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Forethoughts And AfterThoughts Archives
- Shemos

Purim Editions of Afterthoughts

3:8 Then Haman said to King Achashverosh, “There is a certain people that is scattered and splintered …

3:9 If it pleases the king let it be recorded that they be lost and I will pay ten-thousand silver talents … for deposit in the king’s treasuries.”

3:11 And the king said to Haman, “The money is yours and (so is) the people to do what is good in your eyes.”

3:12 The king’s scribes were summoned … everything was written just as Haman dictated … and it was sealed with the king’s signet ring.

3:13 Letters were sent by courier to all the provinces of the king to destroy, to kill, and to exterminate all of the Jews, from young to old, women and children, on one day … and to plunder their possessions.

4:7 And Mordechai told him [Esther’s messenger] all that happened to him and all about the sum of money that Haman promised to pay to the royal treasuries to annihilate the Jews …

4:8 And he gave him a copy of the royal decree that was distributed in Shushan for their destruction (so that he can) show it to Esther and (both) inform and bid her to go to the king to implore and to plead with him for her people.

7:3 And Esther the queen responded (to the king) and said, “If I have found favor in your eyes, oh king, and if it pleases the king, then let my life be granted to me as my request and my people as my petition.

7:4 For I and my people have been sold to be destroyed, killed, and exterminated.”

7:5 And King Achashverosh exclaimed to Esther the queen, “Who is this person and where is he, who dared do such a thing!”

Achashverosh speaks as though it was the first time he heard this. Did he forget that he had just abandoned the Jewish people and gave them over to Haman? Was he just trying to look good to Esther?

Why did Mordechai give Esther a copy of the decree?

I heard the following explanation.

Note that Haman proposed that the Jewish people become ‘lost.’ This could be taken to mean that the kingdom would just take away their rights. Killing them would be too much, it wouldn’t look right.

Also, it’s interesting that the king told Haman to keep the money, a huge sum in those days.

Achashverosh didn’t want it to be said Haman paid him off to do dirty work against the Jewish people. It would make him look bad. Also, this could undermine the relationship he had with other minorities.

But Haman didn’t care about Achashverosh and his reputation. He wanted the throne for himself. Killing all the Jews and letting everybody plunder their belongings would make him a hero to enough people to make that happen. And undermining Achashverosh’s reputation fit right into his plans. So, he made people aware of the offer.

And he rightly assumed that Achashverosh was too busy running the country and partying to stop and read what Haman was posting all over the country.

When Esther told Achashverosh that the Jewish people were ‘sold,’ that the decree called for their annihilation, and she had a copy to show him what actually went out, he realized what was going on and what Haman was trying to do.


Esther's plight was potentially devastating from a spiritual standpoint.

She was surrounded with immorality, idolatry, and decadent luxury. She had power to do anything she wanted; she had connections to have anything she wanted. Albeit under force, her husband was a gentile and she even bore him a son.

She did not become lost but instead she remained steadfast. Not only did she Judaically survive, her accomplishments were stunning. She retained her level of prophecy and inspired part of our Bible. This is truly amazing.

Why did G-D do this to her? What was G-D trying to tell her and/or the Jewish people?

The following came to mind.

The Talmud teaches that the following verse foretells that there will be an Esther: "And I will thoroughly hide ['Hasther Ashtir'] My face… (Deuteronomy 31:18).

Indeed, Esther and her story ushered in a new era for the Jewish people during which it will no longer be obvious that G-D is manipulating nature.

From then on, we will derive confirmation of His existence and we will see His Hand in managing our affairs by the continual existence of the Jewish people, both spiritually and physically, despite a painful and perilous history that appears to make this impossible to happen.

Despite the impossibility, Esther survived and even thrived. So will the Jewish people.


Esther 3:6 And it became cheap in his [Haman's] eyes to bring harm to only Mordechai for they told him the nationality of Mordechai (that he was Jewish). And Haman sought to destroy all of the Jews in Achashverosh's entire kingdom, of the nation of Mordechai.

The verse seems to be saying that Haman's hearing that Mordechai was Jewish triggered him to seek the destruction of the Jewish people. This is puzzling because we know from the commentaries that Mordechai and Haman were well acquainted with each other from before.

The following came to mind.

Mordechai was the only person that did not bow down to Haman. It seems from the commentaries that the other Jews either avoided Haman or they bowed down to him.

Haman was a deep anti-Semite and it didn't take much to move him to take action against the Jewish people.

But his high rank in society made him hesitant, for he feared that his peers would scorn him for doing this.

But when he heard other people link Mordechai's behavior to his Judaic identity despite the fact that the other Jews did indeed bow down to Haman, he realized that he was not alone in harboring prejudice against the Jewish people.

So he set into motion a plan to annihilate every single Jewish man, woman, and child in a single day.


Passover Editions of Afterthoughts

Passover 2012 / 5772

Passover focuses on the redemption and emergence of the Jewish people as a nation of G-D.

It marks the beginning of the process of an ultimate redemption for not only the Jewish people but for all of humanity. Among many things, the redemption that we yearn for will demonstrate that the plan that G-D had since the time of creation is indeed viable for human existence and it succeeded.

The Passover Hagaddah implies and Medrashic sources say outright that the future redemption will have greater impact than the Exodus from Egypt.

Belief that the Messianic Era will occur is a core responsibility of a Jew. The Rambam writes that those who do not believe in the coming of the Messiah will have no share in the next world.

He also writes that anyone who does not anticipate his arrival is denying the Torah of Moshe. One must believe that the Messiah could come today, not just some day in the future.

It is puzzling for someone who lived in the thirteenth century to write this. Twenty-four sometimes painful centuries of Jewish history preceded the Rambam without any trace of Moshiach and we who live in the twenty-first century have yet to greet him. If he hasn't come for the past thirty-three centuries then why should we be expected to entertain the notion that he could come today?

To this I say that from my perspective, the more civilization evolves, the more it appears to be impossible for Moshiach to come.

I say this from what I read in the Bible and in the Rambam about this very interesting and exciting historical period. I say this from what I hear in the news and I say this from living in the civilized world.

All of the Jewish people who live in the Exile will be ingathered to Israel. That should make a good number of political leaders very upset. I expect the United Nations Security Council to pass no less than one resolution of condemnation over that.

The Temple will be rebuilt, right where the Dome of the Rock is. That should generate a lot of global outrage. Who knows where the price of gasoline will land when that happens.

Sacrificial services will be restored. That will make animal rights folks go berserk.

Today we see instances of Judaic practice becoming subject to politics. Moshiach and the Sanhedrin will put an end to that. The Torah will become Israel's Law of the Land and it will be practiced exactly as it was taught to us by Moshe (Moses), to the chagrin of break-away theologians who will need to find some other way to make a living.

Moshiach will be a monarch. The Knesset will kiss goodbye to democracy.

I can go on and on.

It is therefore quite reasonable to expect that the coming of the Moshiach needs to take at least as long as it took for the obstacles against his arrival to evolve because they all need to be undone.

I propose that this is the heart of the flaw that the Rambam assigns to anyone who does not anticipate the Messiah and who does not believe that he can arrive on any day, even today.

G-D manages history, not a bunch of politicians, rich people, or theological thugs.

Moshiach will arrive when G-D wants it to happen and the process is unstoppable. Saying that He needs more than one day to make it happen is the same as saying that there is something G-D cannot do.

Any rational and honest person that reflects on what happened to the Jewish people over the past thirty-three centuries should come to the conclusion that it is impossible for us to exist. The fact that we do exist, that I am able to write this, and that Jewish people thrive in a land from which we were exiled two times is testimony to G-D's ability to make the impossible occur.

The more our future looks hopeless, the more we have reason to not lose hope.

So do keep your bags packed and hang on to Jewish history as it happens.

There is still plenty of time before Passover and maybe this will be the year that we will stop saying: "Next Year in Jerusalem."

And you shall return and see the difference between a righteous person and a wicked person, between one who serves G-D and one who does not serve Him. (Malachi 3:18, read on the Shabbos before Passover)

The Talmud (Chagiga 9b) says the following in the name of Hillel.

"(… the difference ..) between one who serves G-D and one who does not serve Him." Both refer to people who are completely righteous.

There is no comparison between one who reviews his study portion one-hundred times and one who does this one-hundred-one times. (The prophet is saying that we will see the difference between these two people in the future.)

Why should an extra one-percent make such a notable difference?

And the Egyptians make the Children of Israel serve with vigor -B'Pharech. (Exodus 1:13)

The Medrash Raba teaches the following in the name of Rabbi Eliezer.

Read this (homiletically) as "B'Peh Rach", through smooth speech. That is, the Egyptians enslaved the Jewish people by using smooth speech and enticement.

Egypt enslaved the Jewish people by encouraging the Jewish people to show their support for Egypt through public service. Pharaoh himself arrived for work on the first day. Everyone was eager and strained to produce as much as they could.

The Egyptians paid a handsome wage for that days work.

However, both wages and eagerness waned as the days wore on until the Jewish people were reduced to being slaves. This caused their output to plummet the Egyptians took them to task over it. The excuse that they could not meet quotas fell on deaf ears because the Egyptians saved the records of the first day's work. They used it to prove to the Jewish people that the drop in output was the result of their lack of exertion.

We can now better understand our verse in Malachi.

Reviewing a study portion a hundred times shows both dedication to Torah study and righteousness. It is also exhausting.

One who studies one-hundred-one times does so despite the exhaustion because he exerts himself.

This serves as a reminder that we are all prone to underestimate what we can accomplish.

Wishing you a highly productive Passover.

(Adopted from a speech by Rabbi Y. Sorotzkin.)


During the Passover weekday, we have a noticeable omission in our morning weekday prayers. We do not say 'Mizmor LeSodah,' Psalms 100.

We omit this praise because our prayers correspond to the Temple sacrifices and this particular chapter corresponds to the thanksgiving offering, a sacrifice that required the inclusion of chometz (leavened) bread loaves. Since we are forbidden to have chometz in our possession during Passover and since the thanksgiving offering can be postponed, it was not accepted in the Temple during the entire holiday period, from Passover eve until the end of the holiday. So, we exclude Mizmor LeSodah during Passover since there were no thanksgiving offerings during the holiday period in the Temple.

It seems rather odd that we are restricted from an expression of thanksgiving during this joyous period.

What message can we take from this?

The following came to mind.

The thanksgiving offering is exclusively designated for the good fortune of an individual.

Passover is the birth of the Jewish nation. It provided an entirely new context within which to experience and celebrate reasons for personal thanksgiving. Life took on an entirely new meaning, and so did all of life's experiences.

It is therefore fitting during this time to suspend personal celebration and to instead focus on the transformation of what celebration means, both to the individual and to the new nation.

Have a wonderful Passover.


Shabbos Hagadol 5772

The Shabbos before Pesach (Passover) is called Shabbos Hagadol and we read the third chapter of the Book of Malachi.

In Malachi 3:23 we read: Behold I am sending for you Eliyah (Elijah) the prophet before the Day of G-D arrives, the Great and Awesome (day).

As the last prophet signs off we are given a glimpse of the transition period that will herald in the Messianic Era.

In doing research on this Great and Awesome day it became very clear to me that we are very unclear on what this means and how this will actually turn out.

The Ramban, who lived thirteenth century, writes that this refers to a great judgment day. It will occur just prior to the revival of the dead. Those deemed worthy will come back to life.

All agree that the revival of the dead is one of the pillars of our beliefs. Of the many messages it provides, my favorite take is that other than G-D, nothing in our world is permanent, even death.

The Rambam preceded the Ramban. His view is that this Great and Awesome day refers to the final war that a number of the later prophets talk about.

I found a very interesting tradition that this war will last twelve minutes. What is even more interesting is that this comes from the Gaon of Vilna. He lived in the eighteenth century, when it took much longer to wage wars and communicate outcomes.

It appears that the attackers will be upset over what the Messiah is all about or trying to do. The Saadiah Gaon (ninth century) writes that some will enter the battle with full knowledge that they will be killed. I don't think they had suicide bombers in his days.

Clearly from the above verse, this will occur after Eliyahu the Prophet emerges. That alone should be enough to make a boat-load of religions go berserk.

This will all make for some very interesting headlines. Hang on as the future becomes the present.

Have a happy and memorable Pesach.


"You find that the exiles will only bring themselves in(to the land of Israel) in the merit of faith. You also find that our ancestors were only redeemed from Egypt in the merit of faith. Also, Abraham only inherited this world and the next in the merit of faith, for he (He - G-d?) believed in those who have faith. What does it say? "Gates open up and let in a nation who guards faith." Who (What?) caused us to come to this joy? It was only in reward for the faith that our ancestors had in this world. (Yalkut Hoshea 519)

This is some Medrash!

For now, let's focus on a part of the first sentence.

To date, our exile has lingered on. As the years wear on, we become more remote from those great events of the past that demonstrated G-d's existence, His awareness, care, and management of the affairs of mankind. Passover of the year 2000 is 3312 years from the redemption from Egypt.

Each year should make us further removed from the Divine demonstrations that provided our foundations of faith. If, as this Medrash implies, having faith is an exit criteria for our exile, how can we ever hope to reach the end of our exile?

Also, why does the Medrash focus on bringing ourselves in? It says that our ancestors were redeemed in the merit of faith. Why doesn't it use the same language? Why doesn't it say, "The Jewish people will only be redeemed in the merit of faith."

The following came to mind.

A great gentile philosopher of long ago, once remarked that the greatest proof of G-d's existence is the existence of the Jewish people. (I sometimes wonder if he would have said the same thing about Mankind, had he lived to see the year 2000).

So, history becomes only more impossible for the Jewish people to survive, to even exist.

And here we are, alive and even growing, but not by accident!

(Actually, I sometimes wonder if the reason the redemption has not yet occurred is because it is not yet sufficiently impossible.)

You know, the astronomers tell us that the universe is both expanding and contracting at the same time. Well, with my spiritual telescope I say that the faith of the Jewish people and all Mankind, is both growing and shrinking at the same time.

So, we can now better understand how faith can be used as an exit criteria for our redemption.

Now, from personal observation, I say that this phenomenon of shrinking and growing faith occurs on a macro and on a micro level. That is, it is true for the Jewish people as a whole and it is true for each and every person.

We begin our lives with open and trusting faith in everything we are taught by our parents and teachers. As we grow (and begin to feel the cost and implications of this here faith), it loses its impact, some people lose their grip.

Then, a funny thing happens. We get thrust into a hostile and rough world, with all sorts of frustrations, risks, and dangers. We complain. We whine. We are scared; We are lonely. But we are still here. The vast majority have roofs over their heads, their bodies are covered, they are not starving. How? Are we all just so smart, so well sprinkled with the charm from some gods of luck? Baloney.

Another funny thing happens as we get older. We look for meaning in life, to life.

We need it.

In the earlier years, physical stimulation is the focus of life. As a person matures, it loses significance. Many people who have difficulty in coping with this begin to use physical stimulation to distract themselves from the pain of the emptiness that this causes.

(By the way, we have links for those who would like additional opportunities and resources for meaning. One is through our own Judaism 101 program, which has referred many people to Partners-In-Torah. http://www.jewishamerica.com/ja/features/jew101.php Another great resource is Aish Hatorah, www.Aish.com.)

So, as each of us gets further into life, we grow both more remote and yet more closer to our faith, we need it more, we appreciate it more, we find ourselves more, we even find G-d more.

Now we're ready to tackle something rather sticky.

It's about our being stuck, each and every one of us.

OK. Now, ready for the Moshiach drill? Here it goes.

Toooot

Were your bags packed from before? Did you jump when you heard the shofar? Did you scramble and head for the door?

Which door?

You know, we can get so involved with life, with affairs, with career, with school, with toys.

Do you feel a bit stuck? A bit disappointed in yourself?

Let's change this.

At the end of our seder we open our door for Elijah the Prophet, the person who will announce that Moshiach is about to arrive.

We let him do his thing and then we sink back in our comfortable home and go on with the seder, feeling somewhat full and sleepy.

This year, lets do something different.

Get up.

Walk right out of your house. Command everyone else to follow.

Think.

Say:

Goodbye house.

Goodbye job.

Goodbye career.

Goodbye new car.

Goodbye Game Boy ™.

I have no idea what will happen next. How will G-d care for me now. How will we all survive? What will life be like?

Well, G-d took great care for us up to now and He will take great care of us from now on! We will thrive. We will find joy. We will find greatness.

Unstuck.

You can now go back home and continue on with the seder, unless you see a bunch of eagles at your feet. If you do, then don't look back. Forget your toothbrush. Just keep on moving.

So, perhaps we can now understand why the Medrash puts focus on bringing ourselves in.

You see, when we show our desire and energy to take ourselves out our exile and out of our homes, then G-d will show His energy and His desire to bring us into His land, His home, measure for measure.

We can and we will bring ourselves to the redemption, with G-d's help. It just may take a bit more time and practice. Perhaps we are ready right now.

Have a happy and special Passover.


The Torah gives us three wonderful pilgrimage festivals: Pesach (Passover), Shavuos, and Succos.

Now, a Jewish wedding consists of three phases: Kidushin, Chuppa, and Yichud.

A parallel between the three pilgrimage festivals and the three wedding phases came to mind.

Kidushin is the start of the marriage process. At Kidushin, the groom consecrates his bride. Among other things, it says that he chose her. By accepting the ring, the bride dedicates herself to her groom. She is no longer free to marry anyone else. She is a married woman, but not in all senses of the word.

The next stage in the Jewish wedding is Chuppa. The groom takes his bride into his home. The Kesuvah is written by then and it becomes fully effective. This is a document which delineates their obligations to each other. At this point, they are fully married but they have not yet lived together as husband and wife.

The final stage is Yichud, when the husband and wife are alone together.

Now they're really gone.

Today, the bride and groom stand under the groom's wedding canopy during the Kidushin and Chuppa follows immediately. The Kesuvah is signed before the ceremony but is read and given to the bride after the Kidushin.

During our earlier history the young couple waited a year between the Kidushin and Chuppa to give them some time to furnish their home. (Thank Heaven today for Sears and the Credit Card.)

The Yichud follows the Chuppa, after the groom (finally) breaks the glass, the photographers get their way, and the young couple somehow gets through the throng of well-wishers and dancers.

During Pesach we started our relationship with G-d as His nation. The unprecedented public miracles of the Exodus demonstrated to us and to the world that G-d chose the Jewish people. We left civilization and went out into the wilderness with Moshe (Moses). We accepted the 'ring.'

Shavuos was like our Chuppa. The Oral Torah teaches that G-d spread Mount Sinai over the Jewish people like a huge canopy. In a figurative sense, the Torah is our Kesuvah and we accepted it during Shavuos. The Torah delineates our obligations to G-d and His commitment to us. No wonder we are careful to study and observe it.

The 'bride' unfortunately 'broke a glass' with a golden calf but with G-d's mercy we made it to Yichud, the construction and dedication of the sanctuary, a 'House of G-d.' The demonstration of G-d's presence in the sanctuary was a sign of full forgiveness.

During the holiday of Succos we build our small outdoor shelters and celebrate inside them for seven days. This is a small reflection of our happiness together with G-d in His sanctuary, some thirty-three centuries ago.

Have a great Pesach. May it be a time of renewal for us all.


Deuteronomy 26:8 states that G-D "took us out from Egypt with a mighty hand and with an outstretched arm and with great terror and with signs and with wonders."

The Passover Hagadah provides the following explanation:

“With a mighty hand” is the plague of animal pestilence.
“With an outstretched arm” is the sword.
“With great terror” is Divine revelation.
“With signs” is the stick (of Moshe/Moses).
“And with wonders” is the plague of blood.

The plagues, sword, and the stick of Moshe afflicted the Egyptians. We can infer by association Divine revelation was another instrument of affliction. But how did Divine revelation serve to afflict the Egyptians?

The following came to mind.

I was taught that Divine revelation means an increased consciousness that G-D is with us, that He exists, is aware of our affairs, and He controls them.

This great truth is a source of great strength, peace, and happiness for the righteous. But this same great truth torments the wicked and they can only find comfort by filling their lives with distractions from it.

Perhaps with this we can understand how Divine revelation was a source of great terror for the wicked and depraved Egyptians.


Shemos (Exodus 1-6)

1:1 And these are the names of the children of Israel. With Yaakov (Jacob) each man came with his household.

The Medrash says that each of their names contains a hint or message about redemption.

For example, Reuven's name contains the Hebrew word "Reu," which means to see. When G-D first appeared to Moshe (Moses) He said, "I saw the affliction of My nation that is in Egypt. (3:7).

One of the commentaries on this Medrash says that not every name traces to the Exodus from Egypt. Specifically, Zevulun (Zebulon) contains a hint about the sanctuary and Naftali hints about the Torah.

The Shiras David commentary suggests that every name traces to this theme.

He cites the Ramban's commentary that the Exodus from Egypt was not complete until the Jewish people were restored to the greatness of their ancestors. This occurred when they received the Torah and built the sanctuary.

Yoseph's (Joseph's) name is Hebrew for "He will add." The Medrash says that G-D will continue to redeem the Jewish people and we continue to wait for this redemption from the "Kingdom of Wickedness."

The Shiras David notes that while most names allude to the redemption from Egypt, Yoseph's name appears to not be related to the Exodus but to a redemption that will occur in the future. (May this occur speedily in our days.)

He concludes that indeed they are related, but by contrast. The freedom we achieved from the Egyptian redemption was temporal while the freedom of the future redemption will be eternal.


The Rinas Yitzchok commentary cites the following teaching from the Vilna Goan's work, Aznei Eliyahu.

We say in our prayers that G-D is a support and a source of hope for the righteous who place their trust in Him, especially when they do not see an immediate response from their prayers.

In such situations G-D works with them to ensure that they do not lose their trust in Him during the interim.

The Exodus is an example of this principle, as the great miracles served to maintain our trust in G-D until the redemption occurred.

The Purim story is another such example, whereby Mordechai was paraded throughout the city as the king's favorite prior to the execution of wicked Haman.

The Vilna Goan's words are very deep to anyone who is familiar with the stories.

Our ancestors were subjected to bitter enslavement some eighty-six years prior to the Exodus and the great miracles did not occur until the last year of their ordeal.

Perhaps their faith was so great that it carried them for eighty-five years without any help from G-D. Perhaps some did falter but G-D did not want them to end the exile on a bad note, as Heaven evaluates us how we end each test that we are presented with.


1:1 And these are the names of the children of Israel. With Yaakov (Jacob) each man came with his household.

This is the opening verse of the second of the five books of Moshe (Moses). This book focuses on the transformation of Yaakov's descendents into the Jewish nation.

When thinking about how this verse sets the tone for this entire story, the following came to mind.

The Torah writes that Yaakov's children came with their father, not that they came and brought along their elderly father.

It was their focus on their father that set the stage for their ultimate redemption and their transformation into the Chosen People.

Jewish identity and Jewish roots are today's top priorities. Of the two, which deserves greater emphasis? Do we focus on the identity that we inherited from our ancestors or do we focus on our ancestors and how they created this identity?

If emphasis is on identity and ancestry is secondary and peripheral then we open ourselves up to fragmentation, for how will we commission a decision-making body to define what this identity should be? Should everyone decide on his/her own? With what criteria? Political considerations? Power? Popularity? Money? Convenience? And, who will be able to certify that our decisions will please G-D? Who are we going to believe?

Rather, if emphasis is on our ancestors and the identity that they designed then we will have a common and unifying focus. We have good records on how they acted and we merely need to study them and emulate their behavior. The Torah declares in a number of places that they achieved G-D's favor so we can't go wrong.


1:1 And these are the names of the Children of Israel who come to Egypt. Each man came with his household.

Rashi provides the following commentary:

They (Yaakov's - Jacob's sons) are counted after their deaths even though they were already counted during their lifetimes. This is to make known their endearment (to G-D), that they are likened to the stars which are brought out and back in by their names and numbers. (We see this in the following verse:) "He who brings out their hosts in number. To all He calls names" (Yeshiah - Isaiah 40).

Now, the Book of Exodus focuses on the redemption of the Jewish people. Verse one of chapter one must serve as some sort of introduction to the Exodus. What is its relevance?

From this Rashi alone one could say that G-D's fondness of Yaakov's family provided the justification for the great redemption of their descendants. However, from Genesis 15:13-14 we clearly see that the redemption had its roots in G-D's relation with our forefather Avraham (Abraham).

Furthermore, Rashi seems to refer to a counter-example of the principle that he presents. Only twelve people are named here. However in Genesis 46, where Yaakov's family begins their journey to Egypt, the Torah provides a count and names sixty-nine people. Yeshiah 40 says that G-D calls names to them all.

The following came to mind.

There is an earlier counting of Yaakov's children in the Book of Genesis. It is written after the twelfth son was born:

35:22: And Israel lived in that land and Reuven went and slept with Bilhah the concubine of his father, and Israel heard. And the sons of Yaakov were twelve.

35:23: The sons of Leah (were as follows): The first-born of Yaakov was Reuven. And Shimon and Levi and Yehudah and Yisochor, and Zevulun.

35:24: The sons of Rachel (were) Yosef and Binyamin.

35:26: And the sons of Bihlah the maid of Rachel (were) Dan and Naftali.

35:27: And the sons of Zilpah the maid of Leah (were) Gad and Asher. These are the sons of Yaakov that were born to him in Padan Aram.

Perhaps Rashi was referring to this earlier counting, which does match our verses in Exodus.

Perhaps Rashi is using this to suggest that we associate the conclusion of the lives of Yaakov's children with their beginnings and emergence as a complete family, not with the beginning of their exile in Egypt. Perhaps the end of the generation of Yaakov's children best marks the transition from the Jews as a large family to that of an emerging nation. This would provide a better comparison of the two events.

We can derive many great lessons from their beginnings as a family. Perhaps we can apply them to the emerging Jewish nation.

Since counting and naming people is a sign of distinction, it is somewhat odd that the Torah counts and names Yaakov's children immediately after Reuven's misconduct. Why weren't they counted right after the last son was born, just three verses prior?

The following came to mind.

Genesis 35:22 states that Reuven slept with Bilhah. The Oral Torah, reflected in the Targum Yonosan Ben Uziel, reads this to mean that Reuven did something inappropriate for which the Torah considered it to be as if he slept with Bilhah.

Yaakov had four wives and Rachel was the primary. When Rachel passed away, Yaakov gave Bilhah this status. Reuven felt that his mother Leah was entitled to this role, as Bilhah was initially just Rachael's maidservant. Reuven protested Yaakov's assignment by messing up the covers of Bilhah's bed.

Due to Reuven's background and high character, the Torah imposed a high standard of conduct on him. The Torah here adopted a manner of describing the severity of Reuven's demonstration in a relative sense. That is, this infraction was serious for Reuven as if someone else with lesser standards would have slept with their father's concubine.

Perhaps we can now better understand why the Torah counted and named Yaakov's children after Reuven's infraction, for it was only due to his greatness that the Torah described it in such a harsh manner.

Similarly, where we find that Torah castigating the Jewish people as a nation, we must take this with a huge grain of salt, as they also live with a different set of standards.

We find open evidence of this in the Book of Yehoshua (Joshua).

Yehoshua 7:1 And the Children of Israel violated the ban and Achan .. took from the banned (property). And G-D's anger flared against the Children of Israel.

Yehoshua 7:10 And Hashem (G-D) said to Yehoshua, "Rise up. Why are you falling on your face (in prayer over the military setback that just happened)?"

Yehoshua 7:11 "Israel sinned! They also disregarded My Covenant that I commanded them! And they also took from the ban. And They also stole. And they also denied (any wrongdoing). And they also put (the property) in their belongings."

The Jewish people used a ban to consecrate the spoils of first conquest, that of the City of Yericho (Jerico). One man, and one man only, disregarded this ban. He did so in secret and only his immediate family knew about it.

The entire nation suffered a setback because of this infraction and thirty-six soldiers were killed in battle. They were also collectively blamed in very harsh terms for this secret sin of an individual.

Perhaps we can now better understand the link between the emergence of Yaakov's family and the emergence of the Jewish people as a nation, for both are assigned a high level of expectations and standards.

Perhaps the Sefurno commentary in Genesis can provide us with another link.

Genesis 35:22 says that ".. Israel heard. And the sons of Yaakov were twelve."

The Sefurno writes as follows:

Even though Israel heard about the misconduct, he did not disassociate Reuven from the family number. This is because he had no doubt that Reuven would repent immediately, so he was not eliminated from the number of sons.

I assume that the Sefurno is reflecting the many teachings of the Oral Torah that discuss the power of repentance. A person has the ability to sin and, with G-D's help, a person has the ability to repent and make a full spiritual correction.

We can now see how the Rashi of the first verse to Exodus serves to associate at least two major teachings as an introduction to this part of the Torah, where we will soon witness the emergence of the Jewish people as a nation. One teaching is that a very high set of standards is imposed on the Jewish people. The other is that of repentance and correction, which is especially needed by a people that must find a way to live with and meet these high standards.

And we have been doing so, collectively sometimes more and sometimes less, for the past thirty-three centuries. And with G-D's help there will come a time when all of us will fully meet them.


1:5 And all of the souls that descended from Yaakov (Jacob) were seventy souls, and Yosef (Joseph) was in Egypt.

Rashi provides the following commentary for the phrase, "And Yosef was in Egypt:

Weren't he and his children included in the seventy? What is this coming to teach us? Didn't we know that he was in Egypt? Rather, this comes to tell you about the righteousness of Yosef. This was (the same) Yosef who pastured his father's sheep and this was (the same) Yosef who was in Egypt and became a king and remained in his righteousness.

Rashi appears to be focusing on Yosef's righteousness. Despite the contrast between his simple background and his later high office, Yosef kept a steady and an even keel.

Yosef maintained his faith during his enslavement and imprisonment. Why doesn't Rashi include this test of righteousness?

The following came to mind.

A great Torah scholar was once asked this question: Which is the greater test of faith: that of wealth or that of poverty? He answered that the rich person is stressed to see whether he will internalize his superiority and become haughty. The poor person is stressed to see whether he will internalize his plight and become depressed. They are likened to two people with different maladies of equal gravity. One person lives in a large city and the other lives in an isolated rural area. Obviously, the former is in less danger because he lives closer to his doctor. Similarly, even though the tests of both wealth and poverty are of equal magnitude, the pauper is better off because he is closer to his 'doctor,' G-D himself who is close to the humble.

