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Vol. 17 No. 16
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Commenting on the Pasuk "Speak please in the ears of the people and they should borrow/ask for … silver vessels and golden vessels", (based on the Gemara in B'rachos 9b), Rashi explains that G-d pleaded with Moshe to warn Yisrael to fulfill this command. This was so that the Tzadik Avraham should not say that He fulfilled the half of His promise that assured Yisrael their ultimate freedom from Egypt, but not the half that promised them great wealth when they left.
The question that all the commentaries ask is why G-d needed to attribute the need to fulfill His promise to what Avraham might say? Why not simply because G-d's promise must be kept?
To answer the question, the K'li Yakar cites the Gemara in B'rachos (that we discussed last week), which ascribes Yisrael's initial reluctance to ask for the Egyptians' vessels to the excess weight. Consequently, he explains, since Yisrael did not want the gift, G-d had carried out His side of the bargain, and if Yisrael declined to accept the gift, that was their problem. That is why Kevayachol, He needed to use Avraham Avinu's potential complaint as an excuse to convince Yisrael to borrow the vessels anyway, in order to lure Par'oh down to the Yam-Suf (as we explained last week).
And this in turn, explains why He told Avraham (in Parshas Lech-L'cho) "ve'Acharei-chein" (and after that), they will go out with a great possession. Bearing in mind that the word "ve'acharei-chein" has connotations of a long time afterwards, he was telling Avraham that the vessels were in lieu of payment for the hundreds of years forced labour, since as Chazal have said - 'Rental only falls due when the work is finished'. This is strange however, since Yisrael were not hired workers, but slaves! Consequently, remuneration (which slaves per se do not receive) if anything, ought to conform to the Dinim of Jewish servants, who are paid in advance. And besides, the promise that, after that, they would go out with a great possession, is written in connection with G-d's punishing the Egyptians (which precedes it in the Pasuk), and not with the commencement of the slavery.
In volume 4, we cited the fascinating explanation of the G'ra, which answers all the questions that we asked above. Here is an up-graded version of that explanation.
The Gemara in B'rachos (see opening paragraph of the article), compares Yisrael's initial refusal to ask the Egyptians for their vessels to a prisoner who, hearing that he would be set free 'tomorrow' with a lot of money, responded with a request to rather go free today - without the money.
Now this Gemara is extremely difficult to understand. Firstly, why should G-d find it necessary to plead with Yisrael to take out silver and gold from Egypt?
Secondly, what has keeping His promise got to do with what Avraham might say? Surely, He would have to keep His word, irrespective of any other considerations? And thirdly, the facts (that Yisrael did not seem interested in the money at all) do not seem to tally with the parable (where the prisoner was willing to forego the money in order to go free one day earlier)?
To answer these questions, the G'ro points out that although the Redemption may have begun with the Ten Plagues in Egypt, it terminated with the drowning of the Egyptians at the Yam-Suf (as is explicit in this week's Parshah [14:30] "And G-d saved Yisrael on that day from the hand of Egypt …"). It is evident too, in the four expressions of Ge'ulah, which incorporate "ve'go'alti", which, as the Seforno explains, refers to K'ri'as Yam-Suf.
Yes, it was at K'ri'as Yam-Suf that the final stage of the redemption played itself out, and it was following K'ri'as Yam-Suf that Yisrael received the vast treasury of jewellery that surpassed even the valuable store of vessels that they had taken out of Egypt (as Rashi explains in Shir ha'Shirim 1:11). That, in fact, was the great possession that G-d promised to Avraham at the B'ris bein ha'Besarim - using the term "ve'achrei-chein … ", because it would not take place immediately upon leaving Egypt, but seven days later.
So we see that G-d's promise to Avraham would not have been the least jeopardized had Yisrael not taken the Egyptians' vessels out of Egypt, since the promise did not refer to that stage at all, only to the booty of the Yam-Suf that would come at a later stage. That explains why Yisrael were loath to ask the Egyptians for the vessels. They did not see why they needed to carry the booty of Egypt for those seven days, when G-d's promise was on the verge of being fulfilled anyway - until Moshe convinced them to do so, to alleviate the fears of Avraham Avinu, who it seems, expected 'the great possession' to be in place even as they left Egypt.
According to this explanation, the parable fits the facts admirably.
Others interpret the Pasuk in Lech-L'cho to mean, not that they would go out with a great possession, but rather 'for a great possession', with reference to Matan Torah, the main objective of leaving Egypt, which took place only fifty days later. This explanation too, will answer most of the questions that we have dealt with using the basic approach of the G'ro, only switching the booty of K'ri'as Yam-Suf for Matan Torah.
