Origins Of The Firstborn Nation
Origins Of The Firstborn Nation
Rabbi David Fohrman
Founder and Lead Scholar
How much do we know about the Passover sacrifice? The Passover seder revolves around the laws of this sacrifice, yet do we understand its message? Rabbi Fohrman explores the intricacies of what it meant for us in preparation for leaving Egypt, and the significance of those details in forming the nation we are today.
For series referenced, go to What Does It Mean To Be God's Chosen People.
Rabbi Fohrman: I've been working on some new material lately and I want to share it with you, it's related to the Exodus. There's an upside and there's a downside. The upside is it's really cool material. I really like it. I think it's some of the best stuff I've put out and it rivals the Amalek material in its coolness, but it's less controversial. Well, I'm not sure about that, but it's really a lot of fun. I'm really enjoying it. I have a feeling it's not done yet, but I want to share with you what I'm up to. I'm still kind of researching it. It's really stuff I've been working on just in the last week.
It's especially gratifying because I've done a lot of stuff on the Exodus. I've put out tape series. I've put out various different things. I've just put out a really nice video series, which you can see on alephbeta.org and all that stuff is great. There's actually a very nice video series – tell all your friends – on the Exodus. It's seven parts. It's free. You just have to register. It's a lot of fun. Anyway, this new material is, kind of, like an epilogue to that and it's great stuff. So that's the upside.
The downside. An upside always comes with a downside. The downside is, is that it's too much stuff to do in one session with you. So I'm only going to have to, I'm only going to be able to give you a little bit of it, but I hope that it will enrich your pre-Passover thinking and you can take it further and you can see it now, talk about it further.
Audience Member: This is not what's on the website?
Rabbi Fohrman: Yeah. This has nothing to do with what's on, well, it has a lot to do with what's on the website, but it's different. It's a continuation of it. But if you want to see the background of this, you can go to the video which we have on the website.
Now who was here about a year or two ago when I went through the laws of the Passover offering with you guys? The significance of the laws of the Passover offering. We did it once when we did the Passover offering before Passover and we did it another time quickly as part of Amalek, but very quickly. Does anyone have any recollection of this? Raise your hand if you have any recollection of the Passover offering. My wife, that's about it. Nobody else?
That is the first piece of background which you need to know. So here's the idea. What I'm about to share with you is background. So I'm going to go through it very quickly. So you have to hold onto your hats. Wigs, whatever. Here's the deal. Let's start with the Passover offering. The Passover offering, as you know, occupies quite a place on seder night. It is part of our Passover seder even though we don't have a the Passover offering. In the times of the Passover offering there, that was the main show; the Passover offering.
The problem with this is, boys and girls, that how much do you relate to the Passover offering? Very little, right? But it's the main deal. You know what I mean? So it's not about Rabbi Akiva in Bnei Brak. It's not about all of the kaddesh, urchatz -- like, all that is nice, but that's just the parperaot l'chochma, that's just the accoutrements. The main dish is the Passover offering. When I say main dish, I don't just mean it's the main thing that you eat, but halachically it's the main thing. Everything revolves around it. Everything is in remembrance to the Passover offering and to the laws of the Passover offering.
So here's the problem. The problem which you have, if you want to be really just flat out, straight, honest with yourself, is how can you expect to have a meaningful experience of the Exodus and a meaningful experience of the seder while completely ignoring the role that the Passover offering plays in this? If all you do is focus on a little vort here and a little vort there on the seder, then you aren't willing to tackle the Passover offering and understand why this offering, that seems so strange and seems like it is an ancient right from 3,000 years ago that has nothing to do with you and your family today. If you aren't willing to tackle that, then you're missing the big elephant in the middle of the room on Passover and you can't really hope to have a complete spiritual experience of Pesach as the Torah wanted you to have it. You have to deal with the Passover offering.
One of the proofs that you have to deal with the Passover offering is where the Passover offering shows up. It shows up right smack in the middle of the greatest story that has ever been told. What I mean by that is as that, you well know, the Torah divides itself into narrative and into laws. It's basically narratives and it's basically laws. And more or less you understand the sections. Right? Genesis, mostly narrative; Leviticus, mostly laws. Right? Exodus? Well, that's a trick question. What about the first half of Exodus? Mostly narrative. What about the second half of Exodus? Mostly laws.
There's one exception in Genesis, Leviticus and Exodus to this nice little divvy up of narrative and laws. The exception is the Passover offering. The Passover offering is the section of laws -- the most detailed section of laws, for the first time, that interrupts the greatest narrative -- the greatest story ever told. The Exodus is the greatest story ever told. Just talk to Steven Spielberg or Charlton Heston or any of these guys that turned this into a stylized retelling. It's a great story. And the story inexorably builds towards its climax. The climax, of course, is the tenth plague.
Now, it's a gripping story. If you go through the plagues -- I can't do it with you now because of time, but if you go through the plagues, there's the slow tension that's building up. Pharaoh is getting more and more recalcitrant. Moses is getting more and more insistent. Finally, in the aftermath of the ninth plague, Pharaoh makes an offer you can't refuse. He says, fine, you can all go, even your children. Everyone can go. I'm just asking for one little face saving measure, leave the cattle behind. That's all he wants. The man just wants the cattle. You're Moses. Let's play deal or no deal. Do you take the deal? There's 400 years of slavery. You have a chance to bring it to an end right now. It's just leave behind the cattle and you can all go. Right? You take the deal and you go.
What does Moses say? Well, I'm glad you mentioned cattle, Pharaoh, because you actually have to give us cattle. See, we're not going to leave -- "Lo nishar parsah," we're not leaving a hoof behind. We're taking all of our cattle. Hippopotamuses, giraffes, everything. "Ki lo neida mah na'avod et Hashem ad bo'achem sham," we have no idea what we're supposed to sacrifice to God until we get there. He might want us to sacrifice hippopotamuses. We've got to take the whole national zoo with us. Plus, you don't have all the species. You have to bring us cattle so that we have extra stuff. I'm really glad you brought up the cattle, Pharaoh. What is the man doing, right? And then Pharaoh gets mad and sends them out and says I don't want to see you. The next time I see you, you'll die. What is going on?
Moses turns and says fine, just as you say the next time I'll see you, you'll die. So things are clearly coming to a head here. Right? These men are not going to see each other. There's no more negotiations. What's going to happen? And then as Moses turns and wheels out and gets ready to go, he has a prophecy. God appears to him and says, "Od nega achad avi al Mitzrayim," one more plague I'll bring upon Egypt and after that you'll see they will send you out. It's going to be in the middle of the night and the Angel of Death is going to come and is going to destroy all the firstborn. Moses turns and warns Pharaoh and then leaves b'chori af -- leaves in anger.
Now the next thing you would expect to happen -- right? This is the great climax. What's going to happen? Is Pharaoh going to win? Is Moses going to win? You expect to see the tenth plague. That's not what you see. The next thing you see is another prophecy. God turns to Moses and says by the way, it's time for a little commercial break. I just need to tell you what you have up on the screen. "Hachodesh hazeh lachem rosh chadashim." A calendrical note. Right? I just want to let you know, even though generally people count months from the seventh month, you're going to start counting months from here. "Rishon huh l'chadshei hashanah" and there's going to be something called the Passover offering. Right? And everybody's going to offer this offering.
Now I wouldn't have had any problem if we took a sentence or two to describe the Passover offering. Everybody should take a sheep. They should sacrifice the sheep, put the blood on the doors and you'll all go out and leave Egypt and you'll all be safe. Great. Ai there's a lot of laws of the Passover offering. Great. Where should the laws go everybody? Where should we put them? Put them in Leviticus, where all the other laws of offerings go. Right? You know what I mean? That's where they should go. No. They go right here.
You go through a long laundry list of the very detailed and unique laws of the Passover offering. Everybody has to get together. They each have to eat it in a group and they have to count themselves into the group beforehand. The meat has to be roasted and it can't be boiled in water. It has to be a seh. What's the definition of a seh? Even though a seh normally includes a sheep, it can include a goat also. The seh has to be exactly one years old. You have to eat matneichem chagurim, with your belts on and all of that. You can't leave over until the morning. You have to eat it with matzos and bitter herbs together. All these laws, like, hello? By the time you're done with this, it's like you lost your train of thought. You forgot about the story. You're just lost in these laws. This is very bad narrative style. Do you know what I mean?
Now, it's not like the Torah is written by an author that didn't know how to tell a good story. Whatever else you would say about God, God knows how to tell a good story. I mean up until now it's a great story. You know what I mean? It's not like this author can't tell a story. So the author knows what a good story is. So why is the author blowing it with this incredible digression, losing like 95 percent of his audience here, whose eyes are going to glaze over with this stuff and expect it to be somewhere else? Why is this here?
Now, this is not a question which most of us are used to asking. The reason why it's not a question that most of us are used to asking is because we were trained, and yes, even you, who learned in Bais Yaakov and maybe never really learned Gemara in detail, but certainly men that learn Gemara, we're trained not to get phased when we read a section like this. Laws are our bread and butter. Right? This is, like, we have a whole Tractate P'sachim that's about this. So we go through this and we expound the laws and even if you're learning this in Bais Yaakov what does your teacher assign you to do? Look at all the Rashi's and understand all the halochos and all the laws and you come and you'll take a test and you'll learn all the laws and even though you say you haven't learned Gemara you really did because Rashi brought in all the Gemaras. So don't say you don't learn Gemara. You know what I mean, like, this is --
What this is, is a great diversionary tactic from a very basic question which is what is this doing here from the point of view of pshat? You see, when you're learning Rashi or when you're learning Gemara, you're attacking Gemara -- you're attacking the written Torah from a whole different angle. The written Torah can be understood on a number of levels. The most basic level, even though we say there's shivim panim laTorah there is basically four panim laTorah and that's basically pshat, remez, drash and sod. What the Gemara is doing is drash; it's halachic drash. It's the way that you expound verses so as to learn laws from it. That's what we do when we learn Gemara. That's what you do when you learn Rashi and basically we can relate to all of that.
That's all very nice, but never fool yourself into thinking that drash replaces pshat. Drash is another way of learning the written Torah. The written Torah is apprehensible on all four levels simultaneously. What that means is don't be fooled and think oh, I'm now learning drash and I can ignore pshat. No. It's simultaneous. You have to understand pshat too. So my question to you today is not what the drash explanation of the Passover offering is. Yes, we'll go and we'll expound this law from this verse and these extra words to understand this. We'll get all of that. You can read the Minchat Chinuch or Rashi and get all of that.
My question is from a pshat angle, how do you understand this? Pshat is the story. This is interrupting the story. What is this doing here? Boys and girls, there's only one explanation for this. There's only one possible answer to this. The answer is it must be it's not a digression. It has to be part of the story. It has to be that the author is telling you that right before the penultimate point, before the climax, it's telling you this is the greatest story ever told and you're waiting for the climax? You think it's the greatest story now? Wait until you hear these laws. These laws are mind blowing. These laws take the whole tension to a new level. You ain't seen nothing in terms of the climax of the story until you understand the laws. Then, look at the tenth plague.
