Subscribe to a Weekly Series

Posted on January 17, 2024 (5784) By Rabbi Yissocher Frand | Series: | Level:

These divrei Torah were adapted from the hashkafa portion of Rabbi Yissocher Frand’s Commuter Chavrusah Tapes on the weekly portion: #1278 Oy Vey! My Tefillin Have Been Pasul Since My Bar Mitzvah. Good Shabbos!

The pasuk introducing Makas Choshech (the Plague of Darkness) says, “Moshe stretched forth his hand toward the heavens and there was a thick darkness throughout the land of Egypt for a three-day period.” (Shemos 10:22). Rashi explains the reason for Makas Choshech: There were wicked people amongst the Jewish nation who did not want to leave Mitzraim. These people died and were buried during these three days of darkness so that the Mitzrim would not witness their downfall, thus enabling them to claim that the Jews were suffering plagues as well.

Rashi’s wording implies that the wickedness of these people was that they did not want to leave Mitzraim. Those who were not me’tzapeh l’geulah (anxiously looking forward to redemption) did not deserve to be redeemed. The Peirush HaRosh al haTorah says the same idea: He asks why did all these people die during the days of darkness, but Dasan and Aviram, who were totally wicked individuals, did not die during that period? The Rosh answers that even though Dasan and Aviram were wicked, they did not lose hope in the promised redemption.

The Medrash Rabbah is even more explicit. The Medrash says that there were Jewish slaves who had Egyptian patrons who gave them wealth and honor. They had it good in Mitzraim and did not want to leave! Hashem said, if He kills these Jews outright, the Mitzrim will say that the Jews are also dying, therefore Hashem brought Makas Choshech, during which these Jews could die without the knowledge of the Mitzrim.

This is something for us in the United States of America to bear in mind. Baruch Hashem, Jews have been able to have wonderful lives here. Torah is flourishing and many people are well off. But we always need to retain this aspiration of “tzeepeesa l’yeshua” (anxiously anticipating redemption). When the time comes, we should be anxious and excited to go to Eretz Yisrael. A person who says “What is so bad with staying in America?” is echoing the sentiments of the Jews who were wiped out during Makas Choshech.

This unfortunate phenomenon repeated itself all the way back at the time of Ezra. When Ezra told the Babylonian Jews after seventy years in exile “Okay, Yidden, it’s time to go back to Eretz Yisrael” they said “Babylonia is great!” Similarly, the Jews at the time of the Crusades felt their homes in Christian Europe were more than adequate. Their towns were destroyed! We need to keep that in mind as well. Baruch HaShem, we have a great life here but it is still lacking. We need to anticipate the geula, speedily in our days!

Additional observation (in 2023): Perhaps this is a silver lining regarding the current situation of the significant increase in antisemitism in the United States and around the world in reaction to the war in Eretz Yisroel. Just maybe this is like a gift from Hashem to remind us not to be too comfortable in galus and to anxiously anticipate the geula.

Precision Punishment

The beginning of the parsha says “Hashem said to Moshe, ‘come to Pharoah, for I have made his heart and the heart of his servants stubborn so that I can put 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 made a mockery of Mitzraim (ais asher his’alalti b’Mitzrayim) and My signs that I placed among them – that you may know that I am Hashem.'” (Shemos 10:1-2). What does the word his’alalti mean? Rashi interprets “see’chakti” (I made fun of them; I mocked them). The Torah uses the same word that it uses by Bilaam complaining to his donkey that he was making a fool out of him (Bamidbar 22:29).

The Tolner Rebbe of Yerushalayim notes that by no other makah, other than here at the beginning of the Parsha by Makas Arbeh (the Plague of Locusts), does it say “you should tell this over to your children and grandchildren.” It is as if Hashem is telling Moshe, “I want you to tell your children how I ‘played’ with Pharaoh, how I made a laughing stock out of him.” Why, of all the things that happened during the process of Yetzias Mitzrayim, is this the one thing that Hashem emphasizes for us to tell our children?

The Tolner Rebbe says that Pharaoh is referred to in two ways in the teachings of Chazal. Sometimes he is called Pharaoh the wicked (for example in Sotah 12a). This is certainly a title for which he qualifies, considering his sadism and cruelty as described by Chazal. However, Pharaoh is referred to in another way as well. Shlomo haMelech writes: “letz takeh…” (You should smite the scoffer…) (Mishlei 19:25). Rashi there says that the letz referenced in this pasuk is Pharaoh, who was smitten by plagues. Pharaoh is described as a person who mocks, who humiliates. That is what letzanus is. Letzanus means to take anything of value and to devalue it.

Where do we see the letzanus of Pharaoh? Chazal say that Pharaoh subjected the Jews to “avodas perach” which they interpret as assigning women’s work to men and men’s work to women. What is the point of that? It is obviously an inefficient waste of the talents and strengths of his workers of both genders! Clearly the arrangement is a joke – just another way to humiliate the slaves. Alternatively, Chazal interpret avodas perach (as in Vayikra 25:43) as pointless labor – commanding slaves to do a hard job and then throwing the output into the garbage. (I did this only to make you work, I was not at all interested in the product you produced).