Perhaps Rashi does not list Yosef's test of subjugation to remind us that his test of power was of greater significance.

(It looks like there are more people who are poor than those who are rich. Ever wonder if there is a sign-up sheet in heaven for the unborn to select which test they want to undergo? We don't know. However, my Rebbie Horav Kronglass ZT"L once taught us that if they could, they would sign up for the test of poverty to reduce the risk of becoming distant from G-D.)


1:10 Let us prepare and outsmart Him lest it [the Jewish people] become numerous and they will join our enemy and battle against us in time of war and (afterwards) go up from the land (of Egypt).

The Talmud (Sotah 11a) teaches that Pharaoh sought to outsmart G-D by destroying the savior of the Jewish people in a way that would block G-D's response, as if that is possible.

They entertained the notion that G-D would be helpless to respond if they drowned the children who were eligible to save the Jewish people as G-D had sworn not to bring a flood to the world.

What their arrogance didn't let them take into account was that G-D's oath was for a world-wide flood, not one for a single nation. Also, G-D swore that He would not bring flood waters to humanity. The oath did not address a situation where people would thrust themselves into water, which is what Egyptians later did to themselves.

It is interesting to note that Hebrew for Egypt is Mitzrayim, whose root is metzer, or border.

The Medrash teaches that they used witchcraft to seal up their borders to facilitate their domination.

Their slaves were boxed in. They thought they had G-D boxed in, too.

Later in history, others will try to do the same. They will use tactics such as forced conversion and assimilation to disconnect the Jewish people from G-D, thereby disqualifying them from ever being redeemed.

This too will fail.


1:14 And they embittered their lives with mortar and bricks, with all types of work in the field. All of the work that they imposed on them was done with vigor

The Sefurno commentary for verse 1:7 states that the Jewish people began to backslide into spiritual decay shortly after the passing of the generation that immigrated to Egypt.

He links the increase of their being exploited by Egypt with this backslide and cites the following verse in Yechezkel (Ezekiel) 20:8, "And they rebelled against Me and refused to listen to Me. No man threw away their abomination (i.e. idol) and they did not reject the theologies of Egypt. And in the land of Egypt I talked about pouring My wrath on them, to consume My anger on them."

And yet, despite causing their own material downfall, the Jewish people were redeemed out of G-D's mercy and because of the oath that He made with their ancestors.

We should therefore never lose hope in experiencing the redemption that we are all waiting for.


1:17 And the midwives feared G-D and they did not do as what the king of Egypt spoke to them. And they kept the children alive.

1:18 And Pharaoh called in the midwives and said to them, "Why did you do this? And you let the children live?"

Pharaoh commanded the midwives of the Jewish people to stealthily kill all male children before they emerge from their mother's womb.

Pharaoh was accountable to no one and did whatever he wanted. If he asked you to do something and you didn't then you were usually dead within a matter of minutes.

And yet the midwives deflected Pharaoh's command, at great risk to their lives.

The Oral Torah teaches that these midwives were none other than Yocheved, future mother of Moshe (Moses), and Miriam, his future sister.

Later scholars such as the Gevuras Yitzchok give rationales for permitting the midwives of that time to kill the children. He notes that the Torah laws were not in force in those days, as the Torah had not yet been given. They question the requirement for a pre-Torah person to give up their life in order to save another, for it was their lives against the children. The Gevuras Yitzchok adds that the potential victims were not yet born and this could provide an additional factor for a pre-Torah person to save their life by killing the fetuses.

Their intellect could have allowed them to rationalize murdering the children but it was their awareness of G-D and the awe and fear that this generates that held them back.

And this surfaces in so many ways.

We don't have to look very hard to find philanthropists who earn their fortune by cheating others.

It's more than just mind against heart.

Judaism isn't an obstacle course that we must grudgingly navigate in order to get permission to get or do what we want.

Making decisions on what to do should not include selecting the right Rabbi who will tell us what we want to hear. And for that matter, factors for selecting a Rabbi for a community should not include a list of our prejudices and preferences.

The more we are aware of G-D and our relationship with him, the more He is a part of the reality that we perceive and the more His will becomes a factor in our decisions, the will that He expressed some 33 centuries ago and that has been faithfully preserved down to this very day.


2:6 And she [Pharaoh's daughter] opened (up the basked) and she saw the child [Moshe/Moses] and behold it was a young man (that was) crying. And she had pity on him and she said, "This is from the Jewish children."

The Talmud (Sotah 12b) notes that there is a difference between a child and a young man. The word 'yeled,' translated here as a child, is appropriate for a baby or a young boy. However the word 'naar,' translated here as a young man, is appropriate for someone much older.

At this point in time, Moshe was several months old. Why does the Torah describe him as both a child and a young man?

The Talmud answers that his mother Yocheved adorned the basket like a young man's wedding canopy, saying to herself that she may never see him get married so this may be as close to his wedding as she will ever be.

This is truly amazing.

Moshe's mother is about to put son in the Nile river. He has no defenses against crocodiles. He has no navigation system to prevent him from drifting out to sea. The Egyptian police were charged to seek out and drown Jewish babies. And yet, Moshe's mother was focused on the possibility that she will miss his wedding.

We must say that she had total confidence that G-D would take care of Moshe. Or, while her head told her that G-D would take care of Moshe, she needed to do something to drive this notion more deeply into her heart.

However, she had no guarantee that G-D would grant her the privilege to see her son get married so she adorned his basket to make Moshe look like a groom.

The mother of the greatest prophet did not lose hope. Instead, she gave G-D room to do miracles, which He did.


2:23 And it was during those many days that the king of Egypt died and the Children of Yisroel moaned from their labor and they cried out. And their entreaties went upward to G-D (E-lok-im) from their work.

2:24 And G-D (E-lok-im) heard their cries and G-D (E-lok-im) recalled His covenant with Avraham, Yitzchak, and Yaakov.

We note that G-D is referenced with His name of E-lok-im, which is associated with Divine Justice.

This suggests that at this point in Jewish history the redemption was being considered as an act of Divine Justice, not one of Mercy. A redemption that is based on Mercy can be challenged if the beneficiaries are not worthy. However, a redemption that is based on of Justice will not be stopped and therefore has to occur. And it did.

This is how I understand 2:24, that E-lok-im heard their cries. Rather than suggesting that there are times that G-D does not hear our prayers, it suggests that our prayers are not always processed with Justice. And rather than suggesting that G-D is not continually aware of His covenant, it was Divine Justice that applied the covenant to start the actual redemption process.

This brings to mind a custom that some people have when they say the third blessing of Birchas Hamazon, our grace after our meals.

The popular version is "Bonei B'rachamav Yerushalayim," which translates as "He who will (re-)build Jerusalem in (His) Mercy." However, some omit the word B'rachamav, "in (His) Mercy." This reflects our belief that Jerusalem will be restored by Divine Justice, not Divine Mercy.


3:2 And an angel of G-D appeared to him (Moshe / Moses) in the flame of a fire in the midst of a bush. And he looked and behold the bush is burning with fire and the bush is not consumed.

3:3 And Moshe said, "Let me turn aside and see this extraordinary phenomenon. Why isn't the bush burning up?

The Sefurno commentary understands this as follows.

As with most visions of prophecy, this demonstration portrayed a teaching from G-D.

The angel that was surrounded with fire in the midst of the bush represented the righteous within the Jewish people. They were bemoaning in anguish over the iniquities of the people in their generation and over their suffering. They were praying for them.

The bush represented the thorny nation of Egypt that refused to cooperate. The burning bush was their throngs of agony from the ten plagues. Despite the fire, it remained and was not consumed.

This was because the purpose of the ten plagues was not to eliminate the Egyptians so that the Jewish people could take over their land. Rather, the purpose of the ten plagues was to save the Jewish people from the Egyptians and to settle them elsewhere.

The Seforno's reading brought the following thoughts to mind.

People who are deeply concerned about both the spiritual and material welfare of others and are moved to pray for them are portrayed as being righteous. This is something that everyone today can do.

G-D's intent in Egypt's suffering was not to destroy them. Rather, it was of a constructive nature. This type suffering on a national scale had never before been demonstrated and this is why Moshe was puzzled by the fire that did not destroy. Given the immoral deficiencies in Egypt's culture, perhaps this was the only way that the Egyptians were able to make a contribution towards achieving G-D's goals for mankind.

Finally, we see that individuals from any nation can have spiritual flaws, including the Jewish people. This is why the righteous among them were moved to prayer. We also see that these flaws did not provide the enemies of the Jewish people with a justification to persecute them. Rather, their becoming a persecutor was a demotion. The Egyptians become unwilling props that were used by G-D to raise the spiritual level of the Jewish people and of all Mankind.


3:7 And G-D said (to Moshe / Moses), "Seen I have seen the affliction of My nation that is in Egypt and I heard the cries that they made because of their oppressors, for I know its pains.

The Medrash (3:2) discusses the phrase "Seen I have seen" and says the following:

"You see one thing but I see two. You foresee the Jewish people arriving at Mount Sinai and accepting the Torah. I see this also. But I also foresee their worshiping the Golden Calf afterwards. Nevertheless, I will base My actions on the situation at hand."

3:13 And Moshe said to G-D, "Behold I come to the Children of Israel and I will tell them, 'The G-D of your ancestors sent me to you.' And they will say to me, 'What is His name?' What will I tell them?"

3:14 And G-D said to Moshe, "*I will be what I will be*." And He said, "Say this to the Children of Israel, '*I will be* sent me to you.'"

Rashi provides the following commentary:

The first 'I will be' tells us that G-D will be with them during this time of distress. The second means to say that G-D will be with them later in history, during the subjugation of the other kingdoms.

The Techeles Mordechai commentary says that this refers to not only the suffering but that G-D will be with them during the future redemption.

The following came to mind while reading his discussion.

G-D's supremacy compels a person to connect with Him. Our means to connect in our current temporal existence is through well-defined and authentic Torah practice.

The quality of our eternal connection is based on the quality of connection that we achieve in this life, through our own free-will choices, which is the reason that we are here.

The opportunities and responsibilities we are presented with require having a sincere goal of total commitment and that we follow through with actions. And should we fail, then G-D in His benevolence gave us a method of restoring the connection and this is through repentance.

Understandably, this is all entirely based on the notion that that we will receive due justice, be it reward or punishment.

However, rewarding strictly within the confines of due justice implies the appearance of a limitation on what G-D can do and His supremacy, should He desire to give more than what is due.

Therefore, together with our beseeching Divine mercy, G-D planned moments within history when He will assert His existence and redeem us even if it does not appear that we are worthy. This is what is meant by repeating the phrase, "*I will be*."

With this, we can perhaps understand the notion of heralding the Messianic Era by G-D's sounding the "Great Shofar." The shofar is traditionally used to proclaim freedom. The "Great Shofar" will remind us that G-D is free and not bound by mortal conceptions of what Divine Justice should demand.

Indeed, there will be no "free lunch," even during these great moments and G-D will give us the opportunity to earn them. Both the redemption from Egypt and the future redemption will involve intensive repentance on our part.

The Techeles Mordechai says that G-D foresaw that the Jewish people will repent for their worship of the Golden Calf and deemed them worthy of being redeemed from Egypt by giving them advance credit.

He notes that it was possible to be redeemed from Egypt before our later downfall because that redemption did not impair our ability to repent.

However, this may not be possible after the future redemption. This is because the forces of evil will be annulled according to some views. Should that occur, then the act of repentance will become irresistible and we would have no part in earning the redemption.

The is how we can understand Rabbi Yehoshua who said that should the Jewish people not repent on their own by the time of the scheduled future redemption then G-D will set against them a king whose decrees are as harsh as Haman's and they will repent (Sanhedrin 97b).

Thus, repentance will and must precede the future redemption, may it occur speedily in our days.


3:12 And He said (to Moshe / Moses), "And this is a sign for you that I sent you (for): When you bring this nation out from Egypt you will serve G-D on this mountain."

If Moshe was unsure whether it was truly G-D who was asking him to take out the Jewish people then it would seem that he needed this sign before he undertook the mission, not after the fact.

It appears from Rashi's commentary that Moshe had no doubt that it G-D was giving him this charge.

Rather, says Rashi, G-D was answering a question that Moshe asked Him: What did the Jewish people do to merit redemption?

G-D answered that it was not something that they did but rather something that they will do shortly after their redemption. They will come back to this very same mountain and they will agree to accept upon themselves the Torah.

I understand this to mean that G-D's great and penetrating awareness was such that He was able to evaluate where the enslaved Jewish people were at that moment and connect this with how they will be once they were free and standing at the foot of Mount Sinai.

This projection into the future provided G-D with the justification to credit them with the merit ahead of the fact and this is why they merited redemption.

We find another projection into the future but with different results.

Avraham (Abraham) banished Hagar and Yishmael from his household and sent them into the desert. Their water ran and Yishmael was on the verge of death (Genesis 21).

Rashi cites a Medrash that the ministering angels in heaven pressed to have Yishmael die of thirst because they foresaw that his children would cruelly kill Jewish people by thirst.


3:16 Go and gather the Elders of Israel and tell them, "Hashem the G-d of your ancestors appeared to me, the G-d of Avraham, Yitzchak, and Yaakov (Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob), saying, 'I have remembered you and that which was done to you in Egypt.

3:17 And I shall bring you up (and out of) the afflictions of Egypt, to the land of the Canaanites, Chitites, Emorites, Prizites, Chivites, and Yevusites, to a land that flows with milk and honey.'

3:18 And they shall listen to your voice and you shall go to the King of Egypt, together with the Elders and with Aharon (Aaron), and you shall tell him, 'Hashem the G-d of the Hebrews met up with us, so now please let us go a distance of a three day journey into the wilderness so that we may sacrifice to Hashem our G-d.'

Rashi notes in 5:1 that the Elders began the march to the royal palace. However, they slipped away by the time Moshe reached Pharaoh. Apparently, while they may have had faith in Moshe, they weren't ready to risk their lives and demonstrate it to Pharaoh.

Rashi says that they were subsequently punished for this at Mount Sinai. Yet, from the above verse, it appears that that the Torah gives them some credit for at least starting on the march.

G-d gives great significance to everything that we do.


3:21 And I shall give this (Jewish) nation grace (chen) in the eyes of the Egyptians. And when you leave, you shall not go empty (handed).

3:22 And each woman will borrow silver and golden vessels and clothing from her neighbor and from her tenant. And you will place them on your sons and daughters and you will empty out Egypt.

What is the role of the grace that is mentioned in verse 3:21? What is the Torah trying to tell us?

The following came to mind.

First, I'd like to share my thoughts on how I've come to understand a section of our Birkas Hamazon, the prayer that we say after eating a meal.

The prayer begins as follows:

Blessed are You Hashem our G-d, King of the Universe, who sustains the entire world with grace (chen), with kindness, and with mercy.

I used to think that this was referring to G-d's grace, kindness, and mercy. That is, He sustains the world in His grace, His kindness, and His mercy.

Lately, I've come to think of another approach, which may very well coexist with the former.

We sometimes get turned on to the plight of another person. Perhaps he/she is looking for a job, a mate, or a hand-out. We then wind up helping this person. How does this happen? What turns these emotions on? Shall we subscribe it all to the sub-conscious and Freudian psycho-dynamics?

Not necessarily.

Judaism teaches that G-d is actively managing the world and all of its detail. In His responsibility and role of sustaining the world, G-d may very well be using our emotions of grace (chen), kindness, and mercy to do this. That is, at times He manipulates them so that others can be sustained. They are some of his many mechanisms.

So, G-d may very well be sustaining the world by using our grace, our kindness, and our mercy.

Perhaps we can apply this to our experience in Egypt, as well as to our everyday life.

Bon appetite.


4:1 And Moshe (Moses) answered (G-d) and said, "Look, they (the Jewish people) won't believe me and they won't listen to my voice, for they will say, 'G-d did not appear to you'."

4:2 And G-d said to him, "What is that in your hand?" And he said, "A staff."

4:3 And He (G-d) said, "Throw it down on the ground." And he threw it down on the ground and it became a serpent, and Moshe fled from it.

Rashi in 4:3 provides the following comment on 'it became a serpent.'

G-D hinted to Moshe that he slandered the Jewish people by saying that they will not believe in him, as the serpent is the symbol of an evil tongue.

G-D provides Moshe with three miracles to convince the Jewish people that Moshe is G-d's true messenger. Apparently G-d also recognizes the need to provide supportive evidence. In the past, Mankind has suffered from many falsifiers who have claimed to speak in the name of G-d.

It appears that Moshe is being faulted for stating as a given fact that the Jewish people will not believe him, instead of discussing a possible need for verifying his authenticity.

The Torah provides us with very high standards for slander, even when speech goes no further than between man and G-d.


4:13 And he (Moshe) said, "Please G-d, send someone who is appropriate."

Moshe did not want to go.

Rashi tells us who Moshe was suggesting other people for the job.

Moshe suggested his brother Aharon, who had previously served as G-d's messenger.

Rashi adds that Moshe is also saying: 'Send someone who will become your messenger, because I am not destined to bring them into the promised land and I will not redeem them in the future.'

This last statement is puzzling, because Moshe did indeed help bring them out from Egypt.

Perhaps Rashi is alluding to the Targum Yonoson Ben Uziel who says that Moshe is suggesting that G-d appoint Pinchas, Moshe's nephew.

We are taught that Pinchas later rise to become Eliyahu (Elijah) the Prophet and he will announce the final redemption.

Moshe takes the job after G-d insists.

Moshe knows that he will fail. He accepts the responsibility with unique objectivity and detachment, and yet with great dedication. He is our great teacher and leader.


Hashem (G-d) revealed Himself to Moshe Rabbeinu (Moses) by the burning bush and asked him to go to Egypt and redeem the Jewish people. Moshe Rabbeinu refused. The Oral Torah teaches that for the next seven days Hashem tried to get Moshe Rabbeinu to change his mind. Finally (4:13), Hashem displayed anger and Moshe had to agree.

Let's try to understand what happened afterwards.

4:18. And Moshe went and returned to Yeser his father-in-law and said to him, "Let me please go and return to my brothers who are in Egypt and I'll see whether they are still alive." And Yisro said, "Go in peace."

So did he go? Apparently not! Look at the very next verse.

4:19. And Hashem said to Moshe in Midian, "Go return to Egypt, for the people who wanted to kill you have died."

Why didn't he go immediately? Wasn't he risking Hashem's anger? Furthermore, we see from the next verse that Hashem was not angry at Moshe for not going. Why?

There is an interesting Medrash regarding this initial encounter. It states that G-d spoke to Moshe with the voice of Moshe's father.

The Medrash tells us that while the Torah records a brief interchange, in fact G-d spoke with Moshe for SEVEN DAYS, trying to get him to agree to accept the mission. Moshe was reluctant because of his concerns for the feelings of his elder brother, Aharon, who appeared to be passed over. (Incredible!) Moshe's statement on the seventh day was apparently either not appropriate or it was too much.

Moshe accepts but he does not go. Why? Well, it was dangerous.

So what! G-d tells you to go, so you go. Forget the danger.

I propose the following to address this and the above questions.

G-d provided us with the Torah, instructions for living. Moshe's action was consistent with the Torah.

There are times when a person may overlook danger and there are times when a person may not.

From the Torah perspective, threat to human life is an overriding concern in most situations. However, participating in war, when necessary, is acceptable although it is dangerous. This is because the danger is of a general nature and is not personal. Enemies shoot at nameless soldiers, not at specific victims. We pray, go, do what has to be done, and take care not to get killed.

We find Halacha forbidding the resident of a city of refuge to leave his protective zone even if he (even King David's great General Yoav) is needed in battle. The Torah is concerned for the resident, a person who committed accidental homicide, that he may be killed by a family member of the deceased victim who seeks revenge. This is a personal danger and the Torah teaches that we have no right to overlook it.

During Moshe's time there were people who were seeking his harm. Moshe was under the threat of a personal danger. He accepted the mission and immediately did whatever he could do to go, but he couldn't go. So he asked his father-in-law permission and then waited until the coast was clear.

This was a perfectly acceptable reaction. G-d works with us, within the context of the Torah.

We find a similar situation later in history, in the Book of Samuel (Samuel I, chapter 16)

G-d asks Samuel to anoint David as a king over Israel. Samuel doesn't just go. Instead he responds to G-d that this is dangerous. If the current King hears that he is going to anoint someone else then he will be killed for the act of rebellion.

G-d gives him advice on how to do it in a discrete manner.

Amazing!


4:27 And G-D said to Aharon (Aaron), "Go to the desert to meet Moshe (Moses)" And he went and met him on the Mountain of G-D. And he kissed him.

To Rabbi Elyashiv of blessed memory, this verse brought to mind the following rule in Jewish law: When one meets a friend that he hasn't seen in thirty days, he must recite the blessing of “Shecheyenu.”

This blessing is typically said at a joyous occasion.

I understand his explanation as follows.

Every day gives us a fresh opportunity to grow and that is what we should always be doing.

It takes time for a person to see the progress he is making but it is easier for someone else to pick it up if they haven't been together in a while.

Our sages of blessed memory codified into Jewish law their expectation that we will indeed grow every day to the degree that a colleague would be able to view us as a different and improved person after a mere thirty day separation.

And to encourage further growth, they assigned an expression of joy to this realization.


4:31 And the people believed (Moshe / Moses). And they heard that G-D remembered the Children of Israel and that He saw their suffering …

5:1 And they afterwards came and said to Pharaoh, "So says Hashem the G-D of Israel: 'Send out my people so that they will celebrate with Me in the wilderness.'"

Rabbi Levenstein of blessed memory asks why Moshe didn't go to Pharaoh first, before convincing the Jewish people that he was genuine. (Ohr Yechezkel 214).

His going Pharaoh beforehand and emerging unscathed would have been proof of his authenticity. This is because he entered the palace and throne room without an appointment or permission. Under normal circumstances Moshe would have been put to death for insolence.

Rabbi Levenstein answers that redemption needs to begin from below, not from above. That is, G-D wanted the redemption to be triggered by the merits of the Jewish people.

Moshe came to us first and we connected with both him and the tradition of our past. We did this on our own, without verification from his surviving what would have been a suicidal mission.

That was all that was needed to start the great process.

And the rest is history.


5:22 And Moshe (Moses) returned to G-D and said, "Oh G-D, why have you caused badness (to occur) to this nation? Why did You send me?

Chapter 17 of the Book of Judges records the catastrophic story of Micha.

The Talmud (Sanhedrin 101b) says that the name Micha reflects this person's early years when he was squashed ('nismaech') into the buildings of Egypt.

Rashi's commentary of this teaching in the Talmud references the following Medrash:

Moshe pleaded with G-D, "You are causing badness to occur to this nation. If they do not have (enough) bricks then they (- the Egyptians) put their children into the building (in place of the bricks that are missing from their quota.)"

G-D responded, "They (i.e. the Egyptians) are destroying the 'thorns' that are within the Jewish people. For it is obvious to Me that if these children live that they will grow up to become wicked people.

If you wish then you may test this out.

Thereupon, Moshe pulled out one child and he grew up to become the infamous Micha.

Besides the story in the Book of Judges, our tradition is full of other calamities that this person caused.

Micha retrieved the golden plate that Moshe used to miraculously salvage Yosef's (Joseph's) metal ark from the bottom of the Nile river. When the Jewish people were later making the Golden Calf, he threw this plate into the furnace and its powers gave a semblance of life to the molten image.

Micha also secretly harbored an idol.

He brought it into the sea that split for the Jewish people and endangered them.

He attached himself to the Tribe of Dan. The entire tribe was excluded from the shelter of the Cloud of Glory that surrounded the Jewish people because of this idol.

And the Book of Judges documents his continued attachment to idolatry.

In retrospect, we see that on the surface level it would have been far better for Micha and the Jewish people to leave him in the wall, for he would have died as an innocent victim of the Egyptian persecution instead of a becoming a source for spiritual destruction.

We certainly can not say that every precious individual who dies as tragically as Micha's companions did is pre-destined to become a wicked individual.

However, what this brings out is that there is a good basis and reason for every event that the One Above decides to make happen, even if it's a tragedy.

It is perhaps to teach this lesson to Mankind that G-D suggested that Moshe test this thesis this one time.


5:22 And Moshe (Moses) returned to G-d and he said, "G-d, why did you cause evil to this nation? Why did you send me?"

5:23 And he (Pharaoh) did evil to this nation from when I (started to) come to speak in Your Name, and You did not save your nation."

6:1 And G-d said to Moshe, "Now you will see what I will do to Pharaoh. For he will send them away with a strong hand and he (it?) will drive them out with a strong hand."

How does the last verse answer Moshe's question?

What is the difference between sending the people out with a strong hand and driving them out with a strong hand? What is the Torah trying to tell us with these two phrases?

The following came to mind.

We find that Pharaoh sent out the Jewish people.

13:17 And it was when Pharaoh sent out the nation ..

It seems that the Egyptian people drove them out, not Pharaoh.

12:33 And Egypt pressured the nation (the Jewish people) to quickly send them out from the land, for they said, "We (Egyptians) are all dead."

12:39 And they (the Jewish people) baked the dough that they took out of Egypt into wafers of Matzah for it did not leaven. For they were driven out from Egypt and they could not delay. And they did not make any provisions for themselves.

Apparently, Pharaoh did not feel compelled to drive the Jewish people out. He did not feel threatened. Therefore, he just had to come to terms with sending them away.

What gave him this different perspective?

Later on we find that Pharaoh regretted sending them away.

14:5 And the King of Egypt was told that the nation fled. And the heart of Pharaoh and his servants turned over towards the nation and they said, "What is this that we sent Israel from our service?"

It would appear that the Exodus marked the end of the Jewish people's servitude. However, the Oral Torah teaches that the enslavement ended sometime during the ten plagues, not at the end when they left Egypt.

How do we therefore understand Pharaoh's statement? The people that he sent out were no longer slaves.

In general, after ten agonizing plagues, why did Pharaoh chase after the Jewish people to bring them back? This is perhaps of the greatest national insanity of all times.

Let us preface our approach by the following teaching. The Exodus and our freedom were not completed until Pharaoh and his army drowned in the sea. This eliminated Egypt from being even a threat.

Perhaps this is what G-d was telling Moshe in 6:1.

Pharaoh forced the Jewish people into enslavement. He initially gave them resources for doing their work. This is exploitation. It is evil but unfortunately not unprecedented.

After his initial encounter with Moshe, Pharaoh took away his resources and expected no change in output. This type of exploitation is unprecedented. It is outright mistreatment. One would expect even the most depraved of tyrants to see this, at least eventually.

Rather than view the ten plagues as a message from G-d to stop the enslavement, perhaps Pharaoh took them as punishment for his mistreatment. Perhaps G-d allowed Pharaoh to extend his self-serving fantasy, that enslaving the Jewish people was acceptable as long as he did not mistreat them.

Within this distortion, Pharaoh freed the Jewish people during the plagues because he thought that the respite would compensate for the mistreatment and that this would appease G-d. After the ten plagues and Moshe's warnings, he came to accept that G-d wanted more of a demonstration against the mistreatment of slaves. He thought that the three day trip of the Jewish people to worship G-d would suffice, that G-d had no problems with the enslavement. He fully expected the Jewish people to return to slavery afterwards.

His learning that the Jewish people would not return exposed the flaw of his approach to temporarily send the Jewish people away. The Egyptian people's approach of driving them out was correct and he was wrong. Perhaps this is why he exploded and insisted that Egypt pursue the Jewish people, in order to prove that his approach was right.

6:1 And G-d said to Moshe, "Now you will see what I will do to Pharaoh. For he (Pharaoh) will send them away with a strong hand and it (the Egyptian people) will drive them out with a strong hand."

So, the mistreatment was a necessary preparation for the redemption and this answers Moshe's question.

Since then, the Jewish people have been persecuted and mistreated by many nations.

We are taught that the redemption from Egypt contains the blueprint for our many redemptions.

We are also taught that all of our misfortunes are in actuality a preparation for the final redemption, may it occur soon. May we soon realize how they all contributed to this great and glorious period in the history of all Mankind.


Va'era (Exodus 6-9)

The Talmud states that the Egyptian enslavement ended on the first day of the month of Tishrei, Rosh Hashana, and the redemption occurred during the month of Nisan, Passover (Rosh Hashana 11a).

As we have a tradition that each plague took about one month, the enslavement ended sometime during this week's Torah reading.

We see that the Torah views the redemption of the Jewish people as being something other than the lack of persecution.

Who knows whether the relative lull in persecution that we are fortunate to experience is following the similar pattern. May the redemption occur speedily in our days.


Genesis 15:7 And He said to him [Avraham], "I am G-D who brought you out of Uhr-Kasdim to give you this land to inherit it."

Genesis 15:8 And he said to Him, "L-ord oh G-d, how will I know that I will inherit it?"

Genesis 15:13 And He said to Avraham, "You shall surely know that your children will be strangers in a land that does not belong to them. And they will serve them [the citizens of that land] and they [those citizens] will afflict them [your children] four-hundred years."

Genesis 15:14 And I will also judge the nation that they will serve. And afterwards they [your children] will go out with great possession.

Exodus 5:22-23 "Why did You cause bad (events to happen ) to the Jewish people? Why did you send me? From the time I came to Pharaoh to speak in Your Name, he (Pharaoh) did evil to this nation and You did not save Your nation." (5:22-23)

Exodus 6:1 "Now you will see that which I will do to Pharaoh, for with a strong hand he will send them out and with a strong hand he will drive them out from his land."

Exodus 6:3 "And I appeared to Avraham, to Yitzchok, and to Yaakov (to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob) with (My name of) E-l Sha-dai, and I did not become known to them with My name of Hashem."

Rashi: "E-l Sha-dai" - I made promises to them with the name of E-l Sha-dai.

Rashi "and I did not become known to them with My Name of Hashem" - It says, 'become known', not 'made known.' I was not identified to them by My characteristic of truth which relates to My being called Hashem - faithful to back up My words (with action). I promised them (that I would redeem their children) and I have not (yet) fulfilled (this promise).