The laws are part of the story. They're part of the tension. That's how you have to look at the laws. So that's what we're going to do. That's what we're going to begin to do today. Unfortunately, we're not going to get that much beyond that because this is going to take some time. But this is what I did two years ago. This isn't what I did a week ago. This is kind of background to what I did a week ago. So you have to understand, what is the meaning of these laws?
In order to understand the meaning of these laws, what you're going to find as you go through the laws is that there's a lot of language that appears odd, that appears strange. I'm going to take a quick run through some of the language and at the same time you'll familiarize yourself with some of the laws then you'll understand what's strange. Well, let's leave that aside for a moment.
So everybody should get together as a group and eat this all together. If you can't finish the lamb yourself, "V'lakach huh u'sh'cheino hakarov el beito, b'michsat n'fashot ish l'fi achlo tachosu al haseh." Now if you know even a littlest of Hebrew, you would translate michsat n'fashot or tachosu al haseh -- even if you weren't sure what it meant, but you had to sort of search your brain for what the root is over here, what would you think the root is and what would you think the word means? You would think it means to cover, like kisui. That's not what it means. That's not what anybody says. It's what any normal speaker of biblical Hebrew would say it means, but it's not actually what it means.
The way the Gemara interprets this and the way Rashi and other commentators interpret this is it means to count in. "V'lakach hu u'sh'cheinu hakarov el beito" -- if you can't finish the lamb yourself, then you and your neighbor "b'michsat n'fashot," have to count their souls in, "Ish l'fi ochlo tachosu al haseh," each one according to what they can eat, have to count them in on the seh. But that's not how you would translate it. It's like the Torah is going out of its way to use a word that normally doesn't mean counting to mean counting. The word normally means covering. It sounds like it means covering of souls. Each person according to what they can eat needs to cover themselves with the seh. So the question is why use this strange language? We are going to find the strange language over and over again here. All of the language here --
Audience Member: What chapter is it in?
Rabbi Fohrman: Where is this? This is in 11 maybe, Exodus, 12. So let's go a little bit further. Here's the next piece of strange language. The next bit of the strange language comes from defining terms. Now, normally what does a seh mean? A seh means a lamb. A seh is very unequivocally a sheep. Normally there are -- there's something called tzon. Tzon is actually a larger category which would include sheep and goats, but seh is a lamb that specifically means a sheep, except for in the context of the Passover offering.
Take a look at this. "Seh tamim zachor ben shanah," it's a seh that's a male seh that's a year old, "min hakvasim umin ha'izim tikachu," you can take the seh both from lambs or from goats. So all of the sudden the goat is going to be included in the definition of lamb. So that's a little odd.
"V'hayah lachem l'mishmeret," so keep it for 14 days, then you should slaughter it and you should take the blood and put it on the two doorposts and on the lintel and should eat it that night. How should you eat it? You should eat it tzli eish, you should eat it roasted -- roasted without water, "u'matzot al m'rorim yochluhu," you have to eat it -- these are very specific laws. You have to eat it with matzah -- you don't find this with any other offering and you have to eat it with bitter herbs.
Now, when you eat it, "al tochlu mimenu na," you can't eat it raw. Now, if I didn't just translate that for you, in a million years, would you have known that na was raw? Have you ever found na meaning raw anywhere else in the Torah? What does na mean? Nun, Alef -- right over here. What does na mean? Na means please. What it really means is don't eat it, please. I mean that's what it means. You know what I mean? It doesn't make any sense, but it's another one of these mixed up words.
Rashi's bothered by this. Rashi says it means raw because in Arabic that's what na means. So it means the Torah is using Arabic, you understand? Like, why couldn't we find a Hebrew word to mean raw maybe? We're not writing this in Arabic. So even according to Rashi, the Torah is really going out of its way to use a word that you know as please. You see the connection? Just like michsat is a word that you know to mean cover and the Torah is using it for something else, so na is a word you know to mean please, it's being used for something else.
Plus, you definitely can't use water -- "u'vashel m'vushal bamayim" -- totally, you don't want to use water. You want it "tz'li eish" -- a very unusual law. And how should you eat it? "Rosho al k'rovo al kirbo," you should eat it the head bunched over the knees. "V'lo tosiru mimenu ad boker," there shouldn't be anything left in the morning. "V'kacha tochluhu oto, matneichem chagurim, na'aleichem b'ragleichem," you have to eat it with your belts on, your shoes on and your walking sticks in your hands. You have to eat it b'chipazon -- and you should eat it quickly, "Pesach hu laHashem."
Pesach by the way is another one of these words. What does Pesach mean everybody?
Audience Member: Pass over.
Rabbi Fohrman: Pass over. You're ready? I'm going to ask you how do you know Pesach means to pass over? How do you know the word Pesach means to jump over? Because it says, "Hashem pasach al bateinu." You see it in the next the Passover offering over here. Right over here, right? "V'ra'iti et hadam," I will see the blood. This is a few verses later. "V'hayah hadam lachem l'ot al habatim asher atem sham, v'ra'iti et hadam," and I will see the blood, "u'pasachti aleichem," and I will pass over you. That's how you know it means pass over. Now, I'm going to challenge you one more time. How do you know it means pass over you here?
Audience Member: From the context.
Rabbi Fohrman: That's the answer. From the context. And that's a different answer from the way you know everything else. Let me ask you this. The word batim. How do you know what the word batim means? From context? How do you know what the word batim means? This is not a trick question.
Audience Member: Because it's used so many times.
Rabbi Fohrman: Exactly. Because I can look at the 1,'500 other times the Torah uses the word batim, I can understand that it always means house. So that's how you're going to understand what anything is. How do you understand a language? You look at the other places the word is used. So the normal way you would understand what a word means is you'd say how is it used elsewhere?
Now, when you try to do that with the word pasach, guess what happens? You come up short, because it's never used anywhere. You know what this means? It means God made up a word and just dumped it right over here. It's a nonsense word, pasach -- and dumped it right over here and you're forced to understand what it means from context, because there's no other way you can understand what it means. You can't look elsewhere to understand what it means. The best you can do is guess -- let pasach equal x. Right? And guessing from context, I mean, the only thing I can do is fill in x the value, what else does it mean given the context.
Do you see the word games the Torah is playing with you? Michsat n'fashot is a word game, na is a word game, pasach is a word game. What's the deal with all these -- seh is a word game, izim. What's the deal with all these word games? It gets worse.
This is later on. Here's the Passover offering 2. This is just a few verses later in Exodus 12, when Moses repeats these laws to the elders, the z'keinim. Here's what he tells them. "Mischu u'k'chu lachem tzon l'mishpechoteichem." God just said k'chu. Moses adds mischu u'k'chu. Hello? Mischu u'k'chu, pull and take. And if it only said take for yourself, you would've had a problem? You would've come to me and said well, what I really want to say, why does it say take for yourself? What it really should have said pull and take. Right? What's the pull doing here? So the Gemara expounds this; so we have an answer in drash, but in pshat what's the answer? Why are we --
Audience Member: They are going to have to pull it.
Rabbi Fohrman: Okay. Maybe. "Mischu u'k'chu lachem tzon l'mishpechoteichem v'shachatu ha'Pesach," and then you have to slaughter the Passover offering with these strange laws. "U'lekachtem," you have to take this "agudat eizov, u'tavaltem badam," you have to dip it in blood, "dam asher basaf." Here's another one of these strange words. What's a saf? So you have to figure out that a saf -- what does saf mean? Again, so we have to figure out from the context. So the Gemara says it actually means a pail, but if you have to figure out from context, you're forced to go into the book of Judges to figure out -- remember, by the way, Judges is written after this. Right? Which means that when the Torah was written, no one knows what a saf means. So it's another one of these nonsense words. Once saf means whatever it means, Judges uses the word -- borrows from here to use it.
In Judges it's in the story of pilegesh b'Givah when "v'yadehah al hasaf." The concubine, exhausted after the night of torture, collapses with her hand on the threshold of the door. So it would seem to mean threshold, even though the Gemara understands it to mean bucket. So it's either bucket or threshold, but it's another one of these made up words.
"V'atem lo teitzu ish mipetach beito ad boker," nobody can come out until the morning. "V'avar Hashem lingof et Mitzrayim, v'ra'a et hadam al hamashkof v'al shtei hamezuzot, u'pasach Hashem" -- that's where you know what pesach means -- "al hapetach, v'lo yitein hamashchis lavo el bateichem lingof." It turns out -- so the challenge, of course, is to find -- to connect the dots. To find what it is that -- what theme is connecting all of these things that emerges.
By the way, this is a nice segue. I'm just going to give a short 30-second advertisement here and I'm wondering what you -- I always struggled, especially with this new endeavor that I've been creating, this video institute kind academy and all that we're doing and we're going to bring in other teachers other than me. I'm not the only guy, but the question is how do you define, either for ourselves or for the marketplace, what it is that we're doing? I don't want just anybody to teach and so, you know, like, you say, well I like this teacher, I don't like this teacher. It forces me to grapple with what it is that I'm doing and it's not just about putting my Torah out to the world as much as I'd love to do that. It's really about bringing a certain kind of learning into the educational world. What kind of learning is that?
I find it very hard to pin down. If you want to chat with me for three hours, I would be happy to detail my methodology for you. I can give you 13 things that I do over and over again trying to understand text, but if you don't have three hours to spend and you had to boil it down to 15 seconds, could you boil it down to 15 seconds? What is it that I do? Yes, ma'am.
Audience Member: Contemporary development and the DNA of Torah. You really work to find the hidden mysteries and have the mysteries revealed.
Rabbi Fohrman: Okay. So you can say that, but the problem with saying stuff like that is it sounds messianic. Right? You know what I mean? Like the DNA of Torah, mysteries revealed. I mean, lots of people can say they're revealing mysteries. For those of you that have been around, it's, like, you sort of feel that it's true. It is very contemporary and it's relevant. It is. But if somebody asked you well how does he do it? What is he doing in order to reveal the mysteries?
So you see how difficult it is for you to explain this. Try describing to someone who's never been to a class here what goes on. You find yourself -- do you find that sometimes it's hard to describe? You come here, you go to a class and you want to describe it to your friend and you find yourself -- your friend is looking at you, like, right, yeah, like you're a little crazy because you say things, like, wow, there's these mysteries revealed. So they kind of think in the back of their head, I don't know there's this charismatic guy and obviously they got stuck. I mean some charismatic person. You know what I mean. And they're diffident or something.
Or you say wow, there's these mysteries or it's like it's so text-based. So they say well, I don't know, in Bais Yaakov I learned all the text too. It was all very text-based. We sat there and we learned all the text. What is it that's so special? Do you know what I mean? It's hard to explain.
