Back to This Week's Parsha| Previous Issues
Jews: Hashem's FirstbornAnd you shall say to Pharaoh, 'So said the L-rd, "My firstborn son is Yisroel."' So I say to you, 'Send out My son so that he will worship Me, but if you refuse to send him out, behold, I am going to slay your firstborn son.' "
Rosh Hashana falls out on the first of Tishre in the fall. However, in parshas Bo, Hakadosh Baruch Hu told us that Nisan is the first month, the beginning of the Jewish calendar. Why should this be so? How can Rosh Hashana be different than the beginning of the calendar?
There were 2 major events in the Creation of the world. On Rosh Hashana the world was created. We pay special attention to this in Kiddush by reciting æëø ìîòùä áøàùéú "A remembrance of the Creation of the World." This is a basic affirmation of our faith that Hashem created the universe. But this doesn't say anything about Hashem's active participation in the world. Many goyim believe in G-d and that He created the Universe, but they don't believe that he actively supervises its running. That is an even more important belief. This is what happened at Yetzias Mitzrayim. Hashem showed the world that He is very active in this world, and He has chosen Yisroel to be His nation. Yisroel are His firstborn and they are to be set free. And if not Pharaoh's and all the Egyptian first born will die. Thus, Nisan, the time of Yetzias Mitzrayim, is the beginning of the Jewish calendar because that is when we became a nation. Pesach commemorates Yisroel's birth.
Rav Avigdor Miller writes (Behold A People, sec. 159 and 173):
But history was marching on toward the fulfillment of G-d's plan. The proclamation had been made: "My first-born son is Israel!Ø (ibid. 4:22). The thunderous declaration from G-d, delivered by the greatest of the seed of Shem to the mighty monarch of the seed of Cham, confronted the nations of the world with the fulfillment of Noah's prophecy: "Blessed is the L-rd, the G-d of Shem... and He shall dwell in the tents of Shem" (Breshis 9:26-27), which foretold the Election of Israel, The world was about to witness a stupendous and never-to-be-equaled overturning of Nature as a demonstration of G-d's love for Israel. G-d Himself was coming to rescue His son: "I have come down to rescue him from the hand of Egypt" (Shmos 3:8), and all of Nature began to churn in turmoil at the approach of its Creator….
The manner of the deliverance from Egypt is of the utmost significance. Israel could have been released as the result of negotiation or in some other uneventful manner. Instead, G d moved all the forces of Nature from their ordinary courses; the earth and the sky labored to set Israel free, the rivers were corrupted, the land ran wild with pests and wild beasts, the sky rained down pestilence and hail, and men were beset with darkness and sudden death. This was entirely unnecessary for the mere purpose of freeing Israel. It was done to demonstrate the imminence of G-d, and that Israel is the son of G-d. When an ordinary man has been enslaved, he may be set free by ordinary means. But when the son of the Master of heaven and earth has been enslaved, heaven and earth are moved to free him. Even more: the Master of the World Himself comes down to set free His son. It was a stupendous demonstration by all the forces of Nature that Israel is unique in the Universe. All throughout the Universe the law of Nature prevail, but for the nation called the "son of G-d" all the laws of Nature are changed, for G-d has come down among them. "Wherefore, O sea, do you flee?" The reply is: "Before the Master!" In whose midst is the Master to be seen? "Before the G-d of Yaakov" (Psalms 114:1-7). All of Nature was in awe of Israel, because the Master of the Universe was in their midst.
Yisroel is the first born beloved son of Hashem. Not only a chosen nation, but a totally different kind of people. Yisroel don't follow the normal course of nature, and their mind and souls are of a different quality. Yidden don't think like any ordinary person. This can be demonstrated by the following story:
(From Mima'amakim by Harav Ephraim Oshry, Rav of the Kovno Ghetto, v. 5 shaalah 6)
Written in the Kovno Ghetto under Nazi occupation:
It was the winter of 1942, a few months before the holiday of Pesach. We had passed Chanukah and many of us who were incarcerated in the ghetto had started to try to find ways how we could fulfill the mitzvah of eating matzah on Pesach. This was an impossible task. There was not enough of even essential food available in the ghetto; how much more so flour fit to bake matzos. The whole idea seemed totally unfeasible.
Everyone was essentially an inmate. We were incarcerated in the ghetto. Anyone trying to escape risked torture or death or both. We barely sustained ourselves from whatever we could find. The rations of black bread that the Nazis provided were nowhere near sufficient to quench our hunger. The cursed Germans carefully guarded the ghetto and its inmates lest someone try to sneak in any type of food.
