Monthly Archives: 16 Tevet 5774

Parshas Shemos

“And Yosef, his brothers, and all of that generation died… And a new king, who did not know of Yosef, rose to power… (Shemos1/6-8)

Concerning these pessukim the Medrash comments, “(These pessukim come) to teach you that as long as one of people who came to Mitzrayim was still alive, the Mitzriim didn’t enslave B’nei Yisroel and B’nei Yisroel were fruitful and multiplied…” In other words, the enslavement of the Jewish nation didn’t start until the whole generation of those who came to Mitzrayim died.

Zera Shimshon asks what was so special about the generation of those that went down to Mitzrayim that their presence sheilded us from enslavement ?

He explains in light of another Medrash.

On the Posuk “And a new king rose to power…” the Medrash explains, “When Yosef died (B’nei Yisroel) did away with Milah … And since they did this (stopped to circumcise) Hashem replaced the love that the Mitzriim showed them to hate….”

According to this, explains Zera Shimshon, we can understand the special stature of the generation who came to Mitzrayim; they were circumcised and therefore the merit of the mitzvo saved them from being enslaved.

However, Zera Shishmon asks that this explanation is still not enough. He asks that granted the second generation stoppped circumcising their children but they themselves were cirmcumcised? This being so, why didn’t their Milah protect them from being enslaved?

He answers that the sin of not circumcising their children canceled out the merit of they themselve being circumcised, like we learn in Mesechta Sotah, ” sin extinguishs a mitzvo“.

Zera Shimshon only explains that the merit of milah prevented enslavement and bondage. He doesn’t, however, explain the depth behind this.

However, I (Sh.P.) think that we can explain the connection according to a very important concept put forth by the Maharal.

Rashi in parshas Bo writes that before our redemption from Mitzrayim, Hashem commanded us to circumcise ourselves and to bring the karbon Pesach. The Maharal explains the reason for specifically these two mitzvos was that we weren’t just redeemed from Mitzrayim to be free people. Rather, we were redeemed from being slaves and servants to Paraoh and Mitrazyim in order to become servants of Hashem.

Therefore, explains Maharal, in order to become servants to Hashem we needed to serve Hashem. (Talk and promises are cheap). We were therefore commanded to bring a karbon Pesach.

We also needed to show that we are now servants of Hashem. This is the reason for milah which is really “a symbol of servitude” (just like all slaves wear like we learn in Mesechta Shabbos.

According to this concept, we can undestand the depth of Zera Shimshon. As long as Clal Yisroel was careful to circumcise themselves they proclaimed that they are servants or slaves to Hashem and therefore they ware privileged to special protection from Hashem like all masters protect their servants.

However after they stopped being servants to Hashem they were “fair game” to be enslaved by other masters.

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Parshas Vayechi

Look in a Sefer Torah and you will see that before every new Parsha there are 9 blank spaces. In addition to these blank spaces most parshios also begin on a new line, but even the few parshios that don’t start on a new line they are proceeded by these spaces. There is, however, one exception: our ParshaParshas Vayechi. Concerning Vayechi, there are no spaces that separate last week’s Parsha, Vayigash and this week’s Parsha Vayechi.

Rashi explains in the name of the Medrash the reason for this, “since Yaakov Ovinu passed away (in this Parsha) the eyes and heart of (Clal) Yisroel closed from the pain of the bondage that (the Mitzrim) began to force on them.

Zera Shishmon asks that Rashi seemingly contradicts what he himself wrote in Parshas Vayairo (Shemos 6/15). There he writes that the bondage didn’t start until all of the children of Yaakov passed away and not, like he writes here, when Yaakov passed away.

He asks another question that the wording “eyes and hearts closed” is difficult to understand. Clal Yisroel suffered only as the bondage carried on and not in the beginning (like Chazal teach us that they were “sweet talked” (peh-rach) into the bondage).

He answers these questions according to a concept that he derives from a seeming contradiction between two explanations that Chazal give to why a tzaddik dies.

One reason is that it is to attone for the sins of the generation and to protect them from, or at least to minimize, the punishment that they deserve.

A second seemingly contradictory reason is that Hashem takes the Tzaddik from the world in order to bring the punishment that they deserve! As long as the Tzaddik lives his merits protect the generation.

He answers that if a tzaddik’s death protects from punishment or hastens it depends on how the generation reacts to the death. When they mourn and eulogize him appropriately, his death prevents punishment. However, if they don’t mourn him appropriately, not only does his death not prevent punishment but it also adds to the punishment that they were previously meant to receive.

He points out something very interesting; we only find that Yosef mourned Yaakov and not the rest of the brothers. To such a degree, that when the Torah describes the Cenaanim’s reaction to Yaakov’s funeral procession, they exclaimed (Braishis 50,11) “this is an intense mourning for Mitzrayim“. They don’t even mention Yaakov’s children!

With these two points in mind Zera Shimshon answers his two questions.

The “real” intense suffering of the bondage actually started only with the passing away of all the children of Yaakov (like Rashi writes in Shemos). However in the beginning, at the time of the death of Yaakov, HASHEM “closed their eyes and numbed their hearts” in order that they wouldn’t properly mourn and eulogize him. H. did this in order to carry out the 400 years of bondage that H. promised. If they would have eulogized Yaakov then his death would atone for our sins and H. would not be able to start the years of bondage which was necessary to purify Clal Yisroel.

We were destined to be in bondage for 400 years. Therefore, Hashem “closed our eyes and heart” so they wouldn’t feel the pain of losing Yaakov and therefore they wouldn’t mourn him properly in order to bring on the exile!

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