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

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Vol. 15   No. 15

This issue is sponsored
in loving memory of
Naomi Nina (Freedman) bas David Yosef z"l
and for a Refu'ah Sheleimah to
Yocheved bas Chinka (Joyce Kreitman)
and Emuna bas Le'ah Rachel (Frank)

Parshas Bo

Timetable of the Plagues
(Adapted from Rabeinu Bachye)

Assuming that the Plague of Hail took place in the month of Adar (as we will explain later), the plague of locusts, says Rabeinu Bachye citing the Ramban, must have taken place in the month of Nisan. Bearing in mind that the hail destroyed all the fruit on the trees, the flax and the barley that had already grown that year, it would have required no less than a full month for the blossoms to re-grow on the trees and for the wheat and the spelt, which were not destroyed by the hail because they were still supple, to ripen. For the Torah writes that the locusts will devour "whatever remains from the hail and 'the trees that sprout for you from the field' ". Indeed, the objective of the plague of locusts was to complete the job that the hail had begun. So writes the Ramban.

If that is the case, says R. Bachye, based on the Chazal, who say that the Plagues lasted twelve months, it emerges that the last three plagues (locusts, darkness and the smiting of the firstborn) all took place in the month of Nisan, whilst the other seven plagues took place during the eleven preceding months. Consequently, each plague lasted longer than seven days, and there must have been a thirty day respite between one and the other. Whereas from the Pasuk following the Plague of Blood "And seven days were completed after Hashem struck the River" (7:25), it appears that the space between one plague and the next was seven days (see Rashi there). We therefore need to divide the plagues into ten equal time-periods, both as regards the duration of the actual plague and as regards the breaks between them.


This is how R. Bachye therefore breaks down the twelve-month period of the Plagues, which are considered as having begun immediately following the episode with the Burning Bush (see end of article), which took place on the fifteenth of Nisan, exactly one year before they left Egypt. Consequently, the seven days that G-d 'attempted' to talk Moshe into accepting the mission of taking Yisrael out of Egypt, corresponded to the seven days of Pesach which took place the following year. The day after (on the twenty-second of Nisan), Moshe returned to Midyan (in keeping with the oath that he had taken, not to leave the country without Yisro's express permission). From there, he traveled immediately to Egypt, where he met with Aharon, and together, they appeared before Paroh (on the twenty-third of Nisan) and warned him to send out the B'nei Yisrael so that they could serve Hashem in the desert. Paroh then claimed that he had never heard of Hashem and that they should stop trying to prevent his slaves from working. With that, he promptly added onto their workload. Moshe reacted by querying Hashem as to why He did this to His beloved people, to which Hashem responded that he would now see what He was about to do to the Egyptians.

All this, it would seem, took place during the last eight days in Nisan. Immediately afterwards, Moshe and Aharon disappeared from public view for three months (Iyar, Sivan and Tamuz, as the Medrash Tanchuma points out).

The actual Plagues, beginning with that of Blood, began on Rosh Chodesh Av, each one lasting a week, followed by three weeks respite (See Parshah Pearls of last week's issue 'a Plague a month'). The Plague of Frogs took place in Ellul, that of Lice, in Tishri … and that of locusts in Adar. Finally, the plague of darkness took place during the first week of Nisan, and, after seven days of respite (not twenty-one?), Makas Bechoros took place on the night of the fifteenth, which was the day of redemption.


It transpires that when Chazal say that the plagues lasted a complete year, they are not referring to the duration of the actual plagues, but to the time that Moshe (and Aharon) appeared before Paroh on the twenty-third of Nisan, and explicitly warned him that, if he did not send out Hashem's firstborn (Yisrael), Hashem would kill his firstborn. At that moment, Paroh took upon himself the Midas ha'Din, and the decree of the Ten Plagues was issued, to take place until twelve months were completed, and Yisrael were redeemed. It is unclear however, how R. Bachye accounts for the week between Makas Bechoros and the twenty-third of Nisan, which completed the year to which he refers, but which fell after the termination of the Ten Plagues?

Maybe he incorporates the Drowning of the Egyptians in the Yam-Suf (which took place on the twenty-first of Nisan and) which may not have been counted as part of the Ten Plagues, but which brought about the conclusion of the Redemption.

* * *

Parsha Pearls
(Adapted from the Rosh & the Da'as Zekeinim mi'Ba'alei Tosfos)

Telling it Like it Is

"Because, should you refuse to send out my people, behold I will send locusts within your borders, tomorrow" (10:4).

Considering that G-d had made no mention of locusts up to this point, the commentaries ask, how did Moshe know that this was what the next plague would be?

Simple, says the Da'as Zekeinim M.T. Hashem had said to Moshe regarding the plague of locusts "And in order that you will tell it to your sons … ". And this plague is the one that people tend to talk about, as we learn from the Navi Yoel. The Rosh however, explains that Moshe, who knew all the prophesies of the Nevi'im, long before they were revealed to them, learned a 'Gezeirah-Shavah' ('Tesaper' from 'Sapru') from the book of Yoel.


Which Plague of Locusts was Worse

"And the locusts came up on the entire land of Egypt … and after it there will never be one like it" (10:14).

