Document1 from his place..." The Chidushei HaRim writes that this is a
בס"ד description of the worse kind of darkness in human life, when a
PARSHAT HASHAVUA person does not see the suffering of his fellow. Not only does he not
extend his hand to help the other, but the ultimate result is the
PARSHA : BO inability of the individual to even help himself. The People of Israel
had light throughout their dwellings. May we always be able to see
Date : 6 Shevat 5759, 23-1-99 the plight of our fellow Jews and respond with acts of Chesed worthy
“The Best of Parshat HaShavuah” Articles taken from list subscriptions of our Heritage.
on the internet, edited, reformatted and printed for members of Kibbutz Sde Sh'lishi - third Aliya - 9 p'sukim (10:24-11:3)
Eliyahu (Editor: Arieh Yarden) Par'o calls for Moshe and tells him to go, even with the children,
Please respect the Holiness of these pages but to leave the livestock behind. Moshe insists that ALL will leave.
[SDT] Moshe's words to Par'o are: "We will also take our animals
Dedicated to the loving memory of Avi Mori with us, for from them we will take to serve G-d." The plain
Moshe Reuven ben Yaakov z”l understanding of the verse is that Moshe was referring to korbanot,
Internet address: email@example.com The Malbim has another beautiful interpretation of Moshe's
statement to Par'o. "From the animals we will take lessons in how to
1 - TORAH TIDBITS (Israel Center)
Phil Chernofsky, OU/NCSY Israel Center, Jerusalem Home Page : http://www.cyberscribe.com/tt
serve G-d - from the cat we will learn modesty, from the doves
fidelity, from the ants industry and honesty, etc." Had we not received
the Torah, which teaches us proper conduct, we would learn these
BO STATS lessons from our animals.
15th of 54 sedras 3rd of 11 in Shmot Par'o once again refuses, and this time he threatens death if he
14 parshiot; 8 open, 6 closed sees Moshe again. He thus inadvertently prophe sies his own
106 verses: ranks 29th (7th) demise.
Same number of verses as To'l'dot and Vayigash, but more G-d next tells Moshe of the final plague, which will cause Par'o to
words and letters than each of them hasten to expel the People of Israel from Egypt. G-d instructs Moshe
1655 words: ranks 21st (5th) to tell the People to borrow gold and silver from their Egyptian
6149 letters: ranks 22nd (6th) neighbors.
Among the longest verses in the Torah; THE longest in Shmot G-d "reminds" Moshe that there is one more plague (the "real"
BO contains 20 mitzvot; 9 positive, 11 prohibitions one; the one that was presenteds up front, mentioned before all of
ALIYA-BY-ALIYA SEDRA SUMMARY the others) and then Par'o will send the people on their way.
In the first 14 sedras of the Torah, there have been only 3 of the G-d tells Moshe to tell the people to "borrow" things from their
613 mitzvot. It is with Parshat BO that the Torah really begins with neighbors. He says that the people will miraculously feel kindly
Mitzvot. Within the Sedra Summary, the numbers in square brackets towards the Jews (even though the Jews are responsible for the hard
refer to the mitzva count of Sefer HaChinuch. Other counts vary. times the Egyptians have been suffering. G-d implanted in the eyes
Kohen - first Aliya - 11 p'sukim (10:1-11) of the Egyptians an admiration and respect in Moshe.
G-d once again (previously with Frogs and "Dever") sends Moshe R'vi'i - fourth Aliya - 27 p'sukim (11:4-12:20)
to Par'o (in his palace) to warn about the Locust. Moshe says in G-d's name that He (G-d) will kill ALL Egyptian
[SDT] The signature of this week's sedra - BO EL PAR'O is a firstborns, that the screaming from the killings will be unprecedented,
phrase that occurs three times, each as an intoduction to one of the and that in total contrast, utter tranquility will reign in the Jewish area.
Plagues. Specifically, G-d said to Moshe to "come before Par'o" for G-d says that Par'o will once again refuse even this threat, so that the
the middle plague of each 3-plague set - FROGS, DEVER (animal full course of wonders and miracles will benefit the People of Israel.
disease), LOCUST. Baal HaTurim points out that when G-d sends [SDT] One commentator says that Moshe was distraught by the
Moshe to the royal palace, He uses the term BO. When He sends extent to which Par'o went in his refusal to let the People go. Such
him to the river to find Par'o there, He uses the term LEICH. dedication to wickedness in the face of such devastating punishment
This time, however, it is with the additional statement that G-d was truly disheartening to Moshe. How can the power of evil be so
has hardened Par'o's heart so that His wonders will be evident to all, strong? G-d's answer was that it was He Who hardened and
and that all will know Him. Moshe and Aharon warn Par'o of the strengthened Par'o's heart. Left on his own, Par'o certainly would
potential devastation (the description of which is longer than usual). have given in long before.
Par'o's servants (advisors?) pressure Par'o into agreeing to release The S'fat Emet marvels at the fact that only G-d would give the
the People. power to a wicked person to oppose Him. Why would G-d give Par'o
Par'o offers Moshe the adults. Moshe's reply (which becomes a the ability to defy Him? In order to bring about the marvels and
Jewish hallmark for the ages) is that our religious experiences must wonders of the Exodus, so that the People of Israel shall know
include ALL Jews, young and old. (Judaism places a premium on beyond doubt that G-d has taken them out of Egypt.
Chinuch.) The continuity of Judaism depends upon the relationship of MAKAT B'CHOROT hit from the firstborn of Par'o to that of the
one generation to the next. Par'o rejects this and expels Moshe and servants. Why should the plain members of society suffer for the sins
Aaron from his presence. of the rulers? Because they too helped with the enslavement and
[SDT] "With our youth and elderly..." Par'o was willing to allow the oppression and rejoiced in it. Thus the commentaries say of Egypt
older generation to go and "celebrate", to exercise their religious more than 3300 years ago. We see the same behavior only 50 years
prerogative, as long as the children remained behind. This is the ago with the fine German citizens who want us to believe it was just
formula for the demise of any religion or society. Without the children the Nazi officers.
to follow in the footsteps of their parents, there can be no continuity. [SDT] The Torah describes the tranquility of the Jewish area with
Par'o knew this; so did many of Israel's enemies throughout the the statement "a dog didn't even bark". Dogs usually sense death and
generations. But so did Moshe and Jewish leaders of all times. To instinctively react. To highlight the contrast between the Egyptians
emphasize this point, the main focus of the mitzvot of Pesach is the and the Israelites, the dogs were miraculously silent. In "tribute" to
transmission of the lessons from one generation to the next. the dogs for their role in bringing greater honor and appreciation to G-
Locust were sent by G-d to punish Egypt by devouring the d on the night of the Exodus, the Torah rewards them by telling us
produce of the land. This was "measure for measure" punishment for (elsewhere) to throw our "treif" meat to the dogs. (This applies only
the excessive field and planting work that Par'o imposed on the when a forbidden food is NOT also forbidden to derive other benefit
People of Israel in order to demoralize them and to prevent them therefrom.) Thus we have an unusual lesson in HAKARAT HATOV,
from having a normal family life. acknowledging the good that another does for you.
[SDT] Commentaries point out that Par'o and the Egyptians [SDT] "No dog wagged its tongue" - The Chidushei HaRim sees
continually "overdid" their oppression and enslavement of the Jews. this as a reference to the terrible sin of Lashon HaRa, gossip and
Even if we were to suggest that punishment is unfair to those who slander. It can be said that Lashon HaRa started the entire period of
were acting according to G-d's wishes, it is for the excesses that they oppression in Egypt. The Torah told us that Yosef brought evil reports
are being held strictly accountable. "Yes, I told you to rough them up, about his brothers to their father Yaakov. Their hatred for him
but I never said anything about beating them so mercilessly." (This resulted in his descent to Egypt and subsequently brought everyone
does not mean to suggest that people who "play a part in G-d's else down there as well. Secondly, it was the Lashon HaRa of Datan
plans" are not held account able for their "regular" actions. They are. and Aviram who informed on Moshe to Par'o, that he (Moshe) had
But there is special emphasis on the excesses. Having the people killed an Egyptian, that put Moshe's life in grave danger. Redemption
slave at making bricks is one thing. Withholding straw for the purpose could not (would not) occur unless we had "straightened out our act".
is excessively cruel. Etc. Etc.) The Midrash tells us that the Jews in Egypt managed to keep the
Levi - second Aliya 12 p'sukim (10:12-23) secret of the reason for our "borrowing" Egyptian vessels from our
G-d tells Moshe to raise his hands over the land. Moshe raises neighbors, for twelve months! A people who can manage not to
his staff (any significance to Moshe's raising his staff rather than his divulge this information for a whole year has succeeded in purging
hand?) and the locust come. So overwhelming is this plague that itself of the temptations of R'chilut and Lashon HaRa, and are worthy
Par'o "hurries" to call for Moshe and Aharon, admits to them that he of redemption.
has sinned, and asks them to pray for the removal of this terrible The run of 14 sedras - all of B'reishit plus Sh'mot and Va'eira -
plague. Moshe does so, and a "reverse" wind causes the locust to with just a few mitzvot - continues for the first third of BO. At this
disappear completely. G-d once again hardens Par'o's heart. point, several mitzvot related to Pesach are introduced among and
Plague #9 (just like #3-Lice and #6- Boils) is brought without intertwined with pieces of the story. This makes a very significant
warning. Darkness, an unusual tangible darkness (not merely the change in the style of the Torah.
absence of light), descends upon the Egyptians for a paralyzing 3 G-d commands the setting up of the Jewish calendar .
days. In the Jewish neighborhoods, there is light. MITZVA WATCH The wording in the Written Torah for the mitzva
[SDT] Par'o always summons Moshe and Aharon to get rid of the of forming the Jewish Calendar is cryptic. All the Torah says here is
plagues. With darkness, he calls only Moshe. Why? The Kli Yakar that Nissan is the first of our months. The Oral Torah explains that
suggests that Par'o remembered the special illumination of baby our months follow the Moon's cycle around the Earth and sets down
Moshe (as told in the Gemara) and felt that Moshe had a special the rules of Sanctifying the Month.
power to dispel darkness. He then commands the taking of a lamb or goat for each
[SDT] "Man did not see his fellow, nor did a person rise household (approx.). The animal was to be taken on the 10th of
Nissan (This rule was for "Pesach Mitzrayim" only and not for future from its place is forbidden , as is breaking a bone in it . Only
Pesachs; therefore it is not counted among the mitzvot of the Torah.) Jews participate. An uncircumcised Jew may not eat of the K.P. 
and held for the 14th of the month, when it was to be slaughtered in A true convert to Judaism is equal to a born-Jew. The People did as
the afternoon . Its blood was to be smeared on the doorposts and commanded and on the day in question the multitude left Egypt.
lintel (only that first Pesach). The sacrifice is to be eaten on the night Chonology of Slavery - years are A.M. (from Creation)
of the 15th of Nissan , having been roasted, with matza and maror 1948 Avraham Avinu is born
(this being part of the mitzva "for the generations", but not counted 2018 Brit Bein HaB'tarim - Avraham is 70 yrs. old. He is told that
separately among the Taryag); that is, neither cooked nor partially his descendants will be oppressed for 400 yrs.
done , but roasted whole. No part was to be left over until morning 2048 Yitzchak Avinu is born. Avraham is 100 years old.
; any leftovers were to be burned. It was to be eaten with "belt 2108 Yaakov Avinu is born. Yitzchak is 60 years old.
tied", in haste, ready to leave (details for Egyptian Pesach only). 2194 Levi is born. He outlived all his brothers.
MITZVA WATCH It is a bit confusing to distinguish between the 2238 Yaakov and family go to Egypt. Yaakov is 130 years old.
details of the mitzva of Korban Pesach for all generations and those 2255 Yaakov Avinu dies at 147. As long as he was alive, the family
elements of the story of the Exodus which were meant only for that lives in luxury and peace in Egypt. With his death, the people were
first Pesach. In fact, it is not just confusing; it is impossible to "prisoners" in Egypt, but not yet enslaved.
completely differentiate between the two categories of details 2331 Levi dies. When Yosef and his brothers had all died, a "new"
WITHOUT the Oral Law. The Talmud informs us as to what regime came into power in Egypt and they enslaved and oppressed
constitutes the mitzva of Korban Pesach. The Written Word is the people.
incomplete. Our Torah consists of two inseparable parts - the Written 2448 Y'tzirat Mitzrayim - the Exodus
Word and the Oral Law (embodied in the Talmud and other sources). Summary...
This is a fact that is reinforced over and over again throughout 210 years: That's how many years the people spent in Egypt.
the Torah. If one attempts to understand the Written Word without the 400 years: Counting from the birth of Yitzchak until the Exodus. Once
Oral Law and Tradition, there will be confusion at best and distortion he born, the prophecy concerning Avraham's descendants is actual.
and perversion of the G-d's Word, at worst. 430 years: From the time that Avraham first received the prophecy.
Then G-d will "pass through" Egypt on that night, kill the That too, can be seen as the real beginning of the "hard times".
firstborns, and "pass-over" the Jewish home with the blood-marks. The other two numbers of years, not mentioned in the Torah are:
This shall become a holiday for all generations. Matzot are to be 193 years: From Yaakov's death until the Exodus. We were stuck in
eaten for seven days and on the previous day (Erev Pesach) Egypt.
Chametz is to be eliminated from our homes . (Eating of Chametz 117 years: The actual length of Egyptian slavery and oppression.
on Pesach is a rejection of membership in Klal Yisrael, hence the Sh'vi'i - seventh Aliya - 16 p'sukim (13:1-16)
punishment of "excision".) As a commemoration of the Exodus (specifically plague #10), we
The basis of Yom Tov is set down in 12:16 - specifically that are commanded to sanctify firstborns (human, kosher farm animals
Melacha is prohibited, as it is on Shabbat, with the exception of "that and donkey. Each of these categories of "b'chor" is treated
which is needed for food". differently) . The Torah sets down the continuous observance of
The Oral Law and Rabbinic legislation combine to define that Pesach, even after entry into Israel.
which may be done on Yom Tov. It is far more complicated than the MITZVA WATCH Here in Parshat BO, we have the general
pasuk seems to indicate. Logic cannot always explain the way things command concerning the santity of the firstborns and the specifics
work out. about one type - the firstborn donkey. Elsewhere in the Torah are the
The source of "sh'mura" matza is in 12:17. The mitzva of eating details about firstborn humans and those of the three types of
matza on seder night  is followed by the prohibition of possession domesticated animals. A human firstborn MUST be redeemed. A
of chametz during all of Pesach . Foods containing chametz are kosher animal eligible for the Altar as a sacrifice MUST NOT be
also forbidden . redeemed. A firstborn donkey SHOULD be redeemed.
MITZVA WATCH Because the prohibition of chametz and the Specifically, the firstborn (if it is male) offspring of a donkey may
mitzva of matza are linked to each other in the same verse, we do not not be used by its owner until it is officially exchanged (redeemed) for
view Matza as a purely positive time-related mitzva. We might have a sheep or its monetary equivalent. The sheep is given to a Kohen as
thought that women would be exempt from the mitzva of matza; they one of his 24 gifts of the Kehuna. The baby donkey then becomes the
are not exempt. In fact, women are obligated to perform other Seder full possession of its owner.
night mitzvot as a package deal with matza. Specifically, women are According to the Torah, if the donkey owner refuses to redeem it,
obligated to fulfill the mitzva of Hagada - they should not be silent he must destroy it. Although this is counted among the 613 mitzvot of
observers at the Seder table, but should participate in transmission of the Torah, it is clear that the Torah "wants" the owner to redeem it
the story and details to their children and guests. Women are also and not resort to the terribly wasteful alternative.
obligated to drink four cups of wine. Our Sages give an official reason Although one can get out of this mitzva by selling a part interest
for this requirement (and that of Megilat Esther and Chanuka in the mother donkey to a non-Jew, the Shulchan Aruch forbids doing
candles, as well) - "For they too were involved in the same miracles. " so, which results in losing the opportunity to do a mitzva.
There are technical differences between the "official" reason for a Chametz may not be eaten  or even owned  on Pesach.
woman's obligation of a time-related Torah law and a Rabbinic It is a mitzva to relate the story of what happened  at the Seder.
Mitzva. T'filin also serve as a reminder of the Exodus. Pesach must be in the
Chamishi - fifth Aliya - 8 p'sukim (12:21-28) spring, the time of renewal of nature. (This requires Sanhedrin to
Moshe gathers the elders of the People and relays G-d's periodically add an extra month to postpone Pesach, so that it will
instructions. He also tells them that when the People get to Eretz always be in the spring. When there is no Sanhedrin, we have a fixed
Yisrael, they will continue to commemorate the events of the Exodus, pattern for 13- month years; when there is a Sanhedrin, it has
with questions and answers between the generations. The People do discretionary leeway within specific guidelines.)
as commanded. Note the familiarity of the text (think Hagada) but MITZVA WATCH The Rambam states clearly that the two
also note the different combina tions of questions and answers components of the Jewish calendar - Kiddush HaChodesh, the
between the Torah and the Hagada. More on that at the Seder table, sanctification of the Month and Ibur HaShana, the intercalation of the
IY"H. Year, shall be counted as a single mitzva (numbered as  above).
G'MATRIYA by R. Yaakov Auerbach z"l He notes that there are two separate verses which command these
The command to take a lamb or kid for the Korban Pesach is two different procedures; he nonetheless insists that they are really
MISHCHU U'K'CHU... R. Yosi HaGalili says that G-d was telling the part of a single mitzva to make the Calendar. The Ramban disagrees
people to abandon the idolatry of Egypt so that they may be and counts each as its own mitzva. This is one of many points of
redeemed. MISHCHU - remove your hands from idolatry, U'K'CHU, disagreement between the Rambam and Ramban on the counting of
and take the animal as a sacrifice to G-d. Thus the words MISHCHU mitzvot.
U'K'CHU can be seen as the way our ancestors fulfilled the idea of A first-born-male donkey must be redeemed  or destroyed
SUR MEI'RA..., shun evil. This idea is supported by G'matriya.  (a less desirable alternative). See Mitzva Watch to the left.
MISHCHU U'K'CHU LACHEM = 40+300+20+6 (366) + The Torah reiterates the significance of the younger generation
6+100+8+6 (120) + 30+20+40 (90) = 576. asking and receiving answers and explanations about the origin of
SUR MEI'RA = 60+6+200 (266) + 40+200+70 (310) = 576. the Nation.
Shishi - sixth Aliya - 23 p'sukim (12:29-51) The T'filin connection is also repeated. The two final portions of
It comes to pass, that the Egyptian firstborns are smitten, that the BO join the two first portions of the Shma as the four passages of the
Egyptians shower the People of Israel with gifts, and hurry them on Torah contained in each of the two T'filin (written together on a single
their way. The People leave in such haste that they take quick-baked strip of parchment in the "shel yad" and on four separate parchments
breads with them without taking the time to let the dough rise. inserted into four distinct chambers in the "shel rosh").
Approximately 600,000 men plus women and children leave Egypt, [sdt] Your hand - YAD'CHA is spelled here YUD-DALET-CHAF-
together with many Egyptians who are smart enough to flee with HEI (this is an unusual spelling). It is considered a hint towards YAD-
them. Thus ends a 430 year period of exile (according to some KEIHEH, one's weaker hand, namely that T'filin are tied on the left
reckonings, this is the length of time from the prophecy to Avraham at hand (of a right- handed person). The other source of this practice is
the Covenant between the Parts and the Exodus). That night shall be the equation between U'K'SHARTAM-U'CH'TAVTAM, and you shall
a special night for all of Israel throughout the generations. tie (the T'filin), and you shall write them (Mezuza). One is to tie the
The period of Egyptian "Slavery" is given as 400 years and as T'filin with the hand with which he writes.
430 years. An interesting Drash on the extra 30 years is that it The last 3 verses are repeated for the Maftir.
corresponds to 210 years worth of Shabbatot. A reasonable master Haftara - 16 p'sukim - Yirmiyahu 46:13-28
would allow his slaves one day a week off. Par'o was excessively Parallel to the sedra, Egypt's downfall (at the hands of Bavel) is
oppressive, not allowing the Jews to rest even one day. These exta prophesied. (It is quite rare that a prophecy to another nation is used
30 years of Shabbatot are acknowledged by G-d, so to speak, by as a Haftara.) Israel, however, shall not fear; G-d is with us! The
being added to the total. verse that assures us about the Ultimate Redemption mentions that it
The Torah now shifts from relating the story of the Exodus back might happen in the distant future. Nonetheless, we shall not despair.
to the rules for the Korban Pesach. Jews who have "left Judaism" This can be seen in context of the well-known notion that the
and embraced another religion , non-Jews, even those who are Mashiach will either come "in his appointed time", or sooner. It
committed to the Seven Noahide Laws  may not eat Korban depends upon us.
Pesach. The Korban must be eaten in one place; removing it 2
2 - SHABBAT B’SHABBATO (Tzomet)
Extract from SHABBAT-B'SHABBATO, published by the Zomet Institute of Alon Shevut, Israel
cloth, "criss-crossed" [Vayikra 13:57]. As quoted above, it was the
mixed multitude who craved for flesh and incited the others to make
the Golden Calf.
THE FOUR SECTIONS IN TEFILLIN Adding a mixture to the nation of Yisrael is a phenomenon which
by Rabbi Mordechai Zamir, Rabbi of Sedei Yaacov and the commonly occurs at a time of redemption. It happened during the
surrounding area Exodus from Egypt, it also happened during the return from the
Two of the four sections in the Tefillin appear in this week's Torah second exile ("When they heard the Torah, they separated out
portion, and the other two appear in Devarim. Each of the sections everyone mixed in with Yisrael" [Nechemia 13:3]). And it is also
deals with a different principle of our faith. "Sanctify each firstborn for happening in our generation, in the time of the return from the third
me" [Shemot 13:2] is concerned with choosing Bnei Yisrael; "And exile. We are flooded with a mixed multitude of Gentiles who are
when He brings you ... to the land [Shemot 13:11] is related to the pouring in, to visit or to work in our land.
choice of Eretz Yisrael; "Hear, Yisrael" [Devarim 6:4] is concerned Much has already been written about the "anti-Jewish" Law of
with the uniqueness of G-d; and "It will happen if you pay attention to Return, and how it provides a "right" of return to many thousands of
my mitzvot" [Devarim 11:13] is related to observing the Gentiles, offspring of a Jewish parent or grandparent, or the product
commandments. of a mixed marriage (including the current spouse, and all the
The first three were promised to Avraham as part of the covenant children). In recent years, such people are an absolute majority of
of his circumcision (Bereishit 17): (1) Choosing the nation: "And I will the immigrants. Every redemption has its own problems, every return
establish my covenant between me and you, and with your offspring, to the land has its own hangers-on. The Exodus from Egypt with its
a permanent covenant for all their generations" [Bereishit 17:7]. (2) "mixed multitude" who converted to Judaism is different from the
Choice of the land: "And I will give to you ... the whole of the land of redemption in Ezra's time, when Gentile wives and their children
Canaan as a permanent heritage" [17:8]. (3) G-d's unique were expelled from the nation, as part of a national and religious
characteristics: "And I will be a G-d for you" [17:8]. covenant, as is described in the Book of Nechemia.
Each of the forefathers took on himself the task of emphasizing Now that we have reached an era of ingathering of the exiles,
one of the three principles: (1) Avraham taught the concept of even from as far away as beyond the dark hills and from behind the
monotheism: "And he called out in the name of G-d" [Bereishit 12:8]. iron curtain, the question has been raised: should we keep the
This is the concept of the uniqueness of G-d. (2) Yitzchak observed newcomers away or welcome them? Rabbi Shlomo Goren, who was
the command, "Do not go down to Egypt, dwell in the land ... Live in one of the stalwarts in forging the Jewish character of Israel, strongly
this land" [26:2-3]. He thus showed the love of the land. (3) Yaacov declared his opinion: Welcome them! Just as in the time of the
became Yisrael, the father of twelve tribes, thereby establishing Exodus, follow the path of conversion. He saw a clear difference
Yisrael, the chosen nation. between mixed communities of modern man, lacking any real
For the forefathers, these three principles were sufficient. They religion, and between the fervent idol worshippers of Biblical times.
observed the mitzvot without being commanded to do so, in Rabbi Chaim David Halevi, the former chief rabbi of Tel Aviv,
accordance with their own natural inclinations. For Bnei Yisrael, a reminded us of the ruling by the author of the Shulchan Aruch, that
numerous and powerful nation with many different kinds of people, with respect to laws of conversion, "everything should be decided
the principles alone were not enough, and it was necessary to have according to the view of the court" [Beit Yosef, Yoreh Dei'a 268]. The
reinforcements to strengthen them. This leads to the fourth section in beit din has the authority to decide, in line with the special
the Tefillin, "If you pay attention to all the mitzvot." circumstances of any generation. And our generation has decided
Even before they stood at Sinai, while they were still in Egypt, that we will help the converts.
they were given commandments: sanctifying the new month, So much for the "real" mixed multitude, those who convert in all
bringing the Pesach sacrifice, recounting the story of the Exodus, sincerity and then go on to become an integral part of the nation.
and wearing Tefillin. From this point on, Bnei Yisrael were decorated However, the Jewish concern is about the others, those who
with three symbols: circumcision, which is performed once in a maintain their Gentile ways and have even started to have an
lifetime, the Pesach sacrifice, an annual occurrence, and wearing influence on the "Jewish" character of the State of Israel.
