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

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Vol. 12   No. 30

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l'iluy Nishmas Dov ben Tuvia z"l


Was There an Angel
Or Wasn't There?

(Adapted from the Chochmas Chayim)

We say in the Hagadah "And G-d took us out of Egypt" - not through a Mal'ach, not through a Saraf and not through an agent; but through Hakadosh Baruch Hu Himself, as it is written "And I passed through the land of Egypt on that night, and I smote every firstborn in the land of Egypt" - I and not an agent. I am He, and no other.


Commenting on the Pasuk in Bo (12:22) "And you shall not leave your house until the morning", Rashi writes 'This teaches us that once permission is granted to the destructive Angel to proceed, he makes no distinction between the Tzadik and the Rasha". And this follows the explanation of the Gemara in Bava Kama 61, where Rav Yosef says exactly the same thing. Yet the very next Pasuk, informs us that "Hashem will pass over (the land) to plague Egypt ... , and He will not grant the destructive Angel permission to enter your houses to plague".

The question arises, what was the destructive Angel doing that night if G-d Himself was making the rounds? And if on the other hand, it was G-d Himself, then what was the purpose of placing blood on their lintels and doorposts? Did G-d not know which house belonged to an Egyptian and which to a Yisrael?

And another thing, the Torah writes in Bo "And it was when G-d hardened Paroh's heart to send us out, and when G-d killed all the firstborn in the land of Egypt ... therefore I sacrifice to G-d all the males that open the womb, and all my firstborn sons I will redeem".

Now when G-d killed the firstborn in Egypt, He killed the firstborn from the father and the firstborn from the mother. In that case, the Jewish firstborn from the father were saved no less than the firstborn from the mother. Why is the Mitzvah of redeeming one's firstborn sons then confined to the maternal firstborn ('Peter Rechem')? Why does it not pertain equally to the paternal firstborn?


To answer all these questions, let us take a look at the Gemara in Bava Metzi'a (61b) where Rava teaches us that the Torah mentions Yetzi'as Mitzrayim in connection with Ribis, Tzitzis and weights and measures (all of which are prone to cheating) as a warning that just as G-d made a distinction between a drop of a Bechor and a drop that was not of a Bechor, so too would He make a distinction between those who were genuine in these areas and those who cheated. Rashi explains this in connection with ten Egyptian men who had relations with one woman over many years, from whom she subsequently gave birth to ten babies. Only G-d could possibly know that each of these babies was a firstborn (from his father), and so they all died at Makas Bechoros.

So it emerges that in Egypt at the time of Makas Bechoros, there were two different categories of Bechor. There was a Bechor from the father, which G-d killed personally, since no Angel could know which babies were firstborn and which ones were not. And there was a Bechor from his mother, whose identity and status was known to all, and who could therefore be handed to the destructive Angel to kill. This sign of identification was required in order to prevent the Jewish maternal firstborn from being killed (since the Angel cannot distinguish between Tzadik and Rasha, between Jew and non-Jew), hence the blood on the doorposts. The firstborn from the fathers, on the other hand, who were saved directly by G-d, did not require any sign on their doorposts.

And this also explains why specifically the maternal firstborn (Peter Rechem) are subject to the Mitzvah of Pidyon ha'Ben, and not the paternal firstborn.

All three questions have now been answered in one stroke.

* * *

Pesach Pearls
All About the Hagadah

'Whoever is Hungry Come and Eat'

It was Erev Pesach in the year 5686, and R. Yosef Chayim Sonnenfeld, following the Mitzvah of Bedikas Chametz, had just finished his supper, when four important visitors from Budapest paid him a visit. In spite of the lateness of the hour, R, Yosef Chayim received his guests graciously and bade them be seated.

It soon transpired that the purpose of their visit was to procure an invitation to the Rav's Seider, in which they were eager to participate. They insisted however, that he accept payment for the meal.

'Certainly, 'the Rav replied. 'It will be a pleasure to have you as my guests, and as for paying, that condition I accept too'.

