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

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Vol. 9   No. 15

This issue is sponsored l’iluy Nishmas
our father and grandfather
Yitzchak ben Chaim Yaakov;
Edwin Lipowitz z"l

Parshas Bo

Keeping One's Word

Two of the questions that recur from year to year are 1. Why Yisrael did not keep their word to return to Egypt after three days? and 2. Why they did not return the vessels etc, that they borrowed from the Egyptians? We discussed the first problem in volume seven where we cited the G'ro, who explains that G-d simply adopted Par'oh's tactics of 'tricking' Moshe into removing the plagues by making vain promises which he had no intention of keeping. David ha'Melech taught us in Tehilim that against a crooked man one uses crooked tactics. But that is out of necessity, because there is no other logical way of dealing with him, a reason that does not pertain to G-d. He opted to treat Paroh in this way, because it is His way of dealing with people for better or for worse, 'Midah ke'neged midah', as the G'ro himself explains.


Perhaps one may suggest an alternative approach to resolve the problem. Moshe's request to limit Yisrael's departure to three days, was part of his general request to allow Yisrael to leave Egypt and serve Hashem. And the purpose of the first nine plagues was to achieve this end. But that was before Makas Bechoros, when the choice to let them go was still Paroh's. But after Makas Bechoros, things changed radically. That choice was taken away from him, and G-d took over. Yes, Paroh would send Yisrael away, but not of his own free choice. It was G-d who forced him to do so, on His conditions. Consequently, all previous conditions were annulled. And this is borne out by the commentaries, who explain that whereas the first nine plagues came as a warning, the tenth came as a punishment. And that in turn, explains why Moshe did not warn Paroh immediately prior to Makas Bechoros, like he did by most of the other plagues.

And maybe we can go still further, and suggest that this time, Paroh himself sent Yisrael out for good. He had had enough and wanted them to leave for good. That may not have been what he intended a short while later (when he sent spies with them to see if they would return within three days), but then, that would not be the first time that he changed his mind from one minute to the next!

This is also hinted in the Pasuk, when G-d told Moshe that after Makas Bechoros, Par'oh would 'banish Yisrael completely from Egypt' (11:1), implying anything but a short trip into the desert to pray, as had been the understanding until then.


As for the second problem, the Medrash already tells the story of the international tribunal set up by Alexander the Great, where the Egyptians made this very claim, demanding the return of their 'borrowed' money. Until Gevihah ben Pesisah, the hunch-back spokesman for K'lal Yisrael, told them that they would gladly comply, provided the Egyptians compensated Yisrael for the four hundred years' forced labour.


Alternatively, we might suggest that the money was borrowed only until K'riy'as Yam-Suf. Once the Egyptians attacked Yisrael, and were defeated by them, all their property belonged to the victors. Indeed, Chazal have taught that the booty captured by our ancestors at the Yam-Suf was greater than what they took with them out of Egypt. And if they were allowed to divest them of the property that they owned, it goes without saying that they were absolved from returning to them what they owed them.


Thirdly, who says that they borrowed anything in the first place. Bearing in mind that the word 'Sho'el' can mean 'to ask for' as well as to borrow, it may well be that Moshe ordered them, not to borrow vessels from the Egyptians, but to ask them for a gift (perhaps to pay for their forced labour). And even the word "va'Yash'ilum" (12:36), which would seem to imply that the Egyptians lent them (and not gave them), Rashi translates as 'They gave them even what they had not been asked to give' (as a derivative of 'to ask', and not of 'to borrow'). In fact, the Rashbam (in 11:2 and here), goes out of his way to learn this way. And he does so presumably, because, as we explained, it is not conceivable that Yisrael, at the command of G-d Himself, would borrow something with the intention of not paying back.


Parshah Pearls

(adapted from the P'ninim mi'Shulchan ha'Gro)
It's Not Easy

"This month shall be for you the head of the months" (12:2).

Rashi comments that Moshe had difficulty in visualizing the exact size of the new moon before sanctifying it, until G-d pointed with His finger at the new moon in the sky, and said to him 'When you see it like this, sanctify it!'

There are three things with which Moshe had difficulty, says the G'ro, and both their first and last letters spell Moshe's name - MenoraH, ShekaliM and Ha'ChodeSH.

The footnote in the P'ninim mi'Shulchan ha'G'ro cites the Stypler Gaon z.l., who points out that according to the Gemara in Menachos (29a, [see also Tosfos there, who explains why the Gemara omits 'ha'Chodesh' from the list]), the G'ro probably replaced 'Ha'ChodeSH' with SHerotziM (though it is not clear how the hint would then come across, since it is not 'SHekaliM' that is being replaced, but Ha’ChodeSH').


Reigning in the Angel of Death

"And G-d will pass (through Egypt) to plague the Egyptians ... and He will not let the destructive angel come to your houses ... " (12:23).

The Ba'al Hagadah, in no uncertain terms, stresses that it was G-d, and G-d alone, who killed the Egyptian firstborn during the plague of Makas Bechoros, points out the G'ro. In that case, what was the destructive angel doing there, and why did he need to be reigned in?

