by Zvi Akiva Fleisher
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SEDRAH SELECTIONS PARSHAS SHMOS 5763 BS"D
Ch. 1, v. 12: "Va'yokutzu mipnei bnei Yisroel" - And they were disgusted with the bnei Yisroel - Rashi says that the Egyptians were so disgusted with the bnei Yisroel to the point of "va'yokutzu b'cha'yei'hem," they were disgusted with their own existence. Notwithstanding the Yalkut, which says in the name of Rabbi Yochonon that the Egyptians became disgusted when the bnei Yisroel began joining them in their so-called cultural events, in theatres, stadiums, and circuses, the basic words of our verses only indicate that there was a Jewish population explosion. Although this might engender jealousy, there is no inherent reason for this to cause such a severe response as utter revulsion. However, this can be explained with the words of the Holy Zohar on our parsha. He says that although the bnei Yisroel were destined to go into exile, there was no specific mention of which nation would be their host (Breishis 15:13). Hashem chose Egypt because the people there were on the lowest rung of moral behaviour, albeit a world power. This great divide safeguarded the bnei Yisroel's spiritual integrity, avoiding socializing, cultural exchange, and intermarriage. The Egyptians looked upon later generations of bnei Yisroel as second-class citizens, as slaves even before their actual enslavement. The Egyptians' revulsion with the bnei Yisroel guarded against the Egyptians taking any interest in the Jewish women, thus the families remained pure.
The M.R. on 1:8, "Va'yokom melech chodosh," states that once the bnei Yisroel discarded circumcision the love and respect the Egyptians originally had for the bnei Yisroel turned to hatred, as is stated in T'hilim 105:25, "Hofach libom lisno amo," - Hashem turned their hearts to hate His nation. The gist of this chapter of T'hilim is to relate all the positive acts that Hashem did for the bnei Yisroel while they were in Egypt. However, these words seem to be out of character, as hatred brings about very negative consequences. As long as the bnei Yisroel kept strong out of their own volition and lived in their own enclave of Goshen, there was no problem with the Egyptians respecting them. However, once the barriers began falling, there was a fear of mingling. Since Hashem wanted to make sure that there would be no erosion of the sanctity of His chosen children He put a feeling of hatred and disgust towards the bnei Yisroel into the Egyptians' hearts. This was indeed a great act of kindness from Hashem, thus fitting in with the rest of this chapter of T'hilim.
This phenomenon repeats itself throughout our history of living in exile after exile. Egypt was the prototype for this. Logically, if there is hatred for a foreign group of people within one's midst, with the passage of time it lessens, as the host nation acclimates itself to new and different cultures. As well, the immigrants quickly meld into the host-nation's societal norms. This breaks down pre-existing prejudices. However, with the bnei Yisroel nothing can be further from reality. As time goes by we see that hatred wells and builds up, even after hundreds of years of co-existence. This reaction is totally irrational, and can only be explained as the working of Hashem to safeguard the integrity of the Jewish nation, as is so succinctly expressed by the Lubliner Rosh haYeshivoh, Rabbi Meir Shapiro Hy"d, "If a Yid does not know how to make Kiddush, i.e. keep his sanctity, then the gentile will make Havdoloh, i.e. will act in a way that creates a great social divide. Just as Hashem appeared in His great glory, displaying His limitless power in Egypt, so too the final redemption will be heralded in with great miracles. As we await this great world climax we must remember that the more we behave as Yidden should, the less antagonism we will experience from the nations of the world. (Ohr Hachaim Hakodosh, Sfas Emes)
Ch. 1, v. 13: "Va'yaavidu Es Bnei Yisroel B'fo'rech" - And they made the bnei Yisroel do back-breaking work - The redemption was alluded to as soon as the enslavement began in earnest. The first letters of "Es Bnei Yisroel B'fo'rech" create the acronym "oviv," the month in which the bnei Yisroel would be redeemed. (Likutei Torah)
Ch. 1, v. 15: "Lamyaldos hoIvrios asher sheim ho'achas Shifroh v'sheim hasheinis Pu'oh" - To the Jewish midwives one whose name is Shifroh and one whose name is Pu'oh- How could only two midwives suffice for a nation of so many people? Moshav Z'keinim answers that these two women, besides being midwives themselves, were also the head of a fleet of midwives who answered to them.
Ch. 2, v. 5: "Va'tei'red bas Paroh lirchotz al ha'y'ore" - And the daughter of Paroh descended to wash by the river - The gemara Sotoh 12b says that "to wash" means that she cleansed herself of all idol worship. Why doesn't the gemara take these words at face value as it was common to bathe oneself in a river?
However, in the next verse we see that when she happened upon a Jewish child, she had mercy on him. This is not to be understood, as per the dictum "halacha b'yodua sheEisov sonei l'Yaakov" (Sifri on parshas B'haalos'cho 9:10 brought in Rashi Breishis 33:4). From the fact that she had mercy upon Moshe we see that she was no longer an idol worshipper. (Rabbi M.D. haLevi Soloveitchik)
Ch. 2, v. 14: "MI somCHo l'iSH .. ha'l'horgeini atoh omeir" - Who gave you a position of authority .. are you saying to kill me - Rashi says that from the words "atoh omeir" we derive that one of the combatants told Moshe that he knew of Moshe's previously killing an Egyptian through talking, by invoking Hashem's Holy Name. Kav Ha'yoshor chapter #90 writes that the Holy Name Moshe used was spelled Yud-Kof-Shin, the final letters of "MI somCHo l'iSH." When Moshe was worried and responded "ochein noda hadovor," - indeed it has become known - his worry wasn't that there was knowledge of his having killed an Egyptian, but rather, that the use of Hashem's Holy Name became known and might be invoked by others. (Chid"o in Dvash L'fi)
There is an opinion mentioned in the writings of the Ari z"l that the letters Tof-Kof-Hei, "ta'keh," were invoked.
