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by Dr. Avigdor Bonchek


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Parashas Tzav - Shabbat HaGadol 5767

As a preparation for Pesach we devote this week's What's Bothering Rashi? to some general questions and a look at the Abarbanel and his answers.

We begin with some questions.

The seder and the holiday of Pesach is based on our gratitude to Hashem for taking us out of Egypt and our slavery there. But the question can be asked:

1) Why are we so grateful to Hashem - it was Hashem who decreed that we would be slaves in Egypt ! You will recall the Covenant Between the Pieces that G-d made with Abraham (See chapter Genesis 15). There G-d promises the childless Abraham that he will have children (although he is an old man) and that he will receive the Land of Canaan for an inheritance. Abraham accepts, without question G-d's promise of children - however miraculous that would be, but regarding receiving the Land, Abraham asks "My Lord, Elokim, how do I know that I will inherit it?" Then follows G-d's command that Abraham take different animals and birds and in this way make a formal Covenant between him and G-d. Then G-d informs him that : "Your children will be strangers in a land not theirs, they will serve them and they (Egyptians) will afflict them , 400 years. And also the nation that they will serve (Egyptians), I will judge them . Then they will go out with great wealth....." (Read the whole chapter in Genesis)

So we see that it was G-d who determined Israel would be enslaved in a foreign land (Egypt). So why should we thank Him for freeing us from the place He put us? It would be like a driver who crashes into our car and breaks our bones. Then he gets out of his car and fortunately he's a doctor so gets to work to give us medical aid. Should we thank him? And what about those he killed in the car crash (the Jews who died in slavery)?

2) Another question that can be asked is: Why are we told in Exodus (2:23,24) that the People cried out to Hashem and He heard them and He remembered His covenant with them (with Abraham). From this it would appear the G-d was moved to answer their prayers because their affliction was great and they cried out. But G-d had told Abraham that He would free the People after 400 years. This would seem to be independent of what happens in Egypt. How can we understand this apparent inconsistency?

3) What does it mean (above) "And also the nation that they will serve, I will judge them" What does the word "also" mean here? Who else will be punished? and why?

4) G-d had also said to Abraham "The fourth generation will return here because the sin of the Emori (those who live in Land) is not yet complete until then." It seems the entrance of Israel is dependent on the Emori sinking to certain depths of depravity. But we thought Israel will get the land as a Covenant promised. What if it takes longer for the Emori to reach the dubious distinction of sinning grossly?

Some questions to think about on this Shabbat HaGadol. We will, G-d willing, present the Abarbanel's answer before Pesach.

Shabbat Shalom & Chag Somayach
Avigdor Bonchek

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