פ’ בשלח – תשע”ה
Volume 7, 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.
This Shabbos we read Parshas Beshalach, which is called Shabbos Shira, for the great songs that were chanted by Moshe and Bnei Yisrael after the splitting of the Red Sea and the drowning of the pursuing Egyptians in the stormy waters. This song has eighteen verses and is read in shul in a festive manner, with the entire congregation standing. Even though we read the Shiras Hayam every morning when we daven Shacharis, on this particular Shabbos we feel a special elevation in spirit and joy. We read the verses of the Song twice a year: on Shabbos Shira and on the seventh day of Pesach (when the miracle of Krias Yam Suf occurred).
According to the Jewish calendar, Shabbos Shira falls around or sometimes even on Tu B’shevat, the fifteenth of the month of Shevat. (Torah Gems)
מה תצעק אלי דבר אל בני ישראל ויסעו
“Why do you cry out to Me? Speak to the Children of Israel and let them go forth.” (14:15)
Why does Hashem seem to criticize Moshe for praying to Him; is it not praiseworthy to ask for Hashem’s help in every situation, especially one as desperate as that of the Jews at the Sea of Reeds? However, as we have already explained, Moshe knew that Hashem would not have performed such miracles as He had in taking the Jews out of Egypt for naught, and therefore there should have been no question in his mind that the Jews would survive to enter Eretz Yisrael and not be obliterated in the Wilderness.
From this we may derive a valuable lesson for those engaged in disseminating Torah, and indeed, we are told that anyone capable of teaching Torah is required to do so. Just as Moshe knew that Hashem would surely rescue the Jews from the Egyptian armies pressing them against the Sea, so also a Torah educator must know that Hashem has promised the Torah will not be forgotten by the Jewish people (see Devarim 31:21), his efforts surely will not fail. Therefore, even though the expenses and efforts involved in maintaining a yeshiva may at times seem overwhelming to those responsible for them, we are entitled, and indeed required, to rely on Hashem’s promise that Torah will not be forgotten, and to believe that our endeavors will surely succeed, for this is the will of Hashem. (Darash Moshe)
וירא ישראך את היד הגדלה אשר עשה ה’ במצרים וייראו העם את ה’ ויאמינו בה’ ומשה עבדו
“Israel saw the great hand that Hashem had inflicted upon Egypt, and the people revered Hashem and they had faith in Hashem and in Moshe His servant.” (14:31)
This verse immediately precedes the Shiras Hayam, and it comes to tell us what it was that inspired them to this great height of spiritual expression. It was the fact that they had now seen the yad hagedolah, the great hand. What is the significance of the word “yad”? It alludes to the ability to see everything as a whole, as a complete picture, not as “fingers” but as a “hand”. For the Jewish people, the past, the present, and the future now came into focus as a single, unified image.
Prior to this in Egypt, what the Egyptians had seen was “merely” the etzbah (the finger), but not the yad. What this means is that while they bore witness to many great miracles, they could appreciate them only for their immediate impact. They recognized the greatness of what was occurring at that moment, but were not able to take the broader view and see G-d’s plan in its entirety. Bnei Yisrael, however, could now perceive what the Egyptians could not. The Jewish people declared “Zeh Keili V’anveihu, This is my G-d and I will build Him a Sanctuary” (regarding the present); “Elokei Avi V’aromemenhu, the G-d of my father and I will exalt Him” (regarding the past); and “Hashem yimloch l’olam va’ed, Hashem shall reign for all eternity” (regarding the future). Everything was one, all due to Hashem’s yad hagedolah, through the direct intervention of the Master of the World, all because of his middah of Goodness which He lavished upon them. The verse continues, “Vayiru Ha’am et Hashem”, meaning that they merited to achieve yiras Shamayim. And then “Vaya’aminu B’Hashem”, meaning that they merited to achieve faith and trust in Hashem: They leaped into the sea. (Rabbi Nissan Alpert)
ויבאו מרתה ולא יכלו לשתת מים ממרה כי מרים הם
“And the Children of Israel came to Marah and they were not able to drink the water at Marah for they were bitter.” (15:23)
The Kotzker Rebbe explained the words “for they were bitter” as referring to the people themselves. When someone is bitter himself, everything tastes bitter. This concept holds true in many areas of life. If one feels bitter, nothing in life appears positive. Anyone looking for faults and defects will always be able to find them. A bitter person makes himself miserable and those in his environment suffer with him. While he thinks that he has valid reasons for considering things to be bitter, the source of the problem is not out there but within himself. By sweetening one’s outlook one will live in a much sweeter world.
As my late uncle, Rabbi Moshe Helfan used to say, “When a student studies well, the teachers are wise, the other students are friendly, his room is comfortable, and even the food tastes good. When someone is not studying well, the teachers have many faults, the other students are unfriendly, his room is uncomfortable, and even the food tastes bad.” (Growth Through Torah)
ראו כי ה’ נתן לכם השבת על כן הוא נתן לכם ביום הששי לחם יומים
“See that G-d gave you the Sabbath, therefore on the sixth day he gave you bread for two days…” (16:29)
The mitzvah of Sabbath, which was given at Marah, preceded the manna, which they did not receive until after reaching the Sinai Desert. In the Haggadah, however, we find them mentioned in the reverse order, “If He had fed us the manna but had not given us the Sabbath, it would have been enough.” Since this chapter in the Haggadah is arranged in chronological order. Why aren’t the manna and Sabbath listed like that as well?
Rabbi Yitzchak Zev Soloveitchik, the Brisker Rav, explains that there are two distinct aspects to Sabbath. First, the Torah commands the Sabbath be observed and not desecrated. But above and beyond the commandment, which is a commandment like all others in the Torah, the Sabbath is also a special gift. As the Talmud (Shabbos 10b) relates, “I have a precious gift in My vault, and its name is the Sabbath.” Furthermore, we say in the Sabbath prayers, “And You did not give it, O G-d our L-rd, to the nations of the lands…but You gave it to Your people Israel with love.” Clearly, it is more than a commandment. It is a gift.
Accordingly, we can say that all they received at Marah was the commandment of keeping the Sabbath; the gift of the Sabbath only dates from when the received the manna. Therefore, the Haggadah, which lists the wondrous gifts G-d gave the Jewish people, mentions the manna before the Sabbath. (Talelei Oros)
ויאמר ה’ אל משה כתב זאת זכרון בספר ושים באזני יהושע כי מחה אמחה את זכר עמלק מתחת השמים
“And G-d said to Moshe, ‘Write this as a remembrance in the Book, and speak it into Joshua’s ears that I will surely wipe out the memory of Amalek from beneath the heavens.” (17:14)
If the parsha of Amalek is “written in the Book,” why then is it also necessary to “speak it into Joshua’s ears”?
The Vilna Gaon explains that it was necessary to avoid future errors. The Talmud (Bava Basra 21b) tells us that when David sent Joab to destroy Amalek, he slaughtered the males and spared the females. David challenged him on what he had done, and Joab replied that the Torah only mandated the eradication of zachar, the males, of Amalek; that was how he had always been taught to read it, he insisted. Not so, claimed David, the zecher, the memory, of Amalek is to be eradicated. This confusion arose due to the lack of vowels signs in the Torah itself, and the only way of possibly resolving it was through an oral tradition with regard to the proper vowelization of the words. Thus, it was not enough to “write it in the Book.” It also needed to be “spoken into Joshua’s ears,” to be passed down to all future generations. (Torah Anthology)
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