Egyptians Rewarded For Being the Perpetrators of a Kiddush Hashem
These divrei Torah were adapted from the hashkafa portion of Rabbi Yissocher Frand’s Commuter Chavrusah Tapes on the weekly portion: CD #886 Women and Kiddush Lavana. Good Shabbos!
Parshas Bo begins with the final three plagues that were brought upon Pharaoh and Egypt. G-d introduces the eighth plague (Locust) by telling Moshe “Come to Pharaoh, for I have made his heart and the heart of his servants stubborn so that I shall place these signs of Mine in his midst; and so that you may relate in the ears of your son and your son’s son that I have amused Myself with Egypt and My signs that I placed among them – that you may know that I am Hashem.” [Shemos 10:1-2]
This is the only plague which includes the expression “so that you may relate in the ears of your son and your son’s son”. Why is that? What is different about the plague of Locust that the Torah here singles out this plague and tells the Jewish people that they will be discussing this plague for generations?
The Ramban cites in the name of Rabbeinu Chananel the idea that after the plague of Locust, when Moshe prayed – per Pharaoh’s instructions – that the Locust should be removed, Moshe used the expression “There should not be left a single grasshopper in all the Land of Egypt.” The Kli Yakar, commenting on this Ramban, said that this means that Egypt was never again afflicted by a locust plague in all their history. In other words when Moshe said “no more locust in Egypt”, he meant no more locust period. That’s it! Never again would they lose a stalk of grain to grasshoppers. The Kli Yakar goes so far as to say that even if all of Egypt’s neighbors – Israel, Ethiopia, the Sudan have a plague of grasshoppers, Egypt will never again suffer from such a plague.
This was certainly not the case with the other plagues. For example, regarding the frogs, Moshe prayed that they shall remain in the Nile – so they still were around in Egypt – they just remained in the river. With the locusts however, they were never again to be found in Egypt, according to the Kli Yakar.
Therefore, the Kli Yakar writes, when (for example) Eretz Yisrael will be smitten by locusts and Egypt will be protected from it, our children will take note of this fact. Our son may very well come home from school one day and ask his father in amazement – why is this happening? The father will then have an opportunity to retell to him the whole story of the Exodus, including the fact that Locust was one of the Ten Plagues and that when Moshe prayed that the Locust cease from Egypt, his prayers were so effective that the locust ceased forevermore from visiting that country.
However, the question must then be asked – why should Egypt be entitled to such a blessing that they are eternally exempt from having to deal with Locust in their country? Why does Egypt deserve a “Locust Insurance Policy”, after all they did to us?
The Imrei Baruch quotes the Keren L’Dovid with the following insight: Egypt – as bad as they were and as much as they deserved to suffer – caused an amazing Sanctification of G-d’s Name. Through Egypt the Mighty Hand of G-d became apparent to the world. Even though they were unwilling participants in this Kiddush Hashem, they did in fact cause a Kiddush Hashem and the L-rd does not withhold reward from any creature. This is true whether the Kiddush Hashem was created knowingly, unknowingly, and even against their will – as was the case with the ancient Egyptians.
With this idea, the Kli Yakar explains the words at the end of the above cited pasuk, “and so that you may relate in the ears of your son and your son’s son that I have amused Myself with Egypt and My signs that I placed among them – that you may know that I am Hashem (v’yedatem ki Ani Hashem).” The words “v’yedatem ki Ani Hashem” appear 8 times in Chumash and virtually every time Rashi comments “Ne’eman l’shalem schar” [Faithful to deliver reward]. Although Rashi does not make this comment here, according to the Kli Yakar, the words as used here fit in perfectly with that idea:
The plague of Locust lives on. You will tell your children that it will never happen again in Egypt and they will realize what the Almighty did. The fact that Locust will never again afflict Egypt will cause you to know that I am Hashem – One Who is Faithful to deliver reward.
No good deed will ever go unrewarded. The Almighty gives reward for even the most minute good deed, even the most inadvertent, and even the most forced!
In a similar vein the Mechilta on the pasuk “But against all the Children of Israel, a dog will not sharpen its tongue…” [Shemos 11:7] comments that it is for this reason that the Torah assigns non-Kosher meat to dogs [Shemos 22:30]. Why not throw it to the cats? Why not throw it to some other animal? We throw the non-Kosher meat to the dogs because the Almighty remembers what the dogs ‘did’ in Egypt! What did the dogs do in Egypt? They did nothing! All they did was to refrain from barking. But that made them part of a Kiddush Hashem. For a million people to leave and not have one dog utter one bark was a Sanctification of G-d’s Name. The Hand of G-d was evident. Dogs have to get their reward. Here again, the Medrash teaches that the Almighty does not withhold reward from any living creature.
