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

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Vol. 8   No. 13

This issue is sponsored l'iluy Nishmas
Sheva Git'l bas Levi Lixenberg a.h.
and by an anonymous donor

Parshas Sh'mos

The Burning Bush

Immediately prior to the revelation of the Shechinah to Moshe at the burning bush, the Torah lists five reasons for Hashem's decision to redeem Yisroel at that moment:

1) Because the promised time of the redemption had arrived ("And it was in those many days");

2) Because of the troubles ("and they cried out");

3) Because the people prayed ("and G-d heard their prayers");

4) Because of z'chus ovos ("and Hashem remembered His covenant with Avraham")

5) Because they did teshuvah ("and G-d saw and G-d knew") - Yerushalmi, Ta'anis.

"And Moshe was a shepherd" (3:1)

The Ovos were all shepherds, because a shepherd is alone with Hashem, with time to reflect about Hashem's greatness, and because he is able to fulfill the posuk "When I behold Your heavens, the work of Your fingers" (Tehilim 8:4). And besides, sheep are not prone to speaking loshon ho'ra. Moreover, Moshe, whom Hashem had chosen to lead His flock, proved by his dedication to his sheep (as the well-known Medrash explains) that he had the makings of the ideal leader.

"And he led his sheep behind the desert"

A clear indication of things to come! Exactly one year later (the episode took place on the fifteenth of Nisan), he would take Hashem's flock out of Egypt, "to the Mountain of Hashem to Chorev", behind the desert.

"And he arrived at the mountain of Hashem. And Hashem appeared to him from the bush" (3:2/3) The purpose of Yetzi'as Mitzrayim was in order to receive the Torah at Har Sinai. It is hardly surprising therefore, that when Hashem spoke to Moshe (the most humble man who ever lived) for the first time, to prepare him for his appointment to take Yisroel out of Egypt, He chose to do so on that very mountain (chosen for its lowliness). And what's more, He revealed Himself to him in a thorn-bush (symbolical of that same lowliness, which is also hinted in the word "S'neh").

"And an angel of Hashem appeared to him from in the heart of the fire and Hashem called to him from the fire".

Rabeinu Bachye explains that the fire, the angel and Hashem that are all mentioned here, signify Moshe's rising from one level to another. This was, after all, Moshe's first prophecy. It is not possible to reach the highest levels of prophecy all at once, any more than one can endure going from a dark location to a bright one all at once. And just as one needs to move gradually from a dark place to a bright one, so it is with spiritual levels of light. That is why Moshe first encountered fire, then, an angel, until finally, Hashem Himself revealed Himself to him. The very fact that Moshe's ascent was so rapid only serves to demonstrate his greatness.

"From the midst of the thorn-bush" (3:2).

The Da'as Zekeinim mi'Ba'alei Tosfos attributes Hashem's choice of a thorn-bush in which to appear to Moshe, to its distinction that it cannot be used to construct idols. And perhaps that is synonymous with the reason that we cited earlier, because true humility goes hand in hand with total submissiveness to Hashem. The root of idolatry lies in egotism, the desire to cast off the yoke of G-d's sovereignty from oneself. Incidentally, the numerical value of the word "ha'sneh" is a hundred and twenty, the Oznayim la'Torah points out; a hint as to how long Moshe would live (that as soon as he had taken Hashem's flock through the desert, he would die).

"Why does the bush not burn" (3:3)

The Torah does not explain the phenomenon of the burning bush. Neither are we told to what the riddle pertains. In fact, the phenomenon can be interpreted in two ways. It might refer to K'lal Yisroel in Egypt, whom the Egyptians took great pains to try and destroy, yet the harder they tried, the more Yisroel flourished (the Egyptians said 'pen yirbeh', and Hashem retorted 'kein yirbeh'). Or it may pertain to Par'oh and the Egyptians, whose suffering during the period of the ten plagues should have sufficed to destroy them, yet they survived.

The Torah does not appear to deal with the latter explanation explicitly. The answer however does emerge in the course of the following parshiyos, where it becomes clear that Hashem allowed Egypt to survive in order to give them their due punishment later at the Yam-Suf. Perhaps the change from 'Sinai' to "Chorev" (denoting the destruction of the nations of the world who declined to accept the Torah, with the result that He waits until their cup is full before destroying them) hints at this.

Whereas if we accept the former explanation, Rashi has already explained that the idea of the burning bush is based in the posuk "I am with them in their troubles" (Tehilim 91:15), symbolized by the thorn-bush, whose lowliness epitomizes suffering, and whenever Yisroel suffer, Hashem takes their part. And that explains K'lal Yisroel's survival, not only in Egypt, but also in all subsequent exiles. One might equally attribute it to the giving of the Torah at Har Sinai that is hinted here, to which we alluded earlier, which transformed us into G-d's treasured, eternal nation, which, like the bush, can never be destroyed.

