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by Daneal Weiner
In this week’s parsha we have the latter of the 7-3 split and I'm not talking Bnei Brith Bowling League. Now, when I thought of this witty bit of humor last year, it “just so happened” I had gone bowling. It’s almost too spooky to say but I had just been bowling again! Exactly one year later, to the parsha! Who knows what kind of reparations I must be making in higher spiritual realms with my game!? And as my bowling partner says every time I bowl, “It should be a kapparah!”
The 7-3 split I intended to talk about is the break up in the narrative of the 10 plagues, last week’s parsha telling the first 7 and this week’s
Tells the final 3. And as for higher spiritual realms, we’ll talk about the 10 s'firos- spiritual heavens which envelope our world. Of the little bit of Kabbalah that floats to the surface, the idea is that the 10 utterances Hashem used to create the world created these s’firos. These heavens are like metaphysical shields which allow all creation to exist in Hashem’s presence. Since it is impossible for us to comprehend Hashem we gain whatever comprehension is possible by understanding His ways and traits. Just as the different Names of Hashem are windows to understanding Him, so too are the s’firos.
Commentaries explain the 10 plagues were a purification process for the 10 s'firos. The spiritual impurity Egypt released into the world defiled all the heavens and each plague cleansed one. Like the Torah’s 7-3 split of the plagues, there is a corresponding split in the sfiros. 7 s’firos are prominent in this world and the other 3 are veiled and will become unveiled in the time of the Mashiach. The first 7 are referred to as the lower sfiros and the latter 3 as the upper sfiros. They are Chesed- Kindness, Gevurah- Might, Tiferes- Beauty, Netsach- Eternity, Hode- Glory, Yisode- Foundation and Malchus- Kingship. The final 3 are Bina- Understanding, Chachma- Wisdom and Keter- Crown. The 7 most prominent of our ancestors parallel the lower sfiros. Perhaps the upper sfiros will be paralleled by the Mashiach ben Yosef, the Mashiach ben David and Hashem, Himself. The prominence of the lower 7 and the loftiness of the upper 3 are reflected in that the first 7 plagues emanated from the water and land while the last 3 came from heaven and Hashem, Himself.
The Parsha opens with Hashem saying to Moshe, “Come to Pharaoh because I have hardened his heart... so I may place My signs in his midst.” The world famous question on this is, why didn’t Hashem say, “GO to Pharaoh”? The Zohar says Hashem brought Moshe in, room after room, where Moshe feared to go. Where would Moshe, of all people, be afraid to go? Furthermore, Hashem never tells Moshe which plague is next! Hashem says he will make a laughter of Egypt and Moshe tells Pharaoh the locust are coming! How did Moshe know? Lastly, The Torah says, “Not a single locust remained within the borders of Egypt.” Similar to the entire withdrawal of the plague of wild animals (rather than them die there) so that the Egyptians would not benefit from a single skin, along these lines the Torah is telling us not a single locust remained behind. Even locust that were jarred and pickled disappeared! Egypt was not to gain the value of a snack from the plagues! That’s well and good if not fine and dandy but just verses earlier the Torah said, “The locust ascended…very severely… There was never [such a swarm] before it nor would there be after it.” After what we just said, why reward Egypt with never again having to worry about another swarm of locust destroying their crops?!?
Rav Wolfson begins answering these questions noting that in addition to these last three plagues all emanating from a higher realm, the plague of Locust- Arbeh is plague no. 8 and it corresponds to sfira no. 8, Bina- Understanding! Bina means being able to see more than the information in front of you. Bina is being able to take A + B and derive C, Chidushim in Torah. Chidushim, from the root chadash- new, means revealing new ideas in Torah which have not been said before. Revealing new information from between the lines. It goes without saying, though now days everything need be said, that chidushim must fall within the framework of Torah. When I hear some absurdity which is defended with, “There are 70 facets to Torah, right?!” I say, “Right! 70, not 71. Yours ranks an 83.” With the sfira of Bina in the air, Moshe was right-on when his first chidush in Torah was to tell Pharaoh the Arbeh was coming! As Rav Wolfson points out, in his inimitable fashion, what Moshe might have sensed for this 8th sfira and plague was that the gematria of 8 x Hashem [His 4 letter Name whose numeric equivalent is 26] = 208 = Arbeh.
