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Parshas Bo 5771

Rabbi Siegel

Parshat Bo

Jan 7, 2011

The Torah places an obligation upon us. As it says, "Ul'maan tisaper bi'aznei bincha u'ben bincha es asher his'alalti biMitzrayim" - In order for you to relate over to your son and your son’s son that which I played with Mitzrayim. 1

 

It is insufficient to relate over to the following generations the miraculous events of the exodus. We must include in our transmission the manner with which Hashem toyed with Pharaoh and mocked him.

 

What was the need to deal with Pharaoh in such a manner?

 

Why must we ensure that all subsequent generations possess this seeming bit of trivia?

 

Let us go back in history.

 

In the dawn of creation Hashem prepared the ultimate test for man. He created the serpent. The serpent was a wily creature, a master illusionist. He was capable of presenting right as wrong, dark as light. Hashem gave Adam one command. Had he heeded it, with the onset of Shabbos, Adam would have attained perfection.

 

The serpent could never have convinced Adam and Chava to blatantly disobey Hashem's explicit command. He therefore resorted to trickery. He convinced Chava that it was Hashem's will and hidden intent that she and Adam eat from the forbidden fruit of the eitz hada’as, that one can only fully worship Hashem by exercising one's free will to the fullest. It is man’s task to serve Hashem after experiencing evil. 2 One can reach great heights by descending to the lowest abyss and returning, thus shining Hashem's light in the darkest of depths.

 

Chava was told by her husband not to partake of the fruits of the tree, not to have any contact with the tree. Any contact would spell certain doom.

 

The serpent propelled Chava towards the tree and she made contact with it. She didn't perish, contrary to what she had expected, bolstering the serpent's point of view. 3 He fooled her, and he told her just as she survived her encounter with touching the tree, so too, may she feel safe eating from the fruits of the tree.

 

She ate and gave of the fruits to Adam.

 

The serpent made an impact upon Chava. She was a different person as a direct result of his influence. The new Chava was figuratively “born” from the serpent. From henceforth, he would have a share in everything she accomplished or produced. She passed this taint on to Adam. The world would bear the imprint of the serpent upon its nature. Through trickery, he effectively captured the world. 4

 

The Gaon of Vilna explains that it is incumbent on G-d’s people to reverse the trickery of the snake. One counters trickery with trickery. This is the only way. 5

 

The clash between man and the serpent is an ongoing one.

 

Our sages tell us that Eisav was born with an imprint of a snake upon his thigh. 6 This is a sure sign that his basic nature is that of the serpent. He was the bechor (the first-born). The blessings of Avrohom Avenu were in danger of being usurped by Eisav. They don’t belong to him. He fools his father Yitzchok into believing that he is worthy. He seeks the blessings for his own selfish needs. Yaakov rescues the brachos from the clutches of Eisav by way of an elaborate masquerade. Yaakov Avenu tricked the snake.

 

The battle continues.

 

Yaakov Avenu spent twenty years of his life by his uncle Lavan. He was bereft of sons prior to Yaakov's arrival. Lavan was devoid of all wealth. Yaakov’s arrival was a blessing for Lavan. The presence of the tzadik brought him all that he was lacking.

 

Though Yaakov Avenu was the source of his bounty, Lavan deceived him. He deceived him in marriage by tricking Yaakov into marrying the elder daughter Leah. He deceived him in his labors, by breaking his financial agreements with Yaakov one hundred times. Lavan was likened to a shape-shifting snake. 7


Yaakov made Lavan an offer. He would give up all claims to his wages in return for the rare spotted, speckled, and striped offspring of the upcoming flock. Lavan jumped at the chance to cheat Yaakov one more time.

 

Miraculously, the totality of Lavan's wealth passed to Yaakov's hands. The new flock, in its entirety was comprised of spotted, speckled, and striped offspring.

 

Lavan was fooled by his own wiles, and Yaakov Avenu regained what was truly his.

 

The next round.

 

Yaakov and his family went down to Mitzrayim. Due to Yosef's wise counsel during the years of plenty, Mitzrayim was the sole bastion of provisions during the years of famine. Mitzrayim controlled the wealth of the entire world. They unjustly took it all for themselves. They enslaved the very ones who brought them this prosperity. Pharaoh tricked them. He asked for volunteers to help in building up the cities of Egypt. Along with everyone else, the Jews complied. Surreptitiously, the others withdrew, and the only the Jews remained.

 

Mitzrayim was a serpent. 8

 

Arriving before Pharaoh, Moshe had Aharon turn his staff into a snake. The court magicians duplicated this feat. Then an amazing thing occurred, Aharon's staff swallowed up those of the magicians. This was meant as a sign that the serpentine trickery of the Egyptians is coming to an end. The time has come to out-maneuver the tricksters and defeat the snakes by using their own tactics.

 

Thus, Hashem instructed Moshe Rabeinu to demand of Pharaoh a three-day leave, to allow the Bnei Yisroel to worship Him in purity. At the end of three days Moshe leads the Jews in a circuitous route, seemingly wandering aimlessly, in the vicinity of the sole Egyptian idol to survive the makos. It appears as if the Jews are lost, as if they are powerless in the face of the lone remaining Egyptian idol.

 

This instills the Egyptians with the courage to pursue the Jews. Forced against the shores of the Yam Suf, the Jews have no place to flee. The final victory is within reach. The Egyptians are confident. They will recapture what they consider rightfully theirs.

 

At the very last moment, the waters part for the Jewish people. The Egyptians follow, and it parts for them as well. The trap was set. The timing was perfect. As last Jew stepped out from the Yam Suf, the last Egyptian entered the sea. The Gaon of Vilna notes that the greatest miracle of Yetzias Mitzrayim was that the Egyptians followed the Jews into the Yam Suf.

 

In one fell swoop, the Jewish nation freed themselves from the clutches of the serpent and the bounty of the entire world was returned to the faithful keepers of Adam HaRishon's destiny.

 

It is integral to impress upon our children and the coming generations that the wealth and power of this world are amassed in the hands of those who have no rights to them. Their ill-gotten gains are acquired by trickery. The use that they put them to is directed inwards towards selfish gratification.

 

The true home of all that is good in this world is in the hands of those who acknowledge the source of the good. Only then will G-d’s blessings be used for their intended purpose.

 

The process of restoring the mastery of the world to its true owner began in Mitzrayim. Hashem made a mockery of the devious snake called Egypt. All the deceitful measures they took to consolidate their hold on the universe worked against them, contributing to their final downfall.


There will come a time, when G-d will laugh from upon high, at the folly of those who would deprive His beloved people of what is their due. They will be tripped up by their own devious wiles.

1 Perek 10, posuk 2

2 Rambam, Moreh Navuchim, chelek 1, perek 2, HaKsav VeHaKabala, Parshas Breishis, perek 3, posuk 5, Be’er Mayim Chayim

3 Rashi - Breishis, perek 3, posuk 4

4 Meseches Yevamos, daf 103b

5 Safra DiTzniusa, perek 3, paragraph – Ve’inyan haparsah

6 Targum Unkelos, Parshas Toldos, perek 25, posuk 27, Megaleh Amukos, Os 45, Shalah, Sefer Breishis, Parshas Vayeshev, Miketz, Vayigash –Torah Ohr

7 Ra’ayah Mehemna, Parshas Behar, daf 111b, Sha’arei Orah, HaSha’ar HaShemini, Hasfira Hashlishis

8 Yechezkel, perek 29, posuk 3, Medrash Rabbah, Shmos, parsha 9, piska 4

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