by Zvi Akiva Fleisher
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SEDRAH SELECTIONS VO'EIRO 5761 BS"D
L'ILUY NISHMAS OVI MORI R' CHAIM B"R SIMCHOH Z"L HK"M
Ch. 6, v. 2: "Va'y'da'beir ELOKIM el Moshe" - The word ELOKIM denotes Hashem speaking with strictness. Rabbeinu Efrayim says that this is alluded to in the letters of this word, which can form the first letters of "Omarto 'Lomoh Ha'rei'oso' (5:25) Yehoshua Machnis."
Ch. 6, v. 5: "V'GAM ani shomati naakas bnei Yisroel" - GAM seems superfluous. The Mei'am Lo'eiz explains that the gemara Taanis 25b says that in the days of Shmuel the Humble there was a severe drought. Shmuel decreed that the people should accept upon themselves to fast and to say many prayers so that Hashem should have mercy and send the much needed rain. The people accepted to do these things and before they even began to pray a tremendous downpour of rain came. Shmuel told everyone, "Don't think highly of yourselves by seeing such a great response even before you began to pray. This is because Hashem was willing to have mercy upon you, but was not interested in your prayers. Had your prayers been dear to Hashem, He would have waited until after you prayed and then sent the rain."
This is the meaning of "V'GAM ani shomati es naakas bnei Yisroel." Not only will Hashem bring salvation, but He holds dear the prayers of the bnei Yisroel and has ALSO heard their prayers.
Ch. 6, v. 5: "Asher Mitzrayim maavidim osom vo'ezkor es brisi" - The gemara Chagigoh 5a says that when Rabbi Yochonon came to the verse in Dvorim 31:21, "V'hoyoh ki SIMTZENO oso ro'ose rabose v'tzorose," he would weep, saying, "A servant whose Master BRINGS ABOUT for him bad happenings and difficulties, is there then any remedy for him?" Rabbi Shimshon of Ostropolia raises two questions on these words. Why was it only Rabbi Yochonon who wept.
Undoubtedly many other people read the Torah and also came to this verse. Yet it is not recorded that they cried. Why did Rabbi Yochonon express himself with the words "whose Master BRINGS ABOUT for him" rather than the straight forward, "whose Master brings upon him?"
He answers these two questions with the statement of the gemara Brochos 5a. The gemara states that suffering cleanses one's sins. Rabbi Yochonon derives this from the rule of a servant being emancipated if he loses either a tooth or an eye when struck by his master (Shmos 21:26,27). Reish Lokish derives this through a "gzeiroh shovoh," where the same word is used in two places, so we take the ruling that exists by one place and apply it to the other as well. The word BRIS is used regarding suffering and by a covenant of salt. Just as salt sweetens (flavours) meat, so also suffering sweetens (cleanses) sins. Rabbi Shimshon of Ostropolia explains that there is a practical difference between the two points of derivation that suffering cleanses sins. According to Rabbi Yochonon that the source is from the destruction of a servant's eye or tooth, the application to suffering must be similar. Just as the slave is only sent free if the master himself has directly struck the servant's eye or tooth, as explained in the gemara Kidushin 24b, so also the suffering must be meted out directly by Hashem to be effective. According to Reish Lokish that it is derived from salting meat, just as salt sweetens meat whether put on directly by a person or even if it was blown onto the meat by a wind it still flavours the meat, so also suffering cleanses whether Hashem has directly involved himself in placing it upon the person, or even when it comes upon him indirectly. Thus it was only Rabbi Yochonon who wept when reading the verse "V'hoyoh ki SIMTZENO oso ro'ose rabose v'tzorose." The verse does not say that Hashem will directly place upon him difficulties, but rather, "ki SIMTZENO," when the difficulties will find him. This does not cleanse a persons sins according to Rabbi Yochonon, so he wept and said, "Is there any hope for such a person?" Our verse says "asher Mitzrayim maavidim osom," again an expression of indirect suffering being brought upon the bnei Yisroel, as the verse does not say that Hashem is enslaving them. Since according to Rabbi Yochonon this type of suffering does not help exonerate sins the verse ends "vo'ezkor es BRISI," I will remember my covenant, meaning that Hashem will act according to the opinion of Reish Lokish who derives that suffering cleanses sins through the teaching of the word BRIS found by the cleansing of sin and by a covenant, and even if brought about through an indirect medium, will still exonerate sin.
