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

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Vol. 11   No. 13

This issue is sponsored l'iluy Nishmas
Sheva Gitel bas Levi Liksenberg z.l.

Parshas Sh'mos

Yisrael My Firstborn

Rashi comments that when G-d instructed Moshe to warn Paroh that Yisrael were His firstborn, and that if he failed to let them go, He would punish him by killing his firstborn, He was effectively sealing Eisav's sale of the birthright to Ya'akov.

More to the point, the Ibn Ezra explains that G-d conferred this title on Yisrael, because their ancestors were the first ones to worship Him, and just as a man takes pity on the son that serves him, so too, had He taken pity on Yisrael. Consequently, now that Paroh had maltreated that firstborn son, taking him as a permanent slave, G-d would punish him by killing his firstborn.

However, as the Pasuk continues, Moshe was only to say this to Paroh after numerous requests to let Yisrael go, and after Paroh had stubbornly chosen to ignore all of them.

The Or ha'Chayim asks why G-d issued these instructions to Moshe at this juncture, long before that warning was due to be passed on? And what's more, he asks, what did G-d do to ensure that Moshe would not erroneously issue Paroh this warning prematurely?


The Seforno explains that the only plague that came as a punishment was the slaying of the firstborn. All the other plagues were only meant as a warning, to induce Paroh to relent and send Yisrael out. All G-d wanted was for Paroh to do Teshuvah, and He hoped that the plagues would achieve that end, dispensing with the need to punish him with Makas Bechoros.

That certainly explains adequately the need to warn Paroh at the outset what G-d had in store for him. It was only correct to first let him know that if he refused to bend his will before that of His Creator, his firstborn would die, measure for measure, for having enslaved G-d's firstborn. And then, having placed His cards on the table, it was fair to begin turning on the screws.

The Chizkuni explains that G-d was simply clarifying to Paroh at the outset (not at the end, like the Ibn Ezra explained) as to why He wanted Yisrael to go out and serve Him in the desert. At that time, Aharon and his family had not yet been chosen to serve as Kohanim. In that case, the Avodah was traditionally performed by the Bechoros. And since Yisrael were G-d's Bechor, His request that Paroh grant them leave to serve Him in the desert was perfectly reasonable.

These explanations however, only answer the Or ha'Chayim's first question, not the second.


The Or ha'Chayim himself offers three explanations to answer both questions.

Firstly, he explains, the advance knowledge that Moshe possessed of events to come would have the tremendous advantage of encouraging Moshe not to despair of achieving any positive results from his efforts. Month followed month, and, despite the force of the Makos, Moshe was about to see every effort on his part fail, as time and time again, Paroh dug in his heels, refusing to be moved.

In fact, were it not for G-d's assurance that Paroh would indeed not give in, and that there would come a time when G-d would force Paroh's hand by killing his firstborn, Moshe might well have developed negative thoughts about the Shelichus on which G-d had sent him. He may Chas ve'Shalom, have begun to view it as a futile exercise. It was only his advance knowledge of what would happen in the end that prevented this from happening. See how, even with that knowledge, he wavered slightly in the opening round (refer to the Pesukim at the end of the Parshah).


Secondly, the Or ha'Chayim explains, the advance knowledge, reinforced by the omission of any mention that G-d would harden Paroh's heart after Makas Bechoros, enabled Moshe to determine when Makas Bechoros would take place, and it is from there that he took his cue when the time arrived, that now was the time to issue Paroh with the warning thereof. For on each occasion that Moshe warned Paroh of the impending plague, he would return to Hashem with Paroh's response, and Hashem for His part, would supply him with the details of his next Shelichus. In that way, G-d made sure that Moshe stood no chance of warning Paroh of Makas Bechoros before it was due. On the other hand, when Paroh ordered Moshe to leave his presence never to return, Moshe knew that now was the time to warn Paroh of Makas Bechoros. He realized that a. Paroh had 'gone over the top', so to speak, and that he would receive no more instructions from G-d, since there was nothing left in Paroh's heart for Him to harden. And b. if he would not see him, he could hardly warn him. The text of the warning is not repeated there, because Moshe had already received it right from the outset of his Shelichus.


And thirdly, the Or ha'Chayim says, it may well be, that it was intrinsically necessary to issue Moshe with the instructions regarding Makas Bechoros right at the outset. Because had Paroh simply refused to let Yisrael go, but without blaspheming Hashem in the process, G-d would indeed have slain his firstborn there and then. And it was the blasphemous comments accompanying the refusals that prompted Him to let Paroh suffer the pain and humiliation of the nine plagues (one by one, as Paroh's insults continued unabated) before delivering Makas Bechoros.