In that case, asks Rashi, how can the Navi Yo'el write that there had never been a plague like the one that took place then (which incidentally, also occurred in Egypt)? And he answers that whereas the current plague consisted of only one kind of locust, the one in the time of Yo'el incorporated many kinds (Arbeh, Yelek, Chasil & Gazam).


The Da'as Zekeinim however, query Rashi from a Pasuk in Tehilim, which lists also Yelek and Chasil with regard to the current plague.

And they answer, either that, even bearing in mind the Pasuk in Tehilim, there were more species of locusts in the time of Yo'el than there were in the current plague; or that whereas the latter all came simultaneously, the former, came one after the other, as the Pasuk specifically writes there 'What the Gazam leave over, the Arbeh will eat". So what the Pasuk in Yo'el is saying is that, never before, had there been a plague of Arbeh, of Yelek, of Chasil or of Gazam as the one that was about to take place at that time.


Informing Moshe of the Last Plague

"And Hashem said to Moshe, 'one more plague I will bring on Paroh' " (11:1).

This must have been said in Paroh's presence, comments the Da'as Zekeinim M.T., because, as Moshe had informed Paroh, once he left, he would never see him again.

In that case, they continue, seeing as, due to the idolatry that abounded in Egypt, Hashem declined to enter the air-space of Egypt (see 12:1), we will have to say that G-d lifted Moshe ten Tefachim into the air, and spoke with him there. (This explanation is based on the Gemara in Succah, which maintains that ten Tefachim above ground level is considered Hashem's domain).


Asking for Gifts

"Speak please in the ears of the people and they shall ask, each man from his neighbour and each woman from hers, for silver and golden vessels" (11:2).

Indeed, says the Rosh, that is how one must translate the word "ve'yish'alu", and not as 'and they shall borrow'. These were not loans, he explains, but gifts. And he cites the Pasuk in Tehilim "Ask from Me and I will give you nations as an inheritance", where the same word ('she'al') has nothing to do with borrowing.


Outside the Town, if You Please!

"And G-d said to Moshe and to Aharon in the land of Egypt … " (12:1).

In the land of Egypt yes, inside the town, no, says Rashi, since, if Moshe had to leave the town merely in order to Daven, then how much more so would he have to do so to receive a command from Hashem!


It did not matter, says the Da'as Zekeinim, that this took place outside Eretz Yisrael, because Eretz Yisrael had not yet been chosen in this regard; Once it was, then Hashem would confine His revelations to Eretz Yisrael, like we find by Yonah, who ran away to Tarshish, because he knew that once there, G-d would not appear to him, and order him to go to Ninveh and warn them to do Teshuvah, a mission that he was keen to avoid.

True, G-d did appear to Yechezkel in Bavel, but that was on the merit of his fathers, and what's more, He appeared to him in a pure location, beside the River K'var.


And the same concept applies to Yerushalayim, the Beis-Hamikdash, Aharon, and David …

Before Yerushalayim was chosen, any other location was eligible for building the Beis-Hamikdash; before the Beis-Hamikdash was chosen, the Shechinah could appear anywhere in Yerushalayim; Before Aharon ha'Kohen was chosen, any member of K'lal Yisrael was fit to perform the Avodah and before David ha'Melech was chosen, anyone could have been crowned king.


Dragging the Bones Around

" … because there was not a house which did not contain a dead person" (12:30).

See Rashi.

The Rosh however, cites a Mechilta, which explains that after they had buried the deceased Bechorim in their houses, the dogs came and ferreted the corpses from the ground, and dragged them from one house to another, so that there wasn't a house which did not contain pieces of dead bodies.


Tefilin & the Five Senses

The Tefilin shel Rosh, says the Rosh, contains four Parshiyos, corresponding to the four senses in the head - sight, hearing, smell and speech (or taste?). The arm, on the other hand, only possesses the sense of touch. Consequently, the Tefilin shel Yad contains only one Parshah.

* * *


" … when Moshe and Aharon and all of B'nei Yisrael heard the sound of Paroh weeping, they took no notice of it until he (Paroh) together with his servants and all of Egypt went and tried to prevail upon Yisrael to leave the land, because they said, 'should they remain for just a short while longer, we will all die' " (12:33).


"And the people took out their doughs on their heads before it rose, and the leftovers of their Matzos and Maror they carried with them, wrapped in their clothes on their shoulders" (12:34).


" … Yisrael traveled from Ra'amses to Succos, a distance of a hundred and thirty Mil; there they were protected by the Seven Clouds of Glory, four on the four sides, one above them, to prevent the rain and the hail from falling on them and the heat of the sun from burning them, one in front to them, to protect them from thorns, snakes and scorpions, and one that traveled before them to fill in the valleys, to flatten the mountains, and to prepare camping areas for them. All in all, they numbered around six hundred thousand men, who traveled on foot, not on horseback, apart from children, five per family" (12:37).


" … also many gentiles, numbering two million, four hundred thousand accompanied them, and a large amount of sheep and cattle" (12:38).


