This issue is sponsored l'iluy Nishmas
Vol. 11 No. 14
Nisim ben Moshe ve'Iza bas David z.l.
Speaking to Paroh
The first time that G-d commanded Moshe to speak to Paroh was at Har ha'Elokim (alias Sinai), during the episode of the Burning Bush. There (3:18), He ordered him to request from Paroh three days leave for Yisrael to serve Him in the desert.
First however, G-d had commanded him to inform K'lal Yisrael of the impending redemption, and it was in that connection that in spite of G-d's assurances, Moshe voiced his reservations, expressing his fear that Yisrael would not listen to him. G-d assured him over and over again that they would, even going so far as to equip him with a series of signs, which would convince the people beyond any shadow of doubt, of the Divine character of his mission. And Moshe responded by insisting that his speech impediment would hinder his efforts. Even when G-d assured him that He would assist him in this area too, he still declined to accept the Shelichus, asking G-d to appoint someone who was more worthy than he.
Angry at Moshe's refusal, G-d appointed Aharon joint spokesman. Moshe would convey G-d's message briefly, and Aharon would elaborate.
On that occasion, Moshe's reservations were confined to his Shelichus to Yisrael. Once G-d clarified that he was to ask Paroh for nothing more than three days leave, he seems to have been amenable to the task, and accepted it without reservations. The Oznayim la'Torah explains that this was indeed the case, due to the relatively easy nature of the errand. Three days after all, is not an eternity, and as such, he willingly accepted the Shelichus.
When G-d commanded Moshe a second time to speak to Paroh (4:21), this time in Midyan, He added the warning that if Paroh would not obey G-d's instructions to let His firstborn nation leave, He would kill his (Paroh's) firstborn.
And again, Moshe did not refuse. It was only on the third occasion (6:11), when G-d instructed him in Egypt, to speak to Paroh, that he declined, claiming that a. if Yisrael had refused to listen to him, how could Par'oh be expected to listen? and, b. his speech impediment would stand in his way.
Considering that, at this stage, both Yisrael and Paroh had treated him with disdain, not to mention the negative results of his first visit to Paroh, it is perhaps hardly surprising that (notwithstanding G-d's assurances of his ultimate success), the humble Moshe felt his own inadequacy so acutely.
The Status of a King
The Pasuk "And G-d spoke to Moshe and Aharon, and He commanded them with respect of the B'nei Yisrael and with respect of Par'oh, King of Egypt" (6:13) omits any concrete instructions. Rashi comments that He commanded them to be gentle and patient with K'lal Yisrael, and talk to Paroh with respect.
The Or ha'Chayim however, is not satisfied with this explanation, which he refers to as 'D'rush'. Moreover, he points out, it does nothing to answer Moshe's two arguments against his appointment (which we cited earlier on). Consequently, based no doubt on the same premise as the Ramban (whom we will cite shortly), who considers Moshe's repeated mention of his speech impediment, as a great merit, an outpouring of Moshe's deep humility, He interprets the second half of the Pasuk, as G-d's answer to Moshe's queries.
When the Pasuk writes that G-d commanded Moshe and Aharon with respect to Yisrael ... , it means that he inculcated them with Malchus. From now on, he explains, Yisrael would no longer ignore Moshe's words, nor would Paroh treat him with contempt. He and Aharon now had the aura of kings, and both parties would begin to treat them with the utmost respect, in all matters that concerned the impending exodus, as the Pasuk concludes. See also Seforno.
Moshe, Paroh's God
In Pasuk 29, Rashi explains that G-d's command to Moshe is merely a repetition of Pasuk 11, as if the Torah was saying 'Let's get back to the point.
The Ramban disagrees. In his opinion, when Moshe pleaded with G-d in Pasuk 12, to let him off the hook, so to speak and G-d responded by sending Aharon together with him, Moshe understood that he and Aharon would perform the mission jointly, but that it would suffice for one of them - Aharon, to act as spokesman. He was happy with that, since it dispensed with both points that worried him.
Therefore, G-d spoke to him again here, beginning with the words "Ani Hashem", the Name of G-d with which He had appeared to Moshe at the Burning Bush. And He continues "Speak (in the singular) to Paroh ... all that I will tell you. He was coming to correct Moshe's error, to make it clear that he, Moshe, was to be the chief spokesman, and not Aharon.
That is why Moshe repeated the argument that his speech was unclear. G-d's responded by appointing him as a God over Paroh, and Aharon as his prophet. Moshe was to issue Aharon with the Instructions, and Aharon would pass them on to Paroh (in the same way as G-d communicates with Yisrael via the medium of a Navi.
This, concludes the Ramban, placed Moshe on a supreme level, which he merited due to his extreme humility, as we explained earlier.
And that explains why the Torah writes later in Parshas Bo "also the man Moshe was very great in the eyes of the people and in the eyes of Paroh's servants". This is measure for measure, the answer to his fear that he would not be despised by them.
