A Student Publication of the Torah Academy of Bergen County
Parshat Bo 8 Shevat 5764 January 31, 2004 Vol.13 No.19
In This Issue:
Food For Thought
Rabbi Chaim Jachter
This week's issue of Kol Torah
has been sponsored by Rabbi Meier and Helen Bruckheimer
A Natural God
by Rabbi Jonathan Krimsky
Leilui Nishmat Shayndal Rachel bat Chaya Hena
Throughout our lives, we constantly reiterate how Hashem took us out of Egypt. Whether it is in the last paragraph of Shema, Kiddush every Friday night, or in the Tefillin we don every day, we are always emphasizing the great miracles Hashem performed when He took us out of Egypt. Why do we have to mention this miracle so often? Isn't it enough to commemorate the event once a year during Pesach? The Ramban, in this week's Parsha, establishes a profound Yesod that is so important to each of us in our daily lives. When we think about Yetziat Mitzrayim, we think about the great overt miracles that mesmerized each and every Jew. Whether it was the shock and awe of Makkat Bechorot or the triumph of Kriat Yam Suf, it was clear to all of our ancestors that Hashem was behind the scenes, running the show. Yet, as time wares on, the effect of the miracle subsides. How are we to experience the awesome wonders of God so many years later? The Ramban writes (13:16, at the end):
From the great miracles, a person comes to admit to the hidden miracles that are the foundation to the entire Torah. For no one has a portion in the Torah of Moshe until they believe all of our words and our events are miracles, and there is no such thing as nature.
The reason we need to constantly remind ourselves of Yetziat Mitzrayim is to instill within us that everything that happens in the world is a product of the benevolence of Hashem. After we read Shema, say Kiddush, don Tefillin, we remind ourselves that God performed these great miracles in Egypt. Yet, the Ramban is telling us that the buck cannot stop here. We must take the Emunah to the next level. Once we have grasped that Hashem performed wondrous miracles in Egypt, we need to grasp that Hashem continues to perform miracles on a daily basis. The fact that we consider the open miracles to be greater is only because we are not accustomed to them. Yet, no one form of miracle is inherently greater than another. Once we understand this point we will appreciate God's world much more.
Using this Ramban, we can understand an opinion in Masechet Megilah. The Gemara (6b) has a discussion about what to do if there are two months of Adar: should we celebrate Purim in the first Adar or in the second Adar? Rabbi Shimon Ben Gamliel holds that we should commemorate Purim during the second Adar. Rebbe writes that the reason for this is to be "Somech Geulah Ligeulah," to juxtapose one redemption to the other. Why, you may ask, is it important to link Nisan and Adar - what is the connection? Perhaps the Ramban can shed light on this Gemara. While Pesach is the ultimate manifestation of a Nes Nigleh, Purim is the prime example of a Nes Nistar. Our job is to not only connect the two miracles on the calendar, but to connect them thematically. Just like Pesach was a great miracle as we saw the awesome hand of Hashem, so too, Purim was a great miracle since we were able to see the awesome hand of Hashem behind the scene.
Let us hope and pray that we will be Zocheh to take this lesson to heart and recognize the greatness of God even in "nature".
A Selfish Pharaoh
by Danny Shulman
This week's Parsha continues with the Makkot where Vaera left off. Once again, after each Makkah Pharaoh's heart is hardened and he changes his mind about freeing Bnei Yisrael. Upon close examination, one notices that during the first five Makkot Pharaoh himself hardens his heart, while during the last five Makkot, Hashem hardens Pharaoh's heart. (see Chizkuni 7:3 concerning Barad) The Seforno comments that Hashem hardened Pharaoh's heart in order to give Pharaoh the opportunity to do Teshuva. If Pharaoh were to acknowledge Hashem and free Bnei Yisrael during the Makkot, there would be no element of real Bechira Chofshit involved. After witnessing miracles as amazing as the Makkot, there is no challenge in accepting Hashem, thus making any attempt of Teshuva insincere. Therefore, for Pharaoh to do complete Teshuva, Hashem had to make him even more stubborn.
