Dear Readers, please realize that the weeks in which the parshiyos of Shemos, Va’era, Bo, and Beshalach are read are the best time to learn, study, contemplate and ,reflect upon the fundamentals of what we believe, things that are all too often neglected. Yetzias Mitzrayim, as we are learning, is the linchpin of our faith. (Besides, who else will remind you to start your Pesach cleaning?)
I think the best way to go about keeping my word about “summarizing what we have learned” is to keep translating, this time from the Sefer Hachinuch (mitzvah 21), “The obligation to tell the story of Yetzias Mitzrayim on the night of the fifteenth of Nissan.”
The Chinuch writes:
One of the underlying purposes of this mitzvah is to remember the miracles of the Exodus. And it should not be a wonder to you that we have received so many mitzvos regarding this obligation of remembrance, both positive mitzvos and negative ones (lo ta’aseh).
This includes the many mitzvos associated with the korban Pesach; the obligation to eat matzah; the prohibitions regarding chametz; also, many other general mitzvos whose stated purpose is, amongst other stated purposes, to serve as a reminder of Yetzias Mitzrayim: tefillin, mezuzah, sanctification of the first -born, and the mitzvos related to Shabbos and Yom Tov.
Because the events and story of the Exodus are a great foundation and a strong pillar of our Torah and of our faith, therefore we always recite in our blessings and in our prayers, “Zecher l’Yetzias Mitzrayim” — “a remembrance of the Exodus from Mitzrayim.”
Let us recall that at the time of the Exodus, the many fallacious beliefs that were prevalent included that the world has no creator at all, that the universe always existed; or that although the world has a creator, He does not know the particulars of events down here on earth, sometimes giving the reason that He is too transcendent or too sublime; or that although He knows with complete knowledge, He abandons people to random events; or that there is no G-dly reward or punishment for one’s actions. All of these views were refuted when the miracles of the Exodus occurred.
It is imperative that the Exodus be remembered because it provides us with a definitive sign and proof of the creation of the world and that there is a G-d who is the original Being who precedes all [as the Creator then also controls it]; Who is interested in the events of this world; and Who is all-powerful; Who brought into existence all the things in creation ex nihilo, into the state in which they now exist; and that it is within His power to miraculously change them into any other state that He desires at any time, as He did in Egypt when He altered the natural order of the universe for our sake and performed for us unprecedented great and powerful wonders. This certainly silences anyone who denies the creation of the world by G-d , and affirms the belief that Hashem has full knowledge of the particulars of human events as well as the belief that His guidance of events and His omnipotence extend to all matters, not only to the creation of the world but to all particulars of each event that occurs.
In other words, the miracles of the ten plagues and the Exodus were clearly not haphazard, temporary suspensions of the laws of nature, but were clearly foretold and were orchestrated to benefit the oppressed Jews and punish their oppressors. This, therefore, demonstrates G-d’s unlimited powers and His awareness of, and interest in, the affairs of mankind, and His guidance of those affairs.
To further elaborate: We find that after the makah of barad (hail), Pharaoh’s servants begged him to reconsider and send out Bnei Yisroel from Mitzrayim. They said, “How long will this one be a snare for us? Send out the men so that they may serve their G-d, Hashem. Do you not yet know that Egypt is lost?”(Parshas Bo, Shemos 10:7). During the earlier makos, Pharaoh’s servants did not come to ask that the Jews be let go. What precipitated this?
We find (in last week’s parsha) that Moshe Rabbeinu warned Pharaoh, “Realize that this time, I am sending all of my plagues against your heart, and upon your servants, and your people, so that you should know that there is none to compare to me in all the world” (Shemos 9:14). And Rashi there states, “We learn from here that makas bechoros is the equivalent of all the makos.” Huh? Who said anything about makas bechoros, and why would Moshe Rabbeinu be talking now about makas bechoros, when he is introducing makas barad to Pharaoh and the Egyptians?
(Answers to this question abound, including one which claims a copyist error for the abbreviation m”b; figure that one out yourselves.)
Let us examine what the Maharal says, in his sefer on Rashi, Gur Aryeh:
I can also explain [the Rashi] as follows: The grouping of the first three makos [blood, frogs, lice] were to combat Pharaoh not believing that they would indeed be from Hashem. And he had the Egyptian magicians duplicate the makos, until the magicians were forced to admit at the third makkah that “This is the finger of G-d” (Shemos 8:15), and Pharaoh was forced to admit that the makos were from Hashem. But Pharaoh still maintained that there is no hashgachah pratis in the world, which set the stage for the second grouping of makos — swarms of animals, an epidemic, and boils — for in introducing these makos, the pasuk says, “And I will set aside Eretz Goshen [where the Jews resided , in contradistinction to the rest of the land of Egypt]” (Shemos 8:18), indicating that the purpose of these three makos was to exhibit specific hashgacha in this world — as the pasuk makes a point of regarding these makos.
This then sets the stage for the lesson of the remaining makos: Hashem’s omnipotence.
To be continued…