by Zvi Akiva Fleisher
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SEDRAH SELECTIONS PARSHAS VO'EIRO 5762 BS"D
Ch. 6, v. 14-16: "Ei'leh roshei veis avosom bnei Reuvein, Uvnei Shimon, V'ei'leh shmos bnei Levi" - The M.R. on parshas Noso 13:8 explains that the tribes of Reuvein, Shimon, and Levi were mentioned here to the exclusion of any other tribes, because these three tribes had mastery in Egypt. Rashi on Shmos 5:4 says that the tribe of Levi was not subject to slavery, as clearly indicated by Moshe and Aharon's ability to come and go to Paroh. In turn, the tribe of Levi did not merit having a parcel of land in Eretz Yisroel, but rather, were limited to have Levite cities spread out throughout the land. Reuvein also did not have a portion in Eretz Yisroel, but rather received land on the Trans-Jordanian side. Although Shimon had a portion of land in Eretz Yisroel, this was limited, swallowed into Yehudoh's portion, as explained by the Ramban on Breishis 49:5 d.h. "Shimon v'Levi." As well, Shimon was subject to "vaafitzeim b'Yisroel" (Breishis 48:7), the members of Shimon's tribe were not able to reside within their allotted portion, as they became teachers, and as such, were spread out throughout the land. In which manner were the bnei Reuvein and bnei Shimon masters over others in Egypt? The Meshech Chochmoh offers that they had sufficient wealth to purchase some of their fellow Jews from the Egyptians and use them as their own slaves.
This would explain the juxtaposition of verse 26, "Hu Aharon u'Moshe asher omar Hashem lo'hem hotziu es bnei Yisroel mei'eretz Mitzrayim al TZIVOSOM." After mentioning the tribes that had their brethren as slaves, Aharon and Moshe were commanded to bring the bnei Yisroel out of Egypt, "al tzivosom," - each as a self-sovereign tribe. As well, the gemara Yerushalmi R.H. 3:5 derives from the verse immediately before the counting of these three tribes, "va'y'tza'veim el bnei Yisroel v'el Paroh melech Mitzroyim l'hotzi es bnei Yisroel," that the bnei Yisroel should be commanded to let their slaves free. This is commonly understood as referring to a later time, when the bnei Yisroel would own slaves when they were themselves free people in Eretz Yisroel. Of course, there is some difficulty with this. Why would this law be mentioned now, when they were far from being owners of slaves, being enslaved themselves? However, if we say that some of the bnei Yisroel were slave owners in Egypt, this is very well understood.
The Meshech Chochmoh says that we can say that this was the intention of Yirmiyohu in 34:13,14, where the verse states that Hashem stipulated with our ancestors on the day they left Egypt to release their Hebrew slaves. I have much difficulty in understanding this, as the verse clearly states that the slaves should be sent away after 7 years. If Yirmiyohu is recounting the responsibility to send away those of their brethren whom they enslaved in Egypt, how does the seven-year time factor shine in?
The Meshech Chochmoh most insightfully explains why Hashem allowed matters to evolve so that these three tribes had an easier life in Egypt than their brethren had. The Mechilta on parshas Bo, mesechta d'Pis'cha #5 says that in the merit of 4 matters the bnei Yisroel deserved to be redeemed from their exile in Egypt. They did not change their names, nor their language, they were conspicuous and visible, and they behaved as aliens and not as citizens, permanent inhabitants. The reason they were able to retain their national identity was because they held hope in leaving Egypt and residing again in Eretz Yisroel, as per the blessings accorded them by Yaakov, where we find that many of the blessings gravitated around geographic Eretz Yisroel (see Breishis 49:10,13,15,20).
Since Reuvein, Shimon, and Levi were rebuked at the time of the blessings, their outlook towards a long-off bright future in Eretz Yisroel was dissipated. Since they felt this way, had they also been subject to slavery without a hope for a positive national future, they might have ch"v merged with the Egyptians, totally losing their bnei Yisroel identity.
Ch. 7, v. 15: "Hi'nei yotzei hamaymoh" - Rashi (M.R. 9:8) says that Paroh went to the river early in the morning to relieve himself. Throughout the day he would not relieve himself, and thus claimed that he was a deity, very small d. We may assume that he justified his early morning aquatic activities as either being an enjoyable activity that he did to start off his day, or that it was part of his physical fitness program. (The Ibn Ezra on 8:16 gives us another reason, see later offering.)
Once the plague of blood came and the water became putrid and gave off a strong stench (7:21), how did Paroh justify his "hashkomoh," early morning, jaunt to the river? Did he give up this practice and admit that he was a plain human? The Targum Yonoson ben Uziel translates "Va'yi'fen Paroh" (verse 23) as, "and Paroh relieved himself." On the words "v'lo shos libo gam l'zose" later on in verse 23, we have numerous explanations for the word GAM, see Rashi, Ramban, Rashbam, Sforno, and Ohr Hachaim Hakodosh. Perhaps, according to the Targum Yonoson ben Uziel a new explanation emerges. Besides the devastating suffering caused by the water turning to blood, Paroh personally suffered a second blow. This was that his unwavering visits to the river in the morning even when the water turned to blood, in spite of its severe stench, made him very suspect in the eyes of the Egyptians. Paroh still went to the river to relieve himself and took not to heart ALSO this second setback.
