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 Parshas Bo - Vol. 8, Issue 15
Compiled by Oizer Alport


Vayomer Moshe bin'areinu uviz'keineinu neileich b'vaneinu u'viv'noseinu b'tzoneinu u'viv'kareinu neileich ki chag Hashem lanu (10:9)

Due to the intense suffering imposed by the plagues, Pharaoh was finally forced to relent and allow Moshe to take the Jews to worship Hashem for three days. The problem was in the details. Moshe insisted that not only must the male adults go, but also the elderly, the children, and the females. Pharaoh responded that under no circumstances would he allow the children to go since the sacrifices were to be brought by the adults. However, in Pharaoh’s response, no mention is made of the women. Did he agree to Moshe’s demand in this regard?

The Radvaz suggests that Pharaoh’s original refusal to allow the Jews to leave for three days was predicated on his fear that if they did so, they would become cleansed from the spiritual impurities they had absorbed during their time in immoral Egypt. Therefore, even when he was forced by the plagues to permit the Jews to go and serve Hashem, he attempted to do so in a diabolical way which would prevent any permanent “damage” to his wicked plans.

Pharaoh knew that Judaism is heavily dependent on the concept of mesorah – transmitting our beliefs from one generation to the next. He therefore refused to allow the elders to lead them to the desert, and he also insisted that the children not be present in order to cut off vital links in the educational process. Yet Pharaoh was still concerned that the adult males would come back inspired and share their newfound enthusiasm with the others. He therefore refused to allow the women to travel, as he recognized that the spiritual level of a Jewish house is ultimately determined by the woman. Indeed, it was for this reason that Hashem instructed Moshe to first offer the Torah to the women, as it was their acceptance which would ultimately be the determining factor in the religious level of the Jewish nation.

Therefore, even if the men returned home with a newfound inspiration, it would be short-lived since their wives wouldn’t have been able to share in it. Even Pharaoh recognized that as long as the women remained in the morally impure environment of Egypt, there was no chance for the Jewish nation to accomplish permanent spiritual growth.

V'rai'si es ha'dam u'fasachti aleichem v'lo yih'yeh bachem negef l'mashchis b'hakosi b'eretz Mitzrayim (12:13)

With the relatively recent proliferation of unprecedented weapons of mass destruction and talk of chemical and even, G-d forbid, nuclear warfare, it seems quite natural to fear for one’s own fate and that of the entire Jewish nation. With neighbors who would desire nothing more than its total annihilation, Israel certainly seems to be perched in a precarious position should such a war break out.

However, Rav Nosson Wachtfogel notes that for a believing Jew, this trepidation and anxiety is misplaced. The Torah tells us that throughout all of the plagues in Egypt, Hashem placed an artificial “wall” at the border of the Jewish region of Goshen and protected them from the various plagues. Even though the laws of nature dictate that frogs, lice, and hail shouldn’t discriminate within the Egyptian borders, even “nature” is subservient to Hashem’s commands.

He who declared that under normal circumstances animals shouldn’t differentiate between potential victims also decreed that during the plagues, an alternate set of laws of nature should govern which afforded miraculous protection to the Jews. Even the mass destruction caused by the plague of the slaying of the first-born completely passed over the Jews, killing an Egyptian attempting to hide in the house of a Jew but protecting a Jew who was in the house of an Egyptian (Rashi 12:13).

Similarly, it seems that with the tremendous destructive abilities of today’s bombs and missiles, there is nowhere to hide from the invisible radiation and chemicals which could be deployed by our enemies at any moment. Fortunately, the Torah teaches us otherwise. As long as we continue in the ways of our ancestors in Egypt, remaining separate from our non-Jewish neighbors and maintaining our beautiful Jewish customs and traditions, we remain above CNN’s “inviolable” laws of nature and have nothing to fear at all.

U'lekachtem agudas eizov u'tevaltem ba'dam asher ba'saf (12:22)

Toward the beginning of the Seder, the children ask about a number of practices that we do differently on this night than on all other nights. One of them is that on all other nights, we aren’t accustomed to dipping even a single time, yet at the Seder we dip not once, but twice. What is the answer to this question?
The Ben Ish Chai explains that the reason that we dip two times is because the Seder represents both slavery and redemption. To express the dual nature of the night, we dip twice. Still, what do slavery and redemption have to do with dipping as opposed to some other activity that we can perform twice? The specific connection to dipping is that the redemption began when they dipped àâåãú àæåá – a bundle of hyssop – in blood. Because it is bundled together, it symbolizes the concept of unity, which is the key to redemption.

