Do Not Resist
"And you shall safeguard the matzos"(12:17)
The literal interpretation of the verse is that one should approach the
preparation of the matzos with extreme caution, for the slightest delay
could cause the dough to become "chameitz" - "leavened", thereby
invalidating the matzos for use on Pesach. Rashi cites a Midrashic
interpretation which states that by changing the vowels, the word "matzos"
can be read as "mitzvos", making the verse an injunction requiring us to
perform all mitzvos with "zrizus" - "alacrity"; When a person has the
opportunity to perform a mitzva, he should not allow it to become
"leavened", rather he should perform it immediately..
The comparison that the Midrash draws between the preparation of matzos and
the performance of mitzvos raises the following difficulty: If a person
prepares the matzos without the necessary alacrity, he invalidates them.
However, while not the preferred manner, procrastination in the performance
of mitzvos does not invalidate them.
Additionally, the following Talmudic dictum requires explanation: "A person
should always involve himself in Torah and mitzvos, even with improper
motivation, for through their performance, he will come to do them with the
proper motivation." Why does the performance of a mitzva with improper
motivations have merit, while the performance of a mitzva with proper
motivations but without alacrity is compared to valueless chameitz?
If a woman sends her child to buy some groceries, he goes out of a sense of
obligation to his mother. If, when he returns, his mother informs him that
she forgot a certain item, the child will make another trip to the store,
albeit reluctantly. If this scenario persists, each time the mother asks him
to make another trip, the child's reluctance will build, until he will get
to the point where he resents his mother having asked him to go in the first
place. He may, in fact, even voice his resentment by speaking
disrespectfully to his mother. It would have been preferable for his mother
not to have asked him to go altogether, for what began as an act of respect,
spiraled into a flagrant display of disrespect. However, if the mother would
offer her child a monetary incentive, then the child would perform the task
The explanation for this is as follows: The longer a person performs a task
with resistance, the greater his reluctance will be. He will reach a point
of such great resentment, that he will loathe performing this task. However,
incentives would alleviate his reluctance, and he may even come to enjoy
performing the task. Maimonides teaches that we should create incentives to
get our children such as giving them candy to perform mitzvos so that they
relate to the experience in a positive manner. This is probably the
pathology behind every synagogue having a "candy man". Experience has shown
us that if we force our children to go to shul and the experience is a
negative one, at the point where we no longer wield that control over them,
they will stop going. If however, they identify the experience as a positive
one, albeit for the wrong reasons, chances are they will continue to go.
Hopefully, they will then grow to love the experience for the appropriate
A person may have the correct intentions in the performance of a mitzva, but
if he performs it in a lax manner, he indicates that he is doing it with
resistance. This resistance can grow to the point where he loathes the
performance of the mitzva. Therefore, Chazal refer to a mitzva performed
without alacrity as chameitz. On the other hand, if a person performs a
mitzva enthusiastically, he may come to love the performance of that mitzva,
even if that enthusiasm is generated by rewards or incentives. Therefore,
Chazal encourage such behavior.
3.Hilchos Teshuva 10:5 The Talmud in Pesachim makes the same point as to how
to keep children involved at the seder.
Come to Pharaoh, for I have made his heart stubborn..." (10:1)
Last week's parsha, Parshas Va'eira contains seven of the ten "makkos" -
"plagues" inflicted upon Miitzrayim. Parshas Bo records the remaining three.
Why are the makkos divided over two parshios? The preamble to the three
makkos in this parsha includes Hashem's instruction to Moshe to appear
before Pharaoh as well as the requirement to relate to our children the
miracles which Hashem performed on our behalf. Both of these messages are
applicable to all ten makkos; why are they recorded at this juncture?
Bnei Yisroel were commanded to apply the blood of the Pascal lamb to their
door posts and lintels. The merit of fulfilling this commandment would
protect them from harm during "makkas bechoros" - "the death of the
firstborn". Furthermore, at the time of the makkah the verse states that
Hashem "pasach" - "passed over" the Jewish-owned houses. Rashi comments that
"pasach" also translates as "had mercy". All of the previous plagues
struck only the Mitzrim and no special protection was necessary. Why did
makkas bechoros require new merit and an extra measure of mercy?
Rashi cites a Midrash which states that the ten makkos followed a calculated
war strategy. When an attacking army wants the enemy to capitulate, they
begin by cutting off their enemy's water supply. If the enemy refuses to
submit, psychological warfare is waged to bring them to their knees.
Similarly, Hashem first attacked the Mitzrim's water supply. Failing to
submit brought upon the Mitzrim the frogs which emitted a terrible sound,
instilling the entire nation with fear. The Midrash offers a second
explanation as to Hashem's motivation for bringing the ten makkos. The
makkos inflicted upon Pharaoh were directed at all the elements which he
used to enslave Bnei Yisroel. The plagues were a concerted punitive action
against the Mitzri enslavement machine. What emerges from these two
Midrashim is the understanding that the plagues served a dual purpose; they
were used to force Pharaoh to submit to the will of Hashem and they were
punitive in nature, punishing the Mitzrim for having enslaved the children
Although after the seventh plague Pharaoh had already capitulated
proclaiming "Hashem is the Righteous One, and I and my people are the wicked
ones", Moshe was informed that Hashem had strengthened Pharaoh's resolve
not to set Bnei Yisroel free. It now becomes apparent that there is a second
purpose to the makkos, for even after Pharaoh had acceded to Hashem's
demands, the plagues continued. This purpose is the fulfillment of Hashem's
promise to Avraham "But also the nation that they shall serve I will
judge". The punishment is not complete until after all ten makkos have
been meted out. The demarcation of the parshios represents the two
dimensions of the makkos. Since the focus of the first seven is the
submission of Pharaoh whereas the remaining makkos are solely punitive in
nature, this is the appropriate juncture for the division of the parshios.
When the basis of the plagues was to elicit Pharaoh's submission, Bnei
Yisroel did not require their own merit as protection. However, when the
plagues became purely punitive in nature and the Attribute of Justice was
unleashed, Bnei Yisroel themselves became subject to scrutiny and required
their own merit to ward off retribution. Moshe, aware of this, was reluctant
to go before Pharaoh after the seventh makkah. Thus, it became necessary for
Hashem to instruct Moshe that he must inform Pharaoh that the plagues would
continue. The Attribute of Justice manifested itself in the plague of
darkness; Rashi cites the Midrash which states that eighty percent of Bnei
Yisroel were decimated under the cover of darkness so that the Mitzrim would
not witness their punishment. The message which we relate to our children
is that aside from sending forth miracles against Mitrayim to ensure our
emancipation, Hashem also punished the Mitzrim for having enslaved us.
3.Tanchuma Bo 4