Ch. 7, v. 15: "Hi'nei yotzei hamaymoh ..v'hama'teh asher nehpach l'nochosh tikach b'yo'decho" - Rashi (M.R. 9:8) says that Paroh went to the river early in the morning to relieve himself. The Moshav Z'keinim says that we now understand why Hashem told Moshe to specifically take Aharon's staff that was turned into a snake earlier (verse 10), and not Moshe's personal staff, since it had the Holy Name of Hashem on it, and it was thus inappropriate to bring it to the place where Paroh relieved himself. However, the Ibn Ezra says that this staff was Moshe's and the verse refers to his staff turning into a snake in 4:3. The problem of taking the staff to where Paroh relieved himself might be alleviated by Moshe's being told to stand at a distance. While Paroh was in the water, Moshe was told to stand at a distance, "al sfas ha'y'ore."
Ch. 7, v. 15: "V'hama'teh asher nehpach l'nochosh" - The Maharsha"m in T'chei'les Mordechai explains the symbolism of Moshe's bringing the staff that had turned into a snake in front of Paroh in a most beautiful manner. The gemara B.B. 16b says that there is a creature called "ayoloh" which has difficulty in giving birth. The cervix of its uterus is so narrow that the birthing process cannot take place. Hashem sends a snake that bites its cervix, and the pain caused by the bite allows the cervix to fully dilate, facilitating a successful birth. This is indeed another of the many "niflo'os haBorei."
Symbolically, it would be the same with the exodus from Egypt. As difficult as things were earlier, Paroh's edicts against the bnei Yisroel became more and more difficult. This is not a cause for "yi'ush," for becoming despondent and giving up hope. It was exactly because the servitude became harsher that the bnei Yisroel were able to leave Egypt earlier than the 400 years told to Avrohom (Breishis 15:13). The added pain of the snakebite brings about the expedient emergence from Egypt and the birth of the Jewish nation.
Ch. 8, v. 9: "Va'yaas Hashem kidvar Moshe va'yomusu hatzfardim" - When the bnei Yisroel were attacked by venomous serpents Moshe prayed for their removal, but it was to no avail, and it was required of Moshe to create a form of a snake and place it onto a staff (Bmidbar 21:7-9). Why weren't his prayers answered there as they were answered here? The Chofetz Chaim answers that the bnei Yisroel sinned with "loshon hora," speaking negatively of Hashem and Moshe. The punishment of being bitten by snakes is commensurate measure for measure with their sinning with their mouths. The condemning angels created through the sin of "loshon hora" do not readily dissipate, and Moshe's prayers alone were not sufficient.
Ch. 8, v. 14: "L'hotzi es hakinim v'lo yocholu" - Rashi (gemara Sanhedrin 67b and M.R. 10:7) says that the Egyptian magicians were unable to create lice because the occult has no ability to influence an object that is smaller than a barleycorn. The Meilitz Yosher says that this would also explain why there is no impurity imparted by a piece of human bone that is smaller than a barleycorn.
Ch. 8, v. 16: "Lifnei Faroh hi'nei yotzei hamaymoh" - The Ibn Ezra writes that it was the custom of kings to go to a body of water in the morning because peering at water is beneficial for the eyes. (On 7:15 he gives another reason.) Perhaps the benefit comes from the reflection of one's eyes from the water surface. The Hagohos Oshri on the Rosh #11 on the gemara Avodoh Zoroh 29a, after listing numerous activities that a man should not do in front of a mirror, as this goes into the prohibition of wearing female garments (Dvorim 22:5), permits a scribe to look into a mirror, because this is beneficial for his eyesight.
I don't know why the Ibn Ezra did not say this earlier on 7:15, "baboker hi'nei yotzei hamaymoh," besides his other explanation offered there. The Chizkuni on 7:15 says the same as the Ibn Ezra says here.
Ch. 9, v. 14: "Ani sholei'ach es kol ma'geifosai .. uv'a'mecho" - We are all well acquainted with the words of the Hagodoh shel Pesach, "Rabbi Yehudoh hoyoh nosein bo'hem simonim." The words "nosein bo'hem" are a bit perplexing. Even with the explanation of the GR"A that the first letters of the 10 plagues were etched into the staff that was used to initiate many of the plagues we should say "nosein BO simonim," as the staff is singular. The M.R. on parshas Ki Sovo and the Medrash Shochar Tov on T'hilim chapters 78 and 104 say that when the plagues came, their names were marked on the bodies of the Egyptians. This might be the intention of the words "nosein BOHEM." As well it might be alluded to in our verse with the words "ani sholei'ach es kol ma'geifosai ..uv'a'mecho." Why this would be pointed out specifically here requires clarification.
N.B. The forgotten attribution for the dvar Torah on 2:10 last week is from the Abarbenel.
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