by Zvi Akiva Fleisher
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SEDRAH SELECTIONS PARSHAS VO'EIRO 5764 BS"D
Ch. 7, v. 28: "V'shoratz ha'y'ore tzfardim" - And the river will proliferate frogs - In T'hilim 105:30 it says, "Shoratz artzom tzfardim," their LAND proliferated frogs, while our verse says that the river will do this. Since the frogs came from not just one body of water, but rather, from all bodies of water, as indicated by the words "al hanhoros al ha'y'orim v'al ho'agamim" (8:1), it is as if the land gave them forth, since this took place all over. (Rada"k)
Ch. 7, v. 28: "V'olu uvo'u" - And they will ascend and come - The frogs first ascended, because they came from the bodies of water, which were lower than the land. (Minchoh V'luloh)
Ch. 7, v. 28: "U'vo'u .. uvsanu'recho uvmisharoshecho" - And they will come .. and into your ovens and into your raw dough - The gemara P'sochim 53b says that Chananioh, Misho'eil, and Azarioh derived from the frogs that they should allow themselves to die in a cauldron rather than bowing to an idol. The frogs entered the ovens while they were already heated, as the only time there is raw dough in an oven is when it is preheated. Tosfos d.h. "mah" asks, "Why is it necessary to derive anything from the frogs? Since this was a choice of idol worship or death, death is the only proper choice, as it is one of the three cardinal sins for which there is no "v'chay bo'hem" exemption." Tosfos answers that they had the choice of running away and avoiding the whole issue. They learned from the frogs who entered the ovens, who likewise had the option to go to other locations, such as "chadar mishkovcho" or "mito'secho" (as explained by Rabbi Yonoson Eibeschutz)
The Mahara"m Schiff answers this question based on a verse in Doniel (3:22), which states that the oven that was heated for those who would not bow to the idol was so hot that no one could approach it without being burned. (It seems that it was heated beyond the expectation of the stokers.) If so, this trio could not be thrown in. What was their challenge? It was to not bow down and still WALK into the oven, creating a great "kiddush Hashem." This is not included in the ruling of "yei'ho'reig v'al yaavore." They learned this from the frogs who WALKED to their death, "vataal hatzfardei'a" (8:2).
Ch. 8, v. 17: "V'gam ho'adomoh asher heim o'lehoh" - And also the land that they are upon - A novel explanation: The gemara Psochim 52b says that an animal that resides in Golil will not eat from the produce of Yehudoh, and vice versa. Hashem had to send some of the land upon which the animals lived with its produce for them to be sustained during the plague. (Rogatchover Gaon) This explanation is based on the Rogatchover Gaon's explanation of the gemara. However Rashi says that the reason the animals of Golil will not consume from Yehudoh and vice versa is because they will not wander that far away from their habitat.
Ch. 9, v. 2: "Ki im mo'ein atoh l'sha'lei'ach v'odcho machazik bom" - If you refuse to send and still hold onto them - What is added by "v'odcho machazik bom"? Why is this term not used by the warnings of any of the other plagues? The mishneh Eiduyos 2:10 says that the Egyptians were judged with plagues for 12 months. The gemara R.H. 11a says that the servitude of our forefathers in Egypt came to a halt on Rosh Hashonoh. Armed with these 2 pieces of information we may assume (although contrary to some commentators such as Rabbeinu Bachyei in parshas Bo) that the fifth plague took place slightly before half a year after the onset of the plagues, as half the plagues would take place in half a year. This would bring us to the month of Tishrei since the plagues ended on the 15th of Nison and they had begun 12 months earlier in Nison as well. We can thus say that Moshe had up to this point only mentioned sending the bnei Yisroel away as free people. Obviously included in this would be the end of their servitude. However, here at the fifth plague, even if Paroh would not set them free, they would afterwards not be enslaved, only stuck in Egypt. This is why Hashem told Moshe to warn Paroh regarding 2 matters, sending them away and forcing them to work as slaves. This is the intention of "v'odcho machazik bom." After this plague even if Paroh would not let them go free there would be no "machazik bom," as the servitude would end on Rosh Hashonoh. Earlier it was not mentioned since if he would not grant them total freedom he would still enslave them as well.
