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

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Vol. 5 No. 15

Parshas Bo

Par'oh's Conceit

Although the Torah testifies that, during the last five plagues, Hashem hardened Par'oh's heart, it is nonetheless noteworthy that it was Par'oh himself who first indicated his unwillingness to comply with Hashem's request - before the screws were turned. Hence, after the plague of hail, it was first Par'oh who, seeing that the hail had ceased, hardened his own heart, and only then did Hashem complete the process by encouraging, and even by enforcing, the decision that Par'oh had himself made.

Six times, Par'oh simply refused to let Yisroel go free. On three other occasions, Par'oh did not refuse outright, but he did attempt to make stipulations. Following the plague of wild beasts, Par'oh tried first to stipulate that Yisroel should remain in Egypt, which he then modified to 'O.K., you can go into the desert, but don't go far!'

Then, after the plague of hail, he again tried to control the situation, by permitting Yisroel to go out into the desert - as far as they wanted, but without the children; they must remain behind.

And finally after the plague of darkness, Par'oh was even willing to concede to let all Yisroel go - right into the heart of the desert, men, women and children. Let G-d lead His people out to freedom, but at least he would have a collateral - all their vast flocks of sheep and herds of cattle would be his.

It is amazing that Par'oh had the guts to initiate his conditions, when it was G-d who was calling the tune. He was in no state to make demands, and the only sensible thing for him to do was to capitulate... but his pride wouldn't let him.

Par'oh's policy was clear - the final word would be his at all costs. He would refuse as long as possible and stipulate as a last resort. There was absolutely no question of submission to a superior Power - because as far as Par'oh was concerned, there was no superior Power! It was only when fear of the next strike (not fear of G-d) caused him to waver in his decision, that Hashem strengthened his resolve by boosting his courage, enabling him to do what he wanted to do anyway - to refuse!

Consequently, no sooner did he announce - following the slaying of the firstborn: "Get up and go from among my people, you (Moshe and Aharon) and the B'nei Yisroel, and go serve Hashem as you said. Take also your sheep and cattle, like you said, and go, children and all" that G-d withdrew His strong hand and stopped punishing him. Hashem had sent the plagues in order that Par'oh should acknowledge His superiority and bow to it. That goal had now been achieved, and there was no longer any purpose to be served in punishing him.

It is interesting to note the stark contrast between Par'oh and the Jewish people. Par'oh required coercion, and it was only after he had witnessed the destruction of his country and realised that his own life was in jeopardy ("and bless me and pray for me, that I should not die because I too am a firstborn" - Rashi 12:32) that he finally (or not so finally) relented. Behold in contrast, the B'nei Yisroel at Har Sinai, who proclaimed, "Na'aseh ve'nishma" - "We will do (whatever You say) and obey (Your instructions)!" That is the essence of Judaism - that G-d dictates to us, and not we to Him - and that we obey Him, unconditionally.

Parshah Pearls
(Parshas Bo)

A Word in Your Ear

"Please speak in the ears of the people, and tell them to borrow from their Egyptian neighbours, silver and golden vessels." (11:12)

The Torah writes here "in the ears of the people", explains the Seforno, because Hashem was reassuring them with kind words of comfort. 'Don't worry,' he was telling them, 'that perhaps the Egyptians will chase after you for their money - for indeed, they will! However, that will be the cause, not of your downfall, but of your salvation.'

Sh! Don't Tell!

The Medrash says that one of the merits of Yisroel at that time was that they were able to keep their mouths shut ( to desist from loshon ho'ra). They knew a whole year earlier, that they would have to ask the Egyptians for their money, yet it remained a well-kept secret. That explains why the Torah writes "Please speak in the ears of the people" - tell them quietly so that it should remain a secret.

Say Please!

Last year, we discussed the Gemoro in B'rochos (9b), which explains the term "please" which the Torah uses with regard to taking money out of Egypt. Why should Moshe need to entreat Yisroel to borrow money from the Egyptians?

And we quoted the Gemoro, which gives the parable of a prisoner who was promised that, on the following day, he would be set free and given a large sum of money. 'I am willing to forego the money' he replied, 'if only you will let me go today

It would appear from here, the Torah Temimah adds, that due to their long years of slavery, they had become so low-spirited, that they had lost all interest in material possessions, and had no desire for them.

