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Vol. 18 No. 14
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All My Plagues
(Adapted from the K'li Yakar)
Commenting on the Pasuk which relates how G-d was about to send 'all His plagues' against Par'oh, Rashi explains that this actually refers to Makas Bechoros, which was undoubtedly the most severe of all the plagues. The problem with this explanation is that the Pasuk is talking, not about Makas Bechoros, but about Makas Barad? Some commentaries explain that Rashi actually wrote 'Mem' 'Beis', the acronym of Makas Barad, which the printer mistook for Makas Bechoros. But this is 'Out of the frying-pan and into the fire', since the question then arises as to why G-d would refer to Makas Barad as "all My plagues"?
In answer to the first question, the K'li Yakar gives the following three answers (all of which are offered briefly by the Bartenura).
Firstly, he suggests, the word 'Bechoros' mentioned by Rashi, needs to be read as 'Bakuros' (ripe), since the plague of hail could only destroy the crops that were ripe (as the Torah itself testifies at the end of the Parshah when it writes "because the barley was ripe … ").
In his second answer, he quotes other commentaries, who switch the 'Chaf' in "Bechoros" to a 'Tzadei', thereby amending the word to 'Batzuros' (famine), since the Plague of Hail left in its wake an acute shortage of food.
However, he continues, this leaves us with the second question; in what way was the Plague of Hail worse that any of the other Plagues.
Perhaps, he suggests, it was the frightening noises that accompanied the falling of the hail-stones (as the Pasuk itself indicates). But he concludes that this answer cannot be correct, since why does Rashi then ascribe the Plague to a loss of the ripe produce or to the ensuing famine (by referring to it as 'Makas Bakuros' or Makas Batzuros') rather than by a name that would depict the noises that so frightened them?
Moreover, to suggest that it was the shortage of food does not appear correct either, since if that were so, they should have been even more afraid of the Plague of Locusts that followed - since the locusts devoured everything that the Hail left over, leaving an even greater devastation than its predecessor.
In his third answer, the K'li Yakar explains that the Pasuk is in fact, referring to Makas Bechoros. When G-d said to Par'oh "This time … ", He was referring, not to the next plague, but to the last group of "Be'achav" that was about to begin (starting with Barad, but ending with Makas Bechoros). At the very first meeting with Par'oh, Moshe had warned him that if he failed to obey G-d's instructions, He would "kill his firstborn". But that was mere words, which, as was to be expected, failed to make much of an impression on the hard-hearted Par'oh. But this time, G-d would first send Barad, the worst of all the plagues to date, in that it destroyed all the fruit and crops that had ripened so far, leaving the people with virtually nothing to eat. And this was exacerbated by the fact that the first fruit that ripens is that which is most dear to its owner. Indeed, he points out, it was after the Plague of Barad that Par'oh for the first time, confessed to having sinned.
The purpose of this plague at this juncture says the K'li Yakar, was meant to soften Par'oh's heart. Now if the destruction of the fruit of the tree had such a devastating effect on Par'oh, imagine the effect killing all the firstborn (the fruit of the womb) would have. That, the K'li Yakar explains, is why G-d used the expression " … to your heart". What he meant was that the first in this last group of plagues would force Par'oh to take to heart the consequences, should he ignore the last warning that would shortly precede the worst of all the plagues - Makas Bechoros,. And that is what Rashi means when he writes that Makas Bechoros was equal to all the other Plagues, since the Torah refers to it as 'All My Plagues". To be sure it was. How else will we explain the fact that it was the one and only plague to bring about Par'oh's total capitulation.
In explaining the Plague of Hail by way of hint, the K'li Yakar refers to what he wrote in an earlier Pasuk - that the terrifying noises that accompanied Makas Barad served as a punishment for his refusal to listen to the Voice of G-d, based in turn, on the belief that there is more than one G-d. Elaborating on this theme, he explains that those noises frightened Par'oh into submission, forcing him to admit his mistake, and to publicly proclaim "Hashem is righteous and I and my people are wicked". He sinned with his mouth (with 'kolos'), by speaking Lashon ha'Ra about His Creator. That is why G-d punished him with 'kolos' (much in the same way as a Metzora brings birds that twitter to atone for the Metzora's 'twittering', as Rashi explains in Parshas Metzora). And the moment Par'oh countered his evil speech (with "Hashem is righteous … ") , the voices and the hail ceased.
