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

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Vol. 17   No. 14

This issue is sponsored
l'iluy Nishmos
אברהם בן חיים צבי ז"ל שנספה בשואה
ניסים בן רחל ז"ל וחיים צבי בן שלמה זלמן ז"ל

Parshas Vo'eiro

All My Plagues

The commentaries give a variety of explanations to explain the Pasuk, which refers to the plague of Barad (hail) as "all my plagues". Rashi comments that Makas Bechoros is placed on a par with all the other plagues combined. To be sure it is, but the Pasuk is speaking about Makas Barad, not Makas Bechoros (see Sifsei Chachamim).


Among some of the other fascinating explanations are those of the Ib'n Ezra and the Rashbam, who give similar explanations, and that of the Seforno. The Ib'n Ezra explains that the Torah mentions here "My plagues" (he does not comment on the word "all") because the major elements thunder, hail, rain and fire all combined to form this plague; whereas the Rashbam points out that the Egyptians were smitten by fire, hail, huge stones (Avnei Elgavish), sulfur, snow and smoke.


R. Bachye follows the same line of thought, only his explanation is far more comprehensive. The Torah refers to the plague of Barad as "all My plagues", he says, because it incorporated many plagues. It struck both men and animals and it broke trees, and destroyed produce and fruit, besides the general devastation of all potential growth that the extreme cold left in its wake. And the damage was multiplied manifold by the fact that the hailstones contained fire.

And quoting the Medrash, he explains how the hail destroyed the trees, whilst the fire burned the roots. Miraculously, the Medrash explains, neither did the cold of the hail affect the fire, nor did the heat of the fire affect the cold of the hail.

And it compares this to two captains who were both conscripted to the army to fight the king's enemies. Now although the two men in their private lives were mortal enemies, they now had to make peace to fight on behalf of the king. And this is how the Medrash explains the Pasuk in Iyov (28:2) "Sovereignty and dread are with him; He makes peace in the Heaven".

"Sovereignty" refers to Micha'el, and "Dread", to Gavriel. The former is made of water, the latter, of fire - natural enemies. Yet G-d makes peace between them and they serve Him in perfect harmony.


The Seforno explains that the expression "All My plagues" is referring, not just to Makas Barad itself, but to the last set of plagues (all of which came from space) beginning with the Hail, and incorporating the Locusts and Darkness. All of these, he explains, as opposed to the previous plagues, had a lasting affect from which the Egyptians suffered long after the plague had ceased to operate, from devastation of all forms of plant-life and trees, as well as animals (resulting in a dire shortage of food) that the combination of the hail and the locusts would cause, and a variety of internal illnesses that must have resulted from the smog-like darkness that persisted for six full days.


Perhaps the most fundamental explanation is that of the Or ha'Chayim, who explains that up until now, Par'oh and his magicians believed that Moshe and Aharon were magicians like themselves, who employed either black-magic or 'work of the demons'. The fact that they (Moshe and Aharon) held the upper hand at every turn merely proved that they were superior magicians, but magicians nonetheless. True, he admits, they did say (at Makas Kinim) "It is the finger of G-d!" But that would not have satisfied Par'oh that the Divine Hand was at work. As far as he was concerned, Mosheh and Aharon were magicians, who possessed advanced knowledge in the field of which his own experts were unaware.

However now was different. The plague that G-d was about to send would convince Par'oh once and for all, that it was His hand at work, and not the power of witchcraft (that is why He described it as "My plagues").

Not "My plague", but "My plagues". Par'oh would know that this plague was Heaven-sent, since bringing down from the sky the giant fire-balls, or even anything that bore the slightest resemblance to that phenomenon, was something that no magician and no demon could possibly achieve. But he would also be forced to admit that all the earlier plagues were sent by the very same G-d. It was G-d's answer to Par'oh's initial response to Moshe's request to send Yisrael out, "Who is G-d, that I should listen to His voice". Indeed, as the Pasuk here concludes, the main purpose of the plagues was to teach Par'oh that there is no power on earth that can compare with that of Hakadosh-Baruch-Hu. And that lesson was being driven home forcefully as from now.

* * *

Parshah Pearls
(Adapted from Rabeinu Bachye)

The Difference between
Moshe and the Avos

"And I appeared to Avraham, to Yitzchak and to Ya'akov with Keil Shakay, but Hashem ha'Meyuchad (the unique Name of Hashem) was not known to them (in prophecy)" (6:3).

This is how R. Bachye translates the Pasuk. To explain it, he cites the Gemara in Yevamos, which differentiates between the prophecy of Moshe and of all other prophets, in that Moshe saw with what is known as 'Ispaklarya ha'Me'irah', where all other prophets prophesied with 'Ispaklarya she'einah me'irah'.