"And they cut some of the dough which they took out of Egypt, and arranged it on their heads, which subsequently baked in the heat of the sun as Matzah loaves, since it did not rise, for they were driven out of Egypt and were not able to delay; and it sufficed to sustain them until the fifteenth of Iyar (thirty days), seeing as they did not prepare provisions for the journey" (13:39).


" … the number of days that Yisrael stayed in Egypt numbered thirty Sh'mitin, the equivalent of two hundred and ten years - four hundred and thirty years from the time that Hashem spoke to Avraham … on the fifteenth of Nisan 'between the pieces' until the day that they left Egypt" (12:40).


"And it happened at the end of thirty years from the time that this decree (of the exile in Egypt) was issued until Yitzchak was born (and from then) until they left Egypt redeemed, four hundred years; and it was on this very day that all the hosts of Hashem left the land of Egypt, redeemed (12:41).


"Four nights are recorded in the Book of Chronicles that is placed before Hashem: The first, when He appeared to create the world; the second, when He appeared to Avraham; the third, when He appeared in Egypt and with His left-hand He killed all the Egyptian firstborn, whilst with His right-hand, He saved the firstborn of Yisrael; the fourth night will be the one on which He will appear to redeem the House of Yisrael from among the nations. All of these nights are called 'guarded nights'. That is why Moshe explained and said 'It is a guarded night for redemption before Hashem to redeem the nation of B'nei Yisrael from the land of Egypt. That is this night that is guarded against destructive angels … ' " (12:42).

* * *

(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 84:
Leaving the Land Hefker (cont.)

Some of the Dinim of the Mitzvah … Some categories of Melachah are forbidden by the Torah, such as planting, pruning and harvesting (both crops and grapes); whereas those forbidden by the Rabanan include fertilizing, and digging, and with regard to trees, removing warts, loose leaves or dry twigs, covering exposed roots with earth or fumigating them to kill the worms, anointing saplings with oil, cutting them down to size or supporting those that are exceptionally supple … On the other hand, what the Chachamim permitted, such as marking the trees with red paint and digging underneath the vines …and the Din of a field that needs to be watered manually … not to make trash-heaps in one's field, until after the fertilizing season is over, and when it is, to make only large heaps (upwards of a hundred and fifty Sa'ah of manure), so as not to create the impression that one is fertilizing it … Chazal have also said that the obligation not to work one's fields in the Sh'mitah begins thirty days before the Sh'mitah-year arrives, Halachah le'Moshe mi'Sinai … The Din of 'a field of trees' from when on in the sixth year one is already obligated to stop working on it, and what in fact, constitutes 'a field of trees' … The Isur of grafting and re-planting the branch of a tree that is still attached, and if one did perform either, what happens to the branches … Fruit that grows in the Sh'mitah and is specifically planted for human consumption (such as wheat or barley) may not be used for any medicinal purposes, since the Torah specifically writes "le'ochloh" (as food); whereas whatever is not (such as thorns and thistles), may be used to cure humans, but not as animal food. Things that are planted neither for humans nor for animals on the other hand (such as pu'ah [madder - a wild plant], hyssop or thyme) depend on the intentions of the one who picks them; if he intended them to be eaten, then they have the Din of food; whereas if he meant them to be used as firewood, then they have the Din of wood … and the many other Halachos pertaining to this Mitzvah, are explained in Maseches Shevi'is (and in the Rambam, Hilchos Shevi'is, Chapter 4). This Mitzvah applies to men and women in Eretz Yisrael exclusively, but only when the whole of Yisrael reside there, as the Torah writes in Behar (25:2) "When you come to the land … then the land shall rest a Shabbos to Hashem". It applies mi'de'Rabanan however, even nowadays (exclusively in Eretz Yisrael). In fact, wherever the Olei (returnees from) Bavel lived, up to but excluding K'ziv, is included in the prohibition of Shevi'is, and all Sefichin (vegetables, etc. that grow wild) that grew there may not be eaten, because they sanctified the places that they took possession of, forever. The places, on the other hand, where the Olei Mitzrayim lived, but not the Olei Bavel (from K'ziv up to the River P'ras, and up to Amanah), even though the Rabanan forbade working the land there, the Sefichin that grow there are permitted, seeing as the Olei Bavel did not sanctify it. And from the River P'ras and beyond one may even work the land … Syria, one of the lands that David captured before the whole of Eretz Yisrael was captured (which the Chachamim z.l. refer to as 'Kibush Yachid' [land that an individual captured], with reference to Aram Naharayim and Aram Tzovah [alias Syria]) the entire area of the River P'ras, up to Bavel, such as Damascus, Achlav and Charan, and other places close to these, Shevi'is does not apply to them min ha'Torah. Even though they decreed Ma'asros on Amon, Mo'av, Egypt and Shin'ar, they did not decree a prohibition of working there in the Sh'mitah, how much more so, of working on other lands outside Eretz Yisrael. Someone who contravenes this Mitzvah and locks his vineyard or his field in the Sh'mitah-year, or who gathers all his fruit into the house at the time when Yisrael are living in the land, has nullified an Asei. It is however, permitted to gather some fruit into the house to eat, provided everyone has equal rights over the fruit, as if the land had no owner.

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