Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Parshas Mishpatim 5777

What was the Tzeirah?

The Torah writes (Exodus 23:28):
I will send a tzeriah ahead of you, and it shall drive out before you the Hivites, the Canaanites, and the Hittites.
Rashi (ibid) explains:
This is a kind of insect which wounded their eyes and injected poison in them, so that they died. The hornets did not cross the Jordan ... for our Rabbis have explained in Treatise Sotah 36a that the hornets placed themselves on the east bank of the Jordan and from there cast the poison against them.
The Ramban (ibid) explains:
This was a species known to them like the bee, and the Sages mentioned them saying "honey of bees, honey of hornets")
(see also the Chizkuni who explains that there were two types of hornets)
Ibn Ezra (ibid) explains:
This was a bodily sickness, from the decree of leprosy that weakness the strength of the body
Who were the Leaders of Israelites?
The Torah writes (Exodus 24:11):
Yet He did not raise His hand against the leaders of the Israelites; they beheld God, and they ate and drank.
Rashi (ibid) explains:
these were Nadab and Abihu and the elders
אצילי means “the great men”, as, (Isaiah 41:9) “I called thee from the chief men (אציליה) thereof”; (Numbers 11:17) “And he increased (ויאצל) some of the spirit” (cf. Rashi on Numbers 11:17 and Onkelos on 11:25); (Ezekiel 41:8) “six cubits in its size (largeness) (אצילה‎)”.
Ibn Ezra (ibid) explains that the reason the term "elders" wasn't used was in order to include Nadab and Abihu

Targum Jonathan (ibid) explains that this refers only to Nadab and Abihu, and not the elders

Pirkey DeRabbi Eliezer (45:1) explains this referring to the princes of the tribes

Shadal explains (ibid):
This means Aaron and other who went up with him
Bechor Shor explains (ibid):
And to the leaders - meaning the firstborn

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Parshas Yisro 5777

What Did Jethro Hear?

The Torah writes (Exodus 18:1):
Jethro priest of Midian, Moses’ father-in-law, heard all that God had done for Moses and for Israel His people, how the LORD had brought Israel out from Egypt.
Rashi (ibid) writes:
What was the particular report which he heard so that he came? — The division of the Red Sea and the war with Amalek (cf. (Mekhilta d'Rabbi Yishmael 18:1:1; Zevachim 116a).
Chizkuni (ibid) asks how he hard about Amalek:
How did Yitro hear about all this now? Maybe someone had escaped from the battle with Amalek and he heard it from him.
The source that Rashi quotes (Zevachim 116a) cites a third opinion:
R' Eliezer of Modiim said: he heard about the giving of the Torah and came

Sforno (ibid) explains in a similar fashion:
However, if we understand the words כי הוציא as meaning כאשר הוציא, “when He took out,” we must understand Yitro as saying that he had heard all that G’d had done for Israel at the time when He took them out of Egypt. This would include a reference to all the plagues, the drowning of the Egyptians army, etc. It was this information which had prompted him to journey into the desert himself instead of sending a messenger who would accompany Tzipporah and her children so that they would be reunited with their husband/father. He was primarily motivated by his quest for G’d.
Rashbam (ibid) explains the reference to Moses:
that Pharaoh never tried to harm him personally, and that G’d provided him with such an imposing image in the eyes of Pharaoh and his servants seeing He let him perform all these miracles.
Bechor Shor (ibid) explains also:
And Jethro heard about all the signs and the miracles and the great Hand which G-d has done for the Israelites through Moses and that he placed Moses at their head to be a king and a great man
Sefer Torah Shleimah (ibid) cites additional opinions from Midrashim:

Rabbi Shimon says: he heard that the Manna descended from Heaven and about the quail and he came to convert.

Rabbi Yose says: he heard that the Clouds of Glory protected that from the heat by day and from the cold by night and he came to convert

He heard that G-d healed the speech impediment of Moses

(there is also an opinion that heard about the building of the Tabernacle)

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Parshas Bo 5777

How Did Moses Start the Plague of Locusts?

The Torah writes (Exodus 10:12):
Then the LORD said to Moses, “Hold out your arm over the land of Egypt for the locusts, that they may come upon the land of Egypt and eat up all the grasses in the land, whatever the hail has left.”
Ibn Ezra (ibid) writes):
Rabbi Moshe haDarshan writes the reason why it says "for the locusts" was because a locust was attached to the staff and that is not a proper explanation only the reason why it says "for the locusts" means so they should come
Mechochek Yehudah (ibid) explains Rabbi Moshe haDarshan:
The opinion of Rabbi Moshe haDarshan was that Moshe placed on the staff images of locusts in order to draw in the upper powers to bring locusts to Egypt, and according to this he brought locusts through astrology and therefore Ibn Ezra writes that it is not proper
The Ohr HaChaim (ibid) explains:
Perhaps he tied a locust to the staff or he mentioned the name "locusts" when he raised his hand, for he raised his hand because of the locusts

The Lawsuit over the Borrowed Vessels

The Torah writes (Exodus 11.1-3):
And the LORD said to Moses, “I will bring but one more plague upon Pharaoh and upon Egypt; after that he shall let you go from here; indeed, when he lets you go, he will drive you out of here one and all. Tell the people to borrow, each man from his neighbour and each woman from hers, objects of silver and gold.” The LORD disposed the Egyptians favourably toward the people. Moreover, Moses himself was much esteemed in the land of Egypt, among Pharaoh’s courtiers and among the people.
The Talmud (Sanhedrin 91a) cites a related story:
There was another time when the Egyptians came to ask for judgment against the Israelites in front of Alexander of Macedonia [Alexander the Great]. They told him: It says [in the Torah] that G-d gave favor to the people in the eyes of the Egyptians and they borrowed [vessels]. Give us the silver and gold that they took from us! Gaviha ben Pesiah asked the Sages: give me permission and I will go and ask for judgment against them in front of Alexander. If they win, you can tell them that they won against a regular person, and I win they will say that the Torah of Moses our teacher won. They gave him permission and he went and asked for judgment against them. He asked them: where do you bring proof from? They answered: from the Torah! He told them: I will also bring you proof from the Torah - for it says that the time the Israelites spent in Egypt was 430 years. Give us the wages for work of 600,000 people who worked in Egypt for 430 years. Alexander of Macedonia told them: answer him! They asked for 30 days to respond. He gave them 30 days and they could not find an answer. They left their fields and their orchards and fled.