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Parshas Beshalach - Vol.
5, Issue 16
Compiled by Oizer Alport
Ki asher r’isem es Mitzrayim hayom lo
sosifu lirosam od ad olam (14:13)
The Beis HaLevi, who served as the Rav of the city of Brisk, was once studying with his son Chaim when a man entered to ask the Rav a question. The man had gotten into a major disagreement with a friend of his. In the heat of the moment, he took a vow swearing that he would never again see his friend. However, the friend had just passed away.
The man who took the vow served on the city’s chevra kaddisha (organization which ritually prepares the dead for proper burial) and wanted to know if he was permitted to help prepare the body for the funeral. He reasoned that perhaps “seeing” his friend’s dead body wasn’t really considered seeing and wouldn’t violate his oath. He came to ask the Rav’s opinion on the matter. The Beis HaLevi turned to his son Chaim, then a young lad of eight, to ask for his thoughts on the subject.
Rav Chaim replied that the question is explicitly answered in the week’s Torah portion (which was Beshalach). Moshe told the Jewish people not to worry, as they would never again see their Egyptian oppressors. However, several verses later we are told that they saw the Egyptians dead on the seashore. The Medrash explains that they didn’t see the Egyptian bodies from a distance. Each Jew was able to discern the face of the Egyptian who had been his personal taskmaster, which would seem to violate the promise made by Moshe. Rather, we can conclude from here that “seeing” somebody after his death isn’t considered seeing at all.
Zeh Keili v’anveihu Elokei avi v’arom’menhu (15:2)
After witnessing the miraculous downfall and destruction of their sadistic oppressors, the Jewish people were moved to song. In their beautiful song of praise and thanksgiving, they proudly proclaimed, “This is my G-d, and I will glorify Him, the G-d of my father and I will exalt Him.”
The Targum Onkelos understands this as a declaration and commitment to build the Beis HaMikdash as a resting place for Hashem. Although this is a beautiful and lofty idea, why did it specifically occur to them to accept this project upon themselves at this time? Why wasn’t it sufficient to wait until they reached Mount Sinai, where they could receive this mitzvah together with all of the others?
The following story will help us answer these questions. In one of the great yeshivos in Europe where the students were renowned for their extensive knowledge, the students were once eating lunch together and discussing a certain Torah topic. One of them volunteered his opinion on the subject, to which one of his peers sharply responded, “Don’t you know that what you said is explicitly written in a certain Tosefos?” Upon realizing his oversight, the first student was overcome with shame and humiliation and quickly fled the room.
The young man proceeded to spend the next several years in isolation studying with unprecedented diligence and went on to become one of the great scholars of the generation. There was only one problem with his actions: before darting from the room, he forgot to recite Birkas HaMazon (Grace after Meals) over the meal he had been eating.
A great Rosh Yeshiva was asked for his thoughts about the propriety of the student’s actions. He responded, “While I can’t justify neglecting a Biblical mitzvah, one thing is certain. If he would have paused for the few minutes necessary to recite Birkas HaMazon, his initial burst of inspiration would have dissipated, and he would have never even made it out of the room to continue on the path that he did.”
Returning to our questions, Rav Eliyahu Mishkovsky notes that Rashi writes that the clarity of the Divine revelation at the Red Sea was so great that even the lowest maidservant reached tremendous levels in seeing Hashem, levels which even many of the greatest prophets never merited reaching. The Jewish people recognized how wonderful it was to experience firsthand the spiritual heights that accompany such closeness to Hashem.
However, they also recognized that creating a building with the appropriate splendor and glory that is becoming an earthly dwelling place for the Divine presence would be a costly and time-consuming endeavor. When the time would come to broach the subject in the future, they feared that they would have lost the spark they were currently experiencing and would veto the project as too difficult.
In order to prevent this from happening, they specifically proclaimed in unison their willingness to undertake this project at a time when they were experiencing the need and value of directly connecting to Hashem. Although the giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai was just around the corner, the interim period would cause them to slightly forget the great joy they had experienced at the Divine revelation at the Red Sea, which would make the acceptance of this mitzvah that much harder.
We all have moments in our lives – an uplifting Torah class, a meaningful and inspiring Yom Kippur, or a miraculous sign from Heaven – when we see, hear, or experience something which gives us a tremendous flash of inspiration and excitement to undertake new projects. Unfortunately, the passage of time often wears away that enthusiasm and we are sadly left with nothing to show for it. The Torah teaches us that the best way to seize such moments is to make concrete resolutions to practically apply the inspiration so that we may keep it with us forever.
Vayamodu vaomer v’lo hedif hamarbeh v’hamam’it lo hechsir ish l’fi achlo lakatu vayomer Moshe aleihem ish al yoseir mimenu ad boker (16:18-19)
Rav Yerucham Levovitz suggests that the laws pertaining to the Manna teach us fundamental concepts regarding trust in Hashem and the efforts we must make to support ourselves. The Torah tells us that regardless of how much Manna a person collected, upon returning home each person found himself with precisely one omer, not more and not less.
This teaches us that a person’s income and success in business isn’t dependent or even related to the amount of effort he puts in. We must labor to support ourselves because this was one of the punishments decreed upon Adam and all of his descendants (Bereishis 3:19), but the results of our efforts are completely independent of our choice of profession and the number of hours we put in, as evidenced by the Manna.
Secondly, the Jews were prohibited from leaving over any of the Manna from one day to the next. The Gemora in Yoma (76a) explains that this was done in order to make them feel constantly dependent on Hashem for their sustenance. We may derive from here the folly of the American dream of “financial security,” which is essentially the pursuit of a life full of trust in oneself and one’s bank account and free of trust in Hashem. In fact, it has been pointed out that although Americans ostensibly purport to have bitochon, as the currency itself says, “In G-d We Trust,” the ironic fallacy it is that they only trust in Hashem when they have the money in their wallet.
the weekly Points to Ponder are now available!
Parsha Points to Ponder (and sources which discuss them):
1) Which is the last verse in the Shiras HaYam? (Masechta Sofrim 12:11, Ramban, Ibn Ezra, Rambam Hilchos Sefer Torah end of Chapter 8, Hagahos Rav Tzvi Hirsh Berlin Gittin 90a)
2) How were Miriam and the women allowed to sing the Shiras HaYam (15:21) when the law is (Even HaEzer 21:1) that a man is forbidden to hear a woman outside of his immediate family singing? (Peninim MiShulchan HaGra, Tiferes Yonason, Nachal Kedumim)
3) The Gemora in Chullin (9a) praises Moshe and Aharon for their humble declaration (16:8) “V’nachnu mah” – and what are we – and