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

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Vol. 15   No. 14

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Parshas Va'eira

Three Men Took Part in the Plan
Which Plan?

(Part 2)

(Based on the explanation of the Da'as Zekeinim mi'Ba'alei Tosfos)

Last week, we cited the Medrash, which equates Lavan ha'Arami, Bilam ben Be'or and Kushan Rish'asayim, whilst the Gemara in Sanhedrin 105a explains that he was called by the last name because he perpetrated two evils against K'lal Yisrael, one in the days of Ya'akov and one in the daysof the Shoftim.

It is strange that the Gemara lists only two things that Bilam perpetrated against Yisrael, and omits the third (what he did in the desert at Ba'al Pe'or, as well as the plan of 'Havah Nischakmah Lo').

The version of the Gemara however, which switches Bilam with Be'or (Bilam's father) dispenses with the question admirably. The Zekukin di'Yenur, cited by the Eitz Yosef, explains that Bilam was not really Lavan at all, but his reincarnation (Gilgul). By the same token, we can say that Kushan Rishasayim was a Gilgul of Bilam, and not Bilam himself. In any case, we are forced to say this, since otherwise, bearing in mind that Bilam was killed by the sword, as the Pasuk clearly testifies, how can he possibly have been alias Kushan Rishasayim?

This does not however resolve our problem. The previous explanation however, will, as we explained. As will a third explanation given by Tosfos (not Da'as Zekeinim M.T.), who explains that it was not Bilam, but Lavan who was alias Kushan Rishasayim. And when Chazal say that 'Bil'am was alias Be'or (so-called because he had relations with his ass), and Lavan was alias Kushan Rishasayim', they mean to equate Lavan with Be'or, and Bilam with Kushan Rishasayim, and not all four with each other, as we initially thought.

In similar fashion, they say, when the Gemara in Sanhedrin explains that Bilam's leg was squeezed against the stone-wall, making him lame, it was because of the treaty that Lavan had made with Ya'akov not to cross this spot to harm one another (a treaty which Bilam was now abrogating), this is not because Bilam was alias Lavan, but because he was a descendant of his (or perhaps he too, was a Gilgul).

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The Da'as Zekeinim M.T. asks one last question from the Pasuk in Iyov (30:1), where Iyov said "For Yisri (which the Mesores reads as 'Yisro') opened the proceedings (with regard to the decree of 'Havah Nischakmah', but Hashem answered me", which he explains to mean that Iyov complained that, although Yisro was present at that meeting, he (Iyov) was stricken with suffering.

But what was Iyov's complaint, asks the Da'as Zekeinim. Considering that Yisro ran away, whereas he did not, why was he surprised that he was made to suffer whilst Yisro got off scot-free?

The answer, he says, is that Yisro was a world leader and an extremely influential man. Had he remained, he would have succeeded in having the decree against Yisrael annulled, something which Iyov was unable to achieve.

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Tosfos, whom we quoted earlier, also cites R. David, who points out that the three Medrashim, one which refers to Kemuel the son of Nachor, one which claims that he was Lavan and a third one which presents him as Lavan's son, are in fact, dissenting Medrashim, one of which does not hold of the other.

What's more, they add, according to the Medrash which equates Lavan with Bilam, we can better understand the Ba'al Hagadah, who informs us that Lavan attempted to uproot Yisrael completely (a comment which the commentaries otherwise have difficulty in explaining). But if he was alias Bilam, then he certainly tried hard to destroy Yisrael completely when he attempted to curse them. (Perhaps, one may add, he tried again [and almost succeeded, but for the timely intervention of Pinchas] at the episode of Ba'al Pe'or).

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Parshah Pearls

If Yisrael Didn't Listen

" Behold the B'nei Yisrael did not listen to me, how do you expect Par'oh to listen?" (6:12).

Rashi comments that this is one of the ten 'Kal-va'Chomers in the Torah.

But how can that be, the commentaries ask? Perhaps the reason that the B'nei Yisrael did not listen was because of the shortness of breath described just two Pesukim earlier, a problem which certainly did not affect Paroh?

It all depends, says the Da'as Zekeinim mi'Ba'alei Tosfos, how one interprets 'shortness of breath'. The question assumes that it incorporates a physical state of exhaustion that prevents a person from making positive decisions.

But perhaps what the Torah means is that they did not listen in spite of their suffering; and he explains that, like a prisoner, whom one would expect to greet the person who is coming to set him free joyously, Yisrael should have welcomed him with open arms. Yet they did not! It must be, Moshe assumed, because he (Moshe) lacked conviction (based on the fact that he lacked merit). And so he concluded, that if Yisrael were not convinced by his performance, it was obvious that Paroh, who in any event, would have no reason to be happy with the arrival of Yisrael's saviour, would certainly remain unconvinced that he was Hashem's Sheli'ach of.