Audience Member: When somebody asked me why I come, I say I go to hear something creative.
Rabbi Fohrman: Yes, but that's hard to use also, because a lot of people hear creative stuff, but it doesn't strike them as compelling, because it's like gymnastics in the air. Do you know what I mean? Like anybody can say creative things, but they don't necessarily strike you as true. When you walk out of here and it's right -- but let me put it to you this way. If you walk out of here and your takeaway is wow, Fohrman came up with this really creative idea, I failed. Okay. Because it has to be true. You see if it's true and here's the issue with creativity. The problem with creativity is you make it up. Do you know what I mean? Yes, but the idea is that if the point in which you're making it up, is the point in which it's no longer interesting. Do you understand? It's only interesting if it's really there.
What's happening here when it succeeds -- when it fails it fails -- but when it succeeds, what's happening here is a process of discovery of what is already there, not a process of creation. It's a process of unearthing; it's like archeology. It's finding what is there. So here's what I would suggest, if you had to boil it down to 15 seconds. You're going to give me your 15 seconds? Go ahead.
Audience Member: Comparative analysis.
Rabbi Fohrman: Yes. Okay. Good. Let's try and break down what that means.
Audience Member: As a new member here, I think of it as an exciting way of looking at the text in the Torah way.
Rabbi Fohrman: Right, but then the challenge is but what makes it exciting?
Audience Member: No, but like into the actual words and to, like, understanding the words.
Rabbi Fohrman: Let me actually -- you used one word there. Let's focus on that one word. If I would have to boil it down in one word, the word I would boil it down to is understanding. And let me explain what I mean by that word. I want to define understanding and I want to define it in relationship to another word which is knowledge.
Generally speaking, when you think what is education about? What is your Torah learning about? More often than not it's about gaining knowledge. Right? You learn stuff and you add to your store of knowledge. You learn more laws. You learn more facts and you fill your mind with facts and then you get tested. If you're in school, you eventually get tested on those facts. You have to give back all those facts and the more facts you know, even if you compare and contrast the facts all the better. I can compare the Siforno to the Ramban and I can compare all these different things and I have all these facts. I learn more and more stuff.
That's part of what learning is. Obviously, you need knowledge. But there's another thing, which your education is not just about knowledge. It's about understanding and understanding has to do with what it all means. Why it's important? Why it matters? What does it mean to me? How do you make the facts mean something?
What I want to argue is, that one of the core aspects of understanding is when you have a whole bunch of disparate facts and you begin to see the relationships between them. Once I can define the relationships between the facts, so it's not 15 facts, but it's one thing with 15 aspects and here's how they connect. Just the mere fact that connecting them and making them one, makes the thing have meaning that's larger than the sum of any one of those things. It's not just 15 things, it's literally larger than the sum of its parts. Then after you define the relationships between the facts, you define the relationship between that thing and you and then you have understanding. Right? That's what it's about.
I think if I had to boil down what I'm doing, that's what I'm doing. There's a lot of tools to how you do it. There's a lot of ways in making the connection -- intellectuality, stuff like that, but that's what it is.
So back to the Passover offering, what I want to do is try to do that here. I've shown you a lot of strange things in the Passover offering. The challenge is what is the path that wends its way to make this into one thing? How do all of these things come together?
So what is the answer to that question? Here's my answer to that question. Before I give you my answer to that question, I want to give you somebody else's answer to that question and the somebody else is the Maharal. The Maharal is also bothered by this and the Maharal has a very nice stab at what it means -- what he thinks the relationship between all the facts of the Passover offering. I have a different theory than the Maharal, but I believe that my theory is complimentary with the Maharal. So if you put my theory and the Maharal's theory together, I think that they interact with each other in very interesting ways.
So let me introduce the Maharal's theory. You can read the Maharal in detail in the Haggadah Shel Pesach of the Maharal. When he gets up to the part about the Passover offering, he talks about this. But just to abridge his idea. Basically, his thought is the Passover offering, the theme that binds it all together is the theme of oneness.
What he wants to argue is that it is the quintessential, monotheistic offering. It is the offering that declares our allegiance to monotheism. Every aspect of the offering has to do with one. It's a one-year-old sheep. Right? It's a one-year-old lamb. It has to be one years old. You can't break the bones, because if you break the bones the bone becomes two; it has to remain one. Everyone has to come together in a group. Everyone has to come together as one to eat it. You can't cook it; you have to roast it because anybody who's been in the kitchen knows that what happens when you cook meat in water? It falls apart. But when you roast it, what happens? It comes together as one.
So this is his idea that all of the aspects of the Passover offering is that even in time, it's a singularity. We eat quickly, as close as possible to one point in time. In all of these aspects -- this is the Maharal, Reb Yehudah Loew of Prague. This is his theory that before we were going to get out of Egypt, we needed to slaughter the god of the Egyptians, declare our allegiance to monotheism as opposed to polytheism. We do it symbolically through the Passover offering. Okay. This is the Maharal. I agree with that, but I want to argue that there's another facet of the Passover offering that's happening at the same time.
So are you with me guys? So that's one theory. I want to add a second theory that goes along with that. The second theory brings us back to something which I've introduced to you before. It brings us back to this question. How did the Jews leave Egypt? Let me explain what I mean by this question. So Rav Soloveitchik, of blessed memory, had an interesting insight that I want to build off of. The insight is the following.
It says that Jacob left the house of Laban when Joseph was born. The way the verse is phrased, the verse goes out of its way to make a clear connection between the birth of Joseph and Jacob's decision to leave, as if there is a causative relationship there. "Va'yehi ka'asher yaldah Rachel et Yosef," and it happened when Rachel gave birth to Joseph that Jacob said to Laban, "shalcheini v'eilchah el m'komi u'leartzi" -- I want to go back home now. The way the verse is phrased makes you wonder what was there about the birth of Joseph that impelled Jacob to think that it was time to leave?
Here's Rav Soloveitchik's answer to this. Rav Soloveitchik's answer is that Jacob knew how to count. Everyone knew about this prophecy in the family that there was going to be this period of dark slavery, but nobody knew exactly when and exactly how. There was this talk of 400 years of slavery. In the end it wasn't really 400 years. It was 210 years. You have to use your thumbs to figure out how it ends up to be 400 years. But there was going to be this long period of slavery.
Then there was this ambiguous phrase of the end. There was this idea -- God says, "Ger yiyeh zar'acha b'eretz lo lahem" -- there was this idea that -- let's just read through it. "Ger yiyeh zar'acha b'eretz lo lahem." Does it say where? No. Your children will be strangers in a land that's not their own. "Va'avadum," and they will be enslaved, "v'inu otam," and oppressed for a long time, for 400 years. "V'acharei kein yeitzu b'r'chush gadol," after that they will go out with a lot of stuff. "V'dor revi'i yashuvu heinah," the fourth generation will return here.
Jacob knows about this prophecy and he looks at himself. He says, "ger iyiheh zar'acha b'eretz lo lahem," your children will be strangers in a land not their own. Look at me, I'm not in my land. "Im Lavan garti," I've been with Laban. I've been a stranger in Laban's house. I've been a stranger. Va'avadum, and they will enslave them. I don't know, but I've been working pretty hard for Laban, it really feels like slavery to me. If you listen to how he talks about it. I ate ice during at night. I was up all night watching your stuff. It was like slavery. Ve'inu otam, I was oppressed. Well, I was oppressed. He wasn't the nicest master. He switched my wives, played all these tricks on me. He wasn't like this where he dealt with me in good faith. "Arba mei'ot shana" -- alright, fine, it's not 400 years, but how long was it? It was 21 years.
Isn't that interesting? How long were the Jews in Egypt? 210 years. It was 21 years. I've been here for a long time. "Ve'acharei chein yeitzu b'r'chush gadol." Isn't it interesting that Jacob goes out of his way to play the whole trick with the sheep to make sure that he leaves b'rechush gadol, with a whole lot of stuff from Laban's household? Right? "V'dor revi'i yashuva heina," the fourth generation is supposed to return. So he's thinking, okay. Abraham, that's generation number one; Isaac, that's generation number two; Jacob, that's me. That's generation number three. Joseph --
Audience Member: Why Joseph?
Rabbi Fohrman: Right. Why Joseph? Because who is Joseph the first child of? Rachel. And that S-O-B Laban who was me'aneh oti and switched my wives -- who was I always supposed to marry? I was always -- in a certain way, he's viewing his real legacy, his real firstborn as Joseph. So this is my real fourth generation.
If this theory is correct, it means he's looking at Joseph as the firstborn. It means, by the way, that the k'tonet passim -- again, remember we talked about this in the Joseph thing. Remember how they stripped him of both coats? Two coats according to Rashi. Why? Rashi -- one coat all the brothers had, but a second special coat that belonged only to him. What does a firstborn get? Pi shna'im, it's the double portion. The coat was the pi shna'im, it's the double portion. Lots of other proofs, but this I'm not going to get into now, but he seems to be treating Joseph as the firstborn.
Here they are and now they're leaving. Now ask yourself was Jacob wrong? So you say to yourself, was he right or was he wrong? If you're going to sit back in your armchair and say, yeah, well, you know, that poor delusional Jacob. You know what I mean? Nebach. He doesn't know what we know. Right? We read the Torah and we understand it was always Egypt and he was misled by a red herring. Are you so sure? Look at the following.
Hear how Jacob leaves the house of Laban. Look how the Jews leave Pharaoh's house. "Vayugad l'Lavan bayom hashlishi ki barach Yaakov." "Vayugad l'melech Mitzrayim ki barach ha'am." It's exactly the same language. Do you understand what's happening here? The Torah is using the same language to describe them leaving. Does the Torah think this isn't real? And then, "Vayikach et echav imo," Laban takes compatriots with him. You know, minor characters. Pharaoh takes compatriots with him -- "v'et amo lakach imo." "Vayirdof acharav" -- "Vayirdof acharei B'nei Yisroel." It's all the same language. When they catch up, "vayaseig Lavan et Yaakov" -- "vayasigu otam." It's not one thing. It's over and over and over again and every last thing the Torah is saying, it's all the same.
What's going on? The Torah is saying it's real. Now what do you mean it's real? But I thought Egypt's real? The answer is Laban's real too. You know in the Seder how we compare Laban and Pharaoh? It's real. Laban and Pharaoh are the same. The only difference is one "gazar al ha'z'charim" and one's gazar on everyone, but Laban and Pharaoh are the same father that starts nice and ends up turning mean and enslaves you. It's all the same.
What's going on? So it brings us back to a Rashi. The Rashi is the first Rashi in Parashat Vayeishev. The first Rashi in Parashat Vayeishev says, "Vayeishev Yaakov b'eretz megurei aviv b'eretz Kena'an. Bikeish Yaakov leishev b'shalvah," Jacob thought it was all over. What does Rashi mean? Do you understand what Rashi means? Rashi means that when Jacob came home after all of this, he thought he went through -- he thought he left Egypt. He thought his job -- he's the fourth generation with Joseph. He's triumphantly coming home and what's his job now? To establish the Jewish People in the Land of Israel and, you know, I am home free. I'm done with my life's mission -- "bikeish Yaakov leishev b'shalvah" -- all I need to do now is enjoy and watch my grandkids and see the nation unfold.