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(Adapted from Rabeinu Bachye)
A Nail in his Own Coffin
"And Par'oh drew near ... " (14:10).
R. Bachye cites the Medrash which explains that Par'oh brought punishment upon himself by sacrificing to the idol Ba'al Tz'fon, when he saw Yisrael encamped in front of it, and jumped to the conclusion that it had trapped them there.
Alternatively, he explains, Par'oh brought Yisrael to Teshuvah before their Father in Heaven. This is very reminiscent of the Chazal, who say that the removal of the ring (which Achashverosh subsequently gave to Haman) did more to bring Yisrael back to their Father in Heaven than all the words of the prophets combined.
Indeed, R. Bachye compares this to the Gemara in Sanhedrin (97b), which states that 'When Yisrael go astray, Hakadosh-Baruch-Hu sends a King like Haman ha'Rasha, who brings them back!'
The Power of the Worm
"And the B'nei Yisrael raised their eyes … and the B'nei Yisrael cried out to Hashem" (Ibid.)
'They seized the trade of their fathers', who always prayed to Hashem when in trouble (see Rashi).
And that explains, says the Medrash, why Yeshayah (41:14) compares Yisrael to a worm. Just as the worm, the soft worm, strikes the hard cedar-tree with its mouth, so too, do Yisrael strike their enemies (who are compared to cedars ['Behold Ashur is a cedar in the Lebanon" - Yechazkel 31:3], ["And Hashem will break the cedars of the Lebanon", Tehilim 29:5]) - with their mouths (Torah and Tefilah), as the Torah writes in Devarim (4:29) "And you will seek Hashem your G-d from there and you will find Him", and in Tehilim (20:8) "Some choose chariots, and others, horses, but we evoke Hashem our G-d!"
" … and they were very afraid, and they cried out to Hashem. And they said to Moshe "Are there no graves in Egypt, that you took us out to die in the Desert? What did you do to us to take us out of Egypt …" (11)
How is it possible, asks R. Bachye, citing the Ramban, that the same people who, one minute, are crying out to Hashem with their mouths and raising their eyes Heavenwards, should the next minute express the wish that they had not left Egypt?
That is why Chazal explain that there were different groups at the Yam-Suf. There were those who cried out to Hashem; they are referred to as "B'nei Yisrael", because they were the elite of the nation. And there were those who denied G-d's Navi and who did not want G-d's salvation. And it is about them that David Hamelech wrote in Tehilim (106:7) "And they rebelled at the Sea, at the Reed-Sea". The words "B'nei Yisrael" are not mentioned in connection with them.
In fact, The Medrash refers to four groups at the Reed Sea, all of them, with their statements and with G-d's response …
The Four Groups
"And Moshe said to the people … Stand and see the salvation of Hashem … G-d will fight for you and you will remain silent!" (14:13/14).
The first group were not interested in salvation, In fact, they planned to jump into the Sea, which was better, they maintained, than being killed by the sword. To them G-d answered "Stand still and see the salvation that Hashem will perform on your behalf".
To the second group, who intended to return to Egypt, G-d replied "For as you see Egypt today, you will never see them again!"
The third group opted to do battle with the Egyptians, and to them G-d retorted "Hashem will fight for you!"
Whereas He instructed the fourth group, who were praying fervently to G-d (see footnote) " … and you shall be silent!"
A Merit for the Egyptians
"You stretched out Your Right-Hand (Yemincho), and the earth absorbed them" (15:12).
We learn from here that the Egyptians merited burial - in return for their participation in the grand Levayah (burial ceremony) of Ya'akov, when they accompanied his coffin all the way to Eretz Cana'an.
'Yemin', the Medrash comments, refers to an oath ...
When the Sea spat the Egyptian bodies on to dry land, the land initially declined to accept them, due to the curse that it had received many years earlier, when it had accepted the dead body of Hevel, whom Kayin had just murdered.
And it was only after G-d swore that He would not punish it this time, that it 'opened its mouth' and absorbed the Egyptian bodies.
The Three Merits
"You led in Your kindness this people, You led (them) with your strength to Your holy Dwelling" (Ibid.).
Yisrael were redeemed on the merit of three things, R. Bachye explains, all of them hinted in this Pasuk - On the merit of Chesed ("You led in Your kindness this people"); on the merit of Torah ("You led with your strength"); and on the merit of Korbanos ("to Your holy Dwelling").
All three, he points out, are hinted in the Pasuk in Nitzavim (30:14) "For the thing is very close to you, with your mouth (Torah) and with your heart (Avodah, as the Pasuk says "and to serve Him with all your heart"), to do it (Chesed).
And these three things in turn, are synonymous with the three things on which the world stand - 'Torah, Avodah and Gemilus Chasadim'(Pirkei Avos).
