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

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Vol. 11   No. 15

Parshas Bo

The Blood-Bath

"See how (the star) 'Ra'ah (alias Ma'adim [Mars]) stands against you" (10:10).

Rashi explains how the Egyptian astronomers read in the stars that what awaited Yisrael in the desert was a bloodbath.

Initially, it referred to G-d's annihilation of Yisrael, following the sin of the Eigel.


The K'li Yakar cites the Gemara in Shabbos (156a) that someone who is born under Mazel Ma'adim will grow into a person who sheds blood. He is therefore advised to become either a Shochet or a Mohel. And he equates these two alternatives with the dual interpretation of 'bloodshed', which can refer either to killing or to wounding.

And he explains with this why G-d gave Yisrael the two Mitzvos of (the blood of) Pesach and (the blood of) Milah (killing and creating a wound respectively) to counter any decree of bloodshed that Ra'ah might otherwise have had in store for them.

And this also explains Paroh's excuse for refusing to let the women and children leave Egypt. The men, he explains, could protect themselves against the star Ra'ah, by both performing B'ris Milah and Shechting the Korban Pesach. But the women and children were different. It was not the way of the latter to worship, he argued, whereas the former were not subject to the Mitzvah of Milah. Consequently, they would be safer if they remained in Egypt.


The K'li Yakar's explanation pertains to the steps that G-d took to protect them from Ra'ah before they had worshipped the Eigel. Perhaps if they had not done so, Ra'ah would not have posed any further threat. But sin they did, and so the real threat of annihilation reappeared. And it is that threat which Rashi is addressing.

Rashi therefore concludes that, on account of Moshe's Tefilah, Hashem mercifully transferred the bloodbath that was destined to follow the sin of the Eigel to the Mitzvah of B'ris Milah, which Yehoshua performed on all the Jewish males who had been born in the desert, and who had not yet been circumcised before entering Eretz Yisrael.

From where does Rashi know that it was the Mitzvah of Milah to which it was transferred, and not to one of the other many other national disasters that befell them on account of their sins (such as the punishment following the sin of the Meraglim, or of Korach), asks the Rosh?

And he answers that throughout the forty years in the desert, the Egyptians considered Yisrael in *disgrace* ('chirfu es Yisrael') for circumcising their children in Egypt (the night before they left) but not in the desert. Now, the word '*disgrace*' is also used in connection with the B'ris Milah (Bereishis 34:14), when the sons of Ya'akov instructed Sh'chem and Chamor to circumcise, because Yisrael considered Orlah a *disgrace*.

And here too, the Pasuk writes in Yehoshua (5:9) "Today, I have removed the *disgrace* of Egypt from you", a clear indication that it was the Mitzvah of Milah that replaced the annihilation of K'lal Yisrael, and not just some disaster or other. This is enhanced by the K'li Yakar, who comments that the numerical value of 'Ra'ah' is equivalent to that of 'Orlah'.


It also seems logical to connect the destruction of Yisrael with their circumcision, to say that Hashem in His mercy, removed the evil decree, allowing the star's prediction to take a different form. It is another way of saying that the Mitzvah of B'ris Milah served as an antidote to the sin of the Eigel (at least as far as their immediate destruction was concerned). And it seems more appropriate for G-d to have accepted Moshe's Tefilah (to avoid a Chilul Hashem) by allowing the communal Mitzvah that they would later perform, to override the sin of the Eigel. Otherwise, what would have been the point in negating the punishment of total annihilation now for some lesser punishment later? And besides, why did He not commute the sentence of total annihilation to partial destruction there and then!

Indeed, the Pasuk (following Moshe's Tefilah) "And G-d 'changed His mind', (refrained from carrying out what He had planned to do)" has no connotations of exchanging one punishment for another, but rather, of total reprieve.

The power of Tefilah can avert evil decrees, only the prediction had to be satisfied, so G-d found another way of fulfilling it.


Perhaps we can go even one step further, in connecting the sin of the Eigel specifically with the Mitzvah of B'ris Milah. When the arch-idolater Yisro took Moshe as a son-in-law, he made him swear that he would not circumcise his first son (see Targum Yonasan Sh'mos 4:24). We do not find any such condition with regard to any other Mitzvos. Yisro's intentions (in light of his search for the true religion and his imminent embrace of the Jewish faith) are not clear. What is clear is that the B'ris Milah is the ultimate antidote to idolatry. And perhaps this is obvious. For what is B'ris Milah, if not the unequivocal acceptance of G-d's jurisdiction over oneself (and therefore the absolute rejection of all other deities?

