Monday, April 26, 2010

Some thoughts on Vayered Mitzrayma

Having finished a discussion of the first derasha in the parasha of Arami Oved Avi, we may turn to the next derasha. First, though, what is the big idea of darshening from Arami Oved Avi? I would suggest that the Mikra Bikkurim was chosen because it is short, and something that one can memorize. It is a sort of index to the greater story, which would take forever to tell over. (Consider how long maggid is today.) It is an index because each word or phrase in this compact retelling refers to a much larger point. Further, it allows for sippur yetzias mitzrayim as well as intellectual discussions for chachamim, nevonim, etc. One is engaging in midrash aggadah. And once we start darshening, we might continue darshening the pesukim in other ways as well. 

I don't know that the Mishna, in demanding a derasha based on Arami Oved Avi, had in mind the precise derasha as found in the Sifrei. Certainly this was a valid form of derasha, and since it was extant, it makes sense that this was what it had in mind. But perhaps dorshin from this text meant that any good midrashic expansion / exposition was valid. This would allow for a fixed base text, namely the pesukim, as well as giving ample room for creativity and personal expression.

On to the derasha of vayeired mitzrayma. The text:

וירד מצרימה -- What is the mechanism of this derasha? It is an interpretation of ירד not as descent but as imposition, rodeh. Compare with Bereishit 1:26:

כו  וַיֹּאמֶר אֱלֹהִים, נַעֲשֶׂה אָדָם בְּצַלְמֵנוּ כִּדְמוּתֵנוּ; וְיִרְדּוּ בִדְגַת הַיָּם וּבְעוֹף הַשָּׁמַיִם, וּבַבְּהֵמָה וּבְכָל-הָאָרֶץ, וּבְכָל-הָרֶמֶשׂ, הָרֹמֵשׂ עַל-הָאָרֶץ.26 And God said: 'Let us make man in our image, after our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.'
Thus, he was compelled to go there, against his will.

What is the purpose of making such a derasha? Perhaps to emphasize how this was all part of the Divine plan, rather than human plan. And in turn, this was part of the Divine plan laid out at the Bris Bein Habesarim.

We could also connect the phraseology of this to the derasha found a bit earlier in Sifrei, on Arami Oved Avi, that  מלמד שלא ירד יעקב לארם אלאט(לאובד)ש.

ויגר שם as well. Perhaps one could say that the choice of verb is unimportant, and that the focus, on a peshat level, was the increase in population, such that their initial settlement was with relatively few people. But we consider it important, and a reference to Yaakov's statement that they were coming merely לגור, which represents a fairly temporary state of dwelling.

Besides the inter-Biblical reference to the story of the entrance to Egypt, what is the purpose of making such a derasha? Perhaps to further show that this descent into Egypt was not a conscious choice by Yaakov, but was rather the result of the Divine Plan, established at the Bris Bein Habesarim. They were forced because of the famine, and did not intend to stay long. But Hashem had other plans.

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