The Ha'amek Davar comments that if Moshe's stubborn refusal to accede to G-d's request surpassed all norms of Derech Eretz, it was because his humility surpassed his Derech Eretz.
Some Grandchildren In
"And the sons of Yitzhar were Korach ..." (6:21).
Why, asks the Da'as Zekeinim mi'Ba'alei Tosfos, does the Pasuk list the children of Amram and Yitzhar (Kehas' two oldest sons), as well as the sons of Uziel (Yitzhar's fourth son), Misha'el and Eltzafan; but not those of Gershon and Merari (Levi's other two sons), or the sons of Chevron (Kehas' third son)?
And he explains that the Pasuk lists the sons of Amram, because of Moshe and Aharon (the main players in this Parshah), and the sons of Yitzhar and Uziel, because of Korach and Elizafon, about whom the Torah will speak later.
If the Torah omits mentioning the remaining children and grandchildren (Gershon, Merari and Chevron), it is because they play no role in the events recorded in the Torah.
D'tzach Adash be'Achav
The Hagadah cites Rebbi Yehudah, who divides the ten plagues into three groups - 'D'tzach Adash be'Achav'.
The question arises why this is necessary, and what's more, anybody who reads the plagues in the Chumash could do the same. So why do we need Rebbi Yehudah's 'si'man'?
The Rosh therefore explains that Rebbi Yehudah is coming to teach us that the Makos were divided into three groups. In each group, Paroh received warning for the first two Makos, but not for the third (Makas Bechoros simply had to tag on to the third group, since it would have been odd to have a group comprising nothing more than a 'Beis' (besides being difficult to pronounce).
And he supports his answer by quoting Chazal, who have taught that should a person repeat a sin a third time (after having sinned twice, and [after being warned by two witnesses] having received Malkos [lashes] at the hand of Beis-Din twice), will be punished even without prior warning.
Here too, Paroh received no warning prior to the plague of lice, boils and darkness.
He asks however, why the plagues of wild-beasts and pestilence required a warning. Having sinned twice, one would have thought, all subsequent Makos would require no further warning. And the same question of course pertains to the plagues of hail and locusts.
And he answers that had Paroh not been warned before the plague of wild beasts and subsequently before that of hail, he would have thought that the Makos had terminated. So G-d treated them as a new set, leaving him with no excuse to claim that he did not know of what lay in store for him should he continue to disobey G-d's instructions.
Alternatively, he explains, the Makos were divided into three sets because they were performed through (i.e. at the instigation of) three different 'people', The first three were carried out through Aharon, the second three, through Moshe, and the third three, through Hakodosh Baruch Hu (though he seems to deviate from this statement slightly, as he proceeds to explain it (citing the Medrash Tanchuma).
The first three Makos - Dam, Tzefardei'a and Kinim (which were based on earth) were brought on by Aharon (whose level was not on a par to that of Moshe); Barad, Arbeh and Choshech (which were based on air), by Moshe (who dominated both heaven and earth); whereas Arov, Dever and Makas Bechoros (which were based on heaven, earth and air), were brought on by Hakodosh Baruch Hu Himself.
Shechin (boils) was brought on with the participation of all three.
Why the River Stank
"And the fish that are in the river will die and the river will stink" (7:18).
Had this not taken place, explains the Da'as Zekeinim M.T., the fact that the river had turned to blood would not have deterred the people from drinking it, just like we find many blood-eaters among the nations of the world today.
But now that the river was full of dead fish, the foul smell would have rendered the blood repulsive.
The question arises however, why the plague is then known as the plague of 'blood' and not by a name to do with smell?
The answer, says the Da'as Zekeinim M.T. is that smell is not something tangible, blood is.
The Plague of Lice
"And the sorcerers tried to produce the lice with their sorcery, but they were unable to" (8:14).
The reason for this, explains Rashi, is because a demon (the medium used by the sorcerers) has no jurisdiction over a creature that is smaller than a lentil.
The Rosh however, cites another explanation, which assumes that the medium used by the sorcerers was black magic. Black magic it appears, can only work if the magician is standing on the ground (which explains why Shimon ben Shetach ordered his disciples to lift up the eighty witches in Ashkelon from off the ground, before taking them to be burned, thereby immobilizing them).
Here, the lice were so abundant that they literally filled the ground (as implied in Pasuk 13), in which case the sorcerers could not stand on the ground, rendering them harmless too.
Wild Beasts and Frogs
The Torah only mentions "tomorrow"(8:25) with regard to the termination of the plague, where it refers to the removal of the wild beasts. By the same token, it only uses an expression of 'tze'okoh' (crying out [8:8]) with regard to the removal of the frogs.
The Rosh explains that some of the wild animals were slow walkers, and it took them an entire day to leave Egypt. Consequently, Moshe could only promise Paroh full respite from them on the following day, by which time all them were bound to have left the country.
And as for the frogs, Moshe had challenged Paroh when he said to him "hispo'er olai". Having done so, a more fervent prayer was necessary, to get rid of them. That is why he had to cry out.