Passing Over the Normal Requirements for Spiritual Gain
The following thought is a beautiful ‘chap’ (sharp insight) in the classic tradition of the Kotzker Rebbe, zt”l.
The Torah teaches: “Hashem will pass through to smite Egypt and He will see the blood that is on the lintel and the two doorposts; and Hashem will skip over the entrance and He will not permit the destroyer to enter your houses to smite.” [Shemos 12:23] This pasuk is indeed the basis for the fact that the holiday of Pessach is called exactly that — literally meaning “pass over”, because He passed over the doors of Jewish houses when smiting the first born in Egypt that auspicious night.
Normally the only way one achieves anything in the world of spirituality is by making some kind of effort. Without the expenditure of at least some effort – even the smallest effort – one cannot expect to gain ‘ruchniyus’ [spirituality]. Our Rabbis state [Shir HaShirim Rabbah Parsha 5] “Open for Me an opening like the eye of a needle and I will open for you an opening that wagons and carts can pass through.” This is the normal rule of ‘ruchniyus’. It is like a law of physics or like the law of gravity: One needs to make some effort for something to happen.
There was an exception to this rule of ‘ruchniyus’: During the Exodus, the Jewish people merited great spiritual levels without deserving it, without acting. The Gemara states that during the splitting of the Red Sea, even the simplest of handmaidens saw prophetic visions of Divine Revelation that surpassed those of the great prophet Yechezkel.
The Rambam lists [Yesodei HaTorah Chapter 7] numerous awesome qualifications required to be eligible for receiving prophecy. “Prophecy is only given to a person who is exceptionally wise and of strong character (Gibor), one who constantly has control over his evil inclination…” And yet by the Red Sea, even the maid servants got a “free pass”, so to speak, to profound prophetic visions!
How did that work? Where was the preparation and prerequisite that the Rambam describes? Where was even the “opening equivalent to the eye of the needle” required to gain spiritual accomplishment? The Kotzker Rebbe says this is what the pasuk means by “G-d passed over the door (pessach)”. The Almighty passed over the normal requirement that one must “open the door” (the width of the eye of a needle) before achieving spiritual growth. The unique experience of “Pessach” was that without doing even anything, without even opening the door, the Almighty bent the rules and said “I am going to give Klal Yisrael this Redemption and I am going to shower them with gifts of ruchniyus [spiritual] wealth, gifts of gashmiyus [material] wealth, and gifts of prophecy. Hashem did this by “passing over” – by relaxing the requiring of “Pessach” (which normally requires man to make the initial effort of spiritual achievement).
This write-up was adapted from the hashkafa portion of Rabbi Yissocher Frand’s Commuter Chavrusah Torah Tape series on the weekly Torah portion. The complete list of halachic topics covered in this series for Parshas Bo are provided below:
CD# 040 Amirah L’Akum: The “Shabbos Goy” CD# 083 The Burning Issue of Smoking CD# 131 Sephardic vs. Ashkenazic Pronunciation Is There a Correct Way? CD# 178 Tefillin and Long Hair CD# 224 Kiddush Levanah CD# 268 The Consequence of Dropping Tefillin or a Sefer Torah CD# 314 Chumros in Halacha CD# 358 Mezzuzah-What Is a Door? CD# 402 Doing Work on Rosh Chodesh CD# 446 The Dog In Halacha CD# 490 The Lefty and Tefilin CD# 534 Rashi & Rabbeinu Ta’am’s Tefillin CD# 578 Tefilin on Chol Hamoed CD# 622 Ya’ale V’Yovo CD# 666 Dishwashers on Shabbos CD# 710 Checking Teffilin by Computer CD# 754 Cholent on Pesach – Why Not? CD# 798 Kiddush Lavanah – Moonshine on Purim CD# 842 What Should It Be? Hello or Shalom? CD# 886 Women and Kiddush Lavana CD# 930 Eating Matzo An Entire Pesach – A Mitzvah? CD# 973 Yaaleh Ve’yavoh CD#1017 Kiddush Levana on a Cloudy Night CD#1061 Rosh Chodesh Bentching (Bircas Ha’chodesh) CD#1104 How Long Must You Wear Your Tefillin? CD#1147 Hashgacha Pratis – Divine Providence – Does It Apply To Everyone? CD #1190 Kiddush Levana Issues – Available December
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