Chok & Mishpat
"There he established for the nation decrees (chok) and ordinances (mishpat)" (15:25).
The simple explanation of this Pasuk, says R. Bachye, refers to the way of life that Moshe, in his capacity as king, taught K'lal Yisrael, now that they had entered the desert. He rebuked them when necessary and guided them on how to live in harmony with their wives and children, as well as how to treat the various foreign camps that would visit them in the desert to purchase from them and to sell them their wares. Presumably, according to this interpretation, the author translates "Chok" as 'a way of life', as we just explained, and "Mishpat" as 'a system of civil law' (Dinim, as he explains later, according to the Medrash [see Rashi])
And citing others, he explains that G-d taught Moshe the knowledge of the various plants that grow in the desert, both those that work as a Segulah (in the form of a hidden charm - chok) and those that work naturally (mishpat); for there are plants that heal, and there are plants that make a person sick; there are plants that turn bitter things sweet, and there are plants that make sweet things bitter.
"And there He tested them." (Ibid).
This Pasuk, says R. Bachye, refers to the plants of which we just spoke, and in conjunction with the Pasuk that follows "And He said 'If you will listen to the voice of Hashem your G-d …' ".
Granted, the Torah is saying, you now know all about the various herbs and plants, and their medicinal properties, both natural and 'Seguli', and what's more, you have permission to make use of them. But remember, even as you do so, not to place your total reliance on them, to the point that you fail to turn to G-d for good health and to pray to Him. Remember that when you obey the Mitzvos of the Torah,"that I am Hashem who heals you" - and not the plants!
Indeed, he explains, Chizkiyahu ha'Melech, with the consent of the Chachamim, hid the Book of Cures precisely because the people were using its cures to heal themselves, whilst forgetting that the main source of good health was Torah and Mitzvos.
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'Bring them and establish them on the mountain of your Beis-Hamikdash, the location of which is situated exactly opposite Your Throne of Glory, and which is opposite the House of Your Holy Shechinah which You Hashem, assigned; Your Beis-Hamikdash Hashem, which Your two Hands established' (15:17).
'And when the people of Beis Yisrael saw the miracles and the wonders that the Holy One, may His Name be praised, did on their behalf by the Yam-Suf and the might of His Hands, the (former) exiles raised their voices and said to one another "Come let us place a Crown of Glory on the Head of our Creator, who removes but cannot be removed, who exchanges but cannot be exchanged, for to Him belongs the Crown of Glory. He is the King of Kings in this world and Sovereignty belongs to Him in the world to come; It belongs to Him and will be His forever and ever' (15:18).
'For Par'oh's horses with his chariots and cavalry entered the sea … whilst B'nei Yisrael walked on dry land in the middle of the sea, and sweet springs of water emerged, fruit-trees vegetables and delicacies from the sea-bed' (15:19).
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AND THEIR MEANING
(Adapted from the Seifer ha'Chinuch)
Please bear in mind that the rulings in this article
reflect the opinion of the Seifer ha'Chinuch
and are not necessarily Halachah.
Not to Eat Kodshei Kodshim
Outside the Azarah
"One is not permitted to eat the meat of a Chatas or an Asham - even Kohanim - outside the hangings (of the Courtyard)*. Our sages explain that this prohibition is incorporated in the Pasuk in Re'ei ("You are not permitted to eat within your gates - your cattle and your sheep"). For so the Gemara explains in Makos (14a) 'The Pasuk only comes to teach us that someone who eats a Chatas or an Asham outside the hangings has contravened a Lo Sa'aseh. And similarly, someone who eats Kodshim Kalim (e.g. a Shelamim or a Todah) outside the walls of Yerushalayim, is included too. As the Gemara explains there, anybody who eats Kodshim outside its specified location is included in the Pasuk "You are not permitted to eat within your gates" - and when the Gemara says that 'the Pasuk only comes to teach us this', it means that this too is included.
A reason for the Mitzvah … to eat every Korban in its own designated spot, is in order that whoever is eating it should have in mind the particular Kaparah for which it is being eaten, in keeping with what Chazxal said 'The Kohanim eat it and the owner attains a Kaparah'. And if one were to eat them elsewhere, one would lose the appropriate Kavanah, as is well-known and obvious.
The Dinim of the Mitzvah are to be found in Zevachim, and in the Rambam (Hilchos Ma'aseh ha'Korbanos, Perek 11).
This Mitzvah applies everywhere and at all times. And even nowadays, if someone were to declare an animal a Chatas or an Asham, and somebody, even a Kohen, would eat a k"Zayis of it, he would be subject to Malkos for contravening this La'av, besides the Isur of benefiting from Hekdesh.
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