If Hashem brought about Macos Bechoros by himself, with out any angel, then what is the משחית that would not harm the Bnei Yisroel mentioned in Shemot Chapter 12, Verse 23?

Premises based on the following sources:

Rashi on Exodus Chapter 12, Verse 12 says "I by myself and not through a intermediary" will bring about the plague of the first born.

The Haggadah also says when commenting on ויוצאנו ה ממצרים that it was Hashem not through any angel...or intermediary but Hashem himself brought about the plague of the firstborn.

  • related: judaism.stackexchange.com/questions/26582/…
    – Menachem
    Commented Mar 25, 2013 at 2:46
  • I feel like we discussed this issue somewhere on the site, but I can't find it.
    – Menachem
    Commented Mar 25, 2013 at 2:50
  • How do you He brought it by himself without angels? I think this is a machloket rishonim
    – Double AA
    Commented Mar 25, 2013 at 2:59
  • 1
    @DoubleAA Ok, I put the sources I am basing the question on. Thank you for the feedback. What are the Rishonim that say otherwise? Do you know off hand?
    – RCW
    Commented Mar 25, 2013 at 3:18
  • IIRC the drashos haran says that line in the haggadah means: I [with angels] and not angels [alone]. Remind me please after chag to find it inside if I forget to
    – Double AA
    Commented Mar 25, 2013 at 5:42

2 Answers 2


Excerpted from an article by R' Maury Grebenau:

The Seforno (Shemos 12:13) assumes that it was in fact Hashem who carried out the plague. The "maschis" that is referred to is just a reference to the destruction that Hashem will create. It isn't referring to an angel.

The Ohr Hachayim (there) understands that it was a two part system. Hashem was the only one could clearly determine who was really a first born in all circumstances. However, the actual killing was done by the Mashchis. So Hashem was intimately involved and yet the maschis "pulled the trigger".

The Ramban explains that the answer lies in a Midrash which states that when Hashem goes out He is like a king who has guards who protect the king from those who would approach the king or stare at him disrespectfully. When we are dealing with Hashem, these guards are the malachei chavalah, destructive angels. So the plague is planned and even carried out by Hashem and yet Rashi is still correct. People needed to stay indoors so that they would not be attacked by the malachei chavalah, who were out protecting Hashem while He worked.

The Beis HaLevi (Parshas Bo)... states that... the maschis did in fact kill the Egyptian firstborn. Yet, Hashem was intimately involved with the other aspect of the plague, the fact that the Jews were saved.


The Gr"a answers (Divrey Eliyahu) that, as stated in the Haggada, it was Hashem himself who carried out the Death of the Firstborn. The idea of the "mashchis" that could not harm the Jews was that there were some people whose time had come to pass away that night, and had Hashem allowed the Angel of Death to take them as planned, the Egyptians would claim that they had died in the plague. Therefore, Hashem did not allow the "maschis" to touch any Jew, and pushed of the death of those who were destined to die on that night.

However, the Chasam Sofer (Shu"t YD 346:12) question the possibility that the Egyptains were killed directly by Hashem. We are told that Moshe and Aharon had the great merit of dying through "Missas Neshika" (a Divine Kiss by the Hashem himself); how could we possibly say that the Egyptians got this great privilege. He therefore explains that although Hashem wanted to send an emissary to smite the Egyptians, they were protected by their "mazel" which is called (see Zohar 3:250b) the "firstborn" and strongest of the "mazalos" and would not allow anything to harm them. Therefore Hashem had to first "do away" with their "mazal", before being able to send his messengers to kill their firstborn. When the verse says "וה' הכה כל בכור", it is actually referring to Hashem (personally) killing the "בכור" - the mazel of the Egyptians, which later enabled the "mashchis" to kill them.

  • See the Sifsei Chachamim on Rashi 12:22 that says a similar answer to the GR"A.
    – Menachem
    Commented Mar 29, 2013 at 20:57

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