Posted on January 14, 2010 (5770) By Rabbi Yochanan Zweig | Series: | Level:


“Hashem spoke to Moshe and Aharon and commanded them regarding the Children of Israel…”(6:13)

The Talmud Yerushalmi relates that prior to leaving Mitzrayim, Hashem commanded Moshe to teach Bnei Yisroel the details involved in fulfilling the mitzva of “shiluach avadim” – “emancipation of slaves”[1]. However, the laws connected to slavery were not pertinent to Bnei Yisroel until the laws of Yovel, the Jubilee year came into effect in the Land of Israel, over fifty years later. Why then is this the most opportune time to instruct Bnei Yisroel concerning these laws? The Talmud states that giving charity on a fast day is the most effective manner to harness the energies of the day[2]. Why is charity essential to fasting? Furthermore, Rashi interjects that the best time to give the charity is immediately after the conclusion of the fast. How does Rashi draw this conclusion? The most effective way to perform a mitzva which involves human interaction in an act of chesed is to become completely sensitive to the plight of the recipient.

A fast day is the most opportune time to empathize with the needy. When a person suffers from the pangs of hunger, he understands the daily struggle of the recipient of his charity. Therefore, Rashi teaches that after the conclusion of the fast, prior to sitting down to a meal, a person should give charity, for this creates the greatest level of empathy for the needy recipient. When Bnei Yisroel were about to embark upon their passage from slavery to salvation, Hashem commanded Moshe to instruct them regarding the emancipation of slaves. It was at that moment that Bnei Yisroel could internalize the sensitivity required to perform this mitzva. They could empathize with the slave who they were commanded to set free and would treat him with greater sensitivity.

1. Rosh Hashana 3:5
2. Berachos 6b

From The Mouth Of Babes

“Aharon took Elisheva daughter of Aminadav, sister of Nachshon…” (6:23)

We find the genealogy of Moshe and Aharon in this week’s parsha. The Torah uncharacteristically records not only Aharon’s wife, Elisheva, but her brother Nachshon as well. From this the Talmud derives that if a person desires to know the true nature of his wife-to-be, he should investigate her brothers.

[1]It would seem logical to think that in order to discover the nature of a future spouse, a person should investigate her parents. Furthermore, the Talmud on numerous occasions espouses the desirability of a spouse based upon the parents’ qualities[2]. Why then does the verse emphasize investigation of the brother? An adult is capable of projecting an image which does not truly reflect his or her essence. The facades which people create for themselves make it impossible to assess their true nature. Children are not as sensitive to the need to project an image which will give them good social standing as are adults. Therefore, a child’s behavior generally reflects his true nature.

The nature which a child reflects is not only his own, but that of his parents as well, for they mold his behavior patterns during his formative years. Consequently, investigating a woman’s brother is the best way to investigate her parents, for the behavior of the child, impervious to any facade his parents may be hiding behind, reflects every nuance and inflection of the parents’ behavior. The reason why the brother exhibits the parents’ traits to a greater extent than his sister, is that a Jewish girl is, by nature, more reserved, and this may impede the detection of character traits and attitudes imbued in her by her parents. On the other hand, her brother, who is more aggressive and therefore, less reserved, can offer a more comprehensive evaluation of the parents’ attitudes and nature.

1. Bava Kama 110 See however Rashbam
2. See Kiddushin 69-70, Berachos 64b the Talmud describes the importance of marrying a bas Talmid Chacham

Slapping The Other’s Cheek

“Moreover, I established My covenant…” (6:4)

Prior to Moshe going to visit Pharaoh, Hashem instructs him to treat Pharaoh with the honor befitting a king.

[1]Why was this instruction reserved for Moshe’s second visit to Pharaoh? Should this message not have been relayed to Moshe when he first encountered Pharaoh in last week’s parsha?[2] Moshe’s ancestry is recorded in this week’s parsha. Rashi explains that by identifying his lineage, the Torah is substantiating Moshe being chosen as leader.[3] Why was this information not divulged at the Burning Bush in last week’s parsha when Moshe was actually appointed to lead Bnei Yisroel?