And yet, in spite of this horrendous situation, the thought of matzos on Pesach would not let the Yidden rest. They knew that the Germans in their malicious evil wanted to force the Jews into a state of total despair and depression to make their job of eradicating the remnant of Yaakov Avinu that much easier as they carried out their plan of total annihilation.
It was specifically this thought gave everyone the determination to attempt to foil their plans and not fall into despair and mental numbness. They constantly bolstered up their hopes that finally in the end, the evil axis would fall and the inmates would celebrate in their freedom. This doubled the importance to keep the Torah and mitzvos scrupulously so their Jewish identity should not be compromised. Thus the poor downtrodden inmates of the ghetto saw in this their way to oppose the cursed Germans who had decided to bring an end to the Jewish people and annihilate them from under the sun.
Thus I secretly organized a small group of men and gave them the task of obtaining some flour to bake matzos so that they could eat at least one kezayis of matzah for Pesach. Among this group was a Jew by the name of Moshe Goldkorn. He was a Chassidishe Yid who had escaped the Nazis in Poland and fled to Lithuania. But the Nazis caught up with him there and threw him into the Kovno Ghetto.
This fellow worked in the Yardan Brigade. In this capacity he came in contact with the local Lithuanians and he was able to obtain some flour in return for various items. The problem was how to get this flour into the ghetto. The Nazis kept an extremely tight guard around the ghetto prohibiting anyone from bringing in any bread, or potatoes, or any type of nourishment.
Moshe Goldkorn, however, vowed to find a way to get the flour into the ghetto no matter how difficult or hazardous. With tremendous self-endangerment, he succeeded in sneaking in small quantities of flour when he returned from the labor camp. His joy knew no bounds knowing that he was enabling the Jews of the ghetto to fulfill the mitzah of matzah.
The flour he snuck in was kept in a secret hiding place and guarded tight. Slowly, slowly the flour was slipped into the ghetto until they had enough flour to bake matzos for 100 people. As Pesach approached the matzah chabura managed to gain access to Block C which had a small workstation where they baked the bread for the inmates. They gained permission from the Jewish supervisors of the workstation, kashered the ovens and for 10 days they baked matzos for the chaburah. The Kovno Ghetto was filled with simcha.
But the happiest of all was Moshe Goldkorn who through tremendous self-sacrifice was able to provide the flour not only for himself, but for his fellows Jews and give them the opportunity to perform this precious mitzvah, right under the noses of the German enemy.
Unfortunately, his luck ran out. A few days before Pesach he was stopped by German guards as he returned to the Ghetto. He was searched thoroughly all over and found a little packet of flour. The Nazis immediately flew into a rage at his impudence for trying to sneak food into the ghetto. They proceeded to give him a thorough beating, punching him all over his body. They made sure to break all his teeth and teach him a lesson. Moshe Goldkorn endured the torture with love; it was his mesiras nefesh for the sake of Hashem and His Torah.
Moshe came to me limping and bleeding. He was crying like a baby. But not because of the pain. He was pleading with me. How could he fulfill the mitzvah of eating matzah? All of his teeth were broken and he couldn't chew at all because of the excruciating pain. The only way he could eat the matzah was to soak it in water and soften it. But all his life he had always been scrupulous about eating gebruchts . Now after having displayed such sacrifice for the mitzvah of matzah he wouldn't be able to partake of it. Thus he was crying to me to find a way for him to eat the matzah!
Rav Oshry wrote a lengthy teshuva to permit him to break his minhag due to the extenuating circumstances and after he was matir neder.
