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ולא שמעו אל משה מקצר רוח ומעבודה קשה

But they didn’t listen to Moshe from impatience of spirit and from hard labor. (6:9)

One would think that, if someone were to appear at the domicile of a down-trodden slave to inform him that the end of his bondage is near and he would soon be a free man, his immediate reaction would be joy – overwhelming joy. Instead, when Moshe Rabbeinu informed Klal Yisrael that Pharaoh would no longer be their Master, they seemed impatient and not really interested in hearing his message of liberation. The Torah explains that they were victims of kotzer ruach, which Sforno interprets as: l’hisbonein, to comprehend, think it over; in short, they were plagued with an inability…

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ויעשו כן חרטמי מצרים בלטיהם

The necromancers of Egypt did the same by means of their incantations. (7:22)

Pharaoh did not heed Moshe Rabbeinu’s warning. Hashem instructed Moshe to have Aharon strike the Nile and stretch out his hand to bring the plague of dam, blood, all over the land. The reaction of Pharaoh and his magicians defies comprehension: they also demonstrated the magical ability to transform the water into blood. Is this sane? Imagine a fire breaks out in a city inhabited primarily by imbeciles. So what do the imbeciles do in reaction to the fire that has broken out in one end of the city? They start another fire in the other end of the city!…

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ושרץ היאר צפרדעים ... ובאו בביתך ... ובעמך ובתנוריך ובמשארותיך

The river shall swarm with frogs, and they shall ascend and come into your palace … and of your people and into your ovens and into your kneading bowls. (7:28)

The frogs were a hardy bunch who swarmed all over Egypt. No place was considered off limits to them. Even the burning hot ovens did not prevent them from fulfilling Hashem’s command. When the Almighty said, “Go,” they went. It took enormous mesiras nefesh, self-sacrifice, for those frogs to enter the burning oven. For all intents and purposes, it spelled certain death. In the end, they were the only frogs who did not die. Whoever carries out Hashem’s mitzvah comes to no harm. Chazal (Yoma 85:b) teach that years later Chananyah, Mishael and Azaryah entered the fiery cauldron, motivated by…

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הנני ממטיר כעת מחר ברד כבד מאד ... שלח העז את מקנך ... כל האדם והבהמה אשר ימצא בשדה ... וירד עליהם הברד ומתו ... הירא את דבר ד ... הניס את עבדיו אל הבתים ... ואשר לא שם לבו אל דבר ד ויעזב את עבדיו

Behold, at this time tomorrow, I shall rain a very heavy hail… and now send, gather in your livestock… All the people and the animals that are found in the field… the hail shall descend upon them and they shall die … Whoever feared Hashem chased his servants to the houses. And whoever did not take the word of G-d to heart he left his servants. (9:18,19,20,21)

Makas Barad, the plague of hail, begs elucidation. Horav Baruch Dov Povarsky, Shlita, presents us with a number of questions concerning this plague. Moshe Rabbeinu pinpointed to Pharaoh the exact time when the plague would commence by making a mark on the wall. He explained that when the sun would reach this mark, it would begin to hail. Afterwards, he told Pharaoh to have all his servants and possessions remanded indoors or else they would die or be destroyed. Why did Hashem warn them? The purpose of the plague was to punish the Egyptians. Why give them an exit strategy…

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ותיראן המילדות את האלקים ולא עשו כאשר דבר אליהן מלך מצרים

And the midwives feared G-d; they did not do as the King of Egypt told them. (1:17)

The Torah lauds the midwives, Shifrah and Puah, for defying Pharaoh’s diabolical decree, maintaining that their inner strength and courage were the product of their profound yiraas Elokim, fear of G-d. Two weak, defenseless women stood up to the most powerful despotic ruler in the world and refused to murder the Jewish infants. True, they gave excuses, but anyone with a modicum of intelligence knew that what they claimed could not have been true all the time. Their yiraas Shomayim, fear of Heaven, knowing fully-well that Hashem is above everyone and no excuses or mitigating, extenuating circumstances can rationalize transgression…