The men, who had heard of R. Yosef Chayim's refusal ever to accept money for any favour, were startled at his amenability to do so on this occasion. And one of them promptly produced a handsome sum and placed it on the table.


The men did indeed participate in the Seifer, and one of them later attested to the fact that one of the greatest experiences in his entire life was to see the holy and shining countenance of the Tzadik on that Seider-night.


On the first day of Chol-ha'Mo'ed, R. Yosef Chayim made his way to the Hotel Amdurski, where the men were staying, and asked to see the guests from Budapest. As they were from Chutz la'Aretz, they were still busy Davening Shachris for the second day of Yom-Tov. The moment Davening was over however, they went to greet their esteemed guest in their room. The Rav asked them about their stay in Yerushalayim and how they were enjoying Yom-Tov. And as he spoke, he took out the money that he had received from them on Erev Yom-Tov, and placed it under the table-cloth. The four guests, already surprised by their unexpected visitor, were quite taken aback by his latest move, but since it was Yom-Tov, there was nothing they could do about it. One of the men however, did pluck up the courage to ask R. Yosef Chayim why, if he did not intend to keep the money, he accepted it in the first place?

This is what he replied. 'Pesach is a festival of freedom, is it not? Now what sort of freedom would it have been to feast free of charge at somebody else's table (which even Chazal describe as 'nahama de'chisufa' [breads of embarrassment])? So I accepted your offer of payment, so that you should feel like free men who are eating at their own table, without embarrassment), without any qualms about eating to your heart's content.

That was then. But now that this reasoning no longer applies', he concluded with a chuckle, 'I return to you what is yours'. And with that, he wished them a good Yom-Tov and left.


Would You Believe it?

All the Simanim of the Hagadah ('Kadeish, u'Rechatz ... '), hint directly or indirectly, at some aspect of the miracles of Yetzi'as Mitzrayim or other. In that case, asks R. Yosef Chayim Sonnenfeld, why did the Ba'al Hagadah fail to mention any hint concerning the greatest miracle of them all, the splitting of the Reed Sea?

Indeed he does, he answers. The word 'Karpas' is equivalent to the first letters of "Kol Sus Rechev Par'oh (all the horses of Paroh's chariots)". We dip the Karpas into the salt water, R. Yosef Chayim explains, to commemorate the drowning of the horses, together with the riders of Par'oh's entire army in the salty waters of the Yam-Suf.


G-d Only Knows

The Be'er Mayim Chayim comments that the Pasuk in Sh'mos "And G-d saw the B'nei Yisrael, and G-d knew" makes little sense as it stands. Nor is it clear from where Chazal, who explain that it refers to the Egyptians preventing their Jewish slaves from being intimate with their wives, learn this explanation.

R. Yosef Chayim however, explains that the words "and G-d knew", implies that the Pasuk is referring to something that nobody else other than G-d could possibly have known. And this points to the cruel torture of not allowing husband and wife to be intimate, which is something that is generally done discreetly and of which nobody else could have been aware. Perhaps one can add that the very use of the word "and He knew (va'yeida)", has connotations of intimacy, as the Pasuk writes in Bereishis (4:1) "And Adam knew Chavah his wife".


The Butler and the Seider

The Medrash teaches that the four cups that we drink at the Seider are based on the four times "Kos" that are mentioned in connection with the butler's dream (in Vayeishev).

We need to understand, asks the K'li Yakar, the connection between the one and the other?

To answer the question, he firstly reminds us that the Pasuk tends to equate salvation with a cup of wine, like the Pasuk writes in Tehilim "I will raise the cup of salvation".

Then, citing Rebbi Yochanan in Bava Basra (8b), he explains that captivity contains all the other 'Tzaros' that precede it in Yirmiyahu (45:2) "the sword, pestilence and starvation", since a captor has the power to injure his captive with the sword, to kill him and to starve him, which is why Chazal consider captivity worse than all the others.

