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

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Vol. 13   No. 14

This issue is sponsored
Le'Iluy Nishmas
Avraham ben Chayim Dov z.l.
she'Nispah ba'Sho'ah
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Parshas Vo'eira

Learning from the Frogs

The Gemara in Pesachim (53b) citing Todos, a man from Rome, asks what prompted Chananyah, Misha'el and Azaryah to sanctify G-d's Name by throwing themselves into the blazing furnace, rather than bowing down to the idol that Nevuchadnetzar had set up in the valley of Dura? And he explains that they took their cue from the frogs in Egypt, which jumped into the burning ovens. Frogs are not generally obligated to give up their lives to sanctify G-d's Name, Jews are! (see main article, vol. 7, where we discussed this 'Kal-va'Chomer').

Rashi explains that if not for the frogs, Chananyah, Misha'el and Azaryah would have applied the principle cited in Yuma (85b) "va'Chai bahem", 've'lo she'yomus bahem' (the Mitzvos were given to us to live by and not to die for).


Tosfos queries Rashi, inasmuch as that episode took place in public, and everyone there agrees that in public, one is obligated to give up one's life rather than transgress even the smallest Mitzvah, let alone that of idolatry. So why did the three Tzadikim need the frogs to teach them a straightforward Halachah?

Rabeinu Tam therefore explains that in fact, the image that Nevuchadnetzar set up was not an idol at all, but a bust of himself, and the public was ordered to prostrate themselves before it to pay him homage (which is permitted) and not to worship any god. Consequently, they were not prohibited from bowing down to it in the first place, only they learned from the frogs the concept of Kidush Hashem even where there is no obligation. This will also explain the Gemara in Kesuvos, he says, which states that had Chananyah, Mishael and Azaryah been threatened with being whipped, they would have chosen to bow down to the idol (something which would have been inconceivable had it involved Avodah-Zarah).

But the Ri (based on the expression "Palchu", which the Pasuk uses in Daniel and which implies 'worship' [and not just paying homage]) disagrees with Rabeinu Tam.

In his opinion, it was indeed a real idol, only if not for the frogs, they had the option of running away, and not confronting Nevuchadnetzar head on (just like Daniel, who was given the option of fleeing, and who accepted it). And they chose not to run away, but to confront Nevuchadnetzar.


The Maharsha however, takes the Ri (and the Ran, who explains the Gemara in the same way) to task. Daniel was different, he asks, in that Nevuchadnetzar (who deified Daniel for having reconstructed his dream and interpreted it), specifically permitted him to run away, in order not to burn his new-found god; and what's more, Daniel took up the offer and fled, to prevent the implementation of the Pasuk "The images of their gods you shall burn in fire". Chananyah, Mishael and Azaryah on the other hand, were given no such option, in which case the Ri's explanation falls away.

The Maharsha therefore accepts Rashi's interpretation. True, he concedes, the Gemara in Avodah-Zarah strictly forbids idol-worship under any circumstances (in which case the three Tzadikim had no choice but to give up their lives). Todos (the author of the above statement) however, follows the opinion of R. Yishmael in Sanhedrin, who maintains that "va'chai bahem" overrides all other considerations, (even the prohibition of Avodah-Zarah). Furthermore, he argues, who said that there were ten Jews present at the time that Chananyah, Mishael and Azaryah were ordered to bow down to the image (and the Halachic definition of 'in public' is in the presence of ten Jews)? Consequently, were it not for the lesson learned from the frogs, they would indeed have prostrated themselves before the image, and justifiably so.

The question remains though, says the Maharsha, that if the frogs jumped into the fire, it was because they had not been issued with the command "va'Chai bahem", Chananyah, Misha'el and Azaryah had, so who allowed them to contravene it by giving up their lives when they had not been commanded to do so? In fact, this question will apply equally to Rabeinu Tam's explanation (though not necessarily according to the Ri, since, at the time that they did not run away they were not yet guilty of the death-sentence, and at the time that they refused to prostrate themselves before the idol, they were obligated to do so.

The Maharsha does hint at an answer, but what he means is unclear.

* * *

Parshah Pearls
Adapted from the Ma'ayanah shel Torah

The Good Side of Suffering

"And I also heard the cries of B'nei Yisrael ... and I remembered My covenant" (6:5).

The Gemara in B'rachos (5a) writes that the Torah uses the same word "B'ris" both with regard to salt ("B'ris melach Olom Hi" [2:13]) and in Ki Savo (28:69 [with regard to Yisurin {suffering} "Eileh divrei ha'B'ris"]). Just as the former sweetens the meat and makes it palatable, so too, do Yisurin 'sweeten the person', and cleanse him of his sins.

Salt only sweetens the meat, the Ma'or va'Shamesh explains, if one adds the right amount. Too much salt, on the other hand, spoils the meat, rendering it inedible. And so it is with suffering. The right amount will have the desired affect. Too much suffering will drive a person out of his mind and cause him to rebel against his Creator.

That is why the Pasuk says "And I also heard the cries of B'nei Yisrael ... and I remembered My covenant". The time has come to take Yisrael out of Egypt. Because any more suffering will have an adverse effect on Yisrael and negate the implementation of the covenant.


