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

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Vol. 13   No. 13

This issue is sponsored by
Ya'akov Marcus and Family n.y.
l'iluy Nishmas Yehudash ben Mordechai
whose Yohrzeit was on the 14th Teives b. h.

Parshas Sh'mos

Dasan and Aviram

Although no names are mentioned in connection with the incident of the two men whom Moshe found quarreling, the Gemara in Nedarim (64b) informs us that whenever the Torah uses the expression "Nitzim" or "Nitzavim", it refers to Dasam and Aviram. And you can be sure that you will never find these expressions used for the good. In fact, the Medrash says, any evil that one can attribute to them, one should. Another Medrash describes them as wise men - to perform evil.

Targum Yonasan goes further than the above Gemara, as he specifically defines the Rasha who raised his hand to strike the other as Dasan (even though there is no hint in the Pasuk itself as to which of the two was the guilty one).


Rashi, commenting on the word "rei'echa" (your friend) explains that Dasan had raised his hand against a man as evil as himself. The Torah Temimah asks why Rashi finds it necessary to say this, and he answers by citing a Teshuvas Mabit, who permits striking a Rasha, since he does not behave as a Jew should. In that case, the question arises, why did Moshe call Dasan a Rasha for raising his hand against Aviram? Aviram was a Rasha, and it was permitted to strike him?

The answer is that if a Tzadik is permitted to strike a Rasha for not behaving like a Jew, who permits a Rasha, who does not behave like a Jew either, to do so? And that explains why Rashi's comment 'a Rasha like yourself'. Since you are a Rasha just like him, Moshe was saying, who gives you the right to raise your hand against him?


The fact that these two men went to such lengths to deliver Moshe into the hands of Paroh, who, were it not for a series of miracles, would have executed him, is bad enough. But if we take a closer look at the events that took place here, the extent of Dasan's diabolical wickedness breaks all boundaries. Rashi explains that the Egyption whom Moshe had killed the previous day, was a taskmaster who had taken a fancy to Shelomis bas Divri, the beautiful wife of one of the Jewish policemen. So he roused the policeman early and sent him off to work, whilst he committed adultery with his wife. Later, says Rashi, when the taskmaster realized that the policeman was aware of what he had done, he began to lay about him mercilessly, until Moshe appeared on the scene and killed him (a. for committing adultery with a married woman, and b. for striking a Jew). The Medrash adds that the name of the Jewish policeman was, believe it or not, Dasan!

Is it not incredible? Moshe just saved Dasan from a terrible beating (most likely, even from death) by killing the man who was administering it. And how does Dasan repay him? By informing Paroh that Moshe killed the Egyptian, in an attempt to have Moshe put to death (an attempt that all but succeeded). Dasan was literally biting the hand that had just fed him. No, he was cutting it off!

The extent of Dasan and Aviram's evil characters is furthermore revealed by the fact that, on the one hand, K'lal Yisrael were worthy of redemption, Chazal explain, because they were capable of holding their tongues (for not one person divulged the secret that in twelve months time, they would leave Egypt and ask to borrow their silver, gold and clothes). On the other hand, there were two Jews out of the entire nation who were incapable of doing so, Dasan and Aviram, as we just explained (see also K'li Yakar [2:14]). Interestingly, the Pasuk only refers to the role that Dasan played, saying nothing about Aviram, yet Chazal place them on a par with each other. So Dasan may well have been the leader, but it was done with the consent and with the collaboration of Aviram. (cont.)

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Parshah Pearls
Adapted from the Ma'ayanah shel Torah

Like the Stars

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

To inform us, says Rashi, that so much does G-d love Yisrael that He compares them to stars, which He brings out by number and by name. So too, Yisrael ... .

And what's more, the S'fas Emes adds, just as G-d created the stars to shine in the night and to illuminate the darkness, so too, is it the task of a Jew to illuminate the darkness in the world with his Torah and good deeds.


Six and All Strong

"And they were fruitful, swarmed, increased, and were strong, to a tremendous extent" (1:7).

Normally, explains the Toldos Yitzchak, twins are born relatively weak, since one saps up the strength of the other.

Therefore the Torah records here that, never mind twins, they gave birth to sextuplets ("va'yishretzu", like rodents, six at a time), yet, the Torah continues, they were all strong. What an amazing miracle!


Two Kinds of Houses

"And it was, when the midwives feared G-d, He/he made them houses" (1:21).

Because the midwives feared G-d, the Medrash explains, they merited to have exceptional children, who set up great Jewish homes. From Yocheved there came Moshe and Aharon, whereas Miriam was the great-grandmother of Betzalel, who established the Mishkan.


The Malbim explains 'houses' differently. According to him it was Paroh who built them houses. Seeing as the midwives feared G-d, he was afraid that if they were allowed to go to deliver the babies at home, they would evade fulfilling the task that he had set them.

