Parashas Bo

In this week’s parashah, Hashem tells us to designate the month of Nisan, the month in which the redemption from Egypt took place, as the first month of the year (Shemos 12:2): “This month shall be unto you the chief of the months; it shall be the first unto you of the months of the year.” The Midrash expounds (Shemos Rabbah 15:12):
The redemption was for Me and for you: I, so to speak, was redeemed along with you. As it is written (Shmuel Beis 7:23): “Who is like Your people, like Yisrael, a unique people within the world – for whom God went forth to redeem for Himself as a people, gaining Himself renown, and performing for you great works and awesome acts for your land, before Your people whom You redeemed for Yourself from Egypt, [subduing] nations and their gods.” [The verse includes the phrases “for Himself” and “for Yourself” as well as the phrase “for you.”] Designate this month for Me and for you, because I see the blood of the Pesach offering and bring you atonement. … And let your joy be complete, even the one who is poor. A perfectly whole male lamb or kid, within its first year (Shemos 12:5) – A lamb or kid, because it was said (Bereishis 22:8), “God will seek out for Himself the lamb or kid for the burnt offering, my son.” Perfectly whole, for sake of the Name of Hashem, of whom is written (Devarim 32:4): “The Rock – perfect is His work.”
In discussing this Midrash, the Maggid begins by examining the directive that our joy should be complete, even the one who is poor. We find that Hashem consistently tells us to see to it that when we celebrate times of joy, we attend to the poor and make sure they also can rejoice. Thus, after assembling the Jewish People on Rosh Hashanah to teach them Torah, Ezra and Nechemiah told them to rejoice, and to send portions to those who lack (Nechemiah 8:10). Similarly, the laws of celebrating Purim include an obligation to give gifts to the poor. Likewise, in connection with the declaration the Torah tells a person to make in regard to the handling of tithes, in which a person is suppose to affirm that “I acted according to everything You commanded me,” the Sages teach that the intent of this affirmation is to say that “I rejoiced in the bounty You granted me, and I also distributed the proper tithes to make others rejoice” (see Yerushalmi, Maaser Sheini 5). The Maggid asks: Why is it crucial, in times of joy, to make sure the poor also rejoice?
He answers as follows. When someone is downcast because of misfortune, seeing a successful and happy man does not bring him joy. On the contrary, it makes him feel worse. Imagine a man who is starving for bread watching someone else eat his fill of fine delicacies. Not only does the sight not quiet his hunger, it magnifies it many times over. The same pattern appears in the emotional realm. When a rich man celebrates without providing for the needy, he creates a mixed situation: At the same time that his festivities bring him joy, they bring his less fortunate neighbors pain. The outcome is the very opposite of “perfectly whole,” and is contrary to what Hashem desires. In this vein, Shlomo HaMelech writes (Mishlei 10:22): “Hashem’s blessing is what brings wealth. Let it not bring along with it an increase of grief.” As a person rejoices in the wealth Hashem granted him, he must take care not to bring grief to the poor. Thus the Midrash tells us that we should make our joy complete, extending even to the one who is poor, and then concludes by saying that our offering should be perfectly whole, for the sake of the Name of Hashem, whose works are perfect.
The Maggid then turns to the Midrash’s opening segment. Hashem says: “The redemption is for Me and for you: I, so to speak, was redeemed along with you.” The Maggid analyzes the connection between this statement and the Midrash’s later statement, discussed just above, that we should make our joy complete, including even the one who is poor. Apparently the Midrash is saying that it is because the redemption is for Hashem and for us that we should provide for the poor. What does one have to do with the other? The Maggid explains as follows. The main reason Hashem redeemed us from Egypt was for the sake of His great Name, for He Himself, so to speak, was in exile along with us. Thus, Hashem told Yaakov (Bereishis 46:4): “I shall go down with you to Egypt.” Our hope for the final redemption is founded on the same notion. Hashem tells us (Yeshayah 48:11): “For My sake, for My sake, I shall do it, for how can [My Name] be profaned? And I shall not yield My honor to another.”
Various Midrashim teach that the Jewish People in Egypt did not deserve in their own right to be redeemed. In Shemos Rabbah 1:35, for example, the Sages teach that the Jewish People were bereft of good deeds, as hinted at in Yechezkel’s words (verse 16:7): “You were naked and bare.” Since Hashem granted us salvation from the Egyptian exile as a pure gift, it stands to reason that our rejoicing over this salvation should include every member of our people on an equal basis.
The Maggid brings out the point with a parable. A group of paupers was going together door to door seeking money to live on. They had with them some simple wares of the kind poor people typically sell: tzitzis, mezuzahs, and the like. Sometimes the person they approached was generous, and would give them a sum of money as a gift. And sometimes the person was not so generous, and would just buy a bit of what they had to sell. We can note one key difference between these two situations. If the person they approached had bought their wares, even if he handed over the money to just one of them, they would divide the money according to what each was due on account of the merchandise he had sold. But if the person gave them money as a gift, they would divide the money equally, for regarding a gift they were all on the same footing.
Similarly, if the Jewish People had attained redemption through the merit of their own good deeds, each Jew would have been entitled to rejoice in proportion to the contribution he made to the redemption. But, in fact, the redemption was not on our account. Hashem subdued the Egyptians for His own sake – to restore His honor, which had been impugned. He was, so to speak, redeeming Himself from exile. In the process, He redeemed the Jews as well, as a pure act of generosity. Hence all the Jews were on the same footing, and it would thus only be right for them to rejoice equally. Since the redemption was for the sake of the Name of Hashem, whose works are perfectly whole, it behooves us to take care – for the sake of Hashem’s Name – that our rejoicing is perfectly whole, encompassing all members of the community. The rejoicing that will take place at the time of the final redemption will also be for the sake of Hashem’s Name, and thus, in the same way, will extend to all segments of the Jewish population. Thus it is written (Yirmiyah 31:12): “Then the maiden will rejoice with dance, and the young men and the elders together.”
David Zucker, Site Administrator

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