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

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Vol. 13   No. 15

This issue is sponsored le'Iluy Nishmas
Na'omi Ninah Freedman bas David Yosef z.l.

Parshas Bo

Two Major Questions
(Part 1)

What Happened
to the 'Borrowed' Vessels

? One of the major questions asked in connection with Yetzi'as Mitzrayim is by what right did Yisrael borrow virtually all the Egyptians' precious vessels and then simply fail to return them?

In vol. 7, we cited the G'ro, who explains that G-d was giving Paroh a taste of his own medicine. Paroh after all, had tricked Yisrael into slavery, by first offering them so much per brick, even going so far as initially working with them, to complete the illusion, and then, after working for one day to their full capacity, an inventory of what they had produced was drawn up, and that became their fixed daily quota - without pay. So G-d tricked the Egyptians into giving their wealth to Yisrael, by thinking that it was merely a loan and would be repaid.


To complete the picture, let us take a look at the K'li Yakar on this subject. The K'li Yakar cites the Gemara in B'rachos (9b). The Gemara, commenting on the Pasuk (11:2) 'Please speak to B'nei Yisrael (and (instruct them) that they should borrow vessels ... ", explains that Moshe should plead with Yisrael to borrow the vessels from the Egyptians, so that Avraham Avinu should not accuse Hashem (Kevayachol) of keeping His promise to subjugate Yisrael, but not the promise of taking them out with a great treasure.

But surely, asks the K'li Yakar, G-d is obligated to keep his word, irrespective of what Avraham Avinu might say?

To answer this question, he cites the same Gemara in B'rachos, which adds that Yisrael, who did not relish carrying such a heavy load out into the desert, borrowed the vessels against their will.

Now we can understand the Gemara. As far as keeping His word was concerned, G-d was absolved, seeing as Yisrael were happy to forego the favour. That is why He asked Moshe to plead with them so that Avraham (who would not know why Yisrael were leaving Egypt empty-handed) would not have cause to complain.

True, G-d had other ways of enriching Yisrael, so as to compensate them for their years of slavery. But He wanted Yisrael to receive that money by way of payment for their services, directly from the Egyptians. The Egyptians, for their part, believed that the vessels were being borrowed, as the G'ro explained. And it was only years (no, centuries) later, when Alexander the Great formed the International Tribunal, that Gevihah ben Pesisah pointed out to them that the money was really remuneration for the years of slavery (Sanhedrin 91a).


The question remains though, how it is possible for G-d to employ such devious means to achieve His aim. Surely, in the realm of the Divine, the end does not justify the means, as it is inconceivable that He would steal or cheat (Kevayachol) irrespective of the motive?

The answer it seems, to me, is quite simple. We know that following the drowning of the Egyptian army at the Yam-Suf, Yisrael took a vast amount of booty (in excess even of what they took out with them from Egypt). This was spoil captured in war, and was theirs by rights. Now if they were permitted to take from the Egyptians what was not in their possession, then how much more so were they permitted to keep what they already had. In other words, the vessels may well have initially been lent to Yisrael. At the Yam Suf however, they became theirs.


Incidentally, the Rashbam interprets "va'yish'alu mi'Mitzrayim ... " and "va'yash'ilum", not as 'and they asked to borrow from the Egyptians' and 'they lent them', but as 'and they asked from the Egyptians' and 'and they complied with their request' (and gave them what they asked for as an unconditional gift), though the above-mentioned Gemara in Sanhedrin would suggest otherwise.


We explained in vol. 7 that Yisrael were loathe to ask the Egyptians for their silver and golden vessels because, knowing that they would later receive the booty at the Yam-Suf, they did not fancy carrying the extra load out of Egypt. Perhaps, one may add, unaware that at the Yam-Suf, the vessels would become theirs permanently, they also considered borrowing them futile, as they would remain obligated to return them. So what was the point?

* * *

Parshah Pearls

Putting on a Show

"And he drove them out from Paroh's presence ('me'eis p'nei Paroh')" [10:11]).

The words "me'eis p'nei" appear somewhat redundant, since the Torah might just as well have written 'mi'lifnei Paroh' (from before Paroh)?

Paroh's servants, R. Yosef Chayim Sonnenfeld explains, really held Moshe and Aharon in the highest esteem, as the Pasuk will attest later (11:3); and it was only for fear of Paroh, who had issued orders to that effect, that they threw them out of the palace. In other words, it was only in front of Paroh that they treated Moshe and Aharon with disrespect; once they left his presence, their attitude towards them changed to one of awe.


Respect for a King

"And all these servants of yours will come down to me and will prostrate themselves before me saying "Go, you and all the people under your command" (11:8).

Moshe showed the king respect, Rashi explains, because in the end, it was Paroh himself who came to see him that night, and who pleaded with him to let Yisrael go free.

Moshe did not lie, explains R. Yosef Chayim. He merely applied the principle that a king does not leave his palace on his own at any time, only accompanied by his retinue. Consequently, when Moshe told Paroh that his servants would come down to him ... , he meant that Paroh would come down to him together with his retinue. By failing to mention Paroh explicitly, he transformed the information from a specific statement into a hint, since it is obvious that the fact that the king's servants would accompany the king was inconsequential. Yet that is what he did in order to preserve Paroh's dignity.


