by Zvi Akiva Fleisher
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SEDRAH SELECTIONS PARSHAS VO'EIRO 5772 BS"D
Ch. 7, v. 19: "Va'yomer Hashem el Moshe emor el Aharon kach matcho untei yodcho al meimei Mitzrayim" - And Hashem said to Moshe say to Aharon take your staff and stretch your hand onto the waters of Egypt - Moshe was not told to do it himself because the waters of Egypt gave him refuge. Although bodies of water are inanimate this is readily understood in light of the words of the R"I of Goche translated from the Arabic in the Shitoh M'ku'betzes on B.K. 92b. He writes that the Torah teaches us the moral lesson of gratitude even in regard to an inanimate object, as we find that Moshe did not activate the plagues of blood, frogs, and lice, since the Nile River provided him with safe harbour and the earth provided him with a place to hide the body of the Egyptian whom he slew. Rather, Aharon brought about these plagues. He then relates a happening that transpired with the RI"F. The RI"F was ill and his doctor advised him that he required daily hot baths and complete rest. There was a very wealthy person in his community of Fez who offered him to move into his home and to bathe daily in his in-home bathhouse, an almost unheard of rarity in those days. As well, all his needs would be taken care of, including being wined and dined. The RI"F took him up on his most generous offer, and after a few months recovered from his illness and totally came back to his full strength.
The wealthy man fell upon hard times and because of his business dealings, which included cosigning for loans and offering his assets and properties as surety, debtors came with claims, nibbling away at his holdings. It came to the point that even his personal home property was being collected. One debtor had a claim that he wanted to collect by receiving the bathing facilities that had been availed to the RI"F during his convalescence. Naturally, establishing its proper value involved going to court. The RI"F was asked to be the adjudicator in this case. The RI"F declined, saying that it was improper for him to judge, since by doing so he would thus help facilitate the loss of the bathing facilities to his benefactor. He said that not only would he be repaying a favour with bad by helping to relieve his benefactor of his property, but as well, he would be doing an injustice to the bathing facility itself, which had served him so well in his time of need. He added that there are two reasons for a person to not judge someone who has given him a bribe. First, and more obvious, is that the judge is swayed to rule in favour of the one who gives a bribe, and secondly, once a person has given a bribe and thus has monetarily been a benefactor to the judge, it is morally wrong to judge against him, paying back bad for good, even if the judgment should deservingly go against him. Obviously if it is improper to judge against one party, you may not judge. The RI"F ends by saying that if we realize that it is improper to act negatively against an inanimate object, and even more obvious to do so against a person who has emotions, then surely to sin against Hashem, Who is our greatest Benefactor, is a most grievous act.
Possibly, we can now explain the two statements in our verse, "y'a'veir einei chachomim vi'sa'leif divrei tzadikim," with the words of the RI"F. A judge should not accept a bribe because:
1) It blinds the eyes of the wise man, and there is the fear that he will judge his bribing benefactor favourably even though he deserves to lose the case.
2) It distorts the words of the RIGHTEOUS, even if the judge has the strength of character to judge fairly and might rule against the person who bribed him, but to rule against a person who has benefited you is not righteous.
It is interesting to note that in two of the places where Aharon initiated the plagues, frogs and lice, where it was morally improper for Moshe to do so because he had derived benefit from the Nile River and the earth, the verse says "Va'yeit AHARON ES yodo" (Shmos 8:2 and 8:13). The numeric value of AHARON ES (i"h) is equal to that of VI'SA'LEIF DIVREI TZADIKIM, as both indicate the same point, to not pay back good with bad.
Ch. 7, v. 23: "Va'yifen Paroh va'yovo el beiso v'lo shos libo gam lozose" - And Paroh turned and came to his home and did not take to heart also this - the Meshech Chochmoh says that Paroh's household was not affected by the plague of blood. This is because, as mentioned in the medrash, the Egyptians were able to purchase water from the bnei Yisroel and it would remain water in their hands. Since purchasing water was a solution, Paroh had credit in the form of his harbouring and bringing up Moshe in his home.
Pikei d'Rebbi Eliezer ch. #19 has basically said this earlier among a number of other reasons. One was that Hashem allowed him to learn a lesson in a kind manner, in that he was not struck by the plague, but rather only experienced it by seeing his citizenry suffer. Secondly, Hashem was patient with him since he brought up Moshe. Thirdly, this brought Paroh's esteem in the eyes of his countrymen to a new high, as he was not afflicted. When he would have a downfall it would be from a greater height.
