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Posted on June 7, 2002 By Rabbi Yehudah Prero | Series: | Level:

The B’nai Yisroel were distinguishable from the Egyptians by the fact that they had many children. Previous to the bondage in Egypt, women had one child at a time. However, the Jewish women in Egypt had six children at one time. This was a factor which made the Jewish women unique. This factor of multiple births led to them being great in size and number, Atzum. The Hagada brings a Pasuk to show this: “U’vnei Yisroel paru va’yishritzu vayirbu vaya’atzmu b=EDm’od mi’od, vatimalei ha’artez osam,” “And the children of Israel were fruitful and numerous, and they increased and they became very strong, and the land was filled with them.”

The Hagada compares the great number of people in the nation of Israel (“Va’rav”) to blades of grass. The Leil Shimurim explains that this comparison is alluding to the importance of Achdus, unity. Individual blades of grass have no value. Only with the combination of countless blades is there any significance to the grass. The same is true with the nation of Israel. The greatness of the nation of Israel is their unity. No one individual can equal the importance and level of the group working together.

The Ritva explains the comparison in a different manner. The B’nai Yisroel were like the grass in the manner of their growth . Just as the more frequently grass is cut, the more it grows than previously, so too by the Jews. The more people tried to “cut them down”, the larger and stronger they grew.

The next Pasuk that the Hagada analyzes in the chain of events is ” Va’yareinu osanu haMitzrim vayi’anunu, vayitnu aleinu avoda kasha”– that the Egyptians treated us badly, afflicted us, and placed upon us hard labor.

The Pasuk that the Hagada cites in reference to “Va’yareinu osanu” is “Hava nischachma lo, ” the verse which discusses the advice given to Pharoah about ensalving the Jews. The Gemora in Sotah tells us that Pharaoh had three advisors: Yisro (Jethro) , Bilam and Iyov (Job). Bilam, because he gave the above advice, was punished with death. Iyov, who did not respond to the advice but kept quiet, was punished with suffering. Yisro, who fled in protest of the advice was rewarded by having his descendants serve in the Sanhedrin, the supreme Jewish court. The Gemora where this is brought down was discussing the concept of reward and punishment being Mida K’neged Mida, that the reward or punishment fits the deed. Rav Y. Z. Soloveitchik (aka the Gri”z) was puzzled by this. One can understand why Bilam, who advised persecution, was punished with death. But why was Iyov, who remained silent punished with suffering, and Yisro who fled was rewarded with his descendants serving in the Sanhedrin ?

HaRav Soloveitchik answers that the reason why Iyov was silent was because he thought any protest which he may voice would not be listened to, and therefore not help. This may have been the case, but Iyov still had a responsibility to protest against this evil plan. Because he didn’t, he was punished with suffering, as one who suffers cries out, even though he knows that the cries will not remove the suffering. As Yisro protested, he was forced to flee from the palace life (which he had by virtue of the fact he was a royal advisor). Because of this, his children merited serving in the Sanhedrin, which met in the Lishkat HaGazit, part of the Beit HaMikdash, the Holy Temple complex, the “ultimate palace life.” We now see how all three of Pharaoh’s advisors were dealt with Mida K’neged Mida.

The next Pasuk the Hagada cites is: “Vanitzak el Hashem Elokei avoseinu.”. “We cried out to Hashem, the G-d of our forefathers and Hashem heard our cry, and saw our affliction, our burden, and our oppression.”

The Pasuk that the Hagada brings down in reference to “Vanitzak” is “Vayehi bayamim horabim haheim…” “And it was in the course of those many days that the king of Egypt died and the children of Israel groaned because of the servitude and cried; their cry because of the servitude rose up to G-d.”

The Hagada cites that the cries because of the servitude rose up to Hashem. Rabeinu Bachaya comments on this verse that we learn from here that there is no “tefila shelaima,” complete prayer, like that of a person who is praying out of pain and suffering. This prayer is more readily accepted before Hashem than others. However, we see from the Sages that in regards to teshuva, repentance, the repentance that comes out of pain is not as accepted as that which stems from love. A person should not be “forced” in to repenting. What is the difference between the two?

Harav Henoch Leibowitz explains that prayer has an intrinsic difference from repentance. Prayer is Avoda Sheb’leiv, service from the heart, as we pour out our hearts to our Father in heaven. The essential factor to prayer is Kavana, concentrative intent. The prayer which stems from suffering tends to be said with more Kavana, as the dire situation forces the person to pour out his heart with full concentration. Therefore, as there is more Kavana, the prayer is more readily accepted before Hashem, even more than prayer out of love. However, as sincerity is the essential factor to repentance, repentance is more readily accepted when it is self inspired sincerity, not motivated by dire circumstances.

One infliction which the Hagada relates to the Pasuk is the killing of the male new-born children. Rashi writes that on the day Moshe was born, Pharaoh’s astrologers told him that the redeemer of the Jews was to be born on that day. They did not know if this child was a Jew or an Egyptian. They did know, however, that the savior’s demise was to come through water. Therefore, Pharaoh decreed that ALL males born,” KOL habein hayilud”, and not just the Jewish born, were to be cast in the river. However, they did not know that Moshe’s demise was because of the incident by Mei Merivah , when Moshe hit the rock instead of speaking to it, and not their efforts.

The next Pasuk the Hagada cites is: “Vayotzi’ainu Hashem Mi’Mitzrayim…, “Hashem brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, with great awe, with signs and wonders:”

The Vilna Gaon asks a question on the explanation of the Hagada on this Pasuk. The Hagada writes that in the Pasuk of “Vayotziainu” , the stress is on the word “Hashem” – that Hashem took us out of Egypt himself, “Bichvodo Uv’atzmo” and not through an angel, “malach, saraph, shaliach”. If that is the case, the Vilna Gaon asks, what was Hashem referring to when he told Moshe that he would not send the “Destroyer”, the “Mash’chis”, to kill the Jews during the tenth plague, Makas Be’choros . This implies that Hashem himself did not carry out the plague, but rather the Destroyer did, and that this is what the Jews were protected from.

The Vilna Gaon answers that during the course of the plague, there would have been two types of death: the death of the first-born, due to the plague; and the normal death which the Angel of Death takes care of when a person reaches the end of his years. In a nation of 600,000 men, there were most certainly people destined to die that night. However, if even one of the Jews had died, the Egyptians might have said that the deaths were due to the same plague that was affecting them. Therefore, the Torah tells us that Hashem said that he would not send the “Destroyer” – that even the Angel of Death was forbidden by Hashem from making his normal rounds that night.

The Hagada continues in its explanation of the Pasuk and explains that the Yad Hachazaka, the mighty hand mentioned is the fifth plague, Dever (death of cattle). Rav Moshe Feinstein points out that nowhere in this Pasuk is Makas Bechoros, the final plague, alluded to as being a contributing factor to our departure from Egypt. Yet, Dever is. The reason why Dever was considered a contributing cause to our departure is because the main fear of death which fell upon Egypt arrived with the plague of Dever, and the warning of Hashem beforehand (Shemos 9:15). The Egyptians vividly saw that Hashem did have power over life and death at this point. However, they mistakenly concluded that this power was restricted to animals (as demonstrated by Dever). However, when the last plague occurred and the Egyptians saw the first born dying They now knew that Hashem had the power of life and death over man as well. At this point, the fear of Hashem’s power of death which had set in at Dever, prompted the Egyptians to release the Jews.

The Hagada brings down another allusion from the Pasuk. It says that each attribute that Hashem associated with the departure alludes to ten plagues, thereby alluding to the ten plagues which Hashem brought on Egypt.

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