Rabbi's Corner

Shmos – Rabbi Lerner – December 31, 2017

A New Sefer or Bereishis Part B?

The Netziv in his introduction to Sefer Shmos, quotes the Behag’s Baal Halachos Gedolos, who comes up with names for the five books of the Torah – He calls the first Bereishis because it is all about the beginning of history and the Jewish people. The second Sefer, Shemos, he refers to as Chumash Sheni – it doesn’t have a specific name characterizing its content. The third Sefer, Vayikrah, he calls Sefer Kohanim since it is all about korbanos and other jobs of the Kohanim. Bamidbar is called Chumash Hapikudim because the people are counted twice. And Devarim is known as Mishneh Torah, because it is a review of many of the concepts that appeared earlier in the Torah. The Netziv points out that only Shmos goes by a number, rather than a name; he deduces from here that the Behag is saying that Shmos is a continuation of the first Sefer, and does not have a separate character – it teaches that this Sefer is a continuation of the book of creation – it is a second part of the story; it doesn’t have its own independent status. Because of this, it is not considered a new era in the history of the Jewish people – it just continues the story of the family of Yaacov and his children, with the momentum of the family’s history rolling into this exile of Mitzrayim, as predicted in the Bris Bain Habesarim. By the end of the story, we leave Mitzrayim and go into the story of the nation’s history. This is as opposed to the Ramban, who calls Shmos the book of exile and redemption. The Behag links it all into one lengthy story.

Rav Yoni Grossman: In Vayigash 46:8 the pasuk also starts with Va’Eylah Shmos Bnai Yisrael Habaim Mitzraymah – it is the exact same beginning as Shmos. Clearly it is as if Hashem is calling out to us that these pasukim are connected by giving us the list of names of Yaacov’s family – this is why the Behag links the two as one long Sefer, and that Shmos is not a new book. What is the point of this? Near the end of Sefer Bereishis in 47:27 it says that Israel settled in the land of Egypt in the region of Goshen; they acquired property in it and they were fruitful and multiplied greatly. This too is a near repetition of the pasuk 1:7 in Shmos: And Bnai Yisrael were fruitful, and increased abundantly, and multiplied, and waxed exceeding mighty; and the land was filled with them. Rashi: the Midrash says that even though Hashem counted the Jewish people during the lifetime of Yaacov and his children, He counts them again after their death to show how much love He has for us – it is a sign of love and affection. Rashi follows this explanation consistently – Vayikrah also opens with a sign of love and affection, this time for Moshe. Ramban: The pasuk wants to count the years of Galus – it began not when Pharaoh began to enslave the people – but from the moment they went down to Egypt. The 70 members of the family began the exile when they arrived; Yaacov brought all of his descendants down to Egypt. It is repeated here because even though they are two separate Sefarim, there is a strong connection between the stories, as if it is really all one story; through literary style, Hashem is signaling to us that they are all bound together as one story.

Why is it important to call this one big Sefer? Rav Grossman: There is a difference in the two listings of names between Vayigash and Shmos. In Vayigash it lists all of the families of the wives together, with Leah’s family first, followed by the family of Zilpah, the maidservant of Leah; then there is Rachel; then Bilhah, the maidservant of Rachel. This does not follow the birth order, which would have been the first four children of Leah, then Bilhah’s children, then Zilpah, then Leah’s final children, and then Rachel. Rav Grossman says the Torah presents it like this in Vayigash to signal to us that the list is built on major tension within the family, with jealousy and rivalry between the families of Leah and Rachel. There was an internal war, a schism within the family. They had set up two separate camps. It indicated that there were two ‘superpowers’ – Leah and Rachel – with their ‘allies.’ There was an internal struggle with Sinas Chinam that we see with this subtle literary technique. In Shemos, however, it lists Leah and Rachel together in one pasuk, and then the children of the Shefachos together in one pasuk – the rival sisters’ children were linked together to show a change. When they went down to Mitzrayim they were a dysfunctional family, which was the message of Bereishis. Now in Shmos there is a different perspective; things have turned dark with the enslavement of the people, and the family is now unified – the message is that when we are in Galus, we are in hell and all we have is each other. It is as if suddenly the family of Israel became the nation of Israel – we got the wakeup call when the persecution began. We were transformed into Am Yisrael in Mitzrayim when the evil began. That is why God changes the order in Shmos – we had finally figured out that even though there was jealousy and rivalry, it is different when outside forces are bent on destroying us; they finally got it together. That is why the pasukim are repeated with the subtle message of the change in order.

The same lesson is seen with Purim – Haman complained to Achashverosh that there was nation that was spread out and separated throughout the empire. To overcome Haman’s evil plan, the Jews had to do Teshuvah, and come together with a fast. The point of our sending Mishloach Manos and Matanos to Evyonim is reaching out to unite all of the nation together, because that is how we overcome the enemy.

The lesson of the repetition of the pasukim is to get over petty rivalries and focus on unity and protecting ourselves from the true outside enemy; the Geulah comes about when we realize we only have ourselves. Vilna Gaon: When the Hashem tells Moshe immediately before leaving Mitzrayim to order the Jews to go out and borrow vessels of gold from their friends, it does not mean the Egyptians – this specific pasuk meant the Jews – that they should borrow and loan precious belongings to each other – they should show their unity and love for each other, because through that Zechus, Hashem will save the Jewish people.

Fri, February 23 2018 8 Adar 5778