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

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Vol. 15   No. 13

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Parshas Sh'mos

Three Men Took Part in the Plan
Which Plan?

(Part 1)

The Gemara in Sotah (11a) teaches us that three men participated in Par'oh's plan of 'Hovoh nischakmoh lo' (the plan cited at the beginning of the Parshah, to turn Yisrael inside a nation of slaves). The three men were Bilam, Iyov and Yisro. Bilam, who agreed with the proposition, was killed; Iyov, who was silent, was punished with suffering; whereas Yisro, who fled, merited that his descendants would later sit in the Lishkas ha'Gazis (the chamber in the Beis-Hamikdash where the Sanhedrin convened).


But this clashes with the Gemara in Sanhedrin, asks the Da'as Zekeinim M.T. The Gemara in Sanhedrin (106b), based on a Pasuk in Tehilim, explains that Bilam died at the age of thirty-three (before he had reached half the age of seventy (the regular age-span of most people of that time).

But if he was present at the time of Paroh's plan, (which obviously took place before the slavery began), he could not have been less than a hundred and forty when he was killed by Pinchas, just before Yisrael entered Eretz Cana'an. How is that? Well, he would hardly have been less than twenty when he sat on a panel in an advisory capacity to Paroh. Add to that the eighty years of Moshe, and the forty years that Yisrael spent in the desert (a total of a hundred and forty years)?


Consequently, the Da'as Zekeinim, citing R. Menachem Madani, explains that the plan to which the Gemara in Sotah refers must be that of 'Le'cho i'otzcho' (Bolok, 24:14), which Chazal ascribe to the plan to make Yisrael sin with the daughters of Mo'av at Ba'al Pe'or, when Bil'am told Balak how much the G-d of these people detests permissiveness (as the Gemara explains there in Sanhedrin).

In the name of R. Moshe however, the Da'as Zekeinim query the previous explanation from the Chronicles of Moshe, which specifically equate Bilam with the plan of 'Hovoh nischakmoh ', and not with that of 'Le'cho i'otzcho'?


Independent of the earlier questions, R. Menachem asks from another well-known Gemara in Zevachim (127a), which relates how, at Matan Torah, when the nations of the world heard the thunder and lightning, they sent a delegation to Bilam and asked him whether G-d was about to send another flood on the world ? Even if we ignore the original Medrash, Bilam would have had to be at least twenty for him to have been the world's leading consultant; add to that the forty years Yisrael spent in the desert. That would have made him at least sixty at the time of his death, not thirty-three.


There is a version of the Gemara in Zevachim which relates how the people converged (not on Bilam, but) on Kemuel. This does not solve the problem however, since it is evident from the same Gemara that Kemuel, the father of Aram, is none other than Bilam, who was called Kemuel because it is the acronym of 'Kam be'umoso shel Keil' (meaning 'he arose against the people of G-d').

And there is also a Medrash which explains that Kemuel the father of Aram is alias Lavan ha'Arami, and that Lavan ha'Arami, Bilam ben Be'or and Kushan Rish'asayim are one and the same person; whereas the Gemara in Sanhedrin 105a explains that he was called by the last name because he perpetrated two evils against K'lal Yisrael, one in the days of Ya'akov and one in the days of the Shoftim. Two evils notice, and not three! But that we will discuss I.Y.H. next week.

* * *

Parsha Pearls

(Adapted from the Da'as Zekeinim mi'Ba'alei Tosfos)

Who Was Number Seventy?

"And it was that all the souls, the descendants of Ya'akov numbered seventy souls, and Yosef who was in Egypt" (1:5).

This means, says the Da'as Zekeinim, that Yosef was the one to make up the seventy who went down to Egypt, in which case it is not necessary to count Yocheved (see Rashi). And by the way, he adds, the reason that the Torah counts the children of Ya'akov again (see Rashi), despite having already counted them earlier, is to teach us how rapidly they increased, from seventy to six hundred thousand men between the ages of twenty and sixty, in such a short space of time.


Why All these Expressions?

"And the B'nei Yisrael were fruitful, swarmed, increased and became strong very, very much" (1:7).

Chazal explain that they gave birth to sextuplets and it is possible that they learn this from the six expressions used here.

Alternatively, says the Da'as Zekeinim M.T., one can explain the Pasuk like this: "Poru" - 'They were fruitful'; "va'yishretzu" - they gave birth to six in one go (like sheratzim); "ve'yirbu" - they all survived; "va'ya'atzmu bi'me'od me'od" - 'and they were very, very strong'.


The Same Paroh Renewed

"And a new king arose over Egypt, who did not know Yosef " (1:8).

This was not a new king at all. It was the same Paroh. Only when the people asked him to subjugate the B'nei Yisrael, he refused. So what did they do? They deposed him from his throne for three months, at which point he could take it no longer; so he yielded to the pressure, and regained his throne.