Tefillin, every day. In wearing Tefillin on his arm and on his head, the A court ruled recently that Reform converts, even though not
Jew bears witness to the four principles in the four written sections: recognized by religious Jews, must be registered as Jews. The large
(1) He is sanctifying the name of G-d (2) by observing His mitzva (3) influx of non-Jewish immigrants was one of the reasons which
in Eretz Yisrael, (4) which was given to the nation of Yisrael. influenced both the court and the liberal activists and politicians.
TORAH OCCASIONS: Bar Mitzva They are all attempting to undermine the status quo of the Jewish
by Rabbi Yehuda Shaviv character of the country as a whole, and particularly of such official
Almost thirteen full years pass between the time a boy is documents as the Identity Card. Who will pay the price in the end? It
circumcised, entering the covenant between G-d and Avraham, and will be hundreds of thousands of real Jewish immigrants, who will
when he takes on the yoke of mitzvot. This was not true for the need hard evidence such as a marriage contract of their parents or
people who were redeemed from Egypt. The hasty schedule of the grandparents when they want to get married, since there will no
Exodus meant that right after they were circumcised they performed longer be any religious validity to the fact that they are described as
the mitzva of the Pesach sacrifice (see Rashi, Shemot 12:6). Jews in their Identity Card. They have thrown out the (innocent) baby
Circumcision is a covenant between each individual and the with the bath-water. As our sages said, "the citizen is buried in the
Almighty, while the Pesach symbolizes that all of the individuals have ground, while the convert is in heaven."
been joined into a single community, Yisrael. Thus, the Pesach is not On the day that I write this article, a law has been brought to the
only a family sacrifice, it also has aspects of community service, in Knesset proposing civil marriage in Israel. Who is to blame for this
that "in principle, all of Yisrael could fulfil the mitzva with a single idea? It is "the mixed multitude ... who went up with them." They are
Pesach sacrifice" [Pesachim 78b]. being used as an excuse to incite a division between religion and the
When a boy reaches his bar mitzva, he becomes part of the state, including offering the claws of pigs for sale in stores all across
community. For thirteen years, he was in the middle, with everything the land.
around him - parents, teachers, friends and surroundings - deeply I find myself wondering just what is meant by many public figures,
involved in raising and taking care of him. From this point on, he has and this includes a very prominent candidate for Prime Minister, in
the same rights and responsibilities as the others in the community declaring that agreements for peace or war must be accepted by "a
of Yisrael. Jewish majority." Are the Gentile immigrants to be included in such a
But a bar mitzva boy is different from the nation at the time of the vote?
Exodus. They received the mitzvot in separate sections: some in THE TEMPLE AND THE TORAH PORTION: A Public Sin-Offering
Egypt, others at Marah and at the time of receiving the Manna, the by Gedalya Ginsburg
Ten Commandments and the covenant at Sinai, and other mitzvot in The first mitzva which Bnei Yisrael were commanded was to
the Tabernacle and on the Moav Plains. The final result was the full consecrate the new month. Unlike Shabbat, the dates of the holidays
Torah. However, a boy enters the obligations of the mitzvot all at are set according to the months. This shows a connection between
once. This could indeed be an occasion for fear and trepidation. How the sacrifices offered on Rosh Chodesh, at the beginning of the
can anybody expect to withstand such a formidable challenge? month, and on the holidays. One of the sacrifices on all of these
Some comfort can be seen from the commentary of the sages on occasions is a "young goat brought as a sin-offering" [Bamidbar
the verse, "Bnei Yisrael went and did whatever G-d told Moshe and 28:15]. This phrase is repeated for all the holidays; this public
Aharon" [Shemot 12:28]. "Did they already perform all this? ... The "chatat" sacrifice is offered in addition to the special sacrifices of
answer is that since they agreed to observe the mitzvot, the Torah each day. No such sin-offering is offered with the two daily Tamid
writes as if they had already performed them." [Rashi, based on the sacrifices or with the Shabbat Musaf offering.
Mechilta]. There are indeed many difficulties in trying to perform all The explanation for the difference is that there might be a
the many different mitzvot, but as soon as a boy accepts that he will mistake in dates which we set, or the choice of date might be tainted
do them, he gets credit for having performed the mitzvot themselves. with the possibility of personal gains. This is reminiscent of the sin of
POINT OF VIEW: "And a Mixed Multitude Also Went Up with the moon, the symbol of the new month, when it complained against
Them" [Shemot 12:38] the sun that two "kings" cannot reign in the sky at the same time
by Rabbi Yisrael Rozen (see Chulin 60b). Even if this is correct, it has a personal element
"A mixed multitude - A mixture of converts from various nations" which must be atoned. The end result is that Bnei Yisrael offer a
[Rashi]. "And the rabble among them developed a desire [Bamidbar sacrifice of a young goat as an atonement.
11:8] - Who were the rabble? They were the converts who joined The situation is different for the Tamid and the Shabbat sacrifice,
them when they left Egypt, as is written, 'a mixed multitude also went which occur at regular intervals, without our being involved in any
up'" [Tanchuma, Beha'alotecha 27]. "If it had been Yisrael who made way. Therefore, on those days, there is no need to bring a "chatat."
the Golden Calf, they would have said, 'This is OUR G-d, Yisrael.' A MITZVA IN THE TORAH PORTION: Never Miss an Opportunity
However, it was the converts who made the calf, and they said, 'This for a Mitzva
is YOUR G-d, Yisrael' [Shemot 32:4], as is written, 'a mixed by Rabbi Binyamin Tabori
multitude also went up.'" [Vayikra Rabba 27:5]. We can learn the trait of diligence in our desire to perform the
As we have noted in the past, we can understand the meaning of mitzvot from our father Avraham, who rose early in the morning to
a word from the first time it is used in the Tanach. In this case, this is perform the mitzva of circumcision. It is also learned by the Mechilta
the first appearance of the root "arov," for mixture, in the phrase from a verse in this week's Torah portion, "Keep watch over the
"eirev rav," a mixed multitude. The next appearance of this root matzot" [Shemot 12:17]. Just as we must guard the dough to make
having a meaning related to mixing is in relation to making 3 sure it doesn't become Chameitz, so we must take care not to
miss any possible mitzvot (mitzvot and matzot have the same Criticism expressed honestly and politely is legitimate and positive,
spelling in Hebrew). This principle is evidently not just a memory but delegitimizing others by heaping scorn and abuse upon them,
device provided by the rabbis (as was suggested by the Torah leads the scorner himself to failure. Moreover, it fans the flames of
Temima, in the name of the Radbaz), but is a mainstay of the Torah strife.
laws. For example, for this reason the ashes are removed from the Election time is precisely when candidates must transcend their
inner altar before the Menorah is lit, since one who enters the own nature. They must spread light, seeing the positive and the
Temple reaches the altar before he gets to the Menorah. "One who good not only in themselves but in their rivals. They should not just
encounters a mitzva should not pass it by ... Do not wait until it look for what is wrong in their rivals. By such means they will merit
becomes stale." [Rashi, Yoma 33]. Similarly, it should be possible to the public's honor and support.
learn from this principle that blood left over from a sacrifice should be Above all else, we must never forget that beyond all the
poured out at the western foundation of the altar, since one who arguments, we are one nation, with one Father to us all.
leaves the Temple entrance, passes by the western foundation first HONORING ONE'S WIFE
(see the Tosafot on Megilla 6b). Rabbi Shlomo Aviner
The innovation in the above proof of the Tosafot is to apply the Question: We have to cling to G-d's attributes, and G-d smote the
concept of "never miss an opportunity for a mitzva" not only to set a Egyptians harshly. If so, do we have to follow in His path, such that
priority but as a way of establishing the correct way to perform a just as He smites, so must we smite, as one husband argued to
mitzva. Thus, because of this reasoning the mitzva is performed only justify why he would beat his wife?
in the specific place and nowhere else. According to the Tosafot, Answer: What a wicked argument! The Torah forbids us to smite
delaying the performance of a mitzva is the same as canceling it others, and even if one lifts his hand in a threatening movement, he
completely. Thus, they explain the words of the Talmud, "the is already called a rasha, an "evildoer," even if he did not actually
Kohanim cancel their work in order to hear the reading of the smite the other person (Rashi on Exodus 2:13). It makes no
Megilla" [Megila 3a], to mean not that they really cancel the rituals but difference whether the victim is one's wife or anyone else. It is true
that they are permitted to delay the act, and in spite of this, they write, that we must follow G-d's attributes and smite when it is a mitzvah to
"it is considered cancellation." smite, and indeed, the Jewish court administers lashes in
According to the Rambam in his commentary on the Mishna, the accordance with precise halachic parameters. Likewise, if a Jewish
reason that one occupied by a mitzva is freed from the obligation to court orders an individual to strike his fellow man, in accordance with
perform another one is, as is written, "You do not know the reward of the parameters of the law, then he should do it, and by doing so he
the mitzvot" [Avot 3:1]. In a similar way, the reason that one should will be following the ways of G-d.
not give up the opportunity to perform a mitzva is that we cannot To our sorrow, many men smile at everybody, except their
rank them in order of importance, so we should pick the mitzvot in wives, who they insult and beat. Yet the height of wickedness occurs
the order that they appear. when they falsify in the name of the Torah, arguing that they are
The rule that we hurry to perform a mitzva even takes acting in accordance with Jewish law. There is no great profanation
precedence over the possibility that a delay might give us a chance of G-d's name. G-d is good to all, and His mercy is upon all of His
to perform it with greater honor. This can be seen from Rosh creations. And our sages particularly commanded that one be careful
Hashana 32b, which states that the Hallel prayer is to be recited as not to hurt his wife, because she cries easily (Bava Metzia 59a).
part of Shacharit, even though it might be expected that a larger Following is the ruling of our great master Rabbi Moshe Isserlis
crowd would participate if we waited a while until Musaf. The reason (Rama) in the Shulchan Aruch: "If a man smites his wife, he has
is that "diligent people rise early to perform the mitzvot." Similarly, if committed a sin just as if he smote his fellow man. If he customarily
one of several brothers dies childless, the one to perform the smites her, the Jewish court is empowered to give him lashes and
"chalitza" ritual with the widow is the brother who is closest at the otherwise to apply to him all sorts of punishment, excommunication
time, in spite of the fact that in general the oldest brother should and coercion. They can make him swear never to smite her again. If
have been preferred. For the same reason, the Radbaz ruled that a he then does not obey the court, some say that once he has been
prisoner who was promised by the governor that he can have one given advanced warning once or twice, the court can force him to
day a year of freedom to pray in a community should not wait for divorce her. It is not the way of the Jewish People to beat their
special days like Yom Kippur or Purim but should take advantage of wives. Indeed, it represents non-Jewish behavior." (Shulchan Aruch,
his first opportunity. His reasoning was that one should not delay Even HaEzer 154:3).
performing a mitzva, and that we do not know the relative rewards of Some, however, disagree with Rama that smiting one's wife is
different mitzvot. like smiting one's fellow man, and they hold that it is worse.
ART IN THE TORAH: "Take a Bundle of Grass, and Dip it in Following is the "Be'er HaGola" quoting the medieval Scholar
Blood" [Shemot 12:22] Rabbenu Yerucham:
by Shlomit Perlman "The punishment for smiting one's wife is greater than that for
The grass in the above quote performed in the role of a brush, smiting one's fellow man, for a man is not obligated to honor his
used for painting the doorpost the color of blood. A paintbrush is one fellow, whereas he is obligated to treat his wife with greater honor
of the main tools used by an artist. Brush sizes range from numbers than the way he treats himself. Moreover, he is expected to raise his
of 0 to 26. A high quality brush is made of hair. A soft brush is best wife to his own standard of living rather than descending to her
for water colors, while oil paint requires a stiffer brush. former standard of living. Eve was given to Adam to live, not to
Brush strokes are an important characteristic of a painting. It is suffer. One who smites his wife has a greater punishment than one
sometimes possible through them to feel the mood of the artist. For who smites his fellow man, for his wife is meant to feel secure with
example, a stormy mood will be painted in strong strokes. A picture him, and she cries easily."
made up of strokes in a crisscross pattern will have a different feel to Rabbi Chaim Plaji writes: "One must be careful not to hate the
it than one where the painting is all in a single direction. Thus, art is wife to whom he is bound... There are people who keep themselves
judged not only based on the finished product but also on visible from doing harm to anyone, yet they treat their wives hatefully. They
evidence of how the picture was produced, from the materials used, say: 'I am doing no sin, because I am her husband and she is like
and maybe even from the way that the brush was held. part of me.' Yet they lack understanding, for their sin is unbearably
RELIGIOUS ZIONISM IN ACTION: "Our Youth and Our Old great, worse than if they had done the same to anyone else. After all,
People Will Go" [Shemot 10:9] why should "Love your neighbor as yourself" apply less to one's
by Nissim Swed wife?... Quite contrary, their punishment is more severe, since one's
In modern times, our life expectancy has become longer and wife is 'bone from his bone and flesh from his flesh' (Genesis 2:23),
longer. This means that more and more people are reaching and 'whoever troubles his own relatives is cruel' (Proverbs 11:17). A
retirement age healthy and with the ability to maintain a productive man is forbidden to abuse his wife verbally, and all the more so he is
life. This also provides them with an opportunity to finish any tasks forbidden to strike her. The Arizal wrote that if someone raises his
which they did not manage to accomplish at a younger age. hand against his wife, then even if he is worthy of having a prophetic
In order to help such people, the "Afikei Mayim" chain of kollelim spirit rest upon him, it will not rest upon him until he repents... Quite
was established. It has already set up 36 study centers, from Kiryat the contrary, the man who fears G-d must bind his soul to her soul
Shemona in the north to Yerucham in the south. According to the with thick bonds of love" (Kaf HaChaim, Siman 1, letter 11).
director, Yossi Cohen, they want to establish 20 more branches in It follows that one is forbidden to smite his wife just as one is
the coming year. They would like to have the sounds of Torah forbidden to smite his fellow man.
emanating from each and every synagogue every day of the week. EXODUS WITH GREAT WEALTH
Yossi asks: "If you can establish set times to study Torah with others Rabbi Ya'akov HaLevi Filber
who are just like you (religious Zioinists, with a knitted kippa), what Before the Israelites left Egypt, G-d said to Moses, "Speak
kind of excuse can there be for not doing so?" [daber na] to the people discreetly and let each man request from his
Yossi will be happy to answer any questions, at telephone: 02- friend gold and silver articles. Let every woman make the same
628661/2. request of her friends" (Exodus 11:2). The Talmud comments
"The Hebrew word 'na' can only imply a request. G-d was saying
3 - MACHON MEIR to Moses: I ask that you go tell them: 'Please ask the Egyptians for
MACHON MEIR - http://www.virtual.co.il/education/machon-meir/parasha.htm gold and silver articles,' lest that saint, Abraham, say that I fulfilled
AS OF NOW: Whoever invalidates, is himself invalidated. 'They will be enslaved and oppressed' (Genesis 14:13), but not 'They
Rabbi Dov Bigon will leave with great wealth' (Genesis 14:14)."
In the heat of electioneering, some candidates with pretensions In his book "Ein Aya," Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook explains why
about being elected to the various posts, such as Prime Minister or Israel's leaving Egypt with great wealth was so important for them
Knesset member, are taking the approach of delegitimizing their that G-d already promised it to Abraham at the covenant between
rivals, or whole communities that they dislike. Of this it has already the halves (Genesis 14:14), and then, when they were leaving Egypt,
been said, "Whoever invalidates others, is himself invalidated" G-d reiterated to Moses that they should request this wealth (Exodus
(Kiddushin 70a), and Rashi explains: " 'This refers to someone who 11:2). Israel needed great wealth in order that their spirits should be
regularly heaps scorn on others." exalted. For many years, they had been sunken in abject slavery, a
Therefore, my advice to whoever wishes to be elected to any condition that causes one to make due with little and not to seek
post -- and for that matter to anyone -- is to be careful not to reject greatness. Therefore, when the nation left slavery for freedom, it was
others, and certainly not whole communities, for by doing so, one will necessary to accustom them to great ambition. Israel were thus
lose more than he gains. The nation itself will reject him. 4 requested, before leaving Egypt, to ask for great wealth, for this
wealth, which would broaden their minds, would lead them to lofty Syracuse, NY
spiritual attributes as well. Why was the place where the Jewish people place the blood on
If their obtaining wealth was so important, why did G-d not the doorposts on their houses in Egypt so important? The Torah tells
command this rather than just requesting it? The answer is that such us, "The blood shall be a sign for you upon the houses where you
a command might have made the people mistakenly think that are; when I see the blood I shall pass over you; there shall not be a
obtaining wealth was to be at the pinnacle of man's ambitions. plague of destruction upon you when I strike the land of Egypt."
Therefore, G-d arranged for everything to work out perfectly. On the (Shmot 12:13)
one hand, their lowly spirits would be exalted when they saw Rashi comments saying that this blood was for the Jewish people
themselves laden with wealth. At the same time, they would know and for no one else. "To you for a token but not for others as a
that great wealth was not the purpose of life. Regarding what was token." From here we learn that the Jewish people placed blood only
really important, G-d issued commands and admonitions. Regarding inside their houses. No blood whatsoever was placed on the outside
obtaining wealth, however, G-d only made a request, and it was of the homes at all. Here, Rashi makes a simple point. The blood
accompanied by an apology about the danger of Abraham saying G- was not necessary for HaShem to see. Rather, it was necessary for
d had not fulfilled His promise. all of Bnai Yisroel to see inside their houses on their doorposts on the
Why was the need for great wealth linked specifically to night of the 15th of Nissan. This was a sign that they rejected the
Abraham? Why should Abraham have cared whether or not Israel Egyptian idols and way of life. Furthermore the blood was a sign that
left Egypt with great wealth? The wealth was linked to Abraham's the Jewish people had a hand in their own redemption by virtue of
approach to life. Abraham longed to establish a nation on earth that following the command of HaShem.
acknowledged G-d and that publicized His name throughout the The Sefer Tam V'dat asks why did the blood have to be put on
world. He knew from personal experience that to influence many the inside when in fact it is something that HaShem is looking for as
nations one also needed greatness of spirit. He was further aware well? Rabbi Sternbuch answers that all of us have to be concerned
that wealth was one thing that could broaden the minds of the for our inner self. There is a time for the community but there is also
individual and the nation. It was Abraham's way to influence people a time for ourselves. Before we may venture out and help the
by going out and maintaining constant direct encounters with the community we must first take stock in ourselves and define what we
non-Jewish population, those nearby, and even those far removed. as individuals need. This is manifested in the obligation that all of
In order to successfully influence them this way, it was necessary for Klal Yisroel has in terms of establishing for ourselves time very day
one not only to have greatness of spirit but great wealth, too, for that for Limud HaTorah. This inner obligation extends to our children and
was the key to fostering business contacts with various people from family as well.
many nations. In this morning's Torah reading we also read about the mitzvah of
Had the Israelites entered Eretz Yisrael with the lowly spirits of Tefilin. Every morning the Jew is obligated to put on the Tefilah shel
those lacking wealth, they would have been unable to realize their Yad and the Tefilah shel Rosh. The Tefilah shel Yad symbolizes our
destiny in Eretz Yisrael. They could not then have spread G-d's light private life, our family and ourselves. On the other hand the Tefilah
throughout the world, following the path that Abraham set for himself shel Rosh symbolizes our public life, work, shul and the tzibbur. We
and for the whole Jewish People. Israel had to undergo slavery for may not put on the Tefilah shel Rosh unless we first put on the
two reason: (1) as a crucible of suffering to refine them of their dross, Tefilah shel Yad. In other words, we must first strengthen ourselves
and (2) to accustom them to humility, a necessary precondition to and learn before we can go out and teach others and strengthen the
their acquiring the yoke of Torah and mitzvot. Nonetheless, Abraham community.
was promised that once this was accomplished, they would be However, the Torah also mentions the fact that HaShem will see
provided with much wealth in order to change them. This would the blood as well. If the blood is on the inside what exactly is
accustom them to exaltedness of spirit and engender in them HaShem looking for?
ambitions to achieve social and political greatness of the sort which The Mechilta points out that when HaShem saw the blood inside
would enable them to fulfill their purpose, to bring G-d's light to the the houses of the Jewish people in Egypt, He also saw the blood of
world. This is why Israel needed great wealth when they left Egypt. the Akedat Yitzchok.
FOR THE SABBATH TABLE: Individual Temples We learn in Braishis 22:14 "And Avrohom called the name of the
Rabbi Azriel Ariel place HaShem Yireh" (HaShem will see). The logical question to ask
The Pascal offering that our ancestors brought in Egypt was one is what will HaShem see? According to Rabbi Samson Raphael
of a kind. They had no Beit HaMikdash, no Temple at their disposal, Hirsch the idea of seeing is the general meaning of what Har
and not even an altar. Even so, their effort constituted an offering in HaMoriah is all about. This was the site of the Akedah. In addition,
every respect. In the Temple's absence, the private home served as according to the Midrash HaShem transported all of the Jews in
a miniature Temple. In the absence of an altar, the doorposts and Egypt to Har HaMoriah to sacrifice the Pesach offering. Immediately
lintel served as a miniature altar, upon which the blood of the offering afterwards, He brought the Jewish people back to Egypt. What is the
could be placed. In the absence of a place to which all of Israel could connection between the Binding of Isaac and the blood of the Pesach
make pilgrimage to bring the Pascal offering as one man, each sacrifice? Again Rabbi Hirsch points out what HaShem is actually
family gathered together individually, alone or in combination with seeing. It is not that G-d sees, rather that each and every one of us is
neighbors and relatives, to bring the Pascal offering together. A seen by G-d!
single nation had not yet been created which brought its offerings in We learn in Devarim 16:16 "Three times a year all of your males
one house, the House of G-d in Jerusalem. should appear before HaShem." This appearance must not be empty
Until that moment, our ancestors had not yet been called "Am handed because appearing for the sake of appearing is not enough
Yisrael" [the People of Israel] or "Adat Yisrael" [the Community of to satisfy this command. The Torah continues "...and he shall not
Israel], but only "B'nei Yisrael" [the children of Israel] (except for one appear before HaShem empty handed." It is not sufficient that the
verse in which Pharaoh called them "Am B'nei Yisrael" [the people of Jew just appear before HaShem on the Shalosh Regalim. Rather
the children of Israel], and excluding instances in which they are each and every single Jew must possess mitzvos in the form of the
called "HaAm" [the people], an expression connoting simply "the sacrificial order. The same held true on the night of Pesach. For the
masses." The first time Israel are referred to as "Adat Yisrael" or Jew to be redeemed, we had to carry something with us. When we
"Kahal Yisrael" [the Assembly of Israel] is Exodus 12:3 [where the left Egypt we carried with us the mitzvah of the Korban Pesach. Thus
Pascal offering is first commanded]. Here, an assembly of families the blood was a sign to both HaShem and each and every single
began to be transformed into one cohesive nation. It says, "The Jew. When all is said and done the placement of the blood is an
entire community of Israel shall then slaughter their sacrifices in the eternal sign for the Jews in all generations about our obligations to
afternoon" (Exodus 12:6). The transformation of these families into a ourselves and others. At the same time it is a sign to us that
nation involved a process that began with the Pascal offering in HaShem will always be looking to make sure that we are successful
Egypt. On the one hand, each individual family prepared in their own in making the transition from Limud to Maaseh, learning to action.
private home for the bringing of their private offering, and they were
forbidden to leave their home: "Not a single one of you may go out
the door of his house until morning" (Exodus 12:22). There were to 5 – RAV RISKIN
Rabbi Shlomo Riskin: http://www.ohrtorah.org.il/index.htm#top
be no shortcuts in the chronology of the nation being established.