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Paroh's God

"See, I have appointed you as a god over Paroh" (7:1).

This was measure for measure, says the Da'as Zekeinim M.T., inasmuch as Paroh claimed that he was a god, as we learn from the Pasuk in Yechezkel (29:3), which quotes him as saying 'The River (Nile) is mine, and I created myself".

Indeed, that explains why Moshe was constantly ordered to meet Paroh by the banks of the River Nile and to rebuke him there.

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Paroh and the Snake

" tell Aharon to take his stick and to throw it before Paroh, and it will become a snake" (7:9).

Why a snake, asks the Da'as Zekeinim M.T.?

Because Paroh boasted, referring to himself as 'the great snake' (as the Navi Yechezkel, 29:3 teaches us). This snake would now serve to take him down a peg or two. (In fact, that is why the Torah uses the word 'tanin', which is close enough to the word 'tanim' used by the Navi.)

In addition, a snake twists and turns, just like Paroh did in his dealings with Moshe.

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A Plague a Month

"And seven days were completed after Hashem smote the River" (7:25).

Rashi explains that each plague lasted a quarter of a month (a week), whilst Moshe warned Paroh for the duration of three quarters of a month. In that case, each plague lasted a full month, as is hinted in the Pasuk in Tehilim (135:9), where it writes "and He sent signs and wonders in the midst of Egypt". The word for 'in the midst of' is "be'socheichi", including an extra 'Chaf' 'Yud' at the end of the word, whose Gematriyah is thirty.

But that's not correct, asks the Da'as Zekeinim M.T.? In fact, the total number of days was only twenty-eight (seven days of plague, plus twenty-one days of warning)?

The answer is that after the termination of each plague, Hashem waited two days, in order to start the next round of plagues on Rosh Chodesh.

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The Da'as Zekeinim then ask from the plague of darkness, which lasted only six days, and not seven, as the Pasuk implicitly tells us. (Interestingly, they do not comment on the fact that the plagues of lice, boils and darkness were not subject to the three-week warning period, as we shall see shortly.)

And they answer that the seventh day was complemented at the Yam-Suf, where the Torah records that, whereas Yisrael had light, it was dark for the Egyptians (though that situation lasted only half a night, and not twenty-four hours).

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Change of Expression

"And Hashem said to Moshe, 'Come to Paroh' " (7:26).

Why is it that sometimes, G-d used the expression "Come to Paroh", whereas on other occasions (see 8:16) He began with the words "Get up early in the morning "?

The Da'as Zekeinim M.T. heard from R. Yitzchak an answer based on the fact that "Come " implies that Moshe went to Paroh in the company of Hashem. Now whenever the expression "Get up early" is used, Hashem continues with "Behold he is going out to the River", which Chazal interpret to mean that he was going to relieve himself (see Rashi 7:15), in which case it would hardly be befitting for the Shechinah to accompany Moshe. Consequently, G-d did not use the expression "Come to Paroh".

But this answer cannot be correct, asks the Da'as Zekeinim, seeing that even a simple Tefilah, Moshe refused to Daven in Egypt, which was teeming with idolatry (se Rashi 9:29). In that case, the Shechinah would certainly not have accompanied Moshe into the royal palace, which certainly had its fair share of idols. Furthermore, asks Tosfos, by the plague of hail, Hashem ordered Moshe to get up early, even though He said nothing about the River Nile?

The correct explanation therefore, is that every new warning (i.e. before the plagues of blood, wild beasts and hail) took place early in the morning; hence G-d used the expression "Get up early" or "Go in the morning". Not so each subsequent plague, which took place later in the day, so G-d said simply "Come to Paroh".

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D'tzach, Adash, be'Achab

Chazal tell us that every third plague was not subject to warning. In other words, the Egyptians suffered the plagues of lice, boils and darkness without any prior warning, as is evident from the Torah itself.

Some attribute this to the fact that, unlike the other seven plagues, they did not cause death, and others, to the fact that these plagues are common (to be expected, as it were), and not unusual, like the others. And yet others compare this to someone who performs a sin for the third time, who is severely punished with a form of death sentence, even without prior warning.

Tosfos (not the Da'as Zekeinim) adds that not only is this hinted in the acronym 'D'tzach, Adash, be'Achab', which was engraved on Moshe's staff, but adds that these three groups were performed by Moshe, Aharon and Hashem Himself, respectively.

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Interestingly, they also point out that if one writes the three 'words' one on top of the other, the third letters spell 'Choshech' (backwards), and what's more, the 'Ches' stands for choshech (darkness), the 'Shin' for sh'chin (boils) and the 'Chaf' for kinim (lice) - the three plagues which required no warning, and which they say, based on this hint, accompanied all the plagues.