Along the same lines, an alternate explanation for Hashem's hardening of Pharaoh's heart can be offered. In both Barad and Arbeh, there are hints that the Egyptian people were beginning to "see" Hashem. Regarding Barad, the Torah records that some Egyptians saved their crops and animals from the hail by brining them indoors. Further, in the case of Arbeh, the Torah relates that Pharaoh's servants beg for Bnei Yisrael to be freed (10:7). This shift in attitude by the Egyptian people towards Bnei Yisrael and Hashem should have influenced Pharaoh to free the Jews. However, if Pharaoh had listened to the Egyptian people's request to free the Jews he would miss his chance to do Teshuva. Therefore, Hashem forced Pharaoh to not only be stubborn, but to be selfish as well.
This explanation lends itself to a strong question. If Pharaoh had already been physically abused multiple times as a result of his actions towards Bnei Yisrael, then why would he still want the Jews under his control? To answer this question an understanding of Egyptian culture can be used. Pharaoh was considered the human manifestation of the Egyptian gods. During this time, the Egyptian gods were considered the strongest of all the gods, thus making Pharaoh the most powerful person alive. However, if Pharaoh would acknowledge defeat and allow Hashem to take the Jews out of his control, he would be stating to the world that Hashem is the strongest God, thus drastically diminishing his influence.
It is interesting to note that Shadal writes that Hashem did not actively harden Pharaoh's heart, rather he gave Pharaoh the personality to do something of this nature. With that in mind we can learn a lesson from the failures of Pharaoh. Pharaoh chose to preserve his personal power rather then listen to his people. In contrast, as Jews, we must be careful to never ignore the sufferings of other people for personal benefit.
the Last Second
by Avi Wollman
"And there was a very thick darkness throughout the land of Egypt for a three-day period" (10:22). One of the reasons for the darkness, quoted by Rashi, is that the wicked Jews would die, unnoticed by their Egyptian neighbors. This is somewhat confusing. Why is such a magnificent miracle as Makkat Choshech necessary so that the Egyptians would not notice that the wicked Jews had died? Why did Hashem not simply have those wicked Jews die over a period of time of "natural causes"? Why did they die during these three days? R' Yechezkel Levinstein answers that human nature is to make big plans and then to give excuses why they cannot be done, making it evident that these "plans" are nothing but gibberish. The reason this happens, R' Levinstein says, is because finally, at the last moment, the Yetzer Hara dissuades the person from accomplishing what he has planned. Furthermore, R' Levinstein adds, the reason it waits for the last moment is because it chimes in only once the person shows initiative and is a step away from action. When the Jews were in Egypt, the Reshaim did not really need to make realistic excuses to remain - there were no complaints from the Reshaim. However, once there was opposition to the cause of the Reshaim and Pharaoh was more willing to let Bnei Yisrael go free, then the Reshaim complained. Therefore, when Bnei Yisrael were almost out, in the last moments, during the three days of darkness, these Reshaim died. Everyone can learn a lesson from the mistake of these Reshaim. When one makes a commitment to do something, it is important to follow through on that commitment and persevere despite the misgivings that one may have at the last second.
by Jerry M. Karp
1) During Makkat Choshech, Moshe raises his hand toward the heavens, but does not use the Mateh. Why is this the only such Makkah?
2) During Makkat Arbeh, Pharaoh's servants implored him to allow Bnei Yisrael to leave Egypt in order to prevent further damage to the land and its people. Seemingly, therefore, Pharaoh's servants would be much more inclined to allow Bnei 's servants would be much more inclined to allow Bnei Yisrael to leave than would Pharaoh. However, after Makkat Bechorot, the Torah says (12:30) that Pharaoh awoke first to free Bnei Yisrael (see Rashi s.v. Hu). Why were Pharaoh's servants no longer as inclined to free Bnei Yisrael? (See Siftei Chachamim 6, Ibn Ezra and Avi Ezri who strengthen this question.)
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