"Hashem spoke to Moshe and Aharon and commanded them regarding the
Children of Israel..."(6:13)
The Talmud Yerushalmi relates that prior to leaving Mitzrayim, Hashem
commanded Moshe to teach Bnei Yisroel the details involved in fulfilling the
mitzva of "shiluach avadim" - "emancipation of slaves". However, the laws
connected to slavery were not pertinent to Bnei Yisroel until the laws of
Yovel, the Jubilee year came into effect in the Land of Israel, over fifty
years later. Why then is this the most opportune time to instruct Bnei
Yisroel concerning these laws? The Talmud states that giving charity on a
fast day is the most effective manner to harness the energies of the day.
Why is charity essential to fasting? Furthermore, Rashi interjects that the
best time to give the charity is immediately after the conclusion of the
fast. How does Rashi draw this conclusion? The most effective way to perform
a mitzva which involves human interaction in an act of chesed is to become
completely sensitive to the plight of the recipient.
A fast day is the most opportune time to empathize with the needy. When a
person suffers from the pangs of hunger, he understands the daily struggle
of the recipient of his charity. Therefore, Rashi teaches that after the
conclusion of the fast, prior to sitting down to a meal, a person should
give charity, for this creates the greatest level of empathy for the needy
recipient. When Bnei Yisroel were about to embark upon their passage from
slavery to salvation, Hashem commanded Moshe to instruct them regarding the
emancipation of slaves. It was at that moment that Bnei Yisroel could
internalize the sensitivity required to perform this mitzva. They could
empathize with the slave who they were commanded to set free and would treat
him with greater sensitivity.
1. Rosh Hashana 3:5
2. Berachos 6b
From The Mouth Of Babes
"Aharon took Elisheva daughter of Aminadav, sister of Nachshon..." (6:23)
We find the genealogy of Moshe and Aharon in this week's parsha. The Torah
uncharacteristically records not only Aharon's wife, Elisheva, but her
brother Nachshon as well. From this the Talmud derives that if a person
desires to know the true nature of his wife-to-be, he should investigate her
It would seem logical to think that in order to discover the nature of a
future spouse, a person should investigate her parents. Furthermore, the
Talmud on numerous occasions espouses the desirability of a spouse based
upon the parents' qualities. Why then does the verse emphasize
investigation of the brother? An adult is capable of projecting an image
which does not truly reflect his or her essence. The facades which people
create for themselves make it impossible to assess their true nature.
Children are not as sensitive to the need to project an image which will
give them good social standing as are adults. Therefore, a child's behavior
generally reflects his true nature.
The nature which a child reflects is not only his own, but that of his
parents as well, for they mold his behavior patterns during his formative
years. Consequently, investigating a woman's brother is the best way to
investigate her parents, for the behavior of the child, impervious to any
facade his parents may be hiding behind, reflects every nuance and
inflection of the parents' behavior. The reason why the brother exhibits the
parents' traits to a greater extent than his sister, is that a Jewish girl
is, by nature, more reserved, and this may impede the detection of character
traits and attitudes imbued in her by her parents. On the other hand, her
brother, who is more aggressive and therefore, less reserved, can offer a
more comprehensive evaluation of the parents' attitudes and nature.
1. Bava Kama 110 See however Rashbam
2. See Kiddushin 69-70, Berachos 64b the Talmud describes the importance of
marrying a bas Talmid Chacham
Slapping The Other's Cheek
"Moreover, I established My covenant..." (6:4)
Prior to Moshe going to visit Pharaoh, Hashem instructs him to treat Pharaoh
with the honor befitting a king.
Why was this instruction reserved for Moshe's second visit to Pharaoh?
Should this message not have been relayed to Moshe when he first encountered
Pharaoh in last week's parsha? Moshe's ancestry is recorded in this
week's parsha. Rashi explains that by identifying his lineage, the Torah is
substantiating Moshe being chosen as leader. Why was this information not
divulged at the Burning Bush in last week's parsha when Moshe was actually
appointed to lead Bnei Yisroel?
