This issue is co-sponsored
Vol. 14 No. 15
in loving memory of our dear parents
Sol and Sarah Van Gelder z.l.
by their daughters
Bas-Sheva Nechamah bas Reuven Binyamin z.l.
of Muezenberg, S. Africa
whose first Yohrzeit will be on 11th Shevat
A Taste of His Own Medicine
(Adapted from the P'ninim mi'Shulchan ha'G'ro)
"Please speak in the ears of the people, that they shall 'borrow' each man from his neighbour ... silver and golden vessels ... " (11:2).
So that the Tzadik Avraham should not claim that He fulfilled the promise "and they will enslave them and afflict them", but "and afterwards they will go out with a great possession" he did not fulfill (Rashi).
And what if he (Avraham) wouldn't complain, asks the G'ro? Having promised that "afterwards they would go out with a great possession", is G-d not obligated to keep His word anyway?
The G'ro introduces his answer with the following observation. Is it not strange, he asks, that both the Exodus and the Miracles of the Yam-Suf were performed through trickery? Why did G-d see fit to trick the Egyptains by asking the Egyptians for three days leave and for Yisrael to 'borrow' the Egyptians' vessels, when He neither had the intention of taking the people back to Egypt, nor of having the vessels restored to their owners?
The answer to the latter question is that G-d was merely giving the Egyptians a taste of their own medicine (Midah ke'Neged Midah) as is His way. How did Paroh get Yisrael to outdo themselves in their production of bricks, if not by first paying them for each brick, before subtly switching to slave labour, as the Medrash relates?
Next he ordered the Jewish midwives to throw the baby boys into the river, and then to pretend that they had been forced into doing so. Later, when the parents would come to Paroh to complain, he would play down their complaints and side with the midwives.
Following that, he ordered the same midwives to kill the Jewish baby boys before they were even born, and then to make out that they were born dead.
So Midah ke'Neged Midah, G-d decided that He would deal with them, employing the same sly tactics.
Firstly, He commanded Yisrael to 'borrow' silver and golden vessels from the Egyptians, and then ordered them not to return them.
Secondly, He instructed Moshe to ask Paroh for three days leave, to induce him to subsequently chase after Yisrael when they failed to return. And He did this in turn, in order to lure the Egyptians down to the Yam-Suf.
Thirdly, when they arrived at the Yam-Suf (after G-d had dried up the sea-bed), He caused them not to recognize where they were. Indeed, Paroh thought that he was in an unknown location. That is why he chased after Yisrael, and that was when G-d brought the water crashing down on his head.
This explanation, says the P'ninim mi'Shulchan ha'Gro, solves all the problems. Moshe ordered Yisrael to 'borrow silver and golden vessels', to which Yisrael responded that the Egyptians would only chase after them and retrieve them by force. Moshe replied that, on the contrary, G-d wanted the Egyptians to chase them down to the sea, and that there was where they (Yisrael) would inherit all their treasures. But that, Yisrael argued, would surely result in a battle. Better to leave Egypt empty-handed (like the prisoner who asked to leave jail without the treasure that he had been promised, as long as his freedom was assured).
Hence the Gemara explains the Pasuk "And they lent them" to mean 'against the will of Yisrael' (according to one interpretation), due to the heavy burden that they would be forced to take out. Initially, this is difficult to understand. For who has ever heard of a person refusing a million dollars because of the weight?
The answer lies in the fact that G-d had already informed them that they were anyway destined to receive an even larger fortune at the Yam-Suf (as we explained earlier). In that case, they were asking Moshe, why trouble them to 'shlep' all those silver and golden vessels down to the Yam-Suf for no logical reason.
Back came G-d's answer; so that Avraham Avinu, who could not know what would happen at the Yam-Suf, should not be given the opportunity to complain that He had fulfilled the promise "and they will enslave them and afflict them", but not the promise "and afterwards they will go out with a great possession". If not for that promise, it would indeed not have been necessary to carry such a heavy load out of Egypt, just as the people claimed.
