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Bo Q & A

Bo Q & A


"ולמען תספר באזני בנך ובן בנך את אשר התעללתי במצרים ואת אתתי אשר שמתי בם וידעתם כי אני ה'"
“You will then be able to tell your children and grandchildren My miraculous signs that I have performed among them, and you will know that I am G‑d.” (10:2)

QUESTION: Since the Torah is telling us to relate to our children and grandchildren what happened in Egypt, should it not have said “vayeide’u” — “and thus they will know”?

ANSWER: Parents are obligated to teach their children about Hashem and enhance and strengthen their faith in Him. Their efforts carry a two-fold reward: 1) Ultimately, their work will bear fruit and they will merit to have children who will be attached to Hashem. 2) Through teaching and talking to the children, the parents, too, will experience an enhancement and strengthening of their faith.

Similarly, in the Gemara (Ta’anit 7a), Rabbi Chanina says, “I learned much from my teachers and more than that from my colleagues, and from my students more than from all.”

(עיטורי תורה)

"ויבא משה ואהרן אל פרעה ויאמרו אליו כה אמר ה' שלח עמי ויעבדוני. ויאמרו עבדי פרעה אליו שלח את האנשים...לא כן לכו נא הגברים. ועבדו את ה'"
Moshe and Aharon went to Pharaoh and said, ‘So says G‑d: Send out My people so they may serve Me.’ Pharaoh’s servants said to him, ‘Send out the men’...[Pharaoh replied] ‘No, let the adult males go and serve G‑d.’” (10:3,7,11)

QUESTION: What is the reason for the three different expressions denoting the Jewish people?

ANSWER: The word “gevarim” is the plural of “gever.” The minimum of a plural is two. Twice the numerical value of the word “gever” (גבר) is 410, which is the same numerical value of the word kadosh (קדוש) — “holy.” The word “anashim” is the plural for the word enosh.” Twice the numerical value of “enosh” (אנש) is 702, which is also the numerical value of the word Shabbat (שבת).

Pharaoh said to Moshe, “Only the holy Jews should go to serve Hashem; all others should stay home in Egypt.” His servants were more lenient, and they said that not only the holy Jews should go, but also the ones that were at least Shomer Shabbat. Moshe insisted that anyone who was a member of “ami”“My [Hashem’s] people” — leave Egypt and serve Hashem.

(עיטורי תורה)

"ויפן ויצא מעם פרעה"
“And he turned his back and left Pharaoh.” (10:6)

QUESTION: Why concerning locusts, the eighth plague, does the Torah tell us that Moshe left immediately after giving the warning?

ANSWER: Moshe always came to Pharaoh as Hashem’s messenger to inform him of the coming plague. Moshe thought that Pharaoh was an extremely stubborn man and, therefore, he always pleaded with him to relent and listen to Hashem about letting the people go.

Before the plague of locusts, Hashem said to Moshe, “Go to Pharaoh and warn him, for I have hardened his heart” (10:1). Moshe now realized that it was not Pharaoh’s stubbornness, but Hashem causing him not to listen. Thus, there was no purpose in his pleading with Pharaoh to let the people go. Therefore, after delivering the message of the coming plague of locusts, he immediately turned his back and left.

(שער בת רבים)

"ויאמר אליהם לכו עבדו את ה' אלקיכם מי ומי ההלכים: ויאמר משה בנערינו ובזקנינו נלך"
“And he said to them, ‘Go and serve G‑d your G‑d; Which ones are going?’ Moshe said, ‘With our young and with our old shall we go.’” (10:8-9)

QUESTION: Moshe’s request to Pharaoh was very explicit: “Let my people go!” Why now, after having endured seven plagues, did Pharaoh ask, “Which ones are going?”

ANSWER: The words, “mi vami haholchim” (מי ומי ההלכים) have the numerical value of 216, the same as “Kaleiv uBin Nun” (כלב ובן נון). Pharaoh was telling Moshe, “I know your ultimate plan is to bring the Jews to Eretz Yisrael, but you should know that you are wasting your time, because they will all die in the wilderness and only Kalev and Bin Nun (Yehoshua) will live to reach Eretz Yisrael.”

Moshe replied, “Binareinu uvizkeineinu neileich” — “Do not worry, all those who are now under 20 or over 60 will also survive the wilderness and come to Eretz Yisrael.”

(בעל הטורים)

* * *

Alternatively, Pharaoh, slowly but surely, began to realize that fighting Moshe was a lost cause. Instead of being stubborn and refusing to let the Jewish people go, he decided to use reverse psychology. Pharaoh said to Moshe, “I am your friend who would not want to see you as an outcast or a failure. Many years have passed since you left Egypt. I know the people better than you do. I do not doubt your sincerity in wanting to take them to serve Hashem, but I urge you stop your campaign because, mi vami haholchim — which ones are going?! None of these people are interested in leaving Egypt to go seek a new way of life.”

Moshe smiled and replied, “You are greatly mistaken. Just open the doors and give them freedom, and I assure you that young and old, men and women will eagerly run to serve Hashem.”

"ויעל הארבה על כל ארץ מצרים וינח בכל גבול מצרים"
“The locusts went up over the entire land of Egypt and rested in all the borders of Egypt.” (10:14)

QUESTION: Why does the Torah repeat, “all the borders of Egypt” after it already says that the locusts “went up over the entire land of Egypt”?

ANSWER: The Jews of Egypt lived in the city of Goshen and were not affected by any of the plagues. The locusts were meant to destroy all vegetation not previously destroyed by the hail. Knowing that very shortly the Jewish people would be leaving Egypt, Hashem sent the locusts. They covered Egypt from border to border — including Goshen — in order to ensure that the Egyptians would have no benefit from the produce of the Jewish fields in Goshen.