"To the Mountain of G-d, to Chorev".

This double-phrase embodies the dual concept that we just discussed. For Yisroel, Sinai was 'the Mountain of G-d', because Kabalas ha'Torah was the source of their eternity, whereas for the nations of the world, it was 'Chorev', the source of their transience.


Parshah Pearls

The Name's the Same

Chazal teach us that one of the merits on which Hashem redeemed Yisroel from Egypt was that they retained their Jewish names, rather than change to Egyptian ones. And this is hinted, says the Ba'al ha'Turim, in the opening posuk of the parshah, because the first letters of the words "sh'mos B'nei Yisroel ha'bo'im" spells 'shivyah' (captivity), to teach us that even in captivity, they kept their Jewish names throughout.

Furthermore he says, the 'vov' at the beginning of the Parshah connects the opening words with the last words in Va'yechi, to read "Va'yomos Yosef …†ve'Eileh sh'mos B'nei Yisroel". Because Yosef warned Yisroel that on no account, should they adopt Egyptian names (in spite of the fact that he had been forced to change his to Tzofnas Pa'ne'ach) - Ba'al ha'Turim.


The Great Merits

The first and last letters of "ha'bo'im Mitzraymoh" - spell 'miloh', whereas the last letters of "es Ya'akov Ish" spell 'Shabbos', a hint that Yisroel were subsequently taken out of Egypt because they observed these two mitzvos whilst they were there (Ba'al ha'Turim).


The Great Affliction

"And they appointed taskmasters over them, in order to afflict them in their burdens" (1:11). What sort of affliction is the Torah referring to here?

The fact that the Torah uses the same word ("anoso" - to afflict) in Shmuel (with regard to the episode where Amnon raped his half-sister Tomor) indicates that it is in the area of intimacy that they afflicted them. In other words, they set out to prevent them from having children by separating them from their wives (Ba'al ha'Turim).


At Fours and Fives

"And they embittered their lives with hard work, with mortar and bricks, and with hard work in the fields; all the work that they made them do was with rigor" (1:14). The reason that each of the ten plagues comprised four (as the Ba'al Hagodoh informs us), is because of the four types of slavery mentioned in this posuk.

Those who list five, include the previous posuk, "And the Egyptians made Yisroel work with rigor", making it five (Ba'al ha'Turim).



"Ka'asher Diber Aleihen Melech Mitzrayim" (1:17).

The numerical value of the words "Ka'asher Diber Aleihen" is the equivalent of 'she'tov'on', meaning that, besides ordering the midwives to kill the Jewish babies, Par'oh also accosted them.

And that explains why in the following posuk, the Torah uses the word "Madu'a Asisen", the same word as the posuk uses in Ezra "Amadtem al Charbechem, Asisen to'eivoh," and "to'eivoh" frequently refers to adultery (Ba'al ha'Turim).


And Yisroel Groaned

"And it was in those many days, when the King of Egypt died and the B'nei Yisroel groaned from the work".

Why should Par'oh's death cause Yisroel to groan, asks the G'ro?

The reason for this, he answers, is because, as long as there was a king, he would behave with certain restraint, taking care not to go beyond the limits of accepted practice. He would not behave towards his subjects with exceptional cruelty, because that would only stir up rebellion. And this is the meaning of the Posuk in Mishlei (29:4) "A king maintains the land through justice".

And this also explains why Par'oh instructed the midwives " …† and you will see them on the birth-stool, if it is a son, then you shall kill him, but if it is a daughter, then let her live! "

Chazal explain that he handed them a sign whereby to know whether the baby would be a son or a daughter. A son, he said, lies in his mother's womb face down, a daughter, face up.

But why was such a sign necessary, asks the G'ro? Why could they not wait until after the baby was born, and kill it then? And besides, what is the meaning of the midwives' response to Par'oh's query as to why they were not obeying his orders "Before the midwife arrives, they have already given birth"? So what if they have? That was surely no justification for not obeying the king's orders and killing them then!

Clearly, even a king has to follow the accepted code of practice, if he is to survive, and it is certainly not accepted practice to kill newborn babies. The only way he could get away with such a cruel plan was by ordering the midwives to kill the babies before they were born, in such a way that even their mothers would not know that the babies had not died naturally before they were born. And if they had to kill the boys only, it was necessary to provide them with the means of knowing which baby was a boy and which a girl, even before they emerged from their mother's womb.

And that is why they told Par'oh that the Jewish women were giving birth before the midwives arrived, because that would render the midwives helpless to carry out Par'oh's orders. Once Par'oh had died however, and a new king had not yet been appointed in his place, the situation deteriorated into one of anarchy. Justice no longer prevailed, and people began doing as they pleased, acting in a way that a ruling monarch, for fear of rebellion, would not have dared to act. That explains why, when the King of Egypt died, Yisroel groaned.


