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

For sponsorships and advertising opportunities, send e-mail to:

Back to this week's Parsha Previous Issues


What Does the Rosho Say?

If we examine the question of the wicked son ("What is this service for you?"), it is not at first clear how it differs that radicaly from that of the wise one. Perhaps he too, wants to know more about the holy service that he sees his father performing, a service that his father received from his father, and that is currently being passed down to him?


The Meshech Chochmah answers this with a fascinating observation: whereas in connection with the wise and simple sons, the Torah writes "when your son will ask you tomorrow saying," by the wicked son it writes "when your sons will say to you". It changes from ask to say, and omits the word "leimor" - "saying" (which literally means "to say"). There lies the difference between the sons: the wise and simple sons ask what it's all about, and they ask because "leimor", they want you to give them an answer. Not so the wicked son; when he says "What is this service for you", he is not asking a question at all! He is making a statement - the word "moh" means how insignificant, like in the phrase "moh anachnu!" that we say every morning - "how insignificant are we!"


But even if we would interpret the words in the form of a question, it would be a rhetorical one; it is a question that is based on his rejection of G-d-worship, as is implied by his words; indeed it is based on a rejection of G-d (whom he does not even deign to mention). His question is an attack on the basic principles of Judaism; it begs no answer, so we do not give him one. We give him to understand, without even addressing him, that he is not one of us. We remind him that in Egypt, all those who rejected the principles for which we were redeemed, were themselves rejected - they died during the plague of darkness. He would have been among them. He would not have been redeemed!


How different from the wise son! His question is certainly not a rhetorical one. He asks because he wants an answer. He wants to know what his obligations are, because he believes firmly, not only that there is a G-d and that He rules the world, but that he (the son) is a member of the nation that G-d chose, and took out of Egypt. And he asks about the mitzvos in depth because he deems them important. "Moh ho'eidos" etc. has exactly the opposite connotation than the "Moh ho'avodoh" of the rosho. His "Moh ho'eidus" has the connotation of "How great and important they are" - like we find in "Moh rabu ma'asecho Hashem" - "How great are Your works Hashem". Indeed, that is what inspired him to ask in the first place.


Another basic difference between the question of the rosho on the one hand, and that of the chochom and the tam on the other, lies in the word "tomorrow", which the Torah uses in connection with the latter (" ... when your son asks you tomorrow") but not in connection with the former, the Kli Yokor points out.

The chochom and the tam, he explains, whose prime intention is to obey, not to negate, first perform the mitzvah, and then tomorrow, they ask. They deliberately avoid questioning the mitzvah at the time when it is being performed, so as not even to convey the impression that they intend to negate, or even to hinder, its performance in any way. Not so the rosho: he questions the mitzvah's performance because he doesn't believe in it. His question is in reality an answer. It is the answer as to why he is not observing it, and maybe even the means he has chosen to use, to prevent others from observing it - to stop his conscience from harassing him. He asks immediately, vetoing the mitzvah at its inception.


No wonder we give the rosho a sharp retort. We hit him hard, and make it hurt even more by not deigning to answer him directly. Our answer is not only to protect ourselves and the other sons from his bad influence, but it is also in the hope that it will stop him in his tracks. Maybe it will bring him to the realisation that someone who rejects, must not be surprised when he himself is rejected.


According to the Medrash, the Chachomim based the four cups of wine on the four cups mentioned by the chief butler, when he related his dream to Yosef (in fact, the butler only mentioned three - see Torah Temimah, Bereishis 40:11).


What is the connection between the butler's four cups and the redemption from Egypt, asks the Kli Yokor in amazement?

It is well-known, he explains, that drinking a cup of wine has connotations of redemption from some misfortune or other, as Dovid ha'Melech wrote in Tehillim "I will raise the cup of salvation" (116:13). Indeed, what better proof is there than the four cups of wine that we drink at the Seder-table?


Every captive is subjected (at least potentially) to four categories of misfortune (as listed in Yirmiyah 15:2): the sword, death, starvation and the miseries of captivity - due to the fact that he is at the mercy of his captor to do with as he pleases. That is why R. Yochonon says in Bovo Basro (8b) that each of the four consecutive misfortunes is worse than the one that precedes it, and that worst of all is the last of them - captivity, since it incorporates all four.