(שער בת רבים)

"וימהר פרעה לקרא למשה ולאהרן ויאמר חטאתי לה' אלקיכם ולכם"
“And Pharaoh called for Moshe and Aharon in haste and said, ‘I have sinned against G‑d and against you.’” (10:16)

QUESTION: Why did Pharaoh then confess that he also sinned against Moshe and Aharon, in contrast to his confession after the plague of hail, “I have sinned this time; G‑d is righteous” (9:27)?

ANSWER: Moshe told Pharaoh to release the Jews in order for them to worship Hashem. Pharaoh inquired, “Which ones are going?” Moshe responded, “We will go with our young and with our old, with our sons and with our daughters.” Pharaoh became enraged and chased them out, saying, “Not so, let the men go now, ki otah atem mevakshim — for this you are seeking.” One may question, why was it necessary for Pharaoh to add the words, “ki otah atem mevakshim” — “for this you are seeking”?

Pharaoh accused Moshe and Aharon of unjustly seeking to take the children on a pilgrimage to serve Hashem: “Undoubtedly, your G‑d only wants the adults. However, otahthis request for the children to participate — atem mevakshim — is something which you want, and which Hashem never asked for.”

When Pharaoh saw that regardless of his consent to send the males he was plagued with locusts, he realized that Hashem was not satisfied, because He wanted the children’s participation. Therefore, he quickly called Moshe and Aharon and told them, “Now I have not only sinned against G‑d, but also against you, because I accused you falsely.”

(שו"ת תירוש ויצהר סי' קי"ט)

"ויהי חשך אפלה בכל ארץ מצרים שלשת ימים"
“And there was a thick darkness in all of Egypt for three days.” (10:22)

QUESTION: Rashi explains that during the first three days of darkness, no one was able to see anyone else. During the succeeding days, the darkness was so thick that if an Egyptian was sitting, he was unable to stand up, and if he was standing, he was unable to sit down.

Every plague lasted seven days (except the plague of the firstborn). Why did the plague of darkness last only six days?

ANSWER: When the Jews left Egypt and traveled in the desert, clouds of glory accompanied them. During the day the clouds would clear a path in the desert, and at night a pillar of fire lit up the camp. When the Egyptians pursued the Jews, the Torah says, “There was a cloud of darkness [for the Egyptians] and the night was illuminated [for the Jews through a pillar of fire]” (14:20). Thus, Hashem reserved the remaining seventh day of darkness to punish the Egyptians when they chased after the Jewish people.

(מדרש רבה שמות י"ד, ג')

"ויהי חשך אפלה בכל ארץ מצרים שלשת ימים לא ראו איש את אחיו"
“There was a thick darkness in all the land of Egypt for three days. One did not see his own brother.” (10:22-23)

QUESTION: Since they were unable to see anything; why is there an emphasis on not seeing one’s own brother?

ANSWER: Many years ago a man emigrated from a small town in Russia to the United States. His business enterprises were blessed with success and he became very wealthy. A few years later, his brother arrived, found his way to the successful brother’s house, and presented himself to the doorman as the brother of his master. The doorman directed him to the waiting area and afterwards came back with a message that his master had no brother. He sent back a number of signs hoping that his brother would recognize him. Again the doorman came back: “Sorry, my master says he has no brother and does not know you.” Disappointed and hurt, he told the doorman to tell his master, “I advise him to make a will immediately, because he does not have much time left to live.”

Petrified, the brother rushed to the door and asked in alarm, “How can you make such a statement? My doctor proclaimed me in excellent health!” The immigrant brother looked his brother in the eyes and said, “The city in which we grew up as brothers was very small and poor. The townspeople were unable to afford a full-time physician. I studied first-aid and administered their medical needs. From my experience I learned that when a patient can no longer ‘recognize’ his own brother, his situation is extremely serious and he has little time left to live.”

Some aspects of the plague of darkness are unfortunately prevalent in contemporary times. Sadly, there may be Jews enveloped in darkness who do not recognize fellow Jews as their brothers and deserve to be helped materially and spiritually. Such conduct endangers the continuity of the Jewish community.

Hopefully, like the Jews of Egypt we, too, will merit, “For all the Children of Israel, there was light in their dwellings.” Everyone will see the true light and do the utmost for his brother — his fellow Jew.

(מיוסד על אשכול ענבים - פרדס יוסף)

"וגם מקננו ילך עמנו לא תשאר פרסה כי ממנו נקח לעבד את ה' אלקינו"
“And also our cattle will go with us; not a hoof will be left behind. For from it must we take to serve G‑d, our G‑d.” (10:26)

QUESTION: Why does it say “mikneinu yeileich” — “our cattle will go” — instead of “nikach” — “we will take”?

ANSWER: When the prophet Eliyahu debated the false prophets of Ba’al, he challenged them to a test; he and they would separately bring sacrifices and the G‑d that accepted the offering would be recognized by all as the true G‑d. The oxen were willing to be Eliyahu’s sacrifice but refused to be used by the false prophets of Ba’al. Eliyahu whispered to an ox that he should agree to be used by the false prophets, because the failure of their efforts would prove the falsehood of Ba’al worship, and through the ox there would be a great kiddush Hashem (I Kings, 18:26, Rashi).

Moshe told Pharaoh, “Even if we should agree to let our cattle remain in Egypt, it will be of no avail. For even if we do not take them, mikneinu yeileich imanu — our cattle will go with us of their own volition — due to their deep desire to be used as sacrifices for Hashem.”