"Kafatz alav rogzo shel Yosef." What he didn't understand, what jumped him, what ambushed him, was the story of Joseph and what the implication is. If it weren't for the ambush of the story of Joseph, which takes them down to Egypt and when they go down to Egypt, what happens? They go through it all again. Do you understand? And then now it's 400 years. Not 210 years. Not 21 years. And now it's real. So yes, that means that if it's not for the story of Joseph, Jacob's right. That's what that Rashi means. If not for the story of Joseph, Jacob's right.
The prophecy gets fulfilled in other ways. An elastic prophecy. Instead of 210 years and figuring out your thumbs for 400, you can figure out 21 years. You go back and you count it from the creation of the world. You know, you'd figure something out and it would be the fourth generation and the fourth generation would make sense. Now you really have to kvetch the fourth generation what it really is.
What that means is, is that it could've been real. For example, when Rabi Akiva held that Bar Kochba was the messiah, was he wrong? Did he believe in a false messiah? No. Bar Kochba could've been the messiah. If he wasn't successful, Bar Kochba was not messiah. He's not a false messiah. It's a failed messiah. It just didn't happen, which is why his name is Bar Koziba, the disappointed one. It disappointed us. It wasn't wrong. It was just a disappointment. Here, too, there was a disappointment. It could've been Laban, but in the end it's not. Because of Joseph it continues.
Now, here's the interesting thing. If it's true that the sojourn of Jacob in Paddan Aram reminds us of the sojourn of the Jews in Pharaoh's house. And if it's true that the Jews leaving Pharaoh's house reminds us of Jacob leaving Laban's house. So if the present is similar and the future is similar, don't you think the past would be similar too? In other words, don't you think what brought us down to Egypt would parallel what brought Jacob down into Laban's house. What is the source of the problem that brings you into exile?
The answer is what happened in both stories. What happened in both stories is that there was a problem. Father thought that someone is his firstborn. Isaac thought that Esau was his firstborn. Jacob thought that Joseph was his firstborn. The problem is the brothers thought something else. Jacob thought that he really deserves to be the firstborn and Reuben and everybody else thought that Reuben really deserved to be the firstborn. And brothers were willing to go to such length as to deceive their father over who the real firstborn is and they did so with goats and coats, in both cases. Jacob brings the coat of his brother and puts the goat -- and kills the goat and brings it to father and they bring goats and coats to their father and say I'm the firstborn. And Reuben also brings goats and coats. Not Reuben but the brothers also bring -- slaughter the goat, put the blood on the coat and bring it to father and it's actually with the message, never mind Joseph, we're the chosen one. We're the firstborn.
Audience Member: That needs a tikkun.
Rabbi Fohrman: That's right. So now don't you think that if what brings us down to exile is goats and coats -- goats and coats one and goats and coats two -- don't you think that you should have to relate to that as you leave? Which brings us to a very interesting possibility. Because one of the problems with learning the Book of Exodus is, it doesn't seem connected. I talked to you before about connections. It doesn't seem connected to Genesis. Genesis you spend 13 chapters on Joseph and then Joseph died. End of Joseph. Let's talk about something else now. Let's talk about Egypt. No. It's not something else. You got into Egypt because of Joseph. Now watch how he leaves.
Now let's go back and let's read the Passover offering one last time. Watch me over here. "Hachodesh hazeh lachem" we'll come back to. Michsat n'fashot -- why were we talking about covering of souls? Think about the story of Joseph. Was there ever any covering in the Joseph story? They covered -- what does Judah say? "Ma betza ki naharog et achinu v'chisinu et damo." What does the Torah always tell you about blood? Why can't you eat blood? "Ki hadam huh hanefesh," blood is the soul. There was soul covering going on in the story of Joseph. We're going to cover up the blood of Joseph. That was the plan, to cover up the blood of Joseph. Now, we're going to take this offering to cover their blood. You're going to have to cover your own blood and your own soul with this offering.
By the way, I just have to let you know, we're going to offer a seh and even though seh usually just means a lamb, how could it not mean a goat too? After all, it's all about goats and coats. And what do you do with this? You have to slaughter them and you have to put the blood on the doorpost, we'll get back to that. You have to eat it, by the way, tzli eish which we'll get back to also, but you have to eat it with bread. Now it's Passover so you can't eat it with bread so you have to eat it with matzah. But why do you think it would be so important to eat it with bread? Because what did the brothers do after they threw Joseph in the pit? "Vayeishvu le'echol lechem," they sat down to eat bread. And in goats and coats one, what also happened? Even though he presented his father with the -- but he gives bread to Esau, in the original story when he tricked Esau with his firstborn. So bread was always served as accoutrements, so bread needs to be served here too. And bitter herbs. Was there anything bitter in goats and coats one and goats and coats two, anybody?
Audience Member answers.
Rabbi Fohrman: That's right. "Vayitzak tze'akah gedolah u'marah," Esau lets out a great and bitter cry. It really would be appropriate to eat some bitter herbs along with the bread, don't you think? Now whatever you do, do not eat it na. Please do not eat it na, raw, but we all know what does na really mean? Please. Why would you not want to eat it please? Please?
Because Esau said, "haliteini na min ha'adom ha'adom hazeh." When Jacob deceived Isaac, he says, "kum na, shvah v'achlah mi'tzeidi," please get up and eat. It was also polite all of these deceptions. And when the brothers deceived their father, they had to get the na in too with haker na. Everyone was so very polite when they deceived their fathers. Just let's do away with the politeness this time, "al tochlu mimenu na," just don't eat it with please. "U'bashel m'vushal bamayim," and whatever you do, let's not have any water. Why? No water.
Audience Member: "Habor reik ein bo mayim."
Rabbi Fohrman: "Habor reik ein bo mayim," the pit had no water in it. It was just Joseph there all alone. So that's how this offering has to be eaten. Just a naked Joseph, this thing, was sitting there roasting in the air in the pit.
Audience Member: How have we never seen this before?
Rabbi Fohrman: Right. So let's keep on going. Then we eat it "rosh al k'ra'av v'al kirbo," which we'll get back to. It all has to disappear sometime in the morning. When everyone comes looking they can't see a trace. Why? Because what happened to Joseph? Reuben comes back to the pit and what does he find? Nothing left. Right? So you really have to make sure everything is gone. You can't leave the smallest trace. It has to disappear without a clue. "V'lo tatiru mi'menu ad boker," there has to be nothing left. You have to eat it with your shoes on, ready to go, with your staffs in your hand. Because in goats and coats one and goats and coats two, what always happens after the story? Exile.
You're ready to go. You're off into Haran. You're off, you're running into Haran to escape the wrath of your brother. You're running into Egypt. This time you are going to go out of Egypt. This is how you are going to leave. You are going to go from exile to redemption this time, instead of into exile. And you have to eat it b'chipazon, you have to eat quickly, "Pesach hu laHashem." We will come back to Pesach also.
Look at this. Next chapter on the Passover offering. "Mischu u'k'chu lachem tzon tzon." You know, we really should pull and take, not just take. Do you know that there is only one mem, shinl, chaf, vav in the Torah other than this one? It's in the Joseph story. "Vayimshechu va'ya'alu et Yosef min habor," when they pulled Joseph out of the pit. Vayimshichu, they pulled Joseph out of the pit. Mishchu, you really should pull the sheep. When Joseph was sold he was pulled out of the pit. You can see it side by side; the Joseph's story is on the right-hand side, the Passover offering's on the left-hand side. "V'shachatu ha'Pesach," slaughtering. Was there ever any slaughtering? Oh yes, we slaughtered the goat. "Vayishchatu s'ir izim."
Audience Member: Isn't shor (ox) an animal, the same family also? Joseph is compared to an ox. They say even with the Golden Calf, that --
Rabbi Fohrman: "Agudat eizov," take the plant, "u'tevaltem badam." Why do you think you would have to dip in blood, boys and girls? "Vayitbelu et haketonet badam," they dipped the coat in blood. You're really going to have to dip something in blood this time, guys. Which blood? The blood asher b'saf. Saf -- samach, pei. What does that kind of remind you? Joseph, the Joseph blood. Right? It was supposed to represent the blood of -- of course it is not really the blood of Joseph, but it's the fake blood of Joseph. So we have to construct some more fake blood of Joseph. This, of course, isn't Joseph's blood. But we'll have to make fake Joseph blood, just like the brothers made fake Joseph blood, the blood of a goat. In both cases it's fake Joseph blood. So it really should be fake Joseph blood, but "dam asher basaf."
"V'higatem el hamashkof v'ell shtei ha'mezuzot min hadam asher basaf," so you should put it with the blood asher basaf. "V'atem lo teitzu ish mi'pesach beito ad boker." All right. Now, hold on for a second. Let's come back to the unexplored parts. Pesach, what does the word Pesach mean? Why does it have to be that you go out in haste? Why do you have to put the blood on the doorposts and the lintel? Then why do you have to take from the blood, asher basaf, specifically? Why do you have to wait? Finally, the key to it all, why does the animal have to be bunched up, rosho al k'ra'av al kirbo, with his head over his knees?
Rabbi Fohrman: Head over knees. Let's do this. I want you to do a mental experiment right now. We're not going to actually do this. I want you to pretend that I am going to ask you right now, to get up out of your seats, excuse yourself and lie down on the floor with your head -- it's the fetal position. The animal is bunched up in the fetal position. Then there's blood on this doorway and there's blood on the sides, on the top, the sockets, the threshold. There is blood on all four sides. And you have to wait -- it's the womb and you have to wait back in the house. Waiting all night long. Waiting to go through. No one can go through until the morning.
Then, in the morning, what happens? In the morning, you rush through the door. Upasach Hashem. Pasach -- pei, samach in the Joseph story. The ketonet passim. What was the ketonet pasim? It was that which father gave son to indicate that you are the firstborn. God says tonight I am killing all firstborns, except for my own. You are going to be born. God says I am going to kill all firstborns, except for my firstborn. God says I will strike you. The ketonoet passim, the coat of many stripes. I am going to put the stripe on you and crown you my firstborn. You are going to be born and I am going to say this is my firstborn, after you go through all of this. You know why? Here's why. It's a birth process. You are being born as a nation.
Which is why hachodesh hazeh lachem is there. Hachodesh hazeh lachem is everybody else starts counting from Tishrei, but not you guys. Because this is your birthday. Rosh Chodesh Nissan is when you're born. You are literally being born.
