In this parashah we find the conclusion of the Ten Plagues and
also the first commandments that Hashem gave to Bnei Yisrael as a
nation. These were the mitzvah to sanctify the new moon, the
mitzvah of Korban Pesach and the mitzvah to eat matzah. R' Dovid
Bornstein z"l (died in 1942 in the Warsaw Ghetto; see page 4)
Kabbalists teach that the Ten Plagues paralleled the Ten
Utterances with which Hashem created the world, as taught in
Pirkei Avot chapter 5. This is why the first mitzvah after the
Ten Plagues is the commandment to sanctify the new moon, for the
waxing and waning of the moon is a constant reminder of Creation.
Our Sages say that Moshe could not comprehend the new moon
until Hashem showed him: "Like this you shall see it and sanctify
it." In light of the above, R' Bornstein explains this as
follows: The Midrash states: "To tell man about the greatness of
Creation is impossible, so He told His nation the greatness of
His ways." This seems contradictory at first, but it actually
means that it is impossible for man to grasp Creation except
through the eyes of the Torah. Man, being material, cannot
fathom something as esoteric as G-d's Creation unless he looks at
it through spiritual lenses. Even Moshe could not understand the
secret of the new moon except through the Torah - through the
mitzvah of sanctifying it.
If we understand the Ten Plagues and the mitzvah of sanctifying
the new moon as alluding to Creation, we can understand why those
sections are followed by mitzvot that involve eating. When we
recognize that Hashem created us, we necessarily recognize that
we are His servants. It is part of the "contract" between a
master and a servant that the servant will be fed. (Hashem would
not have created us if He did not intend to sustain us.) This is
incidentally why the introductory portion of Birkat Hamazon
refers to G-d as Elokim (as in "nevaraich l'Elokenu" / "we will
bless our Elokim"). "Elokim" is the Divine Name associated with
strict justice, and strict justice requires that a master feed
his servants. (Haggadah Shel Pesach Chasdei David p. 5)
"Pharaoh said to [Moshe], `Leave me . . . Al tosef / Do not
continue to appear before me, for on the day that you
appear, you shall die.'
"Moshe said, `Well have you spoken, for I shall not again
appear before you'." (10:28-29)
R' Yaakov z"l (author of Ba'al HaTurim; 14th century) notes
that the expression "Al tosef" ("Do not continue") appears in
only one other place in the Torah, i.e., in Devarim (3:26), where
Hashem says to Moshe, "Al tosef / Do not continue to speak to Me
about this matter [i.e. Moshe's request to be allowed to enter
Eretz Yisrael]." This, says the Ba'al Haturim, demonstrates the
principle: "Even the curse of a lowly person should never be
taken lightly." Because Pharaoh said to Moshe, "Al Tosef,"
Hashem too said to Moshe, "Al Tosef."
This requires explanation. Firstly, what is the connection
between these two, seemingly coincidental uses of the phrase "Al
tosef"? Secondly, why should Pharaoh's statement have the effect
of a curse on Moshe? For what error was he being punished?
R' Yehoshua Laib Diskin z"l (died 1898) explains: Tzaddikim are
judged by a meticulous standard and are punished even for missing
an opportunity to make a Kiddush Hashem / sanctification of G-d's
Name. When Pharaoh said, "Do not continue to appear before me
[lest I kill you]," Moshe should not have agreed ("Well have you
spoken"). Rather, he should have said, "If Hashem orders me to
appear before you again, then I will do so, and you will be
unable to harm me." Moshe missed this chance to sanctify G-d's
For this he was punished. When he needed Hashem's help, Hashem
was unwilling to provide it. Instead, He rebuffed Moshe with the
same words that had led to Moshe's error.
(Maharil Diskin Al HaTorah)
"It is a Pesach-offering to Hashem." (12:11)
If Bnei Yisrael needed some merit with which to be redeemed
from Egypt, why did Hashem give them this particular mitzvah and
not a commandment that somehow encompasses all of the 613
commandments? R' Meir Yechiel Halevi Halstock z"l (1852-1928;
see page 4) answers that the mitzvah of Korban Pesach does allude
to all of the 613 commandments. Specifically, the "full
gematria" of the word "Pesach" ("peh samech chet") is 613, the
number of commandments. ("Full gematria" means the gematria of a
word when each of the letters of the word is spelled out the way
that letter is pronounced. Thus, the "full gematria" of "peh
samech chet" = 85+120+408 = 613.)
This may explain as well why Hashem gave Bnei Yisrael the
mitzvah of Matzah while they were still in Egypt. The "full"
gematria of the word "Matzot" ("mem tzadi vav tav") also is 613.
("Mem tzadi vav tav" = 80+104+13+416 = 613.)
R' Halstock observes further: Hashem had told Avraham that his
descendants would be in a foreign land for 400 years, yet Bnei
Yisrael were in Egypt for only 210 years. They were redeemed 190
years early in the merit of the mitzvah of Matzah. The "full"
gematria of the word "Matzah" ("mem tzadi heh") equals 190.
("Mem tzadi heh" = 80+104+6 = 190.)
