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

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Vol. 17   No. 15

This issue is sponsored
l'iluy Nishmas
Naomi Nina (Freedman) bas David Yosef z"l

Parshas Bo

Borrowed Vessels
(Part 1)

The commentaries are at odds as to whether G-d instructed the people to borrow the Egyptians' vessels that Yisrael had seen during the plague of darkness, or whether they were meant to ask them for a gift.


Rabeinu Bachye is of the opinion that the word "ve'yish'alu" means, not 'to borrow', but to 'ask for as a gift'. Perhaps that is because it would be unnecessary for G-d to cheat the Egyptians by having Yisrael borrowing vessels which they had no intention of returning. In any event, he concludes, this was not a matter of 'Geneivas Da'as' (deceiving the Egyptians), seeing as the two hundred and ten years forced labour that had just come to an end certainly warranted the vessels that they received as payment for their services. Rabeinu Bachye in fact, refers to 'Ha'anokoh' that a Jewish master is obligated to give a servant, as he leaves his employ after just six years of work, let alone two hundred and ten.

The G'ro on the other hand, maintains that G-d instructed Yisrael to borrow the Egyptians' vessels. And as for tricking the Egyptians, He was merely giving them a taste of their own medicine. The Medrash relates how Par'oh initiated the slavery, by first offering to pay them for each brick that they built, and then, after they had worked feverishly to produce a maximum quantity of bricks (far beyond their regular capacity), he recorded every man's quota, and ordered them to build that number of bricks daily - without remuneration. So G-d paid him back 'Midah ke'neged midah' by getting the Egyptians to pay for Yisrael's work in the form of a loan, a loan that they would never repay.


The question remains however, as to why G-d decided to use an ambiguous expression such as 've'yish'alu' (which can mean to ask for a gift, but which has connotations of borrowing) that tricked the Egyptians into believing that the vessels would be returned. Indeed, the court case initiated by the Egyptians hundreds of years later in the time of Alexander the Great, clearly indicates that this is what they believed. True, the Jewish spokesman (a hunchback by the name of Gevihah ben Pesisah) defended Yisrael and won the case, using the argument that the author presented earlier. But why did G-d need to employ such devious methods to earn Yisrael what they duly deserved? Others ask why He did not ask the Egyptians directly to compensate Yisrael for their many years of hard work?


In answer to both questions, the Chizkuni explains that this was one of the strategies used by G-d to lure the Egyptians down to the Yam-Suf, in order to perform the dual miracle of Yisrael's crossing of the Yam-Suf on the one hand, and the drowning of the Egyptians, on the other.

Based on this explanation, the Seforno answers another popular question that the commentaries ask …

Rashi, citing the Gemara in B'rochos (9a), comments on the expression "daber no … " - G-d's request to Moshe to prevail upon the people to 'ask the Egyptians for their precious vessels'. And he explains that this was to prevent the Tzadik Avraham from holding against Him the fact that He fulfilled the half of His promise that assured Yisrael their ultimate freedom from Egypt, but not the half that promised them great wealth when they left.

The commentaries ask why G-d found it necessary to plead with Yisrael to 'borrow' the Egyptians' vessels, and take them out of Egypt when they left? Why would Yisrael need to be talked into taking the Egyptians' precious vessels? On what grounds would they decline the offer of instant wealth?

The Chasam Sofer explains that the people were reluctant to ask the Egyptians for their belongings, as it would only place them in a bad light with their former masters, resulting in friction between the two nations (or so they believed). The Gemara in B'rachos (cited earlier by Rashi), maintains that it was the additional burden of so many vessels that they were disinclined to undertake (I.Y.H. we will discuss this in more detail in next week's issue).

The Seforno explains that G-d was in fact reassuring K'lal Yisrael that they did not need to be afraid that the Egyptians would chase after them to retrieve their precious vessels, not because it would not take place. Indeed it would, but the ensuing confrontation would be the source of their salvation, something that they could not possibly have foreseen at that moment.


* * *

Parshas Pearls
(Adapted from Rabeinu Bachye)


"Please speak in the ears of the people that they should ask\borrow each man from his (Egyptian) friend and each woman from her friend silver vessels and golden vessels" (11:2)

Why, asks Rabeinu Bachye, does the Torah use the word "friend" (re'eihu), a term that is normally reserved for one's fellow-Jew, regarding the Egyptians?

For example, it is obvious that the command "to love one's friend like oneself" (ve'ohavto le're'acho komocho), refers exclusively to one's fellow-Jew, and not to gentiles!