The nation could only be built on the solid basis of the Jewish family. Efrat, Israel-- Rashi, our major commentator, pulls no punches
At the same time, all the families of Israel were simultaneously when his opening comment on the first verse in Genesis sends us to
doing the same thing at precisely the same moment. Physically they this week's portion of Bo by asking why the Torah begins with an
were separate, but in their spirits they were already united. For that account of creation when it seems equally viable to have begun with
reason, they each brought one lamb -- and not two -- and it was one the first commandment given to the Jewish people as a nation: "This
year old -- not two -- and it was roasted and in one piece -- and not month shall be to you the beginning of months...." [Ex. 12:2] which in
cooked and not disintegrating -- and they had to take special care fact serves as a prelude to a whole series of commandments.
not to break its bones, and not to leave any over for another time. All Even though the question is rhetorical, the fact that it entertains
of this was an expression of the national unity which was becoming the possibility of ignoring the entire history of the enslaved nation in
more and more firm amidst the process of the exodus from Egypt. Egypt, guides us toward asking an even more fundamental question.
The hurried consumption, with their waists belted, with shoes on If the nation's history is secondary to Torah and commandments, why
their feet and with staff in hand, expressed the feeling of does G d jump the gun, as it were, and reveal twenty commandments
temporariness which accompanied the nation sitting by families and here in parashat Bo, interweaved between the ninth and last plagues,
looking forward to bringing the next Pascal offering all together in the and immediately preceding and following the Exodus itself. Why
one Temple. didn't G d wait until the revelation at Sinai and give us the complete
In our own day as well, when the destruction of the Temple package then?
forces us to keep the Passover seder within the family, we know that I'd like to suggest that implicit in Rashi directing our attention to
at this moment the Jewish family is building the foundation of the Bo rather than the revelation at Sinai in parashat Yitro as an
national edifice. We are sitting in separate families, and on all lips alternative opening to the Torah is in itself a critical factor in
the song is being sung: "Next year in Jerusalem!" understanding who we are as a people, a nation with a particular
As the 20th century draws to a close, most nations in the world
4 - NYCI (Block)
NCYI Weekly Divrei Torah, From:Kenneth Block (firstname.lastname@example.org)
live by the principle of separation of state and religion. And for many
here in Israel, who see themselves as heirs to a democratic tradition
Rabbi Evan Shore Young Israel of Shaarei Torah of 5 rather than Torah law, the ideal would be separation of religion
and state. Marriage, for example, should not be an affair of the will go, and where you lodge, I will lodge, your people will be my
rabbinate, but a secular act requiring nothing more elaborate than people, and your G d my G d." [Ruth 1:16] Naomi's destination, the
two people registering a change of status in City Hall and submitting land of Israel, is mentioned before the G d of Israel. Ruth joins a
a certificate from the Board of Health. Just as John Doe Cohen's family, returing to the land of her mother-in-law.
name doesn't interest a court clerk in London, it shouldn't raise any The 'rasha' at the Seder, even though he rejects the law, is still
eyebrows if J.D. Cohen's chosen mate is a divorcee. What we ought an invited guest, a member of the family.
to have, so the secular argument goes, is a legal system that doesn't I had a paternal grandfather Shmuel, an ardent communist who
pay obeisance, in any sphere, to a religious hierarchy. wrote for the Freiheit, ate on Yom Kippur, but he knew the book of
But is this really possible? Ironically, although we're one of the Isaiah by heart. He read and reread the works of Sholom Aleichem.
oldest nations on earth, we're still trying to work out --at least for My Yiddish comes from him. We were once on a subway together
aliya purposes and the law of return-- who is a Jew, as if we're the when a bunch of young toughs began to beat up a bearded Jew, and
youngest of nations. Indeed, this question of 'Who is a Jew' has my grandfather stepped in and drove them off. He rejected the
haunted us for the last fifty years when Jewish identity ceased being religion but he was part of family.
the sole province of halacha and came under the jurisdiction of a But we shouldn't forget that during our long exile of nearly 2000
secular court system who were called upon to make decisions that years what kept us together as a nation wasn't the land we were
affect the identity of the country. Is Israel a Jewish country or a exiled from, but our religion. And if not for our religion would Israel be
country for Israelis, whose identity evolves as the nation's population able to absorb Ethiopians and Indians and Moroccans and Poles and
evolves? Are Passover and Chanukah religious festivals or are they Russians and Americans and South African Jews and Australian
primarily national markings on the calendar, whose impact should be Jews... How could this odd rainbow of colors and accents and
limited to historic curiousity and social traditions, much like heritages sit down together if not for the fact that we were once
Thanksgiving or July 4th in the U.S? together on Mt. Sinai.
That such a problem even exists --the question of 'Who is an I performed a wedding recently between an Ethiopian Jew and a
Englishman' is not subject to parliamentary debate-- can be seen as British Jew. A pale white British Jew, and a black Ethiopian --they
expressing the swamp that we're in, or just the opposite, that it seemed so different, but the religion, the fact that both subscribed to
actually reveals the vitality of our nation. (We should remind a set of laws, made them one. Pesach we celebrate the Jewish
ourselves that when we go into a cafe in Israel, they ask if you want family nation while on Shevuot, with the giving of the Torah, we
'nes' or 'butz' --what they mean is do you want Turkish coffee, which celebrate the Jewish religion. The Bible links Pesach to Shevuot via
they call mud, or nescafe. 'Butz' means mud and 'nes' means the counting of the Omer. We require both festivals, and our glory is
miracle, and the perception depends on how you look at it.) the fact that we consist of both, which is why we can't talk about one
Are we a nation or are we a religion? The simple answer is that without the other, and which is why for Israelis to consider separating
we're both. When it comes to other religions, conversion to them state from religion is like separating a body from its soul --to live a
doesn't mean that a person assumes a new nationality. An English body needs a soul, and a soul needs a body.
Anglican who chooses Islam remains English. He joined the Moslem
world, but with so many nations identified with Islam, it's clear that his
conversion didn't grant him automatic citizenship to Yemen or Saudia 6 -PROJECT GENESIS
The Jewish Learning Network Email: email@example.com URL: http://www.torah.org/
Arabia or Jordan. However when that same Anglican converts to
Judaism, he may still retain his English citizenship, but at the same A). PG LIFELINE:
time he becomes part of the Jewish nation, and hand-in-hand with "Moshe and Aaron returned to Paro, and he said to them 'go and
that comes his right to citizenship in the land of Israel, the historic serve HaShem, your G-d -- who, precisely, will be going?'
homeland of the Jewish people, the only one we've ever had, and the "And Moshe said, 'we will be going with our children and our
only we ever will have. Thus being a Jew is in fact both a religion and elders, with our sons and our daughters, with our flocks and with our
a nationality. Is this some historic fluke, the consequences of a long cattle, for it is a holiday of HaShem for us.'
exile, or is it possible that it actually expresses G d's desire for His "And [Paro] said to them 'it will surely be so that HaShem will be
people. with you, when I send you out along with your children -- see that evil
As mentioned earlier, Parashat Bo includes twenty is before your faces. It will not be so; let the men go out and serve
commandments, the majority dealing with the Passover sacrifice, HaShem, for that is what you request,' and he threw them out from
particularly details of the first festive meal itself --in effect the first Paro's presence." [9:9-11]
Seder-- that the Jewish people experienced together. "Speak unto all The Sifrei Drush notes that Paro agreed to send out the adults,
the congregation of Israel, saying, 'In the tenth day of this month they as long as the children remained with him. Paro knew that as long as
shall take to them every man a lamb, according to their fathers' the children stayed behind, then even if the adults went out, the
house, a lamb for a household. And if the household be too little for a Nation of Israel would not survive. Moshe, of course, knew exactly
lamb, then shall he and his neighbor next unto his house take one the same thing, and this is why he insisted that the young people go
according to the number of the souls..." [Ex. 12:3-4] out along with the elderly.
Throughout our portion we are struck by the Torah stressing all The next question is, why insist that the elderly also go along?
these domestic elements centered around family, who may join the Paro and his slavemasters would have had to go easy on them, once
paschal meal, and who may not. The definition of 'stranger' is given, all of the younger people had left. And Moshe surely knew that the
and how circumcision turns 'servant' into a candidate for becoming a People of Israel might need to flee from the Egyptians -- don't we
participant at the meal. hear stories all the time about heroic elderly people who sent their
Commandments are followed with news of the tenth plague, the children on to safety, knowing that they could not move quickly
devastation and despair that erupts in Egypt on that night when all enough? So get the men, women and children, run the flocks along
first-borns, from Pharoah's house to the dungeon prisoners, and even with them, and go!
animals, are struck down. "...And there was a great cry.. for there was Here is something that Moshe understood -- and Paro did not.
not a house where there was not one dead." [12:30] Paro was prepared to let all of the men go, regardless of age -- he
As a direct result of the tenth plague, Pharaoh summons Moses only objected to sending them "along with your children." Moshe said,
and Aaron, and finally issues the command to free the Israelite "with our children and our elders."
slaves. "Take both your flocks and your herds..and be gone." Moshe knew that one could not go without the other. Without the
[12:31] elders, who would impart wisdom to the children? Wisdom is
Immediately following the release of the Israelites, the text acquired with age. "You shall rise in front of an old person, and honor
returns and expands the commandments concerning the Passover the presence of a sage, and you shall fear your G-d -- I am HaShem."
sacrifice. Clearly then the Torah's pattern is to fuse and blend these [Lev. 19:32] In fact, the word for "sage" in this verse is "Zaken", which
commandments with the last plague, itself a surgical knife cutting into literally means "old." The Medrash says, based upon this verse, that
the very heart of family --albeit Egyptian-- and the Exodus itself, we have the same obligation to stand when an elderly person
which allows the Jewish families to sit down, for the first time in approaches as in front of a scholar. Regardless of Torah knowledge,
hundreds of years, as a free entity. The Torah therefore seems to be a person who has reached the age of 70 represents wisdom acquired
telling us that Judaism, as a religion, begins at home, with the with age, and this deserves our respect and honor.
members of our family. In effect, even before Sinai, before the actual Thus we know that the Nation of Israel was led in the desert by
giving of the Torah, G d already revealed the significance of family Moshe, Aaron, and the 70 elders -- Moshe and Aaron were
sitting down to its annual meal --Thanksgiving (an acknowledgement themselves both over 80. The Chapters of the Fathers open with:
to G d) and July 4th (national independence) rolled into one . It would "Moshe received the Torah on Sinai, and he transmitted it to
appear that whatever it is that happened on Sinai in terms of the Yehoshuah, and Yehoshuah to the Elders..."
Torah and its laws, something happened prior to Sinai which also Western society has learned a great deal from Judaism and
bestowed upon us a substantial number of Torah commandments. If Jewish ethics, but it recognizes the contribution of our elders little
the Torah is the ultimate expression of G d's love for us, receiving more than Paro. Everyone talks about the hope of the Next
these commandments prior to Sinai is as if G d is saying that His love Generation, but who are the role models from whom they learn --
for us was so powerful that He couldn't wait for Sinai --He had to Michael Jordan and Madonna? The elderly are as good as their vigor
demonstrate the beauty of the bouquet prior to the actual wedding on and youth make them, and thus John Glenn is a hero because he
Sinai, and so He gave us these special gifts as a token of what we can still fly in a spaceship. Everyone knows that the elderly are not fit
would soon be receiving, and the special, pre-nuptial gift is the to be leaders -- so when Hollywood gets its hands on Moshe, the
paschal lamb that brings entire families together, no matter how "Prince of Egypt" is converted into an action hero more than half a
remote or distant they've become. century younger. A factor in the last American Presidential election
Before Sinai, the Torah commands us to have a family was the advanced age of one candidate -- instead we retained one of
celebration of freedom, before Sinai the Torah commands each head the youngest Presidents in US history, and we have since learned (as
of the household to tell the tale of the Exodus to the next generation. even his greatest backers agree) that he still needs to grow up. [NB.
And the nature of a family is that living far away, even rejecting the Please do not take this as a political statement.]
family business, doesn't take away from one's essential connection to This is exactly the opposite of Rabbi Elazar ben Azaryah, who
the family. Every member is accepted into the family. He has a blood says in the Haggadah (and Talmud Brachos 12b) that "I am like a
relationship. He shares the family's fate. man of 70." The story behind this statement is that the Sages wanted
I would submit that as long as we lived in our land, the to appoint him as the Head of the Yeshiva at the tender age of 18. He
family nation issue (component) was the strongest. The first went home to discuss the matter with his wife. She objected, "you do
celebrated convert, Ruth, declares, "...for wherever you go, I 6 not have the white beard of a Sage!" That day a miracle
occurred, and he grew 18 rows of white hair [Talmud Brachos 28a] -- We have paid a terrible price. Now is the time to look back and
a sign from Heaven that he had acquired ancient wisdom at a young say, "We won't do it again!" We will accept "VaYishman Yeshurun",
age. but we will not rebel or stumble from that wealth, rather we will use
Today, youth and new ideas are honored, while we forget ancient those blessing to spread Torah and to increase the honor of Heaven.
wisdom and those who brought it to us. The last thing we would want C). PARSHA PARABLES (Rabbi Mordechai Kamenetzky)
is a grey beard at age 18. Yet with all of the great technological You Are What You Eat
advances in every area of life, have we ever developed a system of After 210 years on foreign soil, many filled with sadistic slavery,
ethics which even approaches that which has been transmitted by the Jewish people get a taste of freedom. The Egyptian oppressors
our elders, ever since Moshe himself? Judaism tells us not only that are devastated with plagues, and the Jews are readied for freedom.
we must not murder or steal, not only that we must be honest in our But before they are released, they are charged with two mitzvos. The
business, but that we must not gossip, we must not embarrass sanctification and establishment of the New Moon, and the laws of
people, we must love our neighbor like ourselves. Judaism brings us the Korbon Pesach (Passover Lamb). These mitzvos entail some of
laws regarding bribery and fair judgement for rich and poor which are the most complex statutes in the entire realm of Jewish law.
far more strict even than those used in America today. This is ancient Establishing new months and setting the calendar entails knowledge
wisdom which modern society cannot replicate. of astronomical calculations and celestial sophistication that was
Let us turn to our elders, and to the lessons they bring us. Then hardly a charge for a slave nation! The laws of the Passover sacrifice
we can acquire not just modern knowledge, but the ancient wisdom are defined in intricate detail, not only pertaining to its preparation,
to know how to use it. Then, we will truly flourish. but the way the sacrifice is eaten, and who may partake of it.
B). RAV FRAND: First, the Torah tells us that the offering may only be eaten with
PLEASE Take the Gold and Silver those who have been pre-designated as members of the festive
In this week's parsha, Moshe Rabbeinu is told by G-d, "Please meal. The Torah also instructs that the lamb must be wholly roasted,
speak into the ears of the people and a man shall ask from his not one piece may be pan-fried or boiled. The Torah also commands
neighbor and a women shall ask from her neighbor utensils of silver how the lamb is eaten. It must be eaten in a rush -- after all, the
and gold" [Shmos 11:2]. Rash"i (based on the Talmud in Brochos Jews were about to exit Egypt -- and there was no time for long,
9a) quotes a very famous Chaza"l that G-d asked Moshe using the drawn-out festivities. In fact, the Torah tells the nation to eat the
word "nah" -- I request of you -- "PLEASE ask the people to request korbon with their back packs readied and their staffs in hand! The
these silver and golden vessels". instructions continue. "You must not break a bone. Do not leave over
The Beis Yisroel, authored by the Gerrer Rebbe, raises an any meat." The lamb was to be eaten meticulously, every bit of meat
interesting question. We understand why it is necessary to use the was to be finished, yet no one was allowed to sink their teeth into it to
word "Please" if we are asking someone to perform a difficult task. the extent that the tender lamb's bone would break.
But when has it ever been necessary to ask someone to "Please go One may ask: Why is the introduction to Judaism so abstruse
take money"? People line up to take money! They do not need to be and replete with detail? After all, the nation had been slaves for 210
convinced to ask for it. Why over here did G-d need to stress "Please years! Time was never a factor, let alone a lunar calendar. They
take the gold and silver"? probably never ate meat, the god of the Egyptians, for the duration of
The answer is that Klal Yisroel [The Jews] knew that there is that time. Why not as soon-to-be free men were they not allowed to
something very difficult about taking money. This was the first indulge the way they wanted, in high style and with unmitigated
encounter that the newly freed slaves had with the age-old problem freedom? Why is the first allowance of carnivorous cuisine so
of money. They instinctively knew that the challenge which wealth restricted and detailed? Shouldn't the first commands to a fledgling
poses is a tremendous temptation. The Gerrer Rebbe explains that people be simple feel-good symbolism?
G-d had to say, "PLEASE take the money" because the Jews knew Dr. Viktor E. Frankel was a longtime prisoner in the bestial
that this gift was fraught with danger. concentration camps of Nazi Germany. His parents, brother, and
The Gerrer Rebbe also explains that this is also why G-d wife were killed and cremated in the ovens. Yet as a psychiatrist he
specifically used the word "v'Yish-alu" (they should borrow). G-d felt devised a method of survival through the ravages of sadistic
that if the Jews viewed material possessions in this world as some barbarism, detailed in his work, Man's Search for Meaning. He writes
type of a borrowed item, they would be much better off. that though the Nazi's goal was to every eradicate every human trait,
A person can rent a car. It may have all the luxuries -- bucket "hunger, humiliation, fear and deep anger are rendered tolerable by
seats; AM/FM radio, etc., all of the options. But a person's closely guarded images of beloved persons, by religion, and even by
excitement about such a car will be muted by the fact that the car is the healing beauties of a tree or a sunset." Frankel describes how he
rented. In a day or two the car will be returned. That, the pasuk learned to relish every physical and spiritual entity he could grasp.
[verse] tells us, is how a person should approach materialism -- as These small acts would elevate their humanity. Scraps of wood
something that has been "borrowed", as something that a person formed pieces of meaningful art. He would analyze in his few free
should not get too "carried away" about. seconds every bit of good that was left to his existence.
Rav Elye Sveye, shlit"a, once commented on the pasukim One evening a fellow prisoner rushed into the barracks and
[verses] in Ha'Azinu which describe the history of the Jewish people asked him to run out to the assembly grounds to watch the beautiful
[Devorim Chapter 32]. Rash"i describes the times in history when we sunset. He whole sky became alive with clouds of ever-changing
were subject to this tremendous affluence. But then the pasuk says, shapes and colors, from steel-gray to blood-red. They watched the
"Israel waxed fat and rebelled...." [32:15]. The Seforno interprets contrast of the majestic billows compared to the muddy-brown earth-
"You, my dear Nation, you who understand the Torah, you have tethered huts. After minutes of moving silence the prisoners turned
turned towards physical pleasures -- towards materialism and to each other, "how beautiful the world could be."
affluence. This has caused you to turn away. The pasuk then Every nuance of life is actually filled with spiritual opportunities.
continues, "And G-d will see and be provoked..." [32:19]. What will By affording the nation two initial two commands that were replete
be their end? The pasukim [32:20-26] describe the punishment that with thousands of details, later expounded upon through thousands
would befall them. The Seforno summarizes the pasukim as follows: of pages of Talmudic and Halachic literature, The Holy One opened
"What was the antidote for a people that did not know how to cope a new outlook to the formerly bonded. The moon that they watched
with affluence? The antidote was Galus [Exile]." for 210 years now became the embryo of spirituality. The sign of its
Rav Elye explained that we have had many long and bitter Exiles lumens would herald the New Year and the Festivals. The
-- 2,500 years of Exile. However, there was a common thread experience of eating meat would become a royal meal filled with
throughout the Exile. That common thread was poverty. There have mitzvos and responses to Hashem's command. There would be no
been pockets of affluence and there have been individual Jews that chomping at bones like barbarians. Cooked in a precise and
have had wealth. But the over-riding common denominator of all instructed manner, every step of a seeming earthly - even physical -
Exiles was poverty, trying to eke out a living. You can look at - act took on a magnificent sense of spirituality. Those most
pictures of pre-world war Europe and see how the Jews lived. You intricate, detail and sophisticated acts forged slaves into princes.
can go to museums and see the poverty that the Jews had to endure. Every detail was filled with spirituality and cognizance. There were
It is not coincidental. This is the answer of Exile. This is how G-d messages of dignity, of restraint. No more were they starving
wanted to correct us, because we didn't know how to cope with prisoners grabbing any available food. These prisoners needed to
wealth. reserve a place to dine. The slow means of preparation entailed
Rav Elye posed a powerful question: Here we are in America, finesse and patience; not one morsel was allowed to be eaten raw.
which Reb Chaim Volozhin predicted would be the last stop before Instead of grabbing the food and sinking their teeth straight to the
the coming of the Messiah. This is the last Exile, but we find bone, they were warned, do not shatter a bone! And they could not
something that is totally out of character with our other Exile nibble at it and leave some over, as they were commanded not to
experiences -- we are wealthy in America. Some may be a little more leave any meat over. In the minutest detail there is great magnitude.
rich and some a little less rich, but any poverty that exists is relative And in the magnitude of those actions lie the magnitude of man who
poverty. Do we hear of people giving shoes to their children for recognizes the magnitude of his Creator.
Pesach, as if receiving shoes were a big deal? D). P’SHUTO SHEL MIKRA (Rabbi Yitz Etshalom)
Why is the Exile of America different? Is it not essential for Galus Three Aspects of the Korban Pessach
to include poverty? I SH'MOT 12:1-13:16 - A CONFUSING TEXT
Rav Elye suggested as follows: It must be that the last Along with the three final plagues (locusts, darkness, firstborn),
destruction -- the Holocaust in Europe -- must have been the final our Parashah includes a description of the first stage of the Exodus of
atonement for the sin of 'And Israel waxed fat'. We have served our the B'nei Yisra'el from Egypt. A central feature in that stage is the
time. We have paid our dues. We have finally received kapparah Korban Pessach (Pessach offering) and its various attendant
[atonement] for the sin of spiritual rebellion resulting from wealth. commands. These Halakhot (laws) are presented throughout
And now once again we can have affluence and luxury and material Chapter 12 (and, in a tangential manner, in the first 16 verses of
wealth. This is our second chance. Chapter 13) of Sh'mot (Exodus). The narrative of the smiting of the
The Exile of America is our opportunity to experience wealth firstborn and the first steps of actual departure are intertwined with
again and see if we will not stumble to its temptation. It is as if G-d these Halakhot - along with two separate "concluding" statements
told us, "Fine, you blew it once, but I will give you another chance." announcing the climactic end to our slavery.
This is the challenge of the American Exile. To have "houses filled This entire section (12:1-13:16) seems to lack unity and flow. I
with all good things", to have "and Israel waxed fat", to have bountiful hope to provide an explanation of the basic components in this
income and beautiful homes and beautiful cars -- but not to section which will not only "restore" the unity, but will also shed
rebel. To deal with it the right way! 7
some light on the central feature in the Pessach celebration - the representing the b'khor of that household) and why the blood of the
Korban Pessach. offering was to be daubed on the doorposts and top-jamb of each
II OUTLINE AND QUESTIONS house - as if to "mark" the house, indicating that the b'khor of this
It will be helpful to preface our discussion by outlining the various family (=his animal substitute) has already been slaughtered.
segments of the text in question: (We might entertain a more radical understanding of the identity
12:1-20 - Parashat haChodesh (God speaks to Mosheh and Aharon) of the Israelite target group: In 4:22, the B'nei Yisra'el are identified
The New Moon, some Mitzvot of the Korban Pessach and the as God's "b'khor"; that being the case, every member of the B'nei
Mitzvot of Matza, Maror (bitter herbs) and avoiding & Yisra'el was under threat of death with the upcoming Makkat B'khorot
destroying Hametz. - and the animal and its blood stood as a representative for that
12:21-28 (Mosheh speaks to the elders of the B'nei Yisra'el) person and his household. This would explain the odd phrasing:
Mosheh's charge to the elders regarding some details of the "...the entire congregation of Yisr'ael shall slaughter it..." [12:6]. The
Korban and how to respond to future generations who ask use of a member of the flock [v. 5] is particularly powerful in its
about it. symbolic association; not only is their leader, Mosheh, a shepherd by
12:29-36 (narrative) The plague of the first-born, Pharaoh's midnight profession (3:1), but he himself compares the B'nei Yisra'el to a flock
call to Mosheh to take the B'nei Yisra'el out; the B'nei Yisra'el in need of a shepherd after his death [Bamidbar 27:17]. Either
"borrow" the gold, silver and clothing of the Egyptians. approach to understanding the endangered people for whom the
12:37-42 (narrative) B'nei Yisra'el travel from Ra'mses to Sukkot, offering "stands in" - the actual firstborn or the entire B'nei Yisr'ael -
including "At the end of the 430 years, to the very day, all works with the rest of this shiur.)