The Gemoro in B'rochos (32a) describes how, when Yisroel made the Golden Calf, Moshe turned to Hashem and placed the blame (kevayochol) with Him for showering them with so much silver and gold.

It is not at first clear what the Gemoro exactly means. On what grounds did Moshe blame Hashem, since, under normal circumstances, Yisroel should have been only too pleased to go out of Egypt with a large sum of money.

However, when one realises that both of the above Gemoros were stated by the same author, 'de'Bei Rebbe Yanai', then the one complements the other. In fact, Yisroel were not interested in taking all that money out, and they did so only because Moshe, under strict instructions from Hashem, implored them to.

That is why Moshe was later able to blame Hashem for encouraging them to take out all that silver and gold - against their wishes, and, as it turned out, to their disadvantage.

Incidentally, we can also explain the need to entreat Yisroel to take out all the Egyptians' silver and gold with the Seforno that we quoted earlier - because they were afraid that it would cause the Egyptians to chase after them.

The Shema and its B'rochos (Part VII)
The B'rochoh of Ahavoh Rabboh

The b'rochoh of Ahavoh Rabboh, with which one is yotze birchas ha'Torah - bedieved - begins with love and ends with love, to demonstrate G-d's profound love for Klal Yisroel, a love so intense that He took out from His treasury His most precious treasure, and handed it to them. He gave away 'His beloved daughter', the Torah, to the one whom He described as 'My first-born son'. Indeed, the Torah, in a condensed form - the Luchos - is described by the Sages, as the Kesubah, the marriage contract between Himself and His people Yisroel. Who can conceive a greater symbol of love than that?

At Shachris, the misnagdim say 'Ahavoh Rabboh', and at Ma'ariv, "Ahavas Olom' (a compromise between the two alternative texts quoted in the Gemoro in B'rochos [11b].) The Gro explains that this is because of the connotation of the redemption (inherent in the morning, inasmuch as it is the period when the darkness disperses, and light prevails), and the golus (inherent in the darkness of night-time).

Consequently, when we refer to the period of redemption, we speak about the great love of Hashem, since at the time of the redemption, that love is not only present (which it always is), but is displayed in a way that we too, can appreciate it. Not so in the time of golus, for, no matter how necessary the troubles that we suffer are, it is difficult for those who are suffering to appreciate them. Consequently, at Ma'ariv, we refer, not to a great love, but to an everlasting one, going back, explains the Gro, to the time of the Ovos. It is a love which began then and will last forever, from generation to generation, whether we are worthy or not, and it is the greatest assurance that the darkness of golus will turn into the light of redemption.

The Eitz Yosef points out that the letter 'zayin' does not appear in the entire b'rochoh - not in the morning and not in the evening. And he connects this to the seven relatives for whom one is obligated to mourn (father, mother, sister, brother, son, daughter and wife). The absence of the 'zayin' throughout the b'rochoh teaches us that the love of Hashem and His Torah overrides even one's love for them.

Perhaps it also comes to teach us that our greatest weapon ('k'lei zayin' means weapons) is the Torah. It is, as Chazal have taught us, a shield which protects the student, even at a time when he is not actually studying it (Sotah 21a). Moreover, Chazal have said that if Yo'ov would lead the Jewish army to victory over their enemies, it was because Dovid sat in the Beis ha'Medrash and studied Torah. (see also Rabeinu Bachye, on the Pasuk "be’charbi u’ve’kashti" - Bereishis 48:22).

'Ahavoh Rabboh Ahavtonu'

'Ahavoh Rabboh' expresses the crystalisation of the Zohar's statement, that Yisroel, Torah and G-d are one. As we wrote above, G-d's giving the Torah to us is the greatest expression of His love for us, and indeed we respond by developing our love for G-d - through studying the Torah, as we will explain later - in the Shema. This triumvirate is repeated again at the end of the b'rochoh, when we say 'And us You chose over every nation and tongue (Yisroel), and You brought us close to Your Name (G-d) forever with truth (the Torah). The three also appear together in the Shabbos Amidah 'You are One (G-d) and Your Name is one (Torah), and who is like Your people Yisroel etc. (Yisroel)'.

