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

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Vol. 12   No. 13

This issue is sponsored l'iluy Nishmas
Sheva Gitel bas Leah Lixenburg z.l.
Le'Mishpachas Tvik h.

Parshas Sh'mos

Moshe's Sin

The Torah records how, on his way to Egypt from Midyan, Moshe stopped at an inn, and how Hashem met him and wanted to kill him without any explanation as to why. The following Pasuk, which describes how Tziporah took a flint rock and circumcised her son, indicates that Moshe's 'sin' had something to do with his failure to circumcise his son, though what exactly it was still remains something of a mystery. Two possibilities present themselves.

Rabeinu Bachye (based on the Gemara in Nedarim 31b), explains that Moshe almost lost his life for not circumcising his son, Eliezer, in spite of the fact that the angel that he encountered was an angel of mercy, and he cites the opinion of Rebbi Yossi. Chas ve'Shalom, Rebbi Yossi exclaims, that Moshe would have been lax in performing a Mitzvah! What in fact happened was that Moshe was initially faced with the following dilemma, as Rashi explains: to circumcise his son and then set off on his mission would endanger his son's life; whereas to circumcise him and then to wait three days before traveling would delay his Divine mission by three days. He therefore decided (correctly it seems), that G-d's express command to go to Paroh had to take precedence over the Mitzvah. So he set off on his mission without having performed the B'ris Milah.

It was only when he stopped at an inn to rest (with his wife and newborn son) that he made the mistake of not immediately performing the Mitzvah, (before even unpacking his bags so to speak). Rav Chavel, in his notes, cites the Ran, who explains that Moshe was so close to his destination that the danger of traveling after performing the Milah no longer existed. The Torah Temimah gives the same explanation in the name of the Rosh. Only he queries it from the Pasuk a little later, where Aharon follows G-d's instructions, and goes out to meet Moshe by 'the mountain of G-d'. Now the 'Mountain of G-d' generally refers to Chorev (alias Har Sinai), which is a considerable distance from Egypt.

He therefore explains that Moshe's sin lay in not leaving his circumcised son with his mother Tziporah, and going on to Egypt without her. In that case, one may well ask, why could he not have settled his initial dilemma in the same way? By simply circumcising his son and setting off on his mission, without taking Tziporah and Eliezer with him. There is nothing in G-d's command to suggest that Tziporah needed to accompany him on the journey, so why did he need to take them with him in the first place? (See Parshah Pearls [in the name of the Da'as Zekeinim mi'Ba'alei Tosfos]).

The Seforno answers this question when he explains that the eighth day only fell due on the very day that they arrived at the inn. Consequently, G-d's command to go to Egypt preceded the Mitzvah of Milah and took precedence over it. Rashi however, does not learn that way.

The Or ha'Chayim deals with the question of 'ha'Osek ba'Mitzvah Patur min ha'Mitzvah' (see Parshah Pearls).


Targum Yonasan presents the second version of Moshe's 'sin'. To begin with, according to him, it was not Eliezer to whom the Pasuk is referring, but Gershom his eldest son. Nor did it have anything to do with a current dilemma concerning direct command versus Mitzvah. In fact, it was not even a sin that he had just committed, but an old one (at least, one that he had begun to transgress some time in the past) that now threatened his life. For his second son Eliezer was circumcised, and it was Gershom who, due to the promise that Moshe had made to his father-in-law Yisro, not to circumcise his firstborn son, was as yet uncircumcised.

It is not clear why the angel came only now to punish Moshe; whether it was because the Satan accuses at the time of danger (see Rashi Mikeitz 42:4), or for some other reason. Whatever the case, that is the sin that now caught up with Moshe, and that would have cost him his life, had Tziporah not promptly taken the matter in hand.


Raban Shimon ben Gamliel in Nedarim has a quite different approach to explain what happened. This is what he says. 'It was not Moshe whom the Satan (hardly an angel of mercy) wished to kill, but the baby, for so the Pasuk says "because you are to me a 'Chasan of bloodshed". Go and see who is called a Chasan. Why, the baby of course!

* * *

Parshah Pearls

Champion of Justice

"And Moshe arose and he saved them" (2:17).

The Torah relates three episodes concerning Moshe, all of which teach us how far he was willing to go to fight for justice. First of all, the Torah presents the story of the Egyptian beating the Jew.

But perhaps Moshe was merely incensed because it was a gentile v. a Jew; had it been one Jew fighting another, he may not have gotten involved! So the Torah adds the story of the two Jews fighting. Even there, Moshe's sense of justice did not allow him to remain silent whilst one Jew raised a hand against another.

