way that he could possibly have been zocheh alone to be the father of Klal Yisroel. The world may have been created with Chesed, but it was not created for Chesed, it was created for Torah, and it was created for Yisroel - "Ya'akov". So that it was on the z'chus of Ya'akov that Avrohom was saved from the furnace.
That is not to say that Ya'akov, as an individual, figures more prominently before G-d than Avrohom. Because just as Avrohom had to evolve through Yitzchok to Ya'akov, so too, could Ya'akov not possibly have reached his potential without the evolution that had to begin with Avrohom and Yitzchok. There are three forefathers, not one and not two, and all three were indispensable in the formation of Klal Yisroel.
Having said this, we can also use the same idea to explain the Gemoro in Sanhedrin which we quoted earlier. It is because of the inevitable evolution of Midos, that it would have been impossible for Avrohom to have fathered the twelve tribes, despite the fact that, in his outstanding tzidkus, he was certainly worthy of that distinction. Ya'akov, therefore had to redeem Avrohom from the tzar giddul bonim.
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