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והיה לך לאות על ידך

And it should be for you a sign on your arm. (13:9)

Horav Aryeh Levin, zl, the Tzaddik of Yerushalayim, reached out to Jews of all backgrounds and religious persuasions. He made it a point to visit the prisons run by the British and also visit those with contagious diseases, such as leprosy. Indeed, he was one of the few who did this. Certainly, no one of his exalted stature carried out such exalted acts of chesed. During the British Mandate, political prisoners – such as the young, Jewish freedom fighters – were sentenced to the gallows by the British courts. The shadow of death was hardly ever overruled by a pardon….

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קדש לי כל בכור פטר כל רחם

Sanctify for Me every first born, the first issue of every womb. (13:2)

Chazal (Kiddushin 29b) derive from here that the term b’chor, firstborn, applies only to the firstborn of the mother. A firstborn who is the first for the father, but not the mother, does not become consecrated b’kedushas bechorah, the sanctity of the firstborn. We wonder why this is so? The bechorim are sanctified due to the miracle concerning their salvation when all the heathen firstborn of Egypt were slain. The Jewish firstborn were spared. Regarding the Egyptian firstborn, no distinction was made whether it was the father’s or mother’s firstborn – they all died. Indeed, if no firstborn was in…

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ויצא מעם פרעה בחרי אף

And he left Pharaoh’s presence in a burning anger. (11:9)

Moshe Rabbeinu finally became angry with Pharaoh, whose irrational, egotistical obstinacy was endangering his entire country. Pharaoh was playing games with Moshe. First, no; then, yes; then, who will go? Finally, when Pharaoh told Moshe not to return unless he despaired for his life, Moshe replied, “I will no longer see your face.” Despite Moshe’s justified anger, he still spoke respectfully to Pharaoh. Indeed, he told Pharaoh that, at the next plague, it will be his slaves who will be coming to him, pleading for an end to the plague. In the end, it was Pharaoh, accompanied by his slaves,…

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ולמען תספר באזני בנך

And so that you may relate in the ears of your son. (10:2)

One of the mysteries that plague the commentators is the fact that the two sons of Moshe Rabbeinu were not in Egypt during the demonstration of the miracles and wonders associated with the Exodus. They did not see Krias Yam Suf, the Splitting of the Red Sea. All of Klal Yisrael observed the final end of 210 years of slavery, as their oppressors experienced a fitting end to their domination of the Jews. Two sons, not just ordinary sons, but the two children of the man of the hour, who became the Rabban Shel Kol Yisrael and its quintessential leader….

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קדש לי כל בכור... ויאמר משה אל העם זכור את היום הזה אשר יצאתם ממצרים... והיה כי יביאך ד'

Sanctify to Me every firstborn… Moshe said to the people, “Remember this day on which you departed from Egypt… And it will come to pass that Hashem shall bring you.” (13:1,2,4)

Rarely does a mitzvah receive such a hakdamah, foreword, prior to presenting the actual mitzvah to Klal Yisrael. Apparently, the mitzvah of kiddush b’chorim, sanctification of the firstborn, is tied directly to the story of the Egyptian bondage and the ensuing exodus. First, we note that unlike for the b’chor of an animal whose kedushah is pronounced by the declaration, Harei zeh kadosh, “This is sanctified,” this declaration does not suffice for a human firstborn. It is critical that we expend much effort in raising the infant b’chor to achieve Heavenly kedushah. This is the idea behind prefacing the mitzvah…

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ולא יהיה בכם נגף למשחית בהכתי בארץ מצרים...ואתם לא תצאו איש מפתח ביתו עד בקר

There shall not be a plague of destruction upon you when I strike in the land of Egypt. (12:13)…You shall not leave the entrance of the house until morning. (12:22)

The Jews were warned to stay home during the destruction that Hashem was wreaking in Egypt. What about the Jew who left his house? Did he perish together with the Egyptians? Rashi alludes to such a situation when he comments concerning the pasuk, “There shall not be a plague of destruction upon you.” If a Jew happened to be in an Egyptian home during the plague, was he smitten together with his Egyptian host? No. This was Hashem’s promise: “Jews will not die.” Mishnas Rashi wonders why there is a question that a member of the Jewish People would suffer…

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והיתה צעקה גדלה בכל ארץ מצרים אשר כמהו לא נהיתה וכמהו לא תסף

There shall be a great outcry in the entire land of Egypt, such as there had never been and such a there shall never be again. (11:6)

Moshe Rabbeinu warned of the impending plague of makkas bechoros, smiting of the firstborn. He added that the cries of grief would supersede any cries that had been and any cries that would ever be. These are strong words coming from the individual who was the medium for the last nine plagues that had devastated Egypt. One would expect that such words would have shaken up the Egyptians to their very core. The Midrash HaGadol, however, relates a dialogue that ensued between an elderly Egyptian woman and Moshe. The woman screamed, “You are a false prophet! An old woman who…

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ויאמר אליהם... מי ומי ההלכים... ויאמר משה בנערינו ובזקנינו נלך... כי חג ד' לנו

He (Pharaoh) said to them, “Which ones are going…” Moshe said, “With our youngsters and with our elders we will go… because it is a festival of Hashem for us.” (10:8,9)

Pharaoh finally showed a crack in his armor. He was prepared to allow some Jews to leave, and he was willing to negotiate concerning who may leave and who must remain. Moshe Rabbeinu replied that he had no room for negotiation, no juncture for compromise. They were all leaving. Pharaoh countered, saying that he would allow the adult men to go. Moshe said it was insufficient, “We will go with everyone – from our youngsters to our elders.” They were at an impasse, with Moshe insisting on including the young children and even feeble elders, and Pharaoh contending that this…

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זכור את היום הזה אשר יצאתם ממצרים מבית עבדים כי בחזק יד הוציא ד' אתכם מזה ולא יאכל חמץ

Remember this day on which you departed from Egypt, from the house of bondage, for with a strong hand Hashem removed you from here and, therefore, chametz may not be eaten. (13:3)

Zachor, remember, is written in the infinitive form which implies that yetzias Mitzrayim, the exodus from Egypt, should be remembered constantly. Thus, we recite the remembrance with the recitation of the third paragraph of the Shema. Interestingly, the Exodus is the only such miraculous episode which the Torah commands us to remember daily. It is certainly not the only miracle that we, as a nation, experienced. Our history is replete with miracles. Why does yetzias Mitzrayim take center stage, such that we must constantly reiterate it. Furthermore, the Torah is addressing the miracle of the Exodus. Why is the prohibition…

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קדש לי כל בכור פטר כל רחם בבני ישראל באדם ובבהמה לי הוא

Sanctify for Me every firstborn of Bnei Yisrael, of man and animal, they are Mine. (13:2)

The mitzvah of Pidyon HaBen, redeeming the firstborn, is directly connected to yetzias Mitzrayim, the Egyptian exodus. Hashem refers to the bechorim, first born: Li hu, “They are Mine.” Rashi explains that Hashem smote the Egyptian firstborn and spared their Jewish counterparts. He acquired the Jewish firstborn. The decree was solely directed towards the Egyptian firstborn; makas bechoros, the plague of the smiting of the firstborn, was the coupe de grace of the ten makkos, plagues, with which Hashem struck the Egyptians. What does it have to do with the Jews? Horav Shlomo Wolbe, zl, cites a Novoradok (Yeshivas Bais…

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