Hamaayan / The Torah Spring
Edited by Shlomo Katz
Volume XVI, No. 14
28 Tevet 5762
January 12, 2002
Orach Chaim 566:7-567:1
Daf Yomi (Bavli): Bava Metzia 51
Daf Yomi (Yerushalmi): Shevi'it 19
This week's parashah contains seven of the ten plagues that
Hashem brought upon the Egyptians. Why were the plagues ten in
number? R' Yosef Moshe z"l (Polish rabbi; died 1815) offers the
On the verse (Yirmiyahu 31:19), "Is Ephraim My dear son," the
midrash comments (as if quoting Hashem): "How dear is he to Me?
How many frogs did I pay? How many lice did I pay?" The Midrash
refers to these plagues as if Hashem gave the frogs and lice as a
ransom for Ephraim, a nickname for the Jewish people.
Was it halachically proper to pay a large ransom for Bnei
Yisrael? Halachah in fact prohibits paying exorbitant ransoms in
order not to encourage kidnaping. There is one case, however,
where halachah not only permits, but demands, that a huge ransom
be paid. Specifically, the gemara states that if one sells his
slave to a non-Jew, and the non-Jewish buyer prevents the slave
from observing mitzvot, the seller is obligated to redeem the
slave even for ten times the slave's value.
Such was the case in Egypt. The verse (Devarim 26:6), "The
Egyptians treated us badly," also can be translated, "The
Egyptians made us bad." They lowered our spiritual stature by
preventing us from performing the mitzvot. Hashem therefore had
to ransom us even for a _ten-fold_ ransom. This is why we
introduce the plagues in the Haggadah with the statement: "These
are the ten plagues that Hashem brought on the Egyptians _in
Egypt_." The last two words are seemingly redundant, but they
emphasize why there were _ten_ plagues: Bnei Yisrael were
enslaved _in Egypt_, where they could not perform mitzvot.
(Haggadah Shel Pesach Be'er Mayim p.72)
"V'lakachti / I shall take you to Me for a people and I
shall be a God to you; and you shall know that I am Hashem
your God, Who takes you out from under the burdens of
This is one of the "Four Expressions of Redemption" for which
we drink four cups of wine at the Seder. Specifically, the Sages
say that this verse alludes to the giving of the Torah.
R' Yitzchak Arieli z"l (see back page) writes: We learn from
here that our existence as a people depends on our acceptance of
the Torah, and only through the Torah are we called "G-d's
nation." The Biblical Ruth recognized this when she converted to
Judaism. Thus, the gemara (Yevamot 47b) teaches that Ruth's
statement (Ruth 1:16), "Your people are my people," was
responding to Naomi's attempt to dissuade her from converting,
saying, "We have 613 commandments." It is our Torah and mitzvot
that define us as a people.
Yet, there is a fifth Expression of Redemption, one which is
not represented by a cup of wine. This is (Shmot 6:8):
"Ve'haivaiti / I shall bring you to the land about which I raised
My hand to give it to Avraham, Yitzchak, and Yaakov; and I shall
give it to you as a heritage." Why is this Expression not
represented by a cup of wine? Because it is not simply another
promise like the other four Expressions; it is the ultimate goal
of all of the others, and they are preparatory steps for it.
Without a Torah perspective -- "Torah eyeglasses," R' Yechezkel
Abramsky z"l (1886-1976; best known as the author of Chazon
Yechezkel) used to call it -- one cannot recognize even one of
Hashem's miracles. The most obvious miracle will make no
impression on a person who does not have Torah eyeglasses.
This is stated in the above pasuk. Hashem says, "I will take
you to Me as a nation" -- this occurred when the Torah was given
- and only then will you "know that I am Hashem, your G-d, who is
taking you out from under the burdens of Egypt."
Looking back at history, we find generations which appear to
have been more faithful to G-d than the generation which
witnessed the Exodus. This is for the reason explained above:
Those later generations had the Torah to guide them; the miracles
of the Exodus, on the other hand, occurred before the Torah was
given, and were thus of limited educational value.
The gemara (Eruvin 100b) states: "If the Torah had not been
given, we would learn modesty and discretion from cats, not to
steal -- from ants, marital fidelity -- from doves, etc." Where
then, asked R' Chaim Brisker, are the millions of people who
should have learned these traits from those animals? The answer
is that we could have learned from the animals if the Torah had
not been given. Now, however, the only source of faith, morals
and proper behavior, is the Torah itself.
(P'ninei Rabbenu Yechezkel II p.54)
"They are the spokesmen [sent] to Pharaoh . . . they are
Moshe and Aharon." (6:27)
Rashi writes: "They are the ones who were commanded [to speak],
and they are the ones who carried out their mission, as righteous
when they finished as they were when they began."
R' David Soloveitchik shlita asks: Is Rashi's statement really
necessary? Would I have thought otherwise of Moshe and Aharon?