When G-d Spoke to Aharon

"And Hashem spoke to Moshe and Aharon ... " (12:1).

The Mechilta explains that in fact, Hashem spoke exclusively to Moshe (even where the Pasuk includes Aharon, such as here), and it is only in three places where He actually spoke to Aharon 'because it is impossible'. The commentaries are at odds to quote the three relevant Pesukim, and each one presents his own list. The G'ro, based on the Mechilta's concluding phrase 'because it is impossible', cites the following three Pesukim, since, in each case, G-d can only have been speaking directly to Aharon.

1. "And Hashem said to Aharon 'Go and meet Moshe in the desert' " (Sh'mos 4:27). It is not feasible for Hashem to have instructed Moshe to tell Aharon to go and meet him in the desert.

2. "And Hashem said suddenly to Moshe, Aharon and Miriam 'Go all three of you to the Ohel Mo'ed' " (Bamidbar 12:4). Rashi there, explains that G-d said this to all three of them simultaneously, something that no human being can do. In that case, it is again impossible to explain that G-d told Moshe to tell Aharon ... .

3. "And He called Aharon and Miriam, and they both went out" (in the same context as the previous Pasuk). There too, G-d was rebuking Aharon and Miriam for having spoken Lashon ha'Ra about Moshe, and it would have been lacking in sensitivity for Hashem to have called them through Moshe.


It Took Place Before Matan Torah

"And G-d said to Moshe and Aharon in the land of Egypt saying. This month shall be for you the head of the months ... " (12:1/2).

R. Yosef Chayim remarks that whereas we begin the Yom-Tov Amidah with the words 'Atoh Bechartonu mi'kol ho'amim' (You chose us from all the nations), that of Rosh Chodesh begins with 'Roshei Chodoshim le'amcho nosato' (without referring to G-d having chosen us ...).

And he explains that the former is based on the fact that the Parshah of Mo'adim was given *at Har Sinai*, which is where G-d chose us as a nation. Rosh Chodesh on the other hand, was given to us already in Egypt, in the Parshah currently under discussion, *before Matan Torah*, before we were chosen as a nation. Therefore it would not have been appropriate to begin the Rosh Chodesh Amidah with 'Atoh Bechartonu'.

And bearing in mind that Shabbos too, was first given to us at Marah, before Matan Torah, it is not surprising that the Musaf Amidah on Shabbos too, begins 'Tikanto Shabbos ... ' (You established Shabbos ... without any mention of G-d having chosen us).


Another Three Things

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

Rashi comments that Moshe had difficulty in understanding how large the new moon should look for it to be sanctified. So G-d (Kevayachol) pointed to the moon in the sky with His finger, and said to him 'Like this you should see it and sanctify it'. In fact, says the P'ninim mi'Shulchan ha'G'ro, there are three things that Moshe had difficulty in understanding, and which Hashem showed him with His finger: the Menorah, the New Moon, and the half-Shekel. And all three are hinted in the first letters of Moshe's name. - Menorah, Shekel and Ha'chodesh.


Eighty-Four Fasts

"And you shall pass all those that open the womb (the firstborn) to G-d ... and all the firstborn of man you shall redeem" (12:12/13).

It is accepted tradition in Yerushalayim that whoever eats from the Se'udah of a Pidyon ha'Ben, it is as if he had fasted eighty-four fasts. And that is why Yerushalmi'im will go to great lengths to obtain a k'Zayis of bread from the main Chalah that the Kohen cuts at the Se'udah of a Pidyon ha'Ben.

The S'dei Chemed, writes in his Seifer that he once declined to attend a Pidyin ha'Ben, and when he was asked about the above tradition, he replied that he had never heard of it, adding that it has no source, and is nothing more than a nice vort.

When the Seifer S'dei Chemed came into print, and the inhabitants of Yerushalayim discovered that the author, who was conversant in all the works of the Rishonim and Acharonim, and before whom every secret was revealed, had said that 'there was no source' for this Minhag, they were flabbergasted. How is it possible they asked, that a custom that was so widely accepted and that had no dissenters, and which everybody, but everybody, took so seriously, should have no source? Round about that time, a Pidyon ha'Ben took place. During the Se'udah, the above S'dei Chemed was the main topic of conversation, and it occurred to one of the participants to ask R. Yosef Chayim, who happened to be present, and whose vast knowledge in all areas of Torah was legendary.

When the question was put to the Rav, he smiled knowingly, and after corroborating the S'dei Chemed's statement, he added that although there was no source in the Halachah Sefarim, the Minhag was however, hinted in the Torah. 'Where?' everybody wanted to know.

'In Parshas Bo', came the reply. 'In the three words "Adam be'bonecha tifdeh", which are the acronym of 'Im Davar Mah Be'Pidyon Ben Neheneiso, Yechashev Ke'ilu Ta'anis Pey-Daled His'aneiso' . If you benefited a little from a Pidyon ha'Ben, it is reckoned as if you would have fasted eighty-four fasts.