Ch. 8, v. 8: "Va'yitzak Moshe el Hashem al dvar hatzfardim asher som l'Pharoh" - And Moshe screamed to Hashem for the matter of the frogs that He placed to Paroh - Why was there a need to scream and why does the verse specify "that He placed to Paroh" rather than the general plague that affected all Egyptians? (Although there was a powerful blow to Paroh to have his nation afflicted with frogs, this self-serving leader (nothing much has changed in Egypt) felt no great impact if in his personal life he was not negatively affected by the plague, as we see by the previous plague of blood, "Va'yifen Paroh va'yovo el beiso v'lo shos libo gam lozose" (7:23). This was because water could be purchased, although for an inflated price. This was of no concern to Paroh as he had more money than we can imagine. Here by the plague of frogs he was not excluded and he suffered greatly just as did the rank and file.) The frogs were extremely reluctant to leave him in particular as his being affected could bring a change of heart much more than hearing that his people were suffering. This required extreme entreaties on Moshe's part, hence the screaming and the pointing out of the removal of frogs from Paroh. (Mishneh L'melech)
Ch. 8, v. 14: "Va'yomru hachartumim el Paroh etzba Elokim hee" - And the soothsayers said to Paroh that it is the finger of Elokim - Paroh's response was a further hardening of his heart. Why did he respond in this manner, given that his "wisemen" admitted that this plague came from Elokim, and not only that but it was a mere act of His finger and not a whole hand? The Malbim says that the Egyptians never referred to Hashem as Elokim, but rather "Elokeichem, Elokei hoIvrim," or "Hashem." The soothsayers' saying it was the act of elokim means their so-called powers, hence Paroh's negative response to Moshe's requests.
Ch. 8, v. 19: "V'samti fdus bein ami u'vein a'mecho l'mochor yi'h'yeh ho'ose ha'zeh" - And I will place a differentiation between my nation and your nation tomorrow this sign will take place - "Tomorrow" refers to "daagas mochor," great concern over what will be tomorrow. Medrash Tanchuma B'shalach 20 says that he who was what to eat today and concerns himself with what will he have tomorrow is considered a person whose trust in Hashem is lacking. This is the sign of the difference between my nation and yours, "mochor," the concern for the future. For the bnei Yisroel it is sufficient to have enough for that day only, as we find by the manna, that Hashem sent enough just for that day, "Dvar yom b'yomo" (Shmos 16:4). In Mishlei 13:28 the verse says, "Tzadik ocheil l'sova nafsho u'vetten r'sho'im tech'sor." (Divrei Yisroel of Modzitz)
Ch. 9, v. 11: "V'lo yochlu hachartumim alamode lifnei Moshe mipnei hash'chin" - And the soothsayers were unable to stand in front of Moshe on account of the boils - We can derive from these words that by every previous plague the soothsayers were able to counter Moshe. Their response to the first three plagues is recorded in the Torah. By the fourth plague, "orove," although they did not likewise produce more, what was there to do to show up Moshe? If it would be to also have them spread into Goshen, they could simply say that even Moshe could not bring this plague to affect Goshen, so they also couldn't, as that location was beyond being affected. What remains to be explained is the next plague, pestilence of the livestock. Why couldn't they show their prowess with this plague.
The gemara R.H. 10 says that the servitude of the bnei Yisroel ended on Rosh Hashonoh. There is a medrash that states that the servitude ended when the plagues commenced. Thus the plague of blood began on Rosh Hashonoh. There was a month between the onset of one plague to the next save the last three. The frogs came on Rosh Chodesh Cheshvon, lice Kisleiv, wild animals Teiveis, pestilence Shvat, boils Ador 1, hail Ador 2, locust Nison, darkness just before the 15th of Nison, and finally, the death of the firstborn on the night of the 15th of Nison. The gemara Shabbos 87 says that on the year of the exodus the 15th of Nison was a Thursday. Calculating in reverse Rosh Chodesh Shvat, the day of the advent of pestilence, fell on Shabbos. The gemara Sanhedrin 65b says that there are visible signs of when Shabbos is in effect, the river Sambatyon stops churning and the magic of "ov" is ineffectual. We see from this that magical powers also rested on Shabbos, and this is why when the plague of pestilence came the "chartumim" were unable to act. (Chasam Sofer)
Ch. 9, v. 20,21: "Ha'yo'rei es dvar Hashem, Vaasher lo som libo el dvar Hashem" - He who fears the word of Hashem, and who does not take to heart the word of Hashem - These two seem to not be opposites. We see from this that the underlying reason for not fearing Hashem is that one does not take to heart that Hashem is the One who orchestrates what takes place around us. (Imrei Emes)
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