That being so, says the Kli Yokor, anyone who leaves prison, should drink four cups of wine, to celebrate his four-fold liberation. That is why the cup is mentioned four times in connection with the butler's dream - and freedom. It was a sign from Heaven that the butler was about to be redeemed from captivity, from the four-fold misfortune, and may well have been Yosef's source for predicting that he was about to be set free and reinstated (whereas there was nothing in the baker's dream to indicate that his freedom was imminent).


And since we too, were captives in Egypt, Chazal saw fit to take their cue from the chief butler's dream, and to institute four cups of wine - for the very same reasons, to celebrate our release from captivity - the four-fold misery.


Hey, That Makes Five!

Incidentally, the Torah Temimah is hard put to explain the fact that the word 'cup' is mentioned not just four times in the parshah of the butler, but five - three times in his dream, once in Yosef's interpretation and once after the butler has been reinstated.


On the one hand, one wonders whether there is not some kind of hint here to the fifth cup of Eliyohu ha'Novi (just like "ve'Heveisi eschem el ho'Oretz", following the four expressions of redemption - "ve'hotzeisi, ve'hitzalti, ve'go'alti, ve'lokachti" - hints to it.

On the other hand, it appears to me, in answer to the Kli Yokor's question, that Chazal counted only the first four times that the word 'cup' is mentioned, and not the fifth, because it appears after the butler had already gone free, unlike the other four, which all occur beforehand.


Discussing the Pesach

Raban Gamliel used to say "Whoever did not discuss these three things on Pesach, has not fulfilled his duty" (Pesochim 116a).

The Rambam, who quotes this Mishnah as it stands, seems to take it quite literally, that someone who fails to discuss Pesach, Matzah and Morror in the course of the Hagodoh, has simply not fulfilled the mitzvah of Hagodoh at all. The Ran however, adds that what Raban Gamliel means is that one has not fulfilled the mitzvah properly, but not that he has not fulfilled it at all.

Perhaps the Ran holds that the obligation is only a Rabbinical one, and, in most cases, someone who fails to fulfill a Rabbinical obligation in a Torah Mitzvah, has nevertheless fulfilled the basic mitzvah.


Tosfos however, explains that, when the Tana, explaining the mitzvah of Pesach, quotes the possuk "And you shall say 'It is the Pesach-offering' " etc. he is not only giving the reason for the Pesach (as the Ran presumably understands - confining the word "And you shall say" to the answer to the rosho - which is where it appears), but he is also giving the source for this very mitzvah, i.e. of discussing the Pesach at the Seider. And Matzoh and Morror are automatically included, Tosfos concludes, because they are compared to Pesach.

The Kli Yokor in Parshas Bo (12:26) also explains the mitzvah of discussing the Pesach from "And shall say ... " like Tosfos. But he differs from Tosfos with regard to the source for discussing Matzah and Morror: according to him, that lies in the Torah's answers to the son who does not know how to ask, "And you shall tell your son ... saying 'because of this, Hashem did for me when I left Egypt' ". What does this mean? It means 'at the time when matzah and morror are lying in front of you - as the Ba'al Hagodoh himself explains in 'Yochol me'Rosh Chodesh'".

Now why did the Ba'al Hagodoh mention only matzah and morror, and not the Pesach? It must be, answers the Kli Yokor, because the mitzvah of discussing the Pesach we already know from "va'Amartem zevach Pesach hu", and we only need the possuk "because of this" for the matzah and morror.

Either way, seeing as Tosfos and the Kli Yokor learn the mitzvah of discussing the Pesach, matzah and morror from a possuk in the Torah, the chances are that they will agree with the Rambam, that someone who fails to do so, has not fulfilled this mitzvah at all.


Adapted from the Kitzur Shulchan Oruch Si'man 119

1. If someone remembers before benching that he has not yet eaten the Afikomon, even then, if he has already washed mayim acharonim or said 'Come let us bench' (in which case one would normally be forbidden to continue eating without reciting a brochoh, due to 'hesech ha'da'as' - having taken one's mind off eating) he may nevertheless continue with the Afikomon. Hesech ha'da'as does not apply in this case, because we rely on the 'table of the Torah' - as if the Torah was the master of the house, and the Torah has said that we should still serve the Afikomon.

One should nevertheless wash one's hands again (but without reciting a brochoh). The Mishnah B'rurah however, only mentions the need to wash again with regard to the following cases - where he remembered after benching.

