פ’ בשלח תשע”ז
Volume 17, Issue 4
INSIGHTS from the SEDRA
Insights from the Sedra is a project of the Scholar’s Kollel of Great Neck. It aims to provide several questions and answers about the Sedra, culled from various commentaries, including the following: Baal Haturim, Darash Moshe, Vedebarta Bam by Rabbi Moshe Bogomilsky, Torah Treasures by Dov Furer, Wellsprings of Torah by Alexander Friedman, and Kol Dodi by Rabbi Dovid Feinstein, Great Torah Lights by Rabbi Yitzchak Meir Goodman, Something To Say by Dov Wasserman, The Vilna Gaon, and Growth Through Torah by Zelig Pliskin.
ויהי בשלח פרעה את העם
“It was when Pharaoh sent the nation…” (13:17)
The Midrash relates that Moshe told Pharaoh that the Jews would not leave Egypt until Pharaoh legally released them from their servitude. This seems strange. There was nothing preventing the Jews from leaving Egypt. Why did Moshe choose to wait for Pharaoh’s permission?
The Torah (Devarim 15:14) instructs a slave-owner to provide generously for his slave upon granting him his freedom. This was to be severance pay for his work. The Midrash (Sifri, Parshat Re’eh) explains that this principle was the basis whereby the Jews took money from the Egyptians when they left Egypt: It was severance pay for their work as slaves. The Gemara (Kiddushin 16b) states that if a slave runs away from his master he forfeits his rights to severance pay. This explains Moshe’s behavior. For the Jews to have a right to collect the Egyptians’ money, they had to leave with permission. (Parshas Derachim)
ואתה הרם את מטך ונטה את ידך על הים
“Take up your staff and raise your arm over the sea…” (14:16)
The splitting of the Sea of Reeds was a miraculous and supernatural event. Yet there had to be a natural action to “ignite” the miracles: G-d instructed the people to journey forward and Moshe to lift his staff over the water. G-d always demands some human act first and only then does He perform miracles.
This is because events that occur without our involvement do not truly affect us. Only when we expend some effort do we appreciate G-d’s miracles. The same applies in all areas of life. Asking for G-d’s blessings is not sufficient; we must make some effort that can serve as a conduit for the blessings. (Likutei Sichot)
וירדפו מצרים ויבאו אחריהם
“Egypt pursued and came after them…” (14:23)
Rav Chaim Shmulevitz tz”l used to say: “At the sea, the Jewish people greatly outnumbered their Egyptian pursuers and yet they wouldn’t think to fight back because they still maintained a ‘slave mentality.’ The same principle applies to each person in his battle against the evil inclination. If a person views himself as inferior and feels excessive guilt, he will not even try to fight against his negative impulses. Since he does not believe in himself and his abilities, he feels utterly discouraged. Our task is to view ourselves in an elevated manner. Internalize the knowledge that you have great potential. Be aware of your strengths and know that when you are resolved to be victorious over your impulses, you will succeed.” (Sichos Mussar)
שבתון שבת קדש לה’ מחר
“Tomorrow is a day of rest, a holy Sabbath for Hashem…” (16:23)
In this verse, Shabbos is described as Shabbason Shabbat, whereas in Parshat Vayakheil (35:2), the Shabbos is characterized as Shabbat Shabbaton, reversing the order of the two words. The reason for the variant readings becomes apparent when we consider the commentary of the Rabbi David Kimchi (Radak).
He states that Shabbos denotes the Shabbos day itself, while the word Shabbaton expresses the idea of Tosefes Shabbos – the requirement that we must extend the time of Shabbos beyond its limits. Thus, the two phrases in which the word Shabbos is alternately preceded and followed by Shabbason signify thereby that we must add to the Shabbat both at its opening and at its ending. (Traditional)
Tu B’Shevat Torah
Rav Asher Balanson shlit”a would say, “Tu B’Shevat, the New Year for the trees, is in the middle of the winter. Even though the fruit has not appeared yet, we consider it as if the new year has already begun, because the sap has risen, and in the sap is stored the inner strength of the trees (Rashi). One must learn from this how to act towards other people. How many times do we pay attention just to the outside of a person, his clothes, and appearance, and not the inside, his neshamah? The person standing in front of us is can appear barren, without fruit or flowers, but deep down he has an inner strength that can bring forth very special abilities – his fruit. If one sees a bare tree and neglects to care for it, its fruit will not come out. Similarly, if we don’t take care of the person in front of us, his fruits and potential will also not come forth.” (Ohr Yerushalayim)
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