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The Da'as Zekeinim M.T. (citing the Medrash Tanchuma) explains that 'D'tzach', which came from the ground, were carried out by Aharon; 'B'ach' (Barad, Arbeh & Choshech) which came from the sky, by Moshe, who had jurisdiction over both; Hakadosh Baruch Hu performed 'Adav' (Arov, Dever & Makas Bechoros) Himself, whilst Sh'chin was carried out by all three.

This explanation does not even attempt to explain the significance of 'D'tzach, Adash be'Achav'.

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The Reward for Self-Sacrifice

"And the frogs died from the houses, the courtyards and the fields" (8:9)

but not from the ovens (which are mentioned a few Pesukim earlier), observes the Da'as Zekeinim. They obeyed instructions, and sacrificed their lives in order to sanctify Hashem's Name. So Hashem repaid them by performing a miracle and granting them more life.

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HIGHLIGHTS FROM TARGUM YONASAN

" Paroh summoned his wise men and sorcerers Yeinis and Yimb'reis (disciples of Bilam), and they too did likewise with their sorcery" (7:11).

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" Go and meet Paroh in the morning, when he goes to practice his sorcery, like a wizard; Stand and face him by the bank of the river " (7:15).

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"And the astrologers of Paroh did likewise with their sorcery, and they turned the water in Goshen to blood, and Paroh's heart was hardened " (7:22).

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"And Paroh relieved himself, and returned to his house " (7:23).

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"Behold a plague from the Hand of Hashem, the likes of which there has never been, will now come on the animals that are in the field" (9:3).

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"Because this time, I will send a plague from the Heaven, which will bring you, your servants and your people to the realization that all My plagues which struck you came from Me, and not by means of sorcery performed by humans " (9:14).

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"In truth, I kept you alive (not for your own good, but) in order to show you My might " (9:16).

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"Iyov, who was fearful of Hashem's commands, among the servants of Paroh, gathered his servants and his cattle under cover" (9:20).

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"Bilam, who did not care much about Hashem's commands, left his servants and his cattle in the fields" (9:21).

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"And as for you and your servants, I know that before you send out the people, you will fear Hashem who is G-d" (9:30).

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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 84
Leaving the Land Ownerless during the Sh'mitah

It is a Mitzvah to leave Hefker (ownerless) whatever the land produces in the seventh year (which, on account of that, is called the 'Sh'mitah-year'), so that whoever wishes to help himself to the fruit, may do so, as the Torah writes in Mishpatim (23:11) "And the seventh year you shall leave (the fields) untended and un-harvested, and the poor of your land will eat; and what remains, the wild beasts of the field will eat; thus you shall do to your vineyards and your olive-groves". The Mechilta asks 'But were the vineyards and the olive-groves not included (in the statement "you shall leave untended and un-harvested", which surely incorporated whatever grows from the ground, both the fruit of the ground, and that of the trees)? So why does the Torah see fit to mention them separately?

To teach us, the Mechilta answers, that just as with vines there is a Lo Sa'aseh as well as an Asei, as the Torah writes in Behar (25:5) " and the grapes that you have set aside you shall not harvest", so too, is there a Lo Sa'aseh with regard to all other trees. The Torah mentions one kind of tree, and the Din extends to all other kinds of trees, as this is one of the Midos with which Torah is Darshened (in the form of a 'Binyan Av mi'Kasun Echad'). This Mitzvah is to leave Hefker all the fruits of one's land (as we explained), and a second Mitzvah, mentioned in Ki-Sisa (34:21) "You shall desist from ploughing and reaping", are really one and the same.

A reason for the Mitzvah to fix in our minds and to clearly conceptualize the creation of the world, that G-d created the Heaven and the earth in six days, and that on the seventh day, on which He did not create anything, He ascribed to Himself rest. And it is in order to remove and to root out from our system any thoughts of evolution, in which those who deny the Torah believe, and who uproot its every vestige, and breach its walls, that the Torah obliges us to divide all our time-periods, both as regards the days and the years, into periods of seven, to count six and to desist from specific activities on the seventh. In this way (the futility of) the concept of evolution will remain constantly alive in our consciousness.

So just as we count six days of work, and the seventh is a day of rest, in similar fashion, G-d commanded us to declare the produce of the seventh year Hefker (besides obligating us to desist from agricultural work during that year), to remind us that, when the land produces its fruit year by year, it is not due to its own inherent power or devices that it does so, but to the command the One who is Master both over it and over the one who owns it, and that, when it pleases Him, He commands us to declare it Hefker.

Furthermore, Sh'mitah helps us to acquire the Midah of giving, for nothing can compare to a person who gives generously, without any hope of receiving anything in return.

And a further objective of Sh'mitah is that it increases our level of Bitachon in Hashem, for anyone who sees fit to declare Hefker everything that grows in his fields and in the inheritance of his fathers for a period of an entire year, and what's more, he does this on an ongoing basis, he and his family, for his entire life, will never be affected either by miserliness or by a lack of faith.

(cont.)

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