(תורת משה - חת"ס)

"כשלחו כלה גרש יגרש אתכם מזה"
“When he lets you go, he will drive you out from here altogether.” (11:1)

QUESTION: Why did Hashem tell Moshe that Pharaoh would drive the Jews out?

ANSWER: Hashem told Avraham, “Your children will be enslaved in a strange land for 400 years and afterwards leave with great wealth” (Bereishit 15:13-14). The Jewish people slaved for many years under Pharaoh without any compensation. As the time for their departure was arriving, Hashem instructed Moshe to tell the Jewish people to borrow gold and silver from the Egyptians. Eventually, they would keep this as payment for 400 years of work and as a fulfillment of the promise of great wealth.

Moshe hesitated since it resembled trickery. “After all,” he argued, “they did not complete their servitude, and thus, are not entitled to such wealth.”

Hashem explained to Moshe, “According to halachah, when one hires a worker and fires him in the middle of the day, he is obligated to pay him for the full time. Similarly, Pharaoh will drive out the Jewish people in the middle of their period of service. Therefore, they are rightfully entitled to be paid for 400 years of serving Egypt.”

(חנוכת התורה)

"דבר נא באזני העם וישאלו איש מאת רעהו ואשה מאת רעותה כלי כסף וכלי זהב"
“Speak in the ears of the people. Each man should borrow from his friend and a woman from her friend silver and gold vessels.” (11:2)

QUESTION: 1) The word “rei’eihu” means “friend.” Are the Egyptians considered friends of the Jews? 2) Why was it necessary to speak “in the ears” of the people, i.e. to keep it secret?

ANSWER: Hashem wanted the Jews to leave Egypt laden with gold, silver, and valuables, which they would borrow from the Egyptians. But how could this be easily accomplished? Wouldn’t an Egyptian ask, “How do I know I can trust you?”

Therefore, Hashem told Moshe that first each Jewish male should borrow from rei’eihu — his Jewish friend and that each female should borrow from re’utah — her Jewish friend. When the Egyptians would see the friendship and trust among the Jews, the Jews would find favor in their eyes and the Egyptians would readily agree to lend them gold and silver.

Since this was a scheme to get the gold and silver from the Egyptians, it was necessary that the message be “spoken into the ears of the people” and kept secret.

(שער בת רבים - מלבי"ם)

"ולכל בני ישראל לא יחרץ כלב לשנו"
“But against any of the children of Israel no dog shall whet it’s tongue.” (11:7)

QUESTION: Why did Hashem specify dogs instead of simply saying, “No wild beast will harm them”?

ANSWER: The Gemara (Sanhedrin 105a) declares that Lavan, Bilam, and Cushan-rishatayim King of Aram are the same person. Lavan chased after Yaakov, wanting to destroy him and the future of the Jewish people. Years later he returned in the form of Bilam and advised Pharaoh to drown the Jewish children, and later, in the days of Balak, he came to curse the Jewish people. In the time of the Judges, when the Jewish people angered Hashem through their improper behavior, He exiled them for eight years under the regime of Cusham-rishatayim. He, too, was a reincarnation of Lavan. (See Judges 3:7-11.)

The acronym of the names “Cushan,” “Lavan,” and “Bilam” (כושן לבן בלעם) spells the word, “kelev” (כלב) — “dog.” Hashem told Moshe, “Throughout history, the wicked will always reappear and attempt to annihilate the Jewish people. However, be assured that neither Lavan in all his disguises (kelev), nor any other enemies, will succeed, G‑d forbid, in destroying the Jewish people.”

(שער בת רבים פ' בלק)

"ויאמר ה' אל משה ואל אהרן...החדש הזה לכם ראש חדשים"
“And G‑d said to Moshe and Aharon...‘This month (Nissan) shall be for you the head of the months.’” (12:1-2)

QUESTION: Why did Hashem convey the laws of establishing the Jewish calendar to Moshe and Aharon together?

ANSWER: The Jewish calendar follows the lunar system. In the days of the Beit Hamikdash the Beit Din would declare Rosh Chodesh, based on testimony of witnesses who have seen the new moon. In order to reconcile the lunar year and the solar year, it is necessary once every few years to add an additional month of Adar. Otherwise, Pesach could end up in the fall, and Sukkot in the spring.

According to the Gemara (Sanhedrin 18b), a king or a Kohen Gadol, because of personal interest, cannot be part of the Beit Din that decides a leap year. The king would always want a leap year, because his army is paid on an annual basis, and thus he would get a month of free labor. The Kohen Gadol, who has to perform the service on Yom Kippur barefoot, would rather there not be a leap year, so that Yom Kippur would be in the summer. However, since the Kohen Gadol and the king have opposite interests, it would be proper to have a Beit Din with both of them participating together.

In view of the above, Moshe, being a king, would not be permitted to be a participant in the Beit Din on his own, nor would Aharon, because he was the Kohen Gadol. Therefore, Hashem spoke to the two of them together, saying, “This month shall be for you the beginning of months — should you want to determine the calendar and decide the timing of a new year, it can only be done if the two of you serve in the Beit Din together.”

(ילקוט האורים - ר' נפתלי כ"ץ זצ"ל)

* * *

QUESTION: What lesson can we learn from a leap year?

ANSWER: The secular calendar follows the solar year, the cycle of the sun, and consists of 365 days. The Jewish calendar follows the lunar system, the cycle of the moon, and is approximately 354 days. To make up the difference of close to 11 days, every few years we have a leap year, after which we actually end up a few days ahead of the solar year.

The leap year serves as a reminder that everyone has an opportunity, from time to time, to make up for what he has failed to accomplish in the past. Furthermore, just as the leap year not only makes up for the deficiency, but provides an “advance” on the future, a Jew must also intensify his efforts in his service of Hashem and store up additional merits.