YHVH's divisions left Egypt." (v. 41) V ASPECT #2: THE KORBAN OF FIRE: A CELEBRATION OF
12:43-50 (God speaks to Mosheh and Aharon) More laws of the THE END OF SLAVERY
Korban Pessach, including who may partake of it. There are additional Halakhot of the Korban Pessach as detailed
12:51 (narrative) "And on that very day YHVH brought the B'nei in Parashat haChodesh (12:8-11) which reflect a different aspect of
Yisra'el out of Egypt by their divisions." (v. 51) the Korban. Whereas the first group of commands (taking the animal
13:1-2 (God speaks to Mosheh) The Mitzvah of sanctification of the into the house, slaughtering on the afternoon of the fourteenth,
firstborn daubing the blood etc.) reflect the "substitution" or "redemptive"
13:3-16 (Mosheh speaks to the B'nei Yisra'el) Mitzvot of aspect of the Korban (as explained above), the next group seem to
remembering the Exodus, avoiding Hametz, not owning have one thing in common - they represent and celebrate the end of
Hametz, teaching children about it, T'fillin, sanctification of the slavery experience. Let's look at the details:
the firstborn and, again, T'fillin. a) The Korban must be roasted (v. 8) - symbolic of the "fiery furnace"
As can be easily seen from this all-too-brief outline (I strongly of Egypt which was our oppressed life there (see Devarim 4:20, I
encourage keeping a Humash open to follow the rest of the shiur), Melakhim 8:51, Yirmiyah 11:4)
there are a number of anomalies - both in sequence and in b) The Korban must be eaten with matzot and maror (bitter herbs) (v.
substance - in this text: 8) - both symbols of oppression and poverty. Eating these is
1: Why are the details of the Korban Pessach given in two different symbolic of mastery over the experience.
sections (12:1-20 and 43-50)? c) The Korban must be eaten entire and not broken up (v. 9) -
2: Why does Mosheh present a series of Mitzvot (Hametz, telling the symbolizing that the B'nei Yisra'el (represented by the animal as
children about the Exodus, T'fillin) before informing the B'nei Yisra'el explained above) have come through the experience complete.
about the sanctification of the firstborn - when that was the only d) None of the Korban's meat may be left over (v. 10) - symbolizing
command the God gave him at that time (13:2)? that the entire experience is to be completed tonight and that every
3: Why is the Mitzvah of T'fillin given twice (13:9,16)? member of the nation will be redeemed and taken out of the
4: Why is the Exodus declared twice (12:41,51)? oppression. (Also - any leftover meat must be burned - again the
III LOOKING THROUGH THE EYES OF THE B'NEI YISRA'EL IN theme of fire)
EGYPT An introductory and methodological note: e) The people are to eat the Korban "sitting on their suitcases" -
As I have implied several times in these Divrei Torah, we have - implying that the experience is complete and that their station is
from one perspective - a distinct advantage over the original about to change.
recipients of the Torah. Whereas they only had the knowledge of the Subsequent to the presentation of these specific Halakhot, God
particular piece of divine teaching that they were receiving and tells Mosheh the reason behind them:
everything which came before - we have the information of the ages. "I will pass through Mitzrayim on this night...and the blood will be
Over three thousand years have passed since the events of that an *ot* (sign) for you on the houses..." (vv. 12-13).
fateful evening in Egypt - and much information has been revealed After this, God instructs Mosheh that there should be an eternal
and inferred about those events and their impact on Jewish history in commemoration of this day - "And this day will be for you a *zikkaron*
the intervening years. Not only do we have the entire Torah as a (commemoration), celebrating it as a festival for YHVH..." (v. 14).
reference point for understanding any piece of text - we also have The last 6 verses of Parashat haChodesh outline the basic
millenia of interpretation and commentary. Halakhot of eating Matzah, destroying Hametz, avoiding the eating of
This advantage can sometimes turn against us. In our attempt to Hametz, the "holiday" nature of the first and seven days of this future
understand the *p'shat* of the text - the simple, straightforward festival - and the reason for this festival (which does not at all include
meaning of the verses - our "larger picture" sometimes makes it the Korban Pessach):
difficult to see and hear the verses through the eyes and ears of the "...for on this very day I (will) have taken all of your divisions out
original target audience. of the land of Egypt..." (v. 17)
In our case, we have to look at each section of text and pay close We are then given additional dimensions of the prohibitions of
attention to what was known - and what was not yet known - to Hametz.
Mosheh, Pharaoh and to the B'nei Yisra'el. SUMMARY OF PARASHAT HACHODESH (12:1-20)
Although Mosheh (and Pharaoh) knew about the impending Note that the Korban Pessach in no way is associated with the
*Makkat B'khorot* (smiting of the firstborn) (see Sh'mot 11:1-5; see imminent Exodus. It inheres two celebrations only - the salvation
also 4:22-23), it is unclear as to whether the B'nei Yisra'el knew about from the plague of the firstborn and end of slavery. This day will be
it at all. In addition, no one (up until this point) knew what night the the first of a seven day festival, celebrating the Exodus - but that
Makkat B'khorot would take place (see Ramban 11:4). festival, at this point, only includes the Hametz/Matzah component
Besides this background of lack-of-information (against which the and does not include the Korban Pessach.
text in Chapter 12 must be seen), a simple reading of the text VI MOSHEH'S INSTRUCTIONS TO THE ELDERS (12:21-28)
indicates that the B'nei Yisra'el had little knowledge of Korbanot In the next Parashah (12:21-28), Mosheh relates part of God's
(animal offerings). Therefore, to comprehend the perspective of the command to the elders of the B'nei Yisra'el (and, from the context,
B'nei Yisra'el at the time - and whatever symbolism is being this information is passed on to all of the people - see vv. 27-28).
conveyed through these commandments - we must look at the verses Note that he only tells them about the Korban Pessach (with the
through these "new eyes" - the eyes of the B'nei Yisra'el in Egypt at addition of the bunch of *ezov* - more on that below) and that that
that time. celebration should be perpetuated for generations. He only instructs
IV ASPECT #1: THE KORBAN "IN LIEU" - A CELEBRATION OF them that this will be a celebration of salvation, as we can see from
SALVATION the response he commands we give to our children when they ask us
In his explanation of the meaning behind animal offerings, as to the meaning of this offering:
Ramban (commentary to Vayyikra 1:9) suggests that the person "You shall declare, it is a Pessach offering to God, Who passed
bringing the offering should view himself as if he were on the altar. over the houses of the B'nei Yisra'el when he attacked Egypt and
The catharsis of a Korban is achieved when the owner experiences saved our houses..." (v. 27)
his own sacrifice vicariously through the offering. In other words, the only perspective that Mosheh gave to the
Although, as pointed out above, this was not something that the people before the actual event took place was the salvation. He did
B'nei Yisra'el would know from the yet-unrevealed Hilkhot Ma'aseh not inform them that they were leaving - just that, at some future time,
haKorbanot (the Laws of Offerings) - they would know it from their they would be in the Land and would have to explain this celebration
own history. The first and earliest Korban in national memory was to their children.
the ram that was brought by Avraham on Mount Moriah in lieu of his As noted above, there is one additional aspect to the Korban
son, Yitzchak (B'resheet 22:13). This occurred when Yitzchak - who Pessach presented in this instruction. "Take a bunch of *ezov*
was (sort of) supposed to be offered up to God - was spared. (some type of grass or herb - the Rishonim debate its meaning) and
It is reasonable to assume that when the B'nei Yisra'el were dip it into the blood [of the offering] which is in the vessel, and daub it
commanded to offer up a lamb or goat on the afternoon of the on the upper-door-jamb and the doorposts..." (v. 22). This is an
fourteenth day of the first month - that they made the obvious and additional symbol of the end of slavery (as above) - that the B'nei
immediate association with Yitzchak's ram and understood this Yisra'el, who were lowly like the grass of the field, would now be
upcoming Korban to be some sort of a "substitution" offering. When gathered together (remember that they must spend the whole night
they were informed (12:12) about the imminent slaying of the indoors with the whole family together) and elevated to God's worship
firstborn throughout Egypt (note - not just "Egyptians" but throughout - thus culminating their servitude to Pharaoh. Again, note that there
"the land of Egypt"), understood that this upcoming offering was to is no mention of leaving Egypt - just being liberated from slavery.
stand in place of their own firstborn children, who stood in mortal VI NARRATIVE #1: MAKKAT B'KHOROT (12:29-36)
danger of dying on that night. This explains why the Torah As the text moves from instruction to narrative, we are told about
specifically commands each family to take one animal (12:3 - 8 the terrible fate of the first-borns throughout Egypt (note v. 29 -
non-Egyptians also died!). Pharaoh comes to Mosheh and Aharon 3) Redeem us (*v'ga'alti*) and
and throws them out of Egypt. 4) Take us to Him (v'lakachti..li*) as a nation.
NARRATIVE #2: FIRST STEPS OUT OF EGYPT (12:37-42) As we have already seen, three of these promises were already
Now we are told that the B'nei Yisra'el marched from Ra'mses fulfilled (out of order):
(their working town - see 1:11) to Sukkot - which is still in Egypt. At #3 - We were redeemed when we were not killed on the night of the
this point, we are given a sense of conclusion - how many years the smiting of the firstborn; (by the way, the term *g'ulah* can also mean
B'nei Yisra'el were in Egypt and that exactly on that day, they left. a redemption of substitution - see Ruth 4:7) #2 - We were saved from
Note that in v. 41, we are told that the B'nei Yisra'el left Egypt - not their work when Pharaoh threw us out; #1 - We were taken out when
that God took them out! In the next verse, we are told that the night God turned our exit to Exodus with Hukkat haPessach (as above).
(before) was a "guarded night" of God - but their actual first steps The one component that remains to be fulfilled is for the B'nei
happened of their own accord. Pharaoh threw them out and they left. Yisra'el to become God's nation.
Let's summarize what information the B'nei Yisra'el have as they "*Kadesh LI* (sanctify to me) every b'khor...*LI hu* (they are
finish the first leg of their march and arrive at Sukkot on the morning Mine). The word Li, meaning "they are mine", which is used twice
after the plague. here, evokes the fourth promise:
1) They have been told that the salvation (from being killed) which *v'lakachti et'khem LI l'am* - (and I will take you unto Me as a
they just experienced must be commemorated, via the Korban nation). Kiddush haB'khorot is (at least the first stage of) the
Pessach in the future. fulfillment of this promise.
2) Their slavery is over and they have left their slave-town (Ra'mses) The B'nei Yisra'el already know that they must celebrate the
BUT "redemption" of the night of the plague and the "being saved" from
3) They haven't been told that they are going back to the Land (or, slavery. Mosheh has to communicate the rest of the process to the
indeed, even leaving Egypt at all) NOR people - that they must celebrate and commemorate being taken out
4) Do they know about any special relationship which they are of Egypt and becoming God's nation.
destined to have with God. First, Mosheh presents them with the commemoration of being
Keep in mind that the promise presented earlier (6:6-8) that God taken out-
would take them out of the bonds of Egypt, save them from their 1: Remember the day of the Exodus (13:3)
work, redeem them with an outstretched arm and great wonders and 2: Hametz and Matzah (13:6-7) (which are Halakhot which remind us
would take them to be His nation - this entire promise was not of the actual departure - remember, this had not been
"heard" by the B'nei Yisra'el (6:9) due to their overwhelming sense of communicated yet)
servitude. 3: Teaching the children about the Exodus (v. 8) - note that this time,
VII HUKKAT HAPESSACH (12:43-50) the information to be given by the parent to the child is not about
At this point, we are given a second set of details regarding the the plague of the first-born, rather it is about the Exodus.
Korban Pessach, coming under the heading of *Hukkat haPessach* 4: T'fillin (v. 9) - a constant reminder of the Exodus. The hand T'fillin
(the eternal statute of the Korban Pessach). Following our are to be an *ot l'kha* - a "sign for you", indicating a sign for you to
chronological sequencing of the text, these Halakhot were given to see and which will remind us - and the head T'fillin are to be a
Mosheh and Aharon at Sukkot, the morning after the plague. These *zikkaron*- again a commemoration for you to remember that God
include the definition of who may partake of the Korban (only took us out. This wording is nearly identical to the two terms used
Israelites), that anyone joining the community must undergo B'rit to describe the blood on the doors (*ot lakhem*) and the
Milah (the covenant of circumcision) and two Halakhot which celebration of that day (*zikkaron*).
correspond to details we saw earlier: 5: Kiddush B'khorot (vv. 10-13). Now that the celebration of
a) The Korban must stay inside the house in which it is eaten; *v'hotzeiti* is complete, Mosheh informs them about Kiddush
b) No bone may be broken in the Korban Pessach. B'khorot - the fulfillment of the fourth step - *v'lakachti*.
What is the significance of these "new" details and why were they 6: Informing the children (vv. 14-15). The son's question is not about
given in a separate Parashah from Parashat haChodesh - and after the Exodus or about the Korban Pesach (or about Hametz &
the B'nei Yisra'el were part of the way out of Egypt? Matzah) - it is about Kiddush B'khorot.
ASPECT #3: THE KORBAN OF COMPLETION: A CELEBRATION 7: T'fillin (v. 16). Note what has changed - the *ot l'kha* ( a sign for
OF FULFILLMENT OF THE B'RIT BEIN HAB'TARIM you) has become an *ot* (sign) - indicating that it is now (also) a
Even a cursory glance at verses 43-50 brings an immediate sign for others. The *zikkaron* is now *totafot* - which is a type of
association: The new demand that only a member of the B'rit who jewelry not unlike a crown. (See Mishnah Shabbat 6:1, Radak's
has been circumcised may partake in the Korban Pessach reminds Michlol, "Haskel v'Yadoa' ").
us of Avraham - the original member of that B'rit (see B'resheet 17). The T'fillin, first presented as a commemorative device by which
What does Avraham have to do with the Exodus? we remind ourselves of *v'hotzeiti* - now become a sign for the rest
In B'resheet 15, we are told about an earlier B'rit which God of the world and a crown - as we are now God's nation with the
made with Avram (not yet Avraham) regarding his descendants: fulfillment of *v'lakachti* through the vehicle of Kiddush B'khorot.
"...know for certain that your descendants will be strangers in a
country not their own, and they will be enslaved and mistreated
four hundred years. But I will punish the nation they serve as 7 - HAR ETZION (Virtual Beit HaMidrash)
Virtual Beit Midrash, Alon Shevut, Gush Etzion 90433 e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org,
slaves, and afterward they will come out with great possessions." Home Page: http://www.virtual.co.il/education/yhe
This promise - which points directly to the enslavement and A) INTRODUCTION TO PARSHAT HASHEVUAH
Exodus from Egypt - was confirmed through a ceremony in which NEW MOONS AND THE RENEWAL OF THE SOUL
Avram took animals (including a goat and a ram) and divided them in by Rav Alex Israel
half. When darkness fell, Avram (who was already outside - see v. 5) The images of our parasha are immensely dramatic: the red
saw a fire pass between the halves, consummating the *B'rit bein blood on the doorposts, the terrifying crushing darkness of that night
haB'tarim* (covenant between the pieces), as it is commonly known. when the firstborn of Egypt were killed, and then, the sweeping
Now we understand the Avraham-Exodus connection - and can triumph of a slave nation tasting its first moments of freedom.
look back at the original presentation (12:1-20) and understand some These are the scenes of the Exodus - immense, powerful,
of the details in a new light. The fire which appears in three historic moments. It is somewhat enigmatic, then, to find a rather
consecutive verses (12:8-10) reminds us of the fire which modest and unassuming Godly instruction to Moses placed as an
consummated the B'rit bein haB'tarim. In addition, this is the only introduction to this dramatic and imposing story:
Korban which had to be completely devoured at night - which again The Lord said to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt: This
reminds us of the B'rit bein haB'tarim. Once we have that month shall mark for you the beginning of months; it shall be
association, we immediately notice the contrasts (the Torah often the first of the months of the year for you (12:1-2).
compares events in order to demonstrate their differences). Unlike What do these verses tell us? They inform the incipient
the B'rit-promise, this one must take place indoors; and, unlike the nation of Israel as to the concept of Rosh Chodesh - the New
B'rit-promise, the animal here must be complete. These Halakhot are Moon. To be more exact, these two lines contain two separate
re-presented in our section (*Hukkat haPessach*) - in verse 46. commands:
What has happened? The B'rit bein haB'tarim has now been fulfilled. 1. The notion that the beginning of a month shall commence
The broken animal is now whole and the "outsiders" are now indoors. with the visual sighting of the "new moon," just visible.
Suddenly, our entire perspective on the process has changed. 2. That the order of months in the Jewish calendar will start with
Instead of having been saved from a terrible plague and having the Nissan, the month of Redemption.
yoke of slavery lifted (which is all we know up until this point), we now THE FIRST LAW
understand that the ancient promise of God has finally been fulfilled. On the surface, this law defines a calendar. It establishes a
The celebration of the Korban Pessach takes on a whole new light. uniquely Jewish system of time-keeping - a Godly rhythm of time.
Instead of us leaving as a result of Pharaoh's order, we are now This we will discuss in due course. But there is an additional
being taken out by God, with our destiny to be His people lying dimension here. From a halakhic-legal point of view, these
immediately ahead of us. verses are significant far beyond their actual content. These two
This explains the "second" exodus verse (v. 51). In this verse, unobtrusive lines have monumental import, for they describe the
instead of stating that the B'nei Yisra'el left - it says that God took very first command, or mitzva, that the Children of Israel receive as
them out! a nation. Rashi, in his opening comment to the Pentateuch,
VIII KIDDUSH B'KHOROT raises the hypothetical suggestion that these verses should have
At the beginning of Chapter 13, God gives Mosheh one Mitzvah - been the opening lines of the Torah. After all, proposes Rashi, the
to sanctify the human and animal B'khorot to Him. Earlier, we asked primary function of the Torah is to present the unique Jewish system
why Mosheh doesn't just give this Mitzvah and why he prefaces it of living embodied in its laws, its prohibitions and directives. This is
with other Mitzvot (including some he was given earlier), such as the first verse to issue a command to the Children of Israel as a
Hametz & Matzah, teaching the children about the Exodus and T'fillin. nation. Rashi rejects the suggestion for other reasons, but the point
As mentioned above (end of section VI), there was a four-tiered is well taken. It is with these verses that Jewish Law - Halakha - and
promise which God related to Mosheh before the onset of the plague- the system of the mitzvot, take their first steps. So, this technical law
driven negotiations with Pharaoh. God promised that He would: might seem a little dwarfed by the drama and cataclysmic events of
1) Take us out (*v'hotzeiti*) of the bondage of Egypt; the night of the killing of the firstborn, but in truth, it inaugurates
2) Save us (*v'hitzalti*) from their work; the entire world of Jewish Law and the notion of mitzva.
Let us now turn to investigate the content of the mitzva itself and Nachmanides - the Ramban - understands the rationale of this law
the concepts which underlie it. in the following way:
QUESTIONS The Children of Israel should mark this month as the first, and
Looking at the text itself, we have many questions to ask. The should count months in relation to this one - the second, the
language here is begging for further investigation. First, the third, to the twelfth month. This is to ensure that we remember
introductory verse. Why does it tell us that God commanded the great miracle; for whenever we mention the month, we
Moses and Aharon "in the land of Egypt?" Why is the Egyptian will (effectively) be mentioning the miracle. That is why there
location given emphasis? This phraseology is found nowhere else in are no names of months in the Torah, but the Torah will say (for
the Egypt story. example): "And it came to pass in the third month" (19:1) or "In
But there is also the command itself - it is a double-barrelled the second month of the second year" (Numbers 10:11). This
sentence. First "This month shall mark for you the beginning of is the same as our counting the days of the week from
months ..." and then "... it shall be the first of the months of the Shabbat. And this is why it says in the verse "it shall be the first
year for you." What does one phrase tell us that the other does not? of the months of the year FOR YOU." In truth, it is not the first
And is Nissan - the month of Redemption - really the "first of the month of the year (as the world was created in Tishrei), but it is
months?" Rosh Hashana, the Jewish "New Year," is in Tishrei! (the the first month for you as it is a remembrance of our redemption.
seventh month). The Ramban sees this mitzva as marking the centrality of
"THIS MONTH" the Exodus experience in the Jewish mindset. In the same way
The great commentator, Rashi, was fully aware of all the as the days of the week have no names in Judaism (and in modern
problems that we have raised. Rashi's comment on verse 2 is Hebrew) - just "yom rishon, yom sheni" - to emphasise the
interesting: prominence of Shabbat, similarly the months are simply a pointer to
God showed him the moon at its moment of renewal and told the month of miracles and redemption. (See also the Ramban at
him: 'When the moon renews itself, it will be Rosh Chodesh - the end of our parasha where he sees the entire Exodus experience
the advent of a new month. However, the verse should not be as an important factor in building a framework of faith in God.)
understood other than in accordance with the words Indeed, the establishment of a calendar should be seen as a
themselves (ki-peshuto). As regards the month of Nissan God significant step in our march to freedom. A slave is not master of
told him "This will be the first of the system of months, Iyar will his own time. When I create a calendar, I am implicitly stating that I
be called the second month, Sivan the third etc." THIS MONTH: DO control my time, my rest days and holidays, my work days and
Moses found it difficult to grasp the exact point and size at solemn times. I am in control of my life. In this sense, the
which one can sanctify the moon. God pointed to the moon establishment of a Jewish month system at the verge of national
with His finger and showed him saying; "Look at this! When you freedom is most significant in all senses and the Ramban's
see this, call it holy." And how could He show him by night? comment that our calendar begins at, and points to, our month of
Does God not restrict His communication to Moses to the day? release and redemption is most appropriate.
... He spoke to him at sundown and the visual demonstration It is interesting to read the Ramban's explanation as to the
was at night. development of the month names from the numerical (chodesh
This is an intricate Rashi. In essence, Rashi offers two ha-rishon, chodesh ha-shevi'i) to the names that we have today.
interpretations. The first explanation translates the words in the (Our month names - Nissan, Iyar etc. are of Persian extraction.)
most appropriate reading contingent with standard rules of He doesn't view this as a product of assimilation or Persian
grammar, the context and flow of the verse. This is called the influence. Instead, he has a rather fascinating theory which is
explanation of "peshat." According to this reading, the text reads: totally consistent with his explanation until now. This is his
"This month (of Nissan) will be the head month, it is the first of the approach:
year." The word "Chodesh" refers to the month of Nissan. ... The Talmud Yerushalmi states that "They brought new
This reading, however, has its problems. First is a problem of (month) names back from Babylon." This is because
repetition. The second section of the verse would seem to repeat originally we had no names for the months because the
the first, and thus, half of our statement becomes somewhat months were a memorial to yetziat Mitzrayim. But when we
superfluous. For if this is the head month, then it is obvious that it returned from Bavel (Babylon) and the prophetic verse was
is the first month in the year. The second problem is the use of the fulfilled "It shall no longer be said 'As the Lord lives who
word ZEH - "THIS" - which indicates something that one can point brought the Israelites out of Egypt' but rather 'As the Lord
to, a concrete object. In the biblical text, when the Torah talks lives who brought the Israelites out of the Northland and out of
about a specific object using the term "ZEH," Rashi frequently all the lands to which he had banished them'" (Jeremiah 16:14-
notes that we are dealing with a visual display of a concrete form. In 15) then we began to use the names as they are called in
each place, he talks about being able to point to the object and say Bavel so that we would remind ourselves of our stay there
"This is it, look at it." (See Rashi on Shemot 15:2, Bamidbar 8:4.) and that God brought us out. For these names Nissan, Iyar,
But here, if we translate "chodesh" as "month," we have a problem. Sivan etc. are all Persian names.