What's God saying? Here's the meaning of it all. Look at you guys. I love you. I love your parents. I made promises to them and all of that. I really wanted to redeem you early on. I thought, you know Abraham, will take you to the land, but things got in the way. Stuff happened. Goats and coats happened and every time goats and coats happened it threw you into exile. The first time it was just 21 years. The next time it was 210 years. The first time it was just slavery of one person. Then it was a much bitter slavery for everybody. You guys, look at you guys. It gets you into trouble this firstborn stuff. You're so into firstborn, you have to be the firstborn, you have to be first. You got to go, so much so that you are willing to lie, cheat and steal and deceive your father in order to make him into your firstborn.
Let's talk about what a firstborn is. Why is a firstborn so special? Passover is all about -- you can't understand Passover without understanding the idea of firstborn. It's all about the Plague of the Firstborns. It's all about the Passover offering because it's about the firstborn. God says b'ni bechori Yisrael, my firstborn nation is Israel. What does that even mean? We weren't born first. What it means is we occupy the position of firstborn with respect to the family of nations. Which means what? What is a firstborn? A firstborn is a leader, a child leader.
Now, what if I challenged you and says who needs a firstborn in a family? Aren't you a good parent? If you're a good parent, why can't you lead the family? Who needs a firstborn? You're a parent, you're the leader of the family. What's the answer to that question?
Audience Member: You are not going to live forever.
Audience Member: Transmission.
Rabbi Fohrman: Not just transmission. Even while you're alive. The answer is this.
Audience Member: It's the peer group.
Rabbi Fohrman: Right. It's the peer group. The answer is there is something that the firstborn can do that a parent, no matter how hard they might try, cannot do by virtue of their being a parent. That is the following. Every child, by virtue of being a child, wants to rise to the expectation of their creator. That's why children play and they try to model so they play house. They try and do things that parents do. But there is a limit to how much house you can play. My mommy and my daddy go to board meetings and they sit on the board of this foundation. Hello. How exactly am I going to play house with that? My mommy and my daddy drive carpool. Okay. I have a tricycle. I guess I can sort of, kind of, like. Do you know what I mean? There is so much stuff that my mommy and daddy do and I am six years old and I have no comprehension about how to do that.
I want to live the values of my parents, but I don't know what it means to translate the values of my parents from the world in which they live, the world of the parent, into the world of the child.
Enter the firstborn. The firstborn is the transmission, the answer to the generation gap. The firstborn says I will show you what it means to take the values of the parent and live it in the world of the child. Here's what it means. Of course, the firstborn isn't always the firstborn. We all know that in a family it can be any one of your children that do this, but one child rises up and occupies the role of firstborn. Sometimes it's a girl -- rises up and says, this is what it means to live the values of the child in the world of the parent. Then all of the other kids have a choice. They can get into the sibling rivalry issue and say who are you and what makes you so great and they can hate them. Or if it works out right, they can say, yeah, that's what it means. They can begin to imitate them, say I understand that I have a real-life, flesh and blood model.
Now, if that's a problem for parents and children, all the more so, it's a problem for God and humanity. God has the same issue with humanity, but in spades. God has the same issue with humanity, but it stays. God is our father in heaven. Think about the generation gap between parent and child and now think about the generation gap between humanity and God. It's not even comparable. You can't touch Him, you can't feel Him. We all want to do God's will, sure. Ask anybody if they want to do God's will. What's the problem? What the heck is that? Who knows what God's will is? God himself is frustrated. God can't solve the problem because He's God. You still can't touch Him. What's God supposed to do? Turn Himself into not-God? That was Christianity, right. That didn't work for us, but that was one way of doing it. You know, if you make God into a human being, you solve everything.
If you say, sorry, God is not a human being. That won't work. There's only one other possible solution. I need a firstborn. I must have a firstborn. I have to have someone who I cultivate, the child lead. We give them laws and say this is what my role looks like. Share these laws, do them and be an example and show everybody -- show all My children. I love all My children. You think I love you? I do have a special relationship with you, but the whole point of my special relationship, that I have a special relationship with you, because you facilitate my relationship with the whole family. My whole point is not to love you. My point is to relate to all of My kids. I treasure you because you occupy a special place in my ability to relate to the family.
Which is why a corrupt firstborn can just say it's all about me, right? So anytime you think, God loves the Jews and doesn't care all about the goyim (non-Jews) and the non-Jews are really awful, right? If you go into the goy, goy, goy mentality and really we say, I'm nothing -- you've defeated the whole purpose. The whole point is that you should be able to be a model nation that models what it's like, by your behavior, to live according to God's laws. Everyone should say, that's what it looks like. I want to be like that in some way, shape or form. They don't have to convert, but they have to say, I want to be like that.
So God says, I really need a firstborn. Egypt, Pharaoh, you're going to deny me my firstborn serving me? That messes up my whole plan for the world. You do that? I'll take away your firstborns. You see how easy it is to translate Egyptian culture from one generation to the other without benefit of a firstborn. You won't be able to. God says there's going to become a time which you insist on enslaving my people and not letting them go, I will kill all of your firstborns. As a matter of fact, I'll kill all firstborns. The only firstborns I will save are my own.
When did the Jews become God's firstborn? They became God's firstborn when, on this night -- and they did two things simultaneously to do it. This where my theory and the Maharal's theory come together. The first thing they did was they declared their allegiance to monotheism. They declared their allegiance to monotheism. They said that we are not a polytheism. Egypt stops at the door. The door -- the bloody door. There's no Egypt in this door. This is what it means to be a monotheist. I take the god of the Egyptians. I put its blood on the door. I have this oneness offering. I pledge allegiance to oneness. This is the first act, in practice, of showing what it means. This is the first thing you do to show what it means to be a monotheist. You stand up against your Egyptian oppressors, you reject their faith system and you say this is what it means to be a monotheist.
That's the first thing you do, but it's not the only thing you do. It's not just about your relationship with God. That's not the only function of monotheism. Monotheism isn't just about how you relate to God. It's also about how you relate to people. You know why? Because it's only in monotheism that's there a morality. It's only in monotheism that there's a creator who has expectations. It's not just like -- there's this family -- there's no family without the parents. There's no relationship without the parents. There's nobody really matters without the parents to anybody else. There's no such thing as being a brother if there's not parent. There's no sense of brotherhood among mankind if there's no parent, really. It's just happened. Well, just happening. It wasn't like anybody got together and decided to have a family. So what relationship do I really have with my brother? Not much.
That leads you straight to goats and coats. Where I'm willing to lie and deceive and do what -- and stab my brother in the back and do whatever it takes to get up on them. That led you straight down into exile. Now you want to worship the one monotheist God? Well, there's a corollary to worshipping the one monotheist God. You're all part of one family. You're the firstborn now. The firstborn cares about the other children. The whole point of the firstborn is to facilitate father's love in all the children. Not to facilitate rivalry. Not to facilitate division. Not to facilitate that father likes you and nobody else. We're all part of one family.
Therefore, the way you got to get over this is you have to confront the selling of Joseph. You have to confront what happened with Esau. Don't think you can just sweep it under the carpet and oh, we're free now. You can all be religious with God and the how you relate to your brother -- well, you know, we don't have to talk about that. Oh no. You have to confront it. You have to go through it again. Every single thing that you did wrong, everything that happened in that pit, do it right this time.
God says, you guys, look at you. This idea of being firstborn it gets you in trouble. Do you know how I'm going to redeem you? This is what I think ga'alti is. This is what ga'alti means. All the expressions of redemption make sense. Lakachti, I know it means; hotzeiti, I know what it means; hitzalti, I get. What's ga'alti? If it didn't have ga'alti, you would've had a problem? Well, I left, I'm free, I'm going, right? What do I need ga'alti for? This is ga'alti. To be redeemed from what brought you down from Egypt. Because otherwise you leave stains. You can't really be free. Here's what God says to redeem you.
What do you do with a troublemaker kid? What do you do with a troublemaker kid in school? We were troublemakers. God really loved us, but we were troublemakers. The whole firstborn thing. So what do you do if you're the administrator and you have a troublemaker kid? You have a choice. If you're a bad administrator, you send a note home to the parents and you send a note home to the kid -- we're not sure if there's a place for you in our school. By the way, I spoke last night to a guy who had a troublemaker kid with a 142 IQ -- any 142 IQ kid is not going to be in the box -- who got one of these notes, we're not sure if there's a place for you next year. The father called the principal and says what are you doing? He says do you know what you're doing with this kid? This kid thinks there's no place for him. You just turned off this kid. He said well, I didn't mean to do that, I just meant to scare him a little bit. He says I don't care what you meant to do, you did it. That's what you did.
It's this little passive-aggressive thing, which is like, oh we'll scare you a little bit by cutting you up. That's one thing you can do if you're a bad administrator. If you're a good administrator, what do you know? You know the troublemakers are always the ones with the 142 IQ. Do you know what this father said? This father said do you know what my son's aspiration is? My son's aspiration is to get an MBA and to go into business. He's going to be a multimillionaire one day. He wants to make $100 million and do you know what's going to happen? He's so good, he's going to do it. Do you know what would have happened if you had dealt with him? He would have endowed a whole wing in your new campus. Now what do you think is going to happen? He won't give you a dime. Because you didn't have anything to do with him.
A good administrator -- and by the way, Rabbi Tendler in Baltimore, in Ner Yisroel, was a good administrator. This is what he did. There's a guy, I will tell you right now, who is one of my best friends, who is the Rosh Yeshiva at a yeshiva in Israel that you have probably sent your sons to, that will remain nameless. I know what this kid was like in mechinah, okay? This kid was the guy who threw another kid through a plate-glass window in yeshiva and was this close to getting expelled. Rabbi Tendler called him in and sat him down. Instead of throwing him out of yeshiva, made a seder with him.
What you do with a kid like that is you give that kid responsibility. You say you're on my team. You identify the area in which the kid is a troublemaker and you say that's the area in which you shine. You're going to use all that. You're going to use those strengths. You're not going to deny those strengths. You're not going to turn them off. You're going to use all of that and you're going to use it on -- it's going to be part of my team. God said you know what your issue that's getting you into problems with is? It's this incessant desire to be the firstborn. I could use a firstborn too. I need somebody who's going to be my firstborn, who's going to stand up and show what it means to be a model nation.
So I need somebody on my team. Will you take all that passion and transform it? In order to do that, you're going to have to relive the sin. You're going to have to go through everything that you did, all the lies and all the deceptions. You're going to have to do it right this time. Instead of deceiving father and lying and sneaking around, you're going to have to stand up in front of everyone and slaughter the blood of this goat and put it on the door and claim in front of father, directly. I am the firstborn, choose me. Do it directly, there's no deception. Do it right and you'll do it right through the Passover offering. If you do, you'll be my firstborn. I will redeem you from this sin. You'll take all of that and you'll use it powerfully. It's like complete repentance, but It's the inverse.