Ch. 2, v. 23: "Va'yomos melech Mitzrayim" - And the king of Egypt died - Rashi (M.R. 1:34) says that this is not to be taken literally, but rather, to mean that he was afflicted with leprosy. If so, why did the bnei Yisroel groan, as stated in this verse? It is because as a result of his affliction Paroh sought advice from his chartumim/dermatologists who told him to bathe twice daily, each time in the blood of 150 Jewish children. Rabbi Eliyohu Mizrochi says, "If so, the verse should not have ended with the words 'min ho'avodoh,' - from the work, which indicates that they suffered from such difficult labour, but rather should have left these words out, as the moaning and groaning were a result of suffering from the slaughter of innocent young children." He offers no answer for his question.
The Proshas Drochim answers in the name of his uncle that when the bnei Yisroel felt the crush of the servitude they were close to being emotionally defeated. However, upon seeing the supernatural population explosion they took heart, realizing that the enslavement would be shorter-lived, as the total quota of servitude Hashem had in mind would be completed faster by a larger work force, and this in turn would hasten their redemption. However, once Paroh began slaughtering hundreds of children daily the number of people who would eventually work was diminished. To take up this slack the rest of the bnei Yisroel would have to be servants for longer, hence they groaned "min ho'avodoh," because of the extension of hard work.
With this concept the P'ninim Y'korim answers a question raised by the Maharsh"a. The gemara Sanhedrin 91a relates that in the days of Alexander the Macedonian the Egyptians came with a claim against the bnei Yisroel. They wanted reparations for the bnei Yisroel's emptying Egypt of its possessions upon their departure from their country. A man named Gviha ben Psisa represented the bnei Yisroel. He countered that just as the Egyptians based their claims on the written word of the Torah, as they had no eye-witnesses that the bnei Yisroel took anything, so too, he would source his defence from the Torah. The Torah states that the bnei Yisroel remained in Egypt for 430 years (Shmos 12:40). He said that the payment due for the 430 years of harsh servitude more than offset the possessions taken from Egypt. The Egyptians, upon hearing this, feared that they not only wouldn't receive reparations, but might even be handed an astronomical bill. They unceremoniously made a quick exit, not even waiting for a ruling.
The Maharsh"a asks, "What is the meaning of '430 years of harsh servitude'? They bnei Yisroel only did slave labour for 86 years." We can answer that there was a quota of total labour the bnei Yisroel were to do. The amount was 600,000 people working for 430 years. However, the work force was 3,000,000 people. During the plague of darkness 4/5ths of the bnei Yisroel died (Rashi on Shmos 10:22), leaving us with 600,000 people actually departing from Egypt. Just as 5 times 600,000 people were enslaved, so too, the 430 years of harsh labour were reduced by 4/5ths. This leaves us with 86 years into which were concentrated 430 years of labour by a five-fold work force.
Because of the bnei Yisroel's departing with a reduction of 344 years of labour, we drink 4 goblets of wine on the Seder night, as "kose" has the numerical value of 86. Each goblet is in recognition of 86 years of not actually having to do harsh labour, and 4 goblets = 4 times "kose" = 344. Further to this concept from the Divrei Yoseif: Our verse says "va'yei'onchu vnei Yisroel min HO'AVODOH vataal shavosom el hoElokim," - and the bnei Yisroel groaned because of the labour and their wail ascended to Hashem. We can thus interpret "va'yei'onchu vnei Yisroel min HO'AVODOH" to mean that the bnei Yisroel groaned from the fact that they only worked 86 years, HO'AVODOH having the numerical value of 86. Their wail ascended to "hoElokim." "Elokim" also has the numerical value of 86, again equal to the number of years of actual servitude. Their wail ascended and had the value of "hoElokim." This word can be split into the letter Hei and the word Elokim. Hei is 5, so "hoElokim" means 5 times Elokim = 430. Their wail pierced the heavens and Hashem accepted the 86 years as if they were 5 times 86. To bring this about Hashem sent Moshe to redeem the bnei Yisroel. There were 344 years left to work, but Moshe whose name has the numerical value of 345, one more than the 344 years of servitude left, overpowered the claim of being 344 years short. He told the bnei Yisroel that they would not have to work the remaining 344 years. Unfortunately, when Moshe presented the idea of an early departure, the bnei Yisroel could not accept this "mi'kotzer ruach" (Shmos 6:9). They could not believe that they would leave earlier because they thought that they had to fulfill the edict of "mikotzer," whose numerical value is 430.
Ch. 2, v. 25: "Va'yeida Elokim" - And Hashem knew - This is the standard translation. Haksav V'hakaboloh offers a very novel interpretation. The previous verses detail the great suffering and the heart wrenching cries of the bnei Yisroel. Our verse tells us that Hashem was aware of all that transpired. In spite of the seeming success of the Egyptian evil-doers and the down-trodden condition of the bnei Yisroel there were those who still were aware of Hashem's presence, even though He had not as of yet sprung into action. Understand "va'yeida Elokim" as "va'yeida HA'YODEI'A es Elokim," - and he, a member of the bnei Yisroel, knew of the presence of Elokim. We often have verses that leave out the doer of an action, such as in Breishis 48:1.
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