But maybe that was only because the incident concerned two of his fellow Jews. Perhaps if he had come across two gentiles fighting, he would have minded his own business. That is why it tells the story of Yisro's daughters, who were being denied their rights to draw water when their turn arrived. Moshe spotted an injustice, so he made it his business to rectify it! So strong was Moshe's sense of justice that neither the identity of the perpetrator nor that of the victim made the least difference to him. If an injustice was being performed, he was bound to get involved, and he would always take the part of the victim.

And, as is evident from the juxtaposition of the Parshiyos, it was due, more than anything else, to this particular Midah, that Moshe was chosen to lead K'lal Yisrael (Yalkut ha'D'rush).


Three Kinds of Tzoros

"I have surely seen the afflictions ... and I have heard their cries ... because I know their pains" (3:7).

There were three levels of suffering in Egypt, says the K'sav Sofer. The people at large suffered from the tyrannical oppression; the Jewish policemen suffered when they were beaten for their brothers' 'laxness'; whilst the elders, themselves absolved from slavery, suffered from the anxiety of knowing how much their brothers were suffering. And it is corresponding to these three groups that the Torah writes "I have surely seen the afflictions" (the people), I have heard their cries" (the policemen) and "because I know their pains" (the elders).


Faith and Providence

"I will be what I will be" (3:14).

This is a loose translation of the Name of G-d (Eh'keh asher Eh'keh).

The Rambam writes that faith and Divine Providence are interlinked. In other words, G-d's Divine Providence is commensurate with a person's faith.

In similar vein, the Chovas ha'Levovos explains that Bitachon is a Segulah for Parnasah. Indeed, it stands to reason, that as one's trust in G-d increases, G-d's response increases too.

And that, the Beis Ya'akov explains, is the meaning of the Name of G-d currently under discussion 'I will be to them whatever I will be' (i.e. to the degree that I am engraved in their hearts').

And this is also how the Besht explains the Pasuk in Tehilim (33:22) "Let Your mercy Hashem be on us (not when, but) to the extent that we hope for You".


The K'sav ve'Hakabalah explains the Name Eh'keh asher Eh'keh to mean 'I will be whatever I want to be, because nothing can stop Hashem from doing as He pleases.


Under False Pretences

"And G-d was angry with Moshe" (4:14).

It was purely out of genuine humility that Moshe declared "Send whoever You will send," a Midah that G-d appreciates more than any other. Yet G-d was angry with him, the Chida explains, because Moshe first asked Him for His Name, in response to which He taught him many wondrous secrets. The fact that he then declined to become G-d's Sheli'ach invalidated his previous request. In that case, it transpires that he had obtained the knowledge of those secrets under false pretences.


Lasting Scars

" it not revealed before Me that Aharon your brother the Levi, will certainly speak" (ibid.).

Chazal have taught us, says Rabeinu Bachye, that whenever the Torah uses the expression "and G-d was angry", it always leaves a lasting impression.

Here too, he explains, the Torah continues with the choice of Aharon, whom G-d knew would be willing (in spite of his humility) to go and speak on His behalf.

And this can be understood in one of two ways:- either that the Kehunah, which was destined to go to Moshe, would now go to Aharon (hence the expression "Aharon your brother the Levi") or that Moshe, who had just complained of his lisp, would never be healed. Otherwise, just as G-d would later afford him the honour of making His face shine (when he descended from Har Sinai), it would have been befitting to do him the honour of removing his lisp, enabling him to fulfill his errands without Aharon.


A Sheli'ach Mitzvah

"And he was on the journey in an inn, when Hashem met him and wanted to kill him" (4:24).

The Or ha'Chayim explains that as long as Moshe was traveling, the destructive angels could do him no harm, for they knew the principle 'Sheli'ach Mitzvah Einan Nizokin'. It was only when he arrived at the inn that they saw an opportunity to attack him, believing that, since he was not actually pursuing his mission, they had the authority to do so. They soon realized however, that they had erred, since when Moshe settled into the inn (notwithstanding the Gemara in Nedarim [see next Pearl]), he was merely preparing for the next leg of his journey, and he was still a Sheli'ach Mitzvah (see Gemara Pesachim 8a).


What Moshe Should Have Done

... The Da'as Zekeinim mi'Ba'alei Tosfos cites Rashi, who explains that Moshe erred here in settling down in the inn before circumcising his son Eliezer (see main article). And he asks how he could possibly have done so, bearing in mind that the next day, he was destined to travel on his Divine mission, and to do so would have endangered the newly circumcised baby (as Rashi himself writes just before this). To travel by himself and let Tziporah follow later was not feasible, presumably because women simply did not travel alone in those days.