The Rambam's definition of complete repentance is when you confront a temptation by avoiding it. Same place, same time, same woman and there's no affair. That's not redemption. That's avoidance. That's great, that's complete repentance. But do you know what a step above complete repentance is? A step above complete repentance is the positive inverse of that. Instead of avoidance, engagement. Go through the sin again, but everything that you did wrong, do it right. Use all of that energy. Don't quash it and just say I'm not having the affair. Use it. Use it for me. That's redemption. That's ga'alti. That's when we're born. We're born anew. We're born anew and we're cleansed. We become God's firstborn. That, I believe, is what the Passover offering is about. I didn't even get to tell you what I really meant to tell you, which is what I've come up with this week. This is all the background.
So here's the beginning of what I discovered this week. If you thought that any of this is fantasy, I can prove to you that it's not. I can show you that this is true. Here's how I can show it to you.
Let's go back to the beginning of the Jews enslaved under Egypt. The last thing that happened over here was -- okay, we'll start from here. "Vayamat Yosef v'chol echav v'chol hador hahu." Okay. End of Joseph. That's the last you ever hear of Joseph, in the book of Exodus. Now I'm arguing to you that you hear about him again in the Passover offering. Now I'm going to show you that you hear about him again in the middle too. You hear about him constantly in the book of Exodus. Watch. "Vayamat Yosef v'chol echav v'chol hador hahu." Now, I just came up with this yesterday so I didn't have time to actually create a PowerPoint or make it pretty for you. So you'll just have to pay attention in the text here and see it in the text.
Look at the next words. "U'Bnei Yisroel paru vayishretzu vayirbu vaya'atzmu bi'meod meod, vatimaleh ha'aretz otam." All right. The next thing that happens is the Jews are "paru vayeshritzu vayirbu vaya'atzmu b'meod meod." How did that happen? How did the population explosion happen?
Rabbi Fohrman: Correct. That's the answer. Because Joseph created the optimal conditions for it. How did Joseph create the optimal conditions? Do you remember, in Parshat Vayigash? He put them in Goshen and he separated them. What did he do more than that?
If you look carefully at the text -- I don't have time to show you, but go home and look. I think it's Chapter 42. You will find that what he does is -- it says that he gives -- there's a sandwich -- Joseph gave them "lechem l'fi hataf," he gives them bread enough for children. Bread enough for children. There's a famine going on. He provides for his children, "lechem l'fi hataf." The next thing that happens, is a long, excruciating, drawn-out journey, when, "v'lechem ayin b'chol Eretz Mitzrayim." There was no bread in the whole land. The people came to Joseph, "havu lanu lechem," please give us bread. Joseph forced them to sell themselves, ultimately as slaves, for bread. Egyptians were slaves. They said, "niyeh anachnu avadim l'Pharoh," let us be slaves to Pharaoh. Well, who became slaves to Pharaoh later? We did. First it was them, they were the first slaves, the Egyptians. While Joseph and his brothers enjoyed what? Bread lefi hataf.
Then they sold themselves -- they sold their land first -- and they sold their land and then they sold themselves. Then Joseph had this whole pact system and all of that. At the very end of that it says, "Uvnei Yisroel paru vayirbu meod." Right? "Vayifru vayirbu meod." Why "vayifru vayirbu meod?" The answer is because they had bread lefi hataf, for children. You can reproduce if you have bread. If you're Egypt, nobody has children in a famine, but the Jews got a head start on having children. A generation later, every other word in "paru vayishretzu vayirbu vaya'atzmu bi'meod meod," comes from Vayigash. Back then, it was "vayifru vayirbu bi'meod."
Now, it's exponential expansion -- paru vayishretzu. Not only was it paru, but they swarmed. Not only was it vayirbu like Vayigash, it was vaya'atzmu. They were overwhelming. Not only was it meod, it was meod, meod. You understand? It's geometric expansion. The graph is going like this. Now, if you're in Egypt, boys and girls and you're watching this happen, what's the deal? What do you start thinking? They're taking over. Why are they taking over? Let's go back to the historical, socioeconomic root cause for why they're taking over. It was because of Joseph. Let's read it.
"Vayakam melech chadash al Mitzrayim asher lo yadah et Yosef." So there was this new king who supposedly doesn't know anything about Joseph, but he says to his people, "hinei am B'nei Yisroel rav va'atzum mimenu," the people of Israel are "rav va'atzum mimenu." They are "rav va'atzum mimenu," they are greater than us. Do you know who said rav va'atzum? The last rav va'atzum was? Joseph, just before he died. Joseph just before he died turned to the brothers and said you know what -- am rav (great nation).
He says, you know what I can do? Don't worry about the sin, you know, you sold me in the pit. I don't really have to forgive you guys. He never says, I forgive you. Instead, he says, don't worry. God will be the judge between us. It's all okay. If you want to know what God thinks? It's probably just fine because, look, thank God, he gave me food to be able to give you and to make you into an am rav, to make you into a great nation. Thank God, you're going to be a great nation. But he never forgave them. He said, it's up to God to forgive you. You know what? God probably thinks it's fine. God made me -- it's all destined, but I was -- they just threw me in the pit so I could make you into this great nation.
What did God say? God said, one second. You never forgave them? You said it's up to Me? They offered themselves as slaves at the end of Vayechi. They said, let us be your slaves. He said, it's really not up to me to decide whether you're slaves, it's really up to God. But, you know, thank God, God made you into a great nation. Probably everything's fine. God says, okay. So there was an offer of slavery on the table and it's up to Me? Like, I didn't think it was up to me. I mean, it was really up to you to forgive them, but if you really say it's up to me -- and this is a great person who was thrown in a pit and he doesn't forgive. He says it's up to Me and there was this offer of slavery that's left on the table. I guess we could do slavery. Yeah, we could do slavery. We could do slaves.
As a matter of fact, you say it's destined because you gave the food so that you could be a great nation. I've got an idea. You know how to become slaves? Through the food. Because the next generation is going to look at the food and it's going to look at the great nation and they're going to say, how did this happen, this population explosion? Because Joseph paid for his family. They're not good Egyptians. They're his family. They're all Jews, right?
"Hinei am B'nei Yisroel rav" -- quoting Joseph, there's a great nation over here. This becomes the paranoia that plunges them into slavery, "am rav mimenu. "Hava neschakmah lo" -- that's a Joseph word, right? Joseph was an "ein chacham venavon kamochah," that we should save up food, but now, look, his wisdom -- he was used against us. Let's use wisdom against him. "Pen yirbeh v'hayah ki tikrenah milchamah, venosaf gam hu al soneinu." What a strange word, "nosaf gam hu al soneinu." For a king that forgot about Joseph, he's doing pretty good at remembering Joseph, isn't he? Right, nosaf is a Joseph word.
Audience Member: That's why Rashi says it's probably not a new king.
Rabbi Fohrman: Right, exactly. "V'nilcham banu ve'alah min ha'aretz." So therefore the next thing that happens is, "vayasimu alav sarei missim." So the next thing that happens is, he places tax officers. Now, vayasimu and sarim and missim is a playoff of what happens in Vayigash. What happened in Vayigash was, Pharaoh -- before the whole thing with the food, Pharaoh said, if you have any brothers that are especially skilled, "vesamtem sarei mikneh al asher li," why don't you make them officers of sheep? Now, the "vesamtem sarei mikneh," turns into, "vayasimu alav sarei missim." Now, they're officers of taxes, that God did. What did Joseph levy against the people? Taxes. "Vayasimu alav sarei missim lema'an anoto besivlotam, vayiven arei miskenot lePharoh." What does this remind you in the Joseph story? Building the storehouses. When were storehouses built? The answer is Joseph -- "bar k'chol hayam." There was so much he built. Now, it's we will build storehouses without Joseph.
I want you to recognize, this is going backwards. There are backwards parallels that are inverses of each other, that are the mean side of something nice. It begins with the last thing that Joseph's dying. The last thing that Joseph says before he dies. It progresses to the whole story about Joseph and the Egyptians and all that. Then it progresses before that, when Pharaoh says, make them sarei missim. Then it progresses before that, when Joseph saved up the food. All of this -- it's happening backwards. Why? Because it's the unravelling. You're unravelling into slavery. It's spiraling out of control. "V'ka'asher ya'anu otoh kein yirbeh v'ken yifrotz, vayakutzu mi'penei B'nei Yisroel. Vaya'avidu Mitzrayim et B'nei Yisroel b'farech."
Where are we in the Joseph story now? Who was a slave in Egypt? The answer is, Joseph. Where was Joseph a slave? In Potifar's house. Was it back-breaking slavery for Joseph in Potiphar's house? Was it backbreaking slavery for Joseph in Potiphar's house? No, he was the head butler. It was a very nice life for him. He was always in the house. Where were the people? The people were "b'avodah kashah -- u'bechol avodah basadeh." They were in the fields. It's backbreaking slavery, it's not house slavery. "Vaya'avidu -- bechol avodeh basadeh."
Now, here's where it gets really chilling. "Vayomer melech Mitzrayim lameyaldot ha'ivriyot, asher shem ha'achat Puah." He says, you know what? It's time for me to start killing Jews. If you see Jews, you should really kill them. The midwives didn't do that. Instead, they lied to their authority figure, Pharaoh and they said, "vatechayenah et hayeladim," which is a playoff of "ki chayot heinah." So they let the child live and they said when they were taken to task, "lo kanashim haMitzriyot haIvriyot, ki chayot heinah." Now, listen carefully. What does this remind you of in the story?
Do you ever bother that? It's such not nice thing for them to say, right. They say you know what? These women, they're not like the Egyptians. They're like wild animals. They give birth like before we -- it's not such a nice thing for them to say, they're like wild animals. Wild animals in Joseph's story? "Chayah ra'ah achalathu." We're now back to that part of the story. It's a perfect inverse of "chayah ra'ah achalathu." What happened in "chayah ra'ah achalathu?" Brothers said to parent -- lie to parent and deceive them with "chayah ra'ah achalathu." Now, the midwives, feminine, right, women, are lying to their father, so to speak, the one they're in charge of, talking about chayot (animals).
It's even more than that. Because when the brothers lied to father about animals, what did they say? "Chayah ra'ah achalathu," meaning that Joseph died and met his end by being consumed by the mouth of the beast and ending up where? In the beast's tummy. What are the midwives saying? It wasn't death, it's actually birth. It's coming from the beast's tummy out into the world as birth. But it's a lie, but it's a lie about birth instead of a lie about death. It's a lie that saved instead of a lie that killed. It's a lie of redemption. It's the beginning of things turning around. It's a correction, as it were, but it's still a lie.
Now let's keep on going. The next thing that happens is -- oh, I didn't even realize this, look at that. "Beterem tavo aleihem." Where is that in the Joseph story? Before they came to them. Before "terem yikrav aleihem, vayisnaklu oto l'hamito." it's the same language, I didn't realize it. Before Joseph came to the brothers, "terem yikrav aleihem," before he comes to them, they plotted to kill him. Here it's the inverse. Before they came to them, we're plotting to save them. They were already born, right? Here, before he could get to them we're going to kill. There, before we can get to, already born. Again, the inverse. I didn't notice that one. There you go. I mean, it just keeps on going.