The Rambam in hilchos teshuvoh 6:4 explains that when a person transgresses a very terrible sin or constantly repeats a sin it is appropriate for Hashem to close the gates of repentance so that the sinner should die with his sin intact and then Hashem would exact full punishment from him. In the next halacha he says that this is why Hashem hardened Paroh's heart, as Paroh premeditatedly diabolically planned to enslave and treat the bnei Yisroel harshly. However, the Rambam does not shed any light on why this took place specifically by the sixth plague and onwards, "Va'y'cha'zeik Hashem es leiv Paroh" (9:12). With the above we can explain this. Until now, even though Paroh and his people were smitten with some devastating plagues, nevertheless someone with great resolve might reason that it takes a lot more than plagues to force him to release a workforce of 600,000 adult men. Once Paroh was advised by the 5th plague that in any case he would no longer hold sway over his Jewish servants from Rosh Hashonoh onwards, what sense did it make for him to hang onto them? Even the most obstinate of people would back off when dealt such devastating blows if they know that they have lost their workforce in any case. From this point onwards Paroh's resolve could only be explained as being supernaturally Heavenly induced, "Va'y'cha'zeik Hashem es leiv Paroh." (Nirreh li)
Ch. 9, v. 14: "Es kol ma'geifosai" - All My plagues - Why is the plague of hail considered "all My plagues"? Rabbeinu Bachyei answers because it damaged/destroyed man, animal, trees, vegetation, etc. Medrash Hagodol answers because the hail was a confluence of ice, fire, rain, and thunderous sound. Rashi says that we derive from the expression "all My plagues" that the plague of smiting of the firstborn is equal to all the rest of the plagues combined. Since these words refer to the plague of hail, how is this an indication of the severity of the smiting of the firstborn, a totally different plague?
1) "Makas b'choros" does not mean smiting of the firstborn, but rather, smiting of the early ripened crops, as in the word "bikurim." (Chizkuni)
2) Since there was respite from this plague by bringing one's livestock and slaves into their homes (verse 19) and by the smiting of the firstborn there was no escape, by comparison we see that the smiting of the firstborn was equal to all other plagues. (Tosfos Hasho'leim)
Why Rashi mentions this in this verse requires clarification.
3) Some texts have the word "bitzo'res," famine, in the place of "b'choros." (Rabbeinu Chaim ben Paltiel)
4) If the plague of hail is called "kol ma'geifosai" because it affected man and animal, surely the smiting of the firstborn is even more severe as it brought the death of both man and animal, both in Egypt and abroad, both the Egyptians and to foreigners in Egypt at the time. (Rabbeinu Avigdor)
5) "Kol ma'geifosai" does not refer only to hail, but to the last three plagues as well. Thus we may rightly assume that the final plague is the severest. (Abarbanel)
6)There is a text "makas borod." Possibly someone's transcript had these two words abbreviated as Mem-Beis, meaning "makas borod," and a later transcriber incorrectly wrote this abbreviation in full incorrectly. (GR"A) Indeed, Medrash Hagodol clearly states that "makas BOROD" was equal to all the rest of the plagues.
7) In Shmos 4:23 Hashem told Moshe to relate to Paroh that if he would not send the bnei Yisroel free that He would kill the Egyptians' firstborn. Rashi says that this was a warning right at the beginning, ahead of all the other plagues that would take place earlier, because it was the most severe, "she'hee koshoh miKULON." (The text in Rashi in my Chumash is "she'hee koshoh" only.) If our verse tells us that hail is called "kol ma'geifosai," why didn't Moshe warn Paroh that hail would eventually come rather than "makas b'choros"? We must conclude that smiting the firstborn was even more severe than hail. (Sefer Zikoron)
N.B. Some of the answers stress that "makas b'choros" is the most SEVERE plague, while the actual words of Rashi are "shkuloh ch'neged kol hamakose," equal to all the plagues.
Ch. 9, v. 29: "Efros es kapai el Hashem" - I will spread out my palms to Hashem - In verse 33 we find that Moshe spread out his palms in prayer, just as he stated in our verse. Why by this particular plague did Moshe spread out his palms in prayer to bring the plague to a stop? Rashi on verse 33 d.h. "lo" writes that even the hail that was already in flight towards the earth did not reach its destination. The medrash on Yechezkeil 38:22 writes that the hail that was stopped in mid-flight will eventually descend during the battle of Gog and Mogog. Perhaps this is why Moshe spread out his palms, to symbolically pre-enact what would later happen. Just as it is obvious that when one extends his hands skyward, that he will not keep them in that position forever, so too, the hail that will remain suspended in midair will also eventually come pummeling downwards. (Nirreh li)
Ch. 9, v. 34,35: "Va'yosef lachato, V'lo shilach" - And he continued to sin, And he did not send out - Every time that Paroh agreed to send the bnei Yisroel free when requesting Moshe to pray to bring a plague to a stop, when the plague stopped he would immediately change his mind. If so, why does the Torah specifically here point out that he continued to sin? This is because earlier he still wasn't convinced that Hashem was the Supreme Master, even over him. Now that he admitted that Hashem is the Righteous One and he and his people are the wicked ones (verse 27), he totally recognized Hashem's dominion. By not doing Hashem's bidding after this realization he is now an intentional sinner. (Rashbam)
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