* * *
(Adapted from the Ma'ayanah shel Torah)
"And Hashem said to Moshe 'Come to Paroh, for I have hardened his heart ... " (10:1).
G-d is informing Moshe here that He has given Paroh the strength to defy Him.
It is one of the wonders of Hashem's kindness, the S'fas Emes explains, that G-d provides man with the ability, as well as the means, to go against His wishes. Such patience is possible only with regard to G-d. It is inconceivable in a human being!
Learning from the Animals
"And also our cattle will go with us, because from them we will take to serve Hashem our G-d" (10:26).
Chazal explain that the bull which Eliyahu ha'Navi brought on Mount Carmel went gladly to be sacrificed, whilst that of the prophets of Ba'al refused to move from its place.
And that is what the Pasuk means here, says the Malbim, when it says "And also our cattle will go with us" - of their own accord, Moshe was saying, because they considered it a privilege to be sacrificed to Hashem.
And when he added "because from them we will take to serve Hashem our G-d", says the Malbim, he meant that they would take their cue from the animals; because if the animals were glad to serve Hashem, how much more so should we be!
Making a Break
""When he sends you, he will drive all of you out, completely" (11:1).
Since G-d wanted Yisrael to leave Egypt, both physically and spiritually, once and for all, it was necessary to be driven out forcibly, the S'fas Emes explains.
Had Yisrael left on their own volition, they would have left with the sweet taste of Egypt together with its culture in their mouths, And this in turn, would have meant that some attraction to what they were leaving behind would inevitably have remained.
Now that they left by force however, from one moment to the next, they made a clean break with their past, and became the Hosts of Hashem. Whilst all ties with Egypt and its culture were severed - forever.
The Test of Wealth
"Please speak in the ears of the people and they shall borrow" (11:2).
So that the Tzadik Avraham should not claim that "and they will enslave them and afflict them" He fulfilled regarding them, but "and afterwards they will go out with a great possession" he did not fulfill (Rashi).
The Nisayon (test) of wealth, says the Be'er Mayim Chayim, is far more difficult than that of poverty. To put it bluntly, a man who suffers poverty tends to turn to G-d for salvation, Davenning to Him and fortifying his trust in Him; whereas a man who becomes wealthy quickly switches his trust from G-d to his assets.
And that is why Moshe had to plead with Yisrael to take the Egyptians' silver and golden vessels. Yisrael were simply afraid of the Nisayon of wealth.
Avraham Avinu had withstood both the test of poverty (when he left his father's house with nothing) and that of wealth, when the Torah testifies "And Avraham was laden with cattle, with silver and with gold.
As far as he was concerned, there was no more reason to be afraid of the one more than the other, so if Yisrael left Egypt empty-handed, he would want to know why. Hence, G-d's message to the people.
Later, when Yisrael made the Golden Calf, Moshe used the abundance of gold which G-d had showered on Yisrael in defense of Yisrael, as the Pasuk says in Tehilim "And I gave them an abundance of silver, and they used their gold for Ba'al".
And that is what Moshe was referring to when he argued that if G-d declined to forgive Yisrael for the sin of the Eigel, "mecheini na misifr'cha". He was referring to the "Na" which He had used to implore Yisrael to take the wealth out of Egypt to please Avraham. Perhaps, he was saying, pacifying Avraham was intrinsically not such a good idea after all, and ought to be erased retroactively.
Two Kinds of Wealth
The truth of the matter is that the phrase "And afterwards they will go out with a great possession" can also refer to spiritual assets. Indeed, others translate the Pasuk as 'and afterwards, they will go out (not with, but) for a great possession (with reference to the greatest treasure of all - the Torah which they would soon receive at Har Sinai).
Only Avraham would not have been satisfied with that interpretation at all. After all, he would have countered, the first half of the promise "And they will enslave them and torment them" was carried out according to the simple explanation; in which case the second half of the promise had to be carried out according to the simple explanation, too, and not according to the D'rash!
No Sinners Please
"No ben Neichar may eat it" (12:43).