Ch. 6, v. 8: "V'hei'veisi ES'CHEM" - A difficulty raised by many commentators is that it seems that Hashem promises in our verse to bring those who leave Egypt to Eretz Yisroel, and in reality almost all of them die out in the desert. A few answers have been offered in Sedrah Selections 5760 Parshas B'haalos'cho (9:20), and 5760 Parshas Ki Sovo (26:9). The Ohr Hachaim Hakodosh adds to the difficulty by pointing out that this was actually a vow, as in verse 6 it says "Lochein emor," and in M.R. Shmos 6:4 it says that the term "lochein" connotes a vow.
The Ohr Hachaim Hakodosh answers by pointing out that in the previous verse there is a phrase that seems to be totally out of place. In the middle of the four expressions of Hashem's taking the bnei Yisroel out of their difficulties is interjected "vida'tem ki ani Hashem." He explains that this is a condition placed on the fulfillment of the words in our verse "v'hei'veisi es'chem." He points out that "vida'tem ki ani Hashem" is very strategically placed, specifically after the first three promises of redemption, and before this promise of bringing them into Eretz Yisroel. The earlier three expressions of redemption are a promise not subject to any conditions, as leaving Egypt was guaranteed, but for the generation of those who depart from Egypt to merit being brought into Eretz Yisroel the condition of "vida'tem ki ani Hashem" must be met. Since that generation sinned in the desert and violated "vida'tem ki ani Hashem," they did not merit to be brought into Eretz Yisroel.
Ch. 6, v. 14,15,16: "Bnei Reuvane, U'vnei Shimon, V'eileh SHMOS bnei Levi" - Why does the verse add the word SHMOS by the tribe of Levi and not by Reuvane or Shimon? The Rokei'ach answers that SHMOS alludes to the Levite family line of Moshe, K'hos, Amrom, and Moshe, whose first letters Kuf-Ayin-Mem have the numerical value of 210, the number of years that the bnei Yisroel lived in Egypt.
The Shelo"h Hakodosh answers that since the L'viim were not enslaved Levi showed his concern and pain for his brethren by naming his children "Gershon," the bnei Yisroel are GEIRIM in a land that is not theirs, "K'hos," their teeth ached, KEIHOS, and "M'rori," the Egyptians embittered their lives, VA'Y'MOR'RU. (This is similar to the gemara Sotoh 36b, which relates that Binyomin gave names to all ten of his sons that indicated different sorrows that either Yoseif or he went through because of Yoseif's being separated from the family.)
It seems that Levi gave the names before all this took place in a spirit of prophecy of what the future held.
Ch. 8, v. 15: "Va'yomru hachartumim el Paroh ETZBA Elokim hee" - The letters of ETZBA can be an acronym for "Ein TZorich B'dikoh Ode," - It requires no further investigation, as surely, "Elokim hee," the plague is from Elokim. (Chid"o in Chomas Anoch in the name of Netzach Yisroel)
Ch. 8, v. 23: "Derech shloshes yomim nei'leich bamidbor" - The Shem miShmuel says in the name of his father the Avnei Nezer that the three days Moshe requested would be used by the bnei Yisroel to cleanse themselves of "kinoh, kovod, and taavoh." This was also the reason for a three day preparation before the receiving of the Torah, "Heyu n'chonim lishloshes yomim" (Shmos 19:15). (The gemara Shabbos 87a says that the three days were needed for purification purposes.) Paroh was not of the school of serving Hashem with any sort of preparation. He felt that even if the bnei Yisroel were to bring sacrifices for Hashem, they may be brought while the people have not elevated themselves above daily physicality, and therefore said in verse 21, "Zivchu lEilokeichem," - sacrifice to your G-d, "BO'ORETZ," (the prefix B means "with") - with earthiness, and without preparation.
Ch. 8, v. 26: "Va'yetar" - In 8:8 where Moshe prayed to Hashem to remove the frogs the word used for his prayer is "va'yitzak." To explain the difference in terminology the Chasam Sofer quotes the gemara Sukoh 14a and Y'vomos 64a that explains that the word "va'yetar" comes from the source word "asar," Ayin-Tof-Reish, meaning a pitchfork. Just as a pitchfork totally turns over hay, bringing that which was on the bottom to the top, so also the prayers of the righteous change a decree for punishment into total mercy.
