Friday, January 07, 2011

Parsha Notes Bo 5771

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Exodus 10:3: Thus says the LORD, the God of the Hebrews, 'How long will you refuse to humble yourself before Me? כה־אמר... העברים עד־מתי מאנת לענת מפני


Exodus 10:7: Pharaoh's servants said to him, "How long will this man be a snare to us? ויאמרו עבדי פרעה אליו עד־מתי יהיה זה לנו למוקש

Yosef in Meketz and Pharoah in Bo are virtually mirror images of each other, forming a neat envelope structure around the story of the Egyptian exile

- Exodus 10:10 ויאמר אלהם יהי כן יהוה עםכם כאשר אשלח אתכם ואת־טפכם ראו כי רעה נגד פניכם׃
And he said unto them: 'So be the LORD with you, as I will let you go, and your little ones; see ye that evil [ra'ah] before your face.
Rashi takes the mention of Ra'ah as a reference to a particular star, but its seems more likely that Pharaoh is referring to Ra, the Egyptian sun God, and is saying, in essence, that his god stands against ours.

- Exodus 11:5: and all the firstborn in the land of Egypt shall die, from the firstborn of the Pharaoh who sits on his throne, even to the firstborn of the slave girl who is behind the millstones;
According to Cassuito "slave girl who is behind the millstones" is an authentic Egyptian idiom for "lowest of the low"

Where was Pharoah on the night of the Exodus? Was he somehow in two places at once?

- Exodus 10:13 So Moses stretched out his staff over the land of Egypt, and the LORD directed an east wind on the land all that day and all that night
"East wind" is a Canaanite idiom for a hot wind, or a wind that brought locusts. In Egypt, locusts would typically come from the South. (Sarna)

What in the world does the verse intend when it promises "no dog's tongue will be sharpened" against us?

Fun fact to know and tell: The ibn Ezra says he experienced something much like the plague of Darkness during his sea journeys. (He mentions the Atlantic by name) He is referring to especially thick fogs.

Famous Questions
Why do we cook the Passover lamb with no pot, and serve it with flat breadsPossible answer. [Alter ads that we're enjoined not to break the bones of the lamb to preserve the idea of haste. People with time to spare, might break bones and suck marrow. This ties in with the supposed reason for unleavened bread.]

Was Pesach originally one holiday or two? The argument is that Chag Hapesach and Chag Hamatzos credibly seem to be treated by the psukim as two different holidays. The proper Jewish response should be: Who cares(!)

Why was the lamb taken on the tenth day, if it wasn't going to be used until the fourteenth day? Various answers found here.

Two way Torah
Why can't we break any of the Paschal Sacrifice's bones? Sefer Hachinuch: Because a royal person doesn't eat that way. Robert Alter: To preserve the idea of haste. We eat flatbreads to remind ourselves that we left Egypt in a rush; the bones are left unbroken for the same reason. If we had more time, we'd break bones and suck marrow, and get at the last bits of meat.

Contra midrash 
Did the Isralites take on Egyptian names and fashions? We were all taught that the Jews didn't take Egyptian names or copy Egyptian clothing styles, yet: (Exodus 12:35) and they borrowed of the Egyptians jewels of silver, and jewels of gold, and cloaks.  There are additional problems with this midrash, as well as a fortune of evidence that Israelites took Egyptians names.

How many Jews died during darkness?  Two posts: 1 and 2 (As I hope to show, if you think its a certainty that many Jews died during darkness, you should think again.)


Why do we keep mitzvos? The very famous Ramban in which he argues that we keep mitzvos only to glorify the name of God (but Ibn Ezra and Rashi disagree)

"Your character is created by your actions" is a famous lesson taught in the Sefer Hachinuch based on the quite precious thought that we became a royal people by eating the Paschal Sacrifice in the manner that a royal person eats. Several examples are given.

Questions about the Plagues
  • Why did God harden Pharoh's heart?  Machlokes Rishonim. At least five opinions.
  • What does it mean to "harden" someone's heart. Machlokes Rishonim. At least five opinions.
  • What underlying message or theme were the plagues meant convey? Is there some pattern? At least three opinions. Midrash: Order of an attacking army; Seforno: To teach three seperate lessons about the nature of God; Samson Raphael Hirsch: midah-kneged-midah for gerus, avdus and inuy.
  • Did the plague affect Egyptians only? Midrash: Yes; Ibn Ezra: Only the last 7; Radvad: The Ibn Ezra is an ignoramus. Ignore him; Avi Ezer: The Ibn Ezra didn't write that; blame his "wayward student."
  • Did the magicians have real powers? Midrash: Yes; Rashi: Yes; Ralbag: No; Abravanel: No; Samson Raphael Hirsch: No
  • Why is the number and order on the plagues in Pslam different from what's recorded in the Torah? Psalms 78:43-51 lists seven plagues, and Psalms 105:27-36 refers to eight. Was Rabbi Judah's famous mnemonic device, detza"kh, ada"sh, be'aha"b, perhaps meant to reinforce the Torah's version, against the version recorded in Psalms?

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