Okay, "Vayeitav Elokim lameyaldot, vayirev ha'am vaya'atzmu meod." Okay. Now, look at the next thing that happens. Pharaoh, frustrated than this -- "vayetzav Pharoh lechal amo leimar, kol haben hayilod haye'orah tashlichuhu." Oh, my gosh. The language of shalach, as in casting in Joseph story. "Vayshlichu otoh haborah." How many times do you have casting together with Hey, X, Hey. Hey as the Hey hayediah -- the, right. Then the Hey at the end, meaning, into. "Vayashlichu otoh haborah," turns into "haye'orah tashlichuhu." You threw your brother into the pit? What did the pit have? "Ein bo mayim." Now, there's going to be a pit full of water. This huge crater in the earth. Because it's not going to be just one person thrown in a pit. It's going to be hundreds of thousands of children thrown into the pit, but this time there's more water than you could even imagine. Pretty scary, right? It's all Joseph. You can't get out without redeeming this. You have to redeem this.
Now look what happens next. Where are we up to in the Joseph story? We're right up to throwing in the pit. It hasn't happened yet. It's Reuben talking, remember -- and here's the tragedy. Remember Reuben's role. Reuben was such a good guy. He wanted to save Joseph. Let's remember what happened with Reuben. Let's remember all the words of Reuben. Okay? Here's what Reuben says, "V'yad al tishlechu bo." Don't send out your hand against him. He says, "al tishpechu dam," don't spill blood. "Hashlichu otoh el habor hazeh asher bamidbar." It was his idea to throw him in the pit. Why? It says, "veyad al tishlechu bo," and don't touch him. Don't touch him there. "Lema'an hatzil oto," that will be to save him.
The tragic part of Reuben, the so very tragic part of Reuben, is that Reuben fails. Reuben tries to save him by putting him in the pit and he does. He saves him from death as a result of it, but his whole plan is to come back. By the time he comes back, Joseph has been sold. He misses this opportunity. He can't do it, it's an ineffectual attempt. You hear Reuben later coming to his brothers and saying. Reuben tells them, "Halo amarti -- al techetu bayeled." I told you not to do this, right? Then he says, "asheimim anachnu asher ra'inu tzarat nafsho behitchaneno eileinu velo shamanu, al kein ba'ah aleinu hatzarah hazot." "Asher ra'inu tzarat nafsho," we saw his pain in the pit., "behitchaneno eileinu veloh shamanu", as he was screaming to us and we did not hear. "Al kein ba'ah aleinu hatzarah hazot," that's why this misfortune comes to us.
Audience Member: Which?
Rabbi Fohrman: Which misfortune? The loss of Simeon. Simeon is taken as a slave at that point. That's why Simeon is taken. It's very interesting, by the way, how did Reuben get his name? "Ra'ah Hashem b'anyi," Hashem has seen my pain. If you were Reuben -- don't you understand -- if you were Reuben, you should be the guy throwing Joseph in the pit. If you were named for, Hashem saw the pain of Leah. Here's this usurper, this child of Rachel, who exacerbates the pain by being the firstborn and passes over my mother. It's not just about me, Reuben could say. It's about my mother's dignity. I'm named for the pain of my mother. His greatness is, "asher ra'inu tzarat nafsho." The seer -- the one name for seeing -- saw the pain of another, of a rival. That's Reuben's greatness. He saw the pain of a rival.
You know what the problem is? Lo shama'anu. We didn't hear. Who is that? Simeon. Simeon named for "shamah Elokim ki senuah anochi," couldn't take that perspective. My father saw that my mother was hated. My job is to avenge the hatred of my mother. I will put Joseph in the pit. Therefore, when Joseph hears this because he can speak Hebrew and he understands. "Heim lo yaduh ki shomei'ah Yosef," they didn't know that Joseph was listening when Simeon didn't listen. Therefore, "vaye'esor et Shimon," he imprisoned Simeon, the listening one.
Now, "al kein ba'ah aleinu hatzarah hazot." The very first Jew ever enslaved in Egypt was Simeon because he didn't listen. Tzar. "Al kein ba'ah aleinu hatzarah hazot." How do you spell Mitzrayim? Right in middle of Mitzrayim is tzar. What's on the sides of Mitzrayim? Mem on this side, tzadi, reish, yud, mem. What's on the sides? Mayim with tzar in between. You know what Egypt is? They're water torture. They are the ones who threw your babies in the Nile. They are the tzar through water. The first tzar began, the first tzar came upon you when Simeon was taken by a slave, by none other than Joseph. That tzar multiplied, until it was water tzar. Until all the water becomes the tzar.
You know how you get redeemed at the end, the very end? At the Red Sea. When it happens to them. "Vayashuvu hamayim al haMitzrim." Look at those words. "Vayashuvu hamayim al haMitzrim." Spell those words. The water -- mayim, returned on the Mitzrim. How do you spell Mitzrim? Mem, tzadi, reish, yud, mem. What happened? The water was split, wasn't it? It was split water, with mem over here and yud, mem over here. What was in between it, following you? There was the tzar, following you. What happened? Vayashuvu, the water came together. Over what? Over the tzar, until all there was, was water and the tzar dropped to the bottom. You couldn't see Mitzrayim anymore. It was just mayim, with no tzar. That's how it ends. It begins with water torture. It begins with the tzar of Reuben. The tragedy of Reuben, the tragedy of Reuben was that it his idea to throw him in the pit. He did it to save him, but it was his idea. That's where it came from. That's the tragedy. It didn't work.
When Reuben goes and rips his clothes -- remember when Reuben comes back and rips his clothes. That's why he's ripping his clothes. Because it was his idea. Now he's gone and I tried so desperately to save him, but it didn't work. Now come back to our pasuk. Here's the next pasuk. We're now up to Reuben. Remember, it was Reuben -- the last words. "Hashlichu oto haborah," was Reuben's words. That ends up being all the babies thrown in the Nile. Now let's read. "Vatahar ishah vateiled ben" -- the birth of Moses. "Velo yachlah od hatzpinaoh, vatikach lo teivat gome, vatachmerah bachomer uvazefet, vatasem bah et hayeled, vatasem basuf al sefat hayeor. Vateisatzav achoto meirachok l'dei'ah mah yei'aseh lo. Vateired bat Pharoh lirchotz al hayeor, vena'arotehah holchot al yad hayeor, vateira et hateivah betoch hasuf, vatishlach et amatah vatikacheihu."
Okay. Look at these words -- "vatishlach vatireihu." Okay. Stay with me. Where in the Joseph story do you have shalach and ra'ah together? Father. Jacob says, "lechah v'eshlachacha aleihem," I'll send you to them. "Leich na re'ei et shelom achecha," why don't you see how the sheep is doing? I'll send you. So now there's somebody sending, but it's now the daughter of Pharaoh sending. "Vatireihu et hayeled," she sees the child, "v'hinei na'ar bocheh. Vatachmol alav." Now, what happens? She sends to see. What happens? Joseph meets up to -- before we had Reuben's perspective, now we have a father's perspective -- the father has sent him. Now it's Joseph's perspective.
While the brothers are plotting to kill him, Joseph comes and Joseph meets up with them. What does it say? It says, "beterem tavo aleihem, vayitnaklu oto l'hamito." Do you understand what's happening here? What's happening is, the brothers plotted to kill. What happens is, here comes Joseph -- perched between life and death. Nobody knows. Is he going to survive the encounter, won't he survive the encounter? The brothers are plotting to kill him. What's her position? The opposite. Vatachmal alav. Joseph is coming. She's seeing him. They saw him too, coming from afar and she sees him from afar. There's this thing, it's 30 feet away. I've got some time to think. Vatachmol alav -- her instinct is compassion. The only problem is, "vatomer miyaldei ha'ivrim zeh," it's a Jewish child. She has this conflict. I'm Pharaoh's daughter. It's a Jewish child. I feel compassion.
It's the same conflict of the brothers. It's my brother, but I feel compassion. They're bearing to kill and she's bearing to save. "Vatomer achoto el bat Pharoh" -- enter one sister, one sibling. Who is this sibling in the Joseph story? One sibling comes and says, "ha'eilech v'kararati lach ishah meineket," should I call somebody to help you? She says call him. "Vatikrah et eim hayeled," she calls the parent. A girl -- sister calls a parent, instead of -- in the Joseph story, who was this? It's Reuben, who wants to do what? "Lema'an tatzil oto." For what purpose? "Lehashivo el aviv," to return him to parent. But Reuben couldn't succeed. Miriam succeeds, where Reuben doesn't succeed.
Do you understand? The girl -- sister, succeeds, where the boy -- brother, failed, right. Miriam goes and brings parent into this. There's a reunification between parent and endangered child. We were all going backwards though the story, but this time it's happening right. This is the beginning of redemption. Literally, redemption is starting here, on two levels. This is the redemption of the Jews from Egypt. It's not just the redemption of the Jews from Egypt. Do you understand what this is? This is the redemption of the Joseph story that's happening. This is the right way. It's happening now, with Reuben succeeding. Are you with me?
Okay. Keep on reading. "Vatomer lah bat Pharoh," then the daughter of Pharaoh comes and says, "heilichi et hayeled hazeh v'heinikihu li, va'ani etein et sechareich." So she takes him and she nurses him. I will leave you with the last thing. Here's what I'm going to leave you with. Oh, I didn't realize this too. "Min hamayim meshitihu," I pulled him out of the water. What does that remind you of? Instead of Arabs pulling him out of the pit. What's the right way to do it? Whereas Reuben who pulled him out of the pit. Now Reuben is successful. Reuben as the two women over here. Miriam slash the daughter of Pharaoh, right. He gets his name for being pulled out. There's the mem and the shin and the vav of mishchu. Not all of it, but some of it. It means pulled out. Moses gets his name from the mem and the shin, right?
Now, the next thing that happens is -- here comes Moses. Moses sees an Egyptian man. What happens? "Vaya'ar ki ein ish." He goes -- "vaya'ar besivlotam," he sees the pain. There's no hearing, but look who hears. "Vayishmah Pharoh." He sees, but the hearing gets short-circuited. He sees the pain of his brothers, but he can't completely save them because he's on a one man crusade to save, but what short-circuits it? Pharaoh hears and issues the death sentence against him. Who is he? He's Reuben. He's the one who saw, but unfortunately was short-circuited because someone else came and sorted it as Pharaoh this time. It's Pharaoh who comes and short-circuits the hearing. He's the frustrated Reuben. He's the one who sees, who tries to save, but can't save. Right?
