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

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Vol. 22   No. 15

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

Parshas Bo

Night of Freedom
(Adapted from the Ramban)

" …He (Par'oh) called to Moshe and Aharon at night and said, 'Get up and leave my people, both you and the B'nei Yisrael, and go and worship your G-d, just as you said … and bless me too'" (12:31).


This teaches, Rashi explains, that Par'oh went round the entrances of the (houses of the) city, and cried out 'Where is Moshe staying? Where is Aharon staying?'

The Ramban adds that this is because Moshe and Aharon spent the night in Mitzrayim, the capital city of Egypt, in order to fulfil Moshe's prediction to Par'oh "And all your servants will come down to me; They will bow down to me saying 'Leave, you and all the people under your jurisdiction (i.e. Par'oh himself, Rashi [11:8]) … '. Following Par'oh's visit, he explains, they sent messengers to the land of Goshen, where Yisrael lived, informing them of the royal edict, permitting them to leave the country. And the very next morning, they gathered in Ra'amses, and from there, Moshe led them out of Egypt high-handedly, in full view of the Egyptians, as the Pasuk writes in Masei (Bamidbar, 33:3).

And when the Pasuk in Re'ei (16:1) states that G-d took Yisrael out of Egypt in the night, it is referring, not to the actual Exodus, but to the time that they were free to leave, as the Sifri explains. And that is what the Gemara in B'rachos (9a) means when it says 'Everyone agrees that they were redeemed at night and left in the day'.


In reconciling the two seemingly contradictory Pesukim, the I'bn Ezra explains that those living in Mitzraym left in the night and traveled to Ra'amses, and all of Yisrael left Ra'amses in the day.

But this is not correct, argues the Ramban, since the Torah (in Pasuk 22) explicitly ordered them not to leave their houses until the morning. The Mechilta, which the author quotes, citing Moshe's response to Par'oh's command to take Yisrael and leave Egypt immediately, writes: 'We have been commanded not to leave our houses until the morning. Are we thieves, that we should leave in the middle of the night? We will go out (when we choose) with a high-hand before the eyes of the whole of Egypt'.

This was a fulfilment of G-d's words to Moshe (Shmos, 11:1) "When he sends you, he will send all of you'; he will banish you from here". It was truly a stunning reversal of the previous situation, where Par'oh refused to even contemplate allowing Yisrael to leave at all. When Moshe and Yisrael said 'Yes!', Par'oh said 'No!'; now that Par'oh said 'Yes!', Moshe and Yisrael said 'No!'


"And bless Me, Too!"

According to Rashi, this means that, since Par'oh was a firstborn, Yisrael should Daven on his behalf that he should not die in the current plague. The Ramban offers two other explanations: 1). That when Yisrael offer their sacrifices and pray that they do not suffer pestilence or die by the sword, they should include Par'oh in their prayers. 2). That now that he had finally relented, he should not continue to suffer from any additional plagues on their account.

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Parshah Pearls
(Adapted from the Ramban)

Toying with Par'oh

" … because I have hardened his heart …"(10:1).

Hakadosh-Baruch-Hu was telling Moshe that He had hardened Par'oh's heart, the Ramban explains, despite the fact that the latter was afraid of Him and had confessed his sin. And He did that in order to perform the miracles that He wanted to perform, not as a punishment for the latest hardening of heart, but so that a). The Egyptians should be acquainted with His might and b). Moshe and Yisrael should tell the ensuing generations about His deeds, so that they should know that Hashem is G-d who does as He pleases in heaven and on earth.


And it is in connection with G-d hardening Par'oh's heart on the one hand, and punishing him (for his former deeds) on the other, that the Torah goes on to describe His actions as 'mocking Egypt'.


The Hail & the Locusts

"Behold I will bring tomorrow locusts on the land of Egypt" (10:4).

The Ramban cites the commentaries (See I'bn Ezra) who maintain that, based on the statement (in Pasuk 5) that the locusts would devour all that would grow on the trees, there must have been a large time-gap between the hail and the locusts.

The Ramban however, cites the Mishnah in Iduyos, that all the plagues took place within the same year. Together with the fact that Moshe was eighty when he stood before Par'oh, and after leading Yisrael forty years in the desert, and died at the age of a hundred and twenty, he argues, all the plagues must have taken place in the same twelve-month period. Moreover, the Pasuk mentions a number of times that the locusts consumed what the hail left over. Consequently, if the plague of hail took place in Adar. when "the barley was ripe and the flax in its stalks" (as the Pasuk writes at the end of Vo'eiro), then the last three plagues (those of locusts, darkness and the slaying of the firstborn), all occurred in Nisan.

