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

For sponsorships and advertising opportunities, send e-mail to:

Back to ParshaHomepage Previous Issues

Vol. 4 No. 14

Parshas Bo

Torah and Eretz YisroelThe

The purpose of the Exodus from Egypt was for Klal Yisroel to take possession of Eretz Yisroel, as G-d had clearly promised Avrohom, Yitzchok and Ya'akov. However, because living in the Holy Land was subject to their receiving the Torah, they made their way first to Har Sinai, in order that the Torah should be given in a place that was hefker, so that everyone should have an equal portion in it, and in order that the Torah should be accessible to those who study it, wherever they may be; not only in Eretz Yisroel, but even in exile.

These three events, then run as a sequence, and indeed we find the Exodus, the conquest of Eretz Yisroel and Ma'amad Har Sinai (in that order) all mentioned the first time Hashem appeared to Moshe Rabbeinu at the burning bush (Sh'mos 3:8 and 12), clearly indicating that they should not be viewed as three independent occurrences, but as a sequence. And the same three events appear again (in the same order) in the Parshah of Kadeish (which is inserted in the Tefillin) (Sh'mos 13:4, 5, and 9). (This, according to the interpretation of the Chofetz Chayim, who explains the words "in order that the Torah of Hashem be in your mouth" as referring to Ma'amad Har Sinai - as opposed to the Ramban, who interprets it as pertaining to the general keeping of mitzvos.) The Chofetz Chayim also refers to the Mishnah in Pirkei Ovos (6:10), which lists Torah and Eretz Yisroel as two of the five acquisitions which Hashem acquired in this world - with reference to both, the Torah exclusively uses the work "Moroshoh" (an inheritance to pass on to one's children), placing them in a category of their own, as if to say that "there is no Torah like the Torah of Eretz Yisroel", indeed "The very air of Eretz Yisroel makes one wise." (Bovo Basra)

The Chofetz Chayim compares the relationship between Yisroel, Torah and Eretz Yisroel, to that of body and soul (Neshomoh). The Neshomoh of Yisroel, he says, is the Torah, whilst Eretz Yisroel is its body. The soul on its own cannot exist in this world without a body - (and so all mitzvos connected with the land can only be fulfilled in Eretz Yisroel). The body on its own is "dust from the earth" - it requires a soul, without which it is dead (unlike the soul without the body, which cannot find its place in this world - but it is alive). Similarly, when we are in exile (with Torah), we have no permanent place there; one country denies us dwelling rights, the other forbids us to do business. Here they attack us, there they libel us. Yet we survive, even if with extreme difficulty. But Eretz Yisroel without Torah, is nothing more than a piece of land, a body without a soul. Perfection can only be achieved with the combination of the two - as Yeshayoh wrote (Chapter 42): "He beat out the land with its offspring. He gives a Soul to the people on it." The Ba'al ha'Turim stresses the strong bond that exists between Eretz Yisroel and Torah, when he writes that the word "moroshoh" appears twice in the Torah (Sh'mos 6:8 - in connection with Eretz Yisroel - and in Devorim 33:4 - in connection with the Torah). This is because it is only in the merit of Torah that they inherited Eretz Yisroel, as Dovid Ha'Melech wrote in Tehillim (105:45): "And He gave to them the lands of the nations, in order that they keep His statues and guard His laws." And that bond is further accentuated by the explanation that we quoted earlier from the Chofetz Chayim.

For, just as G-d would never have sent the Neshomoh down to this world, were it not for the body that contains it and gives it a purpose, so too, would He not have sent the Torah down to this world, if not for the Land of Eretz Yisroel which gives it significance. That is why the Ma'aseh la'Melech writes: "Who is so wise as to realise how careful one must be in fulfilling the practical mitzvos in the Holy Land, the Palace of the King, as it is written in Tehillim: "And He gave them the lands of the nations..." And it is the Torah leaders in Eretz Yisroel, who shield with all their might over those who study Torah [there] and who fulfil its mitzvos, who are the [true] heroes, who keep the yishuv (settlement) going!"


Adapted from the Gro Let's Go Free

Now The Gemoro in B'rochos explains that, when G-d instructed Moshe to tell the people to "borrow" precious vessels and clothes, He used the word "please". Why? In order that Avrohom should not accuse Hashem, so to speak, of only keeping the first half of His promise - to take Yisroel out of Egypt , but not the second - to send them out with great possessions. They responded: "Halevai that we went out without the possessions!" And the Gemoro goes on to compare this to a prisoner who was promised his freedom "tomorrow", with a lot of money. His response was that they should rather take him out today, without the money. (A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.)

