Thoughts on the Weekly Parshah by HaRav Eliezer Chrysler
Formerly Rav of Mercaz Ahavat Torah, Johannesburg

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Vol. 7 No. 29


True Freedom

The counting of the Omer, linking Pesach with Shavu'os, is a clear indication that the two go hand in hand, that physical freedom is meaningless if it is not accompanied by spiritual content. In other words, we would never have left Egypt in Nisan if it were not with the express intention of receiving the Torah in Sivan.

What is interesting is that whenever the Torah mentions the Exodus from Egpt, it always makes a reference, however brief, to the giving of the Torah, and there are few exceptions to this rule.


We find it, at least in the form of a hint, by the 'B'ris bein ha'Besorim', where, after discussing the four hundred years exile, the posuk concludes "ve'acharei-chein yeitzu bi'r'chush godol" (Bereishis 15:14), which the commentaries explain to mean "and afterwards they will go out, not with, but for a great possession (the Torah)".


Already at the burning bush, the first time that G-d refered to the Exodus, He informed Moshe that "when you will take this people out of Egypt, you will serve G-d on this mountain", a clear indication that the former was only the beginning of greater things to come (Sh'mos 3:2) (including a subtle hint at the fifty days between one and the other in the 'nun' of "ta'avdun es Elokim").


A notable exception to the rule is to be found in Sh'mos (3:17). There the Torah refers to the Exodus without mentioning the Giving of the Torah in the same posuk. However, not only does the following posuk refer to their entry into Eretz Yisroel, but almost immediately, the Torah does speak about a three-day journey into the desert, to sacrifice to Hashem - a reference to the celebrations of Mattan Torah.


On subsequent occasions however, whenever Moshe requested from Par'oh to send Yisroel out of Egypt, he always added "and they will celebrate to Me in the desert" or "and they will serve Me". Even when addressing Par'oh, Moshe made sure to stress the reason for the Exodus - so that even Par'oh should know that they were leaving Egypt for no other purpose than to serve G-d at Har Sinai.


Even in the first of the Ten Commandments, the Torah writes "I am Hashem your G-d, who brought you out of the land of Egypt - to be for you a G-d" (at Har Sinai) and the same idea is expressed in the last posuk of the Shema, at the end of Parshas Tzitzis. And it is hinted again in the first posuk of Shema, where the Torah writes "Shema Yisroel Hashem Elokeinu (at the Exodus from Egypt), Hashem Echod (at Har Sinai), expressing the connection between Yetzi'as Mitzrayim and Ma'amad Har Sinai.


And the same concept of the inter-relationship between Yetzi'as Mitzrayim and Mattan Torah is clearly demonstrated in the four expressions of redemption, where the first three, "and I will take you out and I will save you, and I will redeem you" refer to the different aspects of the redemption, whereas the last one, "And I will take you to Me as a nation" pertains to the giving of the Torah.


Pesach Pearls

The Four Cups

The Medrash Raboh in Parshas Vo'eiro connects the four cups of wine with the four expressions of redemption, and the four expressions of redemption with the four evil decrees that Par'oh issued against Yisroel: the slavery, the killing of the Jewish babies when they were born, drowning them in the Nile, and withholding straw from them whilst demanding the same quota of bricks as they had built until then.


The Three Saviours

Another Medrash Raboh in Beshalach, commenting on "va'Yovo Amolek", cites the posuk in Iyov (3:26) "I was not tranquil, I was not at peace and I did not rest, and anger came". After connecting these four statements with the four exiles (Bovel, Modai, Greece and Edom), the Medrash gives an alternative explanation:

"I was not tranquil" - from the first decree which Par'oh decreed upon me, as it is written "And they embittered their lives" (Sh'mos 1:14). So G-d appointed a redeemer - Miriam, because of the bitterness (indeed, she was called 'Miriam' [bitter] because she was born as the bitter slavery began - a hundred and twenty six years after the B'nei Yisroel arrived in Egypt).

