Tazria 5768 – Gilayon #543

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…it does not seem far fetched

to suggest that in roasted over fire we can see the missing third

element, the state of being a stranger Without standing, no firm ground under

its feet, swinging to and fro, not roasted in a pan, but hanging on a spit,

thus, is the paschal sacrifice to cook to a state fit for use. Without

standing, driven to and fro, no right to the ground under their feet, is literally

the condition of aliens, in which this people, now rising to freedom and

independence had to be matured for their ultimate goal. So, centuries later,

when, once again, the fate of being a stranger, of exile, hung over the head of

Judea, those who thought they could defy the threat used the same metaphor in the

opposite way, and said, referring to Jerusalem, it [Jerusalem] is the pot

and we are the meat (Ezekiel 11:3), i.e., in

Jerusalem we have our natural permanent land which can not be taken away from

us, and on which we shall reach the zenith of our greatness. And the Prophet

replied, announcing the exile: It will not be as a pot unto you (ibid). According to this roasted over the

fire, and unleavened cakes; with bitter herbs would mean: remembering, at

the moment of regained freedom, the three preceding stages of Egyptian

oppression, alienation, enslavement, and persecution. This is to keep alive in

our minds the fact that, right up to the moment of redemption, the pressure

still lay heavily on us.


S.R. Hirsch, Shemot 12:7-8, Levi translation)


And you shall not leave

over any of it until morning

Not to leave any of the meat of

the paschal sacrifice into the next day, which is the fifteenth of Nissan. For

it is said, And you shall not leave over any of it until morning.

The rationale for this

commandment is remembrance of the miracles in Egypt, as is written in

connection with its slaughter.

This matter of our being commanded

not to leave anything over from it is similar to custom of kings and princes

who do not need to save their cooked dishes from one day to the next. That is

why it says that if there are any leftovers, they should be burned as if they

are unwanted, as is the custom of earthly kings. All of this is meant to

commemorate and set in the heart that in that time the blessed Lord redeemed us

from slavery, and we became freemen, and we gained sovereignty and greatness.


haHinukh, commandment 8)


Editor's comment: This issue's

main article deals with the special maftir for Parashat HaHodesh, which

is about the Passover of Egypt which preceded the Exodus. Apparently, during

the period of the Mishnah only Parashat Hahodesh was read on the Shabbat preceding

Rosh Hodesh Nissan (Mishnah Meggilah 3:4),

since at that time the Torah was read in the Land of Israel according to a

three year (or even three and a half year) cycle



A Night of Shimurim

Nahem Ilan


word shimurim is unique to a single verse in Scripture, and there it

appears twice: It is a night of shimurim for the Lord, to take them out of

the land of Egypt; this night is the Lord's, Shimurim for all the children of

Israel throughout their generations (Shemot 12:42). This verse posses a lyrical rhythm, and it serves as a festive

conclusion to a passage of six verses (37-42) describing the Exodus from Egypt. The verse is heavy with content: its

first use of the word shimurim refers to God, and the second to the

Israelites, and this ambiguity has invited many different interpretations. The

Aramaic targumim [traditional translations], the early and late Midrashim,

and the biblical commentaries together offer at least twelve different

explanations of the term shimurim, and they reflect different

perspectives as to how the word should be seen in its double context (shimurim

to God and to the Israelites). These differing perspectives teach us something

about the methodologies of the various translators, darshanim, and exegetes. They

also help us gain new insights into the verse and its protagonists (God and the



1) Shimurim = shamur


earliest Aramaic targum of the Torah is attributed to Onkelos. It uses the word

netir ["guarded"] twice. The targum does not help us

understand the unique meaning of shimurim and it relays no special

significance. The Samaritans' Aramaic and Arabic translation of the Torah also

use that term twice. One of the versions of the targum of the Land of Israel

expands the range of shimurim's referents. It combines the two

occurrences of the word in the verse and connects them to the special

significance of that night, which was kept ready for redemption then and in the

future. Ever since then, echoes of the two interpretive traditions found in the

Aramaic targumim can be found in translations, midrashim, and commentaries on

the verse, even if it is not always possible to identify their direct and

conscious influence.


aspect of being kept is reflected in the Greek Septuagint. In the tenth century

Rav Saadia Gaon translated the verse into Arabic, rendering it something like

"And as that night was a guarded night for God to take them out of the

Land of Egypt, so too this is a night of guarding for the Israelites throughout

their generations. Rav Saadia Gaon did not preserve the words plural form and

saw no special significance in its conjugation. He explicitly expressed this

view twice in his commentary on Proverbs and once in his commentary on Psalms.


