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

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Vol. 18   No. 13

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Parshas Sh'mos

What Did Moshe Say Wrong?
(Adapted from Rabeinu Bachye)

At the beginning of Parshas Vo'eiro, Rashi explains that the sin for which Moshe lost his right to enter Eretz Yisrael was that of asking G-d why He did bad to Yisrael ("Lomoh ha're'oso lo'om ha'zeh?") and that was why he was punished.

The source of this seems to lie in a Medrash, which Rashi in Va'eiro cites in part. The Medrash, quoting G-d, who bemoaned the loss of the Avos, each of whom had trouble in obtaining land and land rights, despite G-d's assurance that the land belonged to them; yet they said not a word. In stark contrast, the very first time G-d appeared to Moshe, he already queried Him with the words "What is Your Name", and now he says "Why did You do bad?"


R. Bachye concludes however, that there was nothing wrong with Moshe's comment "Lomoh ha're'oso lo'om ha'zeh?". And he cites two reasons for justifying it (and I shall begin with the second one): If Moshe was so severely punished for saying "Lomoh hare'oso", why did he repeat the sin later in Beha'aloscho (11:11) where he said "Lomoh ha're'oscho le'avdecho? (Why did You do bad to your servant [himself])?"

Moreover, he explains, citing a number of sources from T'nach to back up his statement, G-d is indeed the source from which all bad as well as good, emanates (although He is of course not responsible for the cause that necessitates the bad to come about). This does not mean that G-d actually does bad, but, as the Ramban explains, that He allows it to happen.

And citing Rabeinu Chananel, he elaborates further, that "Lomoh hare'oso" was not said in the form of a complaint, but as a legitimate question that in effect, Chazal describe in B'rachos (5a) as 'Why Tzadikim suffer whilst Resha'im have it good' (for which Moshe was not taken to task). Moshe saw his people Yisrael suffering under the heavy yoke of the Egyptians, whilst their tormentors, who denied G-d's very existence, enjoyed success in all their endeavors and lived lives of tranquility. Sometimes, R. Bachye elaborates further, a person has to suffer for his sins, and sometimes, he has to suffer in order to earn the great reward that G-d has in store for him, as the Pasuk specifically states in Eikev (8:16) "In order to afflict you and to test you, so as to do good to you in the end!" Indeed. These are what Chazal refer to as 'Yisurin shel Ahavah' (sufferings of love), about which the Pasuk writes in Tehilim (94:12) "How fortunate is the man whom G-d chastises ".

And so, when Moshe saw that on the very day that he appeared to Par'oh with the request to let Yisrael go, the latter turned on the screws and ordered the workload to become even heavier, he turned to G-d and asked Him on what basis He allowed this to happen.

As a matter of fact, Yirmiyahu ha'Navi posed the same question when he asked G-d (12:1) why the wicked are successful - whether it was to reward them for their kind deeds that they had performed or whether it was to increase their pain and suffering in the World to Come. And just as there, G-d concurred with the latter suggestion, so too here, did He inform Moshe that he was about to witness a total reversal of the current situation; How the terrible suffering that Yisrael had undergone was in order to increase the imminent reward that they were about to receive, and how the peace and tranquility that Par'oh had enjoyed was about to be replaced by a series of plagues that He had in store for him. And what's more, the final bout of suffering that the Egyptians brought upon Yisrael would serve as the nail in Par'oh's coffin, and Yisrael's acceptance of the terrible decree with love would raise the level of their reward still more.


Two questions remain: If "Why did You do bad?" was not Moshe's sin, then what was? And what's more, if indeed, it was not, then why does the Medrash that we cited above cite it as such?

The sin, R. Bachye explains, lay in Moshe's following statement "And from the time (u'me'Oz) that I came before Par'oh to speak in Your Name, he did bad to this people ". In other words, G-d had sent him on a mission, and that mission had failed. Par'oh had refused to humble himself before G-d. This was in effect, querying G-d's ability to influence Par'oh, Chas ve'Shalom; that Par'oh's will prevailed over and above the will of G-d! This is why G-d answered "Now you will see !". Now you will see what I will do to Par'oh using the Power of My Great Name, with which he will now become familiar, and get to know it when all the evil that he perpetrated will rebound on him, until he will concede of his own accord.

And as proof of this explanation, the author cites a Medrash, which, citing Moshe himself, comments on this Pasuk "Ribono shel Olam", "I sinned with the word "Oz" (u'me'Oz bosi el Par'oh), with the word "Oz" will I praise you !" (Oz yoshir Moshe).

And the reason that the Medrash quotes "Lomoh hare'oso " is not because that was the sin, but rather because those were Moshe's opening words. It was the continuation "u'me'Oz bo'si el Par'oh " that angered G-d, as we explained.