Why did two different names of G-D need to be used, one for making the promises and another for fulfilling them?

The following came to mind.

It is a life-long responsibility (and privilege) for us human beings to bring G-D's supremacy into our consciousness, our daily lives.

Success in doing this does not guarantee the same for our children, and certainly not for generations afterward.

I suspect that this was behind Avraham's (Abraham's) question. Besides being puzzled how G-D's supremacy would be internalized by his children, he wondered how it would be eternalized so that the gift of the land would have permanence.

G-D's response was a description of the Egyptian exile and the Exodus.

We were initially exploited by Pharaoh and his nation. Afterwards, they were used by G-D as a vehicle to teach us His supremacy.

The suffering and exploitation that Moshe decried was necessary to set the stage for this lesson. I suspect that this was G-D's response to Moshe's question.

I also suspect that the different names of G-D reflect the two ways and extents that G-D's supremacy was actualized, first by Avraham for himself and then by his children for eternity.

A painful as it's going, Jewish history is another lesson, only more deeply profound. Whereas the first two temples were destroyed, the third temple, which will be built by G-D during our much awaited redemption, will be eternal.

Due to our rate of spiritual progress, the suffering in Egypt was needed to achieve our great accomplishments.

With a bit more effort on our part to actualize G-D's supremacy this time around, the need for the rocks and jolts we still experience will diminish.


6:3 "And I appeared to Avraham, to Yitzchok, and to Yaakov (to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob) with (My name of) E-l Sha-dai, and I did not become known to them with My name of Hashem."

The Nesivas Shalom commentary gives us the following explanation for the difference between these two names of G-D.

The name "Sha-dai" contains the word "Dai," which means enough, as in Dayenu. It suggests a system with structure and limitations.

It is clearly best for each of us to be fully compliant with the expectations of the system and environment that G-D made for us.

They are finite and structured, just like we are. Their response to our behavior has no room for deviation.

The above holds true for the physical world and also for the spiritual world.

Our great ancestors exerted themselves and were fully compliant with the Torah's behavioral expectations. They succeeded in not deviating. This is why the Torah associates their relationship with G-D with the divine name of "Sha-dai," as they lived within expected limits.

Unfortunately, in Egypt we did not succeed as much as our ancestors. We were overcome by the Egyptian culture and servitude. We sank into idolatry.

The Book of Genesis lists a number of failures for mankind as a whole After these string of failures, the Jewish people were mankind's last hope for this run of history. Our sages teach that had we not made it to Mount Sinai or had we gotten there but refused to accept the Torah, the world would have collapsed into nothingness.

This is why we were associated with a name of G-D that was different from that which was associated with our ancestors.

The name used for us is associated directly with G-D and His will, which is infinite. So to speak, it's relatively personal with respect to G-D Himself. It therefore accommodates overrides, there are no restrictions. This relationship can therefore accommodate a rescue fix, which entails risk and compromises on quality but was better for us than having no fix at all.

The following Medrash from Shir HaShirim (2:8b) reflects this mode.

Behold the voice of my beloved has come; He skips over the mountains and jumps over the valleys (2:8).

Rav Yehuda says that (my beloved) is Moshe (Moses). When he came and told the Jewish people that they will be redeemed in this month (of Nisan) they responded, "Moshe our teacher, how can this be? Didn't G-D tell Avraham (Abraham) that we will be strangers and enslaved for four-hundred years? We've been in Egypt for only two-hundred-ten years!" He responded back, "G-D wants to redeem you and is not looking at your calculations… The mountains and valleys are (the specified) end (of servitude) and limitations (of timing). He is skipping over the calculations, ends and limitations. You are going to be redeemed this month, as stated in the Torah, 'This month shall be the head month for you (Exodus 12:2)'."

Rav Nechemia says that (my beloved) is Moshe (Moses). When he came and told the Jewish people that they will be redeemed in this month they responded, "Moshe our teacher, how can this be? We have no meritorious deeds (to make us worthy of being redeemed right now.)" He responded back, "G-D wants to redeem you and is not looking at your deficient behavior. Rather, He is focusing on the noble deeds of the righteous among you, such as Amram and his court of justice… Rather, 'He skips over the mountains and jumps over the valleys.' The mountains are (referenced elsewhere as being) courts of justice… You are going to be redeemed this month, as stated in the Torah, 'This month shall be the head month for you (Exodus 12:2)'."

The Rabbis say that (my beloved) is Moshe (Moses). When he came and told the Jewish people that they will be redeemed in this month they responded, "Moshe our teacher, how can this be? Egypt is littered with artifacts from our idol worship!" He responded back, "G-D wants to redeem you and is not looking at your idol worship. Rather, 'He skips over the mountains and jumps over the valleys.' The mountains and valleys are (referenced elsewhere as being) idol worship… You are going to be redeemed this month, as stated in the Torah, 'This month shall be the head month for you (Exodus 12:2)'."


6:8 And I will bring them to the land (about which) I raised My hand (and took an oath) to give it to Avraham, to Yitzchak, and to Yaakov (Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob) and I will give it to them [the Children of Israel] for a 'morasha,' I am G-D.

A 'morasha' is frequently translated as a heritage. However, the Chasam Sofer takes it to a level deeper.

The word 'morasha' has the same root as 'yerusha,' an inheritance. One receives a 'yerusha' passively, without expending any effort.

'Morasha' is a causative and active tense, a transmission to one that can inherit. But it may be up to the next generation to expend effort to acquire it.

We find 'morasha' in Deuteronomy 33:4.

Moshe (Moses) commanded us the Torah. It is a 'morasha' to the Congregation of Yaakov.

As great as a parent or teacher can be in Torah scholarship, it is up to the next generation of children and scholars to expend effort to acquire and internalize the Torah within themselves. It does not automatically flow to them like an inheritance does.

In its genuine sense, life in the Land of Israel is meaningful and deep connection to a form of greatness. It requires total commitment, tenacity, immersion, submission to change, and acceptance of however and whatever it will cost to acquire it, just like Torah study.

This is reflected in the following teaching: Rabbi Shimon Ben Yochai said: G-D gave the Jewish people three wonderful gifts. They were all given through stressful exertion: The Torah, the Land of Israel, and the World to Come (Talmud Brachos 5a).


5:6 And Pharaoh commanded the officials (for the Jewish) nation and their police on that day (when Moshe / Moses asked to send the Jewish people out) saying.

5:7 "Give the nation no more straw They will go and gather straw for themselves."

5:8 "And keep up the quota of bricks for they are slothful. For this reason they cry saying, "Let us go out and make sacrifice to our G-d."

5:14 And the officers of the Jewish people were beaten, those that were appointed by Pharaoh's officials saying, "Why didn't you complete your brick allotment .. yesterday and today?"

5:15 And the officers of the Jewish people came and cried to Pharaoh saying, "Why are you doing this to your servants?"

5:17 And he (Pharaoh) said, "You are slothful.."

5:18 "And now, go (back and) work. And no straw will be given to you. And produce the allotment of bricks."

5:20 And they (the Jewish officers) met Moshe and Aharon standing to meet them when they left Pharaoh.

5:21 And they said, "May G-d appear to you and punish (you). For you have ruined our spirit in the eyes of Pharaoh and in the eyes of his servants, giving a sword in their hand to kill us."

5:22 And Moshe (Moses) returned to G-d and he said, "G-d, (G-d's name spelled with an aleph, suggesting the aspect of mastery) why did you cause evil to this nation? Why did you send me?"

5:23 And he (Pharaoh) did evil to this nation from when I (started to) come to speak in Your Name, and You did not save your nation."

6:1 And G-d said to Moshe, "Now you will see what I will do to Pharaoh. For he will send them away with a strong hand and he will drive them out with a strong hand."

6:2 And G-d (G-d's name that suggests judgement) spoke to Moshe and He said, I am G-d (G-d's name that we use to refer directly to His essence)

6:6 Therefore say to the Children of Israel: "I am G-d. And I will take you out from under the burdens of Egypt. And I will save you from their burdens. And I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great judgments.”

6:7 "And I shall take you to me for a nation and I will be to you for a G-d. And you shall know that I am G-d your G-d who took you out from under the burdens of Egypt."

6:8 "And I shall bring you to the land that I lifted up My hand to give it to Avraham, to Yitzchak, and to Yaakov (Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob). And I shall give it to you for an inheritance, I am G-d."

6:9 And Moshe told this to the Children of Israel. And they did not listen to him out of (their) shortness of breath and (out of their) hard work.

Things took a turn for the worse ever since Moshe spoke to Pharaoh. As stated above, Pharaoh made the decree on the day of this encounter.

Several days later, the Jewish officers appealed for mercy. They blamed Moshe after their unsuccessful encounter with Pharaoh. Moshe subsequently turned to G-d.

Why didn't Moshe make plead with G-d when Pharaoh first issued the decree?

Moshe refers to G-d with a name that suggests mastery. It is rare for him to do so. In 6:2, G-d responds with the statement, "I am G-d," using the name that suggests His essence. Is G-d correcting Moshe? How do we understand this?

Rashi provides the following commentary for 6:2:

I can be relied on to provide good reward to those who walk before Me.

It is impossible to conceive that Moshe was having doubts in his faith in G-d. What is the relevance of faith at this point in the discussion?

G-d tells Moshe to speak to the Children of Israel and they do not listen to Moshe. Since G-d is all-knowing, why did He send Moshe on this seemingly futile mission?

The following came to mind.

Today it is very common for people to find fault and assign blame. The Torah has some very special teachings about assigning blame.

G-d actively manages our affairs. Everything is in His hands except that which relates to a person choosing to fear G-d. Therefore, for most of the time, assigning blame to people is an error.

There are times when assigning blame is appropriate. A person can be blamed for choosing to do evil. This is only because G-d gives us the ability to do so.

Therefore, for example, blame has no relevance when a person makes a bad business or political decision, unless it relates to fearing G-d and the decision was caused by a lack of this fear.

If a person sincerely does his best and he makes a bad decision, then it was G-d's decree that he should have done so, and he must accept the consequences as being the will of G-d.

Moshe did not plead with G-d when Pharaoh first came out with the decree. Perhaps Moshe took this as an indication that the Jewish people were on a high level of faith and that this setback would not impair this faith.

Then, some people blamed Moshe for the catastrophe. This exposed a lack of faith.

The Oral Torah teaches that these people were none other than Dosan and Avirum, people who will later get themselves and the Jewish people into a lot of trouble.

Perhaps Moshe took their behavior as being representative of the Jewish people. If so, then we can answer the rest of our questions.

Moshe initially referred to G-d as being a Master, not with a more direct reference. Perhaps this reflects the distance lack of faith that Dosan and Avirum demonstrated. Perhaps the Jewish people were not on a level to deal with G-d with a higher awareness of His reality.

G-d responds, "I am G-d," using a name which best suggests His essence. This could be an indication that the Jewish people as a whole were on a much higher level of faith. As proof, G-d tells Moshe to proclaim to the Jewish people the glorious aspects redemption. They do not listen, but not out of a lack of faith. Rather, they do not listen because of their emotional and physical exhaustion.

They will later soar to great spiritual heights when released from their bonds of slavery.


In the previous parsha, G-d instructs Moshe (Moses) to announce his mission to the enslaved Jewish people and to then ask Pharaoh to free them. Pharaoh reacts in an outrageous manner. He stops providing them with straw and he demands that the Jewish people maintain their quota for bricks. Pharaoh punishes them for production shortfalls. The working conditions become unbearable.

Moshe (Moses) says the following to G-d: "Why did You cause bad (events to happen ) to the Jewish people? Why did you send me? From the time I came to Pharaoh to speak in Your Name, he (Pharaoh) did evil to this nation and You did not save Your nation." (5:22-23)

G-d responds: "Now you will see that which I will do to Pharaoh, for with a strong hand he will send them out and with a strong hand he will drive them out from his land." (6:1)

This parsha begins with a continuation of this dialog.

6:2 And the L-ord spoke to Moshe and He said to him, "I am Hashem (G-d)

Rashi: "I am G-d"- I am faithful to repay those who walked before Me (the ancestors of the Jewish people). I didn't send you on a mission of futility.

6:3 "And I appeared to Avraham, to Yitzchok, and to Yaakov (to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob) with (My name of) E-l Sha-dai, and I did not become known to them with My name of Hashem."

Rashi: "E-l Sha-dai" - I made promises to them with the name of E-l Sha-dai.

Rashi "and I did not become known to them with My Name of Hashem" - It says, 'become known', not 'made known.' I was not identified to them by My characteristic of truth which relates to My being called Hashem - faithful to back up My words (with action). I promised them (that I would redeem their children) and I have not (yet) fulfilled (this promise).

In short, Moshe asked G-d why the affairs of the Jewish people took a turn for the worst and G-d responds that He must keep the promise he made to the forefathers. How does this answer Moshe's question? What is Rashi trying to tell us?

The link between truthfulness and the Exodus is further reflected by the following verse in Leviticus 16:36 "You must have honest scales, honest weights, and honest measures, I am Hashem your G-d who brought you out from the Land of Egypt."

What is the Torah trying to tell us by linking the Exodus to business ethics?

The following came to mind.

Per Rashi 3:14, the Egyptian exile and redemption are not isolated events in Jewish history. Rather, they set the pattern for future the exiles and redemptions.

G-d makes long-term promises. He foretold to Avraham that his children would suffer four-hundred years and that He would redeem them afterwards.

We believe that G-d manages the world on a long-term basis and that He is the ultimate champion of justice.

We know from history and from personal experience that we as individuals do not always see His justice being carried out during our short life span in this world. We believe that in heaven and also in the end of days we will see that only good things will happen to people who were good and only bad things will happen to people who were bad.

So, during the Jewish people's series of exiles, it will not always be obvious that G-d is the championing against the injustices that cause their suffering.

We view this as a necessary aspect of our history. The existence and management of G-d are not always obvious. This contributes to our being able to choose between doing right and wrong, which is the focus of our current existence.

Throughout the exiles, we have been able to survive by our belief and hope in the long-term future. We have learned to rely upon the belief that G-d maintains justice in a concealed manner in the short term and that he will enforce and make known His justice in the long-term.

However, this is not by any means the only source of energy that kept us going.

Besides our faith that injustice will be rectified, we have also derived great strength from G-D's promises of a future spiritual restoration and greatness, as we are part of the great chain of history and human accomplishment that began with Avraham. It was towards this greatness that G-D made commitments to our ancestors that He will not abandon the Jewish people and that he will Father them through history and perfection.

Per Exodus 3: 23-25, it appears that the wheels of the Egyptian redemption were set into motion by the Jewish people when they cried out to G-d from their affliction.

When Moshe first spoke to the people, they associated the redemption with their affliction.

3:31 "And the people believed. And they heard that G-d remembered the Children of Yisroel (Israel) and that He saw their affliction, and they knelt and they bowed."

The mind-set of the Jewish people in Egypt appears to have been initially focused solely on G-d's rectifying their injustice.

Moshe asked G-d why things went bad afterwards. G-d spoke about His keeping a long-term promise. Perhaps, G-d is telling Moshe that the Jewish people couldn't have the precedent-setting redemption with their initial mind-set. They needed to include attention to the fact that G-d is and will manage their affairs on a sure and steady long-term basis, keeping His commitments to make them great.

To make this happen, G-d guided the events and the injustice became intensified. They became exploited by Pharaoh in an unprecedented manner. This overwhelmed them to the degree that they could no longer dwell on correcting injustice. Rather, their focus turned to simple survival.

G-d now gives attention to a promise that He made some four-hundred years ago. The Jewish people are being directed to include the long-term aspects of hope and faith in G-d's long-term management and His commitments. This context will provide them with the strength they will need to survive the next thirty-three centuries of Jewish history.

Perhaps this was the intention of G-d's response to Moshe, according to the way Rashi is explaining it.

With this, we can now better appreciate the link between honest business dealings and the Exodus from Egypt. Pharaoh's excessive exploitation was part of the redemption process and its memory will hopefully cause us to have an aversion to dishonesty.


6:2 And G-D spoke to Moshe and He said to him, "I am Hashem."

6:3 And I appeared to Avraham, to Yitzchak, and to Yaakov (Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob) with (My Name of) 'Kel Shakai' and I did not make known to them My Name of 'Hashem.'.

6:4 And I also established My covenant with them to give them the Land of Canaan, the land of their sojourning where they stayed.

In his commentary on these verses, Rashi states that from the time of the forefathers through Moshe (Moses), G-D did not fulfill his promise to the forefathers. That is, G-D never gave them the Land of Canaan.

This is difficult to reconcile with the following verse in Genesis where Hashem is speaking to Yaakov:

35:12 I will give to you the land that I gave to Avraham and to Yitzchok. And I will give that land to your children.

This verse states that G-D had already given the land to Avraham and Yitzchok. It also implies that G-D will give the land to Yaakov during his lifetime. We would certainly expect this to be fulfilled.

How do we understand these verses?

Furthermore, the book of Genesis does not record our forefathers' ownership of any land in Canaan except for some small parcels in Chevron (Hebron) and Shechem (Nabulus). Perhaps Avraham owned some real-estate in Be'er Sheva and perhaps Yitzchok owned some land in Gerar, but that appears to be all of their holdings.

What is the Torah trying to tell us?

The following came to mind.

We assumed that G-D promised to give our forefathers the physical ownership of the land. That is, they will be the owner and they will act like owners. Perhaps we can understand Genesis 35:12 to mean that G-D will give the land to the forefathers in name only. They will be full owners, even though other people may live on the land and act like owners.

This land will always be associated with them and their descendants forever. It is the land of Avraham, Yitzchok, and Yaakov and it is the land that is promised to their children. It is an everlasting association that survives and transcends the behavioral ownership of other people. As it is a decree of G-D, it provides legitimacy and a basis for the future physical ownership of the land. It puts the ownership of others in a temporal light.

Viewed in this manner we can indeed see the fulfillment of this promise throughout Jewish history, up to and including the time when all of the Jewish people will be restored to their status and to their land.


6:2 And G-D spoke to Moshe (Moses) and He said, "I am Hashem."

6:3 And I appeared to Avraham, to Yitzchak, and to Yaakov (Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob) with (the Name of) Kel Shakai. And I was not known to them by My Name Hashem.

Rashi provides the following commentary for "and He said, 'I am Hashem'"

I am faithful to pay a good reward to those who walk before Me. I did not send you (on a mission) for nothing. Rather, (it was to fulfill My words that I spoke to the forefathers...

It is difficult to understand Rashi's words. Moshe never mentioned a problem with not getting paid. Rather, after the affairs of the Jewish people took a turn for the worse he said the following to G-D:

5:22 And Moshe returned to G-D and said, "G-D, why did You cause evil to this nation, why did You send me."

5:23 "From when I came to Pharaoh to speak in Your Name he did evil to this nation. And You did not save your nation."

The following came to mind in order to understand Rashi

We know that Moshe was told that his mission was to save the Jewish people. G-D told him the following by the burning bush:

3:7 And Hashem said (to Moshe), "I saw the affliction of my nation that is in Egypt. And I heard their cries because of their taskmasters, for I know its pains.

3:8 And I shall descend to save it from the hand of Egypt and to bring it from this land, to a good and wide land, to a land flowing with milk and honey, to the place of the Canaani, and the Chiti, and the Emori, and the Prizi, and the Chivi, and the Yevusi (nations).

3:9 And now, behold the cry of the Children of Israel came to me and I saw the pressure that Egypt is pressuring them.

Moshe was forewarned that his actions would not bear immediate success. Now, since the mission was presented as one of salvation, he probably expected that things would at worst remain status quo for an extended period. It was therefore natural for him to be disturbed when things took a sudden turn for the worse.

Perhaps in this verse, Rashi is telling us that G-D was now revealing to Moshe another dimension to the mission, that of compensation to the forefathers.

The Talmud teaches the following (Berachos 5a): "G-D gave the Jewish people three wonderful gifts and they were only given together with suffering: Torah, the Land of Israel, and the World To Come."

Apparently, suffering relates to with the quality of G-D's gifts, that the gifts are greater when preceded with a bit of suffering.

We can now understand how verse 6:3 was a response to Moshe's question, "Why have You done evil to this nation." Besides being in a mode of saving the Jewish people, G-D is now revealed to Moshe that He is in the mode of payment. The suffering was to not evil. Rather, it was part of the preparation for a great reward.


6:6 Therefore say to the Children of Israel: "I am G-d. And I will take you out from under the burdens of Egypt. And I will save you from their burdens. And I will redeem you with an outstretched arm ("zeroah" in Hebrew) and with great judgments."

The "zeroah" is the part of the arm between the shoulders and the elbow.

Other limbs are mentioned in the Exodus story.

8:15 And the magicians said to Pharaoh, "This is the finger of G-D." And Pharaoh hardened his heart and did not listen to them, just as G-D said.

9:3 Behold, the hand of G-D is in your livestock that is in the field, in the horses, donkeys, camels, cattle, and sheep, a great plague.

The other limbs are associated with the plagues. In contrast, the "zeroah" is associated with the redemption. What is so special about this limb and why is it associated with the redemption?

The following came to mind.

The upper arm gives us the ability to reach out.

The Jewish people of that time were downtrodden, both physically and spiritually. Many probably felt that they were too distant from G-D to reach Him. Here they were told to not give up hope. G-D will reach out to them.


6:3 And I [G-d] appeared to Avraham, to Yitzchak, and to Yaakov [Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob] with My name [in the manner] of Sh-adai. And I did not make known to them My name [manner] of Hashem.

6:4 And I established my Covenant with them, to give them the Land of Canaan, the land of their sojourning, within which they sojourned.

6:5 And I (G-d) have also heard the outcry of the Children of Israel (over) that which Egypt is enslaving them. And I brought My Covenant into memory.

6:6 Therefore say to the Children of Israel: "I am G-d. And I will take you out from under the burdens of Egypt. And I will save you from their burdens. And I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great judgments.”

6:7 And I will take you to me for a nation. And I will be to you for a G-d. And You will know that I am Hashem your G-d who took you out from beneath the burdens of Egypt.

6:8 And I will bring you into the land, that (which) I raised up my hand (in an oath) to give to Avraham, to Yitzchak, and to Yaakov. And I will give it to them [to the Jewish people?] for an inheritance, I am G-d."

Who did G-d swear to give the land to? Verse 6:4 seems to be saying that the land was to be given the forefathers. Verse 6:8 can be read to say that it was to be given to the Jewish people.

When did G-d make the referenced Covenant?

Rashi provides the following commentary for the last part of 6:5:

And I have brought into memory: That Covenant (which is referenced in 6:4). For I said by the Covenant Between The Pieces, "And I will judge the nation that they will serve."

The Covenant Between the Pieces is documented in the Book of Genesis chapter 15, verses 9-21.

The actual Covenant consists of verses 18-21. In it, G-d commits to give the lands of ten nations, including that of Canaan, to Avraham's children. The Covenant does not say that G-d will give the land to the forefathers. According to Rashi, 6:4 says that the Covenant was to give the land to the forefathers. This is puzzling.

Upon further research into the Book of Genesis, we find a number of promises about the land. Many appear to be in conflict.

Said to Avraham:

13:15 For I will give all of the land that you see to you and to your seed, forever.

13:17 Arise and travel in the land, its length and its width, for I will give it to you.

15:18 G-d established a Covenant with Avraham on that day, saying: "I gave this land to your seed, from the River Of Egypt to the great river, the River of Pras."

17:8 And I will give the land of your sojourning to you and to your seed, the entire Land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession. And I will be to them a G-d.

Said to Yitzchak:

26:3 Dwell in this land and I will bless you. For I will give all of these lands to you and to your seed. And I will establish the oath that I swore to Avraham your father.

26:4 And I will make your seed as numerous as the stars of the heaven. And I will give all of these lands to your seed. And all of the nations of the earth will be blessed through your seed.

Said to Yaakov:

28:13 And behold, G-d stood above him, and He said: "I am Hashem, the G-d of Avraham your father and the G-d of Yitzchak. I will give the land that you are resting upon to you and to your seed."

35:12 And I will give you the land that I gave to Avraham and to Yitzchak. To your seed after you I will give the land.

Some verses appear to be saying that the land will be given or that it was already given to one or more of the forefathers. Others appear to be saying that the land will be given to the children, not to the forefathers. Some appear to be saying that the land will be given to the forefathers and to the children.

Throughout the past thirty-seven centuries of history, where do we see that Avraham, to Yitzchak, or Yaakov took posession of the land?

The Oral Torah teaches that Yitzchak or Yaakov did not own the land.

G-d told Avraham during the Covenant: "..Your seed will sojourn in a land that does not belong to them for four-hundred years (Genesis 15:13)." Rashi in Exodus 12:40 explains that this decree began with the birth of Yitzchak. So, Yitzchak sojourned in the Land of Canaan his entire life in a land that he never owned. But what about the Covenant?

Now, for the past thirty-three centuries, Judaism has taught that most of those who pass away will come back to life. They (we) will have an eternal existence according to the manner that they (we) lived beforehand. To resolve part of the puzzle, one could say that G-d will fulfill His promise to give them the land to the forefathers during the afterlife. However, the Torah does not openly address the future rewards of the righteous. If this is an exception, could it be that this is their entire reward for all eternity? Why is G-d focusing on just giving them the land? Will they get the land in partnership or individually? Why is this recorded in the Written Torah? Of what relevance is this to us? At any rate, this does not resolve Genesis 35:12 where it states that G-d had already given the land to Avraham and to Yitzchak. In what way did G-d give them the land?

Finally, the Rashi in Exodus 6:5 associates G-d's judgment of the Egyptians with the Covenant Between The Pieces. Yet, the actual Covenant states only that G-d will give the land to Avraham's descendants. The judgment of the oppressors is mentioned incidentally, not as part of the Covenant.

What is Rashi trying to tell us?

A bigger question comes to mind.

The land of Israel is a G-d given eternal posession of the Jewish people. It is our ancestral homeland.

However, none of the forefathers ever asked for this land. Why did G-d promised to give it to them and to their children? Avraham asked only for a child. Yitzchak asked only for a child. Yaakov sought only his bare necessities and his security. G-d answered all of their prayers. Why did G-d add in the Land of Canaan?

What is the Torah trying to tell us? Who is to get the land? Why? How do we understand the Covenant and its fulfillment? Why is Rashi associating the judgments against Egypt with the Covenant?

The following came to mind.

Judaism teaches that our forefathers single focus in life was to establish the foundation stone for humanity's fulfillment of the purpose of Creation.

They were fully knowledgeable of the tradition that was handed down from Adam and Noach, themselves great prophets of G-d. The forefathers understood the design and intent of creation and how human behavior can affect the state of the universe with respect to its completion.

Each forefather focused on a different property of this great mission. Each one exemplified a different aspect of life, setting the stage for humanity to follow in their footsteps.

Avraham's life concentrated on kindness and good-will to his fellow man. Yitzchak focused on devotion to G-d, on worship and spirituality. Yaakov concentrated on faith. He was humanity's greatest example of honesty and trust. He carried this into his relation with G-d, taking his very stressful life with full faith and trust in G-d.

Behind all of their prayers, they deeply sought from G-d that their enlightening accomplishments would continue throughout all of history, thereby making this grand creation of G-d a huge success.

These great authors of human history knew that they were going to die someday. Their request for children was based on their need for representation throughout history, to continue the mission that they started.

G-d granted their request. He also listened to and appreciated what was behind their request.

Getting back to our puzzle, G-d stated that He will give the land to the forefathers. However, He never stated that they will actually take posession of the land during their lifetime. However, there was a benefit in their being associated with the land, beginning with their lifetimes and continuing throughout the history of civilization, because this would serve to perpetuate their memory, goals, and ways of life.

The question now becomes the manner in which the lands would be associated with the forefathers after their passing away.

You know, throughout the past thirty-three centuries, that land of Canaan, which later became the Land of Israel, was frequently contested. G-d publicly gave it to the Jewish people after the Exodus as an eternal posession. However, they were not always able to live there. We struggle today to live in this puzzling region of the globe.

You know something else?

Due to the existence, activity, and history of the Jewish people, the great centers of human civilization have long ago associated this great land with Avraham, Yitzchak, and Yaakov. No contest there. In fact, the major religions of the world today proudly proclaim a trace back to these great people.

From my perspective, I see that G-d managed the events of history, particularly Jewish history, to associate this great land with these great personalities through the events that happened to their descendants. G-d's pledge to associate the land with the forefathers was fulfilled by his giving it to their children and by their struggles to live there.

So, the forefathers did not need to actually take posession of the land during their lifetime in order for them to score.

Now that we have a means to resolve the contradiction in recipients, we turn our attention to the puzzling Rashi.

We first need to place the Exodus in its proper context.

We are taught that G-d uses Jewish history to speak to mankind.

So here we are, the Jewish people, a tool which G-d uses to bring humanity (including ourselves) towards achieving the great goals of the forefathers. The communiqués began in full force with the story of the Exodus. Not everyone wanted to hear them, so at times G-d has to raise the volume to make them better heard.

Some people respond to sweets, others need sticks and stones. So, during the Covenant, G-d told Avraham that He will judge the nation that enslaves His children.

We can look back into history and see that this cause and effect was not an isolated event.

Throughout their past thirty-three centuries of history, the Jewish people were persecuted a number of times. The Jewish people always survived, just as they did in Egypt. Without exception, their persecutors eventually fell into the ash bin of history, together with the Pharaohs and the great Egyptian Empire.

Perhaps this is what Rashi is trying to tell us by associating the Covenant with judgments against Egypt.

The intent behind the Covenant was to perpetuate the teachings of the forefathers. From our discussion, we see two methods (I'm sure that there are others). One is by associating the land with them. The other is by assigning massive and dire consequences to the persecutors of the Jewish people.

We can take several lessons from the above.

One is that living in the land of Israel is an act that perpetuates the memory and teachings of our great ancestors, Avraham, Yitzchak, and Yaakov. This adds great significance to living in Israel.

Two, ownership of the land of Israel by the Jewish people is not an isolated end unto itself. Rather, it is a means to something higher. Those who are fortunate to live in this great land have an even greater responsibility tokeep the Torah, that which the forefathers themselves kept and sought to perpetuate.