When Moshe was at the Burning Bush, he was given certain signs to perform
for Bnei Yisroel to convince them that he, in fact, had been sent by Hashem.
Amongst these signs, he was to take water from the Nile and turn it into
blood. Rashi explains that this particular sign was used, for it was an
attack upon the Egyptian deity, the Nile River.
In this week's parsha, Rashi cites the Midrash which says that Hashem
instructed Moshe to designate Aharon to perform the first plague, turning
the waters of the Nile to blood. Since Moshe had benefited from the
protection of the river as a baby, it would be an act of ingratitude for
Moshe to be the one striking the river. Therefore, Aharon was chosen for
this task. Why then in last week's parsha, when Moshe performed the sign
for Bnei Yisroel, was it permissible for Moshe to turn the water of the Nile
In Sefer Bereishis, we find two separate guarantees given by Hashem that He
will take Bnei Yisroel out of Egypt. The first assurance is reiterated in
Parshas Shemos, by the Burning Bush. Rashi relates that Hashem told Moshe
that he should recite to Bnei Yisroel the verse which records Hashem's
guarantee to Yaakov and Yosef that He would remember Bnei Yisroel, "pakod
yifkod" - "He will surely remember".
Hashem gave to Avraham a separate guarantee in the "Bris Bein Habesarim"
- "Covenant of the Pieces". Hashem promised Avraham that He would ensure
that Bnei Yisroel leave Egypt with great wealth. It is this covenant
which is reiterated in the beginning of Parshas Va'era. The difference
between the two guarantees is as follows: The guarantee of "pakod yifkod" is
that Hashem Himself would take Bnei Yisroel out of Egypt; redemption would
be by His hand alone. The guarantee of the Covenant of the Pieces would not
be fulfilled by Hashem directly taking them out. Included in the Covenant of
the Pieces is the assurance that the nation that enslaved Bnei Yisroel would
receive retribution for their actions.
Why is punishment of the Egyptians a requirement of the Covenant? In order
to restore the dignity and self-esteem of Bnei Yisroel, it was imperative
that Bnei Yisroel see the Egyptians suffer just as they themselves were
forced to suffer for so many years. Therefore, in order for Hashem to
fulfill His guarantee to Avraham that He would restore Bnei Yisroel to the
status of free men, punishment of the Egyptians was a necessity. The most
effective manner to attain this restoration was for the punishment to come
from Bnei Yisroel themselves. Consequently, Moshe had to be their leader,
and not just Hashem's agent. If Moshe, functioning as the leader of Bnei
Yisroel meted out the punishment, Bnei Yisroel's perception would be that
they too administered the punishment. In last week's parsha the redemption
based upon "pakod yifkod" began. Moshe only functioned as Hashem's prophet,
His agent. Moshe was acting only as the vehicle of Hashem's will. In Parshas
Va'era, Moshe was appointed king so that he may be perceived by Bnei Yisroel
as their representative.
Therefore, in last week's parsha, when Moshe stood before Pharaoh, he was
not instructed to show Pharaoh any special honor, for he was not functioning
in his own capacity, rather as Hashem's agent. In this week's parsha, when
Moshe appeared before Pharaoh as an equal, for he too was a king, the proper
protocol had to be followed. Since Moshe's position as king began in this
week's parsha, his ancestry was recorded at this juncture. When Moshe
performed the sign before Bnei Yisroel, he was functioning only as Hashem's
agent. Therefore, it was not Moshe performing the act, but Hashem.
Consequently, no element of ingratitude toward the Nile was present. In this
week's parsha, for Moshe to strike the Nile as a king, imbued with the
ability to turn water into blood, would be inappropriate. Therefore, he had
to defer to Aharon to perform this miracle.
3. 6:14, See Malbim
4. 4:9, See Rashi Yashan in Mikraos Gedolos
6. 3:16, See Bereishis 50:24,25
7. Bereishis 16:14