Thoughts on the Weekly Parshah by HaRav Eliezer Chrysler
Formerly Rav of Mercaz Ahavat Torah, Johannesburg

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Vol. 10   No. 16

This issue is sponsored by
Rabbi and Mrs. Chaim Wilschanski sh'lita
in honor of the marriage of their grandson
Shimon Meir Lerman to Chana Lichtman n.y.
Yizku li'v'nos bayis ne'eman be'Yisrael

Parshas Beshalach

The Booty of Egypt
(Part 2)

The Gemara in Sanhedrin informs us that when Alexander the Great arrived in Yerushalayim, he convened an international court, where he undertook to arbitrate on major disputes between countries. The Egyptians took up the offer, we are told, and claimed that Yisrael had not returned the numerous silver and gold vessels, which they had borrowed when they left Egypt.

Gevihah ben Pesisah, a smart hunchback representing Yisrael, countered that Yisrael had worked for the Egyptians for four hundred years without pay, and if the Egyptians would be willing to compensate them for their work, they would gladly refund the borrowed vessels.

The Egyptians asked for three days to think the matter over. Needless to say, they did not return. They had no answer to Gevihah's argument, and there the matter rested.

Incidentally, Alexander the Great's fair and impartial handling of the claim might serve as an example to modern would-be arbitrators, whose biased attempts at arbitration, based as they are on hatred (and oil), make a mockery of justice.


The question arises that, if Yisrael were entitled to the money as payment for their work, why did G-d instruct them to borrow the vessels and clothes in the first place? Why did He not simply tell them to ask for these things as compensation? Perhaps G-d, for some reason, wanted the Egyptians to give them the goods willingly (something that they would have been unlikely to do had the request come in the form of a gift). Perhaps it was in order to reinforce the Egyptians' belief that K'lal Yisrael were only going out for three days and they would soon return, and give back what they had borrowed. That in turn, was to encourage Paroh to chase after Yisrael when he discovered the misunderstanding as we have explained before. Indeed, one of the many factors that sparked off Paroh's decision to pursue Yisrael was the fact that they 'took' their (borrowed) money and made off with it (Rashi 14:6).


Another answer to the Egyptians' initial claim might be that whatever Yisrael may have borrowed from the Egyptians became their's as war-spoils, once the Egyptians attacked them and were defeated. After all, if they were permitted to take what they captured at the Yam-Suf (after the drowning of the Egyptians), then how much more so would they be permitted to retain what they already had! Why then, one may well ask, did Gevihah ben Pesisah not present this argument to Alexander the Great? Presumably, the argument that he did present, besides being correct, also rang a louder bell, showing up the Egyptians for what they were, adding an air of finality to the outcome. And this is also true vis-a-vis the third answer that we are about to discuss.


We have assumed until now that, following G-d's instructions, Yisrael borrowed the vessels and clothes from the Egyptians. And that in turn, is based on the phrase "ve'yish'alu ish me'es re'eihu ... " (Sh'mos 11:2), an expression that is basically repeated at the time of their departure "va'yash'ilum" (ibid 12:36). 'Li'sh'ol' can indeed mean to borrow, and 'le'hash'il' to lend.

There are however, a number of indications in the Medrash that what Yisrael took with them from Egypt was not borrowed vessels and clothes, but their own, in which case, what Yisrael asked from the Egyptians and received was not a loan, but a gift.

We have also assumed until now that what Yisrael took out of Egypt was vessels and clothes, for that is what the Torah specifically writes. The Gemara in Pesachim however, commenting on the Pasuk in Bo (12:36) "and they emptied Egypt" informs us that the Egyptians lent (or gave) them all the vast stores of money that Yosef had collected during the time of famine (though admittedly, that is one of two views cited there). Though this is not our main concern at the moment.


Firstly, the Gemara in B'rachos comments on G-d's unusual use of the word "please", when He asked Moshe to "please" ask the people to make sure that Yisrael took the treasures of Egypt with them when they left. It was, the Gemara explains, to prevent Avraham from complaining that whereas G-d was careful to keep the promise "ki ger yiheheh zar'acho" ('because your children will be strangers'), He was lax when it came to the promise "ve'acharei chein yeitz'u bi'rechush godol" ('that Yisrael will leave with a great possession). It is most unlikely that "the great possession" G-d was referring to was borrowed vessels!

Secondly, Rashi, describing Yisrael's reluctance to leave the Yam-Suf after the drowning of the Egyptians (and based on a Medrash in Shir Hashirim Rabah) explains how 'the booty of the Yam-Suf far surpassed that of Egypt'. Here too, 'booty' does not seem an appropriate term to use if what they took out of Egypt was borrowed. Indeed, how can the Medrash contrast war spoils to borrowed things?

Thirdly, the Medrash relates how Hashem gave Yisrael the Din of an Eved Ivri (a Jewish servant), who receives 'Ha'anakah' (provisions) when he leaves his master's employ. And that explains why Yisrael left Egypt with provisions for the way. Once again, this does not suggest borrowed things. Indeed, a master who lent his erstwhile servant provisions, would not have fulfilled his obligation!