So he built them a special home (a sort of maternity ward) where the mothers had to come and give birth (so that he could keep an eye on them).


A Baby at 130! No Big Deal

"And a man went from the house of Levi and he took the daughter of Levi." (2:1).

The bas Levi in question, say Chazal, was Yocheved, who was already a hundred and thirty at the time. They also inform us that she regained her youth, and a short time later, she gave birth to Moshe. The Torah relates this very nonchalantly, especially when we recall what a fuss the Pasuk made in connection with the conception of Yitzchak, even though Sarah conceived at a much younger age Yocheved.

The Dubner Maggid illustrates this with the following parable ...

Two poor men traveling together were sharing their impressions of a certain town which they both happened to frequent for donations. The first one couldn't praise them enough on account of their good-heartedness, whilst the other referred to them as the biggest misers that he had ever seen, and that he had left town empty-handed.

It transpired however, that the first man had visited the town on Purim, and what the people had given them was Matanos lo'Evyonim. No wonder he left town with a tidy sum!

And so it is here, the Dubner Magid concludes. Yocheved's miraculous regaining of her her youth and the birth of Moshe took place against a background of women giving birth to six babies at a time (all of them healthy [see above 'Six and All Strong']). So another miracle in the same area of fertility was not such a big deal. With Sarah however, it was different. She lived at a time when cessation of childbirth occurred at the age of fifty or sixty. Nor were there any other cases of miraculous births to which regaining her youth could be compared. Against such a regular background, Sarah having her first baby at ninety was indeed something spectacular and extremely noteworthy.


It Depends What You Call Good

"And she saw that he (baby Moshe) was good" (2:2).

See Rashi. Another Medrash interprets this to mean that Moshe was born circumcised.

We find, says the Birchas Shaul, that the word 'Tov' sometimes means perfection (without blemish), whilst 'Ra' refers to a state of blemish, like the Torah writes in Bechukosai (27:33 [in connection with Korbanos]) "One may not switch a good animal for a bad one... ", which the Gemara explains to mean ' ... an unblemished one for a blemished one'. It is only a Jew who is circumcised who can be said to be physically perfect, without a blemish, as G-d said to Avraham (in Parshas Lech-L'cha) "Go before Me and be perfect". And the Medrash interprets this to mean that whereas before the B'ris Milah Avraham was blemished, after it he was perfect.

Consequently, since the Torah describes Moshe when he was born as 'good', it must mean that he was born circumcised.


Placing Greenery in Shul on Shavu'os

"And she placed him among the bulrushes by the river bank" (2:3).

Moshe was born on the seventh of Adar, as is well-known. Yocheved hid him for three months (since she bore him at six months, and knowing that three months later, the Egyptians would come and take the baby [that they believed was due to be born then] and throw him into the river), she pre'empted them. That day was the seventh of Sivan (Shavu'os [Gemara Sotah]). It was the day that eighty years later, Moshe would ascend Har Sinai to receive the Torah, and it was on that merit that he was now miraculously saved.

Perhaps, R. Mordechai Benett suggests, it is to commemorate this event that the Minhag evolved to place greenery in Shul on Shavu'os, to remind us of the bull-rushes that saved Moshe's life.


Mind Your Own Business!

"Who appointed you a man, a governor and a judge over us" (2:14).

This has always been the method used by the Dasans and the Avirams throughout the ages to counter all forms of rebuke. 'Who put you in charge' is, of course, another way of saying 'Mind your own business!' leaving the person who said it with a carte blanche to ignore the reproof and to continue along his same evil path.

But the Torah way is quite different. In the battle against the Yeitzer ha'Ra, says the Avnei Azel, everybody must do whatever lies within his power to do to stamp out evil. And so Chazal have said 'There where there are no men, try to be a man'.


He Couldn't Have Died

"And the king of Egypt died ... and B'nei Yisrael sighed ... " (2:23)

He did not really die, says Rashi. He became a Metzora (who is considered dead), and he proceeded to slaughter Jewish babies to bathe in their blood.

How does Rashi know that Paroh did not really die?

Simple, explains the G'ro. Had he died, the Torah would not have referred to him by his title 'king', seeing as the Pasuk in Mishlei writes that 'there is no sovereignty on the day of death'.


Jewish Identity

"And G-d saw the B'nei Yisrael and G-d knew" (2:25).

The current Pesukim seem to be listing the merits that led to the Exodus from Egypt. The Torah has just listed the back-breaking work that caused Yisrael to cry out to Him. What merits does this Pasuk hint at?

A certain Tzadik once explained that what G-d saw was that, in spite of the bitterness of the Galus, B'nei Yisrael remained B'nei Yisrael, as Chazal have said, they did not change their names, their language or their mode of clothing. That is why "And G-d saw the B'nei Yisrael (that they had retained their identity) and G-d knew (that He would therefore take them out of exile)".