From Bad to Worse

" who did not know Yosef" (Ibid.)

This can be compared, says the Medrash, to someone who stoned the bust of the king, who was arrested and who was set free. It was not long before he was caught stoning the king himself. At first, Paroh did not know Yosef. It did not take long for him to proclaim "I don't know Hashem!"


Trying to Outwit G-d

"Come, let us deal wisely with them " (1:10).

The wisdom of their decision was to kill Yisrael's saviour by drowning, seeing as G-d had already promised not to destroy the world by drowning, in which case, He would be unable to pay them back (measure for measure, as was His way). See Rashi.

They erred however, says the Da'as Zekeinim M.T., in that He had only sworn not to bring the water to the people. But He had said nothing about bringing the people to the water (which was of course, the Egyptians' ultimate punishment for their crimes against B'nei Yisrael).


Bitter Times

"And they embittered their lives (va'yemoreru es chayeihem) with hard work " (1:14). It was at that time that Miriam was born, and that explains why she was called Miriam (which essentially means bitter).


Under Surveillance

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

Da'as Zekeinim M.T. however, explains this Pasuk with reference to Paroh. When Paroh saw that the midwives feared G-d more than they feared him, and were not carrying out his instructions, he arranged for them housing among his servants, so that they could keep an eye on them to make sure that, from now on at least, they would obey his instructions.


Three Months Here,

Three Months There

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

What happened was, says Rashi, that the Egyptians counted nine months from the time that Amram took Yocheved back (after having divorced her), when in fact, Moshe was born after six months, giving Yocheved three months grace before they came to inspect.

However, asks the Da'as Zekeinim M.T., this does not concur with the Gemara in Sotah (12a), which takes on that Yocheved was already pregnant with Moshe three months prior to her second marriage to Amram.

They therefore explain that the Egyptians were aware of the fact that a woman can give birth to a healthy child after six months, and so they came to inspect Yocheved's situation six months after her second marriage to Amram. What they did not however know was that Yocheved was already three months pregnant when Amram remarried her.


The Time was Ripe

"And the king of Egypt died, and the B'nei Yisrael sighed from the work and they cried out, and their cries went up to G-d from the work. And G-d heard their cries and He remembered His covenant " (2:23).

The Torah records here three things - the king of Egypt died (permitting Moshe to return to Egypt), Yisrael cried out from their suffering and G-d remembered His covenant. And it was the combination of these three things, says the Da'as Zekeinim, that resulted in Moshe being sent to Egypt on his sacred mission (as the Torah goes on to relate).


Shoes or Gloves

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

Hashem needed to add the words "from off your feet", since the word (Na'al) can also mean glove, as we find in Megilas Rus, when Boaz took off his 'Na'al' and gave it to P'loni Almoni, in order to acquire from him the right to acquire his fields together with Rus - and it was the done thing in those days, for princes and kings to acquire by means of a glove.


G-d ordered Moshe to remove both shoes, says the Da'as Zekeinim, whereas Yehoshua, he told to remove just one. This they say, is because whereas here, the Shechinah was there before Moshe, with Yehoshua, it was he (Yehoshua) who preceded the Shechinah, and who had therefore already acquired his place by the time the Shechinah arrived.


Keeping the Great Name Under Wraps

"And Moshe said to G-d and they will say to me 'What is His Name?', what shall I say to them? And G-d said to Moshe, 'Eh'keh asher Eh'keh' " (3:13/14).

The Rosh explains that Moshe asked G-d whether, should B'nei Yisrael query him about His Great name, He wanted him to explain it to them; to which G-d replied that He wanted Him to explain to them the Name 'Eh'keh asher Eh'keh', but not His Great Name, which should be treated with more discretion.

* * *



"And they (the daughters of Yisro) came to Reu'el their father's father " (2:18).


" when Reu'el was informed that Moshe had run away from Par'oh, he threw him into a dungeon, and Tziporah his granddaughter fed him secretly for a period of ten years, after which time he (Reu'el set him free). Moshe was walking in the garden, thanking Hashem for the miracles and mighty deeds that He had wrought for him and Davening to Him, when he noticed the stick that had been created at bein-ha'Shemashos of the sixth day of the creation, on which there was carved Hashem's great and precious Name, with which he was destined to perform the wonders in Egypt, to split the Reed-Sea and to produce water from the rock. It was (firmly) stuck in the ground, but without a moment's hesitation, Moshe stretched out his hand and took it. That was when he agreed to remain with the man, who gave him Tziporah, his son's daughter, as a wife" (2:21).