Now this Gemoro is extremely difficult to understand. Firstly, why should Hashem need to beg Yisroel to take out silver and gold from Egypt? Secondly, what has keeping His promise got to do with what Avrohom might say? Surely, G-d would have to keep His word even if Avrohom would be silent. And thirdly, the facts do not tally with the parable, since, in the parable, the prisoner was willing to forego the money for the sake of one day less in prison, whilst in our case, Yisroel just didn't seem interested in the money? However, explains the Gro, we will be able to understand the entire matter if we bear in mind that the redemption did not really conclude until the drowning of the Egyptians at the Yam-Suf (as the possuk writes there, "And Hashem saved Yisroel on that day from the hand of Mitzrayim" - but not earlier; and as is also evident from the four expressions of redemption, the fourth of which is "ve'go'alti", which, as the Seforno explains, refers to Kriy'as Yam-Suf. At Kriy'as Yam-Suf, the redemption was complete, and at Kriy'as Yam-Suf they were enriched with all of Egypt's jewelery (more wealth even than the silver and gold vessels that they took with them from Egypt).

At that stage, Hashem would complete the ge'ulah and keep His promise to Avrohom. It was only that Avrohom, who might think that the redemption was in fact taking place at the exodus, had to be pacified in the interim. And it was in reply to the information that they would still have to undergo the fear of the pursuing Egyptians that Yisroel responded with "Let us go free now. We don't want the tzoros that another seven days will bring, and we are willing to forego the wealth that we will receive then." Now the parable and the facts fit together beautifully. A Kriy'as Yam-Suf - the Ge'ulah Why did the Ge'ulah not end until Kriy'as Yam-Suf? Why not with the exodus itself, as indeed Avrohom apparently thought? The Gro explains that it had to be so, because that is where the Egyptians were ultimately punished for their excessively harsh treatment of Klal Yisroel for drowning the Jewish babies. And it was that excessively harsh treatment of Klal Yisroel that caused the premature exodus from Egypt (190 years before the expiry of the 400 years that were told to Avrohom, as the Ramban explains). G-d had said that the Egyptians would enslave them and afflict them, not kill them. Therefore, Yisroel had earned the right to go out early and the Egyptians needed to be punished for their excessive treatment of Yisroel. All of this happened at Kriy'as Yam-Suf. The Egyptians were drowned - measure for measure for drowning the Jewish babies - and Yisroel went free. A Moshe and Not Aharon Although the Torah (12:1) includes Aharon in the command of G-d, in fact, writes the Mechilta, He only spoke to Moshe, not to Aharon (see also Rashi Va'yikro 1:1). The reason that Aharon is also mentioned is because he too, was included in the command (according to Rashi, Moshe was to pass on the information to Aharon individually). And it was in deference to Moshe that Hashem confined His speech to Moshe exclusively. On only three occasions, the Mechilta continues, was Aharon excluded from the commands, because "it is impossible". Now what are those three occasions? A host of suggestions appear in the commentaries, including that of the Zayin Ra'anan (by the Mogen Avrohom), which lists the three occasions that Hashem spoke specifically to Aharon (Va'yikro 10:8, Ba'midbor 18:1 and 18:8/20).

However, it is not at all clear as to why it would have been impossible to include Moshe on those occasions, which is after all, what the Tanchumah writes. The Gro therefore gives the following three occasions on which Hashem spoke to Aharon exclusively, and the reason that Moshe has to be precluded from the command to Aharon, in each case, is self-apparent. 1. And Hashem said to Aharon "Go and meet Moshe in the desert." (Sh'mos 4:27)
2. "And Hashem said suddenly to Moshe, to Aharon and to Miriam (simultaneously, but individually) "Go, all three of you." (Ba'midbor 12:4)
3. (Ibid 12:5) "And He called Aharon and Miriam, and they both went out". In all three cases it is obvious from the context that G-d must have spoken to Aharon directly, and not through Moshe, so that those must be the three cases referred to by the Mechilta. A Kimcha de Pischa "Seven days you shall eat Matzos and the seventh day is a festival to Hashem." (13:6) "Matzos shall be eaten all seven days" etc (13:7). Why does the Torah repeat itself in two consecutive pesukim, and why does it change from the active to the passive? The Gro explains that the second posuk is not coming to teach us the mitzvah of eating matzos, as is the first, but rather to see to it that matzos should be eaten. It is actually hinting to the custom brought in the Re'mo (Orach Chayim 229) that one should buy wheat to distribute to the poor for their Pesach needs. And that also explains why, in the first possuk, which refers to the actual mitzvah of eating matzos, the word "matzoh" is written without a "vov", whereas the second is written with a "vov". Because one's own mitzvah one can fulfill with the minimum of a kezayis, but when one gives to the poor, one should give liberally.