'And you know what', he concluded, there is something else that carries the weight of eighty-four fasts - a DAF (Gematriyah 84) Gemara'. Only there, he ended with a smile, 'there are not as many interested customers'!


Two to Break, One to Carry

"In one house it (the Korban Pesach) shall be eaten, do not take any meat out of the house, and do not break any bone on it" (12:46).

The Yerushalmi rules that although two people who jointly break a bone of the Korban Pesach are Chayav Malkos, two people who jointly carry a piece of Korban Pesach out of the house are not.

The P'ninim mi'Shulchan ha'G'ro points out that this is virtually explicit in the above Pasuk, which uses the singular in the first phrase ("Lo sotzi min ha'bayis chutzah") but plural in the second ("ve'Etzem lo sishberu bo")!

* * *

(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.

Mitzvah 54:
To Judge the Law of a Thief by Payment (or Death)

It is a Mitzvah incumbent upon Beis-Din to judge the Din of a Ganav, as the Torah writes in Mishpatim (21:37) "If a man steals an ox or a lamb ... ". The definition of stealing is taking something ... without the owner's knowledge. The reason for the Miztvah is obvious.

The Dinim of the Mitzvah ... The obligation of paying four or five-fold for stealing an ox or a sheep and Shechting or selling it ... The concession to kill a thief whom one catches tunneling his way into one's house, and the sale of a thief who is unable to pay ... The Din of a stolen object that improved either on its own or due to having spent money on it ... The Din that if the article went up in price, the Ganav pays the principle according to its original price, but the Kefel (the double) according to its current one ... Someone who steals a stolen article from the person who stole it is exempt from paying Kefel to either of the two people (even if he stole it before the owner had given up hope of receiving it back), and the Din of someone who steals the property of Hekdesh or property belonging to a gentile ... The Din of someone who steals a slave, a document or property ... What happens if someone steals on Shabbos in such a way that the sin of desecrating the Shabbos and the theft take effect simultaneously (whether he is obligated to pay or not) ... From which section of property do Beis-Din claim damages ... Somebody who steals is sold as a servant for six years, but only if his value is equal to that of the stolen article or less, but not if it is more ... The Din of a shomer (someone who is looking after an article on behalf of the owner) who takes the article for himself or from whom the article is stolen ... The prohibition of purchasing a stolen article from a Ganav, and what are the obligations towards the owner of someone who did ... together with the remaining details, are all discussed in the seventh Perek of Bava Kama, in the eighth Perek of Sanhedrin, in the third Perek of Bava Metzi'a, and in some places in Kesubos, Kidushin and Shavu'os.

This Mitzvah pertains to men, since it is they who are obligated to judge, but not to women. Wherever there is a Beis-Din of Semuchin in Eretz Yisrael, they are obligated to force the losing litigant to pay the (Kefel, and the) four or five times, where necessary. Where there is not, then they are only empowered to exact the article or its value from the Ganav, but not the k'nas (the fine). As for selling the Ganav, that applies only when the Yovel year is practiced.


Mitzvah 55:
To Judge the Laws of Damages of 'Tooth' and 'Foot'

We are commanded to judge the Dinim of 'tooth' and 'foot' (i.e. someone who damages his fellow Jew by taking his animal, or by allowing it to wander into his field, where it either consumes his produce or tramples on it). We make him pay full damages from the best of his property, as the Torah writes in Mishpatim (22:4) "If a man consumes a field or a vineyard, and he sends his animal ... ". The Gemara in Bava Kama (2b) explains that the first part of the Pasuk pertains to 'tooth' and the second, to 'foot'. And with regard to both of these, the Pasuk concludes "he shall pay the best of his field and the best of his vineyard".

The reason for the Mitzvah is obvious.

Some of the Dinim of the Mitzvah ... such as the locations where 'tooth' and 'foot' do apply, and those where they don't ... The difference between an animal that eats what is fit to eat and one that eats what is not fit to eat at all, or what is only fit to eat in cases of emergency (such as a cow that eats barley, a donkey that eats oats or fish, a pig that eats meat, a dog that laps-up oil or a cat that eats dates). In the event that the animal benefited from what it ate, then the owner must in any event, pay for the benefit ... together with all the other details, are discussed in Gittin and in Bava Kama. Rava says there in Perek ha'Chovel (84b) that an ox which damages another ox may only claim nowadays damages of 'tooth' and 'foot', for which it is 'Mu'ad' (warned from the outset) and for which it therefore pays full damages, but not if it damaged with its horn, for which it is a Tam (not warned until it has damaged three times) and for which it pays only half the damage. This is considered a 'K'nas', which only a Beis-Din of Semuchin, in Eretz Yisrael are authorized to exact. This Mitzvah applies to men, who are obligated to judge, but not to women. Women are however, included in the laws of payment, irrespective of whether they are the claimants or the defendants. A Beis-Din which transgresses, and fails to judge the owner of the animal, has nullified a Mitzvas Asei.

* * *

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