So it transpires that the nine plagues served as retribution for Paroh's insults, and Makas Bechoros, for the actual refusal. And this explains why G-d saw fit to harden Paroh's heart, to ensure that his refusal to obey the Divine Will would not go unpunished. Indeed the Torah writes later (preceding the plague of locusts) "in order to show you My might, that you will tell My Name throughout the land". Since the first nine plagues came as a result of Paroh's blasphemy, it stands to reason that the plagues were meant to rectify his sin, by forcing him to tell the world about G-d's greatness.


Parshah Pearls

Just Arrived

"And these are the names of B'nei Yisrael who came to Egypt? (1:1).

Did Yisrael just arrive, asks the Da'as Zekeinim mi'Ba'alei Tosfos, citing the Medrash? Yosef was thirty-nine when his family arrived in Egypt, and he died at the age of a hundred and ten. In that case, they had already been in Egypt for seventy-one years. So why, does the Torah speak as if they had just arrived?

And they answer that as long as Yosef lived, there was no discrimination against Yisrael. The moment he died, the Egyptians began to impose taxes on them, and they began to feel as if they had just arrived.


Six in One Go

"u'V'nei Yisrael poru va'yishretzu" 'And Yisrael were fruitful and swarmed like rodents' (1:7).

We learn from here, says Rashi, that Yisrael gave birth to six in one go (like rodents).

The Rosh, citing R. Sa'adya Ga'on, points out that the numerical value of "poru va'yishretzu" is equivalent to "tish'oh be'keres echod' (six in one go).



"And the Egyptians made Yisrael work with rigor (be'forech)" 1:13.

The word "be'forech" has no parallel, remarks the Rosh.

In fact, he says, the Medrash translates it as 'be'firud' (with separation), because it means that they segregated the men and the women.


Moshe's Special Light

"And she (Tziporah) was no longer able to hide him" (2:3)

This was because it was the sixth of Sivan, the day on which, eighty-one years later, he was destined to receive the Torah at Har Sinai, and he shone with a bright light (as a sign of things to come), explains the Rosh.

Remarkably, he adds (out of context), the numerical value of Moshe Rabeinu is 'Taryag' (six hundred and thirteen).


Moshe Rabeinu,
Grandson of Ya'akov Ovinu

"And the shepherds came and drove them away (va'yegorshum)" 2:17.

If the Pasuk means that the shepherds drove away the daughters of Yisro, as it appears to be saying, then it should have written "va'yegorshun", with a 'Nun', which would have been the correct suffix (in place of 'oson') with reference to women. "va'yegorshum, with a 'Mem', denotes masculine, in which case, the word would be grammatically incorrect. Therefore the Rosh quotes his father, who explains that the object here is not Yisro's daughters, but water. And what happened was that the shepherds filled up the water -troughs with mud and mire.

When Moshe appeared on the scene, he explains, the water rose to meet him, because he was a descendent of Ya'akov, in whose honour the Nile came to meet him (and perhaps we may add, of Rivkah Imeinu, too, in whose honour the water in the well rose).

Then why, you may ask, does the Torah continue "And Moshe arose and saved them"?

That, he answers, is because, when the shepherds saw the water rising to meet Moshe, and that their plan to prevent the daughters of Yisro from obtaining water had failed, they began to chase them away, and Moshe valiantly pursued the shepherds and saved them.


No Money, No Influence

" ...return to Egypt, because all the men who are out to kill you have died" (4:19).

This refers to Dasan and Aviram, explains Rashi, and it teaches us that they had lost all their wealth. The question arises, how Rashi knew that this is what "have died" refers to? Perhaps the Torah means that had contracted Tzara'as, become blind, or had no children, all of which the Torah considers akin to dead?

However, explains the Rosh, the Pasuk here can only be referring to their having become destitute. Why is that? Because the Torah will later describe how Dasam and Aviram emerged from their tents standing upright. If they had been Metzora'im, they would have been outside the camp, and not in their tents. And it also quotes them there as saying "Will you blind our eyes?"- a clear indication that they could see. And at one and the same time, the Torah writes there that when they emerged from their tents, they came out with their wives and children, so clearly, they were not childless either. Therefore, when the Torah writes about them that they were dead, it can only have been referring to the fact that they had become poor. And besides, the fact that a person has Tzara'as, is blind or has no children, does not in itself, deprive him of influence in the royal palace. Poverty does.


A Family Mitzvah

" ... and Moshe fled from Paroh, and he resided in Midyan" (2:15).

When Moshe arrived as a fugitive in Midyan, it was Yisro who took him in.