A verse in Mishlei (30:27) says, “There is no king to the locust and yet they all go out in a single swarm.” Certainly something to be marveled at. Unlike migrating ducks or even us humans who have a leader leading the way, the locusts have no leadership. And yet they all travel the same path. Yet another manifestation of the fact that Arbeh is from that higher sfira, Bina. They don’t need a leader because as representatives of Bina it is their nature to know where they need to go. And maybe that helped Moshe know because the gematria of Hashem’s words, “Come to Pharaoh”- Bo el Paroh = 389 = melech ain l’arbeh- There is no king to the locust.
Furthermore, the gematria of “And Hashem said to Moshe, ‘Come to Pharaoh’ ” = 1048 = the milui of Arbeh! Gematria milui is adding up the letters which spell the letters of the word. So the milui of Arbeh, spelled aleph, reish, beis, hey = (aleph) aleph+ lamed+ fey + (reish) reish+yud+shin + (beis) beis+yud+sav + (hey) hey+yud = 1048.
Just as the 8th and 9th sfiros are very much related in that they are two expressions of knowledge (again, bina and chachma- understanding and wisdom) so too do the 8th and 9th plagues express commonality. The Torah describes the immensity of the locust swarm saying it covered the sun and the land became dark. Just like the 9th plague of Darkness. Anti-Torah ‘wisdom’, euphemistically referred to as enlightenment, is really a darkening of the senses. The 2 sfiros of knowledge, corrupted by darkness, took a dose of darkness to cleanse them. Locust and Darkness have something else in common.
Our physical world falls into 4 categories; inanimate, vegetable, animal and “talker.” Why our Rabbis refer to humans by our ability to talk is a whole paper in and of itself. Our point is the relationship of the 4. The inanimate, the land, it gives of its force to vegetation. The vegetation gives itself over to the animal. The animal gives itself over to us talkers. Should an animal merit being eaten by a person who makes a blessing before eating, then sparks of holiness which were buried in the land, they have finally been misbarare. The root, barare, means ‘clarify’ or ‘select’. A bad definition of misbarare might be ‘extracted’. It’s more like a redemption. The sin of Adam was like the shattering of a glass which sent slivers, sparks of holiness all over the world. They lay spiritually buried and wait for the opportunity to be elevated through a service of Hashem at which time they return to their source. Another paper in and of itself. Our point, something that contains sparks of holiness and is waiting for them to be misbarare means waiting for an opportunity to serve Hashem. Once an object is void of those sparks, what purpose does it serve?
The plagues of Locust and Darkness, paralleling the sfiros of Bina and Chachma, were when the sparks of holiness buried in Egypt were misbarare, when Egypt was drained of any sanctity. The locust which ate all the produce of the fields consumed and took with them all the sparks of holiness which were in Egypt. When the Torah said the Locust would never return, it wasn’t a blessing in disguise. It was acurse in disguise! There is no reason for any locust to ever descend again upon Egypt because the place is devoid of all sanctity. The Arizal says this is partly the reason behind the prohibition of a Jew to return to Egypt. The life of Jew is take all the world’s physicality and elevate it in service of Hashem. In Egypt there is nothing to elevate. This adds new meaning to the verse later in our parsha, “At the end of 430 years, it was on that day that all the legions of Hashem left the land of Egypt.”
The Zohar reiterates the act of birure being related to the trait of Wisdom. It is for this reason that for the conclusion of Shabbos our blessed Rabbis added the paragraph to mibarare- distinguish between the holiness of Shabbos and the earthly week days into the blessing, Blessed are You Hashem, Giver of Wisdom.”
The Rabbainu Bachayai says the word arbeh appears in the parsha 7 times, representing the 7 types of kosher locust. In Parshas Shmini, however, where it discusses kosher and non-kosher insects, it only lists 4 kosher types. A Midrash says that all 7 are included in the 4. Whatever the Midrash means, the 4 listed in Shmini, ha’arbeh, hasulum, hachargol, and hechuguv = 682 = yaitsu kol svakos Hashem- all the legions of Hashem left.