R' Soloveitchik answers: We learn from here that when one
becomes involved with a rasha -- even as his opponent -- it is
noteworthy if he walks away from the encounter without at least a
slight spiritual blemish. This is so even if one is as great as
Moshe or Aharon. We find the same idea in last week's parashah,
which concludes the list of Yaakov's sons with the words, "And
Yosef was in Egypt." Rashi explains that even though Yosef was
in Egypt, he was not harmed spiritually. We see that even
someone as great as Yosef had to fear being influenced.
(Nevertheless, the lesson from Moshe and Aharon is even more
significant, for it teaches that even the rasha's adversary must
fear that he will be influenced by the rasha.)
(Quoted in Shai La'Torah)
"Behold! With the staff that is in my hand I shall strike
the waters that are in the River, and they shall turn to
The Mishnah (Avot 5:8) teaches that Moshe's staff was one of
the ten things that were created in the last moments of the Six
Days of Creation. R' Eliezer Felkeles z"l (rabbi of Prague; late
18th century) explains the significance of this fact as follows:
Rambam writes that the Divine Attribute which we refer to as
"Ratzon" / G-d's Desire was utilized only during the Six Days of
Creation. Everything that will exist at any time in the future
was "desired" by G-d during the Six Days of Creation. Even
things which appear to be deviations from the laws of nature,
notably, the Ten Plagues, actually are built into the Creation.
The Midrash relates that the Ten Plagues (or their initials)
were engraved on the staff. This alludes to the same idea,
writes R' Felkeles. The Ten Plagues were already planned during
the Six Days of Creation and were not a suspension of G-d's laws.
(Haggadah Shel Pesach Ma'aseh B'Rebbe Eliezer)
"Only in the land of Goshen, where Bnei Yisrael were, there
was no hail." (9:26)
R' Simcha Zissel Broide z"l (Rosh Yeshiva of the Chevron
Yeshiva in Yerushalayim; died 2000) observes that this
distinction between the Egyptians and Bnei Yisrael showed
Hashem's love for the Jewish people more so than did the
distinctions made in earlier plagues. For example, the fact that
the plague of Blood did not affect Bnei Yisrael did not
necessarily show the extent of Hashem's love for them because
water is a necessity of life. (Hashem "had" to save the Jews.)
In contrast, the plague of Hail struck only at selected crops.
The fact that Hashem did not strike even selected crops of the
Jewish people shows His regard for them.
(Sahm Derech p.63)
R' Yitzchak Arieli z"l
R' Yitzchak Zumbrower-Arieli was born in Yerushalayim in 1896.
He received his early education in yeshivot Torat Chaim and Etz
Chaim, and was ordained by R' Chaim Berlin. When World War I
broke out, hardships and the Turkish draft caused him to flee to
Petach Tikvah, where he remained for three years.
In 1919, R' Arieli was among those who welcomed R' Avraham
Yitzchak Hakohen Kook to Yerushalayim, and he joined R' Kook in
founding the yeshiva which today is called "Merkaz Harav." R'
Arieli was appointed mashgiach / dean of students of the yeshiva,
and he worked closely with R' Kook for 16 years, until the
latter's death. R' Arieli continued to serve at Merkaz Harav for
To yeshiva students at large, R' Arieli is best known as the
author of Enayim La'mishpat. As regular Talmud students know,
one of the marginal glosses on the typical Talmud page is the Ein
Mishpat, which directs students of particular Talmudic passages
to the relevant halachic rulings in Rambam's Code and in the
Shulchan Aruch. (The Ein Misphat was compiled in the 16th
century by R' Yehoshua Boaz Baruch, who was responsible for many
improvements in the appearance and user-friendliness of the
Talmud page.) R' Arieli's Enayim La'misphat, begun in 1936, adds
thousands of cross-references to those included in the Ein
Mishpat, and also cross-references the Talmud to halachic works
composed after the 16th century. And, unlike the Ein Misphat,
which is an index only, the Enayim La'mishpat discusses the cited
sources and explains their relevance as necessary.
R' Arieli left several other works, including: Shirat
Ha'geulah, a haggadah commentary; Yerach Ha'eitanim, thoughts for
the month of Tishrei; and Midrash Ariel, a Torah commentary. He
also was active in the building of Yerushalayim, and was among
the founders of two neighborhoods - Kiryat Shmuel and Neve
R' Arieli was frequently consulted from within Israel and
abroad as a posek / halachic authority, and he was the official
posek of Yerushalayim's Bikkur Cholim hospital. He strongly
advocated close cooperation between poskim and doctors to ensure
that halachic decision-making was based on current and correct
R' Arieli died on 13 Nissan 5734 / April 5, 1974.
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in memory of mother and grandmother, Rivka bat Yehuda a"h
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