CHAMISHOH MI YODEI'A - FIVE QUESTIONS ON THE WEEKLY SEDRAH - PARSHAS VO'EIRO 5771 - BS"D
1) Ch. 6, v.23: "Achos Nach'shon" - Rashi tells us that we derive from here that one should inquire concerning the brothers of the woman one is considering marrying (gemara B.B. 110a). The gemara goes on to say that one should do this because the majority of one's sons are similar to the brothers of the mother. Is there a similar rule that the majority of one's daughters are similar to the sisters of the father?
2) Ch. 7, v. 18: "U'vo'ash ha'y'or" - The Baal Tosfos Rabbi Yosef Bchor Shor says that the plague of blood lasted for a short amount of time, just long enough to kill the marine life in the bodies of water. The blood then reverted to water. With the death of so many fish, there was a very powerful stench in the water, making it undrinkable. This seems to be the simple gist of verse 21. The Bchor Shor explains that this plague is called BLOOD rather than STENCH, because the name of the plague refers to that which is visible, namely, the blood. There seems to be a difficulty with the name "devver," pestilence. The disease was not visible. Only the result of dead animals was.
3) Ch. 9, v. 3: "B'mik'n'cho asher BASO'DEH" - Is "baso'deh" "davka" or "lav davka?"
4) Ch. 9, v. 4: "V'hifloh Hashem bein miknei Yisroel u'vein miknei Mitzroyim" - The Tosfos Hasholeim says that if an Egyptian placed his cattle into Goshen to avoid the pestilence it would be of no avail. This is contrary to the plague of wild animals where the Tosfos Hasholeim posited that there was respite for an Egyptian who was afforded safe harbour in Goshen, as mentioned earlier in 8:17 explanation #1. From which words in our verses can we extract this distinction?
5) 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. 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. Why not? (It might simply be that once Rashi said this here it is not necessary to repeat it later by the plague of darkness.)
Moshav Z'keinim (Baa'lei Tosfos) on Breishis 28:2, where Yitzchok tells his son Yaakov to go to Padan Aram to take a wife from among the daughters of Lovon, comments that Yitzchok felt assured that Lovon's daughters were of the proper stature and mindset as Yaakov because his wife Rivkoh was Lovon's sister and the majority of one's daughters are similar to their father's sisters, a gender mirror image of the rule stated in the gemara regarding sons.
Possibly, there were distinct features of this disease visible upon the dead animals.
Rashi on verse 10 clearly states that the plague of pestilence only struck those animals that were in the fields. The Ramban and Rabbeinu Bachyei say that pestilence affected the cattle even if they were brought into the Egyptians' homes. The reason the verse says "in the field" is because cattle are commonly found in the field, "dibeir hakosuv b'ho'veh." They bring a proof for this. It says (9:6) that "all" the livestock died. Rashi in 9:10 and 14:7 says that only the cattle left in the field were affected. The Ohr Hachaim Hakodosh says that "all" in verse 6 refers to all that were left in the field.
A strong indication to the opinion of the Ramban and Rabbeinu Bachyei is that the Torah goes to some length and detail by the plague of hail to instruct the Egyptians to bring their cattle to their homes to be spared the devastation of the hail, and here, by Devver, just mentions "which are in the field." If we are to learn one from the other, it should be elaborated upon EARLIER, and have the latter learn from the earlier.
The Rivo, Paanei'ach Rozo, and the Sifsei Chachomim answer according to Rashi that it is common to have pestilence kill herds of cattle. The slightest indication that their cattle could be saved is sufficient to bring the Egyptians to compliance. Not so by the plague of hail. It is very unusual to have such a severe hail storm that would kill all the cattle. This necessitates elaboration. Another indication that the Egyptians were more eager to comply by pestilence is that Rashi 9:10 says that those who feared the word of Hashem took their cattle out of the fields. These were the animals that were left over, of which many were killed during the plague of hail. If only the animals of those who feared the word of Hashem survived, these same people would place their cattle out of harm's way again during the hail. Yet we find that cattle were left in the fields (9:21,25). This shows that more people were persuaded to seek shelter for their cattle during the pestilence than during the hail.
Another possible answer to the elaboration of shelter regarding hail, and only a mention of "that are in the field" regarding pestilence might be derived from an insight brought in the K'hilas Yitzchok. He says that the only shelter afforded during the hail storm was the HOMES of the Egyptians. The verse (9:19) says clearly that the people and animals had to be brought into their HOMES. This is retribution in kind, "midoh k'neged midoh," for the Egyptians forcing the bnei Yisroel to remain away from home at night and to stay with the cattle in barns. Hashem wanted to bring about this punishment during the plague of hail. During the plague of pestilence the verse says "cattle which are in the FIELD" will be smitten. This does not indicate that they need to be brought into the HOMES to be saved. Even if brought into BARNS, the animals are no longer "in the field" and are safe. Therefore it is sufficient to just mention "in the field" by pestilence. To be out of harm's way from hail required specifically bringing the people and the animals into the Egyptians HOMES, hence the elaboration.
The difference is indicated by the words in the plague of wild animals "v'hifleisi ba'yom hahu es ERETZ GOSHEN," indicating that Hashem would make the LAND OF GOSHEN distinct. However, here by the plague of pestilence our verse says "V'hifloh Hashem bein MIKNEI Yisroel u'vein MIKNEI Mitzroyim," indicating that there would be a distinction by OWNERSHIP and not by LOCATION.
The Shem miShmuel raises this issue and 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.
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