"And it was in those many days, that the King of Egypt was stricken with leprosy, so he ordered the firstborn of B'nei Yisrael to be killed, in order to bathe in their blood, and B'nei Yisrael groaned from the work that was hard on them, and they cried out. And their complaints ascended to the Heavens up to Hashem, and He promised to redeem them from their work" (2:23).


"And Hashem saw the pain of the slavery of B'nei Yisrael, and the Teshuvah that they performed in secret, that one did not know about the other, was known to Him" (2:25).


"And Zagnegu'el (Moshe's Rebbe), the Angel of Hashem, appeared to Moshe in a blaze of fire " (3:1).


"And I revealed Myself to you today, because by My word I will rescue you from the hand of the Egyptians and take you out of that impure land " (3:8).


"And Hashem said to Moshe, 'The One who said and the world came into being'; and he said 'So you shall say to the B'nei Yisrael, "I am He who is and I am He who will be, sent me to you" (3:14).


" It is revealed to Me that he will let you go, not because his hand is strong, but because by My word I am going to chastise him with evil plagues" (3:19).


"And he said: 'Please have mercy Hashem, send Your message through Pinchas who is worthy to be sent at the end of days" (4:13).

* * *



(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 82

Not to Issue a Death-Sentence by Assessment

Beis-Din are forbidden to sentence the defendant to death unless there are two witnesses who testify that they actually witnessed the act of which he has been accused, and not by means of circumstantial evidence, however convincing it may be. On this the Torah writes in Mishpatim (23:6) " and a person who is innocent and righteous you shall not sentence to death". This constitutes a warning against killing a person if there is the slightest possibility that he did not perform the act of which he has been accused. And so the Mechilta writes explicitly: 'If they saw Reuven running after Shimon with the intention of killing him, and they told him clearly that he (Shimon) was a Jew, a ben-B'ris, and warned him that if he killed him, he would receive the death-penalty, and then, after being distracted for a moment, they saw Shimon lying on the ground convulsing and dying, and Reuven's sword dripping blood, he is not Chayav, because the Torah writes " and a person who is innocent and righteous you shall not sentence to death". So you see that because the witnesses did not actually witness the act in question, the accused cannot be punished. And so it should be, for, if the Torah were to permit punishing him on the basis of the strongest likelihood that he actually performed it, one will go on to punish him even when the likelihood is not so strong (because where does one draw the line?), until eventually, bearing in mind the wide spectrum of possibilities, one will come, on occasions, to kill someone who is innocent of the crime of which he is accused. Absorb this argument, since it is bound to occur. Consequently, Hashem closed this gate completely, to avoid such an error from occurring, and forbade us by means of a command, and "all the commands of Hashem are straight".

Included in this La'av is the case where two witnesses testify that the accused sinned, only one says that he performed work on Shabbos, say, whilst the second one says that he worshipped idols. In this case too, based on the same Pasuk, the two witnesses will not combine to have him sentenced to death. And this too, is corroborated by the Mechilta, with regard to one witness who testifies that the accused prostrated himself to the sun, and the other one, that he prostrated himself to the moon.

The reason for the Mitzvah is self-evident.

Some of the Dinim of the Mitzvah The Gemara in Makos (6b) explains that two witnesses do not combine, even if they are testifying that someone sinned, unless they witnessed the scene simultaneously, and what's more, they must also see each other at that moment. This precludes a case where each witness saw the act being performed from two windows that were in line with each other, so that they were not able to see each other. If however, there was a third person warning the accused, who was standing in the middle, who could see them, and they, him, he serves to combine the two witnesses into one pair of witnesses plus all the other details are discussed in Sanhedrin.

This Mitzvah applies in Eretz Yisrael to men, since they are responsible to dispense justice, as the author has explained many times, but not to women, who are not eligible to judge. Someone who contravenes this Mitzvah and judges on the basis of circumstantial evidence in the way that we explained, has transgressed a command of the King. His punishment will be great, because he causes the death of innocent people.

The Ramban however, explains this Pasuk in the form of two La'avin with different connotations, and he bases his interpretation on the Gemara in Sanhedrin (33:2), which, citing a B'raisa, teaches us that if the accused leaves Beis-Din guilty, and someone claims that he has something to say in his favour, Beis-Din are obligated to return him to the court-room, as the Torah writes " and do not kill someone who is innocent " - and the accused is 'innocent', bearing in mind that the witness might just produce evidence that will prove his innocence. Whilst on the other hand, if he leaves Beis-Din innocent, and someone claims that he has something to say that will prove him guilty, Beis-Din may not return him, seeing as the Torah writes "Do not kill someone who is righteous", and the accused, who left the courtroom innocent, is righteous. All these concepts are based on the reason that we cited earlier, because Hashem wants to search for the merits of the defendant; perhaps he has done Teshuvah and has gone back on the evil that he perpetrated. In that case, he will help to inhabit the world which Hashem wants to be inhabited.

* * *

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