The Ramban, Nachmanides, writes that the plague Barad- Hail occurred in the month Adar and Arbeh occurred in the following month, Nissan. The Rabbainu Bachayai saw that Ramban but he writes that Arbeh was in Adar! Recent holy writings explain that Purim, which comes mid-Adar, is a preparation for Pesach which comes mid-Nissan. We even have a custom of starting to learn the laws of Pesach right after Purim, 30 days before Pesach. This fares well for the Rabbainu Bachayai who says Arbeh was in Adar because the gematria milui of Arbeh, spelled (aleph) aleph+ lamed+ fey + (reish) reish+yud+shin + (beis) beis+yud+sav + (hey) hey+aleph = 1039 = shloshim yom kodem hapesach- thirty days before Pesach.
The tsiruf for Adar is from a verse in Breishis (49:11), “Osri lagefen eero v’lasoraika b’nee asono.” What is a tsiruf? Hashem’s 4 letter Name (the yud, the hey, the vav, and hey) has 24 possible letter combinations. Since two of the letters are the same we end up with 12 different combinations, twice. Each of the 12 combinations corresponds to a month and to a verse for that month. Meaning the first or last letters of 4 of the words of the verse are the 4 letter combination for that month.
The tsiruf for Adar is hey, hey, yud, vav. In the above verse, 49:11, the words eero v’lasoraika b’nee asono end, respectively, with hey, hey, yud, vav. These 4 words also have the gematria = 1879 = shisi ososai aileh bikirbo- so I may place My signs in his midst. This was the first verse of the parsha “Come to Pharaoh for I have hardened his heart… so I may place My signs in his midst.” Another incredible connection between Arbeh and Adar placing Rabbainu Bachayai two ahead of the Ramban.
This finally brings us back ‘round to our first two questions, why did Hashem say “Come to Pharaoh” and where, according to the Midrash, was Moshe afraid to enter? If the Arbeh was going to clean up Egypt than Moshe was going to go into the deepest of the deep of Egypt, the 50th gate of spiritual impurity! Israel was taken out of Egypt after having sunk to the 49th gate of impurity. If we hit 50, we never would have gotten out. Moshe, as the leader of Israel, was from the 49th Gate of Understanding, the force necessary to take Israel from the 49th Gate of Impurity. But Pharaoh, the leader of a nation at the 50th level of impurity meant his soul was from the 50th gate! Moshe should descend into the 50th gate?! That was a frightening thought! So Hashem didn’t send him but said to him, “Come, I’m right here. Come with Me into the deepest chamber of Pharaoh’s soul that I may place My signs in his midst.”
It appears, Rav Wolfson adds, that from this is where Moshe prepared the salvation brought by Esther. She also entered the innermost chamber of the king. At that point our Sages say the Shchinah- the Divine spirit left her, but only till she said, “My G-d, my G-d, why have You forsaken me?” as recorded by King David in a Psalm for Ayalet Hashachar, a name by which the Gemorah refers to Megilas Esther. The Megila records, “Esther donned royalty as she stood in the inner courtyard of the king’s palace facing the chamber of the king.” Our Sages say ‘donned royalty’ means the Divine spirit returned to her, even in that place of utmost impurity. Moshe’s descent into the 50th gate allowed for Haman to be hung on a gallows 50 cubits high. All this is encapsulated in the milui gematria of Arbeh = 1039 = Chamishim she’arai tuma- 50th Gate of Tuma. And l’ma’an shisi ososai aileh- so I may place My signs = 1859 = This Purim letter – Es egeres hapurim hazoes (Megilas Esther 9:29)
This remarkable connection to Adar and Purim makes it apparent why only by Arbeh does Hashem say, “I will make a laughter of Egypt.” As it’s brought in the Gemorah, “Mi she’nichnas Adar marbim b’simcha”- One who enters Adar should increase his happiness! The Rabbeinu Bachayai has the Ramban by a land slide!