You cannot point to a month! What was God pointing at? The Persian names remind us of our redemption from
Rashi is forced to introduce a second explanation. He tells us Babylon in the same way that the numerical identification was a
that God was pointing to the moon. He had to show Moses what he pointer to the exodus from Egypt.
meant by the "renewing" moon. When exactly does the moon THE MOON AND MONTHLY RENEWAL
become the signal for the commencement of the new month? Rav Shimshon Raphael Hirsch has a fascinating image of the
God gave Moses a practical demonstration and showed him how it spiritual power latent in this mitzva. He raises a popular critique of
was all to work. Textually, this reading solves our earlier this mitzva. There are those who see the practice of following the
problem. We can now read the verse as: "This moon is the signal for renewal of the moon as a primitive rite. Ancient tribes would be
you for a Rosh Chodesh. This (month) will now be for you the first scared when the moon "disappeared" fearing that it was lost, gone,
of all the months." Here we have two statements saying very and they rejoiced when the moon became visible once more. Rabbi
different things! Hirsch rejects the critique and he proposes a positive spiritual
This is not the "pshat" explanation because it pushes the foundation for this mitzva.
words too much. Chodesh cannot really translate as "moon" in Hirsch points to the halakhic side of this law: To proclaim the
Hebrew. Both explanations of Rashi are flawed. The preferable new month, there must be two witnesses as to the renewed sighting
translation of the word "chodesh" leads to a duplicity in the verse. of the moon. The two witnesses must be received in Beit Din - a
But the clearer reading of the verse has certain linguistic Jewish court of law - by a full panel of the Judiciary. Even with this
shortcomings. Rashi chooses to quote both readings. evidence, the month is not started nor the day sanctified as Rosh
A DIVINE PEDAGOGUE Chodesh unless it is formally proclaimed by the Beit Din. Sometimes
What is quite fascinating in Rashi's reading here is Moses' the Beit Din can proclaim the New Moon without even a sighting (if
response to this first mitzva. Rashi tells us that he did not the month is already 30 days). Rabbi Hirsch gives this intricate
understand it - "Nitkasheh Moshe" - Moses found a particular point description to impress upon the reader the detailed legalistic
difficult to grasp. He could not see what God was trying to tell him. ceremony of the New Moon proclamation. It is a formal legal
What does Moses do? Does he give up? Does he just let it go? process, not a spontaneous primitive rite. But what as to its
No! He asks God, he questions Him. We might possibly be able to significance? Rav Hirsch begins by explaining an etymological
imagine God telling him again and still Moses doesn't understand. connection. The word festival in Hebrew is "mo'ed." But this word
It is now God's response that is remarkable. Moses is not does not only tell us of religious festivals. In its original Hebrew, it
understanding the concept. He isn't grasping the concept when it is can also indicate special moments of any sort, or even a meeting
described to him in words. God chooses to teach Moses "out of between two parties. He explains:
the classroom." They go on a "field trip." They leave the walls of Were the beginning of our months and consequently the dates
the Beit Midrash and choose to look up at the moon. of our festivals (mo'adim) to be fixed exactly by the astronomical
Moses has an educational need and - "lo ha-bayshan lamed - a phases of the planets so that the ... moon automatically made
bashful demeanor inhibits successful study" (Avot 2:6) - he is not Rosh Chodesh and the festivals (mo'adim), then we and our
afraid to challenge God when he fails to understand a particular God too, would appear to be bound by the blind and
detail. God, in turn, is prepared to invent new modes of unalterable laws of nature and our mo'ed (time) of a new
learning, new pedagogic frameworks, in order to teach his moon ... would give impetus to the idolatry of the cult of
student Moses. Rashi informs us that God did not usually appear to Nature ...
Moses at night. This time He did. Why? Because Moses is His It is not the conjunction of the moon with the sun, not the
student and Moses needs to learn. Rashi teaches us here a moon receiving the rays of illumination afresh ... but each
profound message. That in the teaching of Torah, we must be time the moon finds the sun again, each time it receives its
creative. We must use new methods. God could have told Moses rays of light ... God wants His people to find Him again and
that he can't get nevu'a at night - it is against the rules. But He to be illuminated with fresh rays of His light wherever and
doet. He invents a new framework in which Moses can understand. however, in running their course, they have had to pass
A teacher must always try to find new, more successful methods through periods of darkness and obscurity. ... The moon finding
to teach Torah and a student must always be determined and itself again in conjunction with the sun is only to be a model for
unashamed when learning. (I heard this idea many years back our finding ourselves again with God. The rejuvenation of the
from Rav Shimon Felix - now at the Chief Rabbi's Office in London.) moon, is a picture of, and incentive to, our own rejuvenation.
COUNTING FROM THE EXODUS 1
Mo'ed is literally a conjunction (meeting) ... we have to MAKE 3) The expression "roasted with its head on its entrails and
our Chodesh and to FIX the day of our mo'ed. legs" (12:9), appears in only one other place in the entire Chumash
"...Ha-chodesh hazeh LAKHEM Rosh Chodashim" - "This - in the laws relating to the "chatat" (sin-offering - see Vayikra 4:11).
renewal of the moon shall be a beginning of renewals to YOU." Even if this represents the quickest way of preparing the pesach
I.e., noticing the fresh birth of the moon shall induce you to (see 12:11), the linguistic parallel to the "chatat" still clearly
achieve a similar rejuvenation. You are to fix your moons, your indicates a relationship to korbanot.
periods of time by taking note of this ever fresh recurring How, then, are we to relate to this mitzva? On the one hand, it
rejuvenation ... It is not a question of actual months but of OUR cannot possibly be viewed as an "offering," as nothing is "offered."
months - LAKHEM... Yet the Torah presents its laws as parallel to those of the korbanot!
Without this regularly bringing ourselves back to a commitment In order to properly understand this dialectic of the pesach
with our God, ... we should always slide farther and farther from requirement, we must carefully examine a central component of
Him, always be getting more and more estranged from Him; this service - the laws relating to the sheep's blood. As noted, Benei
quite unconsciously and without noticing it, our natures would Yisrael had no altars erected in Egypt and, as such, there was no
become less and less responsive to the light of His spirit, our requirement of "zerikat ha-dam," sprinkling the blood as was
natures would become darker and darker until - like Pharao- performed in the Tabernacle and later in the Temple. The Torah
our hearts would be hard and heavy and even the most does, however, mandate clear guidelines with regard to the blood of
startling signs and the most affecting wonders would not the korban Pesach: "They shall take some of the blood and put it on
achieve rebirth. the two door-posts and the lintel of the houses in which they are to
In our prayers, Rosh Chodesh is described as a time of eat it" (12:7). Much to our surprise, the Torah requires a "blood
atonement - kappara. It is a time of periodical atonement service," only here the blood is to be placed on the door- posts rather
because it is a time ripe for return to God. It is a monthly time of than on the altar.
teshuva because the rebirth of the moon beckons us to become Can we regard the placement the pesach's blood on the door-
born again, to renew our ways. The moon invites us to become frame as paralleling the sprinkling of a sacrifice's blood on the
different and were it not for this constant message, we might find altar? At least one source in Chazal seems to point to such an
ourselves on a constant downward slope. The new moon tells us association. The Gemara (Pesachim 96a) cites the view of Rav
that even if we have become eclipsed from God, we can and must Yosef: "Rav Yosef taught: There were three altars there [in Egypt] -
find Him again and become connected to the rays of His light. the lintel and the two door-posts." This statement clearly associates
In life, we too wax and wane. Our spirituality and halakhic these two blood services. Furthermore, the verse in the context of
observance intensify and fade periodically. The moon is a constant the pesach - "And DIP into THE BLOOD that is in the basin and
message. We celebrate rebirth and renewal on a monthly basis. apply it to the lintel and to the two door posts" (12:22) - reminds us
We hope that we too can re- experience the excitement of finding of the service conducted in the Tabernacle on the eighth day of its
the rays of God touching our lives. But in the end WE fix Rosh consecration: "He DIPPED his finger in THE BLOOD and put in on
Chodesh. It cannot happen without the human cproclaiming that it the horns of the altar" (Vayikra 9:9).
will be. God affects the light of the moon, but we humans fix In light of this comparison, perhaps we should view the home in
Rosh Chodesh and in the same way, we can control the spirituality which the pesach was eaten as a substitute, of sorts, for the altar
in our lives. on which sacrifices were generally offered. Then we could
This is the message that precedes yetziat Mitzrayim. It is a legitimately classify the pesach as a korban, as the home has
message which precedes the birth of Israel as a nation. It is a assumed the status of the one heretofore missing ingredient - the
magnificent message of hope and growth, a message of ongoing altar.
connection with our God. For a people in the making, there is Based on this identification of the houses in Egypt as "altars,"
nothing more important than knowing that we can transform and several other details of the korban pesach become clear:
renew ourselves, as individuals and as a nation. 1) The Torah strictly forbids one from removing the meat of the
B) INDEPTH PARSHAT SHEVUAH pesach from the house: "It shall be eaten in one house; you shall not
THE KORBAN PESACH - SACRIFICE OR FEAST? take any of the meat outside the house..." (12:46). If we view the
by Rav Yonatan Grossman house as the Egyptian pesach's counterpart to the altar, then,
One of the central features of this week's parasha is the understandably, one may not remove the meat from the altar before
discussion of the korban pesach, the paschal lamb slaughtered on its consumption has been completed.
the fourteenth of Nissan. In essence, this mitzva is the first detailed 2) Throughout the festival of Pesach, not only is it forbidden to
commandment received by the Jewish people, and, as we shall eat "chametz" (leaven), but it is even forbidden to possess
see, it directly relates to the founding of the Nation of Israel.(1) chametz in one's home: "On the very first day you shall remove
One fundamental question arises as we study this leaven from your houses... No leaven shall be found in your
commandment: are we dealing with a "korban" (sacrifice), or should houses for seven days" (12:15-9). This prohibition likely relates
this mitzva be viewed simply as a family meal of sorts? to the general proscription against placing "chametz" upon the altar
When a sacrifice is offered in the Beit Ha-mikdash, God ("No meal-offering that you offer to God shall be made with leaven,
"receives," as it were, two parts of the animal. for no leaven or honey may be turned into smoke as an offering by
A) The animal's blood is sprinkled or placed on the altar. The fire to God... but they shall not be offered up on the altar for a
underlying principle behind this requirement relates to the blood's pleasant scent" - Vayikra 2:11-2). Just as one may not offer any
status as the body's critical life- source. "chametz" upon the altar in the Beit Ha-mikdash, so does God forbid
B) Certain limbs of the animal's body ("emurin") are burnt on the the presence of "chametz" in the home, the representative "altar" in
altar. Although only a small portion of the body must actually be Egypt.(2)
placed on the altar (a fact which itself demonstrates the purely 3) The requirement of eating matza with the meat of the pesach
symbolic nature of this offering), the limbs selected by the Torah ("roasted over the fire, with unleavened bread and with bitter herbs"
for this purpose are the choicest parts of the animal's meat. - 12:8) may also relate to this principle, as many korbanot were
The pesach offered by Benei Yisrael in Egypt featured offered together with matzot (most notably the "korban toda," the
neither of these two components. Thus, a cursory reading of the thanksgiving sacrifice).
verses relating to the pesach gives no indication that it possesses 4) The strong emphasis on roasting as the method of preparing
any characteristics of a korban. Rather, the people are bidden to the pesach ("They shall eat the flesh that same night; they shall eat it
simply take a sheep, slaughter it and partake of the meat. As far as roasted over the fire... Do not eat any of it raw, or cooked in any way
this mitzva is concerned, there is no altar, and, as such, it involves no with water, but roasted..." - 12:8-9) can also be understood based on
"offering" to God whatsoever! the identification of the Jewish homes in Egypt with the altar.
How can we call the pesach a "korban," an offering, when, in fact, Sacrifices in the Temple were consumed over a flame on the
nothing is offered? This question relates ONLY to the pesach offered altar; thus, the Jews were to roast the pesach in their homes - the
by the Jewish people in Egypt; the pesach which is mandated altars of Egypt.
thereafter in the Land of Israel requires that it be brought to the Beit It seems to me that we can understand the significance of
Ha-mikdash (see Devarim 16). The animal's blood is sprinkled on the this transformation of the Jews' homes into altars in twoways:
altar, thus affording "korban status" to the pesach. Regarding the 1) Firstly, the altar, throughout Tanakh, signifies a haven securely
pesach in Egypt, however, it seems quite difficult to categorize it as protected from harm. A fugitive who fears unjustified capital
a "korban." punishment may grab hold of the horns of the altar in the Beit Ha-
At first glance, one may contend that this observation mikdash, thereby expressing his demand that he be judged by divine
poses no problem whatsoever - this mitzva constitutes not a law alone, rather than by the human justice system. The Torah
"sacrifice" as we generally understand the term (based on the therefore emphasizes that this privilege is withheld from the
sacrifices we have encountered previously in Chumash, such as perpetrator of premeditated murder: "...you shall take him from My
those of Kayin, Hevel and Noach), but rather a festive, family very altar to be put to death" (Shemot 21:14). Even the altar
gathering. Upon further analysis, however, this suggestion cannot protect against retribution for premeditated murder. In less
becomes untenable. Three characteristics of the pesach stringent cases, however, the altar does offer asylum for the
unquestionably link this mitzva with the realm of korbanot: criminal. (See, for example, the incident of Adoniyahu's grabbing
1) "Your lamb shall be without blemish, a yearling male" (12:5). The onto the altar - Melakhim I, ch. 1, and that of Yoav - Melakhim I,
specific requirement of a one-year-old sheep is characteristic of ch. 2). Herein may lie the significance of the Jews' homes being
the world of sacrifices. Furthermore, this sheep must be associated with the altar, as the home protected its inhabitants from
unblemished, another characteristic of a korban. Clearly, no one the plague which ravaged the Egyptian nation: "...and He will not let
would enter a restaurant and ask specifically for meat from an the destroyer enter and smite your home" (12:23).
unblemished animal. Certainly, then, this requirement demands However, in order to more fully understand this protective
that we categorize the pesach in Egypt as a sacrifice. quality of the altar and, by extension, the Jewish homes in Egypt,
2) "You shall not leave any of it over until morning; if any of it is we need to more sharply develop the connection between the homes
left until morning, you shall burn it" (12:10). This prohibition of of Benei Yisrael and the altar:
leaving meat over to the morning as well as the requirement to burn 2) The moment the Jewish home becomes defined as an altar, it
the leftovers are derived from the laws of sacrifices, and could not is transformed into "divine territory," as it were. The house/altar is
apply to a mitzva requiring simply a large feast bereft of any no longer merely human property; rather, it becomes an isolated
sacrificial quality. island belonging to the Almighty. In this sense, the destroying
1 angel cannot possibly penetrate these walls - this home lies
outside the angel's domain. The house has become an altar, and designation as God's people. They consume the meat of the
the residents simulate the altar's consumption of the sacrificial meat offering in place of the altar, thereby transforming themselves into
through their partaking of the korban pesach. This ceremony affords the abode of the Shekhina.
a unique status of sanctity to the home, elevating it beyond the ENDNOTES:
concrete world in which we live. Moshe therefore stresses to his (1) Although Chazal understand the verse "This month shall mark
constituents their assured protection so long as they remain inside for you the beginning of months" (Shemot 12:2) as instituting the
their homes: "None of you shall go outside the door of his house until mitzva of declaring a new month at the sighting of the new moon,
morning. For when God goes through to smite the Egyptians, He will thismitzva can hardly be seen as an explicit or detailed directive.
see the blood on the lintel and the two door-posts, and God will pass Korban pesach, on the other hand, is spelled out in the minutest
over the door..." (12:22-3). Only those located upon the altar of detail.
God, in His exclusive domain, will be spared the devastation of the (2) It should be emphasized that Chazal maintained a clear
plague. Those who leave this sublime territory of sanctity, who distinction between the prohibition of possessing chametz on the
leave their homes, expose themselves to the perils of destruction. afternoon of the fourteenth of Nissan, and that which took effect on
This approach helps explain the emphasis placed on the home the night of the fifteenth and extended throughout the entire week of
throughout the Torah's discussion of the korban pesach: "On the the festival. It seems reasonable to suggest that the first
tenth of this month each of them should take a lamb to a family, a prohibition (of the fourteenth) relates to the status of the home as an
lamb to a HOUSEHOLD. But if the HOUSEHOLD is too small for a altar, whereas the second involves the general distancing of
lamb, let him share one with a neighbor who dwells nearby, in oneself from chametz, required throughout the week-long festival.
proportion to the number of persons: you shall contribute for the C) SICHAT ROSH YESHIVA
lamb according to what each HOUSEHOLD will eat... of the Harav Aharon Lichtenstein Shlit"A
HOUSES in which they are to eat it... And the blood on the "THEY ARE SLAVES TO ME - NOT SLAVES TO SLAVES"
HOUSES where you are staying shall be a sign for you" (12:3-13). In Parashat Bo, we witness for the first time the appearance of
Given the paramount importance of the house (and, naturally, the a set of practical mitzvot. In essence, most of these mitzvot are
family unit) within the process of the nation's desgination as God's related to the Exodus. The first mitzva of this set, however, that of
special people, it appears again and again in the context of the Kiddush Ha- Hodesh, is seemingly an exception. We may therefore
night of the Exodus. The Torah thus stresses that each household ask ourselves in what way is it connected with the great event of
was to conduct the pesach service. the Exodus.
Given the home's sacred status within the framework of the We may begin to understand this by noting a particular
korban pesach, and the sacred status of its participants as God's halakha cited by Rabbeinu Tam, according to which a laborer may
agents in the consumption of the sacrificial meat, we should not be decide to cease his work at any time, based on the principle that
surprised to find that throughout Tanakh the pesach ritual plays a "they are slaves to Me, not slaves to slaves." On the other hand, a
central role in national renewal and reinforcement of the covenant. different law applies to the contractor, who is not able to give up his
Through the pesach ceremony, the nation dedicates itself to the work at any time he chooses.
Almighty, and it thus becomes a critical component within any Hence, there is a qualitative difference between the contractor and
process of renewing the people's covenant with God. the laborer. The laborer is a slave, while the contractor is not.
This idea is manifest in the three places in Tanach where the However, what really is the difference between them? It seems
Pesach celebration assumes a prominent role: that the source of the difference lies in that the laborer's submission
1) Yehoshua, ch. 5: Benei Yisrael observe Pesach immediately to a time-frame is dictated to him by his master. The laborer has no
upon their arrival in the Land of Israel: "Encamped at Gilgal, the regulation of his work other than the constraints of time. He is
Israelites offered the pesach sacrifice on the fourteenth day of the enslaved to a certain framework of work hours, in which he may do
month, toward evening." Immediately thereafter, the manna nothing but the work of the owner. His obligation in this regard is so
stops falling and, for the first time, the people eat from the grain of great that the Chakhamim absolved him from saying the fourth
the Land of Israel. It seems that the emphasis on this transition from berakha of Birkat Ha-mazon - in order that he not waste the master's
the manna to the natural grain of the land serves to formally close time.
the chapter of Benei Yisrael's wandering through the wilderness This is not the case with regard to the contractor. The contractor
and to introduce a new era, that of their residence in Eretz takes upon himself the execution of a certain task, and he is free to
Yisrael. Throughout their years of nomad existence, they were plan his work timetable in whichever way he chooses. He is not
sustained by the miracle of the manna; from this point on, they are forced to do his work during certain hours. He is not a slave of time,
to plow, sow and harvest. The Pesach observance appears in the but rather its master and ruler.
text as a central component of this historic transition from desert This point characterizes the mitzva of Kiddush Ha- Chodesh.
nomads to occupants of an independent homeland. At this critical The determination of time was placed in the hands of Bnei Yisrael,
moment, when the nation assumes a new identity and faces a new as it is written: "This month will be for you the First of Months..." - the
national reality, the people underscore their primary identity, as a time is given to you, to use as you see fit. This is the essence of
nation dedicated to the service of the Almighty. freedom from slavery.
2) Divrei Ha-yamim II, ch. 30: The Judean king, Chizkiyahu, This freedom from the yoke of time also finds expression in
initiates a major Pesach celebration in Jerusalem. As we know, the halakhic and social spheres, as explained above, in relation
Chizkiyahu successfully renews the service in the Temple and to the laborer and the contractor. But its significance is far greater.
purifies it from its previous contamination. He himself sees latent Within the mitzva of "This month will be for you..." lies the
in this process a renewal of the ancient covenant between Benei command to number the months of the year starting from Nissan.
Yisrael and God: "Now I wish to make a covenant with Hashem, In other words, years are no longer to be counted from the
God of Israel" (Divrei Hayamim II 29:10). As part of this process of Creation, but rather from the Exodus. This is not merely a technical
national, religious renewal, the king orders that the entire nation difference, but rather represents an important and fundamental shift.
must come to the Beit Ha-mikdash for the pesach service: A qualitative difference exists between relating time back to the
"Chizkiyahu sent word to all Israel and Judah; he also wrote letters to Creation and relating it to the Exodus.
Efrayim and Menasheh to come to the House of God in Jerusalem to Relating to the Creation lends time something of the spirit of the
keep the Passover for Hashem, God of Israel" (Divrei Hayamim II, Creation, a kind of partnership with the natural world, a world in
30:1). In light of our understanding of the korban pesach as a which a person acts in a given and bounded space which limits his
process through which the nation becomes dedicated to the freedom of action. Nature confines his steps, with time representing
service of God, we understand why Chizkiyahu included this korban one of the chains which confine him.
as an integral part of his program for religious renewal. Relating time to the Exodus, on the other hand, places man in
3) Divrei Hayamim II, ch. 35: Like his predecessor, Chizkiyahu, the framework of history, and he therefore feels that he is part of an
several generations earlier, King Yoshiayhu conducts a public all-encompassing process. Here, he is not chained and confined,
Pesach celebration as part of his own process of renewal. Upon but rather an active and creative agent. With his own hands,
the discovery of the Torah scroll in the Temple, the king assembles through his own actions, he determines his progress. He is not
the people and strikes a new national covenant with the Almighty: swept through life's currents against his will; rather, he has the
"The king went up to the House of God with all the men of responsibility of directing, navigating and leading his own way. He
Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem and the priests and the no longer acts as an "object", but is now a "subject" - a subject with
Levites - all the people, young and old - and he read to them free choice, with a will of his own, with the ability to act.
the entire text of the covenant scroll that was found in the When a person relates to the world from this point of view, he is
House of God. The king stood in his place and solemnized freed from enslavement to nature. He is no longer a slave to the laws
the covenant before God: to follow God and observe His of nature, but rather he is able to control them, and to act as he
commandments, His injunctions and His laws with all his heart wills. He may rise and progress without nature interfering with him.
and soul, to fulfill all the terms of the covenant written in this He is free to act and to navigate his path towards God, to venture
scroll... and the inhabitants of Jerusalem acted in accord towards and to arrive at his true Master. Indeed, "they are slaves to
with the Covenant of God, God of their fathers." (Divrei me - not slaves to slaves": we are slaves to God, not slaves to
Hayamim II 34:30-2) nature.
Following his great-grandfather's lead, Yoshiyahu incorporates a
public Pesach ritual into this process of renewing the nation's
ancestral covenant with God: 8 - TANACH STUDY CENTER (M. Leibtag)
In Memory of Rabbi Abraham Leibtag [http://www.virtual.co.il/torah/tanach]
"Yoshiayhu kept the Pesach for God in Jerusalem; the passover
sacrifice was slaughtered on the fourteenth day of the first This may sound rather strange, but according to Rashi, Pesach
month... Since the time of the prophet Shemuel, no Passover was already celebrated some four hundred years BEFORE the
like that one had ever been kept in Israel; none of the kings of Exodus! Rashi, commenting on Breishit 19:3, claims that Lot baked
Israel had kept a Passover like the one kept by Yoshiyahu and specifically MATZOT for his guests because they arrived on Pesach.
the priests and the Levites and all Judah and Israel there In this week's shiur, while discussing the purpose and significance
present and the inhabitants of Jerusalem." (Divrei Hayamim II of the Korban Pesach, we show how there may be a very basic
35:1, 35:18) thematic connection between the destruction of Sdom and the
Once again, the paschal sacrifice receives added importance process of Yetziat Mitzraim.
as a defining component of the covenant between God and His INTRODUCTION / REVIEW
nation. Through the korban pesach, the nation declares its 1
In our study of Sefer Shmot thus far, we have focused on the covenant, i.e. to become His special Nation in the Promised Land.
double mission which Moshe receives at the burning bush: [The special laws which govern HOW this korban is to be eaten
(1) The mission to Pharaoh, that he allow Bnei Yisrael to worship (12:8-11), further enhances Bnei Yisrael's perception of this
God in the desert. purpose.]
(2) The mission to Bnei Yisrael, that they recognize that God has This awareness, that although they deserve punishment, God
come to fulfill His covenant. 'passes over' them, is the primary purpose for offering this korban in
Although these two missions are interrelated, each constitutes an this situation; and hence its name - "korban Pesach".
independent Divine goal: Firstly, it is significant that Egypt, the center Any "teshuva" process must begin with both
of ancient civilization, recognize the existence of God and Bnei (1) man's recognition of God's Mercy in allowing him a second
Yisrael's right to worship Him. Likewise, it is crucial that Bnei Yisrael chance, as well as
be aware not only that the God of their forefathers has come to (2) man's realization of his purpose in life.
redeem them, but also that they be willing and ready to obey Him [Note: Even if Bnei Yisrael had been deserving of their redemption, it
(Shmot 6:2-9). Unfortunately, Bnei Yisrael do not heed God's call for may have been proper to offer this "korban l'Hashem" at this time (or
"teshuva". Nonetheless, the miraculous redemption process (bshem three days later at Har Sinai) in thanksgiving for Brit Bein Ha'Btarim.