"I was not at peace" - from the second decree "if it is a son, kill him" (1:16). So G-d appointed a redeemer - Aharon, because the word 'Aharon' is similar to 'heiroyon' (pregnancy). "And I did not rest" - from the third of Par'oh's decrees, as it is written (1:22) "Every son who is born, cast into the Nile". So G-d appointed a redeemer, Moshe, who was called by that name because Bisyah said "ki min ha'mayim meshisihu" (because I drew him from the water).

On the merit of the three great redeemers, Yisroel were saved from the three terrible decrees in Egypt.

This Medrash omits the fourth decree (see commentary of Medrash Raboh ha'Mevu'or).

And the Medrash concludes - "And anger came" - this is Amolek, who attacked Yisroel with the sole intention of angering G-d.


The Four Sons

The four sons as vaguely described in the Hagodoh, are presumably the four types of Jew that appear in each generation.

They might be categorised according to age, but they might equally well apply to four prototypes irrespective of age. This explains why different Hagodos illustrate the four sons according to the time and place in which the Hagodos were produced.

Today, in what they call the twenty-first century, this is how we would probably depict the four sons:

The Chochom: The talmid-chochom, someone who 'Toroso umnuso', for whom Torah-study is his main occupation.

The Rosho: someone who deliberately shuns the Torah way of life, even though he has been exposed to it and knows it to be the right way, incorporating all those who are positively anti-religious.

The Tam: the balaboss who lives a Torah way of life, but who is not involved in serious Torah-study.

The She'eino Yodei'a Li'sh'ol: a person who does not live a Torah-life, because he has not been exposed to it. He is the proverbial 'tinok she'nishba' (a child who was captured and who grew up in captivity).


Alternatively -

The Chochom strives to grow in his Yiddishkeit.

The Rosho discards and destroys.

The Tam retains his level of Yiddishkeit, without making the effort to grow, and The She'eino Yodei'a Li'shol displays no interest.


The Four Expressions

According to the Gro, the four expressions of redemptions are: 1) "Ve'hotzeisi"; 2) "ve'hitzalti"; 3) "ve'go'alti eschem bi'z'ro'a netuyoh"; 4) "u'vi'sh'fotim gedolim", the last two referring to the slaying of the first-born and the drowning of the Egyptians at the Reed-Sea respectively.


Most commentaries do not agree with the Gro (according to them, the third and fourth expressions of redemption are "ve'go'alti" and "ve'lokachti", and they refer to the drowning of the Egyptians and Mattan Torah respectively).

According to the commentaries however, it is not clear why "ve'lokachti" is considered an expression of redemption and "ve'heiveisi" which follows it, is not. (In other words, we ought to be obligated to drink five cups of wine at the Seider, not just four - notwithstanding the Yerushalmi who prescribes a fifth optional cup).

It is also not clear why Chazal forbade drinking between the third and fourth cups of wine (from which the Gro extrapolates that the third and fourth cups must correspond to 'bi'z'ro'a netuyoh u'vi'sh'fotim gedolim' - which unlike the other expressions, appear in one posuk).

A final proof for the Gro is from the wording of the Hagodoh, which does not elaborate on the giving of the Torah at Har Sinai. After all, the Seider, which is based on the four cups of wine, expounds on the Exodus from Egypt, not on Mattan Torah. For, when all's said and done, Mattan Torah may have been the main objective of Yetzi'as Mitzrayim, but it was not part of it. That is why it has a Yom-tov of its own - Shavu'os, and that is when we elaborate on it.


Karpas and the Blood Libel

Rebbi Elchonon Wasserman explained that the Karpas dipped in salt-water represents the tears that we shed for the suffering of Klal Yisroel as a result of the blood-libel, which in turn, was the result of Yosef's brothers dipping his shirt in blood and presenting it to their father.

In order to hide their guilt, the brothers stripped Yosef of his special shirt, killed a goat, and dipped it in blood, before asking their father whether it was not Yosef's shirt, leading him to believe that his beloved son had been devoured by a wild beast. The pain and anguish that he would suffer did nothing to deter them. That is why their descendants have had to suffer the pain and the anguish that resulted from the blood libel - measure for measure, the cruel, senseless and false accusations, for the cruel, senseless and false picture that they painted for their father.