Unklus translates "ben Neichar" as an apostate.
How does he know that it does not refer to a gentile, as the word usually does?
The Meshech Chochmah explains that Unklus explains the Pasuk in this way, because he had no choice. On the one hand, if the Torah was prohibiting a Jew from giving a gentile some of the Korban Pesach, it would have written 'Do not give a ben Neichar ...'. Whereas on the other, it is hardly like for the Torah to warn a gentile not to eat the Korban Pesach, seeing as the Torah was not given to gentiles. Consequently, "ben Neichar" must refer to an apostate, who is obligated to observe the Mitzvos, just like every other Jew.
Why is it, asks the Pardes Yosef, that we make a point of including the sinners in our prayers on Kol Nidrei night, and also on public fast-days, as Chazal have instructed. Yet when it comes to the Korban Pesach, he is specifically precluded from participating?
Simple, he answers. When the sinner comes to weep and fast together with us, it is a sign that he is sincere to a certain degree, and one may not reject him.
But how sincere is a person who refuses to participate in Yisrael's troubles, and who only comes along when they are serving fine dishes of roast meat? Such partners we do not need!
* * *
'And he (Paroh) said to them (Moshe and Aharon) "So may Hashem be with you, when I send you together with your children, See that it will be a bad stumbling-block before your face, on the way that you will travel, up until your arrival at your destination" ' (10:10).
'A man could not see his friend, neither could a man get up from his place, for three days, whilst for all of B'nei Yisrael it was light, to bury the Resha'im among them, and for the righteous among them to perform Mitzvos in their dwelling-places' (10:23).
'And Paroh said to him "Go away from me. Beware not to see my face again, to speak with me any of these harsh words; because the next time you see my face, my anger will be aroused against you, and I will hand you over to those who seek to kill you (Dasan and Aviram)" ' (10:28).
'And Moshe said "You spoke correctly. When I was still in Midian, I was told by Hashem that the men who seek to kill me have gone bankrupt and are considered dead, and it is not because you were merciful that I prayed for the plagues to cease from you. And now, I will not see you again" ' (10:29).
' ... Moshe called to all the elders of Yisrael and said to them "withdraw from the Idolatry of Egypt and take for yourselves from the sheep (for your Yichus [pedigree]?) and Shecht the lamb of the Pesach" ' (12:21).
'And it was at midnight of the fifteenth of the month (of Nisan) that the word of G-d killed all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, from the firstborn of Paroh who was destined to succeed him, to the firstborn of the princes whom he had taken captive and whom he was holding in jail as hostages (they too were smitten, because they took pleasure over the enslavement of Yisrael), to the firstborn of the animals, which the Egyptians worshipped' (12:29).
' ... Egypt measured four hundred Parsah by four hundred Parsah. The land of Goshen, where Yisrael were located, was situated in the middle of Egypt, whereas Paroh's palace was at the beginning (?) of the country. Yet when Paroh called out to Moshe and Aharon on the night of Pesach, his voice carried all the way to the land of Goshen. Beseeching in a pathetic voice, he said "Arise and go from the midst of my people, both you and the B'nei Yisrael, and go and worship your G-d exactly as you said" ' (12:31).
'Take with you also your sheep and cattle, as well as mine just as you said, and go. I ask of you nothing, other than that you pray for me that I should not die' (12:32).
* * *
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 Lend a Hand in Claiming Interest from the Debtor to the Creditor
We are prohibited from having any dealings with a loan that involves interest between the debtor and the creditor. This means that we may neither act as guarantors, nor as witnesses, nor may a scribe write a document that contains any mention of interest, as the Torah writes in Mishpatim (22:24) "Do not place on him interest". And the Gemara in Bava Metzi'a (75b) interprets this as a prohibition to get involved in any of the above ways, in a loan that contains interest. The Gemara there also explains that the creditor is included in the La'av, in addition to the various other La'avin that apply exclusively to him. Indeed, Abaye explains there that the creditor transgresses six La'avin, the debtor, two and whoever else is involved, one.