Havaya) continues, for the Sake of His Name (Ezekiel 20:5-10). [See However, the ritual of sprinkling the blood on the doorposts would
shiurim on Parshiot Shmot & Va'eyra.] have been superfluous. One could also suggest a reason why God
Bnei Yisrael's redemption from Egypt is merely the first step afforded them a second chance. Although inexcusable, their
towards the fulfillment of God's covenant. However, it is not only stubbornness was understandable. As we explained in last week's
God's responsibility to redeem them, Bnei Yisrael are expected to shiur, because of their crushed spirits and cruel bondage ("m'kotzer
BECOME His Nation. [A covenant, by its very nature, requires active ruach u'm'avodah kasha"), Bnei Yisrael did not heed God's original
commitment by BOTH partners.] By following His laws and call (6:9). Possibly, for this reason Sefer Shmot only hints of their
establishing a model nation in the Promised Land, Bnei Yisrael will low spiritual level at that time, and does not record what Sefer
lead all mankind toward the recognition of God - the final goal of that Yechezkel mentions explicitly.]
covenant (the theme of Sefer Breishit). With this background, we can return to our opening question in
BNEI YISRAEL AND THE FIRST NINE PLAGUES order to find a thematic connection between Sdom & Pesach.
It is interesting to note that during the first nine "makkot" PESACH IN SDOM
(plagues), Bnei Yisrael appear to be 'out of the picture'. From the time Lot's situation in Sdom is strikingly similar to Bnei Yisrael's in
that "makkot" (plagues) are introduced to Moshe and Aharon (7:1-7) Egypt. Recall that Lot is originally attracted to Sdom because of its
until the completion of the ninth plague (10:29), Sefer Shmot focuses climatic similarities to Egypt (Nile & Jordan Rivers / See Br. 13:10).
exclusively on the confrontation between Moshe and Pharaoh, i.e. The people of Sdom, as a result of their natural resources, are
between God and Egypt. During that lengthy narrative, we find no confident in themselves. They find no need for God and thus evolve
mention of any instruction or commandment to Bnei Yisrael. The into a corrupt society (13:13 / see shiur on Parshat Va'yera). In total
purpose of these makkot is stated explicitly in the introduction to this disgust for this society, God punishes them b'shem Havaya (18:20-
"v'yadu MITZRAIM ki Ani Hashem" - And EGYPT will recognize Before destroying Sdom, God first consults with Avraham Avinu.
that I am God, when I stretch out My Hand over Egypt..." (7:5) Antithetical to the society of Sdom, Avraham's offspring were
These chapters form a distinct unit, for they describe the fulfillment destined to become a 'blessing to Mankind' by establishing a Nation
of Moshe's mission to Pharaoh (1). Note the connection between the characterized by "tzekek u'mishpat" (see 18:17-19). Can Lot, a
opening (7:1-7) & closing psukim (11:9-10) of this unit. disciple of Avraham, not save that city?
In contrast, from this point in Parshat Bo and onward, Chumash Upon hearing of the forthcoming destruction of Sdom, Avraham
changes its focus from the Egyptians to the Israelites. Moshe must immediately assumes exactly what we have posited - that God would
now complete his mission to Bnei Yisrael (2) by encouraging them to not punish the righteous together with the wicked:
become an active partner in the process of Yetziat Mitzraim. "Parshat "Will you sweep away the innocent together with the guilty?...
Ha'Chodesh" (12:1-20), containing the first "mitzvah" given to Bnei Shall not the Judge of all the earth deal justly?" (18:23-25).
Yisrael, begins this new unit. Although he is more righteous than his neighbors, Lot does not
THE TENTH PLAGUE merit to be saved from the destruction of Sdom. [He preferred the
During the first nine plagues, God finds no particular difficulty lifestyle in Sdom over the challenges of life with Avraham (13:10-12).]
differentiating between Bnei Yisrael and the Egyptians (e.g. arov, In an act of Divine Mercy (19:16!), and for the sake of Avraham
dever, barad, choshech). Nevertheless, for the final plague - Makkat (19:29), God removes Lot from Sdom before He destroys the city. Lot
Bchorot - it seems that a special sign is necessary: Bnei Yisrael must is so undeserving that he is not even permitted to look back and
sprinkle the blood of the "korban Pesach" on their doorposts so that watch the destruction.
God can distinguish between them and the Egyptians. Surely, God is It is only God's covenant with Avraham Avinu that evokes Divine
mighty enough to recognize who was an Israelite even without a sign Mercy. Like Bnei Yisrael during Makkat Bchorot, Lot is saved from
on their doorposts. Why then is this special sign necessary? destruction even though he is not worthy. Based on this thematic
Based on our introduction, the answer is quite simple: God does similarity, we can appreciate Rashi's concise comment regarding the
not need to see the blood on the doorposts to determine the ethnic time of year when the destruction of Sdom took place.
identity of the household. Rather, God requests this sign in order to Rashi comments on the pasuk that describes the meal which Lot
determine who is WORTHY of redemption. Through the korban prepared for the two "malachim" (who came to destroy Sdom):
Pesach, Bnei Yisrael show that they understand the purpose of their "And he [Lot] made for them drinks, and baked MATZOT, and
redemption. They prove to God that they DESERVE to be saved. they ate..." (19:3).
This explains why Bnei Yisrael are commanded to prepare this On the word MATZOT, Rashi explains that 'it was PESACH' that
korban on the tenth of Nisan (12:3). The three (or four) days before evening. After all, why else would they be eating matzah?
their redemption need to be dedicated to spiritual preparation. Does Rashi need to inform us what time of year this episode took
The korban Pesach is significant in itself. Its purpose was not only place? Do we need to know how 'frum' Lot was, that he kept all
to provide the blood for the sign on the doorposts. Considering that mitzvot, even matzah on Pesach?
this korban is offered as Bnei Yisrael become free from their slavery Rashi is not coming to teach us "pshat" (the simple meaning of the
(and their oppressor is punished /see Br. 15:13-14), the korban text). Rather, he hints to the thematic similarity between Lot and
Pesach serves as a proper thanksgiving to God for His fulfillment of Yetziat Mitzraim.
Brit Bein Ha'Btarim [see Further Iyun Section]. [Note: The following explanation illustrates the danger of
To fully appreciate this idea, the special name of this korban - understanding "drash" as "pshat". When we too quickly accept
Pesach - requires additional explanation. "drash" as "pshat", not only are we liable to miss the beauty of
A change in lifestyle, especially that of a nation, cannot take place "pshat", we might also lose the full appreciation of the "drash".]
overnight. How much more so, the transformation of an enslaved According to "pshat", Lot did not bake matzot (19:3) because it
people, immersed in Egyptian culture, into a free nation willing and was Pesach, rather he baked matzot (instead of bread) because his
ready to obey God. Had Bnei Yisrael begun this teshuva process guests arrived SUDDENLY. In order to bake bread, the dough needs
prior to the first plague, as God had originally demanded, they could time to rise, while matzot can be baked much more quickly.
have been ready for the ideal redemption process. Possibly, Bnei The "drash", brought down by Rashi, that Lot baked matzah
Yisrael would have commenced their three day journey to Har Sinai because it was Pesach, thematically links the events leading to the
immediately after the tenth plague. Spiritually ready to obey God, destruction of Sdom to the story of Yetziat Mitzraim. In both events,
they would have received the Torah and continued to the Land of God reveals Himself, b'shem Havaya, in Judgement. Thus, Rashi's
Israel only a short time later. commentary of this pasuk does not explain "pshat", rather, it points to
Had Bnei Yisrael truly been worthy of this ideal redemption, the a much deeper biblical theme - that of 'Yom Hashem'!
sprinkling of the blood on the doorposts may not have been YOM HASHEM
necessary. However, as we explained in last week's shiur, the people This biblical concept of a day when God reveals Himself, causing
were not worthy; their hastened preparation for the Exodus was the wicked to be punished while the righteous are saved, is known
hardly sufficient to entirely erase their past. Now that God is about to throughout Tanach as "Yom Hashem" - God's Day of Judgement.
reveal Himself b'shem Havaya, they deserve to be punished together For example, when Yeshayahu foresees the destruction of Bavel
with the Egyptians; but God has Mercy (Ezekiel 20:7-9). The fact that (Isaiah 13:1-22), he consistently refers to that day as 'Yom Hashem'
God has to PASS OVER their houses emphasizes this very point - (see 13:6,9,13). While describing that calamity, Yeshayahu even
that they actually deserve to be punished, but instead of smiting compares Bavel to Sdom:
them, He saves them at the last minute. ["po'sey'ach" in Hebrew "Bavel, glory of kingdoms, splendor of the Kassdim, shall become
implies skipping over. One 'skips over' that which he should have like Sdom and Amorah, overturned by God" (13:19)
stepped on.] Another important example is found in Amos. During the time
Therefore, the Korban Pesach serves a double purpose: period of Yerovam ben Yoash, Israel had reached prosperity and
(1) By sprinkling the blood of the korban Pesach on their affluence. They eagerly awaited an even greater redemption, even
doorposts, Bnei Yisrael display recognition that they do not deserve though they were not deserving. In reaction, Amos warns the people
to be saved. [Blood is a fitting symbol.] concerning the danger involved (5:18):
(2) Offering the korban in thanksgiving for the fulfillment of the first "Woe, you who wish for 'Yom Hashem', why should you want
stage of Brit Bein Ha'Btarim, reminds them that if they are saved, it 'Yom Hashem', [for you] it shall be darkness and not light."
is IN ORDER that they can fulfill the next stage of that 1
If the people are not spiritually prepared for God to reveal A rather practical explanation for the plague of darkness is
Himself, Amos warns, 'Yom Hashem' will bring upon them destruction offered by one of the midrashim. To assure that the Israelites, who
rather than salvation. Our final example `comes from God's had been enslaved to the Egyptians, not be liberated and leave
'farewell' message to Mankind; the last prophesy of the last prophet - empty-handed (in accordance with the commandment given in Deut.
Malachi: 15:13), G-d commanded the Israelites to borrow objects of silver and
"Hiney anochi sho'lay'ach la'chem..." - Behold I am sending you gold, as well as clothing, from their neighbors. But how were the
Eliyah the prophet BEFORE the great and terrible Day of the Hebrews to take the Egyptians' possessions out of their homes?
Lord ['Yom Hashem'] comes. And he will bring about the Were they to rely on the Egyptians' charity, or should they devise
REPENTANCE of the fathers by the sons, and the repentance of some sort of trick?
the sons by the fathers, LEST I COME and STRIKE the entire According to Exodus Rabbah (Ch. 14.3), the Israelites went into
land with DESTRUCTION." [this last phrase, we don't sing!] the homes of the Egyptians during the plague of darkness and asked
(3:23-24) to borrow the said objects from them. The Egyptians, assuming that
Here again we find the necessity to perform teshuva prior to the darkness was universal and also prevented the Hebrews from
redemption, otherwise God's revelation will lead to destruction. Since seeing, denied owning any such objects, as if to imply that they would
the ultimate redemption of Am Yisrael is the hope of all the prophets, gladly lend them if only they had them to lend, whereupon the
it is only fitting that this becomes the closing prophetic message to Hebrews pointed to the items and took them. Thus the midrash
Am Yisrael. explains how the Israelites "borrowed" the items they wished and
As we have seen, the redemption process begins without Bnei how the Israelites enjoyed light while the Egyptians were in darkness.
Yisrael being worthy of salvation. However, its continuation - Light accompanied the Israelites wherever they went, not only in their
receiving the Torah and inheriting the Promised Land - require dwellings in the land of Goshen (cf. Ex. 10:23).
spiritual readiness. In this week's shiur we explained how the offering Another midrash gives a moral-theological explanation of
of the korban Pesach was the 'first step' in the right direction, an darkness as the retribution visited by G-d on the Egyptians for their
important milestone on the road to spiritual redemption. wickedness toward the Israelites. According to Isaiah 19:15, the
Every year, when we commemorate the events of Yetziat Mitzraim wicked "do their work in dark places," therefore, according to Exodus
on 'Passover', we thank God for His fulfillment of Brit Bein Ha'Btarim Rabbah 14.2, "the Holy One, blessed be He, covered them [the
(MAGID) and pray for our final redemption (HALLEL/ NIRTZAH). Egyptians] with the depths (tehom), being darkness, as it is said: 'with
Before that prayer, we invite Eliyahu to our Seder table not only to darkness over the surface of the deep' (Gen. 1:2), i.e., Gehenna; the
taste our wine, and not only to encourage him to smite our enemies; darkness that came on the Egyptians was darkness from Gehenna."
Eliyahu comes to remind us that we need to do proper "teshuva" This commentary goes well with others that view the plagues
PRIOR to our redemption, and to warn us of the consequences lest brought on the Egyptians as retribution dealt out measure for
we do not. measure. Thus, the first plague--blood--struck the Nile because,
FOR FURTHER IYUN according to one midrash, the Egyptians "cast the Israelites' children
A. THE KORBAN TODAH AND KORBAN PESACH into the sea" (Mishnat Rabbi Eliezer, 19). As we shall now see,
See Vayikra 7:11-21. The Korban Todah is special in two ways: darkness can also be explained in terms of retribution, measure for
1) The time frame in which one can eat it is limited to the day when it measure.
was offered and that evening, while a regular Shlamim can be eaten The effect of the darkness, as described in this week's reading,
the entire next day. was that "people could not see one another, and for three days no
2) It must be eaten together with MATZOT: one could get up from where he was" (Ex. 10:23). The darkness
The Korban Pesach is similar in both these aspects. It can only be prevented all movement among the Egyptians. The Egyptians, who
eaten that evening, and it must be eaten together with matzot. had enslaved the Israelites, refusing to allow them to go three days'
Relate this as well to when we are obligated to offer a Korban journey into the wilderness (Ex. 5:3), were smitten with a plague that
Todah (based on Tehilim 107/ "arba chayavim l'hodot") imprisoned them in their homes, preventing them from going
B. Recall the pasuk that we quote as the seder before inviting anywhere. The Egyptians, who had embittered the lives of their
Eliyahu: "shfoch chamotcha al ha'goyim..." (see Yirmiyahu 10:25) and slaves beyond belief, were given a taste of the bitterness of bondage
relate this to Yechezkel 20:8-9 [note "v'omar lishpoch chamati in the plague of darkness, measure for measure.
aleiyhem, v'aas l'maan SHMI..."] and to main point of the above shiur. Thus, in the story of the plagues darkness represents bondage.
The same is true in Lamentations (3:1-2): The man "who has known
affliction," i.e., subjugation like the bondage in Egypt (cf. Ex. 1:11-12;
9 BAR ILAN UNIVERSITY
A project of Bar-Ilan University's Faculty of Jewish Studies, Paul and Helene hulman Basic Jewish Studies Center, and the
3:7), is driven in "unrelieved darkness" (lit. "darkness without light"). If
Office of the Campus Rabbi. Sponsored by Dr. Ruth Borchard of the Shoresh Charitable Fund (SCF). Published with darkness in biblical thought represents bondage, seeing the light
assistance of the President's Fund for Torah and Science.Web Site: http://www.biu.ac.il/JH/Parasha signifies freedom and liberation. An ancient Babylonian text makes
A) THE PLAGUES OF DARKNESS explicit the connection between seeing light and being liberated:
Prof. Ed Greenstein Department of Bible "Whoever has not freed the prisoner, ... whoever has not shown light
Parshat Va-Era tells us about the first seven plagues brought on to the prisoner" (Shurpu, Tablet 2, lines 29-30, ed. E. Reiner, p. 13).
Egypt, and Parshat Bo, about the last three plagues: locusts, The best biblical example for this metaphor is in Isaiah 9:1: "The
darkness, and the slaying of the first-born. At first glance, the three people that walked in darkness have seen a brilliant light," i.e., will be
plagues described in the present reading appear quite different from liberated from the yoke of the gentiles. The darkness that generations
one another. The locusts wiped out the grain that had survived the of Hebrews suffered in Egypt became brilliant light, and even prior to
hail and the darkness prevented people from seeing their fellows, leaving Egypt, during the plague of darkness, the Israelites
whereas the tenth plague killed "every first-born in the land of Egypt, experienced the sweet taste of freedom, for "all the Israelites enjoyed
from the first-born of Pharaoh who sits on his throne to the first-born light in their dwellings" (Ex. 10:23).
of the slave girl who is behind the millstones; and all the first-born of B) ADVANCES IN GENETIC ENGINEERING -- NEW
the cattle" (Ex. 11:5; also cf. 12:29). Further, these three plagues HALAKHIC CHALLENGES
differed significantly in terms of their severity. Not a single Egyptian Dr. Uri Nir Faculty of Life Sciences
died in the plague of locusts, nor in the plague of darkness, whereas The power which G-d gave to Moses and Aaron to change the
in the plague of the first-born "there was no house where there was natural order and bring ten plagues on Pharaoh and his people--
not someone dead" (Ex. 12:30). We must ask, as did Abarbanel and "Moses and Aaron had performed all these marvels" (Ex. 11:10)--
others before us, whether the last three plagues form an incidental stemmed from the exceptional requirements of the moment and from
group with nothing in particular in common, or whether they should the elevated status of Moses and Aaron. G-d did not confer such
be viewed as a group with some special significance? special powers on most human beings, but He did endow them with
Locusts, darkness and the slaying of the firstborn indeed share common sense, inquisitiveness and the ability to learn. These traits
an element in common: darkness. With the plague of darkness this is have motivated human beings throughout the ages to delve into the
self-evident, but it also holds for locusts and the slaying of the first- wonders of creation. In the last two decades biological research has
born. The locusts were to descend in such great numbers that "they made significant headway in the field of genetic engineering, opening
shall cover the surface [lit. "eye"] of the land, so that no one will be new ways for changing (to some extent) the natural order of the
able to see the land" (Ex. 10:5; also compare 10:15). During the universe.
plague of locusts the Egyptians could not even see the ground on Genetic engineering has developed new options for isolating
which they stood. The plague of darkness further limited what the genes (the genetic units responsible for defined traits), making it
Egyptians could see, making it impossible for them to see anything possible to characterize them and actively introduce them into tissues
around them. Now they were not only isolated from the land, but also and organs of various organisms. The techniques that have been
became isolated totally from all humanity and even from the animals; developed will make it possible to create human beings (and animals)
thus their isolation was redoubled. As for the plague of the first-born, with new genetic characteristics, and these traits will be transmitted
this awesome blow took place "toward midnight" (Ex. 11:4; cf. 12:29). hereditarily to subsequent generations. Introducing genes into
A cry, the like of which had never been heard before, arose from specific human tissues and organs will advance medicine in the 21st
each and every house (Ex. 11:6; cf. 12:30). Moreover, the central century in terms of gene therapy, or curing diseases that stem from
event of the current Torah reading--preparing and eating the paschal genetic defects. Here we discuss briefly two examples of organisms
sacrifice--took place at night. that could be created with new genetic properties and explore their
What is the significance of darkness in this week's reading? What halakhic consequences.
sort of darkness was it, and what was its purpose? Today a gene coded with a specified trait can be introduced into
Regarding the nature of the darkness in the ninth plague, a fertilized ovum of an animal or a human being. The ovum is then
Hoshekh, Ibn Ezra offers a realistic explanation: a very heavy fog implanted in the host mother, who at the end of gestation gives birth
befell Egypt, such as one finds on islands at sea. Ibn Ezra, a frequent to a creature that, in addition to all its basic traits, also has the newly
maritime traveler, attests that he encountered fog so thick that one acquired trait.
could see absolutely nothing (cf. his commentary on Ex. 10:22). Thus In the future this technique might enable us to create animals
Ibn Ezra explains how darkness could have naturally occurred even with new, acquired traits; for example, one might be able to introduce
in the daytime. Whether the darkness was natural or supernatural, a gene for producing scales into the ovum of a fish which only had
the question remains as to what it signified. Why was the climax of fins, as a result producing a fish which has both fins and scales. This
the blows struck against the Egyptians the threefold group of plagues new fish, not created in the six days of Creation and whose original
whose common element is darkness? This darkness characteristics defined it as non-kosher, would now have acquired
apparently has a special significance. 1 the signs of a kosher fish: "These you may eat of all that live
in water; anything in water, whether in the seas or in the commandments. It is the practice which we pass on to our children
streams, that has fins and scales--these you may eat" (Lev. 11:9). and not the memory. "For that which the Lord did for me when I
In the future it might even be possible to genetically engineer a went out of Egypt". Even I, a child of the twentieth century, came out
kosher pig that chews its cud! of Egypt. This is how our parents and forefathers felt for thousands of
These two examples, which currently appear fantastic, one day years and this is how we wish our children to feel.
might very well become a reality. Such developments will pose new The Mishnah in Tractate Pesachim tells us: "in each and every
challenges for those who rule on the halakhah. Will the new generation a man must see himself as if he came out of Egypt"
genetically engineered fish with fins and scales or the animal that (chap. 10, Mishnah 5). True education is practical, not theoretical.
chews its cud be considered kosher? The author of the ýSefer Hachinuch explained this as follows:
Ostensibly the answer would be affirmative, for they both have (commandment 20): "because the heart follows the deeds... because
the requisite indications of purity; the fish, as cited above, and the by the doing of good deeds we are taught to be good and become
pig, as follows: "Any animal that has true hoofs, with clefts worthy of eternal life". The author of Sefer Hachinuch follows here the
through the hoofs, and that chews the cud--such you may eat" opinion of Maimonides in his introduction to Tractate Avot (Shmonah
(Lev. 11:3). Since we believe the Torah and the halakhah derived Perakim, chap. 8): "and it becomes him to make himself ý
from it to be eternal, we would expect that even such hypothetical accustomed to doing good deeds until such time as he achieves
questions could be clearly handled by the halakhah. The matter, those qualities". It is for this reason that when we recite the Exodus
however, is not that simple. story on the Seder night, we also perform several specific rituals -
In the Mishnah, tractate Bekhorot 1.2, we read: "...that which drinking four cups of wine, eating matzah and bitter herbs, holding up
issues from the impure is impure, and that which issues from the shank bone, eating the Afikoman, etc. The connecting idea here
the pure is pure." In other words, the decisive factor when dealing was explained beautifully by Prof. Yeshayahu Liebowitz, of blessed
with animals is not necessarily the indications of purity; rather, the memory, in a story about a seminar for top-ranking Israel Defense
state of the mother that gives birth to the animal is the determining Forces officers in which he participated: "One of the participants in
factor. Therefore, everything born of a pig is impure. This is the discussion, a senior officer in the I.D.F. pointed to Passover as a
supported by a talmudic ruling based on Lev.11:4: "The following, national treasure, dear to us all... we all observe the Passover
however, of those that either chew the cud or have true hoofs, you Seder... because for all of us this is a reminder of the history of the
shall not eat..." One might have an animal that chews the cud and Jewish people... and I was forced to point out his mistake ... I said to
has true hoofs, yet is not to be eaten. And what might that be? A him: ... but for my wife and me Passover is not symbolic, it is really
pure animal born of an impure one (Bekhorot 6a). Thus, it seems, the present ... for us Passover is an existential issue - a matter of
with the means currently available to us, any genetically engineered our existence in the present, on this day and at this hour" (Y.
pig parented by a fertilized ovum from an impure pig, reimplanted in a Liebowitz , He'arot Leparshiot Hashavua , p. 46; emphasis mine -
host pig, is not kosher and its offspring are not kosher. Y.A.).
