This issue is sponsored by the Intract Family
Vol. 21 No. 29
Yosef ben Yitzchak Halevi and Faigy a"h whose Yohrzeit is 28 Adar
Rochel bas Zev and Chana Aidel a"h whose Yohrzeit is 16 Nissan
The Changing Morality of the Egyptians
(Adapted from the Oznayim la'Torah)
"Do not emulate the deeds of Egypt, in which you dwelt, and do not do the deeds of Cana'an, where I am taking you, and do not go in their ways' (18:3).
The Medrash extrapolates from this Pasuk that the Egyptians were the most depraved and perverted nation in the whole world. And what's more, says the Medrash, the words "in which you dwelt", indicate that it was Yisrael who were responsible for Egypt's depravity.
But how can Yisrael be blamed for Egypt's depravity, asks the Oznayim la'Torah, when Chazal tell us that Yisrael in Egypt were on an extremely high level of morality and that only one woman (among hundreds of thousands) behaved immorally?
Moreover, the Medrash informs us, when Yosef came to Egypt, he guarded himself against immorality, as his encounter with his mistress indicates, and that the Egyptian men took their cue from him and did likewise!
So we see that if anything, the Jewish people had a positive influence on the Egyptians, and not the opposite!
To answer the question, the Oznayim la'Torah draws a distinction between our laws and customs and those of the nations. We have been given a Heaven-based Torah, which we observe, irrespective of whether we are successful in our daily lives or not. Success is not a reason to follow the path of Torah; nor is failure a reason to deviate from it. Ours is a religion of faith, and if things appear to go wrong, we apply the Pasuk "A Tzadik lives on his faith". A Jew understands that when things go wrong, it is his behavior that he must change. Not his religion!
Not so the nations of the world, whose man-made laws and customs are based on earthly values. Consequently, when one nation succeeds in conquering other nations, people tend to look up to them with admiration and to adopt some of their customs, because they assume that their customs breed success and are therefore worth emulating.
This is not the case with a nation that has been conquered and has lost its independence. There, people will shun their customs, for fear that the way of life that brought about that nation's downfall will bring about their downfall too.
With this, says the Oznayim la'Torah, we can understand what happened in Egypt. When the Egyptians saw Yosef leave prison and become viceroy of Egypt, they witnessed a tremendous success-story unfolding before their very eyes. Duly impressed, they were keen to adopt his exemplary Midos, above all, his outstanding Midah - Tzadik (morality). But that was then!
Meanwhile, Yisrael became their slaves, humiliated and tormented, their children thrown into the river or used as bricks in the walls of buildings. These were no longer people whom they wished to emulate. On the contrary, the good Midos of their slaves were things to avoid, and avoid them they did, degenerating to the point that they became the most depraved nation in the world.
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LIVING BY THE MITZOS
(Adapted from the Oznayim la'Torah)
" … Observe My statutes and My judgements which man (ha'Adam) will do and live by them (va'chai bahem), I am Hashem" (14:5).
From this Pasuk, the Gemara in Sanhedrin (Daf 74) learns that Mitzvos are meant to be a source of life, not of death. Consequently, whenever life-danger is involved, one should rather transgress than risk one's life, with the three exceptions, that is, of the three cardinal sins idolatry, adultery and murder.
The obvious question, points out the Oznayim la'Torah, is seeing as the Parshah goes on to talk about adultery and incest (one of the three exceptions that override life), why does the Torah insert "va'chai bahem" here, when basically, it does not apply here?
Elaborating further, he reminds us that even Rebbi Yishma'el, who maintains that idolatry is included in "va'chai bahem", concedes that both murder and adultery are not - the former, since logic dictates that it is forbidden, since who says that 'my blood is redder than my friend's?', the latter, because the Torah compares it to murder. So why does the Torah insert "va'chai bahem" here, where at first glance, it is not applicable?
Initially, the author suggests that the Torah inserts it, because, based on the Gemara there (Daf 59), wherever the Torah uses the word "ha'Adam" (with a 'hey'), it comes to include B'nei No'ach. And since the word "ha'Adam" is used here, the Torah is coming to tell us that a Nochri is not obligated to give up his life in order to observe one of his seven Mitzvos. In any event, he isn't subject to the Mitzvah of Kidush Hashem, so his inclusion in the Mitzvah of "va'chai bahem" makes good sense.
