Parshas Bishalach:
The ways of the Torah are pleasant

by Rabbi Moshe Francis

" And Moshe took the bones of Yosef with him."

    The Midrash comments on this verse, "A wise man chooses Mitzvos." Whereas all of Israel was involved [in gathering] silver and gold, Moshe was involved with the bones of Yosef. In other words, at the same time that the Jews were busy gathering the spoils of Egypt, Moshe directed his energy and attention instead to retrieving the bones of Yosef so that they could be taken for eventual burial in Eretz Yisroel.

    The Brisker Rav asks, why was Moshe praised because he chose a superior activity-the rest of the Jews were also involved in a mitzvah "Please speak in the ears of the nation and let them ask, etc. - G-d had requested of the Jews to seek out spoils before leaving Egypt so that Avraham Avinu should not say that G-d had fulfilled the first part of the promise that he would subjugate the Jews but not the latter part of the promise that they would leave Egypt with great wealth. If both Moshe and the Jews were both doing mitzvos, why is Moshe praised in contrast to everyone else?

    The Brisker Rav proposes a novel concept- that gathering the spoils in reality was not considered a mitzvah. Hashem had prefaced his remarks to Moshe saying, "Please speak" which implies a request as opposed to a commandment. We do not find this language used in the Torah in connection with any commandment.

    The Brisker Rav was not the first however to suggest such a concept. The verse says with regard to the Akeidah, (when Hashem asked Avraham to bind and sacrifice his son, Yitzchok) "Please take your son." The Drashos HaRan writes that had Avrohom not accede to G-d's wishes, he would not have been punished because the word implies a request, rather than a commandment.

    Why is it that in the instance of the Akeidah and the spoils of Egypt Hashem made a request as opposed to issuing a commandment? Perhaps the words of the Meshech Chochma can shed some light on this question. The Meshech Chochma asks why men rather than women are commanded to fulfill the mitzvah of "You shall be fruitful and multiply."

    One answer he offers is that since The ways of the Torah are pleasant, the Torah did not command women to have children since pregnancy and childbirth can endanger a woman's life. In a similar vein, we can say Hashem would not 'command' Avraham to sacrifice his son since the ways of the Torah are pleasant and the Torah never requires a person to do something which is to his detriment, life threatening or life depriving. Similarly, Hashem knew that the spoils of Egypt could be spiritually harmful to the Jewish people. The Talmud in Brachos 32A expounds on the first verse in Devarim on the words " so said Moshe in front of G-d, 'Ribono shel Olam, it is because of the silver and gold with which you endowed the Jews until they said enough, that they produced the Golden Calf." Since the spoils of Egypt involved spiritual pitfalls Hashem did not command the Jews to collect them. Rather he requested this of them to fulfill his promise to Avraham.

Rabbi Moshe Francis one of the directors and Roshei Kollel. He gives many shiurim at the Kollel. If you have any questions or comments about this week's Parsha Encounters please email him at




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