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Parshah Pearls
(Adapted from the Riva)

And He made them Houses

"And it was when the midwives feared G-d, he (Par'oh) made them (lohem) houses" (1:21).

If, as it would seem, the word "them" refers to the two midwives (Shifrah and Pu'ah, see Rashi), then the Torah ought to have written not "lohem", but 'lohen, in the feminine.

The Riva, citing Rabeinu Tam from Orleans, explains that in fact, the houses were for the whole of B'nei Yisrael (and not for the midwives at all). And what the Torah means is that when Par'oh realized that Shifrah and Pu'ah tricked him and that the people were hiding their babies from the Egyptian inspectors, he changed the housing system. From then on, he arranged that every Egyptian house was flanked by two Jewish ones. Consequently, whenever an Egyptian baby would begin to cry, the Jewish babies on either side would cry too, as is the way of babies (just as the Gemara explains in the first Perek of Sotah) with regard to the Pasuk in Shir Ha'shirim (2:15) "Seize for us (the Egyptian) foxes, little foxes who destroy the vineyards!".


The Three Decrees

"And a man from Levi (Amram) went, and he (re)married the daughter of Levi" (2:1).

Rashi explains that they had been separated from the time of Par'oh's decree. As the Gemara explains in Sotah (Ibid.), as a result of Par'oh's evil decree Amram separated from his wife, and it was as a result of his daughter Miriam's admonishment (that his decree was worse than Par'oh in that Par'oh decreed only that there should be no boys, whereas he decreed that there should be no girls either) that he promptly took her back. And just as the rest of the tribe of Levi initially took their cue from Amram and divorced their wives, so too, did they take their cue from him now and take their wives back. It is obvious that the decree to which the Pasuk here refers is not the decree to kill the babies. Why is that?

Because, as Rashi explains there, on the day that that decree was issued, Moshe was already born (see Rashi Pasuk 22), and at that point Amram had already taken back his wife.

To explain exactly what the Pasuk means, we will therefore have to refer to the Medrash, which explains that Par'oh issued three decrees against K'lal Yisrael. Firstly "If it is a son, then kill him!" Secondly, every son that is born should become a slave (This decree is not written explicitly in the Torah).Thirdly, and finally, "Every child that is born, you shall cast in the River Nile".

And the current decree refers to the middle one: 'Every son that is born should become a slave'.



"And she (the daughter of Par'oh) called his name 'Moshe', because she said 'I drew him from the water'" (2:10).

What the Pasuk means, says the Riva, is that she called him an Egyptian name which is the equivalent of 'Moshe'.

See also R. Bachye (Parshas Mikeitz 41:45).

The question is, he asks, that since Moshe was drawn out, why did she call him 'Moshe' (draws out) and not 'Nimsheh' (drawn out)?

Quoting the Rav R. David, he explains that Bisyah in fact, was referring to the episode where Moshe was punished for striking the rock (see Rashi 1:21), and on that occasion he was indeed drawing water for others (see following Pearl) I once heard from the Gateshead Rav (z.l.) that by calling him 'Moshe', Bisyah was conveying the message that someone who has merited to be saved should go on to save others. The Rav was speaking at a gathering in honor of the Skulener Rebbe (who, as is well-known, was incarcerated by the Communists in a prison in Roumania), who upon attaining his freedom took upon himself the mission of traveling the world to collect funds for the purpose of redeeming those Jewish political prisoners who were still languishing in Communist jails.


The Egyptian's Son

"And he (Moshe) saw that there was no man (present) so he smote the Egyptian" (2:12).

Rashi explains that Moshe saw that nobody would descend from the one who was destined to convert '.

But how can Rashi say that, when Rashi himself explains at the end of Parshas Emor that the son of the Egyptian man who cursed Hashem was none other than the son of Sh'lomis bas Divri and the Egyptian taskmaster of whom we are talking here? Citing the Chizkuni, he explains that at the time of the incident in Emor, Sh'lomis bas Divri was already pregnant with her son, and that what Moshe foresaw was that he could kill the father since no other convert would descend from him.


The question remains however, why Sh'lomis' son required conversion in the first place? The Halachah after all, is that if a slave or a gentile has a child from a Jewish woman, that child is a proper Jew in all respects?

Again quoting the Chizkuni, the Riva explains that the Halachah that we quoted is restricted to after Matan Torah, where 'the Torah declares Hefker the seed of a gentile'. Before Matan Torah, the Yichus of every baby was determined exclusively by his father.



"When the King of Egypt died, the B'nei Yisrael groaned because of the work and they cried out" (2:23).

As long as the King of Egypt was alive, the B'nei Yisrael hoped that, after his death, the decree would be cancelled. When he eventually died, and things continued as before, they groaned because it now seemed that their troubles would never end.