Another lesson is as follows. Given that it is a very bad idea to interfere with what G-d is trying to do, people who seek to disrupt the settlement of the Jewish people in this land are doing themselves and their following a great and catastrophic disservice.

A fourth and final lesson, given that the entire focus of history is the observance and perpetuation of the Torah, it is a very, very bad idea to interfere with the allegiance that the Jewish people have with the Torah, that which has been preserved for the past thirty-three centuries. Rather, Torah observance must be enhanced and supported. Fortunate are those who choose to do so. Big time woe to the opposition and to those who interfere, to them and to their following.


6:5 And I also heard the cries of the children of Israel over the way that the Egyptians are forcing them to work. And I remembered my covenant.

Rashi provides the following commentary:

"And I also ..:" I must fulfill the covenant in the way that I established it. I therefore heard the cries of the children of Israel, that they are being called out.

".. the way that the Egyptians are forcing them to work. And I remembered.." . that covenant. By the "Covenant Between the Pieces" I told him [Avraham / Abraham], 'And I will also judge the nation that they will serve.' (Genesis 15:14)"

Let us review this great covenant which is dictating the events of the moment.

15:7 And He said to him [Avraham], "I am G-D who brought you out of Uhr-Kasdim to give you this land to inherit it."

15:8 And he said to Him, "L-ord oh G-d, how will I know that I will inherit it?"

G-D then instructs Avraham to take several animals for making a covenant. Avraham slaughters them and makes a path between their pieces. Avraham, a smoking furnace, and a fire-bolt walk between the pieces.

15:13 And He said to Avraham, "You shall surely know that your children will be strangers in a land that does not belong to them. And they will serve them [the citizens of that land] and they [those citizens] will afflict them [your children] four-hundred years."

15:14 And I will also judge the nation that they will serve. And afterwards they [your children] will go out with great possession.

Avraham asks, "How will I know that I will inherit it [e.g. the land of Israel]." G-D responds with a covenant that guarantees that Avraham's children will be oppressed, that they will be redeemed, and that their captors will be judged.

It is difficult to see the connection between Avraham's question and the response that G-D provides.

From Rashi's commentary on our verses, it also seems that a major feature of the covenant is that the Jewish people will be oppressed and that their oppressors will be judged.

Why is inheriting the land not even mentioned? Why is the oppression and the execution of Divine Justice emphasized?

The following came to mind.

Avraham wasn't satisfied with his children just having precious real-estate. His focus was on their becoming something great, not just having something great.

Having this great land is for us a means and not an end. It is a means of linking ourselves to our great ancestors who gained great favor in G-D's eyes by the way they behaved. By having and living on this land with the proper perspective, we are in a better position to enhance his relationship with G-D.

And yes, living in this wonderful land can be a spiritual liability. If a person allows himself to be numbed to his past, and if a person chooses to live in a way that is inconsistent with the life of our ancestors, then he is flaunting this great opportunity and is much better off living far away.

Avraham very much wanted children who would always have a deep and meaningful relationship with G-D. He knew that the best chance for success is for them to participate in the development of this relationship and to experience first-hand its benefit and greatness.

He also was aware that "No pain - No gain."

Avraham therefore recognized the unfortunate necessity of the Egyptian exile for his children. He foresaw that their oppression would bring them to seek out the G-D of their ancestors for their salvation. Their salvation and the punishment of their oppressors would demonstrate to them G-D's active management of the world, that He cares, that He responds, that they have a relationship with Him.

This relationship is what Avraham wanted, and what G-D wanted.

So, the oppression, salvation, and justice had a major role in the formation of the Jewish people. This is why it was emphasized in the covenant and its fulfillment. This experience, as painful as it was, provided the Jewish people with the spiritual backbone to be able to apply their inheritance of this great land as a spiritual asset, for they were now focused on having a deep relationship with their Creator and Manager.


6:6 Therefore say to the Children of Israel: "I am G-d. And I will take you out from under the burdens of Egypt. And I will save you from their burdens. And I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great judgments.”

6:7 "And I shall take you to me for a nation and I will be to you for a G-d. And you shall know that I am G-d your G-d who took you out from under the burdens of Egypt."

The first verse speaks about the Exodus from Egypt.

According to the Ramban and other commentaries, the first part of the second verse speaks about our encounter with G-D by Mount Sinai. It was there that we accepted upon ourselves the responsibilities and accompanying privileges to become G-D's nation, a "Kingdom of Priests and a Holy people." (Exodus 19:6).

The second half of this verse appears to revert back to the Exodus. This occurred forty-nine days before the Revelation on Sinai? According to chronological sequence, this should have been written first, before foretelling the Revelation.

The Shiras David commentary answers that the Jewish people did not fully accept the fact that it was G-D who took them out of Egypt until they arrived at Mount Sinai.

He gives two approaches.

Mankind has seen more than its share of theological con-artists.

The skeptics of their time fixed on the notion that Moshe was not empowered by G-D. Rather, they entertained the notion Moshe was a very wise and skillful magician-turned politician. The critics provided natural explanations for every one of the ten plagues as being either a fluke in nature or a manipulation. In their eyes it was conceivable Moshe who took the Jewish people out of Egypt, not G-D.

It took a Divine Revelation on Mount Sinai to silence these critics, when everyone personally heard G-D speak to Moshe.

This is reflected by the Rambam who writes, "Those whose beliefs are founded upon miracles are plagued with doubt as they could have been performed through deception and magic." In contrast, by Moshe it is written, "And G-D said to Moshe, 'Behold I shall come to you in the thickness of a cloud so that the nation shall hear as I speak to you. And they shall also believe in you forever …'" (Yesodei HaTorah 8:1 and Exodus 19:9).

In his second approach, the Shiras David implies that there was a natural resistance against accepting Moshe as G-D's agent for its truth mandates a change in attitude and behavior.

Resistance to Moshe dissolved once the Jewish people accepted the Torah because that was the change that some were resisting.


6:6 Therefore say to the Children of Israel: "I am G-d. And I will take you out from under the burdens of Egypt. And I will save you from their burdens. And I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great judgments.”

6:7 "And I will take you as a nation for Myself and you will know that I am Hashem your G-D who takes you out from under the burdens of Egypt."

6:8 "And I will bring you to the land that I raised My hand (in oath) to give it to Avraham, to Yitzchak, and to Yaakov (Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob). And I will give it to you as an inheritance, I am Hashem."

The commitments that G-D made to the people in verses six and seven were fulfilled. They were taken out of Egypt and redeemed. They became G-D's nation. However, the commitment in verse eight, that they will be brought into the promised land, was not fulfilled to these people. Rather it was fulfilled through their children.

The Oral Torah teaches that the commitment of verse eight was conditional. The Seforno says this in the following commentary.

6:7 "And I will take you as a nation for Myself:" At the standing of Mount Sinai (when the Jewish people received the Torah.) "And You will know:" Recognize and understand that all this will become true to yourselves as it states, 'You should know today that [past events are not merely being told] to your children. [Rather, this all happened to you.] "That I am Hashem your G-D who takes you out:" For when I am your G-D, One who manages each one of you individually. And I am the One who is taking you out, who is making the effort right now. There will be no doubt that I will do everything that I said I will do.

6:8 "And I will bring you to the land:" When you delve into all of the above you will then be worthy so that I will bring you into the land and I will give it to you."

Why were conditions placed on only the last commitments? Why did they have to become worthy of being brought into land and receiving it?

The following came to mind.

The Oral Torah teaches that this world is for opportunity and the next world is for reward. The Torah defines the expected behaviors from which a person can earn his/her eternal rewards in the afterlife.

G-D defines and manages for each person, each nation, and for mankind as a whole, the environment and situations that present these opportunities, which are tests to see whether our behavior matches the expectations.

Resources are a key ingredient in the testing environment. Not everyone has the same set of resources. So, one person has wealth and is tested by it. Another may not be wealthy but instead has beauty.

Some resources are more essential than others, health for example. So we see that health is much more widespread than wealth, beauty, or other gifts of G-D.

Within this framework, being free from Egyptian slavery and receiving the Torah at Mount Sinai were essential resources that the Jewish people needed to fulfill their mission, as it was defined many centuries ago when G-D made His commitment to our great ancestors, recorded in Genesis 15.

15:13 And (G-D) said to Avraham, "You shall surely know that your children will live as strangers in a land that is not theirs. And they [Egypt] will make them serve and they will afflict them. (And this will end) four hundred years (from the birth of Yitzchak).

15:14 And afterwards I will judge the nation that they will serve. And afterwards they will go out with great possessions [material and spiritual (e.g. the Torah) wealth].

Freedom and Torah were mission essential. However, entering the land and receiving it were not. Rather, they appear to be essential for the Jewish people to achieve their full potential. Relative to freedom and Torah, it is an enhancement, albeit a significant enhancement.

This is how I understand the fact that the bulk of Jewish people were able to survive and accomplish during much of their thirty-three century history without living in the promised land. We were crippled but we nevertheless made accomplishments. And no doubt, those who purposely obstruct the Jewish people from achieving their full potential will pay dearly for this, especially if their intention is to rebel against G-D.

G-D promised freedom and Torah to our ancestors and in Genesis 15 He gave a four-hundred year time limit for this to happen. However, we see no time limit for the promised land.

Whatever G-D gives us is an asset. We know from life experience that some assets are more dangerous than other. Everyone is happy when they win the lottery. However, this happiness does not always endure and a good many fortunes became the cause of serious misfortunes.

Entering the promised land and having it is a great asset. Apparently, our ancestors needed some degree of spiritual maturity to manage it so that the lushness of the promised land would not become a source of their spiritual undoing.

This is how I understand the Sefurno's commentary.

The Torah writes the above for the Jewish people of thirty-centuries ago. It provides no justification for anyone today to intentionally obstruct or define their spiritual development.


6:6 Therefore say to the Children of Israel: "I am G-d. And I will take you out from under the burdens of Egypt. And I will save you from their burdens. And I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great judgments.”

6:7 "And I will take you as a nation for Myself and you will know that I am Hashem your G-D who takes you out from under the burdens of Egypt."

6:8 "And I will bring you to the land that I raised My hand (in oath) to give it to Avraham, to Yitzchak, and to Yaakov (Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob). And I will give it to you as an inheritance, I am Hashem."

This is the second time Moshe went to the people.

Why weren't the people told this the first time Moshe and Aharon (Aaron) went to them?

This is how the Torah describes their first encounter:

3:30-31

And Aharon spoke all of the words that G-d spoke to Moshe and he performed the signs (before) the eyes of the people.

And the people believed. And they heard that G-d remembered the Children of Yisroel (Israel) and that He saw their affliction, and they knelt and they bowed.

If this is all that they heard, then probably this was all that they were told. Why weren't they also told that they were to become a nation of G-d, that they were going to move to Israel?

The following came to mind.

Perhaps the people needed to hear about the redemption in stages.

The redemption was more than a salvation. It was also a transformation.

The Exodus transformed them from a downtrodden nation of slaves into a nation of G-d. It enabled them to rise to the level of accepting the Torah and its six-hundred-thirteen commandments. The Exodus brought the Jewish people back to the lifestyle and values of their ancestors. They were about to leave their homes and travel to a promised land.

By nature, people are resistant to change. Perhaps the Jewish people needed to hear about the redemption in several stages. Perhaps the people were not yet even ready to accept the redemption from Egypt.

For the first stage, it was sufficient for them to realize that G-d took note of their plight.

They were now attuned to being redeemed.

However, they were not yet ready to accept redemption. They were accustomed to the hard work. Many people preferred to remain with the familiar and secure life of an Egyptian slave.

At this point, G-d guided the events to make their workload unbearable. Pharaoh refused to give them the resources they needed to do their work. Pharaoh punished them for their shortfalls.

They were now ready to hear more about this redemption. They were also fed up with their job and were ready to make a change. They were ready to leave Egypt and travel to a glorious new land


6:7 "And I shall take you to me for a nation and I will be to you for a G-d. And you shall know that I am Hashem your G-D who brought you forth / who will bring you forth ("hamotzee") from under the burdens of Egypt."

We make a blessing before eating bread. In it, we acknowledge that G-D brought forth from the earth the bread that we are about to eat.

The Talmud (Brachos 38a) cites a dispute between the sages and Rabbi Nechemia regarding correct Hebrew word for this blessing. The sages say that we can use the word, "hamotzee."

Rabbi Nechemia says that the word "hamotzee" is in the future tense. Prior to eating bread we should be acknowledging that G-D brought forth the bread we are about to eat, not that G-D will bring forth bread in the future. Therefore, the correct word should be "motzee," as this denotes the past tense.

The sages respond that the word "hamotzee" connotes the past tense, too.

The word "hamotzee" is in our verse.

According to Rabbi Nechemia, our verse reads: "And you shall know that I am Hashem your G-D who will bring you forth from under the burdens of Egypt."

According to the sages, the reading is: "And you shall know that I am Hashem your G-D who brought you forth from under the burdens of Egypt."

Rabbi Nechemia's reading is easiest to understand, as our verse is clearly speaking about an event that has yet to occur.

The Talmud says that according to the sages, the verse is saying that when the Exodus will occur in the future, all the Jewish people who leave Egypt will know at that time that it was G-D who brought them forth from Egypt.

To me, this means that despite the numerous and seemingly super-natural events that the Jewish people and the Egyptians experienced prior to the Exodus, they were performed in a manner that enabled someone to deny that it was G-D who was behind them all.

This is consistent with the notion that Heaven strives to preserve our free-will, during even miraculous periods so that our ability to earn afterlife is minimally disrupted.


6:9 And Moshe (Moses) said this (message) to the Children of Israel and they did not hear Moshe due to (their) shortness of breath and hard labor.

6:10 And Hashem (G-D) said to Moshe, saying.

6:11 "Come speak to Pharaoh king of Egypt and he will send the Children of Israel from his land."

6:12 And Moshe spoke before Hashem saying: "Behold the Children of Israel did not hear me and how will Pharaoh hear me for I have a speech handicap."

6:13 And Hashem spoke to Moshe (Moses) and Aharon (Aaron) and he charged them over the Children of Israel and over Pharaoh, king of Egypt, to take the Children of Israel out of Egypt.

Rashi says that 6:13 is telling us that G-D appointed Aharon to be Moshe's spokesperson to Pharaoh, thereby addressing Moshe's concern about his speech impediment.

This is puzzling because Moshe had previously voiced his concern about his handicap in 4:10. There, G-D responded to his concern and said, "Who is the One who gives speech to Mankind or who is the One who makes people not be able to speak or not be able to hear or blind, is it not I, Hashem?" G-D went on to promised him, "And now go and I will be with your mouth and I will teach you what you will say." (4:11-12).

Afterwards, when Moshe asked that G-D should use the same messenger that He had already been using, G-D told him that his brother Aharon will be his spokesperson. (4:13-16).

If Moshe had already voiced his concern and if G-D had already appointed Aharon as his spokesperson then why did G-D charge Moshe to speak to Pharaoh? Why did Moshe have to question his ability a second time? Why was Aharon appointed as Moshe's spokesperson a second time?

Rashi on 6:13 provides the following commentary for "and he charged them . to the king of Egypt .." G-D commanded him to treat Pharaoh with honor."

Moshe and Aharon already had one encounter with Pharaoh. Why didn't G-D provide this direction earlier, prior to the first encounter?

The Orach Chayim on verse 6:30 sheds an interesting light on this issue. He says that Aharon was initially charged to be Moshe's spokesperson for times when Moshe had to communicate with the Children of Israel. Until now, Aharon was never asked to step in when Moshe had a need to speak to Pharaoh.

New directions were thus needed at this time, now that Aharon was to become a spokesperson before Pharaoh. During the first encounter Moshe spoke to Pharaoh. Moshe had a severe speech impediment and this in of itself compromised on Pharaoh's honor.

This Orach Chayim is quite remarkable and sheds great light on how Moshe viewed the world that he lived in.

Forgive me if I am wrong, but I believe that the typical person in our society would have taken an entirely different approach.

Take a savvy and well-placed politician, a university graduate, someone who constantly analyzes newspapers news broadcasts. Say he/she is charged with a high power mission that entails communicating with both a powerful monarch and also with a large number of people.

What would be this person's focus of priority? Select one of the following two choices:

1. Insuring optimum effectiveness in his communication with the monarch

or:

2. Insuring optimum effectiveness in his communicating with the people.

And, this monarch is the mightiest of all rulers on the face of this earth. He has absolute dominion over this person's family members. He has life-and-death authority.

What was Moshe's first and prime concern: According to the Orach Chaim, Moshe was most concerned with his effectively communicate G-D's message and teachings to the people. So G-D addressed this concern and appointed a helper, Aharon his brother. But at that point in the story prior to the first encounter with Pharaoh, Moshe was fully ready to mumble his way through Pharaoh's court. This simply did not bother him at the time. It was only after the setback in chapter six, when even the people could not take his message to heart that Moshe had thoughts about his communicative effectiveness with Pharaoh.

It seems that projecting a good image to Pharaoh was so insignificant to Moshe. Why do you think Moshe thought that way? Was it a lack of political savvy? Was it something that was not aware of or was it something that he was very much aware of and it is we who are in the dark?

The next time you pick up a newspaper, ask yourself how Moshe would have written the news stories. Would he focus on the headline personalities? Sharon? Perez? Would he have written the headlines as if they are the drivers of events?


6:10 And G-D spoke to Moshe (Moses) saying.

6:11 "Go speak to Pharaoh King of Egypt and he will send the Children of Israel from his land."

6:12 And Moshe spoke before G-D, "Behold the Children of Israel did not listen to me so how will Pharaoh listen to me as I am of closed lips (because they were injured)."

6:13 And G-D spoke to Moshe and to Aharon (Aaron) and He charged them with the Children of Israel and with Pharaoh King of Egypt to take out the Children of Israel from Egypt.

Rashi explains Aharon is included because G-D appointed him as Moshe's spokesman.

We find a similar interchange in last week's Torah reading.

4:10 And Moshe said to G-D, "Please G-D, I am not one for words, also yesterday, also the day before, also from when You spoke to Your servant. This is because I am with a heavy mouth and lips (from a childhood injury)."

4:11 And G-D said to him, "Who set up a mouth for Man or Who makes one unable to speak or have vision or blindness? Is it not Myself, G-D?"

4:12 "And now (just) go. And I will be with your mouth. And I will teach you what you will say."

4:13 And he said, "Please, Oh G-D. Please send (Your message) by the hand of (the one who) You have been sending (it, Aharon my brother)."

G-D responded with anger and appointed Aharon as Moshe's spokesperson.

We see that Moshe had earlier brought up the issue of his speech impediment. Why did he bring it up again in this week's Torah reading?

Also, when Moshe brought it up the first time, G-D initially responded that He would "be with" Moshe's mouth. It was only after Moshe continued to press the matter that G-D appointed Aharon to be the spokesman. Here we find G-D's initial response was to use Aharon.

The commentaries discuss this and respond that Chapter Four was about Moshe being a spokesperson on behalf of G-D to the Jewish people. The discussion here in our weekly reading includes his being a spokesperson to Pharaoh.

How does this answer the questions? Why should this make a difference?

The following explanation came to mind.

First note in Chapter Four that G-D never promised that He would fix Moshe's speech.

Now, the focus of Moshe's mission in Chapter Four was to impart the message and teachings of G-D to the Jewish people.

History has no shortage of falsifiers who have claimed that G-D spoke to them and gave them a message for Mankind.

Falsifiers have nothing going for them except their powers of persuasion, unless their clientele is totally gullible or they only want to hear what he/she is hawking.

And the Jewish people are not known for gullibility.

So when it came time for G-D to impart his message to the Jewish people He chose someone who would hardly impress anybody with how he spoke, save for the actual words that he said.

Moshe's speech impediment was actually a feature that contributed to his mission. His message and teachings were not distracted by his personality. It made him transparent with respect to the words of G-D that he was imparting.

By Chapter Six, Pharaoh had committed heinous and cruel crimes to the Jewish people. G-D wanted him to have a spiritual mentor to either straighten him out or take away any excuse for not having a teacher to show him the error of his ways. And without any such excuse he would be open to punishment in some very unique ways.

Moshe reasoned that his speech impediment would distract from being Pharaoh's Rabbi. G-D clarified this and Aharon was named.


6:13 And G-D spoke to Moshe and to Aharon and He charged them about the Children of Israel and about Pharaoh, king of Egypt, to bring out the Children of Israel from Egypt.

Rashi cites the Medrash that expounds on the charge that Moshe was given for Pharaoh. The Medrash says that G-D was telling Moshe to assign him honor and to allocate honor to his being a king. And, the Medrash says, this is what Moshe did and it cites verse 11:8 to document Moshe's compliance.

The background for this verse is that in spite of Pharaoh's reeling from the ninth plague he lashed out at Moshe and warned him to never return to his presence under penalty of death. Before leaving Pharaoh's throne G-D told Moshe to tell Pharaoh about the tenth and final plague.

Verse 11:8 reads, "And all of these servants will come down and bow to me saying, 'Go out, you and all of the people who are at your feet.' And then will I leave. And he left from before Pharaoh in furious anger.

Rashi on 11:8 explains that Moshe displayed anger over his being banished from Pharaoh's presence.

The Medrash notes that Moshe was careful to say that the servants will seek him out, but not Pharaoh himself, which was actually what happened. The fact that Moshe did not include Pharaoh in the delegation that went to beg Moshe to take the Jewish people from Egypt is the example that the Medrash cites that Moshe assigned Pharaoh and his kingdom with honor.

This is all very puzzling.

Why is G-D giving Moshe this instruction now and not at the beginning of the mission? Does this imply that Moshe initially behaved inappropriately with Pharaoh and G-D was now correcting him?

Now 11:8 was the last time that Moshe came to Pharaoh. Why does the Torah write about Moshe's compliance with G-D's instruction at the end of his mission, instead of right away, at his very next encounter with the monarch?

And why did G-D display concerned over Pharaoh's getting honor?

And the example that the Torah provides is somewhat indirect and subtle, for Pharaoh and his court could have only realized the honor after the fact, when Pharaoh himself came later to beg Moshe to take the Jewish people off his hands.

Finally, the Otzar Hamedrashim provides a very interesting commentary on Moshe's display of anger when he stormed out of Pharaoh's court. The Medrash says that Moshe punched/slapped Pharaoh.

So we cite 11:8 as proof that Moshe behaved to Pharaoh with honor and the very same verse tells us that he socked him in the jaw.

This is all very, very puzzling.

The following came to mind.

The way our verse 6:13 ends, we see that its purpose was to provide guidance in order "to bring out the Children of Israel from Egypt."

And we know that the Exodus didn't complete until Pharaoh drove his entire army to their death in the heart of the Sea of Suf, which required his decision to pursue the Jewish people a scant six days after his plague-weary nation drove them away.

So perhaps Moshe was well aware that to date he acted with proper protocol with Pharaoh. It was therefore quite reasonable for him to associate G-D's instructions with the Exodus process itself, which was put in high gear right before his final exit from Pharaoh's court.

Perhaps the honor that Moshe assigned Pharaoh and his monarchy contributed to him not fully feeling failure and defeat, which would have perhaps impeded his decision to pursue the Jewish people.

Perhaps Moshe would have continued to act with protocol anyway and he would have only needed this direction during his final moments in Pharaoh's court. But having it at this time would serve to strengthen him now, when the Jewish people were reeling from the evil Pharaoh's evil decrees, which upset him greatly.

On another note, the Talmud states that the Egyptian enslavement ended on the first day of the month of Tishrei, Rosh Hashana, and the redemption occurred during the month of Nisan, Passover (Rosh Hashana 11a).

As we have a tradition that each plague took about one month, the enslavement ended sometime during this week's Torah reading.

We see that the Torah views the redemption of the Jewish people as being something other than the lack of persecution.

Who knows whether the relative lull in persecution that we are fortunate to experience is following the similar pattern. May the redemption occur speedily in our days.


6:13 And Hashem spoke to Moshe (Moses) and Aharon (Aaron) and he charged them over the Children of Israel and over Pharaoh, king of Egypt, to take the Children of Israel out of Egypt.

Rashi says that Moshe and Aharon were charged to speak with Pharaoh in a manner that gives him honor.

Moshe and Aharon had already spoken to Pharaoh in the previous Torah reading (Exodus 5:1). Why weren't they given this instruction before their initial encounter with Pharaoh?

The following came to mind.

The impact of the redemption was magnified by the degree of desperation of the Jewish people that preceded it.

This is how I understand how the deterioration in the working conditions of the Jewish people contributed to the redemption.

With respect to Pharaoh, I believe that we can apply the following verse of Mishlei (Proverbs) 16:18, "A breakdown is preceded by arrogance and a downfall is preceded by haughtiness."

That is, the impact of the redemption was magnified by the degree of Pharaoh's arrogance that preceded it.

Moshe's initial encounter with both the Jewish people and Pharaoh can perhaps be considered as the establishment of a baseline for them both.

Subsequently, the standing of the Jewish people deteriorated and now Moshe is being charged to enhance Pharaoh's prestige. Both set the stage for a spectacular demonstration of G-D's intervention.

This is something like pulling a slingshot in a direction that is opposite of the target. The harder one pulls back on the slingshot, the greater is its force of propulsion.


6:14 These are the heads of their father's houses …

The Torah proceeds to list forty-four men, some who lived during that period and some who were ancestors.

Forty-one are connected to a family tree that begins with Yaakov (Jacob). The tree lists only three of Yaakov's children, Reuven, Shimon, and Levi. It lists some of their descendants who were living at that time. The other nine tribes are not mentioned.

Of the remaining three men, the Torah does not describe in these verses their connections to Yaakov's family tree. Their names are Nachshon, Aminadav, and Putiel. We know from elsewhere that Nachshon and Aminadav came from the tribe of Yehuda. But it is not clear from the scriptures how Putiel was connected. The Talmud says that one of his mother's parents came from Yosef and the other came from Yisro, a convert (Sotah 43a).

The line through Levi runs the deepest and goes to the seventh generation. Only one person is listed in the seventh generation, Pinchas.

The tree is somewhat of a mystery.

The Chamudei Tzvi commentary cites a Medrash (Shemos Rabah 3:4) that connects the Exodus from Egypt, our redemption, with our final redemption, may it occur speedily.

It says the following:

The Torah indicates (in) the first redemption that Israel descended to Egypt with the word "Anochi," as stated in this verse: "Anochi (I - G-D) shall descend with you to Egypt and Anochi (I) shall bring you up, also up …" (Genesis 46:4). And it indicates with the word Anochi they will be healed and redeemed in the future, as it states: "Behold Anochi (I - G-D) send you Eliyahu (Elijah) the prophet before the coming of great and awesome day of G-D. (Malachi 3:23).

In conclusion, the Chamudei Tzvi writes the following:

We know from other sources that Pinchas and Eliyahu are the same person. As the Egyptian redemption was the beginning of a process that will end with our final redemption, it is therefore fitting to link the two redemptions by listing Moshe and Aharon, who led the Egyptian redemption, together with Pinchas, who will herald the final redemption.

There are probably many more associations within these verses.

The following came to mind.

G-D made a covenant of peace with Pinchas (Numbers 25:12). Our sources read this to mean that he will never die. While the scriptures state that Eliyahu went up to heaven in a fiery chariot, we are taught that he is still alive (Targum Yonasan Ben Uziel Numbers 25:12). Perhaps this is one reason for Levi's tree extending down to Pinchas, for just as Pinchas endures throughout Jewish history, so does the process of redemption.

In our yearning for the final redemption, we hope to have the privilege of greeting many great personalities. Two are from the Tribe of Yehuda. One is Moshiach, a descendant of King David and the other is King David, himself. But from the viewpoint of those who were alive during the Egyptian redemption, their emergence will occur in the distant future, after a great gap in time. Perhaps this is alluded to by mentioning Nachshon and Aminadav, two of the three who have no clear connection to the tree.

And the third is someone that we do not know much about, Moshiach son of Yosef. Perhaps he is represented by Putiel.


6:20 And Amram took Yocheved his 'doda' (dodaso) to himself for a wife and she bore to him Aharon and Moshe, and the years of Amram's life were one-hundred-thirty-seven years.

The Targum Unkulos translates 'dodaso' to mean his aunt. Levi, son of Yaakov, had three sons and one daughter. Amram was Levi's grandson and he married Levi's daughter.

The Targum Yonasan Ben Uziel translates 'dodaso' to mean his beloved. Amram married his beloved Yocheved.

We find the word 'doda' in Songs of Songs and there it means a beloved one.

The Targun Yonasan Ben Uziel injects a very interesting fact with his translation of this verse. It appears that this fact is very consistent with his translation of 'doda'. It would be difficult to see how both this fact and Unkulos' translation could coincide.

Here is the full translation of Targum Ben Uziel:

And Amram the pious took Yocheved his beloved to himself for a wife and she bore to him Aharon and Moshe, and the years of Amram's life were one-hundred-thirty-seven years until he saw the sons of Rechavia the son of Gershom (who was) the son of Moshe.

Now, Levi did have a daughter by the name of Yocheved. She was born just as Yaakov and his family entered Egypt, two-hundred-ten years prior to the redemption. (Rashi Genesis 46:26)

Moshe was eighty years old when he stood before Pharaoh. (Exodus 7:7)

Not long afterwards, Yisro reunited Moshe with his family. (Exodus 18:3) At that time, Moshe had just two sons. Gershom and Eliezer. We don't know how old they were, but we can assume that they had no children as of yet because the Torah enumerates Moshe's family at this point and only his sons are mentioned.

The Targum Yonosan Ben Uziel says that Amram saw Gershom's grandchildren.

Let us assume that Moshe was eighty-five years old when Gershom had children, which is when Amram passed away at the age of one-hundred-thirty-seven. This would have made Amram no older than fifty-two when Yocheved his wife gave birth in Egypt to Moshe.

Since the Jewish people were in Egypt for two-hundred-ten years, Levi's daughter Yocheved was one-hundred-thirty years old when Moshe was born.

Perhaps for this reason, the Targum Yonosan Ben Uziel says that the fifty-two year old Amram the pious married Yocheved his beloved and not Yocheved his aunt, who was close to a eighty years older than him.

The focus of Amram the pious in seeking a life partner was virtue and good character, not physicality. We can assume that Yocheved excelled in these areas and they made her beloved in Amram's eyes, regardless of her age.


