Sunday, January 13, 2013

Bo 5773

The Torah Portion of Bo

There are Three Plagues in the Torah Portion of Bo

"Bo" (Bait-Aleph) has the gematria (numerical value) of three, a hint that there are three plagues in this Torah Portion. (according to Ba'al Haturim)

"Come to Pharoah". (Shemot 10:1)  

A small child walking with his father sees a dog and becomes frightened.  His father says to him, come with me, give me your hand and don't be afraid.  Similarly, Hashem said to Moshe, "Come to Pharaoh", come with me and don't be afraid of the sorcery and the lions.

"For  I have hardened his heart". (Shemot 10:1)  

The Midrash says that the root of the word "hardened" ("Kaved") is similar to "liver" ("Kaved").  In the case of liver, the more it is cooked, the harder it gets and it doesn't absorb anything.   Similarly, in the case of Pharoah, the more he is struck with plagues, the more he hardens himself and doesn't want to hear what is said to him.

"That I might show these My signs in the midst of them". (Shemot 10:1)  

There are two signs which are a remembrance of the Exodus from Egypt: 1) Shabbat is referred to as a "sign forever", and  2) Tefillin are referred to as a "sign on your hand".  This is what was meant by saying "That I might show these My signs in the midst of them"'.  That is to say, because of the Exodus from Egypt we will have these two signs (of Shabbat and Tefillin).  

"That one shall not be able to see the earth".  (Shemot 10:5)  

Rashi says that one who sees shall not be able to see.  There are those that explain that locusts do not see, and the Sages say that someone who is blind eats more than he needs because his eyes don't help him to feel satiated, and therefore the locusts cause great damage to the produce.   (according to the Kli Yakar)

"They did not see one another nor did anyone rise from his place". (Shemot 10:23).  

The greatest darkness is when one does not want to be concerned about another person.  (from the Chidushi Harim)

"And also our cattle shall go with us". (Shemot 10:26)  

The intention of this is that the animals will go of their own accord and with the desire that they will be offered as sacrifices.  This is similar to what is written regarding Eliyahu on Mount Carmel, in which the bull which he offered ran with joy.  (from Malbim)

"For thereof must we take to serve Hashem" (Shemot 10:26)  

There are those that explain that also from Pharoah it is possible to learn something about how to serve Hashem.  Even after he received so many plagues he still stood in his rebellion.  Similarly, in the case of serving Hashem, even if occasionally there are difficulties or failures Chas V'shalom, we need to strengthen ourselves with more capacity and strength to serve Hashem.  

"And we don't know (with) what we will serve Hashem until we come there".  (Shemot 10:26)  

In this world it is not possible to know if we did the Mitzvot and served Hashem appropriately, until we come to the Next World (Olam Haba) to give a judgment and accounting, and this is the explanation of "until we come there", that is to say, to the Next World.  (from Chidushei Harim)

"Speak please in the ears of the people".  (Shemot 11:2)  

Why is it written "please" (in Hebrew: "Na") which is a language of request?  This was so that the righteous one, Avraham, should not say that the promise "And they shall serve them and they shall afflict them" (Braisheet 15:13), was fulfilled for them by Hashem, but "... afterwards shall they come out with great possessions" (ibid), was not fullfilled for them by Hashem. (from Rashi)  And also there are those that say that since they were being commanded to request silver and gold, the act would be tainted by impure motives (the evil inclination) , even if it were being done for their own benefit.  Thus Moshe said "please", a language of request; that is to say, I request from you to overcome the evil inclination.

"And let them ask every man of his fellow". (Shemot 11:2)  

On one level,  "his fellow"  simply refers to the Egyptians,  but another explanation is that  every man should ask of his fellow Jew.  The strategy behind this was as follows: if the rich Jews would give to the poor ones, then the Egyptians would also give silver and gold to them, because they would understand that a requirement of the Jewish festival was that everyone would need expensive clothing. And the Gr"a explains that first of all the Jewish people needed to do kindness with each other, and in this way Hashem would cause the Jews to find favor in the eyes of the Egyptians, who would then give silver and gold to them.

"And let them ask every man of his fellow". (Shemot 11:2)  

The book Toldot Adam explains the verses "And let them ask every man of his fellow...And Hashem gave the people favor in the eyes of the Egyptians" (Shemot 11:2-3) in a similar way. If the people of Israel act in a kind way with each other and help each other at a time of need, then Hashem will grant Israel favor in the eyes of the nations. 

"Also the man Moshe was very great".  (Shemot 11:3)  

It would only be natural that the Egyptians should hate Moshe because he brought upon them all the plagues, but nonetheless they honored him greatly. 