As a final point, the author asks why, in replying to Par'oh's request to stop the plague, Moshe said "the noises will cease and the hail will be no more!" Why did he not simply say 'the noises and the hail will cease!'? In answer to this question, he explains Moshe's reply to Par'oh in the following way: 'Why do you plead with me to pray for relief? Let the voices (of blasphemy) cease, and the hail will cease automatically!'
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(Adapted from the Riva)
In His Modesty
"Behold the B'nei Yisrael did not listen to me, so how do you expect Par'oh to listen to me?"
Rashi defines this as one of the ten 'Kal va'Chomers' in the Torah - 'If Yisrael, on whose behalf I was coming, refused to listen to me, then how much more so Par'oh, whom I was about to cause a great financial loss!'
How can we say that, asks the Riva, when the Torah itself testifies that Yisrael did not listen to Moshe because they were short of breath, which in turn, was the result of the terrible suffering to which they were being subjected?
The answer, says Rabeinu Tam, is that the Torah knew the true motive behind Yisrael's refusal to listen to Moshe, but Moshe didn't. In his supreme modesty, Moshe honestly believed that the people declined to listen to him due to his own inadequacies. And if that was true, then it stood to reason that Par'oh would certainly not pay any attention to his request.
And the Years of the Life of Levi
" … the years of the life of Levi … " (6:16).
The Torah finds it necessary to convey us this piece of information, Rashi explains, to teach us how many years Yisrael were actually slaves in Egypt. This is based a. on the fact that Levi was the last of the brothers to die, and b. because we know that, as long as any of Ya'akov's children still lived, the years of slavery did not begin.
And this is how the Cheshbon goes - Ya'akov was 63 when he was blessed and when he ran away from Eisav. Add on 14 years that he spent in the Yeshivah of Shem and Eiver and 7 years that he worked for Rachel. This makes him 84 when he married Le'ah. Add three years for the births of Reuven, Shimon and Levi, making him 87 when Levi was born. Now since Ya'akov was 130 when he and his family went down to Egypt, as he himself informed Par'oh, Levi (who lived a total of 137 years), was then 43, in which case he went on to live in Egypt for another 94 years (137-43).
Deduct those 94 years from the 210 years that Yisrael spent in Egypt, and we are left with 116 - the number of years that they actually served as slaves.
Even the Little Children Can Do it!
"And Par'oh also called the wise men …" (7:11),
The word "also" comes to include little children, says the Riva, To show Moshe and Aharon that turning a staff into a snake was no big deal, since just about every Egyptian child was able to do likewise.
According to this, he explains, we will have to invert the opening words of the Pasuk and to translate as if it had written "And Par'oh called (not only to the children but) also to the wise men".
And we have a precedent for this in the Pasuk in Balak (22:33) "Also you I would have killed, and it (the ass) I would have let live!". There too, Rashi inverts the Pasuk and translates it as "I would also have killed you … " (and not just delayed you).
The Riva also asks as to why Par'oh did not call his wise men to demonstrate the following plague of wild beasts.
And he replies that, once he saw that they were unable to demonstrate lice in the previous plague, he didn't bother.
(Perhaps one can add, that the sages were far too busy trying to escape the clutches of the wild beasts to make themselves available for demonstrations. Moreover, there is the Medrash which relates the story of a man who found a herb that could bring creatures back to life. He tried it out on a dead bird, which came to life and flew away. Next he found a dead lion, on which he rubbed the 'magic' herb. And it worked! The lion promptly sprang to life and devoured him! Maybe Par'oh's wise men [a description that would not fit the man in the Medrash] were afraid that the same might happen to them.)