Dovid ha'Melech wrote in Tehilim (98:3) 'Olom chesed yiboneh'. The very essence of the creation of the world was an act of kindness on the part of Hashem. It was in order to perform kindness to mankind, to give him the chance to bask in the sunshine of the World to Come. And it is in order to help us to get there, that He gave us Torah and mitzvos.

It is a mark of the ‘great love’ of Hashem for His people Yisroel, that He gave them His precious Torah, to enable them to enjoy the boundless pleasures of the World to Come. and it is out of a ‘profound pity’ for man, the work of His hands, so that their beautiful Neshomos should not go the way of the animals, whose short life, devoid of spirituality, comes to an abrupt end, that He taught them the way of life - the way of Torah and mitzvos.

'With a Great ... Pity You Pitied Us'

The Eitz Yosef explains this with the Chovas ha'Levovos, who differentiates between the kindnesses performed by human beings and those performed by G-d. The former, he writes, are never completely for the benefit of the recipient; sometimes it is a matter of personal gain, sometimes prestige, sometimes for reward in the World to Come, and sometimes it is to satisfy the feeling of pity that is fostered by the poor man's sorry plight.

But Hashem is different. When He sees a Jew suffering - for lack of his material or his spiritual needs, He takes pity on him, not for any ulterior motive, but for the poor man's sake. And that is what is meant here, says the Eitz Yosef, by 'with a great and overwhelming pity You pitied us' (for our sakes).

History of the World ( Part 40)
(Adapted from the Seder Ha'doros)

The false prophet who answers the true prophet - according to some, it is Yonoson ben Gershom ben Moshe, according to others it is Amatzyoh, Cohen of Beis-Eil - and the true prophet, who is killed by a lion - is Ido (according to others, it is Michoh). Yehoyodoh Cohen Godol is born.

Shishak, King of Egypt, attacks Yerusholayim in the fifth year of Rechav'om's reign. He empties the Temple treasuries and those of the King.

Rechav'om, King of Yehudah, dies. He is succeeded by his son Aviyoh. Azaryah is the Cohen Godol and Ido the prophet. He fights continually against Yerov'om. King of Yisroel. He kills half a million men from Yisroel. He follows in the footsteps of his wicked father.

He is buried in Rome, and is succeeded by his son Asa, who will reign for 41 years. Azaryah ben Oded and Chanani ha'Ro'eh are Kohanim Gedolim, and Yehu ben Chanani, the prophet. Asa is a good king. He removes his grandmother - Aviyoh's mother, the wicked Ma'achah bas Avisholom, from her position as the Queen-mother, and he burns the image that she made for immoral purposes.

Nodov, son of Yorov'om. succeeds his father as King over Yisroel. He too, goes in the ways of his wicked father. Yehu ben Chanani is the prophet.

Ba'shah, the son of Achiyah from the tribe of Yisochor, kills Nodov, and eliminates the entire family of Yorov'om. He rules for twenty-four years. He is an evil king, who goes in the ways of Yerov'om.

There is peace for ten years, until war breaks out between Asa and Ba'ashah.

Zerach the Kushi attacks Asa with an army of a million men - one of the largest armies mentioned in T'nach, but he is defeated.

Eiloh, son of Ba'ashah succeeds his father on the throne of Yisroel. He rules in Tirtzoh for less than two years. The prophet is Yehu ben Chanani.

Zimri, Eiloh's servant, murders his master and rules for seven days in Tirzoh. He slaughters Ba'ashah's family.

Omri, general of the armed forces, from the tribe of Ephrayim, burns Zimri to death, and fights Tivni ben Ginas for the throne of the ten tribes. For five years his rulership is precarious, since half the people are behind Tivni, and then, for another seven years, his sovereignty is complete - until the thirty-eighth year of the reign of King Asa (of Yehudah).

Yehoyodo receives the Torah from Elisha. He will live 130 years.

Omri builds Shomron, which will become the capital of Yisroel.

Ach'ov, the son of Omri, ascends the throne. He marries Izevel (Jezebel) the daughter of the King of Tzidon. He is the most evil king to date. He rules for twenty-two years, and is killed in battle - by a random arrow shot by Na'amon, the Syrian General, in Ramos Gil'od. He leaves behind seventy sons in Shomron. Yachzi'el ben Zecharyah and El'ozor ben Dodo are the prophets.

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