Many years later, when Sisro escaped from Barak, who was it who took him in? Yael, wife of Chever, Yisro's descendent. From here Chazal learn, says the Da'as Zekeinim M.T. that a Mitzvah (that one performs with Mesiras Nefesh) remains in the family. Yisro received Moshe the Tzadik when he fled from the hater (from whom he protected him). That is why, when the hater fled from the Tzadik Barak, his descendent received him, before going on to kill him.


Arranging an Early Exodus

"because with a strong hand he will send them out of Egypt" (6:1).

The Rosh describes how the Midas ha'Din claimed that, having decreed that Yisrael would remain in Egypt for four hundred years, how could G-d take Yisrael out a hundred and ninety years before the time had elapsed? Either Yisrael must serve the full sentence, or G-d must arrange a plan whereby Paroh sends them out of his own accord, before the time to leave falls due.

That is why G-d, opting for the second alternative, told Moshe that Paroh would drive Yisrael out of the land prematurely.


And what is the significance of the two hundred and ten years, asks the Rosh?

Whilst Yisrael were slaves in Egypt, he explains, the Avos Davened constantly on their behalf. So Hashem asked them whether any one of them was willing to give up a letter (or part of a letter) of their name on behalf of K'lal Yisrael. Avraham and Ya'akov declined, claiming that each letter of their respective names was needed.

Yitzchak however, was more accommodating. His real name, he argued, ought to be (not Yitzchak, but) Yischak, as indeed it is spelt in Divrei Hayamim. However, he added, he was willing to forego the 'Siyn' and replace it with a ' Tzadey' to be called Yitzchak instead. He agreed to that, it seems, on condition that, bearing in mind that the difference between the numerical value of the two letters is two hundred and ten years, Yisrael be allowed to leave Egypt after 210 years. And G-d agreed.

That is what the Pasuk in Yeshayah means when it writes "Because you (Yitzchak) are our father; for Avraham ignored us and Ya'akov did not recognize us".


(Part 13)
(Adapted from the first three chapters of Mishnayos, Maseches Yuma, dealing with the daily routine in the Beis-Hamikdash)

The Third Payas

Before the third Payas, they would announce 'Whoever has not done the Ketores before, come and join the Payas'. The reason for that is because, based on the Pasuk in ve'Zos ha'Brachah "Boreich Hashem cheilo", the Ketores enriched the Kohen who brought it. So once a Kohen had brought it, he was not given a second chance.


The Fourth Payas

They would negate the previous announcement (issued at the time of the third Payas), by inviting all Kohanim to participate, those who had not merited it before together with those who had, in carrying the limbs from the lower half of the Kevesh (where they had been placed in the morning) on to the Mizbei'ach. The reason for this was in fulfillment of the principle 'the honour of the King is enhanced when more people participate in a Mitzvah'.


The Tamid was sometimes brought by nine Kohanim, sometimes by ten ... by eleven or by twelve. Not less than nine and not more than twelve. How is that?

The Tamid itself required nine Kohanim (as we explained in the previous issue).

On Succos, another Kohen held in his hand, a flask of water (for the Mitzvah of Nisuch ha'Mayim) - making it ten.

For the Tamid shel bein ha'Arbayim, two additional Kohanim held two logs of wood (to add to the Ma'arachah) - making it eleven.

On Shabbos too, eleven Kohanim were needed, nine for the Tamid, and two holding the two Bazichei Levonah (which were burned on Shabbos). See Tosfos Yom-tov, as to which Kohanim merited these extra duties (over and above the first nine).

And on Shabbos Chol ha'Mo'ed Succos, the two Kohanim holding the Bazichei Levonah plus the Kohen with the flask of water, made it twelve.


The Ram and the Bull

Until now, we have discussed how the Kohanim brought the limbs and the Nesachim of a lamb on the Mizbei'ach. A ram would require an additional- three Kohanim, making a total of eleven - five for the limbs (like the lamb) but two each for the innards, the flour and the wine (due to the additional weight of the larger intestines, and the larger Minchas Nesachim).

As for a bull, due to the great difference in size, twenty-four Kohanim were required to transport its limbs and its Minchas Nesachim on to the Mizbei'ach - some limbs were carried by one Kohen, some required two, whereas the neck (incorporating the lung, the liver and the heart) required three Kohanim, as did the innards, the flour and the wine.


A Korban Yachid

All that we have discussed until now concerns a Korban Tzibur. As far as a Korban Yachid is concerned, any Kohen could carry all the limbs and Nesachim on to the Mizbei'ach on his own, should he so wish, even without a Payas (see also Tif'eres Yisrael).

As for the skinning and cutting into pieces, whether they pertained to a Korban Tzibur or a Korban Yachid, these could be preformed even by a Zar.


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