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Posted on January 11, 2024 (5784) By Shlomo Katz | Series: | Level:

Volume 38, No. 14
3 Shevat 5784
January 13, 2024

Sponsored by Faith Ginsburg on the yahrzeit of her brother-in-law Samuel Allen Schwartz (Yeshayahu Asher ben Yoel Fishel a”h – 2 Shevat) and Robert and Hannah Klein in memory of Gilda Haber a”h

In this week’s Parashah, we find the “Four Expressions of Redemption” (6:6-7), “I shall take you out from under the burdens of Egypt; I shall rescue you from their service; I shall redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great judgments; I shall take you to Me for a people.” The Talmud Yerushalmi teaches that the four cups of wine that we drink at the Pesach Seder parallel these four expressions.

But how do these four expressions parallel the four cups? R’ Zvi Hirsch Ferber z”l (1879-1966; rabbi in London, England) suggests: The first cup of wine is used for Kiddush, in which we say, “He chose us from among all other nations.” This parallels “I shall take you to Me for a people.”

We recite the Haggadah over the second cup of wine. This parallels “I shall take you out from under the burdens of Egypt.”

Over the third cup, we recite Birkat Ha’mazon, in which we speak the praises of Eretz Yisrael. Were we to merit it, the Land would be exceptionally productive with minimal effort on our part. This parallels “I shall rescue you from their service,” i.e., serving the land.

Finally, we recite Hallel, praising Hashem for His miracles, over the fourth cup. This parallels “I shall redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great judgments.”

R’ Ferber adds: The four cups also allude to the four exiles that we have endured. Though we are still in exile, we drink to celebrate the fact that Hashem saves us from oppressors in every generation. (Haggadah Shel Pesach Kerem Ha’Zvi)


“Moshe spoke before Hashem, saying, ‘Behold, Bnei Yisrael did not listen to me, so how will Pharaoh listen to me, when I have sealed lips!’” (6:12)

R’ Yehonatan Eybeschutz z”l (Central Europe; 1690-1764) explains the logic of Moshe’s argument: Our Sages say that the Shechinah “spoke through Moshe voice,” meaning that Moshe’s speech impediment was not discernable when he prophesied. However, Hashem spoke to Moshe in Hebrew, which Pharaoh did not understand. When Moshe translated his prophecies into the Egyptian language, it was no longer Hashem speaking; it was Moshe, and his speech impediment was noticeable. Pharaoh could argue: If your G-d is as powerful as you claim, why can He not do something as simple as healing your speech impediment?!

Why, in fact, did Hashem not heal Moshe? Precisely in order to give Pharaoh the freedom to deny the truth of Moshe’s prophecy. (Tiferet Yehonatan)

This verse is an example of the type of argument known as a Kal Va’chomer (literally, “light and heavy”): The Jewish People had good reasons to believe me, but they did not accept what I said. Why then should I expect Pharaoh to believe me?

R’ Tzvi Abba Gorelick z”l (Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshiva Gedolah Zichron Moshe in South Fallsburg, N.Y.; died 2010) explains Moshe’s argument as follows: Bnei Yisrael heard the Shechinah speaking through me; nevertheless, they did not accept what I was saying. How then will Pharaoh accept what I am saying when I speak in my own voice with my speech impediment? (Pirkei Mikra)


“The River shall swarm with frogs . . .” (7:28)

“Only in the River shall they remain.” (8:5)

R’ Gavriel Wolf Margolis z”l (1847-1935, rabbi of Grodno, Belarus, and later Boston, Massachusetts) writes: The Gemara (Shabbat 77b) teaches, “Nothing that Hashem created lacks a purpose.” Likewise, Midrash Kohelet Rabbah states, “Even things that appear to you to be superfluous are essential to the world’s existence.” It follows, writes R’ Margolis, that if a creation is present in one place and not in another, Hashem has a reason for making it so. For example, there is a reason why He made crocodiles native to Egypt and not to Grodno or Boston. It may be for ecological reasons or it may be for a reason we do not know.