It is probably for any of these reasons, and perhaps because it also seems strange for G-d to ask Yisrael to borrow things which they were not intended to return, that many commentaries explain "ve'yish'alu", and "va'yash'ilum", to mean, not borrowing and being lent, but asking for a gift and having their request fulfilled (see for example, the Rashbam's explanation [12:36]).

As a matter of fact, we could combine both explanations, and answer all the questions at the same time. Perhaps G-d deliberately used an ambiguous expression. Perhaps on the one hand, He wanted the Egyptians to give Yisrael the treasures as a gift (after all, they did owe them that and more, as payment for all those years' work, as Gevihah ben Pesisa pointed out to them). Whereas on the other, He wanted the Egyptians to believe that it was only a loan, to later use as bait, in order to lure them out to theYam-Suf, as we explained. And this explanation is implied by Rabeinu Bachye (11:2), who interprets the pesukim like the Rashbam.


Parshah Pearls

Turning Bitter Into Sweet

"There (at Marah) He gave them a statute and a judgement" (15:25).

Rashi lists the Mitzvos contained here as Shabbos, Parah Adumah and Dinim (civil laws). His insertion of Parah Adumah is no doubt based on the word "Chok" (statute), bearing in mind, that the Torah does indeed describe Parah Adumah as "the statute of the Torah".

Interestingly, the Gemara in Sanhedrin (56b) switches Parah Adumah for Kibud Av va'Eim (honouring one's father and mother), and so does Targum Yonasan here.

The Ba'al ha'Turim follows in the footsteps of Rashi however, when he states 'This refers to the Parah Adumah, because just as the wood turned the bitter water, sweet, so too, does the Parah Adumah make Tamei people Tahor'. And he concludes that "Sham" has the same numerical value as 'Parah Adumah'.

As a matter of fact, the Ba'al ha'Turim is even more remarkable than Rashi, inasmuch as he implies that Parah Adumah was the only Mitzvah given to them at Marah.


Three New Pacts

The words "chok u'mishpat" (statute and judgement) appear in two other places - in Yehoshua, where the Navi writes "va'Yasem lo chok u'mishpat", and in Ezra, where the Pasuk writes "u'le'lamed be'Yisrael chok u'mishpat".

Just as here, Moshe gave Yisrael a set of Dinim to practice (the first stage of the giving of the Torah), so too, in Yehoshua, did Yisrael, standing in Sh'chem, undertake to serve Hashem diligently, and it was as if they had received the Torah. And that was also the significance of the occasion recorded in Ezra, where he taught them the new Torah script.


Torah, the Great Doctor

"Kol ha'machaloh (all the sicknesses) ... " (15:26).

The word ''machaloh" contains the same letters as 'ha'lechem' (bread) and as 'ha'melach' (salt).

An amazing hint at what Chazal said; that the eighty-three (the numerical value of 'machaloh') illnesses connected with the gall, all of which are kept in check by a loaf of bread with salt each morning, together with a jug of water (hinted at by the fountains of water that are mentioned in the next Pasuk).


Sien, Sinai, S'neh

"And all the congregation arived at the Desert of Sien" (16:1).

The word "Sien", says the Ba'al ha'Turim, has the same numerical value as 'ha'S'neh' (the Burning Bush). Its name was changed to Sinai (with an extra 'Yud'), he says, because the Ten Commandments were given there.


Everything Doubles on Shabbos

"And it (the Mon) shall be double" (16:5).

The Ba'al ha'Turim points out that everything on Shabbos is double - two lambs (for the Musaf), two loaves (lechem Mishneh), two lights, 'Zochor' and 'Shomor' (and of course, two Neshamos).

Because the letter 'Beis' is synonymous with 'B'rachah' (of which it is also the first letter). Presumably that is why one is able to attain greater spiritual heights on Shabbos.


Tosfos Shabbos

"Shabboson Shabbos Kodesh" (16:23).

Here the Torah puts "Shabboson" before "Shabbos Kodesh", whereas in Parshas Vayakhel, it places it last, when it writes "Kodesh Shabbos Shabboson". Bearing in mind that "Shaboson" refers to a less intense degree of Shabbos (in this case, to a period which is not intrinsically Shabbos), this teaches us, says the Ba'al ha'Turim, that Shabbos requires a Tosefes (an addition) both before the real Shabbos enters and after it goes out.

In similar vein, he adds, in Parshas Kedoshim, Shabbos precedes shemirah, when the Torah writes "es Shabsosai tishmoru", whereas in Ki Sisa, the Torah reverses the order, and writes "u'shemartem es ha'Shabbos". This is because Shabbos needs to be guarded before it enters, as we have learned in the Mishnah 'a tailor may not go out with his needle shortly before', And it also needs to be guarded after it goes out, inasmuch as one may not benefit from what was done on Shabbos, such as bathing in a bath that was heated on Shabbos for the benefit of a Jew.


