Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Makkat Bechorot and Matan Torah

Some dot points...

A) The passuk  says in Parshat Bo (11:4 - 5)
.וַיֹּאמֶר מֹשֶׁה כֹּה אָמַר ה' כַּחֲצֹת הַלַּיְלָה אֲנִי יוֹצֵא בְּתוֹךְ מִצְרָיִם
...וּמֵת כָּל בְּכוֹר בְּאֶרֶץ מִצְרַיִם
And Moshe said, "Thus says Hashem, at midnight I will go out into the midst of Egypt. And every firstborn in the land of Egypt shall die..."

Rashi comments
כחצות הלילה - כהחלק הלילה 
[The plague of the firstborn will occur] when the night is split [into two, at the exact moment of midnight.]

  • Why did Makkas Bechorot occur at the exact moment of midnight?
B) The Mesillat Yesharim (chapter 3) elaborates on the gemara that says that this world is compared to night.

והוא מה שאמרו ז"ל (בבא מציעא פג): תשת חושך ויהי לילה (תהלים קד), זה העולם הזה, שדומה ללילה.
והבן כמה נפלא המאמר האמיתי הזה למי שמעמיק להבין בו. כי הנה חושך הלילה שני מיני טעיות אפשר לו שיגרום לעין האדם: או יכסה את העין עד שלא יראה מה שלפניו כלל, או שיטעה אותו עד שיראה עמוד כאילו הוא אדם, ואדם כאילו הוא עמוד

The Mesillat Yesharim explains that in the darkness of night, you may fail to see something altogether. Alternatively you may confuse one thing for another, e.g. a man for a pole or the other way around. Similarly we may fail to see the damage in a course of action altogether, or we may confuse good for bad and vice versa.

C) The Michtav Me'Eliyahu (volume 3, page 51) explains that
  • Avraham perfected the attribute of chesed - kindness. Yitzchak perfected the attribute of gevurah - inner strength and self-control. Yaakov perfected the attribute of emes - truth. Through his attribute of emes (truth) - Yaakov fused the work of Avraham and Yitzchak to became the father of the shevatim (12 tribes).

  • The concepts of chesed (kindness) and gevurah (strength) each dictate that the world should be run in a particular way. Either of these ideologies, on their own, can lead to chaos. Each attribute must be balanced with the other to create wholesome people and a wholesome society.

  • The attribute of emes is also called tipheres - beauty. This is because through emes you can create a harmonious balance of the contradictory yet reinforcing strengths of chessed - kindness - and gevurah - strength and self-control.

In other words - emes (truth) is the core balancing virtue that arranges the ideas of kindness and inner-strength into a harmonious and vigorous way of life in the service of Hashem.

D) Just as it is possible to join the attributes of kindness and inner-strength through the balancing virtue of emes (truth) - so too is it possible to join the attributes of kindness and inner-strength through the combining influence of sheker (falsehood).

How is this possible?

  • Emes is an integrating force that determines how chessed and gevurah must surrender to each other's prerogatives in order to determine a single course of action. The course of action chosen will be simultaneously kind but controlled, strong but loving.

  • Sheker determines that chesed and gevurah must both be fed. Neither need modulate the other. Rather new worlds must be constantly conquered to create an ever-increasing influx of wealth that will satisfy the un-integrated and contradictory demands of human enjoyment and human respect.

In such a system, the forces of kindness and inner-strength join into a destructive force that consumes the world to satisfy the un-integrated and contradictory facets of man's existence.

E) The Rambam (Igeret Ha’Rambam) says that Pharaoh is the yetzer hara. Pharaoh created an empire which excluded Hashem and that had to be fed with ever increasing wealth in order to satisfy the un-integrated and contradictory aspects of the citizens’ lives.

F) The reason that Makkas Bechoros came exactly at midnight, when the night is split in two, is as follows:

  • Pharaoh (the yetzer ha'ra) combined the two aspects of human existence (chessed and gevurah) in such a way that created the night of olam ha'zeh.
  • Hashem unseated Pharaoh as king of the universe, and showed that the contradictory aspects of man’s existence can be combined through the Torah. The Torah modulates the tensions inherent in man’s existence with each other to create a harmonious man who is at peace with himself, with the world, with his fellow man and with God.
G) This process will be repeated when Mashiach comes, as the passuk says in Zecharia (14, 7)
וְהָיָה יוֹם אֶחָד הוּא יִוָּדַע לַה' לֹא יוֹם וְלֹא לָיְלָה וְהָיָה לְעֵת עֶרֶב יִהְיֶה אוֹר

There will be one day known to Hashem, that will not be day or night, and it will be towards evening, that there will be light.

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