Rabbi Yitzchok Bernstein z.l. of London pointed to a Rashi in Vayeishev (37:3), where he connects the kesones pasim of Yosef with a posuk in Megilas Esther: "pasim", he says, is equivalent to "karpas u's'cheiles" (Esther 1:6) - a powerful hint to Rebbi Elchonon's explanation.


The Sin Against their Father

The commentaries write that the atonement for the sin of the sale of Yosef came to an end with the death of the ten martyrs (who were the reincarnations of the ten brothers who sold him). That was for the sale of Yosef. But the heartless act of cruelty that they perpetrated against their father Ya'akov is a different matter. For that, we continue to pay.


Loshon Ho'Ra Just Doesn't Pay

(Adapted from Rabeinu Bachye quoting the Medrash Tanchumah)

"Death and life lie in the hands of the tongue" (Mishlei 18:21). Everything depends on the tongue. If one studies Torah, one merits life, because Torah is the antidote to loshon ho'ra. Whereas, if one indulges in loshon ho'ra, one earns oneself death, because loshon ho'ra is worse than murder, since a murderer kills only one person, whereas someone who speaks loshon ho'ra kills three - the speaker, the listener and the one about whom he spoke. We learn this from Do'eg ho'Edomi, who spoke loshon ho'ra about Achimelech, and not only was Achimelech killed on account of that loshon ho'ra, but so was Sh'aul for accepting it, and Do'eg himself, who, for speaking it, lost his portion, not only in this world, but also in the next.


Which is more dangerous, a sword or an arrow? An arrow, of course, because whereas a sword can only kill in the vicinity of the person who is wielding it, an arrow can kill from a great distance - as far as the eye can see. That explains why loshon ho'ra is compared to an arrow (in Yirmiyoh - 9:7 and Tehilim 57:5) - though, if the truth be told, it kills even further than the eye can see.


Loshon ho'ra is worse than the three cardinal sins: murder, adultery and idolatry. Because in connection with each of them, the Torah uses the expression of "geduloh" (greatness - in the singular), whereas by loshon ho'ra, the posuk in Tehilim (12:4) writes "loshon medaberes gedolos" (in the plural). That is why Shlomoh ha'Melech writes "Death and life lie in the hands of the tongue" - Mishlei (18:21).


Miriam and Aharon spoke against Moshe, and were punished with tzora'as, as the Torah writes in Bamidbor (12:10). And it writes there (12:9) "And G-d's anger burned against them ... " - incorporating Aharon. And it also writes in Ki Seitzei (24:9) "Remember what Hashem your G-d did to Miriam on the way" . We can certainly learn a kal vo'chomer from here? If already Miriam - who spoke only about her brother (whom she had so lovingly protected when, as a little baby, his life was endangered), and not in his presence (so that she did not embarrass him), nor did she have any intention other than to return him to his wife - was so severely punished, someone who speaks about a fellow Jew in his presence (with the express intention of slandering him), how much more so!

The Torah writes in the previous posuk "Beware of the plague of tzora'as". And even Aharon, who was a Kohen, was smitten by Hashem - only Aharon was cured immediately, whereas Miriam was only cured (after she had been expelled from the camp for seven days).


Even the snake did not escape Divine retribution. He spoke loshon ho'ra about his Creator (contending that G-d had eaten from the Tree of Knowledge before creating the world, and that He had forbidden Adam to eat from the fruit for no other reason than to avoid competition). That is why he was stricken with tzora'as, because the scales that one sees on the snake are in fact tzora'as. What's more, all other blemished creatures will be cured in the days of Moshi'ach, but not the snake.

Similarly, not only will all those who are lame walk again, but all the wild beasts and the tame ones, the wolf and the lamb, will graze together - but the snake will eat dust instead of bread. He will never be cured, because he brings the other creatures down to the dust. And why is that? Because he spoke loshon ho'ra.


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