This refers, he explains, to the Midah through which one is able to perform 'public miracles' which affect the creation (otherwise known as revealed miracles); whereas the miracles that the Avos wrought were, like those that all other prophets were able to perform, hidden miracles (Nisim Nistarim), which were based on the Name Keil Shakai, with which G-d created the world.

The word Ispaclarya, the author explains, is the acronym of 'Sapek C'larya' (a shower of light [notice the similarity to the English words 'sufficient clarity']). And he compares it to something that one sees inside an illuminated glass box, which is crystal clear. And he points out that when Chazal compare the visions of the other prophets to 'Ispaklarya she'einah me'irah', they are not insinuating any measure of darkness, since 'Ispaklarya' by definition, means an abundance of light, as we explained. What they mean is that it is like something that one sees in a glass case that is clear, but not illuminated.

And it was the Ispaklarya ha'meirah that illuminated Moshe's face.

This explains why on the one hand, we do not find Avraham mentioning the Name Havayah on its own, unless it is followed by Elokim (see footnote). Whilst on the other hand, Moshe never refers to Keil Shakai, only to Havayah.


Aharon & Moshe

"That is Aharon and Moshe … " (6:26).

The Torah places Aharon before Moshe because he was senior to him in age. In the following Pasuk, it places Moshe before Aharon, because he was his senior in prophecy.

In the same way, R. Bachye points out, the Torah places Yehoshua before Kalev in one Pasuk (Bamidbar 14:24) because he was greater in prophecy (the Ramban says in wisdom), and Kalev before Yehoshua in another (Ibid 30) due to his superior Yichus (according to the Ramban it is because he was the first to protest against the Meraglim's blasphemous words).

And by the same token, says R. Bachye, the Torah sometimes gives precedence to the Heaven (see Bereishis 1:1), and sometimes to the earth (Ibid. 2:4). This is because on the one hand, the Heavenly creatures are eternal, whereas those who live on earth are finite; whilst on the other, the earth contains the Beis-Hamikdash and the Shechinah, and Chazal have said 'the major location of the Shechinah is earth'.

See also Rashi (Parshas Pinchas 26:64), who, quoting the Gemara in Bava Basra, makes a similar D'rashah regarding the daughters of Tz'lofchod.


Why a Serpent

" … And Aharon threw down his staff before Par'oh … and it became a serpent" (7:10).

Why specifically a serpent, asks R. Bachye? Why not a horse, an ox, a lion or a wolf? See 'Highlights from the Ba'al ha'Turim'.

When the snake sinned, causing Chavah to sin too, it did so not by an act, but with its mouth. Par'oh too, sinned primarily with his mouth when he proclaimed "Who is G-d, that I should listen to His voice? I do not know G-d!" And one may add, just like the snake, Par'oh was denying G-d's supremacy.

Consequently, G-d was warning him here that just as the snake was severely punished for its sin, so too was he destined to be.

And what's more, Par'oh's behaviour resembled that of a snake. A snake wriggles its body from side to side. So too did Par'oh - one minute he hardened his heart and refused to let Yisrael go; then after he had been heavily smitten, he granted them permission to leave; then, the moment G-d lifted the punishment, he hardened his heart and refused once more to co-operate.

And the Pasuk refers to it as a 'Tanin' because that is how the Navi describes Par'oh, "the Tanim who crouches in his canal"(See 'Highlights from the Ba'al ha'Turim').

This was also a hint to Par'oh, R. Bachye concludes, that just as Aharon's staff swallowed their staffs, so too, would Par'oh and his army be swallowed up in the Yam-Suf.


A Land of Witches and Wizards

"And also Par'oh called to the wise men and to the magicians, and also they, the sorcerers of Egypt, did so with their witchcraft" (7:11).

Based on the well-known principle that the word "gam" always comes to include something or somebody, R. Bachye explains here that one of the two 'Gams' come to include Par'oh's wife, whom Par'oh called to show her how the Jews were mocking him with their tricks, and she was eventually the first person to gather the wise men to demonstrate their prowess in witchcraft. The other 'Gam' comes to include the little children, who, it seems, were initiated at a young age (of four or five - footnote) into the art of witchcraft.


The Finger of …

"And the sorcerers said to Par'oh 'It is the finger of G-d' " (8:15).

After citing the Ramban, who, like Rashi, interprets the sorcerers' statement as a sign of admission that the plague of lice was a Divine plague (something that they were unable to emulate), R. Bachye cites the explanation of the Ib'n Ezra.

According to the Ib'n Ezra, when the sorcerers stated 'Etzba Elohim' (as opposed to Etzba Hashem), they were referring to the constellations - it was a natural phenomenon, they claimed, which was not ordained by G-d, so that even Moshe was not aware that it was imminent. And as proof, he explains, Moshe did not warn Par'oh, as he did in advance of the two previous plagues.