It therefore emerges that someone who is released from jail, has in effect been spared from all four punishments. The word "Kos" is therefore mentioned four times in connection with the chief butler, to hint to him that he was about to be released from prison and be saved from the four punishments. Indeed, it was from the four cups in the butler's dream that Yosef realized that he was about to go free. It is therefore befitting for someone that is released from jail to drink four cups of wine, which is why Chazal fixed four cups of wine (of salvation) at the Seider, since it is not only our fathers who were spared (as we say in the Hagadah) but us.


Maidservants & Captives

The K'li Yakar asks why, in connection with Makas Bechoros, the Torah refers in one place (Bo 12:5) to the firstborn of the maidservants, and in another (ibid. 12:29), to the firstborn of the captives?

And he replies that in fact, the two were one and the same, because they would make the captives work in the mill by day, moving them to the dungeons by night. Consequently, the earlier Pasuk, which was said to Moshe during the day, refers to them as 'maidservants', whereas the latter Pasuk, which refers to the actual plague, which took place by night, refers to them as 'captives'.


Why the Frogs Died

Rashi explains that the wild animals did not die like the frogs (they simply disappeared) so that the Egyptians should not derive benefit from their skins. But why, asks the K'li Yakar, did the frogs not disappear like the wild animals?

It cannot be so that the land would stink, he says, because then why did the locusts (which flew back into the Yam-Suf) not die too?

He therefore cites the Medrash which refers to the frogs that were Moser Nefesh (sacrificed their lives) for the sake of G-d's Holy Name, by jumping into the ovens, and from whom Chananyah, Misha'el and Eltzafan would later take their cue. They did not die he explains (as the Pasuk [8:9] clearly indicates). And it is to highlight this that the other frogs did, to teach us that it is the one who is Moser Nefesh for G-d that stands a good chance of surviving, whilst the one who does not is bound to perish.

* * *

(Adapted from the Seifer ha'Chinuch)

Mitzvah 298:
Not To Perform a Melachah on the First Day of Pesach

It is prohibited to do Melachah on the first day of Pesach, the fifteenth of Nisan, as the Torah writes in Emor (23:7) "On the first day ... you shall not do any servile work". Actually, the Torah already mentioned this in Parshas Bo, where it wrote (12:16) "All work shall not be done on them", and this is the Pasuk quoted by the Rambam. The Chinuch on the other hand, prefers to discuss it here, so as to place the Mitzvos of all the Yamim-Tovim together. In reality, it makes no difference, since the location of the Mitzvah does not change its format.

The reason that the Torah refers here to "servile work" and not simply to 'work' is because the preparation of food is permitted on Yom-Tov. And, citing the Ramban, the Chinuch brings various proofs that insertion of "Avodah" (in "meleches Avodah") implies work that is not connected with food. Whereas work that has to do with the preparation of food is called "Melachah" S'tam. And that explains why, he says, in Parshah Bo, where the Pasuk writes "Kol melachah lo sa'asu", it needs to qualify this and to add "Ach asher ye'achel le'chol Nefesh ... ". On all other Yamim-Tovim, where it writes "Kol meleches avodah lo sa'asu", no qualification is necessary. And in the Parshah of "Kol ha'bechor" (in Re'ei, in connection with the seventh day of Pesach), the Torah writes " ... lo sa'aseh melachah", it does not see fit to add the word 'Avodah', since having already stated this in connection with Pesach, it is self understood that this is what it means. As a matter of fact, it also omits the word "Kol" (which it does insert by other Yamim-Tovim), as if to say 'the sort of Melachah which I commanded you earlier with regard to this Yom-Tov'.

A reason for this Mitzvah is in order that Yisrael remember the great miracles that G-d performed for them and for their fathers, and speak about them, and tell their children and grandchildren all about them. Because now that they are forbidden to work, they are free to deal with that, which they would not be able to do if they were allowed to pursue their regular mundane activities. If they were, the meaning of the Yom-Tov would be forgotten not only by the children, but by the grown-ups too. And what's more, the fact that they are free from work, enables all the people to gather in Shul and in the Batei Medrash to hear words of Torah. This gives the Rabbanim the opportunity to guide them and to teach them knowledge - as we learned in the Gemara in Megilah 'Moshe instituted the Mitzvah to discuss the Laws of Pesach on Pesach, the laws of Shavu'os on Shavu'os and the laws of Succos on Succos'.