(לקוטי שיחות חכ"א ע' 480)

"החדש הזה לכם ראש חדשים"
“This month (Nissan) shall be for you the head of the months.” (12:2)

QUESTION: Why was the lunar calendar the first mitzvah given to the Jewish people as a whole?

ANSWER: When Hashem created the world, the two luminaries, the sun and the moon, were of equal strength. The moon complained, “It is not proper for two ‘kings’ to have the same type of crown.” In response, Hashem made the moon smaller. When Mashiach will come, the moon will return to its original strength (Bereishit 1:16 Rashi, Isaiah 30:26).

The unique quality of the moon is that up to the middle of the month, it continuously grows, becoming smaller thereafter. By the end of the month, it is not seen anymore. Then, suddenly, it reappears.

The history of the Jewish People is compared to the stages of the moon: Throughout our history we have had rising and falling fortunes. We have been expelled from many countries and, when we were thought to be extinct, suddenly, a new Jewish community arose in another part of the world. Like the moon, the Jewish people will never disappear and, in the days of Mashiach will be the most glorious and respected people in the world. This essential quality of the Jewish people is reflected by the first mitzvah given to them.

(כ"ק אדמו"ר)

* * *

The last letters of the words, “Hachodesh hazeh lachem” (החדש הזה לכם) — “this month shall be for you” — spell the word “Moshe,” which is the name of the person through whom Hashem gave us the Torah. Moreover, the words, “Hachodesh hazeh lachem,” have the numerical value of 424, which is also the numerical value of the word, “kadat” (כדת), meaning in the fullest accordance with halachic requirements.

In the first mitzvah Hashem gave the Jewish people, He emphasized the importance of fulfilling kadat — properly — the Torah which He gave us through Moshe. Through this they will merit the ultimate redemption throughמשיח בן דוד (Mashiach Ben David), whose name is also numerically equivalent to 424.

(חיד"א - פני דוד)

"החדש הזה לכם ראש חדשים"
“This month (Nissan) shall be for you the head of the months.” (12:2)

QUESTION: The word “lachem” — “for you” — seems extra?

ANSWER: Nissan was and always will be the month of miracles and redemption (Rosh Hashanah 11b). With the word “lachem” the Torah is emphasizing that the coming of Mashiach and the ultimate redemption depends on you — the Torah study and good deeds of each and every individual Jew.

(עיטורי תורה)

"אל תאכלו ממנו נא ובשל מבשל במים כי אם צלי אש"
“Do not eat of it partially raw, or cooked in water, only roasted over fire.” (12:9)</3>

QUESTION: The meat of the sacrifices may be eaten by Kohanim in whatever manner suits their palates. They may eat it cooked, broiled or roasted, etc. (Rambam, Ma’aseh haKarbanot 10:10). Why did Hashem insist that the Pesach-offering be eaten only roasted with fire?

ANSWER: Partially raw and fully cooked meat hardly have an aroma. Roasted meat, however, can be smelled at a distance.

The Jews slaved in Egypt for many years and were petrified of their Egyptian masters. Hashem’s command to offer sheep, the animal worshipped by the Egyptians, as a Pesach-offering, frightened them. In order not to arouse the wrath of the Egyptians, they were going to eat it partially raw or fully cooked, hoping that the Egyptians would not notice.

Consequently, Hashem told Moshe to tell the people, “Enough is enough! Stop walking with your heads bowed down. Lift them up and be proud of the fact that you are Jews and free people. Roast the sacrifice on fire, let the aroma be smelled from one end of Egypt to the other, and let the entire country know that you are proudly worshipping your G‑d.”

(דעת זקנים מבעלי התוספות)

"והיה הדם לכם לאת על הבתים אשר אתם שם"
“The blood shall be a sign for you upon the houses where you are.” (12:13)

QUESTION: The pasuk should have said “li” — “for me” — instead of “lachem” — “for you.” Why did the Jewish people need a sign?

ANSWER: The prophet prophesied: Gadol yiheyeh kavod habayit hazeh ha’acharon min harishon — “Greater shall be the glory of the latter house than the former” (Haggai 2:9).

The sages of the Talmud explain this to mean that the second Beit Hamikdash would be structurally taller than the first Beit Hamikdash and would also last longer (Bava Batra 3a).

A gentile once asked the Rashba, (Rabbi Shlomo Ben Aderet, 1235-1310, responsa 187), “Since the prophet referred to the second Beit Hamikdash as ‘acharon’ — ‘last’ — how do the Jews believe that when Mashiach will come there will be a third Beit Hamikdash?”

The Rashba told him that “acharon” does not necessarily mean “last,” but can also mean “second.” He proved it to him from Hashem’s dialogue with Moshe: When Hashem asked Moshe to go down to Egypt and tell the Jewish people about their imminent redemption, Moshe responded, “What should I do if they doubt that you have spoken to me?” Hashem gave him three signs with which to prove his authenticity to the Jewish people. The first was the staff becoming a snake, and the second was his hand becoming leprous.

Before showing him the third sign (the water turning into blood), Hashem said to Moshe, “It shall be that if they do not believe you and do not heed the voice of ha’ot harishon — the first sign — they will believe the voice of ha’ot ha’acharon — the latter sign” (4:8). It is clear that although there was a third sign, He referred to the second sign as “acharon.” Thus, “acharon” does not necessarily mean “last,” but can also mean “second.”

Before the Jews left Egypt, Hashem told them that the blood, i.e. the sign of water turning to blood (which was the third of the signs given to Moshe to present to the Jewish people), would be “lachem le’ot” — “for you a sign” — “al habatim” — that there would be three Batei Mikdash, although the prophet referred to the second as “acharon.”