2) Redemption coming from

God to remove the Israelites from Egypt.

3) Protection from the

destroying angel.

4) Reserved for removing

them from exile throughout their generations.


targum attributed to Yonatan writes at length on this verse, offering three interpretations:


nights are mentioned in the Book of Memories before the Lord of the World. The

first night – when He was revealed in order to create the world; the second – when

He was revealed to Abraham; the third – when he was revealed in Egypt, and His

left hand killed the Egyptian firstborn while His right hand saved the

firstborn of Israel; the fourth – when He will be revealed to redeem the people

of the House of Israel from among the nations. He called them all layla

shamur – a reserved night. That is why Moses explained: It is a night

reserved [shamur] for redemption by God, to remove the Israelite people

from the Land of Egypt; it is the night when all the Israelites in Egypt were

protected [shamur] from the destroying angel, and to redeem them from

their exiles throughout their generations.


expanded passage from the targum has two parts. The first lists the four

special nights, each a leil shimurim. The second part paraphrases the

verse with some minor additions. A different version of the expansion upon the

verse appears in a targum called Yerushalmi, which also comes from the Land of

Israel. The additions reflect three kinds of shimurim: A) God's

redemptive removal of Israel from Egypt; B) protection from the destroying

angel; and C) removal of the Israelites from their exiles throughout the

generations. A and C relate to God and seem to interpret the first instance of shimurim

in the verse. B relates to the Israelites and interprets the second instance of

shimurim in the verse. Each of these explanations appears independently

in the Talmud and midrashim, and it seems that the targum attributed to Yonatan

collected them together. In Pesahim 109b we read: "Rav Nahman said:

Scripture says a night of shimurim – a night which continues to protect

against the destructive spirits." Rosh Hashana 11b attributes the idea to

the Tanna Rabbi Eliezer and brings it in opposition to Rabbi Yehoshua's

position that it is "A night of shimurim – a night that has

been continuously watched for since the six days of Creation.[1] Are A and C

really two different explanations, or is A a particular case of C? The answer

depends on one's position regarding the timing of the future redemption. This

question was already discussed in an early Tannaitic midrash on Shemot, Mekhilta

DeRabbi Yishmael. According to Rabbi Yehoshua, A is a particular case of C,

but R. Eliezer disagrees, since he completely rejects C as an interpretation. Their

disagreement is also found, in somewhat different language, in Mekhilta

DeRabbi Shimon bar Yohai.


5) Shimurim = the

rescue of Bitya, daughter of Pharaoh

In Pesikta

DeRav Kahana we read: "… R. Avon said in the name of R. Yehuda ben

Pazzi: Bitya, the daughter of Pharaoh, was a firstborn, and why was she saved? [She

was saved] by Moses' prayer, for it is written: [When] she advises that her

merchandise is good her lamp does not go out at night (Proverbs 31:18) – it says leil [night], as it

says It is a leil shimurim [night of watching] for the

Lord." According to this drasha, the meaning of shimurim also

includes the special protection afforded to Bitya and her rescue from death.


6) Shimurim = Joy


Rabbah explains the verse thusly: "…this night is one of joy for all

Israel, as it says; It is a leil shimurim for the Lord. He performed a

miracle for them on that night in this world – that was a temporary miracle. However,

in the future this night will become day, for it is said, and the light of

the moon will be like the light of the sun, and the light of the sun will be

sevenfold, etc. (Isaiah 30:26) – like

the light created by the Holy One blessed be He that he stored away in the

Garden of Eden." This is a drasha of the form al tikrei ["Do

not read"]: Do not read shimurim, but rather semayhim [joyful],

meaning that the guarding is not a response to some danger or threat (the

destroying angel?) but rather it stems from the desire to sustain and

perpetuate the pleasant experience of leaving Egypt. The preservation is

two-directional: God was to make it into a "day" while the Israelites

keep it as a token of thanks to God for his miraculous redemptive intervention.

It is not a far step from this interpretation to the drashot, and more substantially

the commentaries, that connect shimurim with the modes of celebration

practiced at the Seder and the kinds of praise that are appropriate to God.