He replies that the angel referred to here, was not coming to help kill the Egyptian firstborn. In fact, he was none other than the Angel of Death doing his rounds, taking the lives of those whose time had come to depart this world. But G-d stopped him from killing Jews. Any Jew destined to die that night was given a lease of life of one day - so that the Egyptians should not be able to say that even one Jew had died during the plague of Makas Bechoros. Dying that night was their privilege!


No G-d in his Life

"And it shall be when your sons will say to you, 'What is this service to you?' " (12:26).

This refers to the question of the wicked son, as the Ba'al Hagadah explains. The problem, asks the G'ro, is how to differentiate between the Chacham and the Rasha, both of whom refer to 'you', seemingly to the exclusion of themselves. So what makes the one a Rasha, and not the other?


The G'ro cites the Pasuk in Koheles (2:13) "And I saw how the advantage of wisdom over foolishness is equivalent to that of light over darkness".

Now the Pasuk in Bereishis distinguishes between light and darkness, by adding G-d's Name to the mention of light ("And G-d called light 'day' "), but not to that of darkness ("and to darkness, He called 'night' ").

Similarly, says the G'ro, the Chacham may well refer to 'you' in his words, but he also mentions G-d's Name ('What are the testimonies ... that Hashem our G-d commanded you'). And this is precisely what Shlomoh Hamelech was referring to in the above-mentioned Pasuk.


But in that case, he adds, we will need to make a subtle amendment to the wording of the Hagadah. 'And because he precluded himself from the community, he denied G-d' will now have to read 'And because he precluded himself from the community, and he denied G-d', since, as we just explained, we are double-faulting the Rasha (in order to distinguish him from the Chacham).

It seems to me however, that this amendment is insufficient. Because then the continuation 'And also you, blunt his teeth' makes no sense. Because the word “And” is superfluous. What the G'ro therefore must have meant is that the 'Vav' in 've'Af Atoh Hekhei es shinov', should be moved back to the previous phrase to 'kofar ba'Ikar'. He is not adding a 'Vav', but moving it.

The piece now reads 'And because he precluded himself from the community, and he denied G-d, also you blunt his teeth'.

In fact, this is precisely how the Mechilta (at the end of Parshas Bo, cited in the footnotes) presents it.


Chesed Opens all the Doors

"And the B'nei Yisrael did like the words of Moshe, and they borrowed from the Egyptians silver vessels ... And G-d caused the people to find favor in the eyes of the Egyptians and they lent them" (12:35/36).

Rashi explains that "like the words of Moshe" refers to Moshe's command in Egypt "And each man shall borrow from his friend ...("re’eihu”) ". It is not at first clear what Rashi is coming to teach us, comments the G'ro, since that is inherent in the words of the Pasuk "and they borrowed from the Egyptians ...".

It appears, he replies, that Rashi is referring to the Gemara in Bava Kama (37b), which exempts a Jew from paying if his ox gored that of a gentile. And this is derived from the fact that the Torah specifically refers to someone whose ox gored 'the ox of his friend' ("re'eihu", the same word that the Torah uses here), to preclude that of gentiles, who are not described in this manner.

That being the case, how can the Torah have commanded the people to borrow from their friends ("re'eihu"), if it is referring to borrowing from the Egyptians? In addition, Rashi's explanation of "Daber no" - that they should request from them nicely, makes little sense, since on what basis would the Egyptians comply with their request?


Alternatively, one wonders whether "re'eihu" might not refer to their Egyptian friends, and as for the G'ro's Kashya, perhaps the Gemara in Bava Kama speaks exclusively after Matan Torah.


What the Torah must therefore really have meant, was that they should borrow from their Jewish friends (and when they do, the Torah adds, they should make sure to ask nicely), because 'Olam chesed yiboneh', the world is built on chesed. When Jews perform charitable acts, many doors are opened, and when they readily lent each other what they needed, this opened the door of Chein, and they found favor in the eyes of the Egyptians, who readily gave them their vessels too.

And that explains beautifully why Rashi cites the earlier Pasuk.


It's All in the Torah

"It (the Korban Pesach) shall be eaten in one house. Do not take any of the meat outside, and do not break any of its bones" (12:46).

The G'ro refers to a Yerushalmi, which states that if two people break a bone of a Korban Pesach, they are Chayav Malkos, whereas if they carry it outside, they are not. And he points out that both of these Halachos are hinted in this Pasuk, since "Do not take any of the meat outside" is written in the singular ("Lo sotzi"), whereas "do not break any of its bones" appears in the plural ("lo sishberu").

The reason for this distinction is clear, since it would be natural for two people to break a bone jointly, but not to carry one into the street, and as is well-known, the punishment for contravening a La'av, does not pertain to one who transgresses it in an irregular manner.


The Two Tefilin

"And it shall be for you a sign on your arm and as a remembrance between your eyes" (3:9).

The underlying idea behind the Tefilin, explains the G'ro, is to bind the intellect of one's mind and the emotions of one's heart, as is brought in the Tur and in the Shulchan Aruch.