At the end of Shemos, things get worse for the Jewish people, instead of better. Moreover, this appears to be a direct result of Moshe's confrontation with Pharaoh.

Moshe bemoans the lot of the Jewish people to G-d. The Medrash tells us that G-d was not pleased with Moshe's reaction. Moshe should have had more faith in G-d, who knows what to do, how to do it, and when to do it.

Va'era begins with G-d telling Moshe to go back to the Jewish people and tell them that G-d will redeem them. Apparently this is to address Moshe's concerns.

Moshe makes the announcement. It appears to be a flop!

6:9. And Moshe spoke thus to the Children of Israel and they didn't listen to Moshe because of their stress and hard work.

Didn't G-d know that it would flop? Why send Moshe to do this?

Next, G-d tells Moshe to speak to Pharaoh and tell him to send the Jewish people out. Moshe responds that it won't work.

6:12. And Moshe spoke before G-d, saying "Behold the Children of Israel did not listen to me, and how can Pharaoh listen to me, and I .. (have a speech impediment)"

There is no record in the Medrash of Moshe being faulted for his questioning G-d of the appropriateness of this second mission. Why?

Next, (6:13) "And G-d spoke to Moshe and Aharon and commanded them about the Children Of Israel and Pharaoh the King of Egypt, to bring the Children Of Israel out of Egypt."

What's happening?

Perhaps this can be understood by first recognizing that the goal and essence of Ge'ulah (redemption) is a higher awareness of G-d and a deeper relationship with Him. This being so, anything which could distract from these goals must be dealt with.

Moshe was the redeemer. It is natural for those who he redeems to give him a degree of credit for the redemption. However, distracts from the goals of redemption. For the redemption to be complete, Moshe's role must be as transparent as possible. Perhaps this is G-d's response to Moshe's query.

Yes, the redemption is a failure. It has to be, but only temporarily. The redemption process can only proceed when the Jewish people are not looking to Moshe for the salvation.

At the beginning of the Parsha, G-d sends Moshe to announce coming redemption. Moshe is ignored. Now things can continue.

G-d tells Moshe to speak to Pharaoh. Moshe responds that Pharaoh won't listen to him, either. Moshe is not complaining about going on another futile mission. Rather, he now realizes that Pharaoh's mindset is also ready for the redemption. No one is ready to give Moshe any credibility.

The Jewish people are ready, Pharaoh is ready, now we can proceed.

(6:13) "And G-d spoke to Moshe and Aharon and commanded them about the Children Of Israel and Pharaoh the King of Egypt, to bring the Children Of Israel out of Egypt."


6:14. "These are the heads of the House Of Their Fathers....."

The Torah begins with the family of Reuven, the oldest son of Yaakov (Jacob). Next the Torah lists the descendants of Shimon, the second son. Then the Torah goes into great detail with the descendants of Levi, the third son, and traces the lineage of Moshe, Aharon, and many of the people who we will meet later on. The Torah does not continue with the descendants of the other nine tribes.

In the Book Of Bamidbar (Numbers) we find detail on all of the tribes. Why does the Torah here stop with the tribe of Levi? How is this understood? (See Rashi and Ramban).

I understood this in the following manner.

"The House Of Their Fathers" refers only to the ancestors of Moshe and Aharon. That is, "Their" is Moshe and Aharon, not the entire Jewish nation, as we find in Bamidbar.

The Torah wants to tell us the lineage of the redeemers. The Torah could start with Levi. However, Levi had older brothers. The Torah is sensitive to their feelings, so they are included and even listed first.

We always need reminders to be sensitive.


8:13 And they did that and Aharon (Aaron) stretched out his and with his stick and he hit the dust of the earth. And there was lice in all of the land of Egypt.

Yaakov (Jacob) did not want to be buried in Egypt because he foresaw this plague and did not want them crawling inside his body (Medrash Raba Bereshis 96:6).

Why were these lice an issue for him after his death more than any other ground crawlers?

And besides, Yaakov would have probably been buried were the Jewish people lived, which was the Land of Goshen. The plagues adversely affected only the Egyptians, not the Jews. So why would he think that there would be lice near his body in the first place?

However, the Rambam (Perush Hamishnayos Avos 5:4) states that indeed there were lice in the land of Goshen, only they didn't bother the Jewish people. So this is consistent with Yaakov's prophetic vision into the future, that his body would be available to the lice. But again, the lice came about two-hundred years after his passing when he was already well into life in the next world. Why were the lice an issue for him?

And of all the ten plagues, why was this one singled out to be visited where the Jewish people lived?

The following came to mind.

Yaakov was concerned about his children, not about a bunch of bugs.

He knew that they would be in Egypt for many years before they would be redeemed. He was very worried that they could grow so accustomed to life in Egypt that they would not want to move back to the Promised Land to reconnect with the lives of their ancestors.

Perhaps part of his drive to be buried in Israel was to establish precedence for his children for their return to the Land.

He sought to introduce two concepts: That they did not belong in Egypt and that they belonged in Israel.

And the first was reinforced by transforming the dust of the earth where the Jewish people lived into lice. Heaven was telling them that their homeland was not in the comforts of Egypt's Goshen.

And the second was reinforced by Yaakov paving the way for the restoration of his children.

Since then, G-D has managed Jewish history to keep the Jewish people in Diaspora attuned to the notion that we belong elsewhere.


Bo (Exodus 10-13)

10:1 Come to Pharaoh for I have hardened his heart and the heart of his servants in order to insert these signs into him.

Rashi mentions that Moshe was sent to warn Pharaoh.

From Rashi's words it seems that although it was difficult for Pharaoh to repent, it was still possible for him to do so and this is why he is being warned.

Now, the Rambam clearly says that Pharaoh lost the ability to repent. He writes that a person's infraction can be so great that Heaven removes his ability to repent so that he becomes lost in his sin and dies with it. This, says the Rambam, is why G-D hardened Pharaoh's heart. Furthermore, G-D sent Moshe (Moses) on what seemed like an unsuccessful mission to get Pharaoh to warn Pharaoh. But the actual purpose of warning Pharaoh was to demonstrate this point to mankind. When Heaven so decrees, a person can be made to die without repenting for a serious infraction that he previously committed willfully.

The Chida in his work entitled Nachal Kedumim says that Pharaoh was indeed able to repent. Here, G-D is charging Moshe to warn Pharaoh even though He hardened Pharaoh's heart because it was possible for Pharaoh to repent.

To help us understand, the Nesivas Shalom commentary likens this to the natural ability of a person to find energy within himself in times of crisis, enabling him to overcome a limitation that is normally insurmountable for him.

We see that although Pharaoh was very wicked, G-D did not give up on him. Instead, G-D threw the ball into Pharaoh's court.

If G-D did not give up on even a Pharaoh, how much more so will He not give up on us. We must understand that G-D will always find ways to give a person a chance to restore himself.

The Jewish people in Egypt were also in pretty bad shape. G-D also gave them a chance and they rose to become the Chosen People.

A key message of the Exodus experience is to bring home to a person that he should never feel that he has no chance of restoring himself.


10:1 Come to Pharaoh for I have hardened his heart and the heart of his servants in order to insert these signs into him.

The Sefurno commentary explains that Pharaoh's continual refusal in spite of the compelling reasons to do otherwise cause Moshe to be reluctant to continue and warn him, for his warnings appeared to be acts of futility.

In this verse, G-D was encouraging Moshe to continue on because while the warnings and consequences had no visible effect on Pharaoh, they were helping to bring some of the Egyptian people to repentance.

From this I see that if G-D was trying to evoke the repentance of those who enslaved His children, how much more so is G-D trying to evoke the repentance of the children themselves.

This brings to mind the Talmudic teaching (Sanhedrin97b) that the Jewish people will bring the redemption through their repentance and that this repentance will be either self-motivated or it will occur through G-D's managing the affairs of Mankind.


10:17 And now please bear my sin this time and plead with Hashem your G-D so that He will remove only this death from me.

The plague of locusts gave Pharaoh great distress.

One explanation I heard is that the insects lingered in Egypt long enough to lay eggs, causing this massive plague to reoccur.

Another thought came to mind is that Pharaoh saw no hope for obtaining Divine mercy to cushion the blow of a famine because his mistreatment of the Jewish people demonstrated that he was ungrateful for the good that Yosef (Josef) did in staying off the famine that occurred during his lifetime.

It is noteworthy that by the plagues of frogs and hail Pharaoh asked Moshe to plead to Hashem whereas here he asks Moshe to plead to "Hashem your G-D," denoting a relative disconnection from G-D

Perhaps the ingratitude caused him to feel the disconnection.

I was taught that gratitude is a foundation for Torah observance.


10:9 And Moshe (Moses) said, "We will go (out) with our youths and elders. We will go with our sons and daughters, with our flocks and herds for it is a holiday of G-d for us."

10:10 And he (Pharaoh) said to them, "G-D will surely be with you when I send you (out) and your young . See that evil is before your face."

10.11 "Not so. Please have the men go out and serve G-D, for that is what you want." And he drove them away from Pharaoh's presence.

Pharaoh recognized that it would indeed be a demonstration of G-D's close relationship with the Jewish people if he would ever be brought to allow entire families to leave Egypt. This is how I understand his statement, "G-D will surely be with you when I send you (out) and your young."

Eventually, the entire nation was indeed permitted to leave.

Although the exodus demonstrated to Pharaoh that G-D was with the Jewish people, the monarch still decided to pursue them a scant four days later.

The entire Egyptian army was assaulted while they were surrounded by the walls the sea and it was then that they came to a realization that the Jewish people had an even greater level of relationship.

14:24 And it was during the morning watch that G-D surveyed the Egyptian camp in a pillar of fire and cloud. And he stunned the Egyptian camp.

14:25 And He removed the chariot axles and He drove them toughly. And Egypt said, "I will flee from before Israel because G-D is waging war on their behalf against Egypt."

This was the last layer of relationship that Egypt saw before they met their end.

The scriptures document numerous attacks against the Jewish people despite these open demonstrations. It appears to be as if the implication of G-D selecting a nation to be a role model was so unacceptable to the leaders of these nations that they chose to put their kingdom's existence on the line in order to test this principle, for life to them was unbearable if this was true.

The acceptance of G-D's decision has served to test numerous monarchs throughout history, for it demonstrates a limit of their dominance and superiority.


10:10 And he said to them [Pharaoh to Moshe and Aharon / Moses and Aaron]: "It will certainly be that G-D is with you when I send you and your children away." See that misfortune is before you."

Rashi cites a Medrash that there is a celestial body named 'Misfortune' and it is an omen for bloodshed. Pharaoh was telling them that according to his astrological calculations it will meet the Jewish people who go into the desert and it signals great misfortune for them.

Indeed, the Jewish people were almost annihilated in the desert because of their role in the Golden Calf.

Moshe referenced the threat in his prayer that saved the Jewish people: "Why should Egypt say that He took them out with Misfortune to kill them in the mountains and to wipe them off the face of the earth? Turn back from the fury of Your anger and reconsider the misfortune about Your nation. Remember (their ancestors) Avraham, Yitzchak, and Yaakov (Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob) Your servants to whom You swore by Yourself …" (Exodus 32:12)

Upon hearing this, G-D redirected the omen of bloodshed into the blood that later flowed when the Jewish people circumcised themselves.

My understanding of the Rinas Yitzchak's explanation of the symbolism is as follows.

The Talmud states that the Jewish people have no Mazel. (Shabbos 156a).

Mazal is commonly translated as 'luck.'

The commentaries explain that this does not mean that the Jewish people have no luck. Rather, Mazal is better translated as a celestial force that appears to govern the fate of someone or something. The Talmud is saying that the fate of the Jewish people is not governed by celestial forces and is not reflected by laws of probability and statistics. Instead, their fate is governed in a relatively direct way by G-D and has no appearance of being governed by celestial forces.

This explains how the Jewish people are able to defy all odds and survive thirty-three centuries history.

Pharaoh was well aware that Moshe was bringing the Jewish people into a track that was different from the rest of Mankind. Pharaoh was telling Moshe that their ascent above the realm of 'Mazal' will only work for them for as long as they maintain a high level of spirituality. However, due to this unique greatness and relationship with G-D, the impact of any spiritual failure will result in unique consequences that can be catastrophic and lead to total destruction.

In effect, Pharaoh was advising Moshe against imposing risk on the Jewish people by making them different than the rest of Mankind.

What Pharaoh failed to see or chose to ignore was that the Jewish people were already different than the rest of Mankind because of their ancestors and the promises that G-D made to them.

This is why Moshe made reference to their great ancestors in his prayer.

Rashi provides the following references for Moshe's prayer:

Remember Avraham: Who stood ready to be burned for You ... Yitzchak who stretched out his neck to be slaughtered … Yaakov who plunged himself into exile …

Moshe emphasized that the ancestors rose above their natural inclination for self-preservation and comfort in order to fulfill the will of G-D. Just as they rose above their nature no matter what the cost was, so should G-D keep their descendants above nature and celestial powers to maintain their survival throughout history.

I further see that the translation from a blood of destruction to a blood of circumcision can mean that the Jewish people will never suffer a penalty of total destruction because of their unique relationship with G-D. Rather the covenant of circumcision will serve throughout history to maintain their connection with their ancestors and G-D's promise to them.


10:28 And Pharaoh said to him, "Go away from me. Take heed for yourself and see my (royal) presence no more. For you will die on the day you see my presence."

10:29 And Moshe said, "You spoke correctly. I will no longer see your (royal) presence.

Pharaoh and the Egyptian empire suffered so much until now. Why didn't he kill Moshe for causing all the trouble.

For that matter, why didn't he kill Moshe as soon as he emerged on the scene and announced the redemption?

Verse 11:8 says that Moshe left Pharaoh's presence in a fury. The Talmud records Resh Lakish's view that Moshe slapped Pharaoh. (Zevachim 102a).

Pharaoh continued to let him act and speak freely right down to the time that the country was brought down to its knees, Pharaoh included.

Why did he let Moshe get away with so much?

The following came to mind.

Pharaoh was well aware of the teachings of Avraham (Abraham), He was also well aware that G-D planned to use Avraham's children as a vehicle to eventually bring Mankind to recognize His supremacy.

But if G-D's will is supreme then Pharaoh's will is not.

Killing Moshe would have caused the Jewish people to temporarily lose hope.

But ignoring Moshe achieces more towards Pharaoh's agenda, for it shows that Moshe and his teachings are insignificant. It could demoralize and spiritually cripple the emerging Jewish people.

It was worth more to Pharaoh to nullify Moshe than to endure the intense suffering and ruin of his country.


11:8 And all of these servants of yours will come down to me. And they will bow down to me saying, “Leave, you and the entire nation that follows you!” And then afterwards will I leave. And he left from Pharaoh’s presence in a fury.

Moshe (Moses) showed anger because Pharaoh threatened to kill him, should he ever come again before Pharaoh’s royal presence.

Interestingly, Resh Lakish said that Moshe slapped Pharaoh on his way out (Talmud Zevachim 102a).

Now, although Moshe said that Pharaoh’s officials will bow down to him, what actually happened later was that Pharaoh himself bowed down and pleaded to Moshe that he and the Jewish people leave Egypt immediately.

Moshe was very careful how he spoke to Pharaoh. This was because G-D commanded him to recognize the honor of the king, Pharaoh. He therefore only told Pharaoh that his royal officials would prostrate themselves before him.

The Medrash derives Moshe’s obligation to respect Pharaoh’s honor from the following verse: And He [G-D] charged them [Moshe and Aharon] ... concerning Pharaoh, king of Egypt, to bring the Children of Israel out of Egypt (6:13).

The Medrash Rabah says, “Act with him [Pharaoh] in a manner that shows honor and assign respect to kingdom. Do this despite the fact that I [G-D] will execute judgment against him.

It is noteworthy that the Medrash Tanchuma appears to say basically the same thing, only with a slight variation. That medrash says, “Do this [show honor and respect towards the kingdom] because I will execute judgment against him.” The logic is puzzling.

According to the Medrash, verse 6:13 appears to be saying that Moshe must treat Pharaoh with respect so that he can take the Jewish people out of Egypt. This is also puzzling.

The Etz Yosef commentary explains the significance of respecting the royalty of human beings.

It`s not that we do it out of fear. We see that this was expected from Moshe, who was under G-D`s protection and had nothing to fear from Pharaoh. Rather, the Torah expects this behavior because for us it`s the right thing to do.

This, says the Etz Yosef, is because majesty comes from G-D. It is He who gives it to certain people. By respecting those who G-D decides to honor we are respecting G-D`s wishes and therefore G-D himself.

This is captured in Jewish law for us today. We are charged to make a blessing whenever we see a king, acknowledging that G-D gave honor to flesh and blood.

Resh Lakish’s statement that Moshe slapped Pharaoh is therefore very puzzling. In fact, Rav Yochanan appears to disagree with Resh Lakish because doing so would have been disrespectful.

According to Resh Lakish, Moshe slapped Pharaoh just when G-D was on the verge of bringing the Jewish people out of Egypt, despite the verse that seems to be saying that respecting Pharaoh is somehow linked to bringing them out, another puzzle.

Now, in an ideal world, the supremacy we assign to a king should smoothly complement the supremacy we assign to G-D, especially since the requirement for respect comes from the Torah.

Ideally, the king should view himself as being merely G-D’s conduit for ensuring that mankind is carrying out G-D’s will, using whatever means of enforcement that is available. In its best form, it's a zero-ego supremacy.

Given Pharaoh’s ornery behavior, it is difficult to see how the supremacy Moshe is charged to assign Pharaoh could complement the supremacy we assign to G-D. Pharaoh wasn't exactly a zero-ego type of king. The difficulty is compounded by the fact that the Medrash singles him out as being one of four monarchs that claimed to be a deity.

With Pharaoh’s full support, Egypt was a gold mine for those who were in the religion business. Egypt was the world’s center for magic - the real stuff, not just sleight of hand. Pharaoh employed the top magicians.

It took ten plagues to knock into Pharaoh’s brain that Moshe himself wasn't a magician. And even then, he changed his mind and six days later he chased after the Jewish people to bring them back. And this is the person whose royal supremacy Moshe must respect.

The following came to mind to resolve our puzzles. It also suggests an agenda within history. There may be others.

To provide a key context for the Exodus that is about to occur, we must remind ourselves that the downtrodden Jewish people unfortunately connected themselves in some way with idol worship. The Ma-Am Loez writes that some resorted to idolatrous practices to cure illnesses.

Obviously, they had to disconnect themselves from idolatry before being redeemed.

Moshe charged them to do this right before the Exodus: ... Draw (yourselves away from idolatry) ... and slaughter the Passover (offering) (12:21 and Rashi there).

To round out the picture, it's important to understand how mankind initially fell into idol worship in the first place. The Rambam provides a fascinating piece of history.

It sounded like a really great idea. The ancients recognized roles that G-D assigned to celestial beings. To them, these beings appeared as a sort of vehicle for G-D’s management and maintenance of the world.

Beginning with the generation of Enosh, many reasoned that they would be honoring G-D by honoring these beings, much like honoring a king’s official is a form of honoring the king.

Doesn't this logic sound familiar!

Initially, everybody recognized G-D’s supremacy while they sacrificed to these beings. Enosh himself erred and endorsed this unauthorized manner of respecting G-D. I assume that there was deep controversy over it and those who deeply felt G-D’s supremacy shunned the innovation. Not doing idolatry was one of the six commandments that G-D charged Adam for mankind.

Once this took, slick-talking, self-serving hucksters and fakers moved in. They seized on the opportunity to both exploit and control the masses and started the world’s first religion businesses. They made all sorts of baloney stories and claims. They told the people what they wanted to hear, truthful or not.

Over time, the image worship was no longer a part of worshiping G-D. Instead, they replaced it. Most of mankind forgot about G-D, who was kind of hard to relate with without expending effort. The will of the idols themselves became supreme. And since their will was being dreamed up on the fly by those who controlled the religion businesses, it was actually the will of the controllers that became supreme. Some had personalities that were so magnetic that they got people to do crazy things, like kill their first born in the name of a religion. If they had airplanes in those days, I wouldn't be surprised if they talked people into flying them into buildings.

Mankind was being bullied. Mankind was being cheated out of the opportunity to achieve the greatness that G-D put them on this world for in the first place to earn. But the masses were enjoying life. Religion was easy, cheap, and fun. And with the plethora of idols, you could choose your own god. So, in effect religions reflected the will of the idol worshippers themselves.

By then, we had the will and supremacy of G-D, that of the bullies and beasts, and that of the individuals.

Now back to the Exodus. The clock was ticking. There’s nothing stopping it from being pulled off. G-D is managing, this time pretty obviously.

Moshe gives Pharaoh the execution time, ‘about’ the middle of the night. Moshe knows that it will be precisely in the middle of the night, down to the microsecond. I don’t know if he gave him date, but it will become pretty obvious as things roll along. Pharaoh will kiss his beloved first born good-night for the last time before going to sleep. His peaceful slumber will be short-lived.

By then, the Jewish people will have slaughtered their sheep, the national deity of Egypt, thereby disconnecting themselves from idolatry with their bare hands. This bold and downright dangerous act of a flagrant disregard of the Egyptian religion cemented their commitment to put the will of G-D above everything, even their own lives.

They were reconnecting to the great connections their ancestors pioneered for mankind. They will complete the connection seven weeks later, at the foot of Mount Sinai.

If all of mankind wasn't ready to connect in some way at that time, then it will have to be a part of mankind that connects. Everyone else will just have to wait for a few thousand years and let G-D’s management of history play itself out before doing some form of catch-up, whoever survives.

Let us not overlook a second disconnect and reconnect. Many, if not most of the Jewish people were born into slavery. Pharaoh’s supremacy as king was in their bones. In a mere seven days, they will see the carcasses of the entire mighty Egyptian army washed upon the shores and they will proclaim G-D’s supremacy, “G-D shall reign as King forever” (15:18). Six weeks later at the foot of Mount Sinai they will accept the yoke of the Kingdom of Heaven, for themselves and their descendants forever.

It follows that part of the redemption process was to destroy Pharaoh’s supremacy from the hearts of the Jewish people. In their new freedom, the will of Pharaoh will become totally irrelevant. There will be only one focus of supremacy, G-D.

As we said earlier, respecting royalty has an overlay that was authorized by G-D. Therefore, it served to undermine the exclusive supremacy that Pharaoh claimed for himself, that “The (Nile) River is mine and I made [created] myself” (Yechezkel / Ezekiel 29:3).

The flow of honor due to Pharaoh fitted in as long as he played the role and didn't blatantly disregard the Source of that honor. But when he stepped over the line and sought to throw G-D’s emissary out of his palace, it’s understandable that he got a slap. The wording of the Medrash Tanchuma best supports this approach. Perhaps it gave Resh Lakish a basis.

Given the similarity between emergence of idolatry and the context the Torah gives for the requirement to respect royalty, perhaps Pharaoh’s destruction served to help undermine the underpinnings of idolatry, which the Jewish were disconnecting from.

We can now associate the requirement to respect Pharaoh and the objectives of the Exodus.

From time immemorial, going back to Adam himself, Mankind has been struggling to manage his ego and live within an exclusive context of G-D’s will. Mankind replaced G-D's Supremacy with that of images that were imagined. Throughout history, Mankind has also been suffering from the supremacies of many bullies and beasts. Is Heaven trying to tell us something?

We have a tradition that history will produce ten kingdoms, ten absolute supremacies.

The very first Kingdom was that of G-D Himself. It is also listed as the last one.

The clock is still ticking. We have a tradition that the clock of history will time out.

It appears to me that we’re heading towards a state of zero-ego greatness. The process is working.

So much for mankind. Now the individual.

We all have a beginning and we all time out.

We emerge with 100% ego, with ‘Big Me’ reigning supreme. A short time later we discover others and are no longer at 100% Me. Hopefully, the ratio of ‘Me’ to ‘We’ shrinks as we mature. Then we begin connecting to the third dimension, the ‘He,’ G-D.

The percentages of the three shift over time. For many, life is designed so that the percentage of the ‘Me’ shrinks first, in favor of the other two. As we age, especially as body parts are not what they once were and we see our world shrink, the significance of the ‘He’ grows as we get ready to submit.

It appears that life is a journey towards the realization of G-D’s supremacy, both collectively and as individuals. Will we all get there? By how much?


10:11 … and he [Pharaoh's minister] expelled them [Moshe and Aharon / Moses and Aaron] away from Pharaoh's presence.

10:28 And Pharaoh said to him, "Go away from me. Take heed for yourself and see my (royal) presence no more. For you will die on the day you see my presence."

11:1 And Hashem (G-D) said to Moshe (Moses), "I will bring (yet) one more plague on Pharaoh and Egypt. He will afterwards send you away from this. When he sends you away, expel will he completely expel you from this.

The commentaries note the duplicate language of 11:1, "expel will he completely expel you from this."

The Kli Yakar says that Pharaoh had previously driven Moshe and Aharon away from his presence (Exodus 10:11) in an embarrassing manner two times. And now he is throwing them out again, this time for good.

Here, Hashem is consoling Moshe for the apparent disgraces. Pharaoh is being prepared by Heaven for the BIG expulsion. First he expelled Moshe and Aharon without making a threat. Then he expelled the same two individuals with a threat of death. His next and final expulsion will be a winner. It will be directed at the entire nation, not just at Moshe and Aharon. This is why the expulsion is referenced twice, a reference to the Exodus which encompassed everyone.

The Marsha commentary on the Talmud (Sanhedrin 94b 'Pharaoh') has a tradition that the Jewish people were expelled in two waves. The first wave was for the Jews who consented to leave Egypt and they left voluntarily with Moshe. The second wave was for those who didn't want to leave with Moshe. They were later involuntarily expelled.

The first group were convinced with their faith and with their assessment of dramatic events that preceded the Exodus that there was an all-powerful G-D in the world who manages the affairs of Mankind, that Moshe was G-D's messenger, and that G-D wanted them to leave Egypt, receive His Torah, become His nation, and take residence in the Promised Land.

However, there were stragglers. This second group remained unconvinced and didn't want to budge from the comfort of their Egyptian home, neighborhood, routine, and lifestyle. The Egyptians tolerated them until the splitting of the sea, seven days later, when Pharaoh's armed forces were annihilated. The Egyptians got so fed up with Judaism that they threw the stragglers out.

As I understand this, these poor stragglers didn't learn from G-D's many lessons. So, G-D made the Egyptians learn the hard way that there was an all-powerful G-D in the world who manages the affairs of Mankind, that Moshe was G-D's messenger, and that G-D wanted the Jewish people to leave Egypt. G-D used the Egyptians teach this lesson to the stragglers and so they threw them out.

This is a stunning teaching. After chapters and chapters of world-class miracles, there was still a group of thick-headed people who refused to recognize G-D's will. And yet, G-D did not discard them. To some degree, this indicates an extent that G-D takes to straighten out even the most wayward person, that He does not want anyone to lose out on his/her only opportunity for spiritual achievements, achievements that have eternal implications for the person.

The Marsha names two stragglers, Dasan and Avirom. We find them later in the book of Numbers. They were principles in Korach's rebellion against Moshe. They were destroyed in a miraculous manner.

This reminds us that Judaism is not a 'Believe-And-You-Will-Be-Saved' enterprise. There are clear, numerous, and sometimes costly opportunities that a person is expected to invest him/herself in. There are consequences for not meeting expectations. Frequently, consequences are postponed to give transgressors a chance for repair. But, there are limits to the number of 'second chances' and to the degree that a person can misbehave before destruction is needed, based on the design of a person and the design of environment that he/she is and will be in.


12:1 And G-D said to Moshe (Moses) and Aharon (Aaron) in the land of Egypt, saying.

12:2 This month shall be for you the head of months. It is first for you of (the) months of the year.

12:3 Speak to the assembly of Israel saying, "And they shall take on the tenth of this month, each man a lamb for a father's family, a lamb for the household."

12:6 And it shall be (in their home during that time) for them to examine (for blemishes) until the fourteenth day of this month. And all the congregation of the assembly of Israel shall slaughter it in the noon.

These verses are recorded after the Torah presents the plagues of locust and darkness.

The Talmud says that the scripture does not always follow the order of events as they occurred (Pesachim 6b).

According to the following teaching from the Chasam Sofer, as recorded in Toras Moshe - Va'era - LeShabbos Rosh Chodesh, we shall see that this appears to be another example.

The plague of blood lasted one month. This includes either three weeks of warning and one week of the plague itself, or one week of warning and three weeks of the plague itself (Medrash Tanchuma Va'era 13 and Medrash Rabah 9:12).

The commentaries view this timing as a model for most of the other plagues. That is, the period for each plague, up to and possibly including locusts, was a full month.

The Toras Moshe understands the Medrash Rabah to be saying that the plagues brought the servitude to an end. We do know that the servitude ended on the first day of the month of Tishrei (Rosh Hashanah 10b). Therefore, we know that the plague of blood began on Rosh Hashanah, the first of Tishrei.

The Toras Moshe uses this as a basis to list the following timings for the rest of the plagues:

Frogs occurred on the first of Cheshvan; Lice on the first of Kislev; Beasts on the first of Teves; Pestilence on the first of Shevat; Boils on the first of Adar I; Hail on the first of Adar II; Locusts, the eighth plague, occurred on the first of Nisan.

The tenth plague, the killing of the first-born, occurred on the fifteenth of Nisan. We therefore need to fit in the ninth plague, darkness.

The Toras Moshe writes that the plague of darkness occurred right before the Exodus.

This corresponds to a teaching of the Anaf Yosef commentary on the Medrash Tanchuma, cited above. He observes that the certain plagues, including the plague of locusts, appeared to end quickly due to Moshe's prayers. However, as the Medrash states, they lasted for a week. This was because Pharaoh was given the rest of the week to fulfill his pledge to let the Jewish people leave. The obligation to release the Jewish people together with the trauma that came from the plagues hovered over Egypt for the remainder of that week.

As the locusts came on the first of Nisan and the plague with its lingering effects lasted for seven days, the plague of locust occurred on days one through seven of the month of Nisan.