Some of the Dinim of Yom-Tov ... Although the Torah permits the production of food on Yom-Tov, this is restricted to Melachos that could not be performed before Yom-Tov, such as kneading, Shechting, baking and cooking, all of which cause the food to deteriorate a little if they are left for a short while. And they likewise permitted the pounding of spices because they lose their potency if they are left for any period of time, once they have been pounded. But Melachos that can be performed on Yom-Tov without detracting from the quality of the food, such as reaping, threshing, selecting, grinding, sifting and the like, are forbidden. They are not considered 'Ochel Nefesh' and are subject to Malkos just like ploughing, which certainly falls under the category of 'Meleches Avodah'.

Others explain that the Torah only considers short-term preparations to be Ochel Nefesh, and things that one has in mind whilst they are being prepared (such as cooking and baking), but not what is done for the long-term (such as reaping ... ) or what one forgets about during the preparation, because it take a long time to materialize (such as setting traps, which may not succeed in capturing anything until the following day). Another condition of 'Ochel Nefesh', is that one benefits directly from the Melachah itself, but not if the benefit is indirect. This explains why the Chachamim forbade extinguishing a burning firebrand in the oven, even though one's intention is to prevent the pot from smoking.

Roasting meat on coals on the other hand, is permitted, even though the fire becomes extinguished due to the meat's moistness, since this is part of the roasting process (The author does not seem to contend with the opinion that the Torah permits all 'Ochel Nefesh', and it is the Rabbanan who forbade certain Melachos, perhaps for the reasons that he mentioned) ... Chazal also stated that 'Ochel Nefesh' is not confined to eating and drinking, but incorporates anything that a person needs on Yom-Tov, whether it is in connection with a D'var Mitzvah, such as carrying a child to be circumcised, a Lulav to be shake or a Seifer-Torah to Lein from, or whether it is for one's mundane everyday needs, such as heating water to wash one's feet, or to light a fire to warm oneself. This Heter is restricted however, to benefits such these, which everybody does on occasions. But to perform a Melachah that is confined to a particular section of the community, such as 'Mugmar' (the custom to bring incense to the table after the meal), a custom confined to aristocrats (as the Gemara explains in Kesuvos) is forbidden on Yom-Tov.

This distinction however, does not apply to food, and one is permitted to cook even dishes that are eaten by kings and princes exclusively ... They also said that Yom-Tov cannot prepare for Shabbos ('Hachanah de'Rabah'), nor Shabbos for Yom-Tov, though the Chinuch maintains that, apart from an egg, there is no other case of 'Hachanah' which the Torah forbids, other than an egg that is laid on Yom-Tov that falls immediately after Shabbos, or vice-versa. And the fact that we forbid even an egg that is laid on the Shabbos immediately prior to Yom-Tov, and vice-versa, and even one that is laid on Yom-Tov S'tam is only mi'de'Rabbanan, a decree on account of the first two cases ... and the Din of 'Machshirei Ochel Nefesh' (preparations that enable the cooking to take place, that do not directly render the food ready to eat), which are forbidden, due to the Pasuk "Hu levado ye'aseh lachem" ("Hu", 've'lo machshirav') ... and they prohibited inviting gentiles on Yom-Tov, because the Torah writes "Lachem" - ('ve'lo le'Nochrim'). And it is for the same reason that one may not bake (or cook) anything for one's animals ... And, in Chutz la'Aretz, they permitted, on the second day of Yom-Tov, an egg that was born, or something that was detached, on the first day, because the two days are considered two independent Kedushos, with the sole exception of the two days of Rosh Hashanah, which are one Kedushah ... together with its other many details, are all discussed in Maseches Beitzah (and in Orach Chayim, Si'man 495).

This Mitzvah applies everywhere, at all times, to men and women alike. Someone who contravenes it and deliberately performs a forbidden Melachah on Yom-Tov, is subject to Malkos, be'Shogeg, he is not obligated to bring a Korban,

* * *

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