The Redemption - A Means to an End

"And you will know that I am Hashem who took you out from the land of Egypt" (6:7).

Here G-d promised Yisrael, says the S'fas Emes, that not only would He redeem them from Egypt, but that He would also see to it that they realized that He had redeemed them from exile.

The Redemption itself was a wonderful thing, but what is perhaps no less significant is to be aware that it is G-d who redeemed us and to acknowledge it (hence the Seider night). For the purpose of the Ge'ulah, says the S'fas Emes, is to strengthen our faith in the One who redeemed us, and not just to remove the shackles of bondage.


It Was Not for Them

"And I will give it to you as a 'moroshoh' " (6:8).

The Torah writes, not 'Yerushah', but "moroshoh", Rabeinu Bechaye observes, implying that they would not inherit Eretz Yisrael, but would pass it on to their children. A broad enough hint that the generation that left Egypt was destined to die in the desert, and would not enter Eretz Yisrael.


Eretz Yisrael and Torah

The only other time that the Torah uses the word "moroshoh" is in Ve'zos-Ha'brachah, in connection with Torah, the Yalkut he'Chodosh points out.

A reminder that we were only given Eretz Yisrael in order to keep Torah and Mitzvos there. For so David Hamelech said in Tehilim (105:44/45) "And He gave them the lands of nations and they took possession of the toil of the regimes. So that they might keep His statutes and observe His teachings ... ".

A lesson for today and for all time.


Paroh Won't Listen

"Behold the B'nei Yisrael did not listen to me (said Moshe), so how do you expect Paroh to listen, and I have a speech impediment?" (6:12)

But Yisrael did not listen on account of their suffering, as the Pasuk testified a little earlier. So how does it follow that Paroh would not listen (a Pircha on the 'Kal-va'Chomer' as the Gemara would say)?

The commentaries offer many suggestions to answer this Kashya. The S'fas Emes gives three ...

1. True, the Pasuk testified that Yisrael did not listen to Moshe on account of their suffering. But that is not what Moshe believed. Moshe thought that it was due to his speech impediment, in which case Paroh would certainly not listen to him, for the very same reason (as he specifically said here).

2. Moshe thought that Paroh without the suffering was less likely to refuse to listen, than Yisrael with the suffering, since first of all, he was concerned with retaining Yisrael (whereas Yisrael were certainly concerned with leaving), and secondly, Moshe lisped (as Chazal explained), and although this didn't seem to affect Yisrael adversely, it would certainly affect Paroh.

3. If Yisrael themselves refuse to listen to their leaders (never mind why), how can one expect their enemies to listen to them? The Jewish leaders adopt their power to lead Yisrael from Yisrael themselves. Had Yisrael received Moshe's words with enthusiasm, then his lips would have opened and his words would have influenced Paroh to let Yisrael go. But now that Yisrael themselves were not interested, he knew that his words would fall on deaf ears. And that is what he meant when he said "Behold the B'nei Yisrael did not listen to me, so how do you expect Paroh to listen, seeing as I (still) have a speech impediment?"


The Frogs and Aharon

"And they (the frogs) will come up ... and in the houses of your servants and your people and in your ovens and in your doughs" (7:28).

The frogs actually entered the ovens, as Chazal teach us, even though they got burned (and even though frogs are water creatures which don't like heat at the best of times). Indeed, it is from them that Chananyah, Mishael and Eltzafan learned to jump into the furnace to sanctify Hashem's Name (see main article).

This explains, says the Toras Moshe, why in Perek Shirah, the Pasuk said by the frogs is "Baruch Sheim K'vod Malchuso le'Olom Vo'ed," words which remind one of one's obligation to give up one's life for Hashem's sake.

The only other time that the Torah uses the expression "and bring up" (ve'Ha'al) is when it says, in connection with Aharon's death "and bring him up to Hor ha'Har". Aharon knew that, just like the frogs, he was ascending Hor ha'Har in order to die and, just like the frogs, he obeyed Moshe's instructions without hesitation, in order to fulfill G-d's wishes.


The Egyptian sorcerers too, produced frogs, as the Torah writes (8:3). Only there, the frogs only went up "over the land of Egypt". They did not go into the ovens, says the Eidus bi'Yehosef, because G-d did not order them to.


All for the Sake of Hashem

"And Moshe cried out to Hashem, because of the frogs that He had placed against Paroh" (8:5).

When Moshe cried out it was always "to Hashem" (on behalf of Hashem). His sole concern was that the frogs should disappear at the given time (tomorrow) as Paroh had requested. He was not so much concerned for Paroh's wellbeing nor even for his own Kavod, only that the frogs should vanish the next day, so that G-d's Holy Name should be sanctified.

In similar vein, Chazal have said 'Better that Shlomoh and a thousand like him perish, rather than one letter of the Torah should be negated'.