SHVI'I SHEL PESACH
Chag of Emunah(Yalkut Lekach Tov, Haggadah Shel Pesach)
àÄìÌåÌ ÷ÈøÇò ìÈðåÌ àÆú äÇéÌÈí, åÀìÉà äÆòÁáÄéøÈðåÌ áÀúåÉëåÉ áÌÆçÈøÈáÈä ãÌÇéÌÅðåÌ:
Had He split the Sea for us, but not led us through it on dry land, it would have sufficed for us. (Haggadah)
åÇéÌÈáÉàåÌ áÀðÅé éÄùÒÀøÈàÅì áÌÀúåÉêÀ äÇéÌÈí áÌÇéÌÇáÌÈùÑÈä åÀäÇîÌÇéÄí ìÈäÆí çåÉîÈä îÄéîÄéðÈí åÌîÄùÌÒÀîÉàìÈí
Then the children of Israel came into the midst of the sea on dry land, and the waters were to them as a wall from their right and from their left. (Shmos 14:22)
åÌáÀðÅé éÄùÒÀøÈàÅì äÈìÀëåÌ áÇéÌÇáÌÈùÑÈä áÌÀúåÉêÀ äÇéÌÈí åÀäÇîÌÇéÄí ìÈäÆí çÉîÈä îÄéîÄéðÈí åÌîÄùÌÒÀîÉàìÈí
But the children of Israel went on dry land in the midst of the sea, and the water was to them like a wall from their right and from their left. (Shmos 14:29)
We are immediately struck by the difference between these two p'sukim. In the first the Bnei Yisroel went into the water, on dry land. In the second possuk we find the Bnei Yisroel walking on dry land in the midst of the water. There definitely is some meaning in the change of order between water and dry land. The Noam Elimelech (Likutei Shoshanah) explains that when the Bnei Yisroel entered the Yam Suf, they immediately sensed the great miracle that was occurring. Here they are in the midst of the great sea with water all around them, and yet they are walking on dry ground. This miraculous experience immediately catapulted them to a new height of awareness that even their walking on solid ground is no less a miracle than their walking through the water. In reality everything in nature is pure miracle; there is no such thing as mere "nature" or "ordinary occurrence".
This is the point the Ramban makes (at the end of Parshas Bo), that the greatest and most well-known open miracles lead a person to recognize that everything is really a hidden miracle. If one will only contemplate on the open miracles, he will come to the elevated height of emunah that even what we consider "natural" is really a miracle.
At the end of davening we recite the famous piyut Ein Keilokeinu. We precede this with several p'sukim, the middle one being a quote from tefillas Chana (Shmuel I 2:2):
àÅéï ÷ÈãåÉùÑ ëÌÇä' ëÌÄé àÅéï áÌÄìÀúÌÆêÈ åÀàÅéï öåÌø ëÌÅàìÉ÷Åéðå
There is none as holy as the Lord, for there is none besides You; And there is no rock like our God.
Normally the word öåø is translated "rock." The gemara (Brachos 10a) however, interprets it from the root öééø painter. Chana viewed Hashem as the great artisan who forms every living creature as a 3 dimensional work of art. She said, "There is no painter as great as Hashem." A person can paint an image on the wall, but he has no ability to impart it with life and soul, innards and entrails. Hakadosh Baruch Hu paints an image inside of an image and imparts it with life and soul, innards and entrails.
The Chasam Sofer takes this as a moshol with which to understand Krias Yam Suf:
A king once commissioned the greatest sculptor in the kingdom to fashion a sculpture of a horse. Upon finishing his grand work of art the king was so impressed he placed the statue in the city's central square in order to impress all the townsfolk. However, to his consternation no one paid any attention to the magnificent work of art. They just walked right past it.
The king confided in his good wise friend. "I'll tell you the problem," answered his friend. "You know why nobody pays any attention to that statue. Because it looks so real! It is such a marvelous replica of a real horse people passing by think that's all it is. No one pays any attention to a plain ordinary horse. If you want people to understand that it is a sculpture, cut it in half. Then everyone will appreciate that marvelous work of art and will be amazed how closely it resembles the real thing."
This is exactly what the king did. And when everyone saw the "Cut Horse" they recognized it for what it really was and were so impressed by the expertise of the artisan who created such a masterpiece.
So too, concluded the Chasam Sofer, Hakadosh Baruch Hu crafted a world filled with wonderous and amazing creations: oceans, continents, the sun, the moon, stars, and everything that fills the universe. But Man takes no notice from all this because the Master Artisan has made everything look "so real" it looks more real than all other works of art. A flesh and blood artist can only fool one's sense of sight. But as soon as you touch it you recognize it is merely a painting. Hakadosh Baruch Hu, on the other hand, can fool all five senses. It looks real, it feels real, it smells real, etc. We sense everything in Creation, we see it, we feel it, we hear it. Everything operates according to set laws of nature functioning flawlessly. Thus the Master Craftsman has succeeded in hiding His hand in all this. What we don't realize is that without His constant input everything in Creation would vanish instantaneously. But when Hakadosh Baruch Hu split the sea in half, then everyone saw that it is only because Hashem wills it that there is a sea. And if He wills it the sea turns into dry land. Then everyone burst out in song as Moshe and the Bnei Yisroel said shira.
Chag Kosher v'Sameach!
Shema Yisrael Torah Network