(Meir Enei Chachamim Vol. III, p.54)
"[The story of the Exodus, as recorded on the parchments of
the Tefilin] shall be a sign on your arm and a reminder
between your eyes . . ." (13:9, as interpreted by Rashi)
The Gemara (Berachot 11a) reports: R' Abba bar Zavda said in
the name of Rav, "A mourner remains obligated to perform all of
the mitzvot of the Torah with the exception of Tefilin, for these
[the Tefilin] are called `Pe-er' (`splendor')." (See Yechezkel
24:17.) R' Avraham Yitzchak HaKohen Kook (1865-1935) explains
the above halacha in light of one of the purposes of the mitzvah
of Tefilin: Splendor or beauty is intended to make an impression
upon another person or being. Similarly, performing a mitzvah in
a beautiful way allows the person's mind to influence and make an
impression upon the person's emotions. [The fact that a mitzvah
is precious is an emotion, but that feeling is enhanced by the
mind's knowledge of the high price of the Etrog, Tefilin, or
other mitzvah-object.] Tefilin are also intended to make an
impression on others, as the Talmud teaches (Berachot 6a): "`All
the nations of the world will see that the Name of G-d is upon
you' (Devarim 28:10) -- This refers to the Tefilin on one's
In order to influence others, one must be joyful and strong, so
that his joy will draw others to him. However, when one's soul
is sad -- although this sadness may benefit the soul itself [as
is the case when one is mourning] -- it cannot and should not
influence others. This is because the spreading of sadness does
not generally bring a blessing. Accordingly, at one's saddest
moment [as a mourner], the beauty of the Tefilin does not befit
him. At such a time, says R' Kook, a person should turn inward
rather than radiate his influence outward, until such time as
Hashem lights up the mourner's darkness. "Light is planted
[away] for the righteous, and for the upright of heart, joy."
(Chavash Pe-er, p. 72, section 3)
"When your son shall ask you, `What is this?' you shall say
to him, `With a strong hand G-d took us out of Egypt, from
the house of slaves." (13:14)
R' Chaim "Brisker" Soloveitchik z"l (1853-1918) asks: Since we
fulfill the mitzvah of remembering the Exodus every night [by
reciting the last verse of the third chapter of Shma], why do we
need the additional mitzvah of reading the Pesach Haggadah? He
explains that there are three differences between the daily
performance of this Mitzvah and its performance on Pesach.
A person fulfills his daily obligation by recalling the
Exodus privately, but on Pesach, a verbal question-answer format
is required. Thus, even a person who conducts the Seder alone is
required to "ask himself" appropriate questions and to read the
Our daily obligation is simply to recall that the
Exodus occurred, while on Pesach night we must "begin with shame
and conclude with praise." [This means we must mention that our
ancestors were idol-worshipers and that G-d chose Avraham from
among them, as set forth in the haggadah.]
On Pesach we are required to discuss the mitzvot
associated with the Exodus (the Pesach sacrifice, Matzah, Maror),
while the daily obligation does not include this detail.
(Chiddushei HaGrach HaShalem, p. 25, No.40)
R' Shmuel Yom Tov Halevi Brot z"l
R' Brot was born in Lodz, Poland on 29 Av 5645 / 1885. At a
young age, he lost his father, R' Michoel Yechezkel Brot, and he
was raised thereafter by his grandfather, R' Shlomo Plato, a
Radzhiner chassid. Shortly after his bar mitzvah, the future R'
Brot was accepted into the yeshiva of R' Meir Yechiel Halevi
Halstock, the rebbe of Ostrovtza, where he remained for five
At the age of 22, R' Brot was named rabbi of a town called
Brisk (not the famous Brisk D'Lita / Brest-Litovsk, which was the
home of the Soloveitchik family). This position was followed by
rabbinic positions in several other Polish towns. In 1929, R'
Brot was the Mizrachi-backed candidate for the rabbinate of
Tomaszow-Mazowiecki, while the Agudah backed R' David Bornstein,
son of the author Shem Mi'Shmuel. When the balloting tied,
R' Bornstein withdrew and relocated to nearby Pabianice, but R'
Brot refused to accept the position until he had received the
approval of his opponent.
Once R' Brot was installed as rabbi of Tomaszow, he instituted
many changes designed to increase the stature of the rabbinate.
For example, it was customary at that time that a rabbi received
a meager salary which he had to supplement with fees for
performing weddings, adjudicating disputes, and performing other
rabbinic tasks. R' Brot demanded that this system be abolished,
and that the rabbi be supported in an honorable fashion. R'
Brot's activities in this area led one of his colleagues to
remark that "R' Brot raised the stature of the rabbinate and the
honor of the Torah in Poland."
R' Brot was active in the Mizrachi and eventually became
president of the Polish branch of that movement. He also was
elected to the Polish parliament, where he spoke out on behalf of
From Tomaszow, R' Brot was elected rabbi of Antwerp, Belgium,
replacing R' Moshe Avigdor Amiel, who had been elected Chief
Rabbi of Tel Aviv. R' Brot remained in Antwerp until the Germans
occupied that city in 1941. He was then chosen to serve as rabbi
of the Moriah Congregation in Manhattan, and he obtained a visa
to enter the United States. He remained as rabbi of Moriah for
nine years before settling in Israel, where he was appointed to
the Bet Din Hagadol / the Rabbinical Court affiliated with the
Chief Rabbinate. R' Brot passed away on 8 Nissan 5723 / 1963.
R' Brot authored Sugiot B'Kodashim, studies of the laws of the
Sponsored by Martin and Michelle Swartz
in memory of Martin's grandmother, Elise Hofmann a"h