However, the rule that "what issues from the impure is In this connection it is worthwhile to quote Rabbi Baruch Epstein,
impure" is not mentioned in the Mishnah and Gemara with respect to of blessed memory, in his book Tosefet Brachah on Exodus:
fish. It appears, in my humble opinion, that only indications of "According to this principle we interpreted a well-known quote from
cleanness, fins and scales, are operative with respect to fish. Thus a our Sages, of blessed memory, which needs clarification, (Berachot
non-kosher fish that has been genetically engineered to have the 7b): The practice of Torah is greater than its study... and we
requisite signs of cleanness would be kosher. Returning to the case explained that this practice ... means that learning which comes from
of non-kosher animals, if it becomes possible to grow a fertilized egg serving a wise teacher, observing and inspecting the ways he studies
in vitreo until it reaches maturity, then this will pose a more and his teachings and all his affairs as 'halachah put into practice' -
complicated halakhic question. this kind of learning ... takes deeper root in the heart and mind than
The distinction between animals and fish that follows from these ordinary learning which one can obtain from a book, for it is the
sources invites deeper consideration of the origins of and possible most valuable part of human nature and the strength of the
reasons for this eternal distinction. It should be noted that this soul" (p. 89; emphasis mine - Y.A)
distinction is compounded with other differences between animals In this connection we should note the differences between the
and fish: fish are not sacrificed on the altar, nor do the laws of ritual four different expressions regarding the 'Four Sons' cited by the
slaughter apply to fish, unlike certain animals. Haggadah. Here we find an expression of an important educational
Clearly what I have said above is not to be taken as a halakhic principle, based upon the Mishnah (Pesachim, chap. 10, mishnah 4):
ruling. That will come in due time, and only by authorized experts "According to the son's intelligence his father teaches him."
who, after receiving the necessary scientific data, will surely know The Mekhilta (Horovitz- Rabin Edition) exemplifies this when it
how to apply the relevant halakhic discussions to any new question presents the verses in an order different from that in which they
that might arise. appear in the Torah, beginning with the verse in Deuteronomy ( 6,20)
C) AND YOU SHALL TELL YOUR SON and then Exodus (12,26; 13,14; 13,8). Prof. Nechamah Liebowitz
Yosef Agur noted that the Mekhilta organized the verses "according to the
Children are mentioned three times in connection with the intellectual capacities of the children" (Studies in Exodus, English
Exodus from Egypt, mainly in the context of passing on the national version, p. 206). She differentiates between the question posed by
heritage from generation to generation: 1) "And it will come to pass the wise son ("when your son asks you..." ) and that of the wicked
when your children say to you ... that you shall say it is a Passover son ("Wýhen your children say ...") and explains, "So long as the
sacrifice ... when he struck the Egyptians and saved our homes" (Ex. son asks, however provocative his questions are, it is a sign that he
12, 26-27);) 2) "And you shall tell your son on that day, saying: this is expects an answer, a solution to his difficulties. He is far from being
for that which the Lord did for me when I went out of Egypt" (ibid. malicious but is merely a student thirsty for knowledge. The wicked
13,8); 3) "And it will be when your son asks you saying... and you son, on the other hand, does not ask and desires no reply. 'When
shall say to him: by strength of hand did the Lord take us out of your children say to you' - their attitude is already fixed and
Egypt" (ibid. 13, 14). Our Sages add to these three expressions predetermined. They do not want to hear a reply. They are therefore
another verse, taken from Deuteronomy (6,21): "then you shall say to called wicked" (ibid., pp.207-208).
your son..." It is every father's task to stimulate his childrens' questions,
This special emphasis on children in the Exodus story is not interest and desire to understand. Where questions are posed it is
coincidental. Both Tannaitic and Amoraic literature emphasize the possible to educate - and to put theory into practice - because the
various things we do on the night of Passover in order to arouse the heritage of Israel expresses itself in action, not memory . It is not
curiosity of the children and to find "excuses" to keep them something which happened some time long ago, it is not a "historical
interested; causing them to ask questions, in turn prompting us to tell event" - today a headline, tomorrow forgotten. It is a day-to-day
the story of the Exodus from Egypt and the birth of Israel as a people. experiential feeling, an existential reality and a way of life.
It often appears that the main purpose of the Seder is the education *Concerning the significance of the sons and their place in the
of the children which may be a higher purpose than the fact of Exodus story, and on the connection between the Exodus and the
remembering the Exodus from Egypt altogether. * tenth plauge, concerning the first borns of Egypt, see the interesting
In this context, we need to pay attention to the language of the article on the subject by Rabbi Dr. M. Gruzman, Shabbat
Torah. The questions asked by the children are portrayed as asked Beshabbato, Parashat Bo, 1993.
'tomorrow', in the future ("and it will come to pass that your children D) "THIS (CRESCENT) MOON..." (EXOD. 12 2)
say," "when your son asks you," etc.) even though the answers are "BEHOLD IT THUS AND SANCTIFY IT"
formulated in the present tense ("and saved our homes," "took us (to become Rosh Hodesh = the first day of the new month; BT, RH
out," "for me," etc.). This is somewhat puzzling: the proper form of 20a)
answer to the questions of the children would have been: "and he Engineer Yaaqov Loewinger
saved the homes of our forefathers" or "for that which the Lord did for 1. A COMMON ERROR AND ITS ORIGIN
our fathers when they went out of Egypt", etc. There is a common misconception that the first sighting of the new
What is the reason for the over-emphasis of the children and the crescent Moon can generally take place on the evening after the
reason for the transition from future tense to present in the Exodus calendric molad (=the simplified mean conjunction time of the Moon
narrative ? with the Sun, calculated according to the rules of the Hebrew
The answer may be found in a central theme which repeats itself calendar; see below), if this molad occurs before noon [otherwise the
many times in our sources. We will quote only a few of them. The key calendric molad is called a late (=zaqen) molad]. Others put the
passage appears in the Song of Ha'azinu: "Remember the days of misconception about the first sighting differently: six hours after the
old, consider the years of all the generations, ask your father and he calendric molad it is possible to sight the new crescent Moon. In
will tell you, your elders and they will speak to you" (Deut.32,7). The reality the earliest naked eye sighting becomes feasible only 15 hours
existence of the People of Israel, its continuity and unbroken history or more after the true molad (see below).
through the course of time, depend upon the passage of its heritage The origin of this error is in a misinterpretation of a well-known
and national memory from generation to generation. However, we are Talmudic passage (BT, Rosh Ha-Shana 20b):
not dealing here simply with memory. We do not want our children We calculate (the time of) its (the Moon's) birth (molad). If it was
simply to "remember" the Exodus from Egypt, the receiving of the born before midday, then we know it will become visible close to
Torah, the entry into the Land of Israel and all of the spiritual, cultural sunset. If it was not born before midday, then we know it will not
and practical heritage of our People. The goal is to cause our children become visible close to sunset.
to feel their Jewishness on a daily basis. The Jewish heritage is a Commenting on this text Rabbenu Hannan'el (11th cent.) writes:
way of life, the way of the observance of the Torah and its 1 "This matter was not sufficiently clear to us, therefore we did not
write its explanation". On the other hand, Ibn Ezra (12th cent.) On the other hand, if the mean molad occurs exactly at noon or
explains the Talmudic text at length. His explanation seems thereafter (i.e. if the mean molad is a late (zaqen) molad) then there
especially significant (see section 4, below). First let us examine the cannot possibly be a sighting shortly after sunset. For then, even if
various types of molad. the true molad preceded the mean molad by its maximal value of 14
2. THREE TYPES OF MOLAD hours, there are not 20 hours and more, needed from the true molad
The True Molad = True Conjunction = the time at which the until the expected sighting time shortly after sunset.
Moon (during its monthly orbital motion around the Earth) is between This, then, will be the explanation of the Talmudic passage in
the Earth and the Sun, close to (or at the time of a solar eclipse: on) a Rosh Ha-Shana 20b, according to Ibn Ezra (parentheses indicate his
straight line between the Earth and the Sun. At this time the Moon is commentary inserted in the Talmudic text, in my rephrasing):
generally not visible from the Earth. Since the Earth and the Moon We calculate its birth (i.e. the mean molad in Tishri). If it was born
move in elliptical orbits, not circles, the time interval between two before midday then we know it will (sometimes) become visible
consecutive true moladot varies. In the twentieth and the twenty-first close to (after) sunset. If it was not born before midday, then we
centuries the length of the true lunar month is between approximately know it will not (under any circumstances - not even in Tishri)
29 days 6.5 hours and 29 days 20 hours (MEEUS, Astronomical become visible, close to (after) su (because the time of more
Algorithms, 1991, p. 324). than 20 hours needed from the true molad until the time of
The Mean Molad = Mean Conjunction = the average time, from sighting has not yet passed).
which the true molad can deviate up to approximately 14 hours in What is the (practical) outcome (of this rule)? (Consider, that from
either direction. The deviation possible varies, depending on the this rule of the late (zaqen) molad only a negative conclusion can be
location of Earth in its path around the Sun. In Nissan the true molad drawn, that no sighting is possible in the evening following the mean
can occur from approximately 6 hours before the mean molad until molad, if it is a late molad. However it is impossible to predict that the
near to 14 hours after it, and in Tishri the true molad can occur from Moon can be seen on that evening, if the mean molad is not a late
about 14 hours before the mean molad until around 6 hours after it molad, because "if it was born before midday, then we know it will
(see Ibn Ezra, Commentary on the Tora, Ex. 12 2). The time interval become visible" means: it might, sometimes, become visible).
between two mean moladot is currently (near the year 2000 C.E.): 29 Rav Ashi said (answering this question: the rule of the late
days, 12 hours 44 minutes, 2.9 seconds [expressed in standard SI (mean) molad helps us, indeed, only) to confute (false) witnesses
(Systeme International) seconds, measured by atomic clocks; (and cannot be used as a tool of confirming the testimony of true
MEEUS, 1991, p. 319]. This interval grows longer by approximately witnesses).
0.1 SI seconds in 500 years. The great astronomer, Rabbi Raphael 5. CONCLUSION
Ha-Lewi of Hanover calls this molad the "correct molad" (Luhot Ha- Despite the first impression from the Talmudic text in Tractate
Ibbur, part 1, 1756, title page). Rosh Ha-Shana and the explanations of several of the commentators
The Calendric (or: Common) Molad = Molad Ha-Ibbur = the on it, we must adhere to the following facts:
Calendric (Mean) Conjunction calculated by the rules of the Hebrew a. An unaided sighting of the new (crescent) Moon is impossible
calendar. It was close to the mean molad in the times of our Sages before the passage of 15 to 20 hours or more after the true molad
(1st cent.). Near the year 2000 C.E. it occurs about 2 hours after the (depending on the season of the year). Sometimes sighting
mean molad (assuming that the common calendric molad, becomes possible in Tishri, in the evening after the occurrence of the
announced in synagogues on the Sabbath before Rosh Hodesh, mean molad, if it is not a late (zaqen) molad. (A late calendric
refers to Jerusalem Mean Time i.e., the Israel Standard Time plus 21 molad, nowadays, still enables a sighting on the evening after it, e.g.
minutes). The time interval between two consecutive calendric in Tishri 5761 (28.9.2000), when observed from southwestern areas
moladot is fixed by halakha at a constant 29 days, 12 hours, 44 of Erez Yisrael!)
minutes and one heleq (=1 part = 3.33 seconds). b. A late (zaqen) mean molad in Tishri, and even moreso in the other
3. THE TIME BETWEEN THE TRUE MOLAD AND THE FIRST months, is a sufficient basis for confuting witnesses claiming to have
SIGHTING OF THE CRESCENT MOON seen the new (crescent) Moon on the evening after that mean molad.
According to an ancient dictum, quoted in Pirqe Rabbi Eliezer Thus only the second of the two dicta: "If it was born before midday"
(chap. 7, 17b, compiled in the 8th century), the first sighting of the and "If it was not born before midday" is practically relevant.
crescent Moon becomes possible after eight large hours (equivalent c. It is possible to see the new (crescent) Moon at the beginning of
to 16 standard hours) from the time of the true molad. the month only after the passage of at least 29 days from its previous
According to Ibn Ezra (Sefer Ha-Ibbur, 11b, 1146 C.E.) the first sighting, and only at a relatively low altitude above the western
sighting in Tishri becomes possible only after more than 20 hours horizon, at around 20 minutes after sunset. In Tishri the Moon will be
from the true molad. south of the W (west) point of the horizon.
According to Maimonides (Hilkhot Qiddush Ha-Hodesh - d. It is possible to see the old (crescent) Moon at the end of the
Sanctification of the New Moon, Chap. 1, halakha 3, 1170/78 C.E.) it month, only if there remain at sunrise more than approximately 15 to
becomes feasible "about a day after it (the Moon) adheres to the 20 hours until the true molad. The old Moon can then appear only at
Sun" (=the true molad). But from his detailed calculations in chapter a relatively low altitude above the eastern horizon around 20 minutes
17 (ibid), it becomes clear that 18 hours is the minimal time between before sunrise. In Tishri the Moon will be found directly above the E
the true molad and the first sighting of the Moon in the spring and 20 (east) point of the horizon. (Rashi's explanations in our printed
and one third hours in the autumn (Rabbi Raphael Ha-Lewi of editions of Rosh Ha-Shana 20b, and also the opinion of the Baal Ha-
Hanover, Tekhunat Ha-Shamayyim, section 91, which was copied Maor commenting on Rabbi Yizhaq Alfassi, ibid., seem to contradict
into the common editions of the Code of Maimonides, at the end of the above, requiring therefore serious examination).
Sefer Zemanim under the title: An Explanation of Maimonides' Words For further study and bibliographies:
in Chapter 17 of the Treatise: Hilkhot Qiddush Ha-Hodesh). Loewinger Y., Luah Davar Beito, 5756-1995, Rabbi Mordekhay Gnut,
Contemporary scientists present similar parameters concerning ed., Bene Beraq, pp. 151-164.
the age of the Moon when it is first visually perceivable. The earliest Loewinger Y., Tehumin, 5754-1994, 14, pp. 473-500.
sightings for which we have full documentation (See: Schaefer, Loewinger Y., Sinai, 5756-1996, 118, pp.71-82.
QJRAS 29, 1988, and also, Doggett and Schaefer, ICARUS 107,
1994, in the list of 252 sightings presented there, with comments of
Loewinger, QJRAS 36, 1995 on them) are: 10- RABBI ARI KAHN
email: email@example.com or Kahnar@ashur.cc.biu.ac.il URL:. http://www.jewishsoftware.com/kahn/index.html
A telescopic sighting: 13.4 hours after the true molad (ibid. sighting “The First Born”
239). Plague after plague befall the Egyptians, nonetheless Paroh
Unaided sighting: 15.5 hours after the true molad (ibid. sighting 252). remains steadfast in his refusal to release the Israelites. Finally the
(See some even younger recent sightings in Schaefer, QJRAS 37, last plague, the death of the first born, beats Paroh into submission.
1996). This final plague was actually the first to be foretold to Moshe:
All this leads to the following: And the Lord said to Moshe, 'When you go to return to Egypt, see
The first possible sighting, even under exceptionally good that you do all those wonders before Pharaoh, which I have put in
conditions, can occur only after about 13 hours (with optical aid) or your hand; but I will harden his heart, so that he shall not let the
after about 15 hours (unaided vision) from the time of the true molad. people go. And you shall say to Pharaoh, "Thus said the Lord,
A sighting earlier than this is extremely unlikely. More often, the Israel is my son, my firstborn; And I say to you, Let my son go,
sighting becomes possible when the Moon is around the age of 18 that he may serve me; and if you refuse to let him go, behold, I
hours in the spring (Nissan, Iyyar, Siwan) and around the age of will slay your son, your firstborn." ' (4:21-23)
more than 20 hours in the autumn (Tishri, Marheshwan). The usual Thus, when the time finally comes, G-d does not even tell Moshe
sighting takes place when the Moon's age is more than a day, what the final plague will be, because Moshe already knows. (1) G-d
measured from the true molad, but very often only at an age of 30 says to Moshe:
hours or more. And the Lord said to Moshe, 'Yet will I bring one plague more
4. THE COMMENTARY OF IBN EZRA ON THE TALMUDIC upon Paroh, and upon Egypt; afterwards he will let you go from
PASSAGE: "IF IT WAS BORN BEFORE MIDDAY" here; when he shall let you go, he shall certainly thrust you out
See "Sefer Ha-Ibbur", 11b; (my amendments in brackets ): from here altogether. (11:1)
We know already that at the molad of Tishri... at midday [when] And Moshe says to Paroh:
the molad is before midday [there can be] fourteen hours and six And Moshe said, 'Thus said the Lord, About midnight will I go out
hours till nightfall, thus twenty hours... the Moon is seen at [after] into the midst of Egypt; And all the firstborn in the land of Egypt
sunset, therefore if the molad was after midday it can not be seen shall die, from the firstborn of Paroh that sits on his throne, even
at all. to the firstborn of the maidservant who is behind the mill; and all
This passage by Ibn Ezra can be explained as follows: when the the firstborn of beasts. And there shall be a great cry throughout
mean molad in Tishri occurs even shortly before 12 a.m. (according all the land of Egypt, such as there was none like it, nor shall be
to our clock), then the true molad could precede the mean molad by like it any more.(11:4-6)
about 14 hours, at most (see section 2, above) and could have Tradition tells us that this plague was the most severe.(2) The
occured before 10 o'clock p.m., the night before the occurrence of the fact that this is the one of which Moshe was told prior to his return to
mean molad. We noted above (section 3) that in Tishri a sighting may Egypt would indicate that this plague was one of the objectives of the
be possible, if more than 20 hours pass from the true molad until the Exodus .(3) The question is, why does the punishment of the firstborn
expected sighting time, shortly after sunset. So the sighting becomes occupy such a central role?
feasible in this case approximately 6 hours after the mean molad, i.e.
after sunset, which in Tishri occurs around 6 p.m. 1
If we return to Bereishit and analyze the promise that G-d gave other Egyptians, and the "plain" ordinary Egyptians controlled the
Avraham we will understand the core of the exodus story: slaves.
And when the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell upon The Netziv (Naftali Zvi Yehuda Berlin) in his commentary to
Avram; and, lo, a fear of great darkness fell upon him. And He Shmot explains this idea based on a fascinating observation
said to Avram, 'Know for a certainty that your seed shall be a concerning the song that was sung after the splitting of the sea. The
stranger in a land that is not theirs, and shall serve them; and verse reads:
they shall afflict them four hundred years; And also that nation, Then sang Moshe and the people of Israel this song to the Lord,
whom they shall serve, will I judge; and afterward shall they come and spoke, saying, I will sing to the Lord, for he has triumphed
out with great wealth.' (Bereishit 15:12-14) gloriously; the horse and his rider has he thrown into the sea.
The nation which afflicts the descendants of Avraham will be (15:1) …And Miriam answered them, Sing to the Lord, for he has
judged for their indiscretions. The mode of judgement is unclear. This triumphed gloriously; the horse and his rider has he thrown into
verse is echoed in the Revelation to Moshe at the Burning Bush: the sea. (15:21)
And I will stretch out my hand, and strike Egypt with all my The main part of the song seems to be this idea of the "horse and
wonders which I will do in its midst; and after that he will let you the rider". The Netziv explains that this verse encapsulates the defeat
go. And I will give this people favor in the sight of the Egyptians; of Egypt: the philosophy of the "horse and the rider". As the rider
and it shall come to pass, that, when you go, you shall not go rides on the subjugated horse, so must the rider listen to the officer,
empty; But every woman shall borrow from her neighbor, and and that officer listen to the general, and that general listen to the
from her who sojourns in her house, jewels of silver, and jewels commander in chief. According to the Netziv, this describes the
of gold, and garments; and you shall put them upon your sons, horrors of the Egyptian society, a series of horse and riders, where
and upon your daughters; and you shall plunder the Egyptians. the Jewish slaves became the bottom of the proverbial "totem pole"
(3:20-22) the lowest horse supporting the entire structure. This is why they
Here both the "judgement" of the oppressing nation is recorded were loath to release the slaves, the entire society would crumble
as well as the wealth which was to accompany the Jews on their without them. We now understand why the death of the firstborn was
departure. In Bereishit, only a judgment is mentioned. Ramban, in his so essential to the Exodus, and why the splitting of the sea evoked
comments to Bereishit(4) , insists that the judgement would be such a powerful response. The Horse and Rider philosophy had sunk
concerned with determining whether the oppressing nation had at sea, they were free. The death of the firstborn was the beginning
followed the divine plan of enslaving the Jewish People, or if they had this final chapter, of the liberation. The leading "riders" were to die.
gone "beyond the call of duty". According to this opinion, ostensibly This turning of the tables can be discerned from another Midrash
the Egyptians could have been judged, and found innocent; Bereishit which changes our normative understanding of the plague.
does not speak of any punishment per se. For the Jews to have left "To him who struck Egypt in their firstborn"(Psalms 136:10).
Egypt with great wealth, in payment for the sweat of their collective When G-d sent the plague of the firstborn…All the firstborn went
brows, would have sufficed as fulfillment of G-d's promise to to speak to their fathers and said "Everything which Moshe has
Avraham. But as we know, the Egyptians were not exonerated. They said has come true, don't you want us to live? Let us get the
had assumed the role of oppressors with enthusiasm, with a Hebrews out of our homes otherwise we are dead". They
vengeance. The promise to Avraham enumerated enslavement in a answered "even if all of Egypt dies they are not leaving". All the
foreign land; genocide was never part of the promise. When firstborn gathered in front of Paroh and screamed "please remove
Egyptians began casting the male Jewish children into the Nile, the this nation, because of them evil will befall us and you". Paroh
plagues which followed. The Midrash tells us that ultimately this said to his servants "remove them and break their knees". What
judgement resulted in the killing of the firstborn: did they do each took a sword and killed his father thus it says:
"This month shall be unto you" (12:2). It is written: "And you shall To him who struck Egypt in (with) their firstborn. (Midrash Tihilim
say unto Paroh: 'Thus said the Lord: Israel is My son, My 136:6, Ancient Tanchuma Bo 18)
firstborn. And I have say to you: Let My son go, that he may In this source one can feel the unraveling of Egyptian society,
serve Me; and thou hast refused to let him go. Behold, I will slay children rebelling against their fathers.(6) The horses are rebelling
thy son, thy firstborn (ib. 4:22,23). Exalted be the name of the against their riders, as the underpinning of Egyptian society is forever
Holy One, blessed be He, who foretells the end at the beginning. vanquished ..(7)
In connection with Avraham it says: ’ And also that nation, whom We now understand that the death of the firstborn was not just
they shall serve, will I judge ‘ (Gen. 15:14). What was the another plague, another sign of Divine might. No, this plague struck
judgment? The slaying of the firstborn, which was called a at the very epicenter of the Egyptian civilization, and paved the way
plague, as it says: Yet one plague more (11:1). What is the for liberation. In Judaism the firstborn also has a special role, this Rav
meaning of: ‘I will judge’? G-d said: ‘I will punish them with the Soloviechik explained was more a reward for the eldests added
slaying of the firstborn,’ for it says: ’Behold, I will smite thy son, responsibility, not a privilege. As we have seen numerous times, all of
even thy firstborn.’ (Midrash Rabbah - Exodus 15:27) Bereishit is itself a polemic against the older son.(8) Birth does not
The killing of the firstborn stands out from all the other plagues as guarantee position. The grandiose is not espoused as a Jewish ethic.
Divine retribution directed toward Paroh and all of Egypt. Another A sage who is a mamzer will take precedence over a high priest who
Midrash teaches that this was to be the only plague. The others were is ignorant, likewise, the torah was given on the smallest mountain.
a reaction to Paroh's insolence: Israel is called the first son, technically this is not true, Esav was
When G-d at first sought to bring the plagues upon Egypt, He the eldest. At this point, when commenting on the title of "firstborn"
intended to commence with the plague of the firstborn, for it says: the Midrash tells us that G-d agreed with Ya'akov and indeed
'Behold, I will slay your son, even your firstborn (Shmot 4:23). declares him firstborn.
Paroh then retorted: ’ Who is the Lord that I should hearken unto What is the meaning of Israel is my son, my first-born? It refers to
His voice’ (5:2). Then G-d said: ‘If I bring the plague of firstborn Ya'acov their ancestor who purchased the birthright in order that
upon him at the outset, he will send them out at once; no, I will he might Serve G-d. [Hence] and thou shall say unto him: let my
bring other plagues upon him first, by this means will I bring them son go, that he may serve (Midrash Rabbah 5:7)
all. (Midrash Rabbah 18:5) Here G-d confirms that Ya'akov's willingness to serve G-d is what
Again we see that the central form of the retribution was the transformed him into a "firstborn". On the other hand "real" firstborns
striking of the firstborn. The other plagues were afterthoughts. What have lost their status:
was it about the killing of the firstborn that was so severe? Needless Instead of every firstborn that opens the womb among the
to say, the death of any child is horrific. The logic dictated by G-d is children of Israel (3:12). Originally the Temple service devolved
clearly understood: If you are callous to my children, I will wreak upon the firstborn, but when they committed the Sin of the
vengeance on your children. This, though, does not explain why Golden Calf the Levites, inasmuch as they had not erred in the
specifically the firstborn are singled out. There are a number of matter of the Calf, were privileged to enter in their stead.