Now, we know that the plague of darkness lasted for at least six days in Egypt, as commentaries write that the seventh day was reserved for the splitting of the sea. It was also unlikely that the lights were out for the Egyptians on the fourteenth of Nisan, the day before the exodus itself. I assume that the Jewish people were very busy borrowing items from their Egyptian neighbors.

Therefore, the plague of darkness had to occur on days eight through thirteen. Day fourteen gave the Egyptians a chance to recover and get ready for the grand finale, while emptying out their homes. And the final plague occurred that night.

This timeline sheds an interesting light on the plagues of locust and darkness.

Moshe was charged on the first of the month to tell the Jewish people to take a lamb on the tenth of the month, to be slaughtered on the fourteenth. I assume that Moshe told them on that same day.

The lamb was Egypt's national god. It was an outright insult to the entire Egyptian theo-political-social establishments for the Jews to do this.

Recall when Pharaoh suggested that the Jewish people do their sacrifices in Egypt. Moshe responded, "… It is improper to do this, for we are going to slaughter the god of Egypt to Hashem our G-D. Won't they stone us if we slaughter the god of Egypt before their eyes? (8:22)"

It was therefore natural for the Jewish people to not want to risk their lives and get into a brawl over Egypt's national religious culture, no matter how beat-up Pharaoh and the Egyptians were.

Then again, the plague of locusts came on the day we were charged to take that very dangerous step. The plague distracted the Egyptians.

But the plague of locusts was short-lived and every single bug was flushed down the Nile by the third of Nisan.

And so the time marched on, towards that fateful tenth of Nisan.

I assume that days four through seven Nisan were filled with great debate and anxiety within the Jewish people. Some said "No Way! That's crossing the red line." Others declared that if G-D gave us the charge to do this then He will protect us.

Many were ready to bite the bullet, no matter what. And that was all that Heaven wanted to hear. "Give me an opening the size of a needle's eye and I shall make for you an opening the size of the doorway into the Great Hall."

And so, despite the fact that the other plagues had a twenty-one day respite, the lights went out for Egypt a mere eight days after being whopped by locusts.

On the tenth of Tishrei, the day that everybody dreaded, Egypt was in the middle of a paralyzing darkness, making them totally clueless on what the Jewish people were doing to their god.

Those who opted to tie the lamb to their bedpost were on their way out of the darkness of the Egyptian culture and religion. They were onto a journey to the greatest light that was ever shown upon humanity.

It is a sad and unfortunate fact that not everybody wanted to leave Egypt. Many perished during the plague of darkness so that the Egypt wouldn't witness their shortcoming.

From the above discussion, the plague of darkness should have been written in the Torah after Moshe's charge for the tenth of Tishrei.

Perhaps a reason for the Torah recording the plague of darkness before the commandment to take the lamb was so that it be obvious that many of us had failed, despite the cover of darkness.

May we all soon be worthy to see the great lights everyone is waiting for.


12:1 And G-D said to Moshe (Moses) and Aharon (Aaron) in the land of Egypt, saying.

12:2 This month shall be for you the head of months. It is first for you of (the) months of the year.

In the Book of Genesis, the very first Rashi commentary says in the name of Rabbi Yitzchak that the Torah should have begun with the second verse. This is because this verse contains the first commandment that the Jewish people were given.

Rashi does not explain why it is better to begin the Torah with the first commandment than to begin it with the story of creation. Also, he does not say what the second verse would have been.

Looking back to the Book of Genesis, we note that Man is created on the sixth day and the last verse of Genesis chapter one reads: 'And G-D saw all that He made and behold it was very good. And it was evening and it was morning, the sixth day.'

The chapters that follow focus on the development of mankind and civilization. Adam eats forbidden food, becomes mortal, and is driven out of the Garden of Eden. Cain kills Havel (Abel) and eventually gets killed, Mankind degenerates and all but eight people drown in the Great Flood, together with a representative bunch who survive for a year while huddled in a small ark.

In short, the world tanks.

But what about 'And G-D saw all that He made and behold it was very good'? Was G-D referring to only the natural world without taking mankind into account?

Given that man is the focus and purpose of creation, why it is important to note that the world was so wonderful? Given that G-D gives man free-will, if civilization keeps on degenerating then maybe there won't be any more world and creation will be for naught.

Maybe we're being given too much free will? Maybe the tests are stacked against us and are unfair? Does this sound right?

Nope.

There is a very awesome message by starting the Torah with the first commandment. And perhaps the verses which would have followed could have been the same story of creation, together with its repeated references that G-D saw that what He did was good.

Let's take a second look at our verse.

"This is the head month for you. It is the first of all of months in the year for you."

Who is G-D commanding? It's the Jewish people, of course. Who are they? Where did they come from? How did they get there? What's going to happen to them?

I hope that you have read and seen enough to know that after thirty-three centuries, the Jewish people are still around and simply don't fit into a model of a world that is going to pot.

And who is G-D speaking to? He's telling this commandment to Moshe / Moses. Who is he? Where did he come from? Isn't he the person that Pharaoh wanted dead? And then didn't Pharaoh wind up hugging him, raising him, feeding him, training him? And then didn't Moshe come back and orchestrated events that beat up the Egyptians, Pharaoh included? And nothing bad ever happened to Moshe for doing this. How about that?

And this commandment is part of a Torah that this enslaved and downtrodden nation will accept upon themselves in just a few months from now. And it will transform them into a people that G-D will use to bring the world and all of mankind to perfection, some day.

How about that? Are you a bit impressed?

Do you think that this is all happening by accident?

I frankly can't be of much help to you if you do. Hope you have a comfortable life until you die, unfortunately and forever.

But most of us know otherwise.

So how is G-D pulling this off? He must be very smart, resourceful, kind, aware, powerful, connected, etc. etc.

If you think about this enough, you may come to the conclusion that while the world can look like it's totally out of control and headed toward destruction, in reality it's being managed and G-D is in total control, despite the fact that he lets us chose be between good and evil.

So starting off the Torah with this verse would help the reader understand how the Torah can say that "behold it was very good" and then follow with a record of disaster and destruction.

It was all a temporary phase, perhaps for a while to give mankind the opportunity to alter the direction of history.

But then it timed out, Avraham (Abraham) was selected, and the rest is a roller-coaster history, some occurring in the past, some in the present, and the rest in the future.

And if you're upset that you can't see how this is unfolding then just remember the old teaching: "Never show a fool a job half done."

It was good, it is good, and it will be good.


12:1 And G-D said to Moshe (Moses) and Aharon (Aaron) in the land of Egypt, saying.

12:2 This month shall be for you the head of months. It is first for you of (the) months of the year.

The establishment of the lunar new month is the very first commandment that the Jewish people received

We received this charge during the final stages of the Exodus. It should therefore be closely associated with the formation and essence of the Jewish people, as well as the emergence of Judaism on a national scale.

The following came to mind.

The moon reflects the light of the sun and generates no new light of its own.

So to is Judaism a religion that reflects that which was transmitted some thirty-three centuries, without any man-made enhancement other than that which was authorized during this transmission. It is a religion that preserves and seeks to rediscover the past, not one that tolerates man-made innovations to keep up with what some perceive as the present.

In a similar manner, our greatness comes from our role to reflect G-D's existence and management within the world.

In the light we can understand the following commentary of Rashi for verse 12:2.

"This month:" Moshe was puzzled over the amount of lunar surface area that had to be visible for a new month to be declared. Thereupon G-D showed Moshe the moon in the sky and said, "Sanctify when it looks like this."

As we well know, the Jewish people did not always stay on the same level of compliance throughout history and we paid dearly for it.

As both the moon and the Jewish people have reflective roles, perhaps Moshe was wondering whether there was some minimum amount of reflection of G-D's presence and management that the Jewish people had to meet. G-D responded to Moshe and showed him a tiny sliver of the moon. Even the tiniest degree compliance qualified the Jewish people for distinction and sanctification, for they are connected with their great ancestors and are on the path to eventual spiritual correction and restoration.


12:1 And G-D said to Moshe (Moses) and Aharon (Aaron) in the land of Egypt, saying.

12:2 This month shall be for you the head of months. It is first for you of (the) months of the year.

12:3 Speak to the assembly of Israel saying, "And they shall take on the tenth of this month, each man a lamb for a father's family, a lamb for the household."

Rashi's commentary is as follows:: Speak (to them) today, the first day of the month, (and tell them) that they must take a sheep on the tenth day (of the month).

G-d provides Moshe with additional instructions for Passover and they are recorded through verse 20.

Moshe instructs the people in verses 21-27.

12:28

12:28 And the Children of Israel went and did that which G-d commanded Moshe and Aharon, they did so.

Rashi: (This is written) to their credit, that they did not omit anything from what Moshe and Aharon told them to do

12:29-42 presents the last plague, the resulting exodus from Egypt, and a count of years for the Egyptian exile.

12:43 And G-d said to Moshe and Aharon: This is the statute of (the) Passover sacrifice: A person (who acts like a) stranger may not eat it.

Rashi: These verses were commanded on the fourteenth day of the month.

Rashi: Stranger - This refers to a person who acts like a stranger towards G-d (i.e., an apostate or an idol worshiper).

12:48 .. a man who is uncircumcised may not eat from (the Passover sacrifice)..

From the above, we see that some laws about the Passover sacrifice were commanded on the first of the month and other laws were commanded on the fourteenth day of the month. Why weren't all of the laws given at the same time?

The requirement to circumcise for the Passover sacrifice was specified right before the Exodus. They had no time to recover from the surgery. Why didn't G-d include this in the instructions that were given on the first day?

The following came to mind.

The Jewish people needed to overcome two hurdles. First, they needed to abandon paganism. Second, they needed to circumcise. They needed to meet the requirements of verses 12:43 and 12:48.

Besides meeting the requirements, they also needed credits of fulfilling G-d's commandments so that they could merit the redemption on their own merit.

Rashi 12:6

Why did the Torah require them to take and examine the animal four days prior to the sacrifice? This was not needed for all subsequent Passover sacrifices!

Says Rabbi Matsya Ben Cheresh: The time had come for G-d to fulfill the oath that He made to Avraham (Abraham), that He would redeem his children. However, the Jewish people had no religious deeds to their credit for which they could merit the redemption on their own right. .. So, G-d gave them two commandments, the Passover sacrifice and circumcision, as they circumcised on the night of their ExodusMoshe told the people to draw themselves away from idolatry and to take (instead) the Passover sacrifice.

The Jewish people heard the requirement to abandon idolatry on the first day of the month. Everybody put it into practice on the tenth day of the month, when they took the sheep and began the four-day examination period.

This was relatively easy after experiencing nine plagues, as the plagues prepared them for Jewish thought. They provided a clear lesson that the G-d of their forefathers exists, that He is supreme, that He actively manages the affairs of Mankind, and paganism is false.

The Jewish people were thus able and willing to change their mindset and adopt the Jewish form of worship. No one was an apostate. They obtained their first credit. They still needed a second credit, circumcision.

The Medrash tells us that many people had a problem with letting themselves undergo the ordeal of circumcision.

Many Jews did not want to circumcise themselves. So, G-d told them about making the Passover sacrifice. Then, when Moshe made his own Passover sacrifice, G-d made the four winds of Heaven pass through Paradise, pick up the aroma, and then bring it into Moshe's sacrifice. The scent was so powerful, that it spread over the distance of a forty-day journey. The Jewish people were overcome by the aroma. They all gathered around Moshe's sacrifice and pleaded with him to let them have a piece. He was sorry to tell them that they couldn't have a taste because they were uncircumcised. They changed their minds. They circumcised themselves and they ate from the Passover sacrifice. The blood of their sacrifices mixed with the blood of their circumcisions. G-d passed by and took each and every person. He kissed them and He blessed them. (Shemos Raba 6)

So, perhaps G-d withheld the link between circumcision and the Passover offering until the last moment so that everyone could first abandon paganism and adopt Jewish worship. Had they been told about this from the start, perhaps a number of people would have been turned off to everything because of the circumcision. They would have rejected both circumcision and Judaism.

G-d gave them the commandments in stages so that everyone would succeed.

Telling the Jewish people about circumcision at the last moment made the Exodus more difficult. However, bringing a number of wayward Jews back into the fold was well worth the temporary inconvenience.


The Parsha begins with the plague of locusts. They put Pharaoh into a panic. He quickly calls for Moshe and Aharon and says the following:

10:17. "And now please bear my sin just this time and pray to Hashem your G-d and He will remove from me just this (form of) death."

None of the plagues were pleasant, but this plague seems unique. Why?

I heard that had they stayed around a bit longer, they would have laid eggs and the plague would have naturally become a periodic occurrence.


12:3 Speak to the assembly of Israel saying, and they shall take on the tenth of this month, each man, a lamb for a father's family, a lamb for the household.

12:6 And it shall be (in their house during that time) for them to examine (for blemishes) until the fourteenth day of this month. And all the congregation of the assembly of Israel shall slaughter it in the afternoon.

The Medrash Mechilta cites a teaching of Rabbi Matisya Ben Charash who says that G-D gave the Jewish people two commandments to perform so that they could be able to be redeemed. One was the Passover sacrifice and the other was circumcision, which many had unfortunately abandoned during their captivity.

The Chamudei Tzvi commentary asks why not having commandments held up the redemption. And what was so special about these two commandments? What was stopping G-D from redeeming us without them?

The answer lies in the purpose of the redemption from Egypt.

If the purpose of the redemption was solely to correct an injustice that was done to a downtrodden minority then we have no answer.

However, the purpose of the entire Egyptian experience and redemption was to transform a group of people into a nation that would accept G-D's Torah.

Accepting the Torah was not to be merely a polite gesture. And our acceptance did not mean that the only thing we would do with the Torah was to put it in museums. Neither would it be sufficient if we all we had to do was eat gefilte fish Friday nights and Saturdays.

Rather, accepting the Torah meant assuming responsibilities, taking a stand, and remaining loyal despite any and all adversities, be they from within or from without. It meant that we would be doing some things that others would not view as being fashionable. And it meant that we were going to put G-D's priorities above our own, even when it compromises self-comfort.

The Jewish people made this decision some forty-nine days after leaving Egypt. It was tough, far more gusty than deciding to enlist into the marine corps.

To finish laying the groundwork for our great encounter at Mount Sinai, G-D gave us an opportunity to demonstrate to ourselves that we had within ourselves what was needed to assume this great role.

Taking a lamb and keeping it tied to our bed-posts for four nights was no trivial undertaking. The sheep was the national god of Egypt and our neighbors became quickly aware that we intended to slaughter and eat their god.

And we ate the Passover sacrifice as prescribed, our loins 'girded' for immediate travel (12:11). It appears from our records that many, and possibly the majority of the Jewish men circumcised themselves that night. Despite the wonders of the Exodus, many may have wanted to stay a few more days to recover. But out we went by morning, together with all our belongings, flocks, and the wealth of Egypt.

So these two commandments were indeed very special.


12:11 You shall eat it [the Passover sacrifice] in the following manner. Your loins shall be girded [i.e. have your belt on and be ready to travel], your shoes shall be on your feet, and your walking stick in your hand. And you shall eat it in a rushed manner. It is a Passover for G-D.

12:32 And Egypt pressured the (Jewish) nation to send them away in a hurry. For they said, "We are all dead."

What was the need for this pressure? If there was some pre-ordained moment in history at which the redemption needed to occur, could it not have been planned in a manner to avoid this rush? And what was so special about the redemption occurring at that particular moment?

The commentaries teach that the stresses of the Egyptian exile served to forge the Jewish people into a nation of the Torah. That is, it enabled them to accept G-D's charge in a way that ensured it will be preserved and transmitted faithfully throughout history, enabling them and all of mankind to eventually come to the perfection that G-D intended.

We can therefore conjecture that these pressures served as the finishing touches to lay the foundation for the next thirty-three plus centuries of Jewish history.

But again, why couldn't the Jewish people have stayed a bit more so that the stress could have been spread out over a longer period of time?

We are taught that the Jewish people were at the edge of a spiritual abyss. Due to human weakness, the effects of assimilation took their toll and the Jewish people of that time were collectively at what is called the "Forty-ninth spiritual Gate of Contamination." Had they stayed any longer then they would entered into the "Fiftieth Gate" which implies that they would not have been redeemed. This is why they needed to leave at that moment.

But how do we understand this?

Rabbi Gedaliah Schor of blessed memory notes that G-D could certainly have redeemed us from the "Fiftieth Gate," for nothing is impossible for Him to do.

The following is how I understand his words, as recorded in Ohr Gedaliah (Exodus p. 3).

G-D could have redeemed us from the "Fiftieth Gate" but it would have been a different manner of redemption.

Recall that the Egyptian Exile was foretold to our ancestor Avraham (Abraham) some four-hundred thirty years earlier.

It was G-D's response to Avraham's question, "How will I know that I will inherit it [i.e. the Land of Israel]?

What was puzzling our great ancestor, Avraham?

Rabbi Schor cites four periods of evolution from which the Jewish people emerged.

The first is the period of the founders, which were Avraham, Yitzchok, and Yaakov.

The next is the period of the tribes, Yaakov's twelve sons.

The next period is that of the seventy souls, Yaakov's family that entered into the Egyptian exile with him (Exodus 46:27).

The final period is that of the six-hundred-thousand people who left Egypt (Exodus 12:37).

In summary, we have three founders, children of the last founder who themselves became parents, the family of the last founder who lived during his lifetime, and a nation of descendents who did not live during the lifetimes of the founders, their children, and the immediate family.

These periods form a pattern of successive remoteness from Avraham.

Avraham was unique. He was blessed with great talents and he applied them to the max. But he was well aware of the two-thousand years of history that preceded him, during which there arose great spiritual leaders who were soon forgotten after their passing by both their peers and their descendents.

G-D had just promised Avraham that his children would inherit the Land of Israel. This signaled to him that he would be different and that his way of relating with G-D and serving Him would indeed survive history.

He asked G-D, "How will I know that I will inherit it?" What he wanted to understand is the mechanism that will G-D employ to perpetuate his life teachings to distant descendents.

G-D's response was that Avraham's descendents will be purged by the pangs of an exile that is controlled by G-D and that this will transform them into a nation that is able to accept the Torah. This gives us the energy to survive Jewish history down to this day.

With this background we can now understand the significance of redemption at the edge of the "Forty-ninth Gate."

Had the Jewish people stayed any longer in Egypt, they would have entered the "Fiftieth Gate", and they would not have been redeemed in the manner that satisfied G-D's commitment to Avraham.

G-D could have still redeemed them but they would have been totally disconnected from Avraham and his teachings. This redemption would have required a spiritual creation of something entirely new, instead of a re-generation of that which had preceded them.

So the Egyptian exile came to a screeching halt in a rush, at the edge of the "Forty-ninth Gate". We were redeemed at the edge of the "Forty-ninth Gate", in time to still derive the benefits of the exile and still be connected with Avraham, whose great merits we benefit down to this day.

The periods of successive remoteness from Avraham are very significant to us, for just as those who left Egypt fell into the fourth category and maintain their connection with Avraham with G-D's assistance, we are also in this same category.


12:33 And Egypt overwhelmed the nation (of the Jewish people), to quickly send them out of the land (of Egypt. This was) because they [the Egyptians] said, "We are all dead."

12:39 And they [the Jewish people] baked the dough that they took out of Egypt into pastries of matzah, for it did not leaven because they were driven out of Egypt and they couldn't wait (for it to rise). And they also did not prepare for themselves any provisions (for the journey.)

At the last moments of the Exodus, our ancestors endured immense social pressure to get out of Egypt. The exit was more like the ejection of a projectile, with no comparison to the mad dashes that we make for our seder (Passover ceremony).

Over eight centuries later, the prophet Yirmiyahu (Jeremiah) records the following experience:

(Jeremiah 2:1) And the word of G-d was to me, saying:

(Jeremiah 2:2) "Go (forth) and proclaim into the ears of Jerusalem, saying: 'G-d has stated the following: I have remembered for you the kindness of your youth [that of the Jewish people], the love of your bridal days [a reference the encounter at Sinai], your going after Me in the wilderness, in a land that was not seeded.'"

What is the kindness that the prophet is talking about? Rashi provides the following commentary:

(This kindness was) your going after my messengers, Moshe and Aharon (Moses and Aaron), leaving an inhabited land [Egypt]. You went out into the wilderness without any provisions (for the journey) because you believed in Me.

How does this answer the question? Granted that this was a demonstration f faith, but in what way can this be considered a kindness? For whom was this kindness? For G-d? Furthermore, we were expelled from Egypt. We were instantly homeless and we had no choice but to follow Moshe and Aharon in the desert.

It seems that the Jewish people had no time to make provisions for their journey. However, they did have time to clear Egypt of its wealth.

3:21 And I will put the favor of this nation in the eyes of Egypt. And when you will go (out of Egypt), you will not leave empty (handed).

3:22 And each woman will borrow gold and silver vessels from her neighbor and tenant . And you will put (them) on (the backs of) your sons and daughters and you will empty (out) Egypt.

This appears to be written as a prediction, not as a commandment. It came true, but why? Why didn't the Jewish people use this time in a more responsible manner, to prepare food for their long journey? If their intent was to demonstrate their faith in G-d, why didn't they have faith that G-d would make them wealthy? Why did they jeopardize their physical welfare in order to demonstrate faith?

This last-minute grab for wealth seems so uncharacteristic, so illogical.

This wealth is discussed several times in the Torah. It was one of the things that was foretold to Avraham (Abraham) during the Covenant of the Pieces. The Torah records it there for all posterity.

Genesis 15:13: And He (G-d) said to Avraham, "You shall surely know that your seed will be a stranger in a land that is not theirs. And they will enslave them and they will afflict them for four-hundred years.

Genesis 15:14: And I will also judge the nation that they will serve. And afterwards they will go out with great possession.

These verses are a response to the question that Avraham asked G-d, "How will I know that they (my children) will inherit it (the land)?"

Why was the wealth so important as to be mentioned and recorded at this critical time?

G-d also foretold this when He introduced the mission of the Exodus to Moshe (Exodus 3:21, above). Again, why was it so significant to be mentioned and recorded at that time?

The Torah also records it two times in this section, in Exodus 11:2 and Exodus 12:35.

The first reference, that of Exodus 11:2 is very puzzling.

The prophecy of Exodus 11:2 came upon Moshe while he stood before Pharaoh in a most dramatic moment and manner.

A very desperate Pharaoh had just previously declared:

10:28 "Get away from before me. Take care to never see my face again, for you will be killed on the day you see my face."

Moshe responded:

"10:29: You have spoken correctly. I will never again (come before you) to see your face."

G-d had one more message for Moshe to deliver to Pharaoh, that of the final plague. Moshe had to receive this prophecy in Pharaoh's court, a place that was spiritually defiled. According to our tradition, it was necessary for G-d to levitate Moshe above the ground to enable this experience to occur.

Suspended between the Heaven and Earth, before the gaping eyes of Pharaoh and his aids, Moshe receives the message of the first verse

11:1: And G-d said to Moshe, "I shall bring one more plague on Pharaoh and on Egypt. He will afterwards send you away from here. When he sends, he will completely drive you out from here."

It is logical for verses 11:4-5 to follow:

11:4 And Moshe said (to Pharaoh), "So says G-d: 'I will go forth in Egypt at around midnight'

11:5 'And All of the first-born of Egypt will die'

No, that didn't happen.

Verses 11:2-3 come in the middle. Let's look at 11:2 and see what G-d is telling Moshe at this remarkable moment.

11:2 Please speak in the ears of the people and each man shall borrow from his friend, and each woman from her friend, silver and gold vessels.

11:3 And G-d gave the favor of the people in the eyes of Egypt. Also the man Moshe was very great in land of Egypt, in the eyes of the servants of Pharaoh and in the eyes of the people.

This is amazing! Why does G-d have to tell Moshe about the spoils of Egypt at this time, while still hovering in the air? It certainly was not for Pharaoh's ears to hear.

The wording of 11:2 is most unusual. It's wording is not like that of a commandment. It's almost like G-d was asking for a favor.

Rashi removes all doubt.

11:2 Please speak. 'Please' is the language of a plea. (G-d says to Moshe,) 'I plead with you to counsel them about this, so that the righteous one (Avraham) should not say, "G-d fulfilled (the vision that) they will be enslaved and afflicted but He did not fulfill (the promise of) 'and afterwards they will go out with great possession.'"'

This is very puzzling, even unthinkable. Are the Jewish people being requested by G-d to cover for Him and His promise? Would G-d not keep his promise regardless of whatever Avraham would or would not say?

To add to this puzzle, let us look at a Rashi in Exodus 15:22. There, Rashi states that the Egyptians adorned their war horses with gold, silver, and jewelry. After the Egyptian army drowned in the sea, their wealth was spread across the beach. The wealth was greater than the spoils that the Jewish people took out of Egypt.

So, the wealth of the Exodus was significant enough to be foretold to Avraham and to Moshe, it had to be told to Moshe during his initial briefings on his mission and during the climaxing prophecy of the Exodus, and yet it was monetarily of less significance than the spoils of the sea, which were not openly recorded in the written Torah.

This all seems to defy logic.

What is the Torah trying to tell us? What is Rashi trying to tell us?

The following came to mind.

Perhaps we can understand the behavior of the Jewish people and their involvement with the wealth of the Exodus as a response to Avraham's question, "How will I know that they will inherit it?"

Avraham was very much concerned that his children should carry on his great way of life, that of kindness and devotion. He also wondered whether and how his children would enjoy the rewards of the Covenant on their own merit, including the Exodus.

Many of our questions pointed out gaps in logic.

Logic is desirable for human activity but it is not necessary. There are times when people function without it. When this happens, when life goes nuts, when the decision mechanism is overwhelmed and decisions are no longer based on logic, a person's behavior reflects their inner nature, the core.

Picture for yourself those final moments of Egyptian citizenry. Imagine the shrieks that emanated all night from the home of every Egyptian neighbor, the cries in the streets. Scant hours beforehand, father and every male had had just undergone a surgical procedure, that of circumcision. Babies needed diapering. Kids were being distracted from listening to directions. The family flock of sheep needed to be herded. There was this huge white cloud descending. Why? "Mommy, Where's my dolly?" "Did anybody feed the cat?" "Stop talking and listen! Why didn't you wash these dishes? We're leaving at any minute!" "Help Grandpa." "Eat more matza if you are hungry." "Where is my dolly!"

I assume that logical human behavior in the Jewish homes during these final moments of the Exodus occurred at rare intervals. We probably demonstrate more logical behavior during the final preparatory moments of our own Passover seder, but I don't know by what factor.

Perhaps we can now see the sense in that which made no sense.

In their final moments in Egypt, common sense went out of the window. The Jewish people are unable to make the logical decision to prepare provisions for their trip. Fear of this unknown doesn't stimulate them to action. G-d's running this show. Instead, they remember that Moshe pleaded with them to do G-d a favor. They drop everything and rush to do G-d a favor, an act of kindness. This gesture does reflects a degree of nonsense. However, it serves to demonstrate their connection, and to even connect them, with the great heritage of Avraham. They are broughtto reflect their core.

We can see now that this was all staged by G-d to bring out the greatness of the Jewish people. This was their ticket for the redemption. It was a ticket that they earned on their own merit, for they had a hand in preserving the great heritage of Avraham, down to their own generation. It now answers Avraham's question.

This adds new meaning to the 'great wealth' that G-d promised Avraham. The Jewish people didn't merely bring out monitary wealth. More significantly, they exited with the wealth that they brought down into Egypt, which were the ways of life of their ancestors.

Perhaps this is what the prophet Yirmiyahu was referring to. Perhaps he was not addressing the fact that they went out without provisions. Rather, he addressed the manner in which they went out without provisions. The act of kindness towards G-d dominated their thoughts to the degree that they overlooked their own needs for security. It was an act of belief, a belief that G-d existed and that he needed them to do him a favor at that time.

(Jeremiah 2:2) ".. I have remembered for you the kindness of your youth, the love of your bridal days, your going after Me in the wilderness, in a land that was not seeded."

This explains why the borrowing from the Egyptians was not written as a typical commandment. It therefore lent itself to be understood in a most unusual (actually nonsensical) manner. To accomplish its purpose, it needed to be not well understood.

Perhaps this is why the wealth was foretold to Moshe from the beginning and again at the climax. It was pivotal to the purpose of the entire redemption. It revealed the context in which the redemption would occur.

This would make the great spoils of the sea pale in significance to the spoils of the Exodus.

We encounter Jewish history each and every day in our own lives. Rarely if ever does it make sense. As the world and all of civilization rushes towards spiritual completion, one day at a time, we can only wonder about management strategies that G-d is employing to bring out our own greatness.


12:39 And they baked the dough that they took out of Egypt as matzah, for it did not leaven. (They did this) because they were driven out of Egypt and could not wait (to bake it there). Also, they did not make food provisions for themselves.

12:40 And the dwelling of the Children of Yisroel (Israel) for when they lived in Egypt was for thirty years and for four-hundred years.

12:41 And this was at the end of four-hundred-thirty years, and it was on that very day that all of G-D's multitudes left the land of Egypt.

G-D told Avraham (Abraham) in the Covenant Between the Parts that his descendants would be: "strangers in a land that was not theirs..." and that the land owners would impress them into servitude and would afflict them "… for four-hundred years" (Genesis 15:13).

The Egyptian exile began from when Yaakov (Jacob) and his family moved to Egypt. We know from tradition and from inference that they were in Egypt for two-hundred-ten years (Rashi Exodus 6:18).

So while they were supposed to be there for four-hundred years, they were there for only two-hundred-ten. Yet the above verses seem to say that they were there longer.

The Targum Yonasan Ben Uziel provides the following reading of these verses to explain the apparent inconsistency.

12:40 And the years that the Children of Yisroel lived in Egypt were thirty sabbatical [seven-year] periods, which total two-hundred-ten years. And it was a count of four-hundred-thirty years from when G-D spoke to Avraham (in the Covenant about this)…

12:41 And it was thirty years after the Covenant was made that Yitzchak (Isaac) was born. And it was four-hundred years (from when Yitzchak was born) that the Children of Yisroel left free from Egypt …

So, the exile was foretold four-hundred-thirty years prior to the redemption and it appears to have begun in some form when Yitzchak was born, thirty years after the Covenant. The redemption was four-hundred years after Yitzchak was born, which was two-hundred-ten years from when Yaakov moved to Egypt. These two-hundred-ten years were thirty sets of Sabbatical years.

