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by Zvi Akiva Fleisher

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Ch. 10, v. 7: "Va'yomru avdei Pharoh eilov .. shalach es ho'anoshim v'yaavdu es Hashem Elokeihem ha'terem teida ki ovdoh Mitzroyim" - And Paroh's servants said to him .. send the men and they will serve Hashem their G-d do you not yet know that Mitzrayim is lost - Paroh was so impressed with their advice that he had Moshe and Aharon brought back and he asked them who would go on the three-day hiatus to serve Hashem (verse 8). When they responded that absolutely everyone would go and that they planned to take all their livestock as well (verse 9), Paroh countered that only the adult men may go, and had them driven out of his presence (verse 11).

>From this point onwards we no longer find Paroh's advisors suggesting that the bnei Yisroel be sent to serve Hashem. What changed? Actually things got even worse as they experienced the devastation of the locusts and the total darkness, yet not a word from them any more.

The Ohr Hachaim Hakodosh answers that Paroh told his servants that they had a good point, but it was inconclusive that Hashem had the power to take the bnei Yisroel out of Egypt against Paroh's will. Moshe had requested a three-day hiatus to serve Hashem, a round-trip ticket for each of the bnei Yisroel. Paroh reasoned that there is the possibility that Moshe would be true to his word and that indeed he only wanted three days for a festival to serve Hashem with sacrifices. If that is the case it surely isn't worth being obstinate at the price of suffering through more plagues, as his servants posited.

On the other hand if Moshe's true intention was to permanently leave, why would he request a three-day jaunt to the inhospitable desert? It might just be that Hashem was (ch"v) incapable of extracting them from Egypt proper, as it was under Paroh's domain, but once they would be in the desert, no man's land, He would be able to lead them further afield, i.e. back to Eretz Yisroel. This could be simply clarified by asking Moshe who the intended participants in the sacrificial service would be. When Moshe answered that all would be involved, even young boys and girls, Paroh concluded that the request was a fa?ade, as children never participate in such activities, and that Moshe wanted to lead the bnei Yisroel out of Egypt never to return. He felt assured through this reasoning that Hashem had no power to remove the bnei Yisroel from Egypt and that it was worthwhile to grin and bear it for a while rather than permanently lose such a large free workforce. This reasoning satisfied his servants and not a peep was heard from them afterwards. This is a most wonderful insight.

Let us expand upon this idea. Moshe had stated to Paroh numerous times earlier that all he wanted was a three-day jaunt into the desert to serve Hashem (7:16,26 - 8:16,23 - 9:1,13). Why did this issue with all its reasoning delineated by the Ohr Hachaim Hakodosh come to light here by the 8th plague and not much earlier? We can simply say that this is the first time that Moshe detailed exactly who would participate, in response to Paroh's asking who would go. However, why didn't Paroh ask this earlier when he temporarily agreed under duress to release the bnei Yisroel (7:4, 8:21,24 - 9:28)?

In a homiletic manner we might answer this based on the Ohr Hachaim Hakodosh himself. The essence of Paroh's refusal was based on the request for a three-day holiday in the desert, as mentioned above. This, coupled with the request to have every last ben and bas Yisroel leave misled him to erroneously believe that Hashem lacked the ability to extract the bnei Yisroel from Egypt proper. However, once the bnei Yisroel would be in the desert He could lead them further.

This is just like the nature of locust. They have four legs that transport them when they are earthbound. They are incapable of becoming airborne through the power of their wings alone. A pair of springing legs propels them into the air, and once airborne they can fly further with the propulsion of their wings. Perhaps Hashem orchestrated matters so that the question of exactly who the participants are would not come to light until the plague of locust, as they symbolize, in a startling likeness, Paroh's miscalculation. Just as Paroh felt that Hashem did not have the ability to take the bnei Yisroel out of Egypt and could only take them back to Eretz Yisroel once they were in the desert, out of Paroh's domain, so too a locust cannot fly from a position on the ground, but only after he is airborne by springing upwards. Only then can his wings transport him a great distance. The punishment of locust is a punishment in kind, "midoh k'ne'ged midoh," coupled with Paroh's calculations that brought him to believe that Hashem is ch"v limited in ability and that Moshe is not being truthful.

Hashem's teaching Paroh this lesson might be esoterically alluded to in the parsha of kosher and non-kosher flying insects. In Vayikra 11:22 the verse states, "Ach es zeh tochlu mikole sheretz ho'ofe haholeich al arba asher LO chro'ayim mimaal l'raglov l'na'teir bo'hen al ho'oretz," - Only this may you consume from among the flying insects that walk on four (legs), that which *has not/has* jumping legs above its other (four) legs with which to spring upon the ground. Kosher locust and grasshoppers have the feature of a third pair of legs that propel them off the ground. The word LO in this verse is one of numerous ones in TaNa"CH that are spelled LO with an Alef ("ksiv"), meaning NO, and are to be understood as LO with a Vov ("kri"), "to it." (A most wonderful insight into the double meaning of LO in our verse was offered in parshas Shmini 5763 in the name of Rabbi Avrohom Steiner of Grosvardain in Beis Avrohom.)

Perhaps we can say as follows: The gemara Shabbos 88b says that the first word in the Ten Commandments, "ANoCHI" (Shmos 20:2, Dvorim 5:6), is an acronym for "Ano Nafshi Ksovis Y'hovis," - I (Hashem) have written My essence (in the words of the Torah) and have handed it over (to the bnei Yisroel). The letters of the Torah are the essence of Hashem in the written word (see the Holy Zohar Vayikra pages 73a, 265b, and 298b). As the written words of this verse appear in the Torah, i.e. the essence of Hashem, the locust, including "arbeh" as per the following verse, "has not" - LO with an Alef - any jumping legs. It can propel itself from the ground directly into flight. This alludes to Hashem responding to Paroh that he is mistaken, that Hashem does not need to have the bnei Yisroel first removed from Paroh's domain to be able to afterwards do with them as He wishes. Hashem can take them directly out of Egypt, right from under Paroh's nose. The read form, "kri," is not the essence of Hashem, and the "arbeh" does have jumping legs, LO with a Vov, and Paroh "reads" inaccurately into Hashem the limited ability of only being able to lead and direct the bnei Yisroel after they spring out of Egypt, out of Paroh's control.



See also Oroh V'Simchoh - Meshech Chochmoh on the Weekly Parsha and Chasidic Insights

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