Did You Know...from Talmudic University
In this week's parsha the final plague is performed: Makos Bechoros. Unlike the others, this one is performed by Hashem Himself, without a messenger. The Torah teaches that the plague caused the deaths of all the Egyptian firstborns, but that the Jews who put the blood on their doorways survived. However, here are some details from Chazal that you might not have known:
- Hashem killed all the firstborns of Egypt, including visiting foreigners, non Jewish slaves, and animals. The Egyptian firstborns were killed no matter where in the world they were hiding (Me'am lo'ez Shemos 2, chapter 7).
- Hashem killed the firstborn animals, to show that there was no difference between the Egyptians and their animals. The firstborn captives were also killed because, when asked about freedom, they would say that they preferred staying as slaves rather than being with the Jews who were freed (Shemos Rabbah 18:10).
- Interestingly, if a Jew was supposed to die that night, Hashem extended his life. But if an Egyptian was supposed to die he died anyway, even if he wasn't a firstborn. Hashem wasn't concerned that people would say that even non-firstborns died, because Hashem only performs miracles (extending one's life) for Bnei Yisroel (Me'am lo'ez ibid).
- Although all the previous plagues were performed with various messengers, Hashem had to do this one alone because not even angels could tell who was a first born. Even in the case of twins, Hashem would kill the one conceived first (Me'am lo'ez ibid).
- The blood on the doors obviously wasn't a sign for Hashem, but for the people to publicly do what Hashem said and repent. In other words, putting blood on the doors was a way of expressing one's desire to be with the Jewish people. This commitment also protected the Jewish firstborn who were in Egyptian houses (Me'am lo'ez ibid).
- Hashem also destroyed all of their idols. Silver and gold melted, stone shattered, clay was pulverized, and wood was decayed. He destroyed them all, except the one called Baal-Zephon, to make the Egyptians think that He wasn't powerful enough (Shemos Rabbah 15:15). This mistake is what caused them to pursue the Jews and ultimately be destroyed (Eitz Yosef).
- Additionally, that night Hashem burned all of their sacred sheep, and the smell of the objects of their worship burning caused the Egyptians as much pain as all the plagues (Me'am lo'ez ibid).