Refuting the I'bn Ezra's proof from the Pasuk, the Ramban explains that, since the plague of locusts took place in Adar, the crops would have had a chance to sprout. Moreover, what the hail did to the vines and the trees, which had not yet produced buds, was to destroy the branches, in which case 'the leftovers of the hail devoured by the locusts' was confined to the crops - the wheat and the spelt, mentioned in the Pasuk at the end of Vo'eiro.


Par'oh's Sheep and Cattle

"Also you will give us peace-offerings and burnt-offerings" (10:25).

This statement, says the Ramban, was made tongue in cheek, as Moshe had not the least intention of offering to Hashem the sacrifices of resho'im. What he really meant was that it would reach a stage where, not only would Par'oh permit Yisrael to leave Egypt with their own animals to sacrifice, but that he would be only too happy to give his own animals to atone for his sins. Indeed, this is what happened when, following the smiting of the Egyptian firstborn, Par'oh allowed them to leave unconditionally, adding "and bless me as well!". It was not however, in G-d's plan to accept any atonement from Par'oh for his sins, but to pay for them by drowning him and his army in the Reed Sea.

And even according to the Medrash, that, when giving Yisrael his consent to go free, Par'oh referred to Moshe's current statement, offering to fulfil it, Moshe declined to accept his offer. Yisrael ultimately left with their own animals to bring as Korbanos, and not with a single lamb of the Egyptians.


The Warning for Makas Bechoros

"And Moshe said 'So said G-d! At midnight I will go out into the midst of Egypt …And all the firstborn in the land of Egypt will die" (11:9). The Ramban explains that this Parshah, which Moshe said to Par'oh and his servants, G-d told him before Rosh Chodesh Nisan (on which the following Parshah was said). He did not however, tell him on which night Makas Bechoros would take place. Consequently, Par'oh knew that the firstborn would die at midnight, but not on which night.

All Moshe told him, when he stormed out in anger, was that he would not appear before him again, but that, on that unspecified night, he (Par'oh) would come to him and prostrate himself before him, and beg him to leave his land.


In the next chapter, Moshe informed Yisrael on the fourteenth of Nisan that Makas Bechoros would take place on the following night, but he did not tell Par'oh.


The commentaries query the Ramban's statement that the current Parshah was said prior to Rosh Chodesh Nisan from the Ramban's own explanation (cited earlier in 'the Hail & the Locusts') that the last three plagues took place in Nisan.

Some commentaries answer that a printing error occurred in the Ramban, and that what he said was, not that it was said 'before Rosh Chodesh Nisan', but 'before the fourteenth of Nisan'.


Zos Chukas ha'Pesach

"And G-d said to Moshe 'This is the law of the Pesach …" (12:46).

The Ramban rejects the view of the I'bn Ezra, that this Parshah refers to the Pesach that Yisrael would bring in the future, and the concluding Pasuk that Yisrael carried out the Mitzvah as commanded actually refers in advance to the Pesach that they brought the following year in the desert. The Ramban maintains that the latter only came up in Parshas Beha'aloscho (9:1), and no mention of it was made prior to that.


According to the author, this Parshah (despite the fact that the Torah declined to incorporate it in the previous paragraph, together with the basic Mitzvos of Korban Pesach listed there) refers to both the Pesach that they brought in Egypt and the Pesach that they would bring in the future. And it adds various aspects of the Mitzvah (i.e. the Din of a ben Neichor, an Oreil, taking the meat out of the house, breaking a bone and the Pesach of a convert), most of which were not applicable to the Pesach that they brought that year.

And to resolve the strange sequence of Parshiyos, the Ramban explains that "ha'Chodesh ha'zeh lochem", which was said on Rosh Chodesh, Moshe passed on to Yisrael immediately. Following that, he commanded them about the basic Dinim of the Korban Pesach and promised them that they would be redeemed on the fifteenth. The people believed him and prostrated themselves in thanks. The Torah points out that G-d kept His promise. Now the Pasuk goes back and tells us what Moshe added with regard to the Korban Pesach on the fourteenth of Nisan.

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