However, it wasn’t just the redemption which began through dipping, but the enslavement itself also began when Yosef’s brothers dipped his coat in blood. Rabbeinu Bechaye writes that although Hashem had already promised Avrohom Avinu that his descendants would be slaves in a foreign land, it was only at the time of Yosef’s sale that it was established where and how painful the enslavement would be as a punishment for the brothers’ hatred of Yosef, so this was considered the beginning of exile.

Interestingly, Rav Elchonon Wasserman questions how the Jewish people could suffer so much from blood libels on Pesach throughout the centuries when we know that they have not the slightest shred of truth to them. He suggests that they are a Heavenly punishment for the blood libel that Yosef’s brothers did after selling him and making their own “blood libel” by falsely dipping his coat in blood.

Still, why should this sin affect us for all time? The Meshech Chochmah explains this phenomenon by noting that on Yom Kippur, we ask Hashem to forgive us for our sins by saying, "Ki atah salchan l'Yisroel u'machalan l'shivtei Yeshurun b'chol dor v'dor – for You are the forgiver of the Jewish people and of the tribes of Yeshurun in every generations. What is the significance of the repeated expression, and what is the meaning of the phrase “the tribes of Yeshurun,” an expression that we don’t find anywhere else?

Rav Meir Simcha explains that the sin of the golden calf is the root of all sins between man and Hashem and we are punished for it in all generations whenever we sin against Hashem (Rashi Shemos 32:34), so we first say “for You are the forgiver of the Jewish people.” The sale of Yosef by his brothers is the root all sins between man and his fellow man, and we are punished for this in all generations whenever we sin against another person, so we ask Hashem to forgive these sins as well by praying that He should forgive the tribes of Yeshurun (who sold Yosef) in every generation.

In light of this insight, Rav Mattisyahu Salomon explains that as long as there is baseless hatred among us, we still have the roots of the sin of selling Yosef, and we are still punished with blood libels. Still, this begs another question. Why are we specifically punished for this sin on Pesach more than at any other time of the year?

Rav Salomon notes that the Rema writes that many people have the custom to eat an egg at the Seder as a symbol of mourning, as Tisha B’Av falls on the same night of the week as the first night of Pesach. At the Seder we remember the Exodus from Egypt and yearn for the future redemption, but we also remind ourselves of the reason that we are still in exile. This is symbolized by first dipping the karpas in saltwater to recall the sin of the sale of Yosef and then dipping maror in charoses which can sweeten our bitter exile through unity and togetherness.

If Tisha B’Av still comes on that night later that year, it’s an indication that we didn’t sufficiently internalize these lessons and rectify these sins. As our children ask us about the two-fold dipping, let us resolve to properly understand its message so that this year we may follow-up our commemoration of the Exodus from Egypt on Pesach with a celebration on Tisha B’Av of our redemption from our current exile.

Answers to the weekly Points to Ponder are now available!
To receive the full version with answers email the author at oalport@optonline.net.

Parsha Points to Ponder (and sources which discuss them):

1) At the conclusion of most of the plagues, the source of the plague simply disappeared. Why did Hashem cause a strong west wind to carry the locusts into the Red Sea (10:19) instead of simply eliminating them completely? (Paneiach Raza)

2) Hashem gave Moshe and Aharon the first mitzvah given to the Jews as a nation, the mitzvah of sanctifying the new moon (12:2). Were the Jews able to perform this mitzvah in the wilderness, and if so, how were they able to see the moon through the Clouds of Glory that surrounded them? (Rabbeinu Bechaye, Yaaros Devash 2:4, Chazon Ish Orach Chaim 140:3, Ayeles HaShachar)

3) Rashi writes (12:6) that when the time came for Hashem to fulfill the vow that He swore to Avrohom to redeem his descendants, He saw that the Jewish people didn’t have any mitzvos to perform to merit their redemption, so He gave them the mitzvos of circumcising the males and of offering and eating the Pesach-sacrifice. If the time came for Hashem to keep His promise, why didn’t He have to fulfill it even if the Jews didn’t have sufficient merits? (Ayeles HaShachar)

4) How big was the òøá øá – mixed multitude – of Egyptians who left Egypt together with the Jews (12:38)? (Targum Yonason ben Uziel and Mechilta 12:38)

  © 2012 by Oizer Alport. Permission is granted to reproduce and distribute as long as credit is given. To receive weekly via email or to send comments or suggestions, write to parshapotpourri@optonline.net


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