7) Shimurim =

Expectation and Awaiting


RaShBaM writes on this verse: "Already from their father's days the Holy

One blessed be He would look forward to that night to remove the Israelites

from Egypt, as He had promised them. It was a night of shimurim for

Israel throughout their generations and for all their generations; they look

forward to celebrate the Passover Festival on that night [in accordance with

all its statutes] and laws. Shimurim is an expression of waiting, as in,

his father kept the matter [to himself] (Bereishit 37:11)." RaShBaM understands shimurim

as if written in the pa'al grammatical form, and ignores the plural pi'el

form, although the Sages use the term shimer in the sense of



8) Shimurim =

Observance of the Passover throughout the Generations


Avraham ben HaRaMBaM writes [in Arabic]: "…therefore it is appropriate

that this night be kept among the Israelites that they do on it that which they

were commanded [to do] on it." That is to say, he emphasizes the yearly

celebration of the Passover festival. RaMBaN also relates to the celebration of

Passover in every generation, and emphasizes performance: "…that they

should keep it to serve Him by eating the Paschal lamb and remembering the

miracles, and to offer praise and thanks to His name…" They both read

shimurim as meaning observance, realization, and performance. R. Yitzhak

Abarbanel followed their lead.


9) Preservation of Memory


RaLBaG (Gersonides) notes the reciprocity between the two instances of the word

shimurim and discusses at length a distinct characteristic of the

preservation that the Israelites should practice. He claims that memory

is the common factor for both God and Israel in this context. God remembered to

take Israel out of Egypt on this particular day, and therefore the Israelites

must recall the wonders He performed at that time. RaLBaG opposes those who are

only interested in internal mental acts of remembrance. He insists that

internal remembrance must be accompanied by acts of commemoration – in the

present context this takes place via telling stories of the miracles, i.e., by

performing the Seder ritual, which is centered on the Haggadah.


10) Occupying Oneself with

Torah all Day and Night


explanation has been preserved in R. Yisrael Alankva's (Sefarad, 14th)

Menorat HaMaor. He cites his source as Midrash Yehi Or, which

appears in the Zohar, and which is clearly related to Mekhilta

DeRabbi Shimon bar Yohai However, the new formulation differs greatly in

both form and content from the version found in the Mekhilta:


is a night of shimurim – R. Yossi began his exposition, saying: The

harsh prophecy of Dumah: To me one calls from Seir, "Watchman, what will

be of the night? Watchman, what will be of the night?" (Isaiah 21:11), and the Holy One blessed be He says: for the exile – this is the

harsh prophecy of Dumah; To me one calls from Seir – I heard the voices of Israel from Seir,

even though they are oppressed and strewn throughout the lands, and lie in the

dust, they lend their voices to words of Torah during the night watch. That is

what is written: Watchman, what will be of the night? Watchman, what will be of the

night – even on festival nights they sit and occupy themselves with Torah,

as you say: It is a night of shimurim for the Lord.

11) Three shemirot

for Israel and Two for God


other ideas, we find the following in Yalkut Midrashei Teman: "…

another view: It is a formulation referring to many acts of shemira:

Israel observes the [commandment of] eating of matza and recalls the

miracle and marks the vernal equinox; God keeps it for redemption and the

spring, since they left Egypt in Nissan and they will be redeemed in the future

in Nissan…" According to this explanation, the plural form of shimurim

marks the three observances required of Israel (to eat matza, and to recall the

miracle, and to mark the vernal equinox), and God took two upon Himself ("the

redemption and the spring").


12) Night of shimurim =

Balanced Night

R. Zekhariah HaRofeh's Midrash Hefetz (Yemen,

1427) states: "It is a night of shimurim for the Lord – That it is

protected from the destructive spirits, and similarly it says, He takes the

prisoners out at koshrot [the most opportune time] (Psalms


A kasher [opportune] month: not harmfully hot or harmfully cold; not a

long day and not a short day, and things are at their best when equal." According

to this view Israel was redeemed in Nissan because it is a balanced month and

therefore its climactic conditions are comfortable. They were redeemed on the

most balanced night of the month, making it the most appropriate time – the

most kasher for redemption.

Interpretations 6 and 11 are variations of 4; 9 is a

realization of 8, as is the second instance of the word shimurim

according to the 11nth interpretation. Most of the darshanim and exegetes think

that shimurim refers to God, and only six of them thought that the

second instance of the word relates to Israel. Only four (Shemot

Rabbah, RaLBaG, R. Israel Akanava [in Menorat HaMeor] and Yalkut

Midrashei Teman) distinguish between the two occurrences of the word.

The word shimurim has been understood in

several different ways in both of its instances. Some people have distinguished

between the first and second instances as relating to the respective roles of

God and the Israelites. Some attempted to understand the expression in terms of

the plain meaning of Scripture and the events that took place in Egypt on that

night. Some related it to the creation of the world or to the end of days. Those

who associated shimurim with a concrete event of that night disagreed

over whether the word refers to protection [or self-preservation] from

something dangerous or negative or whether it refers to preserving or reserving

something for a positive and welcome purpose. Some thought the verse alludes to

the special power of Moses' prayer or to the value of Torah study in all times

and circumstances – with no particular connection to Passover night. Some

thought that the plural form of shimurim points to a plurality of

obligations taken on by God and Israel at that time; someone even tried to

uncover some special quality in the objective facts about that night in respect

to its place in the yearly calendar.