He refutes the suggestion however, based on the opinion of Tosfos there (DH 'ben No'ach', that "va'Chai bahem" was said to Yisrael, and not to the B'nei No'ach.
In one of his two answers to the initial question (why the Torah needs to "va'Chai bahem" specifically in the Parshah of Arayos, where one is obligated to give up one's life), the Oznayim la'Torah therefore explains that it is necessary to exempt women from giving up their lives even with regard to committing adultery. The significance of this leniency is due to the fact that as long as a woman remains passive (which is why Chazal refer to her as 'Karka Olam'), she is not subject to the sin of adultery (as the Gemara writes in Kesubos, Daf 3). Consequently, "va'Chai bahem" comes to teach us that, not only is a woman who is forced, on pain of death, to commit adultery, not obligated to refuse, but that she is forbidden to do so.
He does point out however, that this Chidush is confined to the opinion of the Rambam, in whose opinion "va'Chai bahem" overrides Kidush Hashem. It will not hold water however, according to the Poskim who permit someone who is Patur, to give up his life in order to sanctify G-d's Name.
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The Ten Plagues
(Adapted from the Hagodas Kehilas Ya'akov)
'These are the ten plagues that G-d brought upon the Egyptians in Egypt'.
The words 'in Egypt' seem to be superfluous, suggests Maran R. Chayim Kanievski.
To explain why the Ba'al Ha'godoh inserts it, he cites a Mechilta, which explains that the Pasuk in Bo (13) 'And I will smite every firstborn in the land of Egypt" comes to include other nationalities who were in Egypt, whereas the Pasuk in Tehilim (136:10) "To the one who smote Egypt with their first-born" comes to include Egyptians who lived elsewhere. This was true of Makas Bechoros; but all the other plagues took place within the borders of Egypt exclusively,
And it is because all ten plagues took place inside the country, and only Makas Bechoros taking place also outside its borders, that the Torah added the word "in Egypt" to the text.
Most of the following explanations, just like the previous one, are given by Moran Chayim Kanievski (Sh'lita).
The Torah writes that the fish died (7:18) - who would have thought that they would survive in a sea of blood? - to teach us that it was real blood and not just water that magically had the appearance of blood.
Commenting on the Pasuk (8:2) "And a plague of frogs came up", Rashi explains that the Torah writes 'frog' (in the singular), to teach us that initially, only one frog appeared, and it was only when the Egyptians began striking it with their sticks, that swarms began to emerge from it - the more they struck it, the more the swarm of frogs increased.
Common sense dictates than when such a scenario occurs, one stops striking the frog to stop the plague in its tracks, says R. Chayim. But common sense and anger do not make a good match. And anger dictated that the more frogs that broke off from the original, the more reason to give vent to one's anger. And that's what happens when a major quarrel breaks out between two sides. Common sense dictates that one swallows one's words before the quarrel gets out of control. But anger prevails, and hurtful words fly until the small fire escalates into a uncontrollable conflagration.
Rashi explains that the Egyptian sorcerers were "unable to create lice or even to bring them from other locations, because the demons employed by the sorcerers were powerless over creatures that were smaller than a barley."
The question remains however, why did they not produce them by means of witchcraft?
To answer the question, he cites the Gemara in Sanhedrin (Daf 44b), which describes how Shimon ben Shetach rendered eighty witches powerless to do him harm by having them lifted off the ground. By the same token therefore, the Egyptian magicians were unable to produce lice by means of witchcraft since, as the Medrash tells us, the entire terrain of Egypt was covered with carpet of locusts one Amah thick. Consequently, since there was no empty piece of ground to stand on, they were powerless to produce locusts even via witchcraft.
"And I will distinguish on that day the land of Goshen on which my people are standing" (8:17).
Why, asks R. Chayim, does the Torah add the words "on which my people are standing"?
And he explains that it is to teach us that, even if an Egyptian tried to escape to the land of Goshen, where no Jews were being threatened, he would not find refuge there, since it was only on the ground on which a Jew stood that was 'safe'. The moment an Egyptian entered Goshen, he was no better off than he was in Egypt.