On the Merits of the Avos

"And his hands were faithful (emunah, ad bo ha'shemesh) until the sun set" (17:12).

The Pasuk here hints at the three Avos, the Ba'al ha'Turim points out, because their merit helped overcome Amalek. "Emunah" stands for Avraham, as the Torah writes with regard to him "ve'he'emin ba'Hashem" (and he had faith in Hashem); "ad bo" for Yitzchak, as the Torah writes "bo mi'bo (and Yitzchak came)", and "ha'shemesh", to Ya'akov, about whom the Torah writes "va'yolen sham ki vo ha'shemesh" (and he stayed there overnight because the sun had set).


Compared to a Fly

"Write this as a memory... (zikoron ba'sefer ve'sim be'oznei) ... (17:14) in the Book and place it in the ears of Yehoshua". The first letters of these four words spell 'z'vuv', a fly. The Ba'al ha'Turim explains that this is because Amalek, like a fly, was forever running after the blood of Yisrael.

Interestingly, a fly is one of the things Chazal have also compared the Yeitzer-ha'Ra to.


History of the World
(Part III)
(Adapted from the Seder Ha'doros)


Achilus, a Greek priest, converts to Judaism. He explains the Torah in Greek.



P'tolomy writes many philosophical works.



Antoninus the Pious (son-in-law of Hadrian) is crowned Emperor of Rome. He is a wise, peace-loving man, who detests war. It is more important, he often says, that one of his subjects should live, than a thousand of his enemies should die. He expands his kingdom, not through war, but by virtue of his supreme humility and piety, which attracts other kings and causes them to take their cue from him.

Antoninus is very close with Rebbi (from whom he learns much). He is forty-seven when he is crowned emperor (though this does not tally with Tosfos in Avodah-Zarah, in whose opinion, Antoninus and Rebbi were born at the same time, and Rebbi was born in 3880). See 'Rebbi and Antoninus' at the foot of page.



A baby is born with two heads, and a woman has quintuplets. Otherwise, it is a year of havoc, which witnesses a terrible famine, pestilence, earthquakes, conflagrations and floods.



Antoninus kills all those who believe in Christianity and converts to Judaism.

Rebbi is the twelfth generation after Shimon ha'Tzadik - 1. Shimon ha'Tzadik, 2. Antignus Ish Socho, 3. Yossi ben Yoezer, 4. Nitai ha'Arbeili and Yehoshua ben P'rachyah, 5. Yehudah ben Tabai and Shimon ben Shetach, 6. Sh'mayah and Avtalyon, 7. Hillel and Shamai, 8. Rebbi Yochanan ben Zakai and Shimon ben Hillel, 9. Rebbi Eliezer ha'Gadol, 10. Rebbi Akiva, 11. Rebbi Meir, 12, Rebbi and Rebbi Nasan, who received the Torah from Rebbi Meir (Others maintain that Rebbi Meir was a Chacham at the time that Rebbi Nasan was the Nasi).


The fourth generation after the Churban:


Rebbi Yehudah ha'Nasi (Rebbi) Raban Gamliel and Rebbi Shimon (his sons) and Rebbi Elazar b'Rebbi Shimon (bar Yochai). Rebbi is thirty years old when he is appointed Nasi. He is the son of Raban Shimon ben Gamliel, the seventh generation after Hillel, the fortieth link in the chain that began at Sinai. He spans three emperors, Antoninus (of whom we spoke earlier), Mark Antony (not the one of Julius Caesar fame), and Kamrus. All three decreed Sh'mad (conversion on pain of death) against the Christians, and were well disposed towards Rebbi, whom they revered. Galinus the doctor lives at this time.



The Emperor Anthony authors a book of Dinim, which is still in use (in the days of the author) with the same authenticity as if it had been given at Sinai. He dies at the age of seventy, and is mourned by all the kings of his time. He is succeeded by his two sons-in-law, Mark Anthony and Aurealus (both of whom Antoninus appointed before his death). They rule concurrently, and a great love exists between them throughout their lives.



A series of earthquakes occur in Italy, killing many people and animals. In addition, a heavy plague of pestilence hits Europe, ravaging many towns, and this is followed by locusts, which devour all the crops. The two kings attribute this to their laxness in destroying the Christians, and they intensify their efforts to annihilate them.



Tosfos (in Avodah-Zarah) relates that Rebbi was born at a time when a decree by the Romans was in full force, forbidding B'ris Milah on pain of death. Rebbi's father (Raban Shimon ben Gamliel) ignored the decree and circumcised his son. When the Emperor got wind of this, he ordered the baby to be brought to him. His own wife however, a good friend of Rebbi's wife (and who had herself just given birth to a baby boy [Antoninus]), switched the boys, taking Rebbi, giving Rebbi's mother Antoninus. Consequently, the baby that the Emperor received for inspection was none other than his own son, Antoninus, who of course, was not circumcised.

Who knows whether it was not the fact that Antoninus was nursed by that Tzadekes that affected him deeply, causing him to become the pious man that he did.


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