(פנינים יקרים)

"והיה היום הזה לכם לזכרון וחגתם אתו חג לה' לדרתיכם"
“And this day shall be to you for a remembrance; and you shall celebrate it as a feast to G‑d for your generations.” (12:14)

QUESTION: Why do we add the cup “kos shel Eliyahu” when we celebrate the Pesach seder?

ANSWER: Eliyahu once complained to Hashem that the Jewish people were not faithfully observing the mitzvah of circumcision. Hashem did not receive this complaint very well and told Eliyahu, “My children are trustworthy, and from now on you will be present at every Jewish brit milah to witness their dedication.” For this reason, at every brit a special chair is set aside for Eliyahu (Pirkei DeRabbi Eliezer 20).

According to halachah (12:48), the uncircumcised may not partake of the Pesach-offering. Therefore, Eliyahu, who is present at every brit, appears in each home to testify that the participants of the seder are all eligible to eat the Pesach offering, and a cup is prepared in his honor.

(ר' משה חאגיז ז"ל בספר ברכת אליהו)

This reason can be supported by noting that in Egypt the Jews neglected the mitzvah of circumcision, and on the night of Pesach all the Jews circumcised themselves in order to be eligible to partake of the Pesach-offering. (Shemot Rabbah 19:5)

* * *

Undoubtedly, the prophet Eliyahu was in Egypt that night, because he is the messenger of redemption (see Malachi 3:23). Thus, he witnessed the redemption and is invited to participate in our freedom celebration every year.

* * *

There is a popular question: A brit must be performed during the day. How did the Jews in Egypt perform their brit during the night?

Some possible answers are: 1) The law of performing a brit during the day took effect after the Torah was given. 2) A brit which is not performed on the 8th day after birth may be performed either day or night. 3) According to the Zohar, when Hashem revealed Himself at midnight to smite the firstborn, the night became illuminated to the extent that “velailah kayom ya’ir” — “the night shined like the day” (Psalms 139:12). In view of this, it was permissible to perform a brit at night.

(הגש"פ עם לקוטי טעמים ומנהגים, מכ"ק אדמו"ר)

"ולא יתן המשחית לבא אל בתיכם לנגף"
“And He will not permit the destroyer to enter your homes to smite.” (12:23)

QUESTION: The Haggadah of Pesach explains the passage, “I will smite every firstborn in the land of Egypt” (12:12) to mean “Ani velo seraf — “I and not a fiery angel.” Why was it necessary to make a sign for the destroyer, since the plague of the firstborn was inflicted by Hashem Himself?

ANSWER: In Egypt there lived millions of Jews and millions of Egyptians. In such a populace, it is normal that some people die each day. If the malach hamavet (Angel of Death) had killed a Jew during the night of the plague of the firstborn, Pharaoh would not have agreed that a miracle had taken place. He would have claimed that there was an epidemic which claimed Egyptians and Jews alike. Therefore, it was the will of Hashem that the destroyer (malach hamavet) not kill even one Jew on that night.


"והיה כי יאמרו אליכם בניכם מה העבדה הזאת לכם"
“And it shall come to pass when your children will say to you, ‘What is this service to you?’” (12:26)

QUESTION: In the Haggadah of Pesach this pasuk is associated with the wicked son. What indication is there for this in the pasuk?

ANSWER: Children must respect and honor their parents. They should seek their guidance and follow their instruction. A good child does not tell his parents his decision and expect them to listen to him.

Since the Torah mentions a child who tells the parent his opinion, the Haggadah deduces that we are not dealing with a good child, but rather the opposite.

(הדרש והעיון)

"וילכו ויעשו בני ישראל כאשר צוה ה' את משה ואהרן כן עשו "
“And the Children of Israel went and did as Hashem commanded Moshe and Aaron, so they did.” (12:28)

QUESTION: Since it says that the Jews did as Hashem commanded Moshe and Aaron, the words “kein asu” — “so they did” are superfluous?

ANSWER: Hashem told Moshe and Aaron to instruct the Jewish people that “They shall take some of its blood and place it on the two doorposts and on the lintel upon the houses in which they will eat it” (12:7). Moshe, however, called the elders of Israel and told them, “You shall take a bundle of hyssop and dip it into the blood that is in the basin, and touch the lintel and the two doorposts” (12:22).

Why did Moshe deviate and change the order saying first lintel and then doorposts?

There were three who played a pivotal role in the Exodus from Egypt: Hashem, Moshe and Aaron. The lintel which is above the door represents Hashem. The two doorposts represent Moshe and Aaron. Hashem’s primary interest was that the people properly appreciate and recognize what Moshe and Aaron had done for them. Therefore, He instructed that priority be given to the two doorposts — Moshe and Aaron. On the other hand, Moshe and Aaron were exceedingly humble. Thus, they wanted that all the credit to be given to Hashem. Consequently, they instructed the Jewish people to first put blood on the lintel, i.e. to show gratitude to Hashem.

The Children of Israel decided that recognition should be given to Moshe and Aaron first in view of their dedication and self sacrifice on their behalf.

Hence, the pasuk relates that “the Children of Israel did as Hashem commanded Moshe and Aaron.” That is, they first put blood on the two doorposts and afterward on the lintel. The added words “kein asu” — “so they did” — is to emphasize that they did it specifically this way and not the way Moshe and Aaron would have wanted them to do it.

(כלי יקר)

"ויהי בחצי הלילה וה' הכה כל בכור בארץ מצרים"
“At midnight G‑d struck all the firstborn in the land of Egypt.” (12:29)

QUESTION: In the Haggadah of Pesach there is a listing of the ten plagues, and afterwards we are told that Rabbi Yehudah referred to them by acronyms: ".דצ"ך, עד"ש, באח"ב"

Rabbi Yehudah was one of the great sages of the Talmud. What great intelligence is required to make an acrostic out of the first letters of the ten plagues?