So what was the Ramban thinking? I’ll tell you (only because Rav Wolfson told me). The Ramban says Barad was in Adar and Arbeh in Nissan. Barad was the 7th plague and Arbeh the 8th. I repeat the obvious to emphasize that when there is a 7 and 8 we should think of Shabbos! Specifically, near the end of Shabbos, the third meal. We don’t rush to end Shabbos. We take the sanctity of the 7th day and stretch it into the 8th. There is a dispute if the counting of the 50th year, the Jubilee year, should be a year in and of itself or should it also the first year of the next cycle? This same idea is expressed when we extend Shabbos into Sunday. Sunday can be day 8 and 1 at the same time. So Shabbos represents 7 and 8 in one. Likewise, we see the 7th and 8th plague blended as one. 3 times Barad is mentioned by the plague of Arbeh! No other plague has that overlap. The 7 times Arbeh (= 208) is mentioned in the parsha and the 3 times Barad (= 206) is mentioned [7 x 208] + [3 x 206] = 2074 = Layihudim hoysa ohra v’simcha v’sassone vikor- The Jews had light and gladness and joy and honor (Megilas Esther 8:16).
Barad was a cleansing of the 7th sfira of Malchus- Kingdom. The expression of accepting Hashem as King is having yirah- fear/reverence. Hashem told Moshe to tell Pharaoh that the Barad will be “so you shall know there is none like Me in the whole world.” Ki ain kamoni- there is none like Me = 211= yirah! Barad was so there would be yirah in the whole world. [That was MY gematria, by the way!!! I’m batting 1 per millennia.] And, indeed, it is after Barad that we first here Pharaoh confess, “Hashem is the Righteous One. I and my people are wicked!” By plague 8 Pharaoh again makes a similar confession! 8 symbolizes the time of the Mashiach, when all the world will recognize Hashem as King. Yirah again ties 7 and 8 into 1. The 3 times Barad appears in Parshas Bo (3 x 206) = 618 = v’hayah Hashem l’melech al kol ha’arets- And Hashem will be King throughout the world! And = Vayonach b’chol g’vule Mitsrayim kaved me’ode- And it [the locust swarm] rested in the entire border of Egypt very severely. The Ramban has no problem making the concepts of Barad tie into Arbeh, substantiating his claim that Barad was in Adar.
The Ba’al Haturim notes on the last verse quoted in that last gematria that there are only two places in Scripture that the word vayonach is used. Once, as mentioned, and once by Shabbos! So it is no wonder that vayonach bayom hashve’e- And He rested on the 7th = 529 = al mikrah megila- on the reading of the Megila (the words of the blessing we make before reading the Megila)!
The soul of every Jew is rooted somewhere in the Torah and their chidushim in Torah will be from that place. No Jew, no matter how uneducated, will leave this world without having said a chidush in Torah relevant to their soul’s source. Moshe who was born and died in Adar said a chidushim in Torah that was relevant to Adar. Amongst those who say that Mordechai was a reincarnation of Moshe, the Chasam Sofer ethat just as Moshe gave over the Torah, so too did Mordechai give it a second time. This is his explanation of the verse in the Megila, “v’hadas nitnah b’Shushan habirah”- And the law was given in Shushan, the capitol. Not to mention the fact that those four words = 1800 = Vayichtov Moshe es haTorah- and Moshe wrote the Torah! Mordechai’s giving and Moshe’s writing both took place in Adar. At Har Sinai was Na’aseh v’nishma!- We will do and we will understand! At Purim was, Kimu v’kiblu!- We will uphold and accept! The former regarding the Written Law, the latter regarding the Oral Law.
During these special weeks of Shoveveim- returning to Hashem may we merit another Purim, a salvation from our enemies. And may that lead us to another Pesach, removing our chamaits- anti-Torah ideas and may that pave our way to another Mt. Sinai where we totally broke the bonds of our yetser horah! And that’s only if the Mashiach doesn’t come tomorrow!
Bo, Mashiach, right now and you can have a 7+8 = 1 Shabbat Shalom!
Shema Yisrael Torah Network
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