And he explains that this Pasuk was written before Matan Torah, when all of mankind was considered one brotherhood. It was only Matan Torah, when G-d offered the Torah to all the nations, and the only nation to accept it was Yisrael, that the nations of the world were rejected from the universal brotherhood. It became the exclusive right of Yisrael, as the Pasuk writes in Tehilim (122:5) "For the sake of My brothers and My friends I shall speak peace in your midst".

And that explains why, wherever the Torah uses the term "your brother" (such as in connection with the Mitzvah of returning a lost article and of taking interest), the Chachamim extrapolate "your brother", 'but not a gentile'.


The Slave-Girl & the Captive

"From the firstborn of Par'oh who sits on his throne till the slave-girl who (works) behind the millstone … will die" (11:5).

The Pasuk incorporates all the firstborn, starting from the firstborn of Par'oh, the highest-ranking man in the whole of Egypt, down to the firstborn of the lowly slave-girl, R. Bachye explains.

According to the Medrash, the slave-girl is synonymous with "the firstborn of the captive who is in the dungeon" that the Torah mentions later in the Parshah (12:29).

Nevertheless, R. Bachye, bothered by the change of expression, cites an explanation that he heard, which on the one hand, equates the two, yet on the other, it explains why the Torah changes from one to the other.

It was customary, he explains, to make the captives work in the mill by day, and to return them to the dungeon each night. That being the case, the Pasuk in this Parshah, which took place during the day, when Moshe was in the presence of Par'oh, refers to them as the firstborn of the slave-girl; whereas the Pasuk later, which is speaking on the night of Makas Bechoros, refers to them as the firstborn of the captive who was in the dungeon.


Five Hundred and
Ninety-Nine Thousand,
Nine Hundred and Ninety-Nine

" … approximately six hundred thousand men on foot, not counting the children" (12:37).

The word "approximately" ('ke') indicates that there were not quite that number, though it gives no indication as to how much of a discrepancy there was.

Rabeinu Bachye, quoting Pirkei de'R. Eliezer, explains that, in fact they were only one short, and that it was G-d Himself who made up the total. This is what the Pasuk means when in Vayigash (46:4), G-d told Ya'akov Avinu "I will go down with you to Egypt, and I will take you up".

According to those commentaries who maintain that G-d was also the missing seventieth Soul to go down to Egypt, the Pasuk will then be informing us that He made up the legendary seventy Souls that went into Galus, as well the six hundred thousand that came out.


Blind Faith

" …neither did they prepare themselves provisions" (12:39).

The Torah is pointing out here, says R. Bachye, K'lal Yisrael's incredible faith in G-d and in Moshe, that they displayed by following Moshe into the 'great and fearful desert' without provision, and without as much as a murmur of complaint - as to how they would possibly survive.

To be sure, there were times, and there would be more times, that Yisrael would query Moshe and grumble against G-d, but the Exodus from Egypt was certainly one of their finest moments in history.

And that is why Yirmiyahu ha'Navi sings their praises, when he says (2:2) "I have remembered the kindness of your youth, the love of your nuptials, how you followed Me into the desert, in an unsown land".


No Areilim, No Teme'im

"And no Areil (uncircumcised male) may eat it (the Korban Pesach)" 12:48.

This is a clear proof, says R. Bachye, that all males were circumcised in Egypt, as Chazal say, based on the Pasuk in Yechezkel (47:6) 'He gave them the blood of Pesach and the blood of Milah'.

That explains why the Pasuk immediately states that all of B'nei Yisrael carried out what G-d had commanded Moshe - implying that there was not a single person who did not comply with the command. And this is further borne out by the Pasuk in Yehoshua (5:5), which specifically states that all of Yisrael who left Egypt were circumcised.

Whereas earlier (in Pasuk 25), when the Torah is referring exclusively to the Mitzvah of Korban Pesach, it writes "And the B'nei Yisrael did … " (omitting the word "all"). This is because there were many Teme'im among them, who were disqualified from bringing the Korban Pesach.


The Or ha'Chayim in Parshas Chukas observes that the Pasuk here disqualifies an Areil and a ben Neichar (someone who worshipped Avodah-Zarah) from bringing the Korban Pesach, but says nothing about a Tamei. He therefore extrapolates that the prohibition of Tum'ah with regard to Korbanos did not come into effect until the Dinim of Tum'ah were commanded in Parshas Chukas.

* * *


"In order that I shall place (shisi) these signs of Mine in their midst" (10:1).

The word "shisi", says the Ba'al ha'Turim, which is written without a 'Yud' after the 'Shin', can be read 'sh'tei' (two). A hint to the two plagues (Locusts and Darkness) - besides Makas Bechoros, which Moshe already hinted to Par'oh, when he said in Parshas Va'eira (7:16) "and behold you have not listened until now ('ad koh')". See Rashi there.