ANSWER: In Psalms (136:10), Hashem is praised for “lemakeih Mitzraim bivchoreihem” — “striking the Egyptians through their firstborn.” It does not say that Hashem struck the firstborn of Egypt but rather that He struck the Egyptians through their firstborn. This is explained in the Midrash (Yalkut Shimoni) as follows:

Upon hearing that they would be victims of the last plague, the “bechorim” — “firstborn” — insisted that Pharaoh and their parents release the Jews immediately. When their pleas were refused, a civil war broke out and the desperate firstborn attacked and killed their parents and fellow Egyptians. Thus, the tenth plague dealt a double blow to Egypt, killing both firstborn and non-firstborn.

In the Haggadah, the ten plagues are listed as “dam, tzefardei’a...makat bechorot” — “Blood, frogs...plague of the firstborn.” The word “makat” is not mentioned for any of the plagues except for “bechorot” — why?

It can be explained that Rabbi Yehudah argues with the author of the Haggadah as to what was the major part of the double-blow plague. According to the author of the Haggadah, the main part was “makat” — the smiting of the Egyptians by their own angry and violent “bechorim” — firstborn.

Rabbi Yehudah’s third acronym is "באח"ב". The final "ב" stands for “bechorot.” He did not make the acronym ",באח"מ" which would have meant, Makat bechorot,” because in his opinion the major part of the plague was Hashem’s slaying of the firstborn, and not the smiting of the Egyptians by their own firstborn.

(הגש"פ צוף אמרים בשם יסוד התורה)

"ותהי צעקה גדלה במצרים כי אין בית אשר אין שם מת"
“There was a great cry in Egypt, for there was not a house where there was not one dead.” (12:30)

QUESTION: Even in a home where there were no firstborn, the eldest of the household perished (Rashi). Why did Moshe only warn that the firstborn would die without warning about the eldest of the house?

ANSWER: Some Egyptians thought they could outsmart Hashem and Moshe. Warned of the oncoming plague, they took their firstborn and placed them into Jewish homes. Hashem killed those firstborn and also the eldest of the household from which each firstborn originated. Had Moshe warned them of this, they would have kept the firstborn home, and thus the eldest in the household would have survived.

Moshe intentionally did not warn them, so that their punishment would be twofold. The firstborn were killed to punish the Egyptians for not listening to Hashem to free the Jews, and the eldest because the Egyptians tried to outsmart Hashem.

(עדות ביוסף)

"ויקרא למשה ולאהרן לילה ויאמר קומו צאו מתוך עמי"
“And he called for Moshe and Aharon [at] night and he said, ‘Rise up, go out from among my people.’” (12:31)

QUESTION: Is not the word “lailah” — “[at] night” — extra. It would be sufficient to say, “He called for Moshe and Aharon and told them to rise and leave Egypt”?

ANSWER: When Moshe came before Pharaoh after the plague of darkness, Pharaoh angrily said to him, “I am warning you not to see my face anymore, because on the day you will see my face you shall die.” Moshe responded, “You have spoken correctly: I shall never see your face again” (10:28-29). Thereafter, Moshe did not return to Pharaoh.

After the plague of the firstborn, there was an uproar in the land of Egypt. Pharaoh called for Moshe, but he refused to come, saying, “Pharaoh made a promise that I should not see his face and that if I did, I would be killed.” Pharaoh, knowing that he needed to see Moshe, began to plead, “Lailah” — “Now it is night and I only promised ‘beyom’ — that ‘on the day’ you see my face you shall die. Since it is dark and it is hard to see my face, please come speak to me and take the Jewish people out of the country.”

(אור החיים)

* * *

Alternatively, when Moshe asked Pharaoh to release the Children of Israel, he refused, arguing, “The people have to be here 400 years and only 210 have passed.” Moshe responded, “You enslaved them inhumanely; they toiled for you both day and night. Their unceasing work for so many years was equivalent to 400 years of slavery under normal conditions.” Nevertheless, Pharaoh remained stubborn and did not let the Jews go.

After being punished with the tenth plague, the killing of the firstborn, Pharaoh finally yielded. Hastening to the Jewish neighborhood, he cried the word, “lailah” — “night” — “I admit that Moshe is correct: Their laboring during the night completes the 400 years, and they are entitled to leave Egypt to serve Hashem.”

* * *

In The Book of Job (28:3), Job praises Torah very highly and encourages man to be righteous. He contrasts Torah with night, stating that Torah is infinite while, keitz sam lachoshech” — “Hashem has made a limit to darkness.” The word “keitz” (קץ) has the numerical value of 190. Job may have hinted that Hashem deducted 190 years from the original 400 years of Egyptian bondage due to choshech, the laboring of the Jewish people during the darkness of the nights.

(בית יעקב)

"ויסעו בני ישראל מרעמסס סכתה כשש מאות אלף רגלי הגברים לבד מטף"
“The Children of Israel journeyed from Rameseis to Succoth, about six hundred thousand men on foot, aside from children.” (12:37)

QUESTION: It is popularly known that 600,000 Jews left Egypt. Why does it say, “kesheit mei’ot elef”“about 600,000”?

ANSWER: When Yaakov and his family went down to Egypt the Torah states, “All the people of Jacob’s household who came to Egypt [were] seventy” (Bereishit 46:27). Commentaries ask, when one counts up the names of all those who went to Egypt the total is only 69?