Midrashim which explain the plague and shed light on this issue. (Midrash Rabbah - Bamidbar 4:8)
The Michilta focuses on the immorality of Egypt: Divine service utilizes the principle of "first come first serve" (9)
And the Egyptians urged the people, that they might send them the firstborn therefore had the right and responsibility to serve G-d,
out of the land in haste; for they said, 'We shall all be dead the sin of the Golden Calf forfeited for them this lofty responsibility.
men'(12:33). They said, 'This is not what Moshe had decreed, >From the dawn of time there have been those willing to serve G-d,
Moshe said only the firstborn of Egypt will die.' They thought and others who have ignored or rejected such opportunities:
whoever had 4 or 5 children would only lose the first. They didn't Go back to the beginning of the creation of the world. Adam was
know that their wives were suspected of sexual immorality, and the world's firstborn. When he offered his sacrifice, as it says:
each of "their" children were actually fathered by different young And it pleased the Lord better than a bullock that hath horns and
men. They had transgressed secretly, yet G-d caused it to hoofs (Ps. LXIX, 32) - he donned high priestly garments; as it
become known. (Michilta Bo) says: And the Lord G-d made for Adam and for his wife garments
Unbeknownst to the Egyptians, there were actually many of skins, and clothed them (Gen. III, 21). They were robes of
"firstborn" in each family. The humiliation that they suffered must honor which subsequent firstborn used. When Adam died he
have been tremendous. This Midrash gives us further insight as to transmitted them to Seth. Seth transmitted them to Methusaleh.
why Egyptian society had to be destroyed, yet does not completely When Methusaleh died he transmitted them to Noah. Noah arose
satisfy as an explanation for the centrality of this plague: There is and offered a sacrifice; as it says: And he took of every clean
certain poetic justice in the eradication of a society which suffers such beast... and offered burnt-offerings on the altar (Gen. VIII, 20).
severe moral breakdown. (5) Noah died and transmitted them to Shem. But was Shem a
In order to fully understand this plague we must appreciate the firstborn? Japheth, surely, was the firstborn; as it says: Shem...
hierarchy within Egyptian civilization. It was a society ruled by the brother of Japheth the elder1 (Gen. X, 21)! Why then did he
primogeniture. The first born had absolute power within the family hand them on to Shem? Because Noah foresaw that the line of
unit. Paroh was the firstborn of the firstborn of the firstborn. It was the patriarchs would issue from him. There is proof that Shem
from his birthright that he exercised his power. The attack against the offered sacrifices; since it says: And Melchizedek, king of Salem
first born was therefore a powerful polemic against the entire culture brought forth bread and wine; and he was priest of G-d the Most
of Egypt. The eldest ruled the younger siblings. This is why having High (Gen. XIV, 18). Now was it to him that the priesthood was
slaves was so important to the Egyptians. This gave the lower given? The priesthood, surely, was not given to any man until
classes someone else to control and dominate. Paroh controlled the Aaron arose. What then is the meaning of the statement here,
first born - as first born of the firstborn, the firstborn controlled the ‘and he was priest’? Because he offered sacrifices like priests.
1 Shem died and handed it on to Avraham. But was Avraham
a firstborn? The fact is that because he was a righteous man the however, hold that one may not derive benefit from this type of meat
birthright was transferred to him, and he offered sacrifices; as it and it may not be served to a pet(11). This seems to be the majority
says: And offered him up for a burnt-offering in the stead of his opinion(12).
son (Gen. XXII, 13). Avraham died and handed it on to Isaac. The majority of the poskim agree that a mixture which cannot be
Isaac arose and handed it on to Ya'acov. But was Ya'acov a served to one's own pet cannot be fed to another person's pet either,
firstborn? No; but you find that Ya'acov prudently took it [the or even to a stray animal(13).
birthright] from Esav. He said to him: Sell me first thy birthright It follows, therefore, that one has to check the ingredients of pet
(Gen. XXV, 31). Do you suppose perhaps that it was for no good food to determine whether it contains a mixture of kosher animal
reason that Ya'acov asked Esav to sell him the birthright? No! meat cooked together with milk. Similarly, on Pesach one must check
Ya'acov wished to offer sacrifices and could not, because he was for any chametz ingredients before feeding a food item to his pet.
not the firstborn. (Midrash Rabbah - Bamibar 4:8) If a forbidden mixture of basar b'chalav was inadvertently
The lineage of the Jewish people is the antithesis of Paroh, purchased or otherwise obtained, it may not be given to a non-Jew.
instead of firstborn after firstborn after firstborn, the spiritual legacy Neither may it be disposed of in a way that another person could
which we carry is of those who chose to serve G-d regardless of derive benefit from it, nor may it be burned, since the ashes and
station, and at times despite modest ancestry. This is the significance coals of basar b'chalav are also prohibited, and another person may
of G-d's resounding declaration that we are His firstborn. come to derive benefit from them. The mixture can only be buried,
Others willing to serve in the future will likewise merit this status: thrown into a river or flushed down the toilet(14).
"Sanctify unto me all the firstborn "(13:1). R. Natan said: The Some poskim maintain that such a mixture may not remain in
Holy One, blessed be He, told Moshe: 'Just as I have made one's possession at all but must be disposed of as soon as one
Ya'acov a firstborn, for it says: Israel is My son, My firstborn (ib. becomes aware of it(15).
4:22), so will I make the King Messiah a firstborn, as it says: I FOOTNOTES:
also will appoint him firstborn (Ps. 89:28). (Midrash Rabbah - 1 Rama Y.D. 87:1. 2 R' Akiva Eiger Y.D. 81 based on O.C. 318:9 3 Chavas Da'as Y.D. 87; Aruch ha-
Shulchan 87:11 4 Pri Megadim 87:1; Chochmas Adam 40:1; R' Akiva Eiger 87. 5 Y.D. 87:3. 6 Ibid.
Exodus 19:7) 7 Ibid. 8 There is a disagreement on this issue among the poskim, but many are lenient - see
Badei ha-Shulchan 87:75. 9 On Mishnah Kerisus 3, quoted by Dagul Mi-revavah Y.D. 87, who holds that
One day the Messiah himself will merit to be called a firstborn. He will one may rely on this view so as not to incur a loss. 10 Chasam Sofer Y.D. 92. See also Chazon Ish Y.D. 22
help teach the world that being a child of G-d transcends lineage. who seems to oppose this. 11 Chasam Sofer Y.D. 92; Pri Megadim (pesicha); Chavas Da'as Y.D. 94:4
and others. 12 Badei ha-Shulchan Y.D. 87:25. 13 Mishnah Berurah O.C. 248:27-28. See Sha'ar ha-Tziyon
And that being a firstborn of G-d is about how we lead our lives, it is (75) who quotes a more lenient view. See also Sdei Chemed vol.1, pg. 62. 14 Entire paragraph based on Pri
the manifestation of the image of G-d within (10) , not a question of Megadim Y.D. 87; Pischei Teshuvah Y.D. 87:2; Aruch ha-Shulchan 87:7 15 See Badei ha-Shulchan Y.D.
87:8 who questions this requirement.
sequence of birth.
1 See Midrash Rabbah - Exodus V:7 "But I will harden his heart (4:21)-to exact retribution from them. And thou
shall say unto Pharaoh: 'Thus says the Lord: Israel is my son, my first-born…I will slay thy son, thy firstborn (ib.
22-3).' G-d revealed unto him that Paroh would not let Israel go free before the plague of the first-born; hence A) CHANCELLOR SCHORSCH
there was no need to tell him of this plague later. 2 See the comments of Rashi to 4:23, and 9:14.There is a
Midrash which says that the plague of frogs was worst: "G-d brought the ten plagues upon them in accordance Dr. Robert Harris, Assistant Professor of Bible at JTS
with the regular plan of campaign; and of these, the frogs were the most grievous, as it says: 'And frogs, which
destroyed them' (Ps. 68:45). They destroyed their bodies and emasculated them. Midrash Rabbah Shmot
Perhaps by now you have seen the animated feature, The Prince
15:27 3 The Ibn Ezra says that the killing of the first born was the main objective of the Exodus. See Ibn Ezra of Egypt. In one scene, the character of Moses is portrayed as being
Psalms 135:8, a slightly less sweeping statement can be found in his comments to Shmot 34:19. 4 plagued(!) by his conscience immediately after killing the Egyptian
Commentary of Ramban Bereishit 15:13 5 The breakdown of Egyptian culture in the moral plane has been
instituted in the Torah in the exhortation: Vayikra 18:3 After the doings of the land of Egypt, where you dwelt, who had been beating the Israelite (see Exodus 2:12). In fact, the
shall you not do. 6 The Zohar describes the breakdown in a slightly different manner: Mark the wondrous
punishment that overtook the enemies of Israel. On the night of the Exodus there were three slayings in Egypt. movie eliminates the secretive nature of this act as the Biblical
First, the firstborn killed whomsoever they could lay hands on; then, the Holy One executed His judgement at
midnight; and, lastly, Pharaoh, on seeing the havoc wrought upon his own household, himself arose and with
narrative presents it (look it up!), and instead depicts Moses as
bitterness and fury smote those princes and nobles who had advised him to persecute Israel. He rose up at fleeing Egypt — not because the Egyptian authorities are seeking his
midnight; yea, even at the hour and moment when the Holy One Himself began His judgement (Ex. XII, 30), did
Pharaoh likewise rise up in wrath, and kill his officers and nobles, just as a dog, if hit with a stone, goes and
life — but as a result of his moral abhorrence of his own act. The
bites another dog. Having done this, Pharaoh roamed through the market-places crying, “Rise up and get you taking of a human life is judged by this animated pacifist as reason
forth from among my people” (lbid. v, 3I); and in fear he added, “and bless me also” (v. 32), as if to say, “let me
live”. Then, so eager was he to be rid of them that he himself accompanied them, as it says, “he sent the for self-exile from society. Unfortunately, the film does not take up the
people away” (beshallach, lit. escorted). Zohar, Shmot, Section 2, Page 45b 7 One gets a sense of the issue of the wholesale loss of Egyptian life in the ensuing plagues
polemical quality of the plagues from numerous sources. For example: Midrash Rabbah - Exodus XV:15 "This
month shall be unto you (XII, 2). Another explanation: It is written: He sent Moshe His servant, and Aaron sequence and splitting of the sea. In the movie, Moses never
whom He had chosen (Ps. CV, 26). As soon as G-d, as it were, entered, He smote their firstborn and their questions God's fierce methods in freeing the Israelites from slavery.
gods, for it says: And I plagued Egypt (Josh. XXIV, 5). Also among their gods did the Lord perform judgments."
Zohar, Shmot, Section 2, Page 29a "Esoterically speaking, the ten plagues were wrought by the mighty hand of We shall return to this issue below.
the Almighty, by the hand that overpowered the grades of the Egyptian divinities, and confused their minds so
that they remained helpless. Observe that all their grades, as soon as they emerged into the open to The Torah portion of Bo is found in Exodus 10:1–13:16. It
accomplish something that could be seen by all, became powerless to do anything. This was due to the mighty
hand which pressed on them." 8 This idea is evident mystically from the following passage from the Zohar:
continues the plagues narrative that began last week in parashat
When they begat children, the first-born was the son of the (serpent's) slime. For two beings had intercourse Va'ayra, and also contains the first detailed legal section in the
with Eve, and she conceived from both and bore two children. Each followed one of the male parents, and their Pentateuch: the laws concerning the sacrifice of the paschal lamb
spirits parted, one to this side and one to the other, and similarly their characters. On the side of Cain are all the
haunts of the evil species, from which come evil spirits and demons and necromancers. >From the side of Abel and the first laws of the Passover holiday. The portion contains what
comes a more merciful class, yet not wholly beneficial-good wine mixed with bad. The right kind was not
produced until Seth came, who is the first ancestor of all the generations of the righteous, and from whom the is perhaps one of the most enthralling — and horrific — narratives in
world was propagated. (Zohar Berishit 36b) 9 This is reflected by the protocol of Temple service as can be
seen in the Mishna of Tamid or Yoma. 10 Rabbi Solovietchik pointed out that by calling us His firstborn, G-d is
the entire Bible: the destruction of all the first-born of Egypt. "In the
clearly saying that He has other children as well. The rage directed against Egypt was partially due to the fact middle of the night YHVH struck down all of the first-born in the land
that as long as the Jews were subjugated, they could not receive the Torah and inspire the other "children" by of Egypt, from the first-born of Pharaoh who sat on the throne to the
being a "Light unto the nations"
first-born of the captive who was in the dungeon, and all the first-born
of the cattle. And Pharaoh arose in the night, with all his courtiers and
11- HALACHA (Gross) all the Egyptians — because there was a loud cry in Egypt; for there
Selected Halachos Relating To Parshat HaShevua By Rabbi Doniel NeustadtDustributed by The Harbotzas Torah Division
of Congregation Shomre Shabbos
was no house where there was not someone dead… the Egyptians
urged the people on, impatient to have them leave the country, for
But against all the Jewish people no dog shall whet its tongue... they said, ‘We shall all be dead'…" (Exodus 12:29–30; 33). This
(11:7) narrative, coming in fulfillment of the Divine plan announced earlier in
As a reward for this, the Torah advises that treifah meat be the parasha (11:1–8), is intimately related by the text to the
given to the dogs (Rashi, Pesachim 22a) observance of the Festival of Passover: "And when your children ask
Non-Kosher Pet Food you, ‘What do you mean by this rite?' you shall say, ‘It is the
QUESTION: Does one have to check the ingredients of dog or cat Passover sacrifice to YHVH, because [God] protected the houses of
food to make sure it is kosher? the Israelites in Egypt when [God] struck the Egyptians…" (Exodus
DISCUSSION: Pet food need not be kosher. It may not, however, 12:26–27; see also 12:12). Whereas the eating of matzah is
contain basar b'chalav (a mixture of cooked meat and milk). The presented as a rite in which to recall the very act of leaving Egypt
reason is that the Torah forbids one to derive any benefit from basar (Exodus 12:17ff), the pesach sacrifice itself commemorates the
b'chalav. If it happened that meat and milk were inadvertently cooked slaying of the first-born.
together in one's kitchen, it would be prohibited to serve that mixture Now the Bible, to be sure, does not express awareness of any of
to the household pet. this as a moral dilemma, in the same way that it does not address
However, the only basar b'chalav mixture from which it is what we would consider to be God's morally ambiguous hardening of
prohibited to derive benefit is a meat and milk mixture which the Pharaoh's heart (see, for example, Exodus 11:10). According to the
Torah forbids one to eat (asur min ha-Torah). If the prohibition is of Biblical narrative, these are simply ways in which God displays God's
Rabbinic origin (asur mi-d'Rabbanan), it is permitted to derive benefit own greatness. After the atrocities inflicted by the Egyptians upon
from the mixture(1). Therefore: the Israelites — including attempted genocide! — the losses incurred
by the Egyptians during the plagues and at the sea were their own
Only meat which was cooked over a fire [or if it was placed in a "just deserts." However, the Rabbis who created the Judaism we
utensil which was once over a fire - kli rishon2] with milk is prohibited. practice were uncomfortable with some of the ramifications of both
If the meat was just soaked in milk [even if spices were added to the the narrative and the laws embedded in it. Why should God have
milk], it is permitted. If the meat was fried or deep-fried in a dairy had to kill so many of the Egyptians while saving the Israelites?
substance, although there are some poskim(3) who allow its usage, Couldn't God have done it in another way? Many of us are aware, for
the majority do not(4); instance, of the midrashic reasoning underlying the practice of spilling
The meat of fowl, when cooked together with milk [which is forbidden drops from the second cup of wine at the Seder, commemorating the
to eat only mi-d'Rabbanan], may be fed to a pet(5); loss of Egyptian life instanced by our own redemption from slavery:
All chayah (non-domestic kosher beast) meat, e.g. deer, buffalo etc., in the Rabbinic text, God says to the Israelites singing the Song at
cooked together with milk [which is forbidden to eat only mi- the Sea (Exodus 15), "My children are drowning in the sea, and yet
d'Rabbanan], may be fed to a pet(6); you are singing praises to Me?" Thus, we diminish the overflowing
Meat of non-kosher species of animals, e.g. horse meat, that is cup of wine, a symbol of unadulterated joy. Similarly in our parasha
cooked together with milk, may be fed to a pet(7); (see Exodus 11:5), Rashi, troubled by God's decree condemning the
Some poskim hold that whey is not considered "milk" in regard to this first-born of all of the Egyptians, even the slaves and captives,
halachah(8). explains that since they rejoiced at Israel's suffering and participated
There is a disagreement among the poskim concerning meat from a in their debasement, they also merited the punishment.
kosher animal which was rendered non-kosher, either because it was There is a wonderful, though somewhat inaccessible, midrash in
terminally ill (treifah) or because it was not slaughtered properly which this sensitivity to even possible unjust suffering is raised in a
(neveilah). The Rambam(9) holds that benefit may be derived from unique way. The midrash is entitled Petirat Moshe Rabbenu ("The
this type of meat. [According to this view, the milk in which the meat Death of Moses"); it consists of a dialogue between Moses and God,
was cooked would also be permitted(10).] Many other poskim, in which Moses attempts to persuade God to revoke God's own
decree of death against him, at least until Moses can live for awhile in shall be found with you, and no leaven shall be found in all your
the Promised Land. At one point, as the argument sways back and territory. And you shall explain to your son on that day, •It is
forth, God says to Moses: "Are you greater than Isaac?! Didn't he because of what the LORD did for me when I went free from Egypt.`
also die?" Moses responds: "Yes, but that was just, since Isaac had a 'And this shall serve you as a sign on your hand and as a reminder
terrible fault: he fathered Esau, whose descendants destroyed the on your forehead (lit. "between your eyes")-in order that the
Temple and massacred your children!" To this God replies, "Oh! Are Teaching of the LORD may be in your mouth-that with a mighty hand
you so worried about killing?! Did I ever command you to kill that the LORD freed you from Egypt. You shall keep this institution at its
Egyptian?!" set time from year to year." (Exodus 13:6-10)
At this point in the midrash, we recall the animated Moses in The All the verses in this section seem to refer to the laws
Prince of Egypt: couldn't Moses have confronted the evil in his own surrounding the Passover holiday, and they are familiar to us until
society without himself shedding blood? To recall, the answer that this very day. But, verse 9 seems to be out of place. What does "And
the movie offers is that, at least initially, Moses himself feels too guilty this shall serve you as a sign on your hand and as a reminder on
to remain in society. However, the midrashic Moses, in contrast with your forehead-in order that the Teaching of the LORD may be in
the animated Moses, doesn't let God get away with murder! "And your mouth-that with a mighty hand the LORD freed you from Egypt"
you, God," he retorts, "you killed all of the Egyptian first-born, the have to do with Passover? The connection to leaving Egypt seems
innocent along with the guilty, and yet you would kill me on account to be the only connection. But, there are many questions raised by
of the one Egyptian whom I killed in the act of rescuing my fellow?" this verse. What is the sign on your hand and the reminder on your
You may not be satisfied with the answer that the midrash places forehead? If the sign of the hand connects to the "mighty hand" of the
in the mouth of God; I know I am not: "The Holy One, Blessed be Lord, this might answer the question for that sign. But, what is the
God, said to him: Do you compare yourself with me?! I can bring sign, and what of the forehead?
death, and life as well, even to those who are already dead! Can you Tradition assumes that these "signs" are the Tefillin. Tefillin which
bring the dead back to life?!" This deferral to the World to Come of are wrapped on the arm, and placed on the forehead. But, we know
problems relating to human suffering in this world, does not, of that the command of Tefillin is to be performed every weekday, and
course, settle the issue. We must face the fact that our Torah records not on Passover, or certainly not JUST on Passover, as verse 10
that our redemption from slavery was achieved only through the would imply. One Midrash interprets this verse, and Tefillin in the
death of countless Egyptians. We can take comfort in the fact that as context of dealing with the ideal and the real. R. Eliezer has the
a society, Egypt was guilty of terrible crimes against humanity, and people of Israel saying to the Holy One that they really want to be
that many of the Egyptians who were killed were undoubtedly guilty engaged in Torah study day and night, but THEY HAVE NO FREE
of participating in the atrocities or being indifferent to the suffering in TIME. God says to them: "keep the commandment of Tefillin, and I
their midst. However, many who were killed surely were innocent. will consider it as if you have been busy with Torah day and night."
For us, as for the Rabbis, this creates a moral ambiguity that begs (Midrash Tehillim, 1:17). Upon hearing this, R. Yohanan exclaims:
resolution. For now, we must suffice ourselves with the Rabbinic "this notion is explicit in a Torah verse: "And this shall serve you as a
rule: ainha-katuv omer elah darsheini, "this text says nothing other sign on your hand and as a reminder on your forehead (lit. "between
than ‘expound me'." The Torah requires human involvement, your eyes")-in order that the Teaching ("Torah") of the LORD may be
especially with regard to its narrative, and moral, gaps. in your mouth."
B) IYUNEI SHABBAT The problem as put by R. Eliezer is the conflict between the ideal
Rabbi Yehiel Grenimann and reality. Ideally one should engage in Torah all the time, but
What is unique about Jewish education? What is the secret of people must work, engage in family activities, etc. The free time to
the remarkable survival of the Jewish people? From whence the study Torah is very little. The suggestion is that one must do
religious staying power of the Jews? Could it be found in the nature something which will enable us to study Torah WITHIN A
of Jewish education throughout the ages? REASONABLE FRAMEWORK OF TIME. The answer is the
A possible answer to these questions is to be found in today’s commandment of Tefillin, which I take to mean the putting on of
parasha – at least a hint of an answer. Here in parashat Bo the Tefillin and the recitation of, at least the Keriat Shema. I say at least
Torah begins to speak to us from a new and different angle, to Keriat Shema because of the continuation of the same Midrash which
change gear, so to speak. Until now it has been relating a story to us puts Keriat Shema into the same type of rubric as Tefillin. Perhaps
– a holy narrative. We have been told the story of creation, the the intention is the whole prayer service of each morning, which on
genesis of the human species and human civilization, and then some mornings includes Torah study in the service.
focused upon the evolution of holy people of Abraham, and Sarah, An extension of this notion can be found in a striking Midrash
Isaac and Rivka and Jacob/Israel, Rahel and Leah – the people of which uses our same verse. In commenting on the opening verse of
Israel, whose birth as a people we are witnessing in the text. Terumah: "bring to me gifts" ("va-yikhu li terumah"), this Midrash
>From here on the Torah begins to add a different language, one opens our eyes to a new possible meaning of the word "li", "to me".
which will be interwoven into the continuing narrative language, one God says to Israel:
which is quintessentially Jewish. This is the language of mitzvot, the "the Torah was mine, "in order that the Teaching ("Torah") of the
language of Jewish spirituality. Every Jew in any serious movement, LORD may be in your mouth" (Ex. 13:9) [i.e. the Torah belongs to
any Jew who is seriously engaged in Jewish spirituality, will know the Lord], and Justice was mine, as it says: "for justice belongs to
how to speak and appreciate this language – the language of holy God" (Deut. 1:17). You have taken them [for yourselves], take me
deeds – mitzvot. with them." (Yalkut Shimoni, Terumah, 364).
Our teacher, Abraham Joshua Heschel, never tired of Humanity has appropriated what was God's to begin with. Torah
emphasizing that this (and not Halacha or ‘the halachic process’!) is and Justice are claimed by humans, but when they take those
the most important and central concept in Jewish life and culture – instruments they must take God along with them. One can never
the concept of mitzvah. Heschel would speak of the modern Jew’s lose a sense of the Divine when studying Torah, or administering
need to take a "leap of action" rather than a "leap of faith" (a term justice. These are not totally human creations, and to lose sight of
made popular by religious existentialists earlier this century). What that may be to turn these very instruments into idolatrous creations
was important in the ongoing miracle of Jewish life was action, action of human thought alone. Indeed, the idea of this Midrash is that
sanctifying this world. A Jew is one who performs mitzvot and does Torah alone without sensibility of the Divine, or justice alone without
so consciously, aware of being the object of God’s concern. awareness of the Divine, may be destructive rather than productive.
This week’s parasha presents us with the first set of mitzvot in Wrapping oneself in Tefillin is a ritual act, but it is an act which
the Torah – the mitzvot of Pesah. We are told to eat matzah, to clear physically binds one to the Divine. Torah that goes along with it has
our homes of hametz, to bring a special Pesah sacrifice which is to a deeper spiritual connection. It is a way of "taking God" along while
be consumed at a special family gathering on the night of liberation, engaging in Torah. But, it also, because of our verses, creates a
to celebrate our liberation from slavery and to relate the story to our daily physical reminder of the exodus from Egypt. "Taking God
children. along" with us every day deepens our sense of personal freedom,
Very high on the priority list here is the task of preserving the and is truly an expression of the deepest values of Judaism.
memory – creating holy memory. The memory of the experience of
liberation, of divine love and concern for the people, is to be made
into a living memory – one to be reenacted every year. The mitzvah
of preserving and reliving this holy memory, of passing it on from
generation to generation becomes a special holy task. What is born
in this week’s parsha is the primacy of education in Jewish spiritual
life – "And you shall tell it to your child". The holy retelling we today
call the Haggada – probably the most brilliant didactic creation of the
rabbinical era, and a model for subsequent Jewish education – is
also born here. Its seed is to be found in the repeated reference here
to the dialogue between generations.
As it says in the text: "And it shall come to pass when your
children say unto you: What mean you by this service? That you shall
say…" (Exodus, 12.26); "And you shall tell your child in that day,
saying…(ibid, 13.8); "And it shall be when your child asks you in time
to come, saying: What is this? You shall say unto him…(ibid, 13.14-).
In short, tell the story!
C) PINAH MASORTIT
Rabbi Michael Graetz
Parashat Bo contains the commands relating to Passover. Hazal
talked about two sets of commands, those relating to the Passover in
Egypt before the exodus, and those relating to Passover for all
coming generations. At the end of this weeks Parasha, we have the
following formulation of the Passover for all generations:
'Seven days you shall eat unleavened bread, and on the seventh
day there shall be a festival of the LORD. Throughout the seven
days unleavened bread shall be eaten; no leavened bread 1