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In Megillah 31a, Abayyei lists the sections from the Torah that we read on each successive day of Pesach as follows: "משך תורא קדש בכספא פסל במדברא שלח בוכרא". Each of the eight words within this mnemonic serves as an allusion to each of the eight sections that we read, made in some instances on the basis of an Aramaic translation (eg: תורא, בכספא, etc). It seems to me that the phrase is also designed to be understood as, "He led an ox, sanctified it for money, invalidated it in the wilderness and sent forth his firstborn". (That's a slightly idiomatic translation, of course, but the line does seem to suggest a series of events of that nature).

Are there any mefarshim who comment upon the meaning of Abayyei's phrase, who the individuals in it allude to and whether or not it might possess a deeper significance than appears at first glance?

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For those who are interested, the correspondence between the words of the mnemonic and the eight sections is as follows:

משך = Shemot 12:21ff (which includes the phrase, משכו וקחו);

תורא = Vayikra 23:26ff (which includes the phrase, שור או כשב; the word תורא being Aramaic for שור);

קדש = Shemot 13:1ff (which includes the phrase, קדש לי כל בכור);

בכספא = Shemot 22:24ff (which includes the phrase, אם כסף תלוה; the word בכספא being Aramic for אם כסף);

פסל = Shemot 34:1ff (which includes the phrase, פסל לך שני לחת);

במדברא = Bemidbar 9:1ff (which includes the phrase, במדבר סיני);

שלח = Shemot 13:17ff (which includes the phrase, ויהי בשלח פרעה);

בוכרא = Devarim 15:19ff (which includes the phrase, כל הבכור; the word בוכרא being Aramaic for הבכור).

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שתלי זיתים:

Even light words of Chazal should be taken seriously, but especially when they are chosen purposefully.

This is hinting at the incident of the golden calf, and how the the firstborns were sent away from God's service and the Levim were chosen.

  • He led an ox - משך תורא
    When the Jews were drawn after the golden calf which took them away from the Throne of Glory.

  • Sanctified it for money - קדש בכספא
    They made the calf holy, and made it out of moneys. As it says, I who lavished silver on her, and gold, which they used for Baal.(Hoshea 2)

  • An image in the wilderness - פסל במדברא
    The is the answer to 'What did they sanctify for moneys?' - the idol in the dessert.

  • And sent forth his firstborn - שלח בוכרא
    The is the answer to 'What happened to them after the incident?' - He sent away the firstborns from His service, and chose the tribe of Levi; they did not sin with the golden calf.

Chazal instituted this mnemonic as rebuke, to remember what happened.


Credit Gershon Gold for link-in.

  • What’s the connection between the עגל and פסח? – DonielF Jan 23 at 16:42
  • Since the bechoros were originally saved by yetizas metzrayim... he writes it at the end- probably should’ve added that it though @DonieF – Dr. Shmuel Jan 23 at 16:55

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