Sending All My Plagues
"Because this time I will send all My plagues ... " (9:14).
We learn from here, says Rashi, that Makas Bechoros is compared to all the plagues.
Then why say it here, where the Torah is talking about the plague of Barad (hail) and not Makas Bechoros (see Sifsei Chachamim)?
The Rosh therefore, prefers the text 'Makas Betzores' (which means drought, a borrowed term describing a situation where the crops and the fruit had been eaten by locusts). Indeed, this text appears in our Chumashim in brackets (parentheses).
However, the Rosh does finally accept our version of Rashi, and quoting his father, he explains Pesukim 14-18 like this.
'Because this time (on the advice of the Beis-Din shel Ma'alah) I am inclined to send Makas Bechoros (which is compared to all the plagues [to rather bring it now than wait until later]) to let you know that there is none like Me. In that case, I would smite you and your people with pestilence (Makas Bechoros), and you would be destroyed from the land.
Know however, that I kept you alive, to show you My strength, and in order that you tell My Name throughout the land. (I have therefore withdrawn My Hand from delivering that plague, in which case, should you continue to oppress My people, I will send tomorrow a strong plague of hail ... ").
THE WORLD OF KORBONOS
Excerpts from the first three chapters of Mishnayos Yuma dealing with the daily routine in the Beis-Hamikdash
The Time to Shecht the Tamid
The Memuneh (officer) would announce 'Go and see whether the time of Shechitah has arrived (since it is forbidden to Shecht Kodshim at night time). If it had, then whoever saw that the eastern horizon had lit up would announce 'Barkai' (from the word 'Barak' - lightning).
According to Matisya ben Shmuel (himself a Memuneh), he would ask whether the entire eastern horizon had lit up as far as Chevron (so as to evoke the merits of the Avos), and whoever saw from the rooftop that it had, would respond in the affirmative.
The Chachamim instituted this ceremony, because it once happened that, confusing the light of the moon for daylight, they Shechted the Korban Tamid prematurely, and subsequently, it had to be burned in the Beis-ha'S'reifah).
Washing One's Hands and Feet
It was a rule in the Beis-Hamikdash that whoever needed to relieve himself, required Tevilah, whilst a Kohen who urinated, had to perform Kidush Yadayim ve'Raglayim from the Kiyor.
In any event, whoever entered the Azarah, even if he was Tahor, had to Tovel before entering.
ben Katin fitted the Kiyor with twelve taps (originally it had two), so that the twelve Kohanim who brought the morning Tamid could all wash simultaneously (he did not fit a tap for the Shochet, who could even be a Zar).
He also manufactured a pulley with which to lower the Kiyor into the well (i.e. the Amas ha'Mayim that passed through the Azarah) to prevent the water from becoming Pasul overnight (like Kodshei Kodshim, which become Pasul be'Linah, if they are left off the Mizbe'ach until the morning). But once the water is attached to a source of spring water, it cannot become Pasul.
ben Gamla replaced the wooden box containing the lots (regarding the two goats on Yom Kipur) with out of gold.
King Munbaz made the handles of all the Keilim used on Yom Kipur (e.g. the knives) of gold.
Queen Helen (King Munbaz's mother) made a golden Menorah, which she placed at the entrance of the Heichal (which was a hundred Amos tall), so that, when the sun rose, its rays would shine on it, and the inhabitants of Yerushalayim would know that it was time to recite the Sh'ma.
She also made a golden tablet, on which the Parshah of Sotah was subsequently engraved (so as to avoid having to fetch a Seifer-Torah to read from it).
Nikanor merited miracles, on account of the doors that he was transporting from Egypt, to place at the eastern entrance of the Azarah (which subsequently became known as Sha'ar Nikanor). A storm arose at sea that threatened to sink the ship transporting the doors, and the sailors threw one of the doors overboard to lighten the load. When they made to throw the second one overboard too, he asked them to throw him overboard together with the door, and the storm immediately abated.
When the ship arrived in Acco, the first door, which had become stuck to the wall of the ship, floated to the surface.
The Chachamim praised all of the above, but of the following, they spoke detrimentally.
Beis Garmu refused to teach others the secret of how to remove the Lechem ha'Panim (which were shaped like a box with two sides removed) from the oven, intact.
Beis Avtinas refused to share with others the secret of the special ingredient (Ma'aleh Ashan), that went into the Ketores, enabling the smoke to rise vertically.
Hagrus ben Levi (the choir-master of the Levi'im) knew how to produce a beautiful sound by moving his fingers across his mouth as he sang, and he too, would not pass it on to others.
ben Kamtzar was able to tie four quills to his fingers and write the four letters of Hashem's Holy Name (Havayah) simultaneously. Also he refused to share this knowledge with others.
About the first group the Pasuk writes "Zeicher Tzadik li'v'rachah" (the memory of a Tzadik is for a B'rachah), whereas about the second group it writes "ve'Sheim Resha'im yirkav" (may the name of the wicked rot).