A reason for the Mitzvah is - because G-d who is good, wants the people that He chose to live in a civilized manner; therefore He commanded them to remove all obstacles to this end from their path, to prevent one person from swallowing the other alive, without the latter even being aware of what is happening to him, until he suddenly finds his house emptied of all good; for that is the way of interest, as is well-known. That is why it is called 'Neshech' (i.e. a snake-bite, which suddenly swells up and envelops the entire body). Now if the guarantor, the Sofer and the witnesses would not volunteer their services, the practice would soon die out ... and its other details, are to be found in Bava Metzi'a and in Yoreh Dei'ah (160).
This Mitzvah applies everywhere and at all times to men and women alike. Anyone who contravenes it and becomes a Sofer, a guarantor or a witness with regard to a loan involving interest, has transgressed. He is not however, subject to Malkos, since the money must be returned by the creditor (exempting him from Malkos), and since the creditor is exempt from Malkos, it stands to reason that all the minor players are exempt too.
Not to Curse a Judge
It is forbidden to curse a judge, as the Torah writes in Mishpatim (22:27) "Do not curse Elohim", which in this context, refers to a judges, as in the Pasuk (also in Mishpatim 22:8) "Asher yarshi'un elohim", which means 'whoever the judges find guilty'. The reason that the Torah uses this word is in order to incorporate in the La'av the prohibition of cursing Hashem (Kevayachol), as the Sifri explains. The Pasuk that writes in Emor (24:16) "And whoever curses the name of Hashem will surely die", is referring to the punishment; but this Pasuk contains the La'av. For it is a principle that a Pasuk that teaches us the punishment will not suffice, unless there is also a Pasuk that teaches us the warning (the Azharah), as we find often in Chazal. Were the Torah to state the punishment without issuing an independent warning, it would imply that anyone who wishes to perpetrate the sinful act and face the death sentence is at liberty to do so. The choice is his, and should he choose to go ahead and pay the price, he has done nothing wrong. But this is of course, false. G-d specifically forbids contravening a La'av because He knows that it is bad for us, not to speak of the mere fact that he transgresses the will of G-d, which is the worst sin of all. Hence Chazal say in many places "The Torah does not punish unless it has warned". This means that G-d will not convey to us a punishment for having sinned, unless He has first informed us of His wish that we do not contravene the act for which the punishment will be meted out.
A reason for the Mitzvah is ... to remove from the Dayan the fear of the litigant and his curse*, so that he will be able to bring the Din to its correct conclusion. And another reason is because of the many sins that cursing a Dayan brings in its wake. For most people in their foolishness, hate the Dayan. Consequently, if they are not warned against cursing him, one thing lead to another, and having cursed him, they are liable to kill him (for so the wise man said to the king, concerning the people 'Beware that they should not verbalize, because once they have verbalized, they are bound to act'). And much evil will result from this, because, when it comes to justice, the Dayan keeps the world running smoothly.
Some of the Dinim of the Mitzvah ... Chazal have taught that one only transgresses the La'av if one curses a Dayan using either one of the Names of Hashem (such as Koh, Shakai, Elokim ... ) or one of His descriptions (such as Chanun, Kano ... ). But if someone says 'Let so-and-so Dayan be cursed' or 'Let him not be blessed', he has not transgressed, though it is forbidden to say this nonetheless ... The prohibition is not confined to cursing in Lashon ha'Kodesh, but extends to other languages ... Witnesses and warning are required in order to punish the offender, as is the case with all La'avin ... and all the other details, are discussed in Sanhedrin (and in the Rambam, in the sixth Perek of Hilchos Sanhedrin).
This Mitzvah applies everywhere and at all times to men and women. Someone who contravenes this La'av and curses a Dayan using a Name of Hashem or one of His descriptions, is subject to two sets of Malkos; one for cursing a fellow-Jew (as the author will explain in Kedoshim, Mitzvah 231), and one for cursing a Dayan. (cont.)