* * *


Up to the time that Dasan and Aviram were swallowed up by the earth following the rebellion of Korach, they had quite a history as trouble-makers. They were the ones, says the Medrash, who (remained behind in Egypt and) informed Paroh that Yisrael were trapped in the desert ... they were the ones to confront Moshe when he rebuked them for fighting (as we explained in last week's Parshah) ... they were the ones to rebel when they left the Yam-Suf ... they were the ones to suggest, after the episode with the Meraglim, that they appoint a leader and return to Egypt ... and they were the ones to gather Manna on Shabbos (Indeed, the Medrash explains how broods of worms came out of their tents and entered the tents of the rest of Yisrael )... and they were the ones who gave Korach their full backing, and who stood outside their tents, heads held high, in defiance of Moshe Rabeinu.

The first mention of Dasan and Aviram (albeit not by name) apparently took place following Moshe Rabeinu's first visit to Paroh, when instead of letting Yisrael go for three days into the desert, he increased their work load. The Torah describes how officers of Yisrael waited for him to leave Paroh's presence, when they berated him and Aharon for not only failing in his mission to free Yisrael, but for even making matters worse. That, it seems, is what hardened them against Moshe in the first place, though the fact is that the episode in this week's Parshah preceded it by some sixty years.

Yet according to one commentary (I cannot recall which), they are even hinted once in Seifer Bereishis ... when Reuven, in an attempt to convince his father to send Binyamin with them to Egypt, told him that he could kill his two sons, if he failed to bring Binyamin back with him. Chazal have said that the curse of a Tzadik comes true, even if it depends on a condition that is not fulfilled. That is why Dasan and Aviram, sons of Reuven, had to die.

* * *

From the Haftarah
Adapted from the Ma'ayanah shel Torah

The Land that Was Promised to Ya'akov

"And they will dwell in the land that I gave to My servant Ya'akov" (28:25).

Why specifically to Ya'akov? Was Eretz Yisrael not first promised to Avraham?

At the B'ris bein ha'Besarim, however, when G-d promised the land to Avraham, He specified ten nations whose land Yisrael will eventually inherit (Keini, K'nizi, Kadmoni, Chiti, P'rizi Refa'im, Emori, Cana'ani, Yevusi and Girgashi). When Yisrael entered Eretz Cana'an, they were destined to receive only the last seven of those lands, as the Torah records in many places (even though not all the names tally). Keini, K'nizi and Kadmoni will become ours only in the days of Mashi'ach. When G-d spoke to Ya'akov, He merely referred to 'the land on which he was lying', pertaining to the seven lands of Cana'an exclusively. He did not allude to the other three.

Consequently, says the Ahavas Yonasan, the Navi, who is speaking about the redemption from Bavel, when Yisrael took back the seven lands of Cana'an, is quite right in referring to the promise that was made to Ya'akov, and not to the promise made to Avraham.


A Gentle Reminder

"Behold I am over you Paroh, King of Egypt" (29:3).

Paroh was constantly boasting that he was the supreme ruler of Egypt, and that there was no other power over him. He calmly informed Moshe that he did not know Hashem, and he claimed here that not only was the River Nile, which the Egyptians worshipped, his personal property, but that he had also developed his own supernatural ability (see next Pearl).

That is why G-d saw fit here to remind Paroh of His Presence, telling him in no uncertain terms that he (Paroh) was under G-d's Divine jurisdiction, and that He could do with him as He pleased.

This can be compared, says the Kochav mi'Ya'akov, to a servant in the king's palace who was boasting to a visitor to the palace that he was the palace's owner, when the King entered, and overheard the servant's vain boast. He immediately interrupted the conversation, warning him to stop his idle boasts, and to remember that he (the king) was not only the owner of the palace, but was also his master, and that he (the servant) was obliged to humble himself before the king.


No Wonder They Worshipped the Nile

"Who said 'My canal (the River Nile) is mine and I developed myself" (29:3).

It never rains in Egypt. What happens is that the Nile overflows its banks and irrigates the fields that are in its vicinity. That explains, says the B'nei Yisaschar, why the Egyptians denied Divine supervision. Rain after all, constitutes one of the major signs that point to the Divine Power that rules the world. The Egyptians, who never needed to look upwards for their water supply, were short of that reminder. Nor is it surprising that they declared the Nile, together with the crocodiles that it produced, to be their god. After all, that was where they turned their eyes for water.


The Redemption and the Plant

"On that day, I will cause the horn of of the House of Yisrael to sprout" (29:21). The salvation of Yisrael is compared to a plant, the Avnei Azeil explains. Just as a plant begins to flourish and to grow only after the seeds have begun to rot in the ground, after they reach a stage where it seems that they are about to die, and there is no chance to survive. So it is with the B'nei Yisrael, he says. The salvation of Yisrael comes about only when Yisrael have reached their lowest possible ebb, and it appears as if all hope is lost. That is why the Pasuk writes "I will cause the horn of the House of Yisrael to sprout", which the Navi translates as 'atzmi'ach', an expression of 'planting', and that explains why we say in the Amidah 'King, who puts to death, who brings back to life and who causes the horn of the House of Yisrael to sprout".

The sprouting of a plant after it has rotted is the greatest testimony that there is for Techi'as Ha'meisim'. The dead may well turn into dust, yet, when the time comes, they will sprout from the earth and come back to life.

* * *

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