The Yalkut Shimoni answers that although actually there were only 69 people, Hashem told Yaakov not to fear descending to Egypt, for “I shall descend with you to Egypt and I shall surely bring you up (ibid., 4). Since Hashem joined their group, as it were, in fulfillment of His promise, hence, the total was seventy.

In reality there was one missing from the grand total of 600,000. Therefore, the pasuk says “kesheit mei’ot elef”“about 600,000.” However, since Hashem promised Yaakov that He would surely bring them up, thus, the figure of 600,000, which includes Hashem, is correct.

(תורת משה להחתם סופר)

"בבית אחד יאכל לא תוציא מן הבית מן הבשר חוצה ועצם לא תשברו בו"
“It must be eaten in one house, do not remove any of the meat from the house to the outside, and you shall not break a bone in it.” (12:46)

QUESTION: In regard to taking meat outside, why is the violation said in the singular, “lo totzi” — and the violation of breaking the bone in the plural — “lo tishberu”?

ANSWER: According to halachah, a member of a group eating the karban Pesach is forbidden to take a kezayit of meat to another house. If one does this and afterwards a second person takes this same piece of meat to another house, it is not considered a transgression (Rambam, Karban Pesach 9:1). However, if a member of a group breaks a bone of the Pesach-offering, and then another member breaks the same bone, he is to be punished for transgressing, “Do not break a bone in it” (ibid. 10:4).

Therefore, the prohibition of taking meat out is expressed in the singular because it is violated only by the first person who carries it out. The prohibition of breaking the bone is stated in the plural because it can be violated by more than one person.

(ילקוט הדרוש בשם ספר תולדות אדם)

"שבעת ימים תאכל מצת... מצות יאכל את שבעת הימים"
“Seven days you shall eat matzot...matzot shall be eaten seven days.” (13:6-7)

QUESTION: 1) Why does the first pasuk say “tochal” — “you shall eat” — while the second pasuk says “yei’acheil” — “shall be eaten” (passive)? 2) In the first pasuk why is matzot written without a "ו" and in the second with a "ו"?

ANSWER: It is incumbent upon each person to give ma’ot chittim before Pesach so that the poor will be able to properly celebrate the Yom Tov (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 429).

The first pasuk is referring to the giver and commands that “tochal” — he eat matzot to celebrate Pesach. The second pasuk is teaching us that, in addition to your celebrating, you must make sure that “matzot shall be eaten” (“yei’acheil”) by those who cannot afford it. They too must celebrate the festival for seven days.

A person may skimp on his own portion of matzah, but he has no permission to skimp on the poor man’s portion. The poor must be provided with everything in the fullest measure in order to have a happy and joyous Yom Tov. Consequently, when the Torah mentions your eating (“tochal”), the word “matzot” is written without a "ו". However, regarding that one should make sure that the poor are able to eat (“yei’acheil”), the word “matzot” is spelled with a "ו", to indicate that the needs of the poor must be provided for in the fullest measure.


"וכל בכור אדם בבניך תפדה"
“And you shall redeem every human firstborn among your sons.” (13:13)

QUESTION: A wedding meal follows the chupah, and a meal at a brit follows the brit, so why is a pidyon haben usually done in the middle of the meal?

ANSWER: There are two reasons given for the requirement of redeeming the firstborn.

1) The Torah states, “For every firstborn is Mine: On the day I struck down every firstborn in the land of Egypt, I sanctified every firstborn in Israel for Myself” (Bamidbar 3:13).

2) The brothers sold Rachel’s firstborn, Yosef, for twenty pieces of silver (Bereishit 37:28), which was equivalent to five sela’im. Therefore, our firstborn must be redeemed for that amount as an atonement for the misdeeds of our ancestors (Shekalim 2:3).

Yosef’s brothers were pasturing Yaakov’s flock, and Yaakov sent Yosef to them. When they saw him from afar, they conspired against him to kill him. Upon Reuven’s request to shed no blood, they threw him into a pit. The Torah relates that they sat down to eat and then noticed a caravan of Ishmaelites enroute to Egypt. Yehudah advised selling him, they agreed, and Yosef was sold for twenty pieces of silver (Bereishit 37:13-28).

On the tenth of Nissan, prior to the Jews’ departure from Egypt, Hashem instructed the Jews to prepare a lamb to be slaughtered on the afternoon of the fourteenth and eaten at night. Hashem also told the Jews, “I shall go through Egypt on this night, and I shall strike every firstborn in the land of Egypt” (Shemot 12:3-12).

Since the redeeming of the firstborn is connected with two events which took place while the Jews were in the midst of a meal, the pidyon haben is customarily held after the assembled sit down to the meal.

(לקוטי פינחס סי' ש"ה אות נ"ג, מר' פינחס זלמן הכהן ע"ה שווארץ)

"והיה כי ישאלך בנך מחר לאמר מה זאת ואמרת אליו...."
“If your child asks you tomorrow ‘What is this?’ you should say to him....” (13:14)

QUESTION: Is not the word “machar” — “tomorrow” — superfluous?

ANSWER: Rashi explains, "יש מחר שהוא עכשיו ויש מחר שהוא לאחר זמן" — “Sometimes the word ‘machar’ (tomorrow) means ‘now,’ and sometimes it means ‘in a time to come.’ ”

Rashi is not just offering an explanation of the term “machar,” but is also teaching an important lesson about rearing children. The term “machar” is not just a relative period of time, but a description of two types of “bincha” (sons).

There is a son who is “achshav” — “now” — he lives in the same spirit that you do and is a Torah observing Jew as yourself. There is also another son, who is “achar zeman” — “of a later time.” He considers his Torah-observant father an “old timer” and considers himself to be a progressive citizen of a different spiritual era.