The Malbim explains the Pasuk differently. The scars left on the body by the physical afflictions, he explains, are visible for all to see. Not so the scars that the subjugation and the humiliation leave on a person's Soul, which are invisible. What the Pasuk therefore means is that G-d saw the former, and knew the latter.


Discarding Physicality

"Take off your shoes from your feet, because the place on which you are standing is holy ground" (3:5).

The human body is the cover of the Soul, like shoes are to the feet.

Consequently, says the Malbim, what G-d was telling Moshe was that if he wanted to merit Divine Revelation, then He would have to remove his physicality and that only then would he be able to attain total sanctity.

* * *

(Adapted from the Seifer ha'Chinuch)

Please bear in mind that the rulings in this article reflect the opinion of the Seifer ha'Chinuch and are not necessarily Halachah.

Mitzvah 52:
Not To Eat a Shor ha'Niskal

It is forbidden to eat an ox that has been sentenced to death by stoning, even if it was Shechted correctly (Mechilta), as the Torah writes "And its flesh shall not be eaten" (21:28). This ruling applies, not specifically to an ox, but to any damaging creature, whether it is an animal, a wild beast or a bird; and the Torah mentions 'ox' only because it is the most common of human-owned animals to cause death.

One of the reasons for the Mitzvah is to impress upon ourselves that whoever causes such a tragedy is distanced and despised both by G-d and by man, even if what he did was done be'Shogeg, such as an animal, which does not have Da'as (i.e. it cannot be held responsible for its actions), how much more so if it was done be'Meizid. Taking this to heart will cause us to be more careful in our own actions, ensuring that we take care to avoid similar tragedies.

Some of the Dinim of the Mitzvah ... Chazal say in Bava Kama (41a) that any animal, Tam (an animal that has not killed three people) or Mu'ad (one that has) that kills a man, a woman, a child or even a slave is sentenced to death ... The death sentence can only be declared in the presence of the owner (assuming the animal is not hefker [ownerless]) ... There are however, many cases where an animal that kills a person does not receive the death-penalty ... and various other details are discussed in Bava Kama (and in the Rambam, in the fourth chapter of Hilchos Ma'acholos Asuros).

This prohibition of not eating the flesh applies to both men and women. The sentence can only be issued however, in Eretz Yisrael by a Beis-Din of twenty-three who are Semuchin. Anyone who contravenes this Mitzvah and eats meat from a Shor ha'Niskal on purpose, is subject to Malkos.


Mitzvah 53:
The Mitzvah of Beis-Din Judging the Din of Damages Caused by a Bor

It is a Mitzvah incumbent upon Beis-Din to judge the Din of someone who dug a pit in a location where it subsequently caused damage to passers-by, as the Torah writes "And if a man opens a pit ... " (21:33). This ruling applies, not only to a pit, but extends to a trench or a cave; and the Torah specifies 'a pit' to limit the judgement to a pit which is fit to kill (since a 'Bor' by definition, is one that is ten Tefachim deep, a depth at which an animal that falls into it is liable to die).

A reason for this Mitzvah the author already gave in the previous Mitvzvah.

Some of the Dinim of the Mitzvah ... The Gemara writes in Bava Kama (53b) "an ox" 'but not man', "a donkey", 'but not vessels' (meaning that one is only obligated to pay if an animal falls into the pit and dies, but not a person, nor is one obligated to pay for vessels that fall in and break) ... Someone who digs a pit in his private domain and then declares the domain Hefker, but not the pit, is Chayav to pay for subsequent damages, whereas if he also declared the pit Hefker, he is Patur, since he dug the pit with permission. If, on the other hand, he digs the pit in the public domain, he is Chayav under all circumstances, since there, he dug without permission ... In a case where a person digs a pit at the edge of his domain where it borders on a public street (like the trenches that one digs as foundations for the wall that one intends to erect next to the street) he is Patur even if he did not declare it Hefker, and even though it is unavoidable that some of the passers-by will fall into it. The reason for this is because it is impossible to prohibit the entire population from building walls to their gardens and courtyards ... The Din of someone who uncovers a pit which he did not dig, whom the Gemara in Bava Kama (49b) obligates to pay, since he is considered the owner of the pit, though this in turn, depends largely on how well the pit was previously covered ... Who is responsible to cover a pit belonging to partners ... Who is obligated to pay in the case of a pit that is dug by two people, one after the other ... To what extent one is obligated to remove one's potential damaging articles from a location where they might cause damage (e.g. water, thorns and pieces of glass in the street ... and all the other details, are discussed in Bava Kama and Bava Basra.

This Mitzvah applies to men, who are duty-bound to enact Din, not women, who cannot be elected to the Beis-Din. They are however, subject to the Din of payment just like men, irrespective of whether they cause the damage or whether they are at the receiving end of the damage.

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