2. If he remembers immediately after benching, but before he recited the brochoh over the third cup of wine, then he washes his hands with the appropriate brochoh, recites 'ha'motzi', eats a kezayis of Afikomon and benches. (According to the ruling however, that one only recites the brochoh for washing if one intends to eat a 'ke'beitzah' of bread, he should not recite the brochoh here either, unless he actually intends to eat a kebeitzoh.)

He then recites the brochoh over wine and drinks the third cup.

3. But if he only remembers that he has not yet eaten the Afikomon after having recited the brochoh over the third cup, he has no option but to drink it. Then, if he is accustomed to bench without a cup of wine, he must do as in the previous case, taking care to bench without a cup of wine, in order not to add to the four cups.

4. But if he is accustomed to benching over a cup of wine, he will have to continue with the Seider without eating the Afikomon, due to the fact that washing again and eating a kezayis, will obligate him to bench over a cup of wine, forcing him to drink five cups instead of four - which is prohibited.

As far as the mitzvah of matzah is concerned, he will have to rely on the matzah that he ate at the beginning of the meal (provided it was proper shmurah matzah), despite the fact that according to some opinions, the Afikomon that one eats at the end of the meal is the main mitzvah.

The Mishnah B'rurah however, does not contend with the private individual's minhag of benching over a cup of wine. He points out that the ruling nowadays, is that benching does not require a cup of wine (and it is therefore no more than a chumra to do so). Consequently, he rules, even in the latter case, one should proceed to do as we wrote above in 3.

Seventh Day of Pesach

Pearls from the Red Sea

Who Protects Whom

"And G-d went before them ... to light up for them" (13:21).

When the Emperor Hadrian sent a group of Roman soldiers to bring his nephew Unklus (who had just converted to Judaism) with them back to Rome, under strict orders not to talk to him, they found him affixing a Mezuzah to his door. Unable to restrian their curiosity, they asked him what he was doing.

Unklus proceeded to explain to them how in Rome, one dignitary holds a light for a higher dignitary and so on, until the highest dignitary holds a light for the Emperor. But does the Emperor ever hold a light for the people? They had to admit that he didn't. 'Well, Hashem is different,' he explained. The Torah testifies that Hashem lit up for his people Yisroel in the desert. And so it is in everyday life. The Jew sits in his home, and it is not he who protects Hashem, but Hashem who protects him - through the medium of the mitzvah of Mezuzah.

This is My G-d

Rav Avira explained that it was due to the reward of the righteous women of that generation that Yisroel were redeemed. When they went to draw water from the well, G-d prepared for them small fish in their jugs, so they drew half water and half fish, which they fed to their husbands. After they had eaten and drunk, they would sleep together and the women would become pregnant. When the time of birth arrived, they would go into the fields and give birth there. G-d would send an emissary - a holy angel - to clean the baby and to make him look nice (as they used to do in those times).

And when G-d revealed Himself to them at the Sea, they were the first ones to recognise Him, as the Torah writes - "This is My G-d ..." (Sotah 11b).

And With the Breath of Your Nostrils

Twice in the Torah does the word "apecho" appear with a 'yud': once here (15:8), and the other time in Bereishis (3:19) "By the sweat of your nostrils you will eat bread".

This is a hint, writes the Toldos Odom, for the saying of Chazal, that sustaining a person is as difficult as splitting the Reed-Sea.

The Instruments

"And Miriam ... took a drum ... and all the women followed her out with drums and dancing".

Rashi explains that the righteous women of that generation were so certain that G-d would perform miracles, that they took drums with them from Egypt. We have already explained (see "This is My G-d") that the women of that generation (on whose merits Yisroel left Egypt) had a stronger faith in G-d than the men, and this was a trait that would show up again and again during their wanderings in the desert. Here we see that faith portrayed in a unique way - to enhance their celebration and thanksgiving after the crossing of the Yam-Suf.


Others explain that the reason for the drums was in order to prevent the men from hearing them singing, because of the halochoh 'kol be'ishah ervah' (Ma'ayonoh shel Torah). This will also explain the statement "and they went out". Now where did they go to? The answer is that they went outside the camp, past the protective clouds of glory into the desert, in order that the men should not see them dancing, as this contravenes the laws of tzniyus (modesty).


For sponsorships and adverts call 6519 502

Back to this week's Parsha| Previous Issues

This article is provided as part of Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Permission is granted to redistribute electronically or on paper,
provided that this notice is included intact.
Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Jerusalem, Israel