Amram and Mitzvos

וַיֹּאמֶר אָנֹכִי אֱלֹקֵי אָבִיךָ אֱלֹקֵי אַבְרָהָם אֱלֹקֵי יִצְחָק וֵאלֹקֵי יַעֲקֹב

[Hashem] said, “I am the God of your father, the God of Avraham, the God of Yitzchak and the God of Yaakov” (3:6)

The Rambam in Hilchos Melachim[1] details the introduction of selected mitzvos of the Torah through certain individuals prior to the giving of the Torah at Sinai, as follows:

·      Avraham was commanded with the mitzvah of milah.

·      Yitzchak separated maasros (tithes).

·      Yaakov was commended with gid hanasheh.

The Rambam then adds, “And in Egypt, Amram was commanded with additional mitzvos, until Moshe Rabbeinu came and [the transmission of] the Torah was completed through him.”

Many commentators wonder what the Rambam’s source is for the idea that Amram was also commanded with mitzvos. The Meshech Chochmah explains that our verse would seem to provide a basis for the Rambam’s words, for Hashem groups Amram (“I am the God of your father”) together with the Avos (“the God of Avraham etc.”). This inclusion indicates that he shared their distinct status, i.e. of introducing Mitzvos into the world prior to the giving of the Torah.


My Firstborn, Israel

וְאָמַרְתָּ אֶל פַּרְעֹה כֹּה אָמַר ה' בְּנִי בְכֹרִי יִשְׂרָאֵל

You shall say to Pharaoh, “So says Hashem, My son My firstborn is Israel” (4:22)

The Jewish people are not the first nation to appear in history. As such, while they could be termed Hashem’s “favorite child,” how is it appropriate to refer to them as His “firstborn”?

The Meshech Chochmah explains that the reason the firstborn receives special consideration, such as a double portion of the inheritance, is that, by being born, he is the one who allowed his father to attain that status. Likewise, although they were not the first nation to be formed, the Jewish people were the first nation to recognize Hashem as Father of the world. In this respect, so to speak, they “made Him” into a Father and, as such, are considered His firstborn.


From the Haftarah: The Lost and the Cast Away

וְהָיָה בַּיּוֹם הַהוּא יִתָּקַע בְּשׁוֹפָר גָּדוֹל וּבָאוּ הָאֹבְדִים בְּאֶרֶץ אַשּׁוּר וְהַנִּדָּחִים בְּאֶרֶץ מִצְרָיִם וְהִשְׁתַּחֲווּ לַיהוָה בְּהַר הַקֹּדֶשׁ בִּירוּשָׁלָ‍ִם

It shall be on that day, a great shofar will be blown, and those who are lost in the land of Assyria and those cast away in the land of Egypt will come, and they will bow down to Hashem on the holy mountain in Jerusalem (Yeshayahu 27:13)

Why are the inhabitants of these two nations specifically singled out as ones that will bow down to Hashem in the future? Additionally, why does the verse refer to those in Ashur as being “lost”, while it calls those in Egypt “cast away”?

The Meshech Chochmah explains that throughout Tanach, the two nations of Ashur and Egypt notoriously represent two attitudes that are antithetical to Torah:

·      Ashur is known for blaspheming against Hashem and glorifying their own might, as illustrated by the diatribes of its king, Sancherib, when he sought to conquer Jerusalem.[2]

·      Egypt is known as a place of physical immorality, where people are ruled by their base desires.[3]

Our verse states that in the future, those who were ensnared by both of these attitudes will abandon them and embrace the path of truth.

Lost in the land of Assyria” – the term “oved” (lost) is used in Tanach to refer to someone who blundering due to being misguided. These are people who subscribe to misguided notions regarding who controls the world, claiming all might and power for themselves.

Cast away in the land of Egypt” – this refers to those who are governed by their lusts. They are cast away and pushed aside in the sense that they do not have control over their lives, rather, it is their desires that control them.

In the future, each of these will see the emptiness of their path, and will come and:

Bow down to Hashem” – those ‘lost in Ashur’ will recognize that Hashem is the true Master of the world.

On the holy mountain” – those ‘cast away in Egypt’ will come to seek out a life of holiness and sanctity on Hashem’s holy mountain in Jerusalem.

[1] 9:1.

[2] See Melachim II 19:20-22.

[3] See Yechezkel 23:20.