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January 23, 1999 6 Shebat 5759

Pop Quiz: Were any first born Egyptians excluded from the tenth plague?

IN CONTROL by Rabbi Shmuel Choueka

"All of your servants will come down to me...and he left Pharaoh's presence in anger" (Shemot 11:8)

When Moshe was telling Pharaoh about the last plague, which was the death of every first born, he said to Pharaoh, "Your servants will come to me to ask me to leave, and that's when I will leave Egypt." Moshe didn't say to Pharaoh, "You will come to me to ask me to leave," even though that's what really happened, because he didn't want to show dishonor to the king of Egypt. This is truly amazing, because right at the end of this verse it says that Moshe stormed out of the palace in anger for the way Pharaoh had spoken to him. If someone is angry, does he still have the presence of mind to show honor and to speak in a certain way? This should reinforce to us the greatness of our leaders, such as Moshe Rabenu. Although he got angry at Pharaoh, he was in complete control of himself, down to the exact words with which he should speak to the king. Everything Moshe did was exactly measured in order to be able to do the will of Hashem.

Indeed, many of our great Sages followed in Moshe's footsteps in this respect. There was a great Rabbi of the previous generation who once got angry at what his son had done, but waited two weeks, until he was totally in control of his emotions, before rebuking him! On the one hand, we can't help but be in awe of such self-discipline, but on the other hand, we have to learn from them how to behave in such situations. How often do we fly off the handle just because we're upset? Even in anger or frustration we must learn to stay in control and use the right words and the right tone of voice. We will be the real beneficiaries of such self-control. Shabbat Shalom.

MISCALCULATIONS by Rabbi Reuven Semah

"So said Hashem, 'At about midnight I shall go out in the midst of Egypt'" (Shemot 11:4)

Moshe Rabenu predicts the coming of the last plague, the smiting of the Egyptian first born. He says that about midnight it will begin, but not exactly at midnight. Why did Moshe Rabenu say it that way? Rashi explains that even if the plague occurs at exactly midnight, Pharaoh's astrologers might miscalculate the time and think that the moment of the plague was somewhat before or after midnight. If so they would claim that Moshe was a liar for predicting the wrong time.

This is truly difficult to understand. Could it be that after seeing the awesome power of this plague the Egyptians would have doubts only because it was a minute early or late? Rabbi Eliyahu Meir Bloch explains with a different approach. The Torah wants to teach us the seriousness of Hilul Hashem, desecration of Hashem's name, for even one minute. If a minute passes with the world thinking that the word of Hashem did not come true, even if it would be clarified a minute later, it would still have been a Hilul Hashem for that minute. Even this must be avoided. We find that even in human affairs it is so, that if a person feels he is misunderstood and might be accused of doing something wrong, even for a short time, he will immediately justify his actions. He would not like to be looked down upon even for a moment.

This should spur us on to be even more careful with the honor of Hashem. We truly love Hashem and we don't enjoy seeing Hashem's name being desecrated. And besides, Hashem's honor is our honor. Shabbat Shalom.


"In order that you relate in the ears of your son and your son's son that which I have wrought in Egypt" (Shemot 10:2)

Things were witnessed in Egypt that people would talk about for generations. Indeed, in all future encounters, nations feared Israel's potential power because of what transpired in Egypt. Yet the Torah tells us that these miraculous occurrences should be told into the ears of our children. If history will proclaim these awesome miracles, why should we then whisper them into the ears of our children?

The Torah is teaching us an important lesson. The message of Jewish history depends upon its interpretation. Records of various historical events mean very little. Throughout the annals of Jewish history, various miraculous events have been interpreted by scientists and those who lack religious conviction as being merely natural phenomena, excuses for denying the truth. In our day there are those who refuse to recognize the Hand of Hashem as He guides world events.

At the beginning of their national redemption, Israel is warned that despite the world's interpretation of the miracles of the Exodus, their future depends on how they transmit these events to their children, "in order that you shall relate it into their ears." One speaks into the ears of another person not only so outsiders should not hear, but also so the one in whose ears he whispers should ignore what others have to say. Whisper into their ears the truth. Tell them to ignore the false interpretations.

The success of a Jewish family, for its children to remain staunch and secure in their beliefs, depends on its own whispering campaign. We must whisper into the ears of our children to ignore the noise from the outside and to go relentlessly forward in their task of building Klal Yisrael. (Peninim on the Torah)


"And to all the Children of Israel no dog barked" (Shemot 11:7)

One can imagine the great feeling of liberation experienced by the Israelites when they were finally freed from slavery after so many years. Would it have been terrible if a dog had barked at them when they were leaving? We see from here that even though the irritation experienced would have been slight under the circumstances, it would have nevertheless still been a blot on their joy. From here we can learn that when someone is experiencing a joyous occasion, we should be careful not to say or do anything that would decrease his joy.

A person might have just bought a new house and feels very happy about it. At that time don't needlessly point out the drawbacks of that house. A person just got married and is very happy; don't voice any pessimistic comments that could cause a tinge of pain. Some people have a tendency to make statements that deflate a person's high feelings. They might be motivated by envy, or they could be simply insensitive. Allow others to savor their good fortune. Don't be like a barking dog and cause others irritation. (Growth through Torah)


"This month (Nisan) shall be for you the head of the months" (Shemot 12:2)

Why was the lunar calendar the first misvah given to the Jewish people as a whole?

When Hashem created the world, the two luminaries, the sun and the moon, were of equal strength. The moon complained, "It is not proper for two 'kings' to have the same type of crown." In response, Hashem made the moon smaller. When Mashiah comes, the moon will return to its original strength.

The unique quality of the moon is that up to the middle of the month, it continuously grows, becoming smaller thereafter. By the end of the month, it is not seen anymore - but suddenly it reappears.

The history of the Jewish people is similar to the stages of the moon: Throughout history we have had rising and falling fortunes. We have been expelled from various countries, and when we were thought to be extinct, suddenly a new Jewish community arose in another part of the world. Like the moon, the Jewish people will never disappear, and will eventually be, in the days of Mashiah, the most glorious and respected people in the world. This essential quality of the Jewish people is thus illustrated by the first misvah given to them. (Vedibarta Bam)

Answer to Pop Quiz: Yes, Pharaoh was a first born and Hashem spared him.

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