The Two Outstanding Leaders

"And the people believed" (4:31). The Novi in Shmuel uses the same word with regard to Dovid ("and Achish believed Dovid").

The reason for this is because both Moshe and Dovid forfeited their lives on behalf of Yisroel: Moshe asked Hashem that, should He decline to forgive Yisroel, He should erase him from His book; and Dovid, when he said "What did these sheep (Yisroel) do wrong? Strike me (and not them)!"


The Haftarah:
Money and the Desires
that One Buys With It

"Whom will I teach knowledge and who will learn understanding? Those who are weaned from milk and those who move away from the breasts" (Yeshayah 28:9).

The Gemoro in B'rochos (63b) explains that the Torah can only be acquired by someone who spews out the milk that he drank from his mother's breasts, meaning that he rids himself of all his desires.

There are some people, says the G'ro, who have learned to curb their desires for the pleasures of this world, but who have still retained their love of money. Such people too, are unable to acquire the crown of Torah. And these people can be compared to a baby who has already been weaned from his mother's milk, but when he is placed beside his mother, he still makes a beeline for her breasts. So it is with the man whose lust for money persists even though he has long overcome his desire for the pleasures that money can buy.

That is what the Posuk in Mishlei means "Whom will I teach knowledge and who will learn understanding? Those who are weaned from milk and those who move away from the breasts". To acquire Torah, it is not sufficient to abstain from worldly pleasures; one must also abstain from one's love of money.


(Adapted from the Seifer ha'Mitzvos ha'Kotzer of the Chofetz Chayim).
(The Mitzvos Lo Sa'aseh)

132. Not to be intimate with a nidah - as the Torah writes in Acharei-mos (18:19) "And do not be intimate with a woman when she is temei'ah nidah". Should one transgress this La'av and have relations with a nidah, even after her actual days of nidus have passed, as long as she has not toveled properly in a kosher mikvah consisting of forty so'oh, both parties are chayav koreis (excision). In addition, a child who is born from such a union, is called a 'pogum' (tainted). The Acharonim explain this to mean that he is defected, and one is well-advised to keep away from him (as regards marriage).

One may not be intimate with one's wife close to her veses (the beginning of the twelve-hour time-span during which she is due to have a period) from the beginning of the day or of the night that it falls due.

A woman who has given birth is forbidden to her husband like a nidah, even if no blood accompanied the childbirth. Nor does it make any difference whether the baby was born alive or dead.

In our countries, it is customary that after seven days following the birth of a boy, and fourteen days after the birth of a girl, if she is free of blood, she follows the regular procedure after nidus. She makes hefsek taharah on the fifth day, and keeps seven clean days, after which she may tovel, and is permitted to her husband. But should she see blood after the birth, she is forbidden to her husband like a regular nidah, and may not rely on the days of taharah prescribed by the Torah.

It should be quite unnecessary to discuss the ramifications of this mitzvah, since one would expect everyone to be well acquainted with the severity of the la'av. It is well known that that as long as a nidah has not toveled, she remains forbidden, even if many years have passed and she has aged and no longer sees blood. Over and above the actual prohibition, the Torah specifically refers to this isur a number of times as an abomination, punishing both the man and the woman who transgress with koreis, cutting them off completely from the land of the living. In fact, so severe is this la'av, that even if gentiles try to force a Jew to transgress it, he is duty-bound to rather give up his life than to transgress, because this la'av has the same stringency in this regard, as that of idolatry.

Bearing in mind how well-known this mitzvah is, it does appear strange that it should nevertheless be necessary to warn people about the extent of its severity, any more than one needs to warn them not to cut off their heads. Yet it appears that some ignorant people have begun to discard tevilah. Their wives no longer go to mikvah, thinking that it is merely a Jewish custom, which they are under no obligation to uphold. That is why we have seen fit to emphasize the severity of the sin, to warn the people against transgressing.

It is important to know that all punishments mentioned in the Torah and in the words of Chazal in connection with aroyos (forbidden relations) incorporate the isur of nidoh. Both are Chayav koreis, and someone who transgresses either of them of one's own volition is labeled a 'rosho'. He is disqualified from testifying in court, as well as from taking an oath. He is also known by the title of 'Poshei'a Yisroel be'Gufo', whose punishment is described in Rosh Hashanah. The Gemoro there explains that, should he have transgressed more sins than the mitzvos that he kept, and one of those sins is from the category of 'Poshei'a Yisroel be'Gufo', he will be placed for twelve months in Gehinom. After that, his body will be destroyed and his Soul burned, and the wind will scatter the ashes under the soles of the feet of the Torah scholars.

Who can imagine the terrible suffering and troubles of these people in Gehinom? And that is for transgressing only once. How much more so someone who considers the mitzvah hefker chas ve'Sholom, and who contravenes it regularly.


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