"Also the man Moshe was very great in the land of Egypt, in the eyes of Pharoah's servants, and in the eyes of the people".  (Shemot 11:3)  

It is known that to become well-known as a very great man in the eyes of the common people there are two possible routes: 1) One way is when the great people of the nation recognize his greatness  because even though superficially he is similar to everyone else, they recognize his true righteousness, and they publicize his name also among the common people.  2) Another way is when the man does strange acts so that the common people who don't understand much think that he is a holy man, say that he is supernatural, and make up fictitious, wondrous stories about him until his name becomes publicized among the masses.  The great extent of the publicity also affects the great, wise people of the nation so that a doubt enters their hearts regarding him and they think that probably it was not for nothing that his name became famous among the masses. Therefore they will also honor him.  This second mechanism is by no means a proof that a man who is publicly known as a great man is truly a great man in reality.  And this is why the verse emphasized "Also the man Moshe was very great in the land of Egypt, in the eyes of Pharoah's servants, and in the eyes of the people." (Shemot 11:3) In the beginning his name became publicized among the great, wise people of the nation who were the servants of Pharoah, and afterwards his name was publicized by them among the common people.  This shows that Moshe was truly great.  (according to Meshech Chachma)

"This month is for you the beginning of months, it is the first for you of the months of the year".  (Shemot 12:2)  

The Chatam Sofer says that Israel is required to count according to the numbering of the months of Israel and not according to the numbering of the months of the non-Jews, because the first month for us is Nisan and not as the non-Jews say that the first is January, as it is said, "It is the first for you".  (according to the Chatam Sofer)

"And they shall put it on the two side-posts and on the lintel". (Shemot 12:7) 

And later on it is written that Moshe told Israel to smear the blood first on the lintel and afterwards on the two side-posts.  The reason for this is that the Holy One Blessed Be He, because of His great love for Israel, told them first to do it below on the two side-posts because that's easier, and afterwards on the lintel.  But Moshe said the opposite, that we need to show love for Hashem, first on the lintel even though that's more difficult and afterwards on the two side-posts.

The Passover Offering

The Passover offering symbolizes unity and completeness, for it needs to be eaten in a group in unison, and its roasting is precisely when it is whole.  It is forbidden to break a bone in it because it needs to be whole.  It needs to be roasted and not cooked, because cooking causes it to break apart and roasting only contracts it and it remains intact.  The Holy One Blessed Be He wanted to hint to us that the first offering should be in unity and completeness, and in that manner, we will have success in everything.  (according to Maharal) 

"And the children of Israel journeyed from Rameses to Succot, about six hundred thousand".  (Shemot 12:37) 

What is the meaning of the language "about six"?  The Da'at Zekainim says that also the Divine Presence (Shechina) returned with them from Egypt, as it is said, "In all their troubles He has sorrow".

"And for frontlets  (in Hebrew:  Totafot) between your eyes". (Shemot 13:16)  

Rashi says that "Tat" in the Coptic language denotes "two", and "Pat" in Africa denotes "two".  It has been asked, isn't the Torah written in the Holy Tongue?  So how is it found that the language of other nations is found in the Torah?  The explanation is, that during the generation of the separation of the languages (at the time of the attempt to build the tower of Bavel) each nation inserted into its language some words from the Holy Tongue, because also the impure draws into itself some aspects of holiness in order for it to be able to exist.  (from various Meforshim)

The Ramban at the end of the Torah Portion of Bo

The Ramban at the end of the Torah Portion Bo says: "From the great, publicized miracles a man acknowledges the hidden miracles, which are the basis of the entire Torah.  A man does not have a portion in the Torah of Moshe Rabbeinu, until he believes that all of our matters and circumstances are all miracles and that they are not controlled by forces of nature and the customs of the world, whether we are speaking of events affecting many people or events affecting individuals.  Everything is a decree from above."

Mussar (Ethics): 

It is said about the Gr"a that when he was a small boy they told him to play with a seesaw.  He answered that when playing with a seesaw, one person goes up and another goes down, and he doesn't want to be elevated if his friend will be lowered.  And also, perhaps he would be elevated only because his friend is lowered, and he doesn't want to be elevated at the expense of his friend.

The Torah Portion Bo has 106 verses. The Torah Portion Bo has within it 9 positive commandments and 11 negative commandments.The Haftorah is "Hadavar Asher Dibair Hashem" (Yirmiyahu 46)

May you all have a  light-filled and happy Shabbat.  Shabbat Shalom.

L'ilui Neshamat HaGaon HaTzaddik R' Gershon Avigdor Ben R' Chaim ztz"l, Nilkach L'Bait Olamo Yud Gimmel Tishrei 5772

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