When the plague of frogs came to a close and they died there was not a change from suffering from the plague to total relief, as the verse states that the piles of dead frogs reeked, "vativash ho'oretz" (8:10). Therefore the term "va'yitzak" was used to describe the prayer of Moshe. In our case of the removal of the multitudes of wild animals, all the animals left the land and there was total relief. This indicates that Moshe's prayer was of the magnitude of changing the situation to total mercy, hence "va'yetar" is used to describe his prayer.
Rashi says that the term "va'yetar" indicates numerous and very intensive prayers. Rabbi Ovadioh of Bartenuroh explains that intensive prayers were needed here and as well to bring the plague of locust to a close, where the same word is used (10:18), because Moshe prayed that they should be totally removed so that the Egytians should derive no benefit from the hides of the wild animals nor from the locust that they preserved in salt, as mentioned in Rashi in verse 27 and in 10:19. The difficulty with requesting total removal of what Hashem sent is that the gemara Taanis 25a says that as a rule when something is given from the heavens it is not taken back. To override this, severe prayers were needed, hence "va'yetar."
Ch. 9, v. 6: "U'mi'miknei vnei Yisroel lo meis echod" - The Shach says that not one animal of the bnei Yisroel died, not even an ill one whose time had come to die, so that the Egyptians should not say that the plague affected the bnei Yisroel as well. The GR"A says the same thought regarding the plague of the smiting of the firstborn, that on that night no ben Yisroel died, even one whose time had come to die.
Ch. 9, v. 22: "N'tei es yodcho AL hashomayim" - Stretch your hand ONTO the heavens. Rashi in the name of the Medrash Agodoh says that Hashem lifted Moshe above the heavens and told him to stretch his hands from above ONTO the heavens, and thus initiate the plague of hail. The Shem miShmuel notes that by the plague of darkness we also find that Hashem said to Moshe "N'tei yodcho AL hashomayim" (10:22), and there Rashi does not mention that Hashem elevated Moshe above the heavens. (It might simply be that once Rashi said this here it is not necessary to repeat it later by the plague of darkness.) He answers that in verse 24 on the words "v'eish mislakachas b'soch haborod" Rashi says that there was fire inside the balls of hail. Although fire and water always oppose each other, water extinguishes fire and fire evaporates water, to fulfill the wish of Hashem they made peace and coexisted during this plague. For this supernatural relationship to take place a power of coexistance between water and fire has to be drawn from a very lofty heavenly sphere above the point where water and fire could no longer coexist. The same is true of the makeup of the heavens themselves, which the M.R. Breishis 4:7 says is a combination of Fire and water. The word SHOMAYIM itself indicates this, phonetically AISH & MAYIM. The heavens, a coexistance of fire and water also received their power of existence from a source above them, as on this physical world these two elements cannot coexist. This is the meaning of Hashem lifting Moshe ABOVE the heavens, as he must draw from a power that the heavens themselves draw from for their existence, from above. By the plague of darkness this was not needed, hence AL hashomayim can simply mean TO the heavens, and not ONTO the heavens, as the Ramban points out in Shmos 2:5 that "AL ha'y'or" is translated as "EL ha'y'or."
Perhaps a seemingly minor point can be explained according to the Shem miShmuel. Here by the plague of hail we find "n'tei ES yodcho," while by the plague of darkness we find "n'tei yodcho" without the word ES. ES connotes an addition, "ES l'rabose" (Sotoh 17a, M'nochos 11b). On a simple level we can say that the word ES indicated to Moshe that he should initiate the plague with an ADDITION to his hand, as we find in verse 23, "Va'yeit Moshe es MA'TEIHU," he made use of his staff. According to the words of the Shem miShmuel perhaps we can say that by the plague of hail, where Moshe had to enlist a supernal power, beyond the laws of the natural world, ES is used, while by the plague of darkness, where this was not necessary, the word ES does not appear. Alternately, where Moshe had to make use of loftier than heavenly powers he had to enlist the use of his staff. By the plague of darkness, where this was not necessary, he used his hand only. More on the staff being symbolic of a higher level of supernatural powers in parshas B'shalach by the splitting of the sea.
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