We all know, he says, that a person has five senses. Four of these - sight, hearing, smell and speech - are based in the brain; whereas the fifth, that of touch, affects the entire body. In fact, the latter too, is divided into four, the feel of the hands, walking with the feet, the use of one's sexual organs and the sense of feeling that pervades the entire body. The difference between the former four and the latter is, that whereas each of the former is housed in a separate compartment in the brain, the latter is housed (with all its components), in the heart.

And this explains the difference between the Tefilin shel Rosh and the Tefilin shel Yad. The shel Rosh, which represents the binding of the brain and the four senses which it houses, contains four individual compartments, each of which contain one Parshah. Whilst the shel Yad, which represents the binding of the heart with its four senses, contains only one compartment comprising the four Parshiyos.


Rabeinu Tam's Tefilin

When Rav Chayim Valozhin asked his Rebbe the Gro about wearing Rabeinu Tam's Tefilin, he replied in the negative. When Rav Chayim pressed him further as to why one should not do so, in order to cover all the halachic possibilities, he explained that, in that case, it is not just two pairs of Tefilin that one would need to wear, but twenty-four. First of all, there is a the opinion of Rabeinu Bachye, who agrees with Rabeinu Tam, only whereas Rabeinu Tam places the Parshiyos from right to left, he places them from left to right. That makes three possibilities. Then we have a difference of opinion as to whether the Parshiyos should lie inside the Batim or stand, giving us six.

Furthermore, there is a dispute whether one should write on the side of the parchment which is closest to the hair or the flesh (twelve), and finally, regarding P'suchos and S'tumos (of the Parshiyos).

All in all, this would make a total of twenty-four possible ways of fulfilling the Mitzvah, the G'ro concluded.


The Redemption of Ma'aser Sheini (cont.)

3. When redeeming one's Ma'aser Sheini with a coin, one needs to redeem also the extra fifth (which the owner is obligated to give). Therefore one declares 'the Ma'aser Sheini together with its fifth will be transferred on to a P'rutah of the coin that I have designated for the redemption of Ma'aser Sheini'.

4. One is permitted to redeem one's Ma'aser Sheini using someone else’s coin, provided the owner has given his consent. Someone who does, need not add a fifth, in which case he says 'The Ma'aser Sheini will be redeemed on to a P'rutah (or 'according to its value, depending on the circumstances) of the coin that so-and-so designated for Ma'aser Sheini'.

5. A single woman who redeems her Ma'aser Sheini does not need to add a fifth.


The Redemption of a Ma'aser Sheini Coin

6. When the Ma'aser Sheini coin has been used up, and is saturated with Kedushas Ma'aser Sheini, then, assuming it is a silver coin, one transfers it all, except for one P'rutah's worth, on to a P'rutah of a copper coin, and recites the following. 'A P'rutah (Chamurah) of Ma'aser Sheini of this (silver) coin will remain Ma'aser Sheini. The remainder of the coin plus a fifth will be transferred on to a P'rutah of this (copper) coin. Having done this, he will be permitted to use the silver coin (which is now known as a 'Prutah Chamurah') to redeem even less than a P'rutah's worth of Ma'aser Sheini, as we explained in the previous chapter.

7. It is forbidden to transfer the Kedushah of a Ma'aser Sheini coin on to another coin within the ancient borders of Yerushalayim.

8. Nowadays, when our coins are made, not of silver, but of other metals, one may redeem a coin on to any other metal coin, even on to one that is worth less than itself, provided the second coin is worth a P'rutah.

9. Someone who has a non-silver coin to redeem, and who wishes to perform the Mitzvah in the best possible way, should redeem it together with Ma'aser Sheini fruit, and declare the following. 'Ma'aser Sheini to the value of a P'rutah's worth of fruit, plus the Ma'aser Sheini contained in the coin which I designated for the redemption of Ma'aser Sheini, except for a P'rutah (Chamurah) of it, will both be transferred on to this coin'. By doing so, one takes into account the opinion that it is exclusively a silver coin that may be redeemed on to a copper one. The above-mentioned method circumvents this problem.

10. The coin that one used to redeem the original Ma'aser Sheini coin must be destroyed. Consequently, one either grinds it and scatters it in the wind, or throws it into the Salt Sea.


The B'rachah

1. Before separating T'rumos and Ma'asros from vaday (what is definitely) Tevel, one recites the B'rachah 'Boruch Atoh Hashem ... asher kidshonu ... le'hafrish T'rumos u'Ma'asros'.

2. Before redeeming vaday Ma'aser Sheini, one recites 'Boruch ... al pidyon Ma'aser Sheini'.

3. If one is separating from Safek Tevel (i.e. that one does not know for sure that T'rumos and Ma'asros have not been taken), even though one is obligated to separate T'rumos and Ma'asros, one does so without a B'rachah. And the same applies to separating Safek Ma'aser Ani, and to redeeming Ma'aser Sheini, if he is not sure that it has already been redeemed.


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