By the way, look what happens. The Priest of Midian comes and he says, "Ish Mitzri hitzilanu miyad ha'ro'im." -- hitzilanu miyad (saved us from the hands of). What does it say with Reuben? "L'ma'an hatzil oto miyadam." It's Reuben language. Do you understand? Here is Moses acting like Reuben. He's trying to save people in trouble. He is seeing without hearing. It's all going to come to an end, where the daughter of Pharaoh doing her job and Miriam doing her job, as an affective Reuben, but Moses is trying and trying, but Pharaoh is getting in the way.
Moses is on a one-man crusade to save the Jews. If you keep them going he's going to do it. He's got the influence, he's got the political power; he's a prince of Egypt. He's going to do it, but Pharaoh gets in the way.
Then what happens? What happens is, "Vata'al shavasam el ha'Elokim," this cry comes up before God. "Va'yishma," and God hears. "Va'yar," and God sees. And God appears to Moses in the very next verse -- and God appears to Moses and says I've got a job for you. You know what my job is? Look what He says? That here's my job. My job is -- "Va'yomer Hashem, ra'oh ra'iti," I have seen the suffering of my people. "V'et tza'akatam shamati mipnei nogsav," I have heard and guess what? "Va'ered l'hatzilam mi'yad," I'm going to go and save from the hand of Egypt. You're running into trouble. Here's who I am. I'm you with a little more power. I am the omnipotent Reuben, whose going to do it right. I see you. You're trying to save, you're trying to hear, you're trying to see. You're trying to save. You're doing it. You're only getting so far. I'll step in. I will hear and I will save. I will be with you and I will be able to save them.
Along comes Moses and says it's not going to work. They're not going to believe me. They're going to say God never showed himself and they won't listen. It's a despondent Reuben saying it won't work. So God turns around. He says yeah, it won't work? It will work. Let me show you exactly how it's going to work.
I'm going to end with this. He says, in response to Moses, tell them, "Pakod pakadti etchem," I've redeemed you. Where do those words come from? That's Joseph -- "Pakod yifkod," you will be redeemed. How are going to be redeemed? Not just redeemed through Egypt, you're going to be redeemed through redoing Joseph; that's how you're going to be redeemed. I am going to bring you out, right?
The next thing that happens is he says to Moses, who says it's not going to work, "V'hein lo ya'aminu li v'lo yishme'u b'koli, ki yomru lo nirah eilecha Hashem," there's no seeing, there's no hearing. "Mah zeh b'yadecha?" What's in your hand? Mazeh spelled Mem, Zayin, Hei, not Mem, Hei, Zayin, Hei? Why do you think it's spelled Mem, Zayin, Hei? Mi zeh -- where do we have mi zeh in the Joseph story? The last words that Joseph hears when life is normal. Those are the words that the anonymous man told him in Nablus and said "Nas'u mizeh," they left from here. And then it was all a whirlwind.
At the very end of his life, the last words Joseph will breath is "Ve'ha'alitem et atzmotai mizeh," take my bones from mizeh. And our sages comment, you know why Joseph is buried in Nablus? Because that's where he was taken from, from mizeh. Right? It's his last words. It's a parable, the sages say, to people who break into a cellar and steal wine from bottles. The owner finds them and he says there's nothing I can do about the wine, enjoy the wine, but at least put the bottles back where you found them. Here's Joseph. There's nothing you can do. You messed everything up, but I'm going to die and I had a messed up life, but at least take my bones and put them back from mizeh. "Ve'ha'alitem et atzmotai mizeh," bring them back to Nablus.
God says, "Mah zeh b'yadecha?" Mizeh. But let’s start from mizeh. Let's redo the selling of Joseph. This is how they're going to see. This is how they're going to hear. This is the sign that's going to happen. You want to know how it's going to happen? I'll show you how it's going to happen. What's in your hand? "Vayomer mateh." Translate mateh. It's not a staff, you only think it's a staff. What's the other meaning of mateh? A tribe. What's in your hand? The whole tribe. It's the tribe of Joseph; it's Ephraim and Manasseh in your hand. "Vayomer hashlichei'hu artzah" -- there's those words again. Throw it; cast it down to the ground.
Whose idea was it to cast Joseph, the tribe, in the pit? Tragically, whose idea? It was Reuben's idea. You're the Reuben here. Now do what you rebel against doing. Do the thing that you can't even look at yourself in your eye, that you said throw him in a pit. You wanted to save him. Take the staff. Take it and throw him in the pit. That's the reason you got here, now confront it. Throw it down. And it became a snake.
What's the snake? The snake is the ultimate symbol of sin; primal sin. There it is. Joseph the other. Joseph the snake in the pit. The thing nobody wants -- the sin that nobody wants to confront. The thing that's getting you here. If you read The Beast That Crouches at the Door, you know that what does the snake stand for? The snake stands for one idea. The snake said, "Af ki amar Elokim lo tochlu mikol eitz hagan," even if God said don't eat from the tree. So what? Because God speaks to you with words, you don't need to listen to those words. It's all what you want. It's all the voice inside of you. God doesn't speak in words. There's no reason to listen.
The snake is the one who says don't listen, there's no hearing. The snake is the one that short-circuits all the listening. What did the brothers do when they saw the snake in the pit? Do you know what they did? They went faraway to eat bread. Why faraway? Because, as Rabbeinu Bechayai says and as the Rashbam says, you can't eat bread near there, he's screaming. So you had to distance yourself from the other so that you couldn't be there to help him because it was too painful, because he was the other. Because how could you not hear? So you had to go so far away that you literally couldn't hear and you were eating bread, because it was a snake that doesn't believe in hearing.
What's Moses' response? "Vayanas Moshe," Moses recoiled. He doesn't want to have anything to do with it, because that's what you do. You recoil from the sin, you recoil from the snake. You also don't want to hear and you don't want to touch. You want to have nothing to do with the snake.
Vayanas also comes from Joseph. There's one vayanas in the Joseph story, it was "Vayanas va'yeitzei hachutzah" in the story of the wife of Potiphar and that story was another Joseph story in the pit. You know why? Because where's he going at the end of that story? Into a pit; he's going into a jail and he's losing his coat because she's holding on to it. And she's going to lie to her father about him, just like in the first story. And if you're Joseph, that you went through that experience once before, every bone, as she's holding onto your coat, is saying don't do it -- sleep with her, because if you sleep with her you don't have to go in the pit, you can lie.
He doesn't. His greatness is, he actively leaves his coat with her. First he was stripped of the coat, now he looks the pit in the eye. He looks the snake in the eye. He remembers the snakes at the bottom of the pit and he says I'm going back. I'm going to leave the scorned woman if I have to and I'll leave her with my coat, willingly this time. And I'll let her tell lies about father, because that's what it means to be loyal to father. And every part of him wanted to recoil from the pit, but his strength was that he faced that which he wanted to recoil from, which was the pit and instead recoiled from her that he was attracted to. He recoiled from her and that's what made him Joseph the Righteous.
Now, God turns to Moses and says you want to get out of this? You want to get out of this sin? You want to get out of Egypt? There's only one way out. You have to do what Joseph did to get himself out. He faced the pit and he didn't recoil from it. He was willing to go in. Therefore, "Vayanas Moshe mipanav" -- you're recoiling? Don't do that. "Vayomer Hashem el Moshe, shelach yadcha." Shelach yadcha is a quote from Reuben too. What did Reuben say? "Al tishlach yadcha," don't send out your hand. God says that was bad advice. Put out your hand. Do what you wanted to do. You wanted to grab hold of him? You wanted to touch him because he's a human being? He wasn't this other thing, the snake? It's not really a snake; it just looks like a snake.
Go out, reach out and touch someone. Connect to the other. He's not an other. What is monotheism about? Monotheism is about -- and this we talked about before, our hearing and seeing series in Parashat Va'eschanan. It's about hearing from God. It's about responding to the other. Idolatry is about you seeing. You do not hear, you see things and you don't hear anything from them. So you make up things in your head and you impute them and they're really just you. It's just narcissism. There's just you imputing things to the thing and you think it's spirituality, but it's narcissism.
You know what narcissism is? It's not in the spiritual realm between man and God, but between people it's seeing and not hearing. It's seeing suffering and not being willing to hear and saying it's a snake and there's a separation between you. Therefore, you impute to desires instead of hearing what they actually have to say. Why don't you listen to Joseph and see what he has to say? Why don't you actually touch it and reach out and see what he feels like? Why are you just not stay faraway where you can't hear him and you think in your head. You know what he says, just like an idol and you impute these ideas of the idol and you say this is what I think. That's idolatry. We don't do that. In monotheism we care and we reach out and we touch and we listen and therefore, confront the snake; grab hold of the snake.
By the way, the same words as with Hagar, who also kept herself away from Ishmael because it was too painful. What did the angel say to her? "Hachaziki et yadeich bo." And God says "Shelach yadcha v'echoz biznavo," hold its tail. "Vayishlach yado va'yechezak bo." From Hagar -- hachaziki es yadeich bo, hold on to the child that you're scared of, he's dying. He's not the other, have compassion. Make that human connection.
Therefore, Moses did it. He faced the snake. "Va'yehcezak bo," he grabbed hold of it. And guess what happened? "Va'yehi l'mateh b'kapo," it turned back into a tribe. The only way you're going to get out of this, the only way you're going to have a tribe out of this. The only way is you have to face the pit. It's the only way. When did they face the pit? In the Passover offering.
So go through the whole thing again, symbolically. Go through it and say we want to be the Firstborn, but do it right this time. Do it right and pledge yourself to God, as with the monotheist offering and say I am a monotheist and because I'm a monotheist I turn my back on no morality between people. If we are all one family and I care and I'm going to do the whole thing the right way this time, with no deception and no hurting. Also when I leave, "Ve'ha'alitem et atzmotai mizeh." At least put the bottles back from where took them. The final thing that you do for Joseph -- you can't put his life back together; his life is destroyed, but you can at least take his bones with you.
There's the Midrash that says where did he know where the bones were? Do you know where the bones were, the Midrash says? At the bottom of the Nile. What was the Nile? It was the water pit. That was Joseph still in the pit, but in the pit -- the water pit of Egypt. And Moses called out and said pakod yifkod -- these are your words. This is your messenger; I'm here to do it. I'm from the other side of the family. Our sages say he had no obligation to bury him; he wasn't even his child. He comes from the other side of the family. He had no obligation to bury him. His father should have buried him, Not Moses who's from Leah's side of the family.
God says in the merit that you buried him, when you weren't his relative, I'll bury you because I'm not your relative. And God buries Moses because Moses buried Joseph. But it's a reconciliation from the other side of the family. I'm from Leah's side of the family. I reached out and I cared, because there's someone that had to be buried. Someone whose bones were at the bottom of the pit and the only thing we could do is put them back where we found them. So we put them in Nablus and with that final act, on one hand the act of the Passover offering, of monotheism, of going through it all again symbolically and the act of doing whatever we humanly could to rectify it, by bringing his bones back, we redeemed ourselves and we were able to come out of Egypt.