"And G-d will draw a distinction between the cattle of Yisrael and the cattle of Egypt" (9:4).
G-d made this distinction with all ten plagues, observes R. Chayim, so why mention it here?
By the plague of pestilence it was necessary to stress that none of the Jews' animals died, he explains, because Moshe had told Par'oh that the plagues were only to force him to let Yisrael go and sacrifice to G-d in the desert. Consequently, had their animals died too, Par'oh would have turned round and accused Moshe of lying, and that the plagues were really meant to punish his people. The fact that the Jews' animals were spared prevented him from presenting any such argument.
In the Tochacha (the rebuke) in Ki Savo, the Torah refers to "the boils of Egypt". Rashi there (Devarim 28:27) explains that the boils in Egypt were particularly virulent, inasmuch as they were wet on the inside and dry on the outside, as the Gemara explains in Bechoros (41a).
The Stypler z.l. points out that the Gematriyah of the words "sh'chin Mitzrayim"(the boils of Egypt) is equivalent to that of 'zeh hu lach mi'bi'fenim ve'yavesh mi'ba'chutz'(this is [boils that are] wet on the inside and dry on the outside).
By all the other plagues that Torah relates how "Par'oh called Moshe and Aharon". Why here, asks R. Chayim, does it use the expression " … Par'oh sent for and called Moshe and Aharon"(9:27)?
By all the other plagues, he explains, Par'ah sent his slaves to plead with Moshe and Aharon, and 'the hand of a slave is like the hand of his master'.
Here however, this was not possible, due to the prevalent hailstorm that threatened the life of any Egyptian who went outside. So he had no option other than to send people from B'nei Yisrael, who were able to walk outside without fear.
And he cites the Yerushalmi in D'mai, which rules that although a Nochri cannot be a Shali'ach for a Nochri, a Yisrael can.
"There had never been locusts like that, nor would there ever be" (11:14).
Rashi explains that the plague that occurred in the time of Yo'el was actually heavier than that of Moshe, only whereas that plague comprised four species of 'locusts', this one consisted of the species known as 'Arbeh' exclusively - and as plagues of Arbeh go, there was never another one like it.
Why, asks R. Chayim, did G-d not send the Egyptians a wide variety of locusts? After all, we are told, they suffered fourteen different species of lice, and twenty-four of boils, so why only one species of locusts?
And he quotes the Medrash, which explains how the Egyptians rejoiced over the locusts when they first saw them, because they anticipated pickling them - a sumptuous delicatessen in those times. Not that they succeeded in doing so, since, as Rashi points out, they were all carried away, but their initial reaction was one of excitement. And it was to minimize their initial excitement that G-d sent them only one species of locust, and the smallest species to boot.
Rashi, on the Pasuk "Not one locust remained", quotes a Medrash that even the pickled locusts flew out of the jars and were blown away together with the live ones. This is borne out says the Stypler, by the Gematriyah of "one locust" which is equivalent to that of 'af ha'meluchim" (even the pickled ones).
Rashi poses the question why G-d sent the Egyptians the plague of darkness, and he answers that it was to enable Yisrael to bury the four-fifths of their numbers who died, without the Egyptians being aware of it, and in order to take note of where the Egyptians hid their valuables, which they subsequently asked to 'borrow'.
The question is what prompted Rashi to question the reason for the plague of darkness more than for any of the other plagues?
R. Chayim ascribes it to the uniqueness of darkness, inasmuch as, unlike all the other plagues, it may have limited their movements, but it did not cause them harm in the way that the other plagues did.
The Slaying of the Firstborn
Rashi points out that the Egyptian women would commit adultery with other men, with the result that they often bore a number of firstborn children, the first one, the firstborn of its mother, the subsequent ones, the firstborn of their father. And each of these firstborn died during the plague of Makas Bechoros.
R. Chayim cites the Pasuk in Tehilim (75:51) which supports this explanation -"All the firstborn in Egypt (with reference to the firstborn of their mother) the first of their strength in the tents of Cham (with reference to the firstborn of his father),
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