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והיה כי יאמרו אליכם בניכם מה העבודה הזאת לכם

It shall be when your children say to you, “What is this service to you?” (12:26)

The first question which was cited in our parsha is that of the rasha, wicked son. The second question which is to be found in Sefer Devarim is that of the chacham, wise son. On the surface, they appear to be asking the same question. The difference lay in the subtle changes in their relative vernacular. The wicked son does not ask; he states. His question, if anything, is rhetorical, since he has all the answers. He refuses to acknowledge that the service is Divinely mandated, and, since mitzvos are “man-made,” they are not binding on him. Conversely, the wise…

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שבעת ימים מצות תאכלו ... ושמרתם את המצות

For a seven-day period, shall you eat matzos … You shall safeguard the matzos. (12:15,17)

The association of our departure from Egypt and the prohibition against eating chametz, leaven, for seven/eight days, requires some explanation. Furthermore, the fact that a mitzvah d’Oraisa, Biblical commandment, obligates us to eat matzah (on the first night) begs elucidation in its relationship to the Exodus. The fact that we were compelled to rush out of Egypt, which precluded our ability to make leavened bread, is the obvious and accepted reason for eating matzah (for its commemorative value). Is there a deeper reason for negating leaven and replacing it with matzah? Horav Moshe Shapiro, zl, explains that when one mixes…

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ולמען תספר באזני בנך ובן בנך את אשר התעללתי במצרים

So that you may relate in the ears of your son and your son’s son that I made a mockery of Egypt. (10:2)

Relating the events preceding and surrounding the Exodus is more than a lesson in Jewish history. As the seminal event in world history, it demonstrates Hashem’s mastery over nature to all. Thus, it has become a lesson in Jewish theology and dogma. Hashem is the Creator of the world and the G-d of history. As He wrought the miracles in Egypt thousands of years ago, He continues to control and guide the events of the world (history) to suit Klal Yisrael. Nations have come and gone. We are still here and will continue to maintain our presence as long as…

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כי אני הכבדתי את לבו

For I have made his heart stubborn. (10:1)

Kveidus ha’lev, translated as “a hardening of the heart,” making it stubborn, is derived from the word, kaveid, heavy; a hardened heart is a heavy heart. Why is the heart the reference point, as opposed to any other organ? Horav Baruch Dov Povarsky, Shlita, explains that a human being is comprised of 248 eivarim, organs, which coincide with 248 mitzvos asei, positive commandments. Each individual organ is designated for a specific mitzvah. Thus, if a specific organ is flawed or defective, the mitzvah with which it coincides will likely be compromised. In other words, organs matter because of their relationship…

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והיה לך לאות על ידך ולזכרון בין עיניך

And it shall be for you a sign, your arm and a reminder between your eyes. (13:9)

The mitzvah of Tefillin – two boxes which each contain four short parshiyos from the Torah inscribed on parchment, and worn on the arm and the forehead – is one of the most important mitzvos of the Torah. One of the boxes is worn on the arm, opposite the heart, which is the seat of one’s emotions; the other is placed above the forehead, resting opposite the cerebrum. Thus, our attention is directed to the head, the heart and to the hand, thereby implying that our actions must be dedicated to Hashem in such a manner that we conjoin our…

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וישאל איש מאת רעהו ואשה מאת רעותה כלי כסף וכלי זהב

Let each man request of his fellow and each woman from her fellow silver vessels and gold vessels. (11:2)

Hashem asked Moshe Rabbeinu to make a special effort to impress upon the Jews the significance of requesting silver and gold vessels from the Egyptians, because, if they did not leave Egypt with a sizable financial portfolio, Avraham Avinu’s neshamah, soul, would have a “complaint” against Hashem. She’lo yomar oso tzaddik V’avadum v’inu osam – kayeim ba’hem – v’acharei chein yeitzu b’r’chush gadol – lo kayeim ba’hem; “So that the righteous person (Avraham) should not say, ‘G-d carried out in full measure the prophecy that his offspring will be oppressed, but not the companion promise that they will leave their…

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ויט משה את ידו על השמים ויהי חשך אפלה בכל ארץ מצרים

Moshe stretched forth his hand towards the heavens, and there was a thick darkness throughout the Land of Egypt. (10:22)

Chazal (Midrash Rabbah/Shemos 14:2) ask from whence came this choshech, darkness. Rabbi Yehudah says it came from on High. It was a Heavenly/otherworldly darkness, as it says in Tehillim 18:12, “He made darkness His concealment, around Him His shelter.” (This means: even when Hashem intervenes in a swift and stunning manner in human affairs, He remains concealed [Ibn Ezra], or alternatively, man quickly forgets Hashem’s role in all that happens to him [Horav S.R. Hirsch]. The question is obvious: If the darkness that plagued Egypt was from Heaven – where in Heaven was it to be found? Is there darkness…

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בא אל פרעה כי אני הכבדתי את לבו ואת לב עבדיו

Come to Pharaoh, for I have made his heart and the heart of his servants stubborn. (10:1)

Rashi explains that Hashem sent Moshe to warn Pharaoh of the upcoming plague. Why warn Pharaoh if his reaction would be negative as a result of Hashem hardening his heart? A warning should serve a purpose. Apparently, this warning did not. Horav Yosef Dov Soloveitzchik, zl, Rosh Yeshivas Brisk, Yerushalayim, explains this based upon a principle quoted from Horav Yeruchem Levovitz, zl, Mashgiach Yeshivas Mir. When Sarah Imeinu gave birth to Yitzchak Avinu at the age of 90 years old, the Torah makes a big “to do” about the overt miracle that she had experienced. In contrast, when Yocheved gave…

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ויהי חשך אפלה בכל ארץ מצרים שלשת ימים

And there was a thick darkness throughout the land of Egypt for a three-day period. (10:22)

Egypt was plunged into three days of overwhelming darkness, a blackness so heavy that the Egyptians were unable to move. If the purpose of the darkness was to impede the Egyptians’ ability to see, Hashem could have struck them with blindness. It happened in Sodom, when the townspeople were about to attack the Angels who had come to save Lot. Hashem could simply have blinded the Egyptians without creating such a heavy darkness. The Chasam Sofer, zl, explains that it is well-known that when a person loses the power of one of his senses, the other senses become more acute….

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ושמרתם את המצות... ושמרתם את היום הזה לדרתיכם חקת עולם

You shall safeguard the matzos… you shall observe this day for your generations as an eternal decree. (12:17)

Procrastination is a major hindrance when it comes to getting something done. Certainly, no one will hire a worker to complete a job knowing that this worker has a reputation as a procrastinator. On the other hand, one would find himself hard-pressed to call a procrastinator evil. Unreliable perhaps, but evil? Certainly not. Horav Shlomo Wolbe, zl, teaches us that, with regard to mitzvah performance, procrastination, delay of any sort, is characteristic of the pull of the yetzer hora, evil-inclination, over us, and, thus, sufficient reason to refer to it as an evil trait. The Torah admonishes U’shemartam es ha’matzos,…

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