(Yirmiyoh 46:13-28)

The Haftorah deals with the defeat of Egypt at the hands of Nevuchadnetzar - or Nevuchadretzar, as the Novi often calls him. And that of course, it has in common with the Parshah, whose main theme is the downfall of Par'oh at the hands of Hashem. In fact, this is the second time that Egypt was defeated by the Babylonians. The first time occurred when, following his slaying of King Yoshiyohu in 3316, Par'oh ("Ne'cho" - the lame") as he was known, marched his army through Eretz Yisroel to attack Nevuchadnetzar I, King of Bovel, at Karkemish by the River P'ros (the Euphrates). After a siege lasting four years, in the fourth year of the reign of King Yehoyakim, son of Yoshiyohu, the Babylonians, under Nevuchadnetzar II, broke the siege and annihilated Par'oh's army. Par'oh himself, fled from the battlefront. This took place in the year 3319. That episode is recorded briefly early in the chapter (Yirmiyoh 46). The current Haftorah prophesies about the second defeat of Par'oh, which took place in the twenty-seventh year of Nevuchadnetzar's reign, in the year 3346 (eight years after the first churban Beis-HaMikdosh). In fact, it is the same downfall of Egypt as is portrayed in Yechezkel 29 (last week's Haftorah).

Only this time, it was Nevuchadnetzar who attacked from the North. He defeated Egypt and sent them into exile. But the Novi also describes (possuk 26 - see Rashi), how they would return after forty years to resume national life as it was before their exile, though they did not return to their initial grandeur. From now on, they would be a lowly nation, no longer a world-power as they had been previously. A The Novi goes on to comfort Yisroel and to assure them that G-d will redeem them from their exile. The connection between the two exiles is not at first clear. However, in Yechezkel (29:21), where a similar sequence takes place, Rashi explains it in the following way. The Novi is referring, he writes, to the growth of the Kingdom of Persia, which began exactly in the year that Egypt returned to its borders. How so? The exile of Egypt took place, as mentioned earlier, in the twenty-seventh year of Nevuchadnetzar's reign. This left eighteen years till his demise. Plus the twenty-two years of his son Evyl Merodach; that makes forty. And it was in the first year of Belshatzar's, son of Evyl Merodach, reign, that the kings of Persia rose to power, and Doniel dreamt about the downfall of Bovel. The kings of Persia taking over from Bovel heralded the beginning of the salvation of the Jewish people, as the Novi prophesies concerning Koresh, King of Persia, "He will build My city, and bring back the exiles". The juxtaposition of the two parshiyos dealing with the returning of the Egyptian exiles and the Jewish exiles, is now clarified. A The Redak explains it differently. He writes "Because until now, the Novi dealt with the punishment of the various nations, he goes on to say that Yisroel need not fear.

They are different from the other nations, who may well return to their land after their exile, but this is only a temporary measure. They will not remain forever tranquil, because in the end they will perish, and their memory will be obliterated. Not so Yisroel, whose name will remain intact forever. Considering that it is about Egypt that the Novi described how they will return to their land, this last prophecy is intended above all, to strike a contrast between Yisroel and Egypt. In that case, we have another similarity between the Haftorah and the Parshah, which deals with the rise of the B'nei Yisroel and the downfall of the Egyptians.

A For sponsorships and adverts call 6519 502

The first week in Ellul, Daf Ha'yomi will be learning Chullin. Anyone interested in a Daf Ha'yomi shiur, expertly explained - and including a preview of the previous day's "daf" each day - contact R. Eliezer Chrysler for further details.

For sponsorships and adverts call 02 6519 502
Please book your sponsorship or ad well in advance, wherever possible.

Back to ParshaHomepage | Previous Issues

This article is provided as part of Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Permission is granted to redistribute electronically or on paper,
provided that this notice is included intact.
For information on subscriptions, archives, and other Shema Yisrael
Classes, send mail to

Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Jerusalem, Israel