A Lesson for Par'oh
"So says Hashem. 'With this you will know that I am G-d!' I (Moshe) will strike the water in the River (Nile) … with my staff" (7:17).
Because Par'oh declared earlier "Who is Hashem that I should obey Him?", G-d set out to teach him already with the first plague, exactly who He (G-d) was.
Moreover, Par'oh also declared 'I have my river (the Nile [and I don't need G-d]) and I made myself!" (Yechezkel 29:3). So Hashem made it clear to him as to who G-d was, and that He would strike his (Par'oh's) river and there was nothing that he could do to stop Him.
Who Gets Punished First?
" … and it (the water … ) will turn into blood" (Ibid).
Rain does not fall regularly in Egypt, Rashi explains. So they relied on the River Nile for their water supply; and that is why they worshipped it. So Hashem first punished their god before punishing them.
The Riva points out that seeing as they also worshipped the sheep, the next plague ought to have been pestilence. However, he explains, punishing one of their gods would suffice to convey the necessary message, and it was unnecessary to continue with that sequence. Alternatively, he says, it was not the sheep that they worshipped but the Mazel T'le (Aries - Lamb), which the sheep represented. Finally, the author queries Rashi from his own statement in Parshas Bo, where he says that Hashem first killed all the Egyptian firstborn and only then their gods - because, when a nation is guilty, He tends to punish the people first, and their gods only afterwards (a clear contradiction to what he says here)?
D'tzach Adash Be'achav
These are the signs that R. Yehudah gave to remember the order of the Ten Plagues.
The Riva ascribes the significance of these three groups to the fact that Moshe performed 'D'tzach' (Blood, Frogs & Lice), Aharon, 'Adash' (Wild Beasts, Pestilence & Boils); whilst G-d Himself performed 'Be'achav (Hail, Locusts, Darkness and the Slaying of the Firstborn). Except that the Plague of Boils was performed by all three together … Aharon and Moshe took a handful of soot, Moshe threw it into the air and Hakadosh-Baruch-Hu spread it over the entire land of Egypt.
" … and he prayed hard (vaye'tar) to G-d" (8:26).
On only one other occasion did Moshe use the word "Vaye'tar" (regarding the removal of a plague)- in Parshas Bo (10:18)in connection with the locusts.
The Riva explains that this is due to the tradition quoted by Chazal that G-d likes to give, but takes away only hesitantly. Had the wild beasts and the locusts simply died, the Egyptians would have derived tremendous benefit from the valuable hides of the former, and the many tasty dishes that they would have prepared from the latter. This cannot be said about any of the other plagues!
That is why Moshe had to Daven hard (Vaye'tar) that G-d should not only stop these two plagues, but that He should also remove them entirely (something which he would have been reluctant to do). And this also explains why the Torah makes a point of stressing that not one wild animal or one locust remained.
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THE BA'AL HA'TURIM
"And the staff of Aharon swallowed their staffs (Matosom)" (7:`12).
The word "Matosom" appears again in the episode of Korach (17:21) "and Aharon's staff among their staffs (b'soch Matosom)".
The Ba'al ha'Turim cites a Medrash which relates that there, just like here, Aharon's staff swallowed the staffs of all the other tribes whilst it was in the Ohel Mo'ed, and that this was the reason that they did not blossom. And it was when they retrieved Aharon's staff from the Ohel Mo'ed that it spat them out. That is why, when the Torah writes "and Moshe took out all the sticks (kol ha'matos), the word "ha'Matos" is written without a 'Vav', since it was really only Aharon's staff that he retrieved.
"And behold you have not listened until now (ad Koh). So (Koh) says Hashem … " (7:16/17).
The word "Koh" (mentioned twice here) in the Gematriyah of 'At Bash' equals 'Letz' (a hundred and twenty). Times two it comes to two hundred and forty. This, the Ba'al ha'Turim points out, is the total number of Makos that the Egyptians were smitten - forty in Egypt and two hundred by the Yam-Suf (according to R. Eliezer in the Hagadah). Until that happens, the Pasuk is saying here, Par'oh will not listen to G-d's instructions.
