April 18, 2024
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Zera Shimshon on Parshas Va’eira

וַיְדַבֵּר אלוקים אֶל משֶׁה וַיֹּאמֶר אֵלָיו אֲנִי יְדֹוָד: וָאֵרָא אֶל אַבְרָהָם אֶל יִצְחָק וְאֶל יַעֲקֹב בְּקל שַׁדָּי וּשְׁמִי יְדֹוָד לֹא נוֹדַעְתִּי לָהֶם: וְגַם הֲקִמֹתִי אֶת בְּרִיתִי אִתָּם לָתֵת לָהֶם אֶת אֶרֶץ כְּנָעַן אֵת אֶרֶץ מְגֻרֵיהֶם אֲשֶׁר גָּרוּ בָהּ: וְגַם אֲנִי שָׁמַעְתִּי אֶת נַאֲקַת בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל אֲשֶׁר מִצְרַיִם מַעֲבִדִים אֹתָם וָאֶזְכֹּר אֶת בְּרִיתִי

“And Hashem spoke to Moshe and said to him, “I am Hashem”. I appeared to Avraham, Yitzchok and Yaakov as Kail Shakai, but I did not make Myself known to them by My name, “Hashem” (Yud Kay Vuv Kay). I also established My covenant with them, to give them the land of Canaan, the land in which they lived as sojourners. I have now heard the moaning of Bnei Yisroel because the Mitzriyim are holding them in bondage and I have remembered My covenant.” (Shemos 6/2-5)

The Sefer Zera Beirach (printed in 1739) writes that there are four reasons why Hashem redeemed Bnei Yisroel from Mitzrayim, and they are alluded to in these pesukim we mentioned above.

The first reason Hashem redeemed Bnei Yisroel from Mitzrayim is because Hashem rewards people who go in His ways. Bnei Yisroel’s forefathers were great servants of Hashem, it is therefore reasonable that their children reap the rewards of their ancestor’s service to Hashem and be redeemed. This is alluded to in the first pasuk “Va’yedaber Elokim ell Moshe Vayomer Ani Hashem,” And Hashem spoke to Moshe saying, ‘I am Hashem’. Rashi comments on this phrase “Ani Hashem; [Meaning: I am] faithful to give payment to all those who walk before Me.

The second reason is that Hashem promised to redeem Bnei Yisroel from Mitzrayim. This is alluded to in the second pasuk, “Va’eira ell Avraham ell Yitzchak v’ell Yaakov b’Kail Shakai” I appeared to Avraham, Yitzchak and Yaakov as Kail Shakai’ which Rashi explains refers to the promise Hashem made to Avraham using the name Kail Shakai.

The third reason is that Hashem made a covenant with Avraham to redeem his descendants from Mitzrayim. This is written in the third pasuk; “V’zacharti ess brissi”-And I have remembered My covenant.

The fourth reason is that they deserved to be redeemed because of their own merits. This is alluded to in fourth possuk; V’gam ani shemati ess na’akkas Bnei Yisroel.-And I also heard the crying out of Bnei Yisroel.

Zera Shimshon asks, why are all of these reasons needed? Why wouldn’t any one of them by themselves be enough?

Zera Shimshon explains as follows: The argument that we deserve redemption in the merit of our forefathers is actually very weak because Bnei Yisroel did not follow the ways of Avraham, Yitzchak and Yaakov. They worshiped idols in Mitzrayim and they did not do milah. Only children who go in their ancestors’ ways deserve to reap the rewards of their ancestors’ actions but not people who forsake their ancestors’ ways. Therefore, the second reason, that Hashem made a promise to redeem us, was needed.

However, the second argument is also weak because even though Hashem promised to redeem us, Hashem is perfectly just, and therefore His attribute of Justice would constantly contest this promise because of our unacceptable behavior in Mitzrayim.

This argument, though, was stronger than the first one because even though the promise could be disputed because of our bad conduct, Rashi (Shemos 3/11) writes that the promise was based on, and in merit of, Bnei Yisroel accepting the Torah after they left Mitzrayim. Therefore, even though at the time that Hashem spoke to Moshe, Bnei Yisroel still did not go in the ways of their forefathers, they were still worthy of redemption because of what would be in the future.

However, this still was not strong enough to secure redemption because the promise was only to be redeemed after 400 years of bondage. Since Bnei Yisroel was already on the 49th level of impurity and tumah, if Bnei Yisroel would have waited for the promise to take hold, they would already have been lost in the tumah of Mitzrayim and the promise would never have been able to take effect.

Because of this Hashem told Moshe that there was also an oath. The benefit of having an oath to be redeemed over a promise can be understood according to two halachos.

The Halacha states, if a person makes an oath to pay a loan by a certain day and that day is Shabbos, he must pay the loan a day earlier, on Friday (Chosen Mishpat 73/7).

Even more so. The Rema (Yorah Dayah 232) paskens that if a person made an oath to do something on a certain day or within a year, he must do it immediately or at the very most on the morning of the designated day of the oath in order that he will not forget or he will not be able to fulfill his oath due to circumstances beyond his control.

Therefore, the third argument that Hashem made an oath was needed in order for Hashem to redeem us before we reached the 50th level of tumah (just like one cannot wait for the last minute to fulfill an oath.)

We are still left to understand why is the fourth argument, i.e. that we should be redeemed on the basis of our own merit, needed?

Zera Shimshon answers that at the Bris Bein HaBessarim, Hashem didn’t only promise to redeem Bnei Yisroel but Hashem also promised to judge and destroy their oppressors. However, this was promised only after Bnei Yisroel would be enslaved and in bondage for 400 years.

Therefore, if Hashem would have redeemed Bnei Yisroel early because of His oath the Mitzriyim would not have been destroyed. However, since Bnei Yisroel had their own merits, Hashem considered the koshi ha’shibud– the severity of the bondage- to be as if they were in bondage 400 years in order that the Mitzriyim would be destroyed.

In short, the fact that Hashem rewards people who follow His ways was not enough of a reason to secure redemption because even though Bnei Yisroel’s forefathers were faithful servants to Hashem, Bnei Yisroel in Mitzrayim did not follow their ways. The promise that Hashem made to Avraham, Yitzchak and Yaakov to redeem their descendants was also not enough because Hashem’s Attribute of Justice would argue that it is not just to redeem them even though there was a promise. The fact that Hashem made an oath was more binding. However, this only guaranteed that they would be redeemed before they were totally assimilated but this didn’t guarantee that their oppressors, the Mitzriyim would be punished. Therefore, the fourth reason for redemption is needed; that Bnei Yisroel’s own merits caused that the severity of the bondage was considered as if they were in bondage for 400 full years.

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