Vertluch: Parshas Bo


At the end of parshas Bo we find the interesting mitzvah of pidyon peter chamor. The pasuk says (13; 13, 14) ‘And every firstborn donkey you shall redeem with a lamb, and if you do not redeem [it], you shall decapitate it, and every firstborn of man among your sons, you shall redeem. And it will come to pass if your son asks you in the future, saying, “What is this?” you shall say to him, “With a mighty hand did Hashem take us out of Mitzrayim, out of the house of bondage.’

The first question that comes to mind is what correlation does redeeming firstborn donkeys have to do with the exodus of Mitzrayim? From the pasuk we can imply that there is some sort of association of the two. What is it?

Secondly, a typical firstborn has a certain element of kedusha because it was first out of the womb. One could understand that there is a certain sense of kedusha towards it. However, a donkey is a tamei animal and cannot be brought as a Korban. If so, why here it is even considered in the parsha of kedusha? There’s a kedusha one has to be podeh it (redeem it) and then transfer its kedusha to another animal. Based on what affiliation does the donkey receive its kedusha?

Says the Sforno the pasuk is saying when your child will ask at the Pesach Seder ‘What is this?’ he is asking our question. What is the connection between this tamei animal and our exodus from Mitzrayim? So we answer him ‘With a mighty hand did Hashem take us out of Mitzrayim’; at the time when we left Mitzrayim we had collected so much loot from the Egyptians that we had ran out of space in our wagons. There were no more wagons for us to even use. So what bnei Yisroel did was they gathered donkeys and they loaded up these donkeys with their remaining baggage.’ Hashem performed a miracle that all the booty fit on these donkeys and that’s how they left Mitzrayim. It was because of this act that the donkeys performed that entitled them to qualify for a status of kedusha that befits them to have us redeem them.

Here you had a monumental event that was happening, an event that was glorifying the name of Hashem to the entire world. His children were leaving a country that has never allowed a slave to escape. Ever! Even an animal with no association to any sense of kedusha was eligible to attain kedusha from the fact that they participated in such a momentous occasion.

A lesson to be learned from this is that any time we experience or observe something special; something that will glorify the name of Hashem we must try to capture the moment. By doing so, we are making ourselves worthy of bracha and eligible of blessings. Even if one participates in the smallest way.

The gemara in Shabbos says (119), ‘One who embarrasses a talmud chacham has no treatment for his wound.’ This seems to be a very peculiar loshon the gemara uses. What does this mean?

Rav Yitzchok Isaac Chaver, Zt’l says that the gemara says that Hashem says ‘burusi yetzer hara u’burusi Torah tavlin.’ Hashem tells us that he created human beings with an evil inclination but he has also created Torah as its antidote. However, you see plenty of people who learn Torah yet it doesn’t necessarily help them overcome their yetzer hara. How could this possibly happen?

Rav Yitzchok Isaac answers imagine a person who isn’t feeling well and he goes to a doctor. The doctor prescribes for him a 1000mg dosage of a certain medication. This person comes home and as he starts taking the medicine he decides that he is only going to take 100mg of it, not the full dose. Do you think the illness will go away?

What he’s saying is that the people who appear to be learning Torah as their ‘antidote’ might have a much stronger desire to sin and a much bigger yetzer hara than others. In order for them to overcome their yetzer hara they need many hours of Torah study a day as their therapy! Not just one hour of learning at night. But, you’ll say, there aren’t that many hours in a day available to learn, so what can I do? The answer is that you must participate with chaburos and organizations and yeshivos to fulfill your proper dosage.

Says the gemara ‘one who embarrasses a Talmud chacham has no treatment for his wound’ because they have lost their connection! By embarrassing the talmud chacham he has cut off his remaining dosage of medicine he needs to fight off his yetzer hara! It’s like you’re taking 100mg a day for a sickness that requires 1000mg a day! It just won’t work. The word of the gemara is ‘ein lo refuah l’makosei’- meaning he has no cure for HIS yetzer hara.

The message here is clear; we need to get involved. You want to be able to serve Hashem better and to eliminate your yetzer hara as much as possible? We need to take the right dosage.