When Moshe was at the Burning Bush, he was given certain signs to perform for Bnei Yisroel to convince them that he, in fact, had been sent by Hashem. Amongst these signs, he was to take water from the Nile and turn it into blood. Rashi explains that this particular sign was used, for it was an attack upon the Egyptian deity, the Nile River.

[4]In this week’s parsha, Rashi cites the Midrash which says that Hashem instructed Moshe to designate Aharon to perform the first plague, turning the waters of the Nile to blood. Since Moshe had benefited from the protection of the river as a baby, it would be an act of ingratitude for Moshe to be the one striking the river. Therefore, Aharon was chosen for this task[5]. Why then in last week’s parsha, when Moshe performed the sign for Bnei Yisroel, was it permissible for Moshe to turn the water of the Nile into blood?

In Sefer Bereishis, we find two separate guarantees given by Hashem that He will take Bnei Yisroel out of Egypt. The first assurance is reiterated in Parshas Shemos, by the Burning Bush. Rashi relates that Hashem told Moshe that he should recite to Bnei Yisroel the verse which records Hashem’s guarantee to Yaakov and Yosef that He would remember Bnei Yisroel, “pakod yifkod” – “He will surely remember”.

[6]Hashem gave to Avraham a separate guarantee in the “Bris Bein Habesarim” – “Covenant of the Pieces”. Hashem promised Avraham that He would ensure that Bnei Yisroel leave Egypt with great wealth[7]. It is this covenant which is reiterated in the beginning of Parshas Va’era[8]. The difference between the two guarantees is as follows: The guarantee of “pakod yifkod” is that Hashem Himself would take Bnei Yisroel out of Egypt; redemption would be by His hand alone. The guarantee of the Covenant of the Pieces would not be fulfilled by Hashem directly taking them out. Included in the Covenant of the Pieces is the assurance that the nation that enslaved Bnei Yisroel would receive retribution for their actions.

Why is punishment of the Egyptians a requirement of the Covenant? In order to restore the dignity and self-esteem of Bnei Yisroel, it was imperative that Bnei Yisroel see the Egyptians suffer just as they themselves were forced to suffer for so many years. Therefore, in order for Hashem to fulfill His guarantee to Avraham that He would restore Bnei Yisroel to the status of free men, punishment of the Egyptians was a necessity. The most effective manner to attain this restoration was for the punishment to come from Bnei Yisroel themselves. Consequently, Moshe had to be their leader, and not just Hashem’s agent. If Moshe, functioning as the leader of Bnei Yisroel meted out the punishment, Bnei Yisroel’s perception would be that they too administered the punishment. In last week’s parsha the redemption based upon “pakod yifkod” began. Moshe only functioned as Hashem’s prophet, His agent. Moshe was acting only as the vehicle of Hashem’s will. In Parshas Va’era, Moshe was appointed king so that he may be perceived by Bnei Yisroel as their representative.

Therefore, in last week’s parsha, when Moshe stood before Pharaoh, he was not instructed to show Pharaoh any special honor, for he was not functioning in his own capacity, rather as Hashem’s agent. In this week’s parsha, when Moshe appeared before Pharaoh as an equal, for he too was a king, the proper protocol had to be followed. Since Moshe’s position as king began in this week’s parsha, his ancestry was recorded at this juncture. When Moshe performed the sign before Bnei Yisroel, he was functioning only as Hashem’s agent. Therefore, it was not Moshe performing the act, but Hashem. Consequently, no element of ingratitude toward the Nile was present. In this week’s parsha, for Moshe to strike the Nile as a king, imbued with the ability to turn water into blood, would be inappropriate. Therefore, he had to defer to Aharon to perform this miracle.

1. 6:13
2. 3:16
3. 6:14, See Malbim
4. 4:9, See Rashi Yashan in Mikraos Gedolos
5. 7:13
6. 3:16, See Bereishis 50:24,25
7. Bereishis 16:14
8. 6:6