The large majority of targumim, midrashim, and

commentaries do not base themselves on a philological analysis of the word shimurim.

Rather, they interpret it retrospectively, combining theological ideas about

the nature of the future redemption and its relationship to the redemption from

Egypt with the halakhic expression of the modes of celebration of the Seder

night. The linguistic problem is set aside before the desire to anchor

traditions and popular notions in the biblical text. Even if the various readings

and interpretations add nothing of substance to philological research they help

us understand cultural patterns of behavior and how they are legitimated by

being linked to Scripture.

Prof. Nahem Ilan teaches in the MA in Jewish Studies program at the

Lander institute in Jerusalem (associated with Touro College).


Tzara'at ["Leprosy"]: a Physical or a Spiritual Disease?

And if the garment is inflicted with leprosy: This does not

occur at all in nature nor does it exist in the world, and so it is with the

blemishes of houses as well. However, when Israel is perfectly for God, the

Lord's spirit will be constantly be upon them to give their bodies, clothing,

and homes a comely appearance, and if one of them commits a sin or crime then

their flesh or clothing or home will be made ugly in order to show that the

Lord has departed from him. That is why Scripture says, and I place a lesion

of tzara'ath upon a house in the land of your possession (14:34), because it is

the Lord's strike against that house, and it only occurs in the land which is

God's possession, as it says: When you come to the land of Canaan, which I

am giving you as a possession (ibid). It does not

occur because it is an obligation of the soil, but rather because this matter

can only come to pass in the chosen land in which the honored Name resides.

(RaMBaN Vayikra 13:47)


 And if the garment is inflicted with

leprosy: It is a certainty that this could not possibly be a natural

phenomenon, for such changes of appearance can only occur in a garment either

by artifice, when one colors it with dyes, either deliberately or accidentally,

or as the consequence of some problem with the dyes used to color the garment,

or with the work of the dyer, or in the reaction of the dyed garment…

True, Scripture does

testify that such a wonder can occasionally occur in garments and houses, and

it is in order gain the attention of their owners to their sins, as the Sages

said regarding the Sabbatical Year: "Come and see how serious the slightest

infringement of the Sabbatical Year is: A man trades in fruits of the

Sabbatical Year, eventually he sells all of his moveable property; he does not

notice, eventually he sells his field, etc." All of this occurs out of

God's pity upon his people.


on Vayikra 13:47)


And the person with tzara'at, in whom there

is the lesion his garments shall be torn, his head shall be unshorn, he shall

cover himself down to his mustache and call out, "Unclean! Unclean!" All the days the lesion is upon him, he shall remain unclean.

He is unclean; he shall dwell isolated; his dwelling shall be outside the camp.

(Vayikra, 13)


Why did the Torah decree that the metzora

receive the punishment he shall dwell isolated; his dwelling shall be

outside the camp? [With his slander and tale-bearing] he divided between man and wife,

between man and his fellow, therefore the Torah said: he shall dwell isolated.

(Arakhin 16b)


Rabbi Zekharia, son-in-law of Rabbi Levi,

said: The Merciful One does not afflict humans first.

From where do we learn this? From Job. The

oxen were plowing… Sabeans attacked them… God's fire fell from heaven… Only later, He took a

potsherd to scratch himself.

And so it was with Machlon and Kilion; first

their horses and camels died, and then he died – Elimelech, Naomi's husband died, and then they

died, as is written, Then those two also died and only afterwards did

she die.

And so with afflictions which come upon men;

in the beginning it begins with one's home. If he repents, the afflicted stones

shall be removed. If he does not repent, the house must be torn down.

Afterwards it begins to afflict his clothing. If he repents, the garment must

be torn. Should he not repent, the garment must be burned. After it begins to

afflict the person's body. If he repents, fine; if not – he shall dwell

isolated; his dwelling shall be outside the camp. And so it was with

Egypt; first the measure of justice struck at Egyptian property. Only later, And

He struck every firstborn in Egypt.


Shimoni, Parashat Bo, 247-186)



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[1] These

are not direct quotations of the Tannaim, but rather positions attributed to

them. On the associative incorporation of these dicta in the passage from Rosh

Hashanah, see Noah Aminah, Arikhat Mesekhtot Beitza, Rosh Hashana,

ve'Ta'anit, Tel-Aviv 5746, pg. 170, 176 (paragraph 1:3), 203 (beginning of

paragraph 3).