Points to Ponder

Shemos 5775

And Mitzrayim enslaved Bnei Yisrael with Perach (1:13) There is a strange Midrash that notes a Machlokes if the Slavery was with Kal VaChomer or Gezaira Shava. What does that mean? Rav Shlomo Gantzfried explains that both ideas assume that it was the sweet talk that enslaved the Jews. The side that held – Kal VaChomer understood that the job started easy (Kal) and subsequently got harder and harder (VaChomer). The other opinion noted that originally everyone in Egypt was called to do the job equally but eventually it was only the Jews who were enslaved (Originally Gezaira Shava for all inhabitants but later just the Jews).

All male babies born shall be cast into the sea (1:22) – The Midrash tells a story of how Pharaoh discussed this matter with his three parliamentarians – Yisro, Bilaam and Iyov. Yisro spoke out and had to run away. Bilaam spoke up against the Jews and for the extermination plan while Iyov said nothing. In the future, Hashem paid each one back in kind: To Yisro who thought that the plan was unjust, and he left the parliament over it, his children merited to be members of the Sanhedrin, the ultimate parliament. Bilaam who condemned the Jews to death, was sentenced to death himself – by the sword. But, asks the Brisker Rav ztl., how was Iyov’s punishment – suffering – Middah K’Negged Middah? Rav Shalom Schwadron ztl. explained that when Chazal tell us that he was punished for being silent, it means that he calculated that in his mind, this issue was not worth it to protest openly in that it would not matter anyway. To that, Hashem told him that when people are in pain, one does not make a calculation, we do what we can to alleviate a human’s suffering. Thus, Hashem gave him suffering whereby he would cry out in the same manner that he should have for the Jewish parents at this trying time.

And a man from the house of Levi went and married the daughter of Levi (2:1) – Rav Dovid Stav Shlita notes that except at the beginning of the Parsha, the name Shemos is actually ironic. Fo throghout the Parsha names do not appear prominently. Why? Rav Stav explains that the book of Shemos is really about the building of a nation. A nation does not only require leaders, it requires the Hamon Am – the regular members of the nation prepared to assume their respective roles in creating the nation even if it is without major fanfare. The dedication of the nation to each other is what brings about Geulah.

And I’ve also seen the pressure put on them from the Egyptians (3:9) – There are 2 words, LAchatz and Dichak that seem to be the same but are quite different. Rav Bernard Weinberger Shlita notes that Dichak is a quantitative hardship – more hours of backbreaking work was demanded. Lachatz refers to the qualitative aspect of the job – an awareness that no matter how long or hard you worked, you were never to be done and were always under pressure knowing that it would not be good enough.

And it was when they came to the hotel…and he sought to kill him (4:24) – Why does a father get the death penalty for not giving a Bris to his son? The Torah only identifies Kares? The Rambam notes that we observe Mitzvos because Moshe told us to do so at Har Sinai – not because of Avraham.  Rav Schachter Shlita quoted Rav Soloveitchik ztl. who noted that when Moshe spoke the mitzvos it was L’Doros. When he didn’t so it was Divrei Novi for which one is liable for death. Moshe’s non-taking care of the Bris of his son was a violation of Divrei Novi for which he gets the death penalty.

And he met him at Har HaElokim and he kissed him (4:27) – The Sforno mentions that this kiss is like when one kisses anything Kadosh. Why mention the kiss in this regard? Why couldn’t the kiss be one of love and brotherhood? Rav Baruch Dov Povarsky Shlita explains that since they were meeting on Har HaElokim, it had the status of a Beis HaKnesses and Aharon did not want to violate the Kedusha associated with that place. Thus, it must have been a kiss of the type allowed in the place – that of Devarim She’B’Kedusha.


 You shall see that which I will do to Pharoah and that with a strong hand he will send you and chase you from his land (6:1) – Why will it be necessary to “chase” the Jew from Mitzrayim? Rav Mordechai Eliyahu ztl. explains that when one leaves, one thinks that perhaps, if things do not work out well, s/he can return. Yet, when one is chased out, one knows that there is no turning back. Hashem wanted to be clear that Yetzias Mitzrayim was going to be a “no turning back” defining moment of Jewish destiny.  

Haftorah: As its branches dry up they become broken women come and burn it (Yeshaya 27:11) – Rav Shimon Schwab ztl. notes that the description of desolation about Yirushalayim is severe but

pales in comparison to the punishment that will happen to its enemies. Rav Schwab explains that the enemies of Israel will be totally destroyed but we will continue to exist. Using the “Mesha stone” as proof which notes that Meisha, king of Moav defeated Omri, king of Israel and that Israel is lost forever. Rav Schwab noted that the only remnant of Moav is the stone but the Jewish nation lives on and thrives.