It is not surprising therefore, that G-d chose to replace the bloodbath that was to have resulted from the worship of the Golden Calf with the bloodbath of the Mitzvah of B'ris Milah.


Parshah Pearls
(Adapted from the explanation of the Rosh on the Chumash)

They Wanted to Leave

"And a black darkness descended on the land of Egypt. (10:22).

One of the reasons for the darkness, Rashi explains, was so that G-d would be able to kill the many Resha'im in Yisrael who did not want to leave Egypt, and they would be able to bury them, without the Egyptians knowledge.

The question arises, says the Rosh, that if all the Resha'im died during the plague of darkness, why did Dasan and Aviram survive?

It is true, he replies, that Dasan and Aviram were Resha'im. But not all Resha'im died in the plague of darkness; only those who had despaired of being redeemed (and who had therefore made up their minds to remain in Egypt) 'You want to remain in Egypt', G-d said to them, 'Be My guest!'

Dasan and Aviram had many sins to their credit. They were troublemakers par excellence, who would soon pay for their evil deeds in a most horrific manner. But they had not despaired of leaving Egypt, so they were allowed to leave together with rest of K'lal Yisrael. The long and short of it is that G-d's justice is supreme. He gives credit where credit is due, and metes out punishment to those who deserve it - even to the same person, where need be.


No Barking Allowed

"And for all B'nei Yisrael, no dog barked" (11:6).

Why does the Torah see fit to mention this seemingly trivial point?

The Rosh cites a Gemara in Bava Kama (60b), where Chazal have said that dogs tend to bark when the Angel of Death arrives in town. The Angel of Death had certainly arrived in Egypt, and one would have expected the dogs to bark vehemently. Yet they remained silent, explains the Rosh, because that was G-d's will.


How to eat the Korban Pesach
How Not to Eat it

"Do not eat it half done, or cooked in water, only roasted directly on the fire, with its head, its legs and its innards" (12:9)

The Rosh citing the Ib'n Ezra explains it all like this - only roasted directly on the fire, with its head, its legs and its innards"

"*Don't eat it half done*" - for fear that the Egyptians might take offence at the pungent aroma of roasting lamb (as you prepare and eat their god).

And by the same token and for the same reason, don't eat it "*cooked in water*" (and covered with a lid), so as to eliminate both the smell and the vision of the roasting animal from the noses and eyes of the Egyptians.

"*only roasted directly on the fire, with its head, its legs and its innards" - and resist the temptation of cutting up its head, its limbs and its legs, to prevent the Egyptians from recognizing it. On the contrary, let the fact that you are killing and eating their gods arouse their fury and raise their hackles, "for the living G-d will come with might, and His Arm will dominate on His behalf, and He will give them their just desert".


Work Performed through Others

"No work shall be done on them (on the Yamim-Tovim) 12:16.

Rashi explains that the Pasuk here is coming to forbid performing a Melachah through a gentile.

The Rosh queries this however, seeing as 'Amirah le'akum, sh'vus' (asking a Nochri to do something that is forbidden on Shabbos or Yom-Tov is only Asur mi'de'Rabbanan). So how can Rashi cite a source in the Torah (See also Ramban)?

The Rosh therefore explains that the Pasuk is coming to forbid asking a child to perform a forbidden Melachah on behalf of a grown-up, as is the case on Shabbos.


G-d and His Beis-Din

"And Hashem smote all the firstborn" (12:29).

Wherever the Torah writes "and Hashem", it invariably means Hashem and His Beis-Din, explains Rashi (in the name of the Tanchuma), as if the Torah had written 'Hashem and somebody else'.

In that case, we can understand why the Pasuk writes in Iyov "Hashem gave and Hashem took . When G-d performs a chesed or when he gives, He does deem it fit to consult anyone, but goes ahead and acts unilaterally. But when He takes, that is when He always consults with His family of angels. That is why the Torah writes here "And Hashem smote ".


Dem Bones Dem Bones

" .. because there was no house without a dead person" (12:30).

See Rashi.

