Beshalach 5784


Realistic roundabout reclining[1]

ויהי בשלח פרעה את-העם ולא-נחם אלקים דרך פלשתים כי קרוב הוא וגו’ ויסב אלקים את-העם דרך המדבר ים-סוף וגו’‏
And it was that Pharaoh sent the [Jewish] nation. Hashem didn’t let them travel through the land of the Philistines, for it was [too] close…Hashem circumvented the people to go through the way of the wilderness to the Sea of Reeds…[2]

Our Sages connect[3] the verse in this week’s parsha, which says Hashem circumvented [ויסב] the people, with a well-known practice during Seder night: “From this verse our Sages said that even a poor person in the Jewish people shouldn’t eat unless they recline [שיסב][4], for this is what Hashem did for them.” However, it’s hard to understand how the mitzvah of haseibah, reclining while eating matzah and drinking the four cups on Seder Night is connected in any way to the circumventing described in this verse. The latter is merely referring to traveling in a long, out of the way fashion. Some suggest that the verse is merely an allusion to the idea later created by the Sages, but perhaps there’s more going on here.

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Bo 5784


Sabbatical locust respite[1]

ויעל הארבה על כל-ארץ מצרים וינח בכל גבול מצרים כבד מאד לפניו לא-היה כן ארבה כמהו ואחריו לא יהיה-כן
The plague of locusts came up upon all of the land of Egypt. They rested in all of the region of Egypt. It was very dense. Never before was there such a number of locusts and there never will be like it[2]

The Torah, when describing the plague of locusts, uses an interesting verb. It says וינח, they rested. In fact, this verb appears one other time in Tanach[3]. When else? In the context of Shabbos. The Torah says[4] Hashem rested (וינח) on the seventh day of creation, and therefore commanded the weekly mitzvah of Shabbos. What’s the significance of this shared word usage? This teaches us that the locusts rested on Shabbos[5]. The plague of locusts was that they consumed all of the crops of the entirety of Egypt. It would seem that they refrained from doing so on Shabbos.

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Va’eira 5784


The loyal spokesman[1]

וידבר משה לפני יקוק לאמר הן בני-ישראל לא-שמעו אלי ואיך ישמעני פרעה ואני ערל שפתים: וידבר יקוק אל-משה ואל-אהרן ויצום אל-בני ישראל ואל-פרעה מלך מצרים להוציא את-בני-ישראל מארץ מצרים
Moshe said before Hashem, saying: “Behold! The Jewish people won’t listen to me; how will Pharaoh listen to me? [For] I have blocked lips.” Hashem said to Moshe and to Aharon, and commanded them regarding the Jewish people and to Pharaoh, the king of Egypt, to take out the Jewish people from the land of Egypt[2]

Moshe famously had a speech impediment. He told Hashem that he would have no chance of convincing the Jews of their upcoming freedom, nor Pharaoh that he should let the Jews free. He was of blocked lips. The problem is, Moshe already made this argument in last week’s parsha[3]. When Hashem told Moshe to lead the Jews out of Egypt, he told Hashem that he was heavy of speech. He was unfit for the job. Hashem responded that his brother Aharon would be his spokesman. Moshe would tell Aharon the messages delivered to him from Hashem, and Aharon would tell the people or Pharaoh what was said. Why then is Moshe repeating this argument[4]?

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Shemos 5784


Everlasting faith[1]

ויאמר יקוק אל-משה הנה אנכי בא אליך בעב הענן בעבור ישמע העם בדברי עמך וגם-בך יאמינו לעולם וגו’‏
Hashem said to Moshe: “Behold, I come to you in the thickness of the cloud, in order for the people to hear My speaking to You. And they’ll also believe in you forever…[2]

Sefer Shemos, the book of Exodus, introduces us to Moshe, our Teacher, the one who gave us the Torah. It behooves us to understand the uniqueness of Moshe, in relation to other prophets throughout our history.

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