"And they (the frogs) will emerge and they will come in your house … your slaves and your people" (7:28).
Why, asks the Ba'al ha'Turim, in the very next Pasuk, does the Torah switch the order - " … and in you and your people and in your slaves"?
And he answers that when the frogs came directly into the people (who were not in their houses) then the people, who were partners in that they advised Par'oh to enslave Yisrael, were smitten before the slaves; but when they came into the houses, then after entering the house of Par'oh, they had to first enter the houses of his slaves (which adjoined his palace), before entering the houses of the people.
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AND THEIR MEANING
(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.
Not to Make a Bald Patch on One's Head … (cont.)
Some of the Dinim of the Mitzvah … Chazal have said that both someone who makes one bald patch on his head for five deceased people receives five sets of Malkos, as is someone who makes five bald patches for one deceased person, provided he is warned on each one …One is Chayav even if one uses one's hands or an ointment … Someone who dips his fingers into ointment and makes five bald patches simultaneously by placing his fingers. The remaining details of the Mitzvah are discussed at the end of Maseches Makos. All matters concerning it are equivalent to those that we learned in the previous Mitzvah.
Not to Eat Kodshim that Have Become Pasul
It is forbidden to eat P'sulei ha'Mukdashin (Kodshim that have become Pasul). The Gemara in Bechoros (34a) confines this La'av to where the animal becomes invalid by means of a blemish that we have made with our hands. If one then eats the animal concerned, one has transgressed a La'av. Likewise, one transgresses a La'av if one eats a sacrifice that became Pasul in any way after it was Shechted. Regarding both of these cases, the Torah writes in Re'ei (14:3) "Do not eat anything that is an abomination", as the Sifri explains … Quoting R. Eliezer ben Ya'akov, the Sifri also cites this Pasuk as the source for the La'av of eating a firstborn animal after splitting its ear. Furthermore, Chazal incorporate in this La'av the eating of Pigul (a Korban that was Shechted with the intention of sprinkling its blood after its allotted time or outside its allotted location) or Nosar (a Korban after its allotted time for eating has expired (which the author already discussed in Parshas Tzav [Mitzvah 144]), as well as all other prohibitions concerning food. For so the Chachamim explained in Chulin (114b) - 'Whatever I declare for you an abomination is included in "Lo sochal kol to'eivah" '. Yet it is not considered a 'La'av she'bi'Ch'lalus' (a general La'av which is not subject to Malkos) since basically, the Pasuk comes for Pesulei ha'Mukdashin, and the other prohibitions are merely derivatives, which we extrapolate from the fact that the Torah uses the expression "kol to'eivah" rather than 'Pesulei ha'Mukdashin'. Consequently, it is considered a La'av that pertains specifically to its major topic (which carries with it the punishment of Malkos) and the Azharah for the various La'avin is derived from it … The author has already mentioned on many occasions that wherever the Torah warns against 'approaching the Kodesh and touching its edge', it is in order to impress upon us the awe of the object or the location under discussion, and to raise their importance in our eyes, And this in turn, is in order to arouse our spirit, and to inspire us with fear, to place us in the right frame of mind when we come (to the Beis-Hamikdash) to ask for forgiveness for our sins. As a result, G-d for His part will accept our prayers and deliver us from all our troubles, to encourage us to become better people - and that is the reason behind this Mitzvah too.
This Mitzvah applies to men and to women everywhere and at all times. Because even though the Chachamim have said that nowadays we are not permitted to declare something Kodesh (as the author already discussed in Parshas Bechukosai [Mitzvah 350]), nevertheless, if someone did, the sanctity of a Korban takes effect, and it adopts the Din of Kodshim. Consequently, somebody who creates a blemish on it and then eats from it has transgressed this La'av, and is subject to Malkos, provided there are two Kasher witnesses who testify that he ate at least a k'Zayis from it. (In fact, Malkos is not practiced nowadays.)
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