The Rosh adds a third explanation. He explains how the dogs dragged the bones of the firstborn who had been long buried, and strewed them around the houses, until there was not a house that was clear of them.According to the Da'as Zekeinim mi'Ba'alei Tosfos, it was not dogs, but mice, who did it. And what's more, they add, this was more painful to the Egyptians than the actual day of death. Death after all, is a natural phenomenon. This was not!


Why They Didn't Eat Chametz

" because it was not Chametz, because they were driven from Egypt, and they were not able to delay" (12:39). This Pasuk certainly conveys the impression that Yisrael did not eat Chametz only because they were driven out of Egypt and the dough had no time to rise.

But that is simply not true, asks the Rosh? Surely they refrained from eating Chametz because it was Pesach?

Right, he answers, and the phrase because they were driven from Egypt "because they were driven from Egypt" refer, not to "because it was not Chametz", but to the preceding phrase "And they baked the dough that they took out of Egypt". In fact, the Pasuk is explaining why they took the unbaked dough out of Egypt, rather than baking it before they left.

Inverting the two latter phrases will enable us to understand what the Pasuk means.


Fifty-One Days

Chazal have taught that Pesach in the year that Yisrael left Egypt, fell on Thursday, and Shavu'os, on Shabbos (the third day of the week after the beginning of Pesach).

Nowadays, Shavu'os always falls on the second day after Shavuos (e.g. if Pesach falls on Thursday, Shavu'os will fall on Friday).

The reason for this seeming discrepancy is, because, as the Gemara writes in Shabbos, Iyar of that year was a full month (whereas nowadays, it is also a short one).

And it transpires that in that year, there were fifty-one days between Pesach and Shavu'os. This was because Yisrael had not yet been commanded to count the Omer. The Pasuk, on the other hand, which fixes Shavu'os on the fiftieth day after Pesach, follows the Mitzvah of the counting the Omer, and once the Omer had been instituted, Iyar would always be a short month (see also main article of last year's Shavu'os issue).


(Part 15)

Nesachim, Semichah and Tenufah
(Based on the Mishnah in Menachos, Chapter 9)


All Korbanos (Tzibur and Yachid) require Nesachim, except for Bechor, Ma'aser, Pesach, Chatas (even Chatas Tzibur) and Asham.



All Korbenos Yachid require Semichah except for Bechor, Ma'aser and Pesach. Birds are precluded too. On the other hand, the only Korbenos Tzibur that require Semichah are the Par ha'bo al kol ha'Mitzvos (the Par He'elam Davar), and the Sa'ir ha'Mishtalei'ach on Yom Kipur.

Generally, anyone can (every owner must) perform Semichah, with the following exceptions - a cheresh, shoteh and katan, a blind person, a gentile, a slave, a sheli'ach and a woman.

If someone designates a Korban, and dies, his heirs, who bring the Korban on behalf of their father, perform the Semichah, bring the Nesachim and can legally designate a Temurah (exchange the Korban for another), though, in keeping with the Din of Temurah, not only have they sinned in so doing, but both animals are sanctified.

Semichah must take place immediately prior to the Shechitah and in the same location.


All Shelamim require Tenufah, incorporating the chest and right calf of all Shalmei Yachid (including the Todah), and the two lambs of the Zivchei Shalmei Tzibur on Shavu'os. The latter is performed twice, once before the Shechitah, and once after it.One also performs Tenufah with the loaves that accompany the Lachmei Todah as well as with those of a Nazir.


The Prescribed Age of a Korban
(Based on the Mishnah in Parah, chapter 1)

Although an Eigel generally refers to a calf in its first year, an Eglah Arufah can also be in its second.

The Parah Adumah may even be in its third or fourth year. An aged animal is always Pasul regardless of the Korban, as is a sweaty one, because it is disrespectful to bring such a animals before G-d.

Otherwise, bulls (Parim) can be anything up to the end of their third year.

Lambs (Kevasim) had to be in their first year, and rams (Eilim) in their second. An animal in the thirteenth month however, is neither considered a Keves, nor an Ayil, but a Palgas, and is Pasul.

Obligatory Korbanos, such as a Chatas and Olas Tzibur, a Chatas Yachid and an Asham Nazir and Metzora should be brought Lechatchilah only after the animal is at least thirty days old. Bedi'eved however, they are Kasher from the eighth day and onwards.

Nedarim and Nadavos, Bechor, Ma'aser, and Pesach may be brought Lechatchilah already from the eighth day.


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