Given that, asks R’ Margolis, where did the frogs that infested Egypt in the Second Plague come from? Wherever frogs were already present, they were there for a reason. Hashem would not have taken frogs from other places and brought them to Egypt, as they were necessary where they were. Rather, Hashem told Moshe, “The River shall swarm with frogs,” i.e., new frogs. [Perhaps this is the idea behind the well-known Midrash cited by Rashi z”l (8:2) that only one frog came out of the Nile, and it thereafter split into many frogs each time an Egyptian struck it.]

R’ Margolis continues: Likewise, when the plague was about to end, Moshe told Pharaoh that, “Only in the River shall they remain.” Do not think, Moshe said, that the frogs that infested your country were the ones that naturally live in the Nile. Those frogs never left the Nile and will continue to live there once the plague is over. Only the new frogs that were created for purposes of the plague will die.

The same thing is true of the Fourth Plague, Arov / the swarm of wild animals that invaded Egypt. We read (8:17), “For if you do not send out My people, behold, I shall incite against you, your servants, your people, and your houses, the swarm of wild beasts; and the houses of Egypt shall be filled with the swarm, and even the ground upon which they are.” Why, asks R’ Margolis, was it necessary to add, “And even the ground upon which they are”? If they will be in the houses, certainly they will be on the ground around the houses! Moshe was telling Pharaoh: Hashem is not like a king who moves soldiers from one location to another as needed, leaving some locations empty of soldiers in order to reinforce other places. A swarm of wild animals will invade your homes, but not because Hashem relocated them from elsewhere. “Even the ground upon which they are” currently will continue to have animals, because, if Hashem put them there in the first place, then those places need those animals. Rather, Hashem will miraculously cause swarms of animals to invade Egypt without taking them from other places. (Torat Gavriel)



“Baruch atah Hashem, Who sanctifies the Sabbath.” (From the Shabbat prayers and Kiddush)

On Yom Tov, the parallel blessing concludes: “Who sanctifies Yisrael and festivals,” whereas the blessing we recite on Shabbat does not mention “Yisrael.” The reason for this distinction is that we (Yisrael) have a Mitzvah to sanctify the new moon, which gives us some control over when the festivals will occur. In contrast, Shabbat comes every seven days because G-d sanctified the seventh day. We have no input in that scheduling.

R’ Matisyahu Salomon z”l (1937-2024; Mashgiach Ruchani of the Gateshead Talmudical College-Etz Yosef in England and Beth Medrash Govoha in Lakewood, N.J.; he passed away last week) elaborates on this distinction using a parable: A king sent a message to one of his subjects, a simple farmer, that he was coming to visit the latter in his home. The farmer immediately began cleaning his home, making necessary repairs, and generally preparing his home for the king’s arrival. Of course, the farmer’s joy when the king actually arrived was immense! Even greater, however, was the farmer’s joy when the king invited him to attend the dedication of the new royal palace. There, the gleaming doorknobs, the fine foods, and the pomp and circumstance were not artificially contrived for one occasion; rather, they were genuine.

R’ Salomon explains: We have some control over the timing of Yom Tov; therefore, it is if Hashem is coming to visit us. In contrast, Shabbat marks the completion of Creation, the dedication of Hashem’s palace, so-to-speak. As visitors in that palace, we are obligated to take note of all of the good things that Hashem created and of the kindness that He does for us. After all, He could have created a world where we eat only bread and water. This, says R’ Salomon, is the idea behind the Mitzvah of Oneg Shabbat / enjoying food and other delights on Shabbat.

R’ Salomon continues: Many of the foods that we eat on Shabbat would seem to be the food of poor people–for example, roasted potatoes, gefilte fish, and other dishes made from seemingly inferior parts of the animal. Historians might argue that this is because, for much of history, our ancestors were, in fact, poor people who had to economize and make the most of everything they had. However, writes R’ Salomon, there is a deeper message here: The pleasures of Shabbat are intended to cause us to reflect on Hashem’s kindness, and we wish to see Hashem’s kindness in everything–even in inferior foods. Hashem’s world is so wonderful that delicious foods can be made even out of seemingly inferior items. (Matnat Chaim: Shabbat p.181)