Parshas Bo

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By Rabbi Shloimie Lindenbaum

ויצא מעם פרעה בחרי אף (פרק יא פסוק ח)

After מכת חשך (the plague of darkness), when Pharoah continues his stubborn refusal, he angrily threatens Moshe that if he dares to show his face again then he will be punished severely. Moshe readily agrees with Pharoah that he will indeed not come to see him again. Then Moshe predicts מכת בכורות (the death of the firstborn) and leaves Pharoah בחרי אף (in a burning anger). The גמרא comments that this anger of Moshe indicates that when he left, he slapped Pharoah. Rashi says that Moshe’s anger was because Pharoah threatened him not to return. R’ Shimon Schwab asks, why did Moshe get so upset, he was a tremendous עניו and he also agreed that he would not return to Pharoah? Additionally, when one gets angry, they lose their נבואה (prophecy), yet right after Pharoah threatens Moshe, Moshe continues to predict מכת בכורות? R’ Schwab says that clearly this was no simple, self-serving anger. Rather, Moshe was getting upset about the terrible חילול ה’ that Pharoah was causing. His public defiance of Hashem’s Will was a disgrace to Hashem’s Name, and this caused Moshe to become enraged. Until now, however, Moshe had to withhold his anger because Hashem had told him to treat Pharoah with respect. Now, when Moshe had completed his final message to Pharoah, and had promised not to return, he was no longer acting as Hashem’s messenger.  Now he showed Pharoah what he really thought of him and angrily slapped him for his impudence. Anger לשם שמים does not cause loss of נבואה and is appropriate when doing so on behalf of Hashem’s Honor.

וכל פטר חמור תפדה בשה…וכל בכור אדם בבניך תפדה (פרק יג פסוק יג)

All first-born boys and first-born kosher animals have inherent קדושה and must be treated with the הלכות described in the תורה. The donkey is the one non-kosher animal that also has הלכות pertaining to its care. Why is the donkey singled out of all animals? Additionally, the ירושלמי links the חיוב to redeem first-born sons and with the sale of Yosef who was the first-born to his mother. What is the connection? The משך חכמה explains that when Hashem sends punishments and then sends a salvation it is not indicative of any “change of heart” on Hashem’s part. Rather, Hashem saw that the person or nation needed the suffering, and they equally deserve and need the salvation. Especially regarding our descent to מצרים with the subsequent redemption, everything was intentional and for our benefit. חז”ל refer to מצרים as a purifying furnace in which we acquired many מדות and חכמות that were necessary before we became Hashem’s nation. When Hashem skipped over the first-born Jews and only struck the first-born Egyptians there was a clear display of Hashem’s השגחה פרטית and how He deals very differently with those who follow Him. This made בני ישראל realize how everything they had experienced in their long and difficult גלות was directly from Hashem, who guided their every step, all for their own growth. This was the link to sale of Yosef- that was the cause for them to come to מצרים, and they came down on donkeys. They now realized that every detail was carefully calculated and planned by Hashem’s Master Plan. This is what the מצוה of בכור is meant to remind us. Especially a בכור, which earned its status just by being born, reminds us of our elite status that we merit by virtue of being children of the אבות. Through this מצוה we remember that Hashem watches over every aspect of our lives.

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