* * *


"But they did not listen to Moshe due to shortness of breath (mi'kotzer ru'ach) … " (6:9).

The Ba'al ha'Turim points out that the Gematriyah of "mi'kotzer" (which is missing a 'Vav') is four hundred and thirty - which is the sum total of years of the Golus, beginning with the B'ris bein ha'Besarim (see Rashi, Parshas Bo 12:40).


"And G-d spoke to Moshe and to Aharon and He commanded them (vayetzavem) concerning the B'nei Yisrael … " (6:13). The word "vayetzavem" occurs four times in T'nach: 1. Here; 2. "And after that, all B'nei Yisrael drew near and he commanded them all that G-d had spoken … " (Sh'mos 34:32); 3. "And He commanded them (vayetzavem) saying 'this is the thing that you shall do" (in connection with Yehoyada taking out the son of the king, prior to killing the wicked Queen Asalyah). 4. " … and He commanded them (vayetzavem) saying 'Do not fear the gods of others' (in connection with the Samaritans, following the plague of lions) " (Melachim 2 17:35).

Moshe and Aharon would succeed in their current mission, the Ba'al ha'Turim explains, on the merit of Moshe who was appointed G-d's emissary to command B'nei Yisrael.

And just as the latter two commands were concerning killing and idolatry, respectively, so too here, did Moshe command the people to distance themselves from Avodah-Zarah and from spilling blood (the first Mitzvos on the first and second Luchos, respectively).


"Behold I am (hein ani) of uncircumcised lips" (7:30).

These two words appear another three times in T'nach - 1. Here; 2. "Behold I am (hein ani) your mouth-piece before G-d" (Iyov 33:6); 3. "Behold I (hein ani) remained alone" (Yeshayah 49:21); 4. "And let the eunuch not say 'Behold I am (hein ani) a dry piece of wood" (Yeshayah 56:3).


" … say to Aharon 'Take your staff and throw it before Par'oh; it will become a serpent" (7:9).

It does not say 'and it became a serpent!', but "it will become a serpent", comments the Ba'al ha'Turim.

After Aharon had cast the staff on the ground, he explains, Moshe was to order it to turn into a serpent.

This was to teach Par'oh that it was at Moshe's command that it did so.

And why a serpent, he asks?

Because Par'oh referred to himself as "the great serpent (some commentaries translate 'Tanin' as a crocodile, for which the River Nile is famous), who crouches in his canal". So Moshe dropped him a hint that just as the serpent in front of him reverted to its former status of a staff, so too, was he destined to revert to dust and to be eaten by maggots and worms. See also Parshah Pearls.

* * *

(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 442:
Not to Eat Ma'aser Sheini of Corn Outside Yerushalayim (cont.)

This Mitzvah applies to both men and women, at the time when Ma'aser Sheini is practiced. The author will deal with the time and locations concerning Ma'aser Sheini in Parshas Shoftim (in the Mitzvah of separating Terumah (Mitzvah 507). Whoever contravenes the Mitzvah and eats a k'Zayis of Ma'aser Sheini outside Yerushalayim is subject to Malkos.


Mitzvah 443:
Not to Eat Ma'aser Sheini of Wine Outside Yerushalayim

Not to eat Ma'aser Sheini of wine outside Yerushalayim, as the Torah writes in Parshas Re'ei "You may not eat within your gates the Ma'aser of your corn or your wine". The prohibition against drinking the wine of Ma'aser Sheini is exactly the same as that against eating corn of Ma'aser Sheini (which we just discussed), so there is no point in repeating it.


Mitzvah 444:
Not to Eat Ma'aser Sheini of Oil Outside Yerushalayim

It is forbidden to eat the Ma'aser Sheini of oil outside Yerushalayim, as the Torah writes in Re'ei (12:17) "You may not eat within your gates the Ma'aser of … of oil". The prohibition of eating Ma'aser Sheini oil outside Yerushalayim is the same as that of eating corn and wine outside Yerushalayim. The Shi'ur of oil for which one is Chayav is a k'Zayis, as the author heard from his Rebbe, even though it is a liquid, seeing as it is generally used in food, and if there are some Arabs who drink it, their 'opinion' is negated before that of most people. Do not for one moment think that this is a La'av she'bi'ch'lolus (one La'av incorporating three things [corn, wine and oil]), since they are in fact three independent La'avin covering three different things, as the Gemara specifically states in Makos (17b). And it ultimately learns this from the fact that, bearing in mind that all three things are mentioned in another Pasuk, the Torah nevertheless specifies all three, when it could have written 'Do not eat them … '. And the reason that it does so is in order to issue each one with an independent La'av.

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