And he answers that this episode took place after Aharon had visited Moshe in the inn and advised him not to take Tziporah down to Egypt (even though the Torah records it only afterwards [see also next Pearl]).

That being the case, Moshe ought to have circumcised Eliezer and gone down to Egypt alone, leaving Tziporah and the baby to be picked up on his way back.


Egypt is not for Them

"And G-d said to Aharon 'Go and meet Moshe ...' " (4:27).

Rashi in Yisro (18:2) relates how Aharon advised Moshe not to take Tziporah and Eliezer down to Egypt - 'Aren't we suffering enough on account of those who are already there, and you want to add to their numbers?' he argued. And Moshe took his brother's advice to heart and left his family in the inn (see previous Pearl).

The Da'as Zekeinim explains that, even though the tribe of Levi did not have to work in Egypt anyway, Aharon nevertheless reckoned that it would be preferable not to subject Tziporah and the baby to the sight of K'lal Yisrael's sufferings.


Actions, not Words!

"Increase the men's workload ... and don't let them indulge in false words" (5:9).

We can learn from Par'oh (symbolical of the Yeitzer ha'Ra) just how to serve Hashem. In other words, the extreme pressure that Par'oh applied to our ancestors in Egypt is our cue with regard to the intensity of our own Avodas Hashem.

And it is in this light that the Saraf from Mugalnitza explains the above Pasuk to mean that what is important is not so much the talk, but the actions, for words that are not backed by actions are categorized as 'false'.

* * *

(Adapted from the Seifer ha'Chinuch)

Mitzvah 430:
To Bless Hashem After a Meal (cont.)

The Chinuch now discusses the obligation of B'rachos de'Rabbanan. These incorporate a B'rachah before eating or dinking anything that tastes pleasant, as well as after eating anything that is not included in the Torah obligation, and a B'rachah before smelling things with a pleasant smell (but not afterwards).

The rule is that the Chachamim instituted a B'rachah over anything from which the body derives benefit. Likewise, they instituted reciting a B'rachah over all the good that G-d did with us, when we perform His precious Mitzvos - immediately before one performs them (for the same reason as the author gave for the B'rachah before Torah-study).

And the Chachamim also obligated a B'rachah in praise of Hashem for His feats of strength (such as the B'rachah upon sighting one of the oceans, after not having seen it for thirty days), and after hearing thunder and the like (as the Gemara discusses in Perek ha'Ro'eh) each time a new storm arises.


Ezra and his Beis-Din were the ones to dictate the text of the B'rachos. The Gemara in B'rachos may well teach us that Moshe instituted the B'rachah of 'ha'Zon', and Yehoshua, that of 'ha'Aretz', and that is true in general terms, but it was Ezra who formulated the exact text (as we know it today), and one is not allowed to add or to subtract from it.

Nevertheless, someone who changes the text of a B'rachah or who forgets the exact wording, is Yotzei, provided a. he made no major change in the text, and b. he concluded the B'rachah correctly.

One may recite a B'rachah in any language, provided one mentions the Name of Hashem and Malchus Shamayim. On Shabbos and Yom-Tov one inserts the Kedushas ha'Yom in Birchas ha'Mazon. Someone who forgot to do so, must repeat Bensching, though only at those meals where one is obligated to eat bread (incorporating the two main meals on the first day of Pesach and of Succos, and according to some Poskim, the same applies to every Shabbos and Yom-Tov).


The Chinuch then goes on to elaborate some of the Dinim of the B'rachos that pertain to meals (despite the fact that his lengthy handling of this Mitzvah is not in keeping with his regular brief style) ... Before eating bread one is obligated to wash one's hands with a Revi'is (a quarter of a Lug [one and a half egg-volumes]) of water which is fit for a dog to drink, and with which work has not been performed. The minimum one needs to wash is as far as the end of the fingers (where the palm of the hand begins), and one recites the B'rachah 'Boruch ... al netilas yodoyim'. One then recites the B'rachah 'Boruch ... ha'motzi Lechem min ho'oretz' before eating bread, and afterwards, provided one ate a k'zayis, the four B'rachos that comprise Birchas ha'mozon. After that k'zayis of bread, anything that one eats during the meal, whether it satisfies (such as cooked dishes made of the five species of grain), or other kinds of fruit or vegetables, assuming that one eats them in order to satisfy one's hunger, whether one eats it at the same time as the bread, or after it, is covered by the initial B'rachah that one recited over the bread, and by the B'rachos that one will recite after it. And the same will apply to something that one eats during the meal, not to satisfy one's hunger, but because it enhances the taste of the bread (such as condiments).

To be continued.


Please note that all the rulings cited in this article are the opinion of the Seifer ha'Chinuch, and are not necessarily Halochoh le'Ma'aseh.

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