Now, we have an obligation to discuss the Exodus on Passover night. The (Passover) Hagaddah cites a teaching in the name of Raban Gamliel that "whoever does not discuss Pesach offering, matzah, and bitter herbs" during the seder night "will not have fulfilled his obligation."

The Hagaddah says that the bitter herbs correspond to the bitterness of the exile. Also, the Passover offering corresponds to our being spared from the tenth plague, when G-D "passed over" the Jewish homes and killed the first-born of Egypt.

The Chamudei Tzvi commentary notes that it is a bit puzzling that Raban Gamliel lists the bitter herbs last. This is because chronologically, the bitter Egyptian exile preceded the offering of the Pesach offering, which the Jewish people made right before the exile ended.

The Chamudei Tzvi commentary offers the following explanation.

The original plan was for the Jewish people to be in Egypt for four-hundred years, as per Genesis 15:13. However, the Jewish people did not cope well with pressures of assimilation. G-D therefore saw the need to intercede and do a mid-course adjustment. Had we remained there for the full term, we would have lost our connection to the heritage of Avraham, would not have wanted to become the Chosen People, and we would not have been redeemed.

Therefore, G-D kept us there for as much as possible and then took us out, after only two-hundred-ten years. This enabled us to succeed at Mount Sinai and become the Jewish people.

But, the four-hundred year exile was a refinement process. Since we were there for only two-hundred-ten years, we were only in a semi-refined state and were at risk of backsliding, which actually happened.

We are taught that had we been there for full term then the Egyptian redemption would have been our final redemption and the world would have moved into the Messianic Era.

So there remained an additional one-hundred-ninety years of painful exile that we needed to experience to complete the refinement process.

So G-D put into effect a 'Plan B.'

From then on, we had the opportunity to work very hard and complete the process on our own. But if we didn't keep a good pace, we would need to complete the course of what turned into a painful Jewish history.

Raban Gamliel lived around the time when the Second Temple was destroyed and was a victim of persecution, himself.

By then, we had long ago realized that the redemption from Egypt would be followed by a series of bitter exiles.

This is why he listed the bitter herbs after the Passover offering, for the redemption from Egypt would be followed by more bitterness to make up for the one-hundred-ninety years.

May we soon experience the redemption that all yearn for.


12:40 And the settlement of the Children of Israel during which they lived in Egypt was thirty years and four-hundred years.

12:41 And it was at the end of thirty years and four-hundred years and it was on that very day that all of the hosts of G-D exited from the land of Egypt.

Yaakov (Jacob) and his family immigrated to Egypt many years prior to the Exodus. These verses can be read to mean that they lived there for four-hundred-thirty years.

However, it is an accepted historical fact that they were there for only two-hundred-ten years.

We also know that there Yitzchak (Isaac) was born four-hundred years prior to the Exodus.

Therefore, the Targum Yonasan Ben Uziel provides the following reading for verse 12:40:

And the years that the Children of Israel settled in Egypt were thirty Sabbatical years which total two-hundred-ten years (30 times 7). And a number of four-hundred-thirty years was from the time that G-D spoke to Avraham (Abraham), from the moment He spoke to him by the Covenant between the Pieces (Genesis 15:13) on the fifteenth of the month of Nissan until they left Egypt.

It was during this Covenant that G-D said, "You shall surely know that your seed will be a stranger in a land that is not theirs. And they will serve them and they will afflict them for four-hundred years."

The Targum reminds us that the Jewish people left Egypt four-hundred-thirty years from this Covenant, to the day.

Yitzchak was born thirty years after the Covenant. It was from then that Avraham had a seed who could live in a land that did not belong to him. Indeed, his descendants left Egypt four-hundred years later.

The Rav from Brisk, cited by the Shiras David, questions the need for two reference points, four-hundred-thirty years from the Covenant and four-hundred from the birth of Yitzchak.

He provides the following insight.

There were two aspects to the redemption from Egypt. One was that our suffering ceased. The other was that the exile was a period of spiritual development and transformation and we emerged on a relatively high level of spiritual maturity.

There were two moments of redemption, corresponding to these two aspects, and both are inherent in the Covenant.

There was a moment for the cessation of suffering. Its duration was explicitly stated as being four-hundred years. This began with the birth of Yitzchak.

There was also a moment for the duration of the development period. While not explicitly stated in the verses of the Covenant, we later learn that it began from then and lasted four-hundred-thirty years.

He then applies this to both the Babylonian exile and the exile that we are currently in.

The Babylonian exile was assigned a moment of redemption in terms of a duration for suffering. Like the Covenant, its duration was explicit and was seventy years (Yirmiyahu / Jeremiah 29:10). Indeed, the temple was restored to us seventy years after its destruction.

The exile that we are currently in was assigned a moment of redemption in terms of a duration of development. Like the Covenant, its duration was not openly specified.

May the redemption occur speedily in our days and may we all merit appreciating that which the Jewish people achieved from several millennia of development.


12:42 It is a night of watchfulness to take them out from the Land of Egypt. This is a night of watchfulness for all of the Children of Israel for their generations.

During the Seder of Passover night it is customary to open the door after the meal. The Ramah writes in the Shulchan Aruch that this custom reflects the above verse. As it is a night of watchfulness we open our door to show that we have nothing to fear.

The Be'er Yosef commentary asks the following question: If this custom is to demonstrate that we have nothing to fear during this special night then why don't we leave the door open throughout the Seder ceremony? Indeed, some have such a custom but the prevalent custom is to open it only after the meal.

The Be'er Yosef commentary suggests the following answer.

The sanctified meat of the Passover sacrifice could only be eaten in designated areas within the walls of Jerusalem. Furthermore, if the sacrificial meat is taken out of these areas then it becomes disqualified.

The Talmud also teaches that people who were knowledgeable in the laws of the Passover sacrifice were appointed as guides and monitors to help the participants fulfill the commandment.

It very possible that the entrances were cordoned off by the mentors during the meal to ensure that none of the meat was removed from the dining area.

We are also taught (Pesachim 85b) that when the Temple stood, when we finished eating the Passover sacrifice we would leave the dining area and ascend to roof tops to sing the Hallel praise.

The Be'er Yosef proposes that the massive open-air celebration was welcomed by the participants because they ate the sacrifice in a confined area.

We therefore have another reason for opening the door during the Seder ceremony, which is to remember the way that the Passover sacrifice was eaten. Since the doors remained closed until after the meal, we open them up after our meal, too.


When the mission of the Exodus was first introduced to Moshe (Moses), he was foretold that the following will happen:

3:22 "And a woman will borrow silver and gold utensils and clothing from her neighbor and tenant. And you will put (them) on your sons and daughters and you will empty out Egypt."

In our Torah reading, the time has finally arrived for this to be fulfilled. G-D commands Moshe to take the following action:

11:2 Please speak in the ears of nation and each man will borrow silver and gold utensils from his friend and each woman from her friend.

The Torah records that the following occurred during the Exodus:

12:35 And the children of Israel acted according to the word of Moshe. And they borrowed from Egypt silver and gold utensils and clothing.

Each of the three verses describe the same occurrence. Yet there are distinctive variances between them.

The first verse, which foretells the future, mentions only the women and it includes borrowing clothing.

The second verse is the commandment and it includes the men but omits the clothing.

The third verse, which describes what actually happened, seems to include both men and women and it also includes their borrowing the clothing.

Why did the Jewish people borrow clothing if they weren't commanded to do so? How do we understand the variance between the verses? What is the Torah trying to tell us?

Furthermore, Rashi in 12:35 states that the clothing were of the greatest importance, more than the silver and gold utensils. Why? By then, the Jewish people weren't destitute. They had their own clothing. Furthermore, they could have afforded a nice wardrobe from all the gold and silver that they hauled out of Egypt. Why was the Egyptian clothing so important to the Jewish people?

The following came to mind.

Why did G-D ask the Jewish people to borrow these things in the first place?

Rashi in 11:2 implies that it was a parting gift that G-D promised to the forefathers for their children. But 11:2 states, "Please speak..", as through G-D is pleading with them to do Him a favor by borrowing from the Egyptians. Why does G-D have to plead with them to take a gift?

The Sefurno commentary adds the following insight.

11:2 Please speak in the ears of nation and each man will borrow .." Don't worry that the Egyptians will exert themselves to chase after your to get back their money, for this will bring about your ultimate salvation.

With this Sefurno we now see that this was part of G-D's plan to incite the Egyptians into their final and fatal chase after the Jewish people. Borrowing valuables from the Egyptians looked dangerous and foolhardy to someone who did not have complete faith in G-D. But the Jewish people had this faith and more, as we will soon explain.

When the mission of the Exodus was first introduced to Moshe, G-D also introduced the Jewish people to him and G-D foretold that the Jewish people will demonstrate their faith in a great and lofty manner. They will do more things than they were asked in order to lure Pharaoh's army into a dangerous chase.

Perhaps the women's borrowing was featured up front to describe the extent of Jewish people's great faith, as follows.

There was no such thing as a Woman's Army Corps in those days. It would have therefore been sufficient for just the men to borrow things from the Egyptian men for only males needed to be incited.. However, some soldiers were married and probably most of the others had girl-friends. So having the Jewish women borrowing things from the Egyptian women brought an extra dimension of frenzy when Egypt realized that their valuables were going down the tubes.

Now, if an Egyptian man stood to lose his favorite goblet then this was bad. And if an Egyptian man stood to also lose his shirt or pants then this may or may not have been worse to him. Well now they had plenty of women who stood to lose the better part of their wardrobe, not just some gold or silver trinkets. This was unthinkable and intolerable!

Now we can see why borrowing the clothing was so precious to the Jewish people, for it gave them, and especially the women, an opportunity to demonstrate the extent of their faith in G-D.

The clothing was not part of the commandment as documented in 11:2. They complied with the letter of G-D's commandment and they also listened the message and intent behind His commandment, which is always so important.


12:26 And it will be (in the future) when your children will tell you, "What is this (Passover) service to you?"

12:27 And you will say, "It is a Pascal sacrifice to G-D who had mercy on the houses of the Children of Israel in Egypt when He smote Egypt and saved our houses." And the people bowed their heads and prostrated themselves.

The Passover Hagadah teaches that the Torah speaks to four types of children: one who is wise, one who is wicked, one who is simple, and one who doesn't know to ask. The Hagadah says that the question in 12:26 is posed by the wicked son who sees no significance in the Passover ceremony. He questions its value, 'What is this service to you?'

The Hagadah says to answer this child from 13:8, "(It is) because of this that G-D did (great miracles) for me when I went out from Egypt."

Why doesn't the Hagadah use 12:27, the adjacent verse which seems to be the Torah's answer?

Also, part of 12:27 is addressed to the third person, ".. who had mercy on the houses of the Children of Israel." But the verse ends in the first person, "and saved our houses." Why?

The following came to mind.

Perhaps the answer in the Hagadah is for the son and the response in the Torah is for the parent.

Among the righteous in the next world there will be those who had lapses into misconduct but who ended their lives on the right note. This is true hope for the parents of wicked son.

The Exodus process itself demonstrated G-D's guiding the nation towards righteousness and perfection, as it wasn't until the very end that everyone circumcised.

Together with whatever prayer and parental guidance a parent can do, the parent of a wayward son must never give up hope.

G-D had mercy on the homes our ancestors of long ago. We look to G-D, in His mercy and resources, to save every home today.


In this portion of the Torah there are three sections that deal with the Passover sacrifice. Two are located just prior to the tenth plague and the Exodus. The third section deals with the requirement for males to be circumcised before they can partake in the offering. It is written after the Exodus. This is somewhat unusual.

The second section concludes with the following verse:

12:28 And the Children of Israel went and did just like G-d commanded Moshe and Aharon (Moses and Aaron), they did so.

The third section ends with the following verse:

12:50 And all of the Children of Israel did just like G-d commanded Moshe and Aharon, they did so.

From a chronological perspective, this third section is better placed adjacent to the second and prior to the Exodus. It has relevance to the first Passover offering, which occurred beforehand.

What is the Torah trying to tell us by writing it after the Exodus?

Also, there is a difference between the two verses quoted above. The second section ends by saying that the Children went and did that which G-d commanded, whereas the third section just says that the Children of Israel did that which G-d commanded. What does this difference signify?

Finally, the Torah writes about the commandment to sanctify the first born after the third section. Why?

The following came to mind.

Perhaps this can be understood together with the following Medrash (Bo 7)

Many (Jews initially) balked at the requirement to circumcise. (I understand this to have been caused by the decades of enslavement and exploitation.) G-d (still) decreed that they must perform the Passover sacrifice (which requires its participants to be circumcised). (On the eve of Passover,) G-d decreed that the four winds of the world blow, those that (also) provide winds for the Garden of Eden, and the winds of the Garden of Eden went (forth) and adhered to the Passover offering (of Moses). (The scent was so powerful that) it extended a distance of a forty-day journey. All of the Jewish people (were overcome by the aroma,) gathered near Moshe and pleaded for a taste. He responded that it was G-d's decree that they can't eat from it until they are circumcised. They immediately gave themselves to circumcise. The blood of circumcision (actually) became mingled with the blood of the sacrifice. G-d (Himself) stood and took (the souls) of each and every person, He kissed them and He blessed them.

This Medrash sheds a profound light on the degree of compassion and understanding that G-d has with humanity and the Jewish people. Despite the numerous miracles of the nine plagues, our people were still stuck in their downtrodden spiritual state of affairs to the degree that they couldn't bring themselves to circumcise.

Perhaps this is why it doesn't say by circumcision that the people 'went and did just like G-d commanded Moshe.' Rather, they were brought to do it.

It is somewhat unfortunate that the Jewish people initially needed to be prodded into circumcising. Despite this, G-d saved them during the plague of the first born. Perhaps this is all hinted by the Torah writing this out of chronological order and then writing the laws of redeeming the first-born afterwards.

While this section is chronologically out of order, perhaps we can view this as a lesson about G-d's compassion for his people, an understanding of their distress, and a respect for their dignity.

Since then, circumcision has become source of pride and even celebration within the Jewish people. It is ingrained, part and parcel of every true Jewish family.


12:31 .. And (when the Jewish people left Egypt) they did not make any food (to eat for the journey).

The Exodus occurred with a great rush. They were only able to grab the leftovers from the Passover meal. They were just too busy to bother with any other food. They had other things on their mind.

We find in later in Beshalach (15:20) after the sea split: And Miriam the Prophetess, the sister of Aharon, took the tambourine in her hand and all of the women followed her with tambourines and dance.

Where did they get the tambourines from? Rashi comments that the righteous women of that generation were certain that G-d would perform a miracle, so they made sure to take musical instruments for praise and celebration.

They were going into the desert for at least a six-day journey. No one thought to prepare for food. Yet, they thought to prepare how they were going to thank G-d.


Beshalach (Exodus 13-17)

13:17 And it was when Pharaoh sent (out) the people (of Israel that) G-d did not lead them by way of the Land of the Philistines because it was near (Egypt.) For G-d said, "Lest the people have a change of heart and return to Egypt when they see battle."

The Hebrew for "And it was" is 'Vayehi.'

The Medrash teaches that this word signals something ill-omened. That is, the meaning of the 'Vay' in this word is the same as the 'Vay' in 'Oy-Vay.'

The Medrash on this verse directs most of the 'Oy-Vays on Pharaoh, who lost his son in the tenth plague, whose country was devastated by the plagues, and who was forced to release his grip on the Jewish people and watch them walk off with much of Egypt's wealth.

But the Medrash directs one towards Moshe (Moses). This is what the Medrash says.

Who said Vay? It was Moshe. This can be likened to a matchmaker who succeeded in finding a mate for the king's daughter. He went to the star-gazers and learned that he will attend the engagement but will not live to see the wedding. He began to cry. When asked, he bemoaned the fact that while his efforts succeeded to bring the princess out of her father's home, he will not see her being escorted into her new home. Similarly, Moshe cried over the fact that while he succeeded in bringing the Jewish people out of Egypt, he will not live to see them enter the Promised Land.

The Chamudei Tzvi commentary asks the following. What hint does this verse give of a tragedy that has relevance to Moshe?

He writes the following.

The Torah uses several words to reference the Jewish people.

One is that they are descendants of Yaakov (Jacob). Another is that they are descendants of Yisroel (Israel). Another is simply 'the people.'

If you recall, Yaakov's name was changed by G-D to Yisroel. This was in recognition of his success in coping with the many barriers he had to maintain his greatness.

The commentators say that when the Torah uses the word 'Yisroel' it signifies a state of spiritual elevation and success.

Conversely when it uses the word 'the people,' it signifies being in a lower state of spiritual readiness.

We note that our verse refers to those who were emancipated as being 'the people,' not the Children of Israel.

That's the hint.

For you may recall a verse that the Jewish people were supposed to be enslaved for four-hundred years. (Genesis 15:13)

Had they remained for the term, then they would have endured enough purge and refinement to experience an everlasting redemption.

But alas, they didn't cope well with the pressures of assimilation and G-D found it necessary to rescue them from spiritual self-destruction. He cut the exile short to maintain the Covenant He made with Avraham (Abraham) and to ensure that His plan for the ultimate redemption will succeed.

Being pulled out before becoming 'well done' put us at risk for back-sliding, which we did at Mount Sinai by the Golden Calf and in other episodes.

The premature redemption, combined with the back-slides caused a need for more exiles, which turned into a painful Jewish history. And part of this history was the destruction of two temples.

But while we were all not in an elite state, we were led by someone who on the other extreme.

Moshe was so great, that had he entered the Promised Land and built the temple for us, it would have been indestructible.

But had the temple been indestructible, then instead of pouring His Wrath on wood and stones, G-d would have had no choice to pour His Wrath on the Jewish people themselves.

Rather than opting for losing more of His children, G-D opted for keeping Moshe out of the land until such time that we are 'done' and ready for a temple that will be indestructible.

And so, it was fitting for Moshe to also cry out, 'Vay.'

May we all merit to greet him very soon.


13:17 And it was when Pharaoh sent (out) the people (of Israel that) G-d did not lead them by way of the Land of the Philistines because it was near (Egypt.) For G-d said, "Lest the people have a change of heart and return to Egypt when they see battle."

At face value, it appears that the people were not prepared or willing to conquer the Promised Land. However, according to the way Rashi and Unkolus translate the next verse, the Jewish people were armed and were therefore prepared for combat, if necessary.

Also, the Oral Torah notes that the Jewish people demonstrated great faith and courage when they slaughtered the Passover sacrifice because the Egyptians worshipped the sheep.

G-d promised the land to the Jewish people. If they needed a war of conquest, surely G-d would grant them victory. G-d had already helped them so much, already. Why would an armed conflict make them want to return to Egypt?

The Targum Yonosan Ben Uziel provides the following translation and fascinating commentary for this verse:

And it was when Pharaoh sent (out) the people (of Israel that) G-d did not lead them by way of the Land of the Philistines because it was near (Egypt.) For G-d said, "Lest the people have a change of heart and return to Egypt when they see their brethren who died in battle."

These were the two-hundred-thousand soldiers from the Tribe of Ephraim. They were joined together (in battle) with shields, spears, and (other) weapons. They (left Egypt some thirty years earlier and) swept down into (the city of) Gas to plunder the Philistines' wine-presses. Since they transgressed the Word of G-d by leaving thirty years earlier than the designated end (of the Egyptian exile,) they fell into the hands of the Philistines and were killed by them.

(Their bodies were left strewn over the battlefield. Eventually, only their bones remained.) They became the dry bones in the Valley of Dura and G-d revived them back to life through Yechezkel the Prophet.

Had the Jewish people seen them, they would have become frightened and they would have wanted to return to Egypt.

The Targum appears to answer our question. The Jewish people were not afraid to fight if necessary. However, the sight of their fallen comrades would have been too much of a shock.

Still, more explanation is needed because the soldiers from Tribe of Ephraim were killed because they left Egypt too early. The Jewish people were now leaving Egypt by command G-d and this Exodus was fully authorized. Since they were complying with G-d's will, why would the sight of their fallen comrades have discouraged them? Furthermore, didn't the Jewish people already have enough of Egypt? Why would they have opted to return to Egypt, of all places? In fact, we see them considering a return to Egypt much later on in their story.

The following came to mind.

The Jewish people were impressed into the Egyptian Exile because of G-d's covenant with Avraham (Abraham).

Genesis 12:13 You shall surely know that your children will be strangers in a land that is not theirs. And they will serve them and they will afflict them for four-hundred years.

A simple reading of this verse implies that the Egyptian exile was to last four-hundred years. In fact, it lasted only two-hundred-ten years.

The commentaries teach that G-d compressed the four-hundred years of discomfort into two-hundred-ten years of extreme suffering. That is, the shorter exile was equivalent to a four-hundred-year exile in quality of life.

They teach that G-d decided to cut short the exile because the spirituality of Jewish people was becoming adversely affected by the Egyptian culture. Unfortunately, a number of Jews adopted idolatry and there were Jews who no longer circumcised. Had the Egyptian Exile continued any longer, the Jewish people would have no longer been worthy of the redemption.

So, the exile was cut short because of a shortcoming. It follows that had the Jewish people been spiritually stronger, it would have been better for them to stay in Egypt fore the remaining one-hundred-ninety years.

We note that they were later held responsible for the three-thousand people who worshipped the Golden Calf. We also note that only two of the six-hundred-thousand people who left Egypt actually made it to the Promised Land. It is a somber fact that most of our history since the Exodus is that of a nation in Exile. In all probability, Jewish and world history would have been dramatically different had the purging Egyptian Exile run its natural course of four-hundred years.

With this in mind, perhaps we can better understand the Targum.

The soldiers from Ephraim left Egypt too early and they were destroyed. The rest of the Jewish people were also leaving Egypt early. Only, this Exodus was authorized by G-d, but through compromise.

Initially, they needed to leave early because of their low spiritual level. However, they had just witnessed the miraculous ten plagues. They were strengthened in Judaism and Jewish practice and perhaps felt now able to remain Jewish in Egypt for the remaining one-hundred-ninety years.

Perhaps the sight of their fallen comrades would have moved them to return and complete the Exile so as to provide for a more fulfilling redemption at a later date.

While this may have been a good idea, G-d had decided by then to end the exile.

The current exile is exceptionally long. In a sense, this is a consolation because we are taught that G-d has committed to let the exile run its natural course. When the redemption will come, it will be complete and final.


13:19 And Moshe took the bones of Yosef (Joseph) with him for he [Yosef] made the Children of Yisroel firmly swear saying, "G-D will surely remember you and you shall bring up my bones from here with you."

The Jewish people were commanded by G-D prior to the Exodus to borrow valuables and clothing from their Egyptian neighbors.

Moshe exhumed the remains of Yosef while everyone else was busy doing this. The Medrash associates his choice to do this with the following verse: "The wise at heart takes mitzvos (G-D's commandments) …" (Mishlay / Parables 10:8)

Since the activities that both the Jewish people and Moshe were doing were fulfilling G-D's will, why was Moshe singled out for being "wise at heart"?

Rav Sorotzkin (Rinas Yitzchak) answers that Moshe's act was indeed superior. While borrowing valuables did fulfill G-D's will, it lasted for only a moment. In contrast, Moshe undertook the responsibility to care for Yosef's remains and this would last throughout the entire journey.

The Medrash is reminding us that fulfilling a mitzvah is a privilege.


13:19 And Moshe [Moses] took the bones [remains] of Yosef [Joseph] with him. Because he [Yosef] made the children of Israel swear saying, "G-d will surely remember you (and He will make the Exodus happen.) And you will bring up my bones from this with you (out of Egypt)."

The Talmud (Sotah 13a) connects what Moshe did with the following verse: "He who has wisdom in his heart will take Mitzvos." (Proverbs 10:8)

The Jewish people were charged to borrow valuables from the Egyptians before they left the country. While they were busy gathering valuables for themselves, Moshe occupied himself with caring with Yosef's remains. The verse in Proverbs therefore cites him for his wisdom.

The Klei Yakar commentary explains that the Talmud was puzzled by an extra phrase in our Torah reading. Verse 13:19 could have been written, "And Moshe [Moses] took the bones [remains] of Yosef [Joseph]." Why does the Torah add the words "with him"?

The answer is that when a person leaves this world he leaves behind all of the valuables that he collected during his lifetime. He can only take his good deeds, his Mitzvos, onto the next world.

So everyone else was busy collecting objects that would only be of use for them during their tenure in this world, but not in the next. However, Moshe focused on something that could be taken onto the next world. Hence he was cited for his wisdom.


13:19 And Moshe [Moses] took the bones [remains] of Yosef [Joseph] with him. Because he [Yosef] made the children of Israel swear saying, "G-d will surely remember you (and He will make the Exodus happen.) And you will bring up my bones from this with you (out of Egypt)."

This oath is recorded in Genesis 50:25. It's almost identical, with a slight variation. As students of the Torah, we know that this is a clue for us to find a hidden treasure.

Here's the oath in Genesis 50:25.

And Yosef made the children of Israel swear saying, "G-d will surely remember you (and He will make the Exodus happen.) And you will bring up my bones from this."

Hmmm.

What is the intention behind the words, "from this?"

Exodus 13:19 has the word(s), "with you" but Genesis 50:25 doesn't. Why?

Yosef wanted to be buried in the Holy Land. The oath could have been written as follows: "Bring up my bones (for burial in Israel) 'from this' when G-d remembers you. However, the actual wording of the oath seems to include the fact that G-d will remember the Jewish people. Why?

The following came to mind.

Perhaps Yosef was most concerned that the dark and tormenting slavery should not make the Jewish people loose hope in the redemption. Perhaps this was a major focus of the oath.

The Jewish people were at the apex of Egyptian civilization at the time of this oath. The viceroy was their patron. They knew about a foretold period of slavery but this was far from their mind.

The Oral Torah tells us that the Egyptians sunk Yosef's coffin in the Nile River. By the Exodus, it took a miracle for Moshe bring Moshe's coffin to the surface. He wouldn't have even known its exact location without the assistance of the aged Serach, daughter of Asher, who was still alive at that time.

Perhaps Yosef's words, "from this" is a reference to the Nile, his resting place.

Perhaps we can picture the Jewish people surrounding the death bed of Yosef, knowing that his coffin will be sunk and its site will be lost to future generations. At this moment they are all noblemen. While Yosef's body will sink into the Nile, they don't relate this with the sinking of their own fate. However, Yosef can see beyond the moment.

Yosef says that they will bring his bones up from the Nile "with you." However, these last words don't register yet. Perhaps this is why they are not recorded at that time. However, some day their relevance will be obvious. It will occur when the Jewish people are sunk in the depths of despair from slavery. They will remember Yosef's oath not to lose hope. They will remember that Yosef was certain that his body can and will be recovered from the Nile - somehow. They will remember that they will be redeemed - somehow.

Here we are, some thirty-two centuries later. We also say that we will be redeemed - somehow.


14:3 And Pharaoh will say 'L' (about - Unkolus and Rashi) the Children of Israel that they are lost in the land, the wilderness has closed in on them.

As noted, both Unkolus and Rashi translate the prefix 'L' to mean about.

The prefix 'L' is frequently translated to mean to. In fact, the Targum Yonosan Ben Uziel translates it in this manner.

And Pharaoh will say to Dasan and Aviram, Children of Israel who remained in Egypt, that the Nation of Israel is lost in the land,

It is an astonishing fact that there were Jews who did not participate in the redemption and they remained in Egypt.

There are many facts that are not mentioned in the Torah. What lesson can we derive by Torah sharing this particular fact with us?

The following came to mind.

Dasan and Aviram were obviously lacking in spirituality. Not only did they refuse to participate in the Exodus, they were even Pharaoh's confidants.

They eventually joined up with the Jewish people. We even find them later in this Parsha.

16:20 And they did not listen to Moshe. And men left over from it [from their Manna] until the morning

Rashi (the Medrash) says that this were Dasan and Aviram.

Later on, the Jewish people were condemned to wander forty years in the desert because they tested G-d ten times. (Numbers 13:22) We are taught that the incident of the Manna was counted in as one of the ten tests.

We can take a lesson from here that the actions of each and every person are of great significance, even those that are done by the wicked among us. Everyone counts. Let no one feel that both he and his actions are insignificant.


14:16 And you (shall) raise your staff and stretch your hand over the sea and split it. And the children of Israel will go in the midst of the sea on dry land.

14:17 And I will harden the heart of Egypt and they will come after you. And I will be honored through Pharaoh and all of his forces, with his chariot and horse-men.

14:18 And Egypt will know that I am G-D when I am honored through Pharaoh, his chariot and horse-men.

The Sefurno commentary provides the following for 14:18:

"And Egypt will know.." Those who remained in Egypt. (They will come to know) and will return to me [repent]. For I do not want the death of the dead [wicked] ... (Yechezkel/Ezekiel 18:32)

The Torah records that a mixed multitude of people accompanied the Jewish people during their Exodus. (12:36) They came to recognize G-D and the spiritual significance of the Exodus. They seized on this spiritual opportunity for themselves and benefited greatly from it.

The Sefurno appears to be referring to the Egyptians who were not moved to accompany the Jewish people and who chose to remain behind. They appeared to be indifferent to the spiritual significance of the Exodus. Their only saving grace was that they were not part of the armed force that was bent on destroying the Jewish people.

It is about these people that the Sefurno writes that G-D wanted to salvage their spirituality.

This gives us a glimpse of G-D's concern for the spiritual welfare of all of Mankind.

Given the awesome and open prior demonstrations of G-D's existence and power, perhaps the Egyptian army's pursuit of the Jewish people was too great a desecration of G-D's Name and they were only able to spiritually compensate for themselves through their destruction in a manner that would bring honor to G-D's Name. Perhaps this is why there is an emphasis in 14:17-18 on giving honor to G-D. It was for their benefit, not for G-D's.


14:22 And the Children of Israel came into the sea bed on dry land. And the waters were for them a wall to their right and to their left.

The Book of Psalms adds: … And they rebelled by the sea in the Sea of Reeds (106:7).

