by Zvi Akiva Fleisher
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OROH V'SIMCHOH - MESHECH CHOCHMOH ON PARSHAS BO BS"D
The Rashbam and the Ibn Ezra in the name of Yefes answer that they are one and the same. Hashem earlier told Moshe what would take place. This was told by day and at that time the son of the maidservant worked by the millstone. Our verse relates the actual killing of the firstborn, which took place at midnight. At that time the son of the maidservant was locked up in a jail, his overnight lodging, hence "b'chor haSHIFCHOH."
I heard a most marvelous answer to this question from R' M.Y.Z. based on the words of the MESHECH CHOCHMOH . In 12:9 we find the prohibition to eat from the Paschal lamb when it is not fully roasted or if it is cooked. The words for the prohibition are "AL tochal." The next verse prohibits leaving over any meat of the Paschal lamb beyond the prescribed time of eating, midnight. In verse 10 the words expressing this prohibition are "V'LO sosiru." Why is the word "AL" used in verse 9, and "V'LO" in verse 10?
The MESHECH CHOCHMOH answers that "AL" is a term used when REQUESTING that something not be done. "LO" is used as a COMMAND that something not be done. We find this in the story of the two women who appeared in front of King Shlomo with the question of who was the true mother of a child (M'lochim 1:15:26). Shlomo said that the child be physically split. The true mother responded that the child not be split, expressed, "AL t'misuhu." King Shlomo responded with (v. 27), "LO s'misuhu." The woman could only REQUEST of King Shlomo not to kill the child. The king, however, COMMANDED that the child not be killed.
The crucial point of differentiation between the bnei Yisroel and the Egyptians took place at the moment when Hashem killed the Egyptian firstborn and saved the firstborn of the bnei Yisroel. This created a new relationship between Hashem and the bnei Yisroel. He was NOW their king, "Ki li bnei Yisroel avodim, v'lo avodim l'avodim." On the night of Pesach before "makas b'choros," Hashem only REQUESTED that they prepare the Korban Pesach as per His requirements, "AL," while still not having a firm relationship with the bnei Yisroel as their King, hence a request only. Not leaving over the meat of the Korban Pesach takes place after midnight, when the slaying of the firstborn had already taken place. At this point Hashem had become their KING. He therefore COMMANDED, "V'LO," that they not leave over the meat of the Korban Pesach until the morning.
R' M.Y.Z. told me that this concept of the MESHECH CHOCHMOH answers the above-mentioned question. The Egyptians had a mind set that the lowest human creature was a slave, namely because they had enslaved the bnei Yisroel for so many years. The verse in 11:5 discusses the future plague of the smiting of the firstborn. At that moment the description of the complete gamut of human beings as per the perception of the Egyptians, ran from the top, the heir apparent to Paroh, to the lowest, the child of a maidSERVANT.
However in our verse which is the description of the plague in action at the stroke of midnight, there was a total change. The mindset of a slave being the lowest had changed. The Jewish slaves now had Heavenly power interceding on their behalf, wielding the decisive blow to the Egyptians. The slaves were no longer on the lowest rung of society, hence the child of a prisoner of war now occupied that position.
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