The whole purpose of Yetzias Mitzrayim, as the Ramban writes at the end of our Parsha, was to demonstrate that the Ribono shel Olam runs the world and He runs it with the principle of “midah k’neged midah” (measure for measure). When the Almighty punishes a person for his aveiros (sins), the punishment will precisely correspond to the aveira. The payback for wickedness occurs exactly the same way the original act of wickedness was performed.

It says in Shiras HaYam that some Mitzrim sank like a rock (Shemos 15:5); some sank like lead (Shemos 15:10), and some like straw (Shemos 15:7). Chazal say that it depended on how bad the individual Mitzrim were. The Mitzrim who were “not too bad” sank like a stone (they died quickly). Those who were crueler, were consumed like straw. Straw doesn’t go down very quickly. They realized they were drowning during a drawn out and terrifying ordeal. Why? It was midah k’neged midah. Each was punished precisely in accordance with their own level of wickedness.

The Ribono shel Olam wants us to tell our children the concept of Hashgacha Pratis (Personal Divine Providence). The Almighty knows everything a person does, and He keeps a record. When the time comes, He is going to give back precisely what is appropriate. “Tell your children how I mocked Mitzraim…” because this is the biggest demonstration of the Hasgacha Pratis – the tailor-made punishment. “Pharoah made leitzanus from us; I am going to make leitzanus from him!”

The pasuk says, “G-d should take revenge before our eyes for the blood of his servants that has been spilled.” (Tehillim 79:10) We look at the last two thousand years of history and see how much pain the non-Jews inflicted upon us, starting from the destruction of the Second Temple, and all the way through. We will witness that revenge, IY”H, and they will get exactly what they deserve.

I recently read that the United Methodist Church of America, which has seven million members, just came out with a policy that they will not do any business with Israeli banks. This is part of the BDS (Boycott, Divest, and Sanction) movement. Do the Methodists do business with China? Do they do business with Saudi Arabia? Do they do business with all these murderous regimes? Of course! But because in Israel, people live on the “West Bank,” they won’t do business with us? It is such blatant antisemitism! Why are we held to a standard that nobody else is held to? It is for one simple reason. It is because we are Jews. I just can’t wait to see what the Ribono shel Olam is going to do to the Methodists. And what He is going to do to the Nazis and the Germans and the French and the Spanish and the British and the Russians and the Ukrainians and the Poles, and the list goes on and on and on.

Tell your children that we are suffering now, but the day will come when we will see that the Ribono shel Olam will give it to them precisely the way they gave it to us. Pharaoh mocked us, the Almighty mocked him.

Transcribed by David Twersky; Jerusalem [email protected]

Edited by Dovid Hoffman; Baltimore, MD [email protected]

This week’s write-up is adapted from the hashkafa portion of Rabbi Yissochar Frand’s Commuter Chavrusah Series on the weekly Torah portion. A listing of the halachic portions for Parshas Bo is provided below:

  • # 040 Amirah L’Akum: The “Shabbos Goy”
  • # 083 The Burning Issue of Smoking
  • # 131 Sephardic vs. Ashkenazic Pronunciation Is There a Correct Way?
  • # 178 Tefillin and Long Hair
  • # 224 Kiddush Levanah
  • # 268 The Consequence of Dropping Tefillin or a Sefer Torah
  • # 314 Chumros in Halacha
  • # 358 Mezzuzah-What Is a Door?
  • # 402 Doing Work on Rosh Chodesh
  • # 446 The Dog In Halacha
  • # 490 The Lefty and Tefilin
  • # 534 Rashi & Rabbeinu Ta’am’s Tefillin
  • # 578 Tefilin on Chol Hamoed
  • # 622 Ya’ale V’Yovo
  • # 666 Dishwashers on Shabbos
  • # 710 Checking Teffilin by Computer
  • # 754 Cholent on Pesach – Why Not?
  • # 798 Kiddush Lavanah – Moonshine on Purim
  • # 842 What Should It Be? Hello or Shalom?
  • # 886 Women and Kiddush Lavana
  • # 930 Eating Matzo An Entire Pesach – A Mitzvah?
  • # 973 Yaaleh Ve’yavoh
  • #1017 Kiddush Levana on a Cloudy Night
  • #1061 Rosh Chodesh Bentching (Bircas Ha’chodesh)
  • #1104 How Long Must You Wear Your Tefillin?
  • #1147 Hashgacha Pratis – Divine Providence – Does It Apply To Everyone?
  • #1190 Kiddush Levana Issues
  • #1234 Can Your Wife Put Your Tefilin on You?
  • #1278 Oy Vey! My Tephillin Have Been Pasul Since My Bar Mitzvah
  • #1322 Chodesh Issues: Women and Kiddush Levana; Getting Married in Last Half of Chodesh?
  • #1366 I Don’t Open Bottle Caps on Shabbos, You Do. Can I Ask You to Open My Bottle?
  • #1410 Saying U’Le’Chaporas Pesha In Musaf Rosh Chodesh In a Leap Year
  • #1454 Why Don’t We Wear Tephillin at Mincha?
  • #1498 What Should You Write January 21 2022 or 1-21-22 Or Neither?
  • #1541 I Forgot to Turn on Air Conditioner Before Shabbos: Can I Ask a Non-Jew To Turn It On?

A complete catalogue can be ordered from the Yad Yechiel Institute, PO Box 511, Owings Mills MD 21117-0511. Call (410) 358-0416 or e-mail [email protected] or visit for further information.