Some of the Jewish people panicked while we were in the sea. The Even Ezra commentary explains that they refused to continue on.

Why?

The Talmud says that they said: “Just as we are going to emerge on this side so will the Egyptians emerge on the other side.”

Given that they had the faith to both leave Egypt and journey into the sea, Tosfos wonders what made them say this.

Tosfos says that they saw that their path wasn’t going to take them across the sea thereby separating them from the Egyptian army. Rather they were travelling somewhat parallel to the shore and were going to emerge further down on the same side where the Egyptians could still get them. They couldn’t imagine that the Egyptians were stupid enough to enter onto the sea bed and continue the chase.

But that itself was a miracle, perhaps one of the greatest of them all.


14:30 And G-D saved Israel from the hand of Egypt on that day. And Israel saw Egypt's [soldiers laying] dead on the sea shore.

14:31 And Israel saw the Great Hand that G-D did to Egypt. And they believed in G-D and Moshe His servant.

From the way it is written it sounds like the Jewish people did not believe in G-D until they saw the miracles by the splitting of the sea. This is puzzling because they had just witnessed a myriad of miracles during the year preceding this Exodus.

Rabbi Bick of blessed memory offers the following explanation.

Up to now, through all of their challenges and tribulations they always saw the possibility of a natural way out, even when their salvation was clearly of Divine origin.

For instance, they could have achieved the same degree of political freedom by instigating a rebellion and overthrowing Pharaoh's regime.

In contrast, being hemmed in by the sea and surrounded by the mightiest army of their time presented them for the first time with a situation from which it appeared naturally impossible for them to survive.

Their emergence from this truly impossible situation by the Hand of G-D raised the intensity of their belief to a new level and warranted recognition.


14:30 And G-D saved Israel from the hand of Egypt on that day. And Israel saw Egypt's [soldiers laying] dead on the sea shore.

The Talmud (Pesachim 118b) records the following, based on the teaching of Rav Hunah:

Rav Nosson said that it was the fish in the sea who said, "And the truth of G-D is forever." (Tehilim / Psalms 117:2)

"And they [the Jewish people] rebelled by the sea in the Sea of Reeds." (Psalms 106:7).

This verse teaches us that the Jewish people rebelled when the sea was split. They said, "Just as we come out of the sea on this side, so will the Egyptians come out on the other side and they will continue to chase us."

G-D told the minister [Angel] of the Sea to eject the dead Egyptians onto the shore so that the Jewish people would see that there was nobody to be afraid of.

Master of the Universe, said the Angel, does a Master take back a gift that he gave his servant?

Rashi explains that the gift was the bodies of the dead Egyptian soldiers, as the fish would have fed upon them.

G-D responded, "I'll give you one and a half times this amount at a later time."

The Angel said, "Master of the Universe, can a servant ever demand payment from its Master?"

G-D responded, "The Brook of Kishon will guarantee the loan for me."

The Angel of the Sea immediately ejected the Egyptians onto the shore so that the Jewish people could come and see them.

What was meant by one and a half times that amount?

Pharaoh came with six-hundred chariots but Sisro's army was later swept away by the Brook of Kishon and they had nine-hundred chariots.

Tosfos (Arachin 15a) is puzzled by the math because both armies had many foot-soldiers in addition to the chariot crews. Tosfos responds that this doesn't matter.

The Talmud concludes that this is why the fish of the sea later sang, "And the truth of G-D is forever," for G-D paid back this ancient debt with Sisro's nine-hundred chariots.

This is all very puzzling.

Does the Angel of the Sea worry about running short of fish food? Why wasn't the Angel of the Fish worried? Why did the Angle haggle with G-D? Why did it need to be appeased by G-D with a guarantee? Why were the foot-soldiers not taken into account? If the Angel was worried about the food then why didn't it sing when G-D paid back the debt?

Finally, what type of rebellion was this?

The following came to mind.

It's an understatement to say that the lead up to this climax of the Exodus could put anybody at maximum stress levels.

The Jewish people weren't handling their anxiety. They didn't focus on the fact that G-D knows what's best for them and that the situation is completely under His control.

We balked but this is written up as a rebellion, given the greatness that we had just achieved and all the wonders that we experienced.

Perhaps the Angel of the Sea wasn't really worried about having enough fish food. Rather, the negotiations were meant to gently remind the Jewish people to get back on track and rely on G-D. Had it been for real then it would have been inappropriate for the Angel to ask for a guarantee. This is why the actual tonnage of fish food didn't matter. The Angel of the Sea didn't join in on the song out of its deep respect for the Jewish people, as it had previously taken a role in reminding them about G-D's role, abilities, and His relationship with us.


15:1 Then ('Az') did Moshe (Moses) and the Children of Israel this song to G-D and they said, saying.

The Medrash the following:

Moshe said, "Master of the Universe, I praise You with that which I have sinned before You."

Rabbi Levi son of Chiya likens this to a city that rebelled against the king. The king's general discouraged him from re-conquering the city because he felt that the king did not have sufficient resources to do so. That night, the king re-conquered the city on his own, without the general. Thereupon, the general came to the king and presented him with a crown. The king asked him to explain the new crown and the general replied that he had sinned against the king by saying that the re-conquest was impossible.

Similarly, Moshe was saying that he had sinned before G-D with the word 'Az' and he was now praising G-D with the same word, 'Az.'

The first 'Az' is in an earlier verse in Exodus.

6:22 And Moshe returned to G-D and said, "Oh G-D, why have You caused bad to occur to this nation, why did You send me?"

6:23 "And from when ('Az') I came to Pharaoh to speak in Your Name he did evil to this nation. And You have not saved Your nation."

What is the symbolism of the crown? Could the general have given the king some other gift? How can we use it to understand what Moshe was trying to say?

The following came to mind.

We have a saying that nothing stands in the way of will if it is strong enough.

The general realized that he did not sufficiently appreciate and internalize the will of his king. Had he done so then he would have led the conquest himself.

So the king actualized his will by exerting himself and conquered the city without the general.

A crown symbolizes a king's supremacy.

The general failed to recognize the supremacy of his king and he was now recognizing it by presenting the king with a new crown.

Similarly, Moshe realized that he should have recognized that the misfortune of the Jewish people at that time reflected G-D's will and he should have accepted it and not complained. That is, the temporal misfortune of the Jewish people stunned Moshe and caused him to lapse in recognizing G-D's supremacy, in strategy and capability.

As it turned out, the misfortune was a painful but necessary turn of events that contributed to the great salvation that Moshe and the Children of Israel were now praising G-D for.


15:2 … This is my G-D and I will beautify Him, the G-D of my father and I will exalt Him.

By the splitting of the sea, everyone's awareness of G-D's existence was very intense. A Medrash teaches that at that time a common slave-woman had a greater vision then our later prophets.

It is interesting to compare this with how the Nesivas Shalom commentary defines "Gilui Shechina," or a revelation of the Divine presence. As it states in the Hagaddah, there was Gilui Shechina at the time of the Exodus. The Nesivas Shalom says that it occurred during the plague of the first born.

The Jewish people were at their lowest spiritual point during those final moments of their exile in Egypt. We are taught that the spiritual deterioration was so extensive that had we remained there a moment, the damage would have been irreparable and we would have never been able to become the Chosen People.

The fact that G-D took us out at that moment demonstrated His infinite love of the Jewish people. That, says the Nesivas Shalom in last week's Torah reading, was the "Gilui Shechina."

The Nesivas Shalom goes further and defines what "Geulah," and "Galus" are.

Geulah is the internalization of an awareness. Galus is a loss of that awareness.

"Geulah," commonly translated as redemption, is essentially when a person grabs on to a realization that he is G-D's child, that G-D loves him, that G-D sticks it out with him no matter what the person's spiritual gage reads.

"Galus," commonly translated as exile, is essentially when a person loses sight and his grip on this.


15:17 Bring them and plant them in the mountain of your inheritance, a prepared place that you made for your dwelling, Oh G-d. A sanctuary, that which your hands fashioned, G-d.

15:18 G-d shall be king forever.

15:19 Ki (for?) Pharaoh's cavalry came, with its chariots and horsemen into the sea. And G-d brought back upon them the waters of the sea. And the Children of Israel walked upon dry land in the midst of the sea.

The Jewish people sang the Song By The Sea at the finale of the Exodus, as the bodies of the defeated Egyptian soldiers were washed up upon the seashore. It was the apex of the Exodus and the experience brought moments of prophecy to the Jewish people. The Medrash teaches that even the handmaidens by the sea experienced a heavenly vision that rivals that of Yechezkel (Ezekeil).

Verses 17 and 18 record some of their visions into the future Messianic Era, when all of mankind will recognize G-d role in history they will forever accept G-d's rule.

Verse 19, the final verse of the song is puzzling because it appears to be a fragmentary flashback. How can we understand this verse? What is the Torah trying to tell us?

The first word of this verse is also puzzling. Rashi translates the first word "Ki", as meaning "when."

15:18 G-d shall be king forever.

15:19 When Pharaoh's cavalry came, with its chariots and horsemen into the sea. And G-d brought back upon them the waters of the sea. And the Children of Israel walked upon dry land in the midst of the sea.

How do we understand this?

The following came to mind.

15:18 contains the very first instance in the Torah when G-d is recognized and termed a king by human beings. This suggests some very significant realizations.

A king has the resources and ability to manage the affairs of his state to achieve them. A king has agendas, desires, and goals and they provide direction for his management.

G-d is the world's greatest manager.

G-d managed natural events and brought Pharaoh's to decide to chase after the Jewish people. So, "Pharaoh's cavalry came into the sea with its chariots and horsemen."

G-d managed supernatural events and "brought back upon them the waters of the sea."

Avraham, Yitzchok, and Yaakov (Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob) worked to developed a close relation with G-d, so G-d chose to uplift their descendents.

Therefore, "the Children of Israel walked upon dry land in the midst of the sea."

The Song of the Sea does not merely describe an isolated demonstration of G-d's ability to manage. Neither does it describe an isolated demonstration of G-d's commitment to direct events for the needs of the descendents of Avraham, Yitzchok, and Yaakov.

At the pinnacle of their prophetic vision, the Jewish people saw that these newly revealed aspects of G-d will directly contribute to bring the world towards completion, eventually bringing the world to a period when "G-d shall be king forever."

Perhaps this is the meaning of the word "when" in 15:19. Once the Jewish people saw the horsemen washed up on the shore and yet they were safe, it was then that they fully grasped that G-d will be the king forever.


15:18 G-D will reign forever.

15:19 Because the horses of Pharaoh, went together with its chariot and rider into the sea and G-D returned the waters of sea on them. And the Children of Israel walked on dry land in the midst of the sea.

15:19 is the concluding verse of the Song of the Sea.

The Targum Yonasan Ben Uziel adds the following to the end of 15:19: And the Children of Israel walked on dry land in the midst of the sea. And sweet waters came up from there, together with fruit trees, green vegetables, and delicacies.

15:19 appears to be a reason for G-D reigning forever. How does 15:19 bring this out?

The Torah provides some detail about the splitting of the sea in 14:22: "And the Children of Israel went into the sea on dry land. And the waters were a wall for them to their right and to their left." Why was the detail in our verse mentioned here and not earlier?

The following came to mind.

The events as they occurred brought the Jewish people to a realization that G-D will reign forever.

A king needs management and control, a system of law and order, and resources.

The first part of 15:19 reminds us that G-D was able to draw Pharaoh and his entire army out of Egypt and into the sea for their final judgment, it records the judgment, and together with the Targum, tells us that G-D was provided resources in a most unusual place and manner.


15:20 And Miriam the prophetess, sister of Aharon, took the tambourine in her hand and all of the women went out after her with tambourines and dances.

15:21 And Miriam answered (back) for them, "Sing to G-D for He is greatly exalted. He lifted up (both) the horse and its rider in the sea."

Miriam was the sister of both Moshe (Moses) and Aharon (Aaron). Why does the verse 15:20 single out Aharon? Rashi provides the following commentary:

(Only Aharon is mentioned because) she became a prophetess when she was just the sister of Aharon, prior to Moshe's birth. She said (at that time), "My mother is destined to give birth to a child that will save the Jewish people," as explained in the Talmud (Sotah 13). Another (reason) for (only) Aharon being associated with her is that he gave himself over to help her when she became leprous

Rashi's second reason refers to Numbers 12 when Miriam was punished by G-D for speaking improperly about Moshe. His source is the Mechilta.

The following is recorded in Numbers 12:

Numbers 12:11 And Aharon said to Moshe, "Please, my master, do not cast sin upon us for our having acting foolishly and sinning."

Numbers 12:12 "Please not let her become like a corpse, that has half of its flesh eaten up as it emerges from its mother's womb."

Numbers 12:13 And Moshe cried out to G-D saying, "Please G-D heal her now."

Aharon asked Moshe to pray for Miriam, Moshe prayed for her, and G-D healed Miriam.

Why does the Mechilta credit only Aharon?

Why did our Rashi to offer two reasons for associating Aharon with Miriam? Is it to enhance the second, that of the Mechilta? How?

Here is the Mechilta:

(Was she) Aharon's sister and not Moshe's? What can we learn from 'sister of Aharon?' She was associated with Aharon since Aharon gave himself over to help her. Similarly, "Shimon (Simon) and Levi, brothers of Dina (Genesis 34)." Wasn't she also the sister of the other brothers? What can we learn from 'brothers of Dina?' Since they gave themselves over to help her she is associated with them. Similarly, 'Kozbi daughter of the Prince of Midian, their (Midian's) sister (Numbers 25).' … Since she gave herself over to help her nation she is associated with them.

The Mechilta brings three examples. In the second case, Shimon and Levi were called brothers because they exerted themselves for Dina. In the third case, Kozbi was called a sister because she exerted herself for her nation. Since those who exert themselves are called brother/sister, we should therefore expect Aharon to be called Miriam's brother because he exerted himself for her. Instead, in our verse we have Miriam being called Aharon's sister, which is the reverse.

Finally, if Aharon is to be given credit for exerting himself, why doesn't the Torah give him the title of brother in Numbers 12? Why is the Torah associating him with Miriam here, over one book prior.

The following came to mind.

The Torah is recording Miriam's great prophetic experience. And, her prophetic experiences preceded those of Moshe, as Rashi states in the first part of his commentary. This is of great relevance to the Mechilta, as we shall soon see.

The Rambam (Maimonides) made a compilation of thirteen principles of the Jewish faith. The seventh principle reads as follows: "I believe with perfect faith that the prophecy of Moshe's was true. He was the chief of all prophets both before and after him."

Miriam was a great prophet, but Moshe was even greater. He was even on a different plane, as the Rambam explains in his section entitled Daos.' Miriam's prophecy preceded that of Moshe but that was irrelevant.

This belief is a fundamental cornerstone of our faith, for this secures exclusive legitimacy in the teachings of Moshe, that which we call the Written and Oral Torahs. No one can come after Moshe and tell us to do otherwise, whether he/she bases his assertion on his/her own prophetic experience or whether it is based on a teaching of a prophet that preceded Moshe. A partial source of this principle is Numbers 12:6-8, neighboring verses of Aharon's encounter with Moshe.

Perhaps Rashi's first commentary and the Mechilta's link with Numbers 12 are intended to put Miriam's revelation in the context of this principle.

Despite Miriam's prophetic precedence and despite her current prophecy that resonated with Moshe's, and as great a person as she was, her experiences and her contributions were of no comparison to those of Moshe.

Perhaps the reason Moshe wasn't associated with Miriam as Miriam's brother was because the Torah wanted to emphasize his uniqueness. With respect to prophecy, Moshe had no brother or sister.

Since the focus on this principle is brought on by Miriam's revelation, the Torah writes that Miriam was Aharon's sister, not that Aharon was Miriam's brother.

The association was made here to reference the teaching of Numbers 12, written later in the Torah.

This principle is part of an interrelated system that preserved mankind's greatest record of G-D's will and it has demonstrated its ability to do so for over 33 centuries.


15:22 And Moshe (Moses) made the Jewish People travel from the Sea of Reeds. And they went forth to the wilderness of Shur. …

What is the Torah trying to tell us by saying that Moshe made the people travel away from the sea?

Rashi provides the following commentary:

He made them travel against their will.

The Egyptians adorned their horses with gold and silver ornaments and with precious gems. The Jewish People found them in the sea. The spoils of the sea were worth much more than the spoils that they took out of Egypt … Therefore, he had to make them travel against their will.

What's wrong with giving the Jewish people a little more time to harvest wealth from the sea?

I was taught that the Jewish people were rushed away in order to keep the Giving of the Torah on schedule, which was to occur forty-three days later.

Still, since their manner of travel was miraculous, couldn't G-D make the clouds that carried them go a bit faster to make up for the delay? Did G-D's clouds have to observe some speed limit?

The following came to mind.

Yes, the Jewish people were torn away from this opportunity to gain wealth. Yes, they were told that the delay interfered with their great journey to Sinai.

I see this all as a preparation for their receiving the Torah.

The message is clear: It's worth giving up many pocketfuls of diamonds in order to get to learn Torah.

And it's worth giving up many pocketfuls of diamonds to demonstrate this.

It is upon this foundation that we went forth, towards an encounter with G-D that has no equal in human history, to establish and exchange a set of unshakable commitments with G-D Himself.


15:22 And Moshe made Israel travel from the Sea of Suf ..

Rashi comments that Moshe met resistance from the people when it came time for them to travel.

G-d made the Egyptians think to adorn their horses with gold, silver and jewelry. It all washed up on the shore and the people were excitedly "raking it in." It was hard to stop when it was time for them to go.

In last week's reading we have the following (paraphrased) verse where G-d says to Moshe:

11:2 "Please speak to the nation so that each man and woman should borrow from their neighbors some golden and silver utensils."

Rashi notes the word, "Please." G-d is asking Moshe for a favor. Please strongly encourage the people to get some gold and silver from the Egyptians. Says G-d, I promised Avraham that his children will leave with great wealth and I need the people to cooperate for this to happen.

How do you understand this Rashi?

Why did the Jewish people need encouragement to take gold and silver in Parshas Bo and in Parshas Beshalach the people needed to be restrained from taking the gold and silver?

To understand Rashi, note that the Jewish people weren't cleared from Egypt until the Miracle of the Sea, when Pharaoh's forces were decimated.

One can therefore say that G-d intended to fulfill the promise with the booty from the sea. In fact, the Medrash says that the wealth obtained from the sea far exceeded the wealth that the Jewish people took out of Egypt.

The Jewish people left Egypt physically on the first day of Passover, but they left politically and completely on the seventh day. When they left on the first day they did not know what would happen on the seventh day and they could have assumed that this by itself was the full Exodus. Had they not taken any wealth out with them on the first day, it would have provided an appearance of a promise unfulfilled by G-d. Thus, it was presented as a favor for the people to take out the wealth.

By the sea, we see that it was not necessary to ask the Jewish people to do G-d a favor and take the Egyptian wealth. Just the opposite. They had to be separated from the harvest by force.

Horav Dovid Kronglass Zecher Tzadik Levracha, the former Mashgiach of Yeshivas Ner Yisroel of Baltimore noted the change as a part of human nature.

While in Egypt, the Jewish people needed to be nudged into taking. Regardless of the extent that a person is initially reluctant to take, once he starts it is hard for him to stop.


16:22 And (when) it was on the sixth day (that) they gathered (a) double (portion of) bread, two omer (measures) for each one. And all of the nobles of Israel came and told Moshe (Moses).

16:24 And they left it over until the morning as Moshe commanded and it did not stench and there were no worms in it.

16:25 And Moshe said, "Eat it today because today is Shabbos (Sabbath) to G-D. You will not find it in the field."

16:27 And it was on the seventh day that (some people) from the nation went out to gather and they did not find it.

16:28 And Hashem (G-D) said to Moshe, "How much longer will you refuse to guard My commandments and Torah?"

The wording in 16:28 seems to include Moshe in the criticism. Indeed, Rashi's commentary in verse 16:22 says this explicitly.

Rashi says that the people went to Moshe on Friday when they came home with the double portion and wondered why this happened. G-D had previously told Moshe that there will be a double portion on the day before Shabbos and that the people will need to use it to prepare for Shabbos. Moshe did not tell them about it until they asked. His inclusion in the criticism was a punishment for him.

Apparently, Moshe's delay in telling them about the double portion and that there will be no Mann in the field on Shabbos was connected somehow to causing some people to go out and collect during Shabbos.

What is this connection?

Furthermore, why did the people go out in the first place? They had enough left over from the day before to eat for that day, which was Shabbos. And they already knew that except for Friday's innovation, they could only eat whatever they gathered on that same day, as leftovers would become wormy. Furthermore, Moshe told them that they would not find anything in the field. So why did they go out?

The following came to mind.

Perhaps they took Moshe's message to mean that on Shabbos they would not find anything in the field that came down during Shabbos. But perhaps they hoped that some of Friday's batch was still in the field. Since the Friday batch was immune to becoming wormy, they wanted to get more of it during Shabbos to save it for another day.

It doesn't appear that they had any knowledge of there being any prohibition to go out into the field so they didn't see anything wrong with looking for some spare Mann.

They intended no harm or desecration. Why were they criticized?

Perhaps we can say that Shabbos has a message for the three time periods that we all live in: the past, the present, and the future.

Shabbos' message for the past is that G-D created the world in six days and He rested on the seventh. We commemorate G-D's role as the Creator by refraining from doing certain acts of creation during Shabbos.

Shabbos' message for the present is that G-D's commandment to work six days and not on the seventh day is an implicit commitment from G-D that He will provide us with sufficient resources to meet our needs without our having to work every day. Keeping Shabbos is therefore an open demonstration of our faith that G-D actively manages the affairs of each and every person and that he cares about us all. In other words, the message for the present is that even if our pockets are empty right now, we need not feel any anxiety over where the next dollar will come from even during the six days that we work, for G-D is here and is caring for us all.

Shabbos' message for the future is that there mankind is headed for the Eternal Shabbos. Judaism views the entire lifetime of every person as his/her opportunity to prepare for a time when we will all be unable to make ourselves any better, when we will no longer able to prepare for the future.

Now, the message of Shabbos that demonstrates G-D's role as creator is only for Shabbos itself, when we refrain from doing work just like G-D did.

The Jewish people of that time had no intention of breaking the Shabbos spirit by going out to collect. There was no lapse in their demonstrating the creation, to their knowledge.

The message that G-D is actively caring for us all was demonstrated every day by G-D Himself providing single portions of Mann for five days and a double portion on the sixth. It occurred during their week-days.

However, the message that the time to prepare for a future Shabbos when we will no longer be able to prepare for ourselves is something for us all to demonstrate both during the week-day and on Shabbos.

We today demonstrate this by preparing for Shabbos during the six days of the week and then by doing nothing on Shabbos to prepare for the days that follow.

However, in Moshe's time, the Jewish people couldn't prepare their food prior to Friday because everything had to be eaten by the end of the day. Perhaps this is why Moshe did not mention the need for them to prepare for Shabbos before that first Friday.

Now, everybody prepared for Shabbos on the day before. This corresponded to part of the message for the future. That is, now is a time for us all to prepare for the next world. However, the second part, that the next world will not afford us with any opportunity to make additional preparations, requires us to not do anything on Shabbos that could be viewed as a preparation for the days that follow. Thus their going out to collect some spare Mann for a rainy day was incongruous with that part of the Shabbos message.

Had they been told about this earlier in the week, perhaps they would have been better prepared to absorb this aspect by the time Shabbos arrived and they would not have gone out to find some more of the Friday Mann. Instead, on Shabbos they were still caught up in the surprise double-portion that came down the day before and some people went out to get more. Perhaps this was the basis for the criticism.


The following thought was provided by Yitzchok Kasdan of Silver Springs, Maryland:

16:26 Gather it [the Manna] for (the) six days (of the week) and on the seventh (day) it will be Shabbos. It will not be found on it.

16:27 And it was on the seventh day (that) some of the people went out to gather it and they didn't find any.

16:28 And G-d said to Moshe, "For how long will you refuse to keep my commandments and teachings?"

The war with Amalek follows soon afterwards.

The tractate of Shabbos, in the Oral Torah, begins with guidelines about carrying things outside of the home. It begins with the following Hebrew words: "Yetzios Shabbos," which mean the goings-out of Shabbos. Scholars note that it is more understandable to have written, "Hotzaas Shabbos," which mean the carrying (of things) during Shabbos."

One of the reasons given for this unusual wording is that the first letters of these words are Yud and Heh, which spell out a name of G-d.

Why did the authors of this tractate choose to begin with a reference to this name of G-d?

The following came to mind.

This name of G-d is rarely found in the Torah. We find it in this portion, by the war with Amalek.

17:16 And he said, "The 'Hand' of (G-d is lifted up as in taking an oath) over the Throne of G-d [Yud - Heh] that there will be a war of G-d against Amalek from generation to generation."

We are also taught that the Messianic era will bring an end to the evil Amalekite nation.

We are also taught that one of the ways that the Messianic era can occur is by our keeping Shabbos.

Perhaps the authors of the Oral Torah sought to introduce the tractate of Shabbos in a manner which reflects these great teachings.


16:29 See that G-D is giving you the Shabbos (Sabbath). He therefore gives you food for two days on the sixth day. Each person must cease where he is (from carrying four cubits in a public domain) and no one may go beyond his place (over the two-thousand cubit limit) on the seventh day.

The Sifsei Chachamim cites the following question from the Mizrachi commentary. How did the double-portion of the sixth day show the greatness of Shabbos? Perhaps the increase was due to the greatness of the sixth day itself. The Sifsei Chachamin answers that the increase of the sixth day was limited to exactly twice the daily portion, regardless of whether the person collected less than a double portion or more than a double portion. This indicated that the extra portion for another day and this was for Shabbos.

The verse begins with the words, "See that G-D is giving you the Shabbos" and then it references the double portion. The Ohr Hachayim commentary explains the connection between the two in the following manner.

Each of the Torah's 613 commandments are from G-D. All but two were transmitted through Moshe (Moses). The exceptions are the first two commandments, which the entire Jewish nation heard directly from G-D when they stood by Mt. Sinai.

Shabbos is unique. While the commandment and its details were transmitted through Moshe, we knew about it and we even experienced it on our own beforehand, by receiving this double portion on sixth day.

Moshe had prior knowledge about the Shabbos but G-D did not charge him to tell the Jewish people about it. This was so that they would discover and experience on their own the relationship between G-D, themselves, and the Shabbos. Through the double portion they saw that G-D Himself was giving them the Shabbos.

Shabbos has many guidelines. Most of its guidelines are restrictions, not to do this and not to do that. It is noteworthy here, the first place in the Torah where the Shabbos is introduced to the Jewish people, two guidelines are singled out, a restriction against carrying and a restriction on travelling.

And it is also noteworthy that some of Shabbos' most restrictive guidelines are in this verse, which begins with "See that G-D gives you the Shabbos."

Without experiencing and feeling our relationship with G-D and the destiny that He is guiding us all towards, one can come to view Shabbos as a prison, G-D forbid.

Shabbos tells us that our hustle-bustle life will cease one day and it therefore has no meaning unless we connect it to our eternity.

Shabbos tells us that G-D cares for us, sometimes behind the scenes and sometimes out in the open, and He will continue to care for us for all eternity.

Shabbos is the answer to a person's anxiety over material accomplishment and success. Economic failure has no relevance to life. As long as we make some effort to obtain our needs, G-D will provide them to us no matter little we work, no matter how hard hard we work, no matter how smart we work.

Shabbos is a pact between G-D and the Jewish people. Its guidelines are based around a collection of thirty-nine selected actions. They are activities that cause a change in state, such as lighting a fire or planting a seed or carrying an object four cubits in a public domain. The nature of most of these activities are creative.

We are taught that the set of these actions have a correspondence to the set of acts that G-D took in His creation of the world. We can understand this link somewhat less than our understanding of how G-D created this world, which means that we don't. Nevertheless, we apply this knowledge to use our observance of Shabbos as a demonstration of our belief that G-D created the world in six days.

Shabbos is not a prison. Rather, it is a ticket to a special type of freedom.

Have a good Shabbos. Have a wonderful Shabbos.


17:7 And he called the name of the place Massa U'meriva on account of the Jewish people's clash and on account of their testing ('nasosom') G-D saying, "Is G-D in our midst or not?"

Afterwards, the wicked nation of Amalek attacked the Jewish people. Moshe charged Yehoshua to make a counter-attack.

Verse 17:9 describes Moshe's plan to stand in prayer for them. It mentions that Moshe will hold the staff of G-D in his hand.

The Targum Yonoson Ben Uziel of this verse associates the staff with the miracles that were performed with it.

It is noteworthy that the Hebrew word for miracle is nais, which is similar to the word 'nasosom' of verse 17:7

Verse 17:15 states that Moshe built an altar and called it, "G-D is my 'nais'"

The reoccurrence of the word, "nais' brought the following to mind.

The common theme appears to be that of making a distinction.

A test is a discriminator of distinction.

The Jewish people were being tested and they came to question whether they had the distinction of being cared for and protected by G-D.

Amalek's position was that the Jewish people had no distinction at all. They dissociated G-D from all that happened to the Jewish people to date. They stubbornly maintained that all of the wondrous events that happened to the Jewish people were explainable by natural events, not a cause for distinction.

The staff of miracles was the refutation of Amalek's belief.

Lest one think that the staff had power that was independent of G-D, Moshe called the place "Hashem is my nais," the source of all distinction.


17:11 And it was when Moshe (Moses) raised his hand then Israel succeeded (in the battle) and when he rested his hand then Amalek succeeded.

The Talmud wonders how Moshe could affect the outcome of the battle by merely raising his hand. Rather, as long as the Jewish people looked upward and committed their heart to G-D they succeeded and they stumbled when they did not (Rosh Hashanah 29a).

Given the quantity and intensity of the supernatural miracles that they had recently witnessed, Rabbi Bick of blessed memory wonders why the Jewish people had difficulty with having faith in G-D.

He answers that it is easy to have faith in G-D when see a miracle.

However, it's much different when you are exerting yourself in battle to feel that the outcome is completely in G-D's hands.

With this we can understand why Moshe afterwards built an altar and called it "G-D is my miracle" (17:15).

Success comes from G-D, not from our strength, talents, or intelligence.


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