The Torah is instructing every father, “Even if you have a son who presently does not agree with your Torah way of thinking, you must bear in mind that he is “bincha”“your son.” Moreover, you as a father have to help him and give him the answers which will make him “achshav” — a Torah observant Jew like yourself

(לקוטי שיחות ח"ו ע' 268)

* * *

The previous Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn (who passed away Shabbat Parshat Bo, Yud Shevat 5710), was like a father to many Jews and helped many non-observant Jews find their way back to Yiddishkeit. When asked why he spent so much time with non-religious people, he explained that when a father has two children, one is healthy and one sick, although he definitely loves the two of them equally, he usually spends more time with the sick one, in the hope of healing him.

"והיה לאות על ידכה"
“It shall be for a sign upon your hand.” (13:16)

QUESTION: What is the significance of the seven coils on the forearm?

ANSWER: The tefillin consist of two parts, one placed on the left arm facing the heart, the other on the head, the seat of intellect. One of the basic teachings implied in this is that the head should rule the heart. The heart is considered the seat of emotions-attributes (midot), which are generally divided into seven branches. Of the seven, the following three, namely: kindness (chesed), might-severity (gevurah), and beauty (tiferet) are the basic ones, and the other four, endurance (netzach), splendor (hod), foundation (yesod), sovereignty (malchut) are secondary and offshoots of the first three (see Mystical Concepts in Chassidism, ch. III). Hence, the seven coils on the forearm are symbolic of these seven emotions, which should be controlled by the intellect.

("טאקס", מרחשון, תשי"ח)

* * *

The above may offer an insight into the Chabad custom that, when wrapping the seven coils on the forearm, there is an additional space left between the upper three and the lower four. (See notes of Rabbi Sholom Dovber Schneersohn, the Fifth Lubavitcher Rebbe, on Siddur, Torah Or.)

"והיה לאות על ידכה"
“It shall be for a sign upon your hand.” (13:16)

QUESTION: What is the meaning of the three coils on the middle finger?

ANSWER: One of the things symbolized by tefillin is the devotion and affection between G‑d and Israel, which are frequently spoken of in terms of betrothal. Hence, the coils around the finger are symbolic of the wedding ring, and one of the explanations of the triple coil is the triple reference to the betrothal between G‑d and Israel in Hosea 2: 21-22. In fact, it is customary in many Jewish communities to quote this Scriptural text as one winds the straps around the finger, after having put on the head tefillin.

("טאקס", מרחשון, תשי"ח)

"ולטוטפת בין עיניך"
“And frontlets between your eyes.” (13:16)

QUESTION: What is the significance of the two straps hanging down from the head tefillin?

ANSWER: The two straps that hang down from the head tefillin symbolize the flow of influence from the head to the rest of the body, on the right and left side. They are a continuation of the strap that surrounds the head, and branch off from the special knot at the back of the head, which is the meeting place of the cerebrum and cerebellum parts of the brain, and the beginning of the spine.

All this is to indicate that, just as physically, the brain is the most vital nerve center that vitalizes and controls the entire body, so, spiritually, the intellect is to vitalize and guide the entire life of the Jew, and the body with all its limbs and organs must be functionaries to carry out the Divine commandments and precepts in daily life.

("טאקס", מרחשון, תשי"ח)

"והיה לאות על ידכה ולטוטפת בין עיניך"
“It shall be for a sign upon your hand and frontlets between your eyes.” (13:16)

QUESTION: Why does the tefillin shel yad — hand tefillin — have only one compartment while the tefillin shel rosh — headtefillin — has four?

ANSWER: Tefillin shel rosh are placed on the head, the seat of the human intellect, while the tefillin shel yad are placed on the hand, which represents the source of action.

Faculties of people vary greatly. Some are better in their studies and some are poorer. Some comprehend a subject matter profoundly while others only superficially. Therefore, to acknowledge the differences between one head and another, the Torah portions of the tefillin shel rosh are put in separate compartments.

However, mitzvot have to be performed by everyone equally, regardless of whether one has a good head or a poor head, much understanding or little understanding. Thus, the Torah portions of tefillin shel yad are all in one compartment, because all are equally obligated to perform mitzvot.

(לקוטי בתר לקוטי ח"א)

* * *

The fact that the hand tefillin are put on before the head tefillin represents the great and basic principle of the Jewish religion, that practice must come before theory. One must first fulfill the Divine commandments without question, and only then try to understand as much as possible their significance.

("טאקס", מרחשון, תשי"ח)

Rabbi Moshe Bogomilsky has been a pulpit rabbi for over thirty years, and is author of more than ten highly acclaimed books on the Parshiot and holidays. His Parshah series, Vedibarta Bam, can be purchased here.
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Malkie Janowski for January 29, 2009

Your question really begs a stronger question. How could G-d have punished Pharaoh if He hardened his heart and "forced" him to refuse to let the Jews go?

One explanation is that G-d did not actually harden Pharaoh's heart until well into the story. When Moshe first requested that the Jews be released, Pharaoh refused on his own, and continued refusing through the first five plagues. Only after that did G-d harden his heart in order to complete all ten plagues. You can see this in the verses themselves, as during the first five plagues the Torah says that Pharaoh hardened his heart, and only afterward does it mention G-d hardening Pharaoh's heart.

Another perspective is that G-d wanted Egypt to experience all ten plagues as punishment for their persecution of the Jews for so many years. If Pharaoh had immediately agreed to let the Jews go, or even acquiesced after one or two plagues, the Egyptians would not have received the retribution they deserved. Reply

Anonymous nj January 27, 2009

Why did hashem harden pharaohs heart and then ask moshe to go ask pharoah if they can leave mitzraim Reply

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