"Until when will this man (Zeh) be a snare for us … " (10:7).

'Zeh', the Ba'al ha'Turim comments, refers to Moshe, as the Torah writes in Parshas Ki Sissa "because this (Zeh) man Moshe, we do not know what happened to him".


" … see that there is evil facing you (ro'oh neged p'neichem)" (10:10).

The last letters of these three words spell 'ha'dom' (the blood) - because Par'oh saw the star (Ma'adim - Mars) representing bloodshed, facing them in the desert.

See Rashi.


"And G-d said to Moshe and to Aharon … This month shall be for you (ha'Chodesh ha'zeh lochem) the head of the months" (12:1/2).

The juxtaposition of "this month" to "Moshe and Aharon", says the Ba'al ha'Turim, teaches us that blood relatives may sit on the same Beis-Din for Kidush ha'Chodesh (the proclamation of Rosh Chodesh), even though they are otherwise ineligible to sit on the same Beis-Din for other matters.

Incidentally, our sages teach us that, since Kidush ha'Chodesh requires three Dayanim, there must have been a third (unspecified) Dayan who sat with Moshe and Aharon (See following piece).


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

This Pasuk is in triplicate, comments the Ba'al ha'Turim. The word Chodesh (or a derivative of it) occurs three times, and what's more, between each time there are three words. This teaches us, he explains, a. that Nisan is the head of the months regarding three things - kings, months and Yamim-Tovim (see opening Mishnah of Rosh Hashanah), and b. that Kidush ha'Chodesh requires three Dayanim (refer to previous piece).

The Gematriyah of "Chodesh" is equivalent to that of 'li'regolim' (for Yamim-Tovim); "lochem" contains the same letters as 'Melech', and 'Nisan' shares the same Gematriyah as 'li'Melachim'.


" … it is the first for you of the months of the year (le'chodshei ha'shonoh)" Ibid.

The same words ("le'chodshei ha'shonoh") appear in Pinchas (28:14), where the Torah writes "The Olah of the month in its month for the months of the year". From here, says the Ba'al ha'Turim, Chazal learned that one purchases the communal Korbanos from the new half-Shekalim that were donated for the new year, starting from Rosh Chodesh Nisan.

* * *

(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 445:
Not to Eat an Un-blemished B'chor Animal Outside Yerushalayim

A Kohen is not permitted to eat an un-blemished B'chor outside Yerushalayim. Similarly, a Zar (a non-Kohen) is not permitted to eat it anywhere - since the Mitzvah is for the Kohanim, the servants of G-d to eat it (in Yerushalayim), as the author already explained in Parshas Bo in Mitzvah 18 (that of sanctifying the firstborn sons). And in connection with this, the Torah writes in Re'ei (12:17) "You are not permitted to eat within your gates … and the firstborn of your cattle and your sheep". The Sifri comments on this Pasuk "and the firstborn" - this refers to the B'chor. And the Pasuk is coming to teach us that a Zar who eats from a B'chor, whether it is before the blood has been sprinkled or after it, has transgressed a La'av. This does not mean that this is the only case about which the Pasuk is speaking, but that it is also included in the La'av. Consequently, the Pasuk incorporates the two cases that we mentioned - the prohibition of a Zar eating a B'chor anywhere, and that of a Kohen eating it outside Yerushalayim, both of them, regarding a B'chor that has no blemish, exclusively. There, in Parshas Bo, the author already discussed when and where the Mitzvah of B'chor applies, and the difference of opinion between his Rebbes regarding B'chor nowadays. Nor is it necessary to elaborate on why the B'chor must be eaten specifically in Yerushalayim, seeing as it is a member of the Kodshim family, as we have learned in the Mishnah in Zevachim (5:5) 'B'chor, Ma'aser (Beheimah) and Pesach are Kodshim Kalim … '. And on a number of occasions, the Seifer ha'Chinuch has already explained as to why Kodshim must be eaten in a holy place specifically by G-d's servants. Some of the Dinim of the Mitzvah … Who is considered a Zar with regard to eating a B'chor, the blemishes that disqualify it and the time-span during which it can be eaten are explained in Maseches Bechoros and in other places in Kodshim. Some of the Dinim are contained in the Rambam (in the first Perek of Hilchos Bechoros). Any Kohen who transgresses and eats a k'zayis from an un'blemished B'chor outside Yerushalayim or a Yisrael who eats it anywhere, is Chayav Malkos.

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