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בטרם תבוא אליהן המילדת וילדו

Before the midwife comes to them, they have given birth. (1:19)

The midwives explained to Pharaoh that the Jewish women were unique in that they gave birth even prior to the arrival of the midwife. Thus, the midwives were powerless to prevent the male infants from entering the world. Certainly, Pharaoh did not want them to commit a wanton act of murder. Horav Ovadia Yosef, zl, related the following incredible incident. One Erev Pesach, a young father who lived on a Moshav south of Yerushalayim came to him with a six-year old boy. “Kavod Horav, will the Chacham bless my son? After all, he was born because of ‘you,’” the young…

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ותרד בת פרעה לרחץ על היאר

Pharoah’s daughter went down to bathe by the river. (2:5)

The Baal HaTurim writes that the last letters of va’teired bas Pharaoh – daled, saf, hay, spell dassah, her religion. This teaches us that Bisyah, daughter of Pharaoh, was not taking a random trip down to the river. She went there to immerse herself as her concluding step toward converting to Judaism. This comment is already stated in the Talmud (Sotah 12b), “She went down to the river to wash herself off from her father’s idols.” Horav Gamliel Rabinowitz, Shlita, asks an intriguing question. Of all times to join the Jewish People, this was not the most propitious. No people…

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ויאנחנו בני ישראל מן העבודה ויזעקו ותעל שועתם אל האלקים... וישמע... ויזכר אלקים את בריתו את אברהם את יצחק ואת יעקב

And Bnei Yisrael groaned from the labor, and they cried out, and their outcry rose up to G-d… and G-d heard… and G-d remembered His covenant with Avraham, Yitzchak and Yaakov. (2:23,24)

The Jews had been suffering for years from the back-breaking labor forced upon them by the Egyptians. They must have cried, groaned and moaned before. Now, the covenant with the Patriarchs came into play. This was not a new covenant. It had been around for quite some time. Why now? What change transpired that now, after all this time, Hashem listened, remembered and responded to these pleas? Horav Yisrael Belsky, zl, recounts from a Shabbos Shuvah drashah, lecture, rendered by Horav Yonasan Shteif, zl, that responds to this question. Golus comes in two forms: physical and spiritual. Physical bondage is…

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ויחי יעקב בארץ מצרים

Yaakov lived in the land of Egypt. (47:28)

Rashi asks (based on a Midrash), “Why is this parsha setumah, closed?” Despite the fact that Vayechi begins a new parshah, it is “closed.” This means it is not set off by the usual number of spaces that would normally mark it as distinct from the previous parsha. (In other words, when there are no spaces it is difficult to discern the beginning of a new parsha.) Rashi offers his responses. I would like to focus on a meaningful explanation which Horav Nissan Alpert, zl, renders. Life (can be – and is) unpredictable and mysterious. Life is like a “closed…

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ויברך את יוסף ... יברך את הנערים ויקרא בהם שמי ... ויברכם ביום ההוא לאמר בך יבורך ישראל

He blessed Yosef … shall bless the lads and shall call them my name… And he blessed on that day, saying: “In you shall Yisrael (be) blessed.” (48:15,16,20)

Yaakov Avinu actually gave two blessings: one to Yosef, and one to Ephraim and Menashe. Upon reading the text of the blessings, however, we confront an anomaly: Yaakov actually directed the blessing meant for Yosef at his sons – Ephraim and Menashe. The blessing that Yaakov Avinu gave to Ephraim and Menashe was all about Yosef. Concerning Yosef’s blessing, the Torah writes, Yevareich es ha’naarim, “He (Hashem) should bless the lads,” while, concerning Ephraim and Menashe, the Patriarch said, “In you (singular), shall Yisrael be blessed,” which implies that the blessing was to him. Horav Yisrael Belsky, zl, posits that…

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