Tuesday, March 29, 2011

did we need to leave Egypt just to be told not to eat bugs?

Time to start thinking about Pesach, and what better place to start than Parshas Shmini. At the very end of the parsha the Torah juxtaposes the prohibition of eating sheratzim with the reason, "Ki ani Hashem hama'aleh eschem mei'Eretz Mitzrayim..." (11:45) Rashi explains that the Torah uses the term "ma'aseh" here instead of the usual "hotzi" to indicate that leaving Egypt elevated us. Chazal teach that had the only gain from the exodus from Egypt been our acceptance of this command to not eat bugs, that itself would be an elevation, a privilidge and mark of distinction for the Jewish people.

R' Simcha Zisel of Kelm (in case you are keeping score, that's a Slabodka, Navardok, and now a Kelm vort all in one week) asks: If Hashem wanted to elevate the Jewish people by commanding them to not eat bugs, why could he not give that command while they remained in Egypt? Why did it necessitate yetziyas Mitzrayim -- how are these two ideas related?

Without understanding R' Simcha Zisel's answer we don't even get to square one of understanding what Pesach is all about. Hashem could give Torah and mitzvos at any time, in any place, to any people. The reason Torah was given when it was, to whom it was, is not because that's when Hashem had a free day on his calendar, but rather because that's when we as a people were ready to receive it. That readiness was a direct product of yetziyas Mitzrayim. Leaving Egypt was not just a physical escape from bondage, but was a transformation of our souls.

Even a mitzvah so basic as not eating bugs could not be given while we remained in Egypt. It required that our neshomos first experience the exodus from Egypt and that spiritual transformation from avdus to cheirus.


  1. Anonymous9:27 AM

    is not the eved(avdus) knani also
    forbidden to eat bugs? must be
    the laws as to his eye & tooth
    (shemos, 21:26-27)-- which predict
    his freedom(cheirus)-- have trans-
    formed him inwardly: how he views
    bugs(eye), & whether he may eat

  2. An eved knani also has a kabalas mitzvos, no?

  3. Anonymous11:35 PM

    (does the eved need make an official declaration/acceptance, or merely take the plunge, or...?)

    ...to answer the kashya of the
    eved's "transformation" in more prosaic terms-- it would seem
    that canaanites, prior to becoming Jewish property, even if
    they lived "free", were appx'ly
    what Hebrews were in egypt; the
    Jew's kinyan not only removed them
    from "mitzrayim", it transformed
    their being such that they could
    begin to keep most mitzvos--Hashem
    acquired us from mitzrayim {thru
    His agent Egypt driving us!}; we acquired slaves from the "same"...

  4. Anonymous5:07 AM

    that is to say, merely to be
    chosen by one's metaphysical superior, transforms;
    one knows newfound lift,
    should he heed the higher calling--

    the living way is up
    (down denies shamayim's call,
    down's a slave to death)...

    we Hebrew slaves
    did drop the bricks
    His luchos next to raise,

    then took who'd dimmed
    the G-dlit land
    with chosen snack of worm,

    and told them pluck
    each insect clear
    of all first-fruits to be...

    (sorry, it's late, & shadim
    fast-flapping in the shadows...)

  5. Anonymous1:32 AM

    it may be, in the end of days, that
    the insect & the worm will be
    "avoided" even by the frog & bird, should all creatures revert then to the herbivorous diet of bere- sheis 1:30, & the lion lie down w/ the lamb*: in that day, all creatures under man will be (as) one, and their food, one...

    *this latter pasuk a possible proof-text of reversion: no more carnivores/ predators, etc. (no more Esav, that one-time bigshot bully-of-the-field)