* * *

The Holy Names of G-d

" and they (Yisrael) will say to me what ([ve'omru] li mah Sh'mo, mah) shall I say to them" (3:13).

The last letters of "li mah Sh'mo, mah" spell the Holy four-letter Name of G-d, a hint that G-d taught the correct pronunciation (or various combinations of pronunciation) of His Name.

And in Pasuk 16, following the series of Names that He taught him, the Torah continues "Go and gather the elders of Yisrael, to teach us, the Ba'al ha'Turim explains, that one may only teach the Name of Hashem to the elders of Yisrael (just as G-d was now doing).


In Pasuk 3:14, the Ba'al ha'Turim continues, the Torah mentions the Name "Eh'keh" three times, twice in one phrase, and once more later in the Pasuk. This corresponds to the three Avos: Avraham, to whom G-d said "Veh'yei B'rachah"; Yitzchak, to whom He said "ve'Eheyeh imach", and Ya'akov, to whom He also said "ve'Eheyeh imach".


The Ba'al ha'Turim comments that the Gematriyah of the word "Eh'keh" is twenty-one, as are the Gematriyos of the first three Names of the thirteen Midos of Hashem (Hashem, Hashem, Keil ['Yud' 'Yud' 'Alef'), of the first letters of the Avos ('Alef', 'Yud'. 'Yud') and of the five Books of the Torah ('Beis', 'Vav', 'Vav', 'Vav', 'Alef').

Twice "Eh'keh" equals forty-two, a hint, he says, that G-d also taught Moshe G-d's forty-two letter Name. Whereas three times "Eh'keh", twelve letters whose Gematriyah equals sixty-three, corresponds to the twelve tribes, the letters of whose names total fifty - sixty-three when one adds on the thirteen letters of the names of the Avos.


"This is My Name (Zeh Sh'mi) forever" (3:15).

The Gematriyah of "Zeh", says the Ba'al ha'Turim, equals twelve, a hint that G-d also taught Moshe His twelve-letter Name.


"And I will strike Egypt with all My wonders which (asher) I will do in their midst" (3:20).

The Gematriyah of "asher", the Ba'al ha'Turim points out, is five hundred and one, which is equivalent to the first letters of the Ten Plagues 'D'tzach Adash be'Achav'. 'D'tzach Adash be'Achav' was engraved on Moshe's staff.


"And He said 'Place your hand in your bosom (be'cheikecha) and behold it was stricken with Tzara'as that was like snow" (4:10).

The word "be'cheikecha" appears three times in T'nach, one here, and twice in connection with David ha'Melech - a hint that like Moshe, David was stricken with Tzara'as. This bears out Chazal, who say that, following the incident with bas-Sheva, David suffered from Tzara'as for six months, one of a number of punishments that he received for the 'sin' of bas Sheva.

* * *

(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 468:

Not to Make a Bald Patch on One's Head

It is forbidden to make a bald patch on one's head over a deceased person in the way that some stupid people do; about this the Torah writes "And do not make a bald patch 'between your eyes' (i.e. the location of the Tefilin), over a deceased person. This La'av is repeated with regard to the Kohanim, about whom the Torah writes in Emor (21:5) "They shall not make a bald patch on their heads". It is from there that we learn that a. one is Chayav for making a bald patch anywhere on the entire head just like one is between the eyes; and b. that one is only Chayav if one does so over a deceased person. It transpires that between the two Pesukim, the complete Mitzvah and its explanation emerges, both as regards a Yisrael and as regards a Kohen, since everybody is Chayav on the entire head just like one is between the eyes. One may well ask as to why the Torah does not write everything in one place. The answer however lies in what the author wrote in his introduction to Seifer D'varim. Indeed, what he wrote there will help us to understand many difficult issues that come up in many areas of Torah study.

A reason for the Mitzvah is in order not to do anything that is similar to things that the idolaters do - as the author wrote in Parshas Kedoshim. with regard to the La'av of cutting off one's Peyos. An additional reason for this prohibition is because it is not befitting for the chosen people, who are conversant with the wisdom of the precious Torah, to demonstrate pain over G-d's actions, unless it entails doing something that the Torah commands us to do (see also what the author wrote in this regard, in the first Mitzvah in Emor [the prohibition of a Kohen Hedyot becoming Tamei ... ]). But to destroy our bodies and to wound ourselves like fools is neither good for us nor is it the way of wise men and men of understanding. Rather it is the way of inferior people who are lacking in intelligence, who understand nothing about the deeds of G-d and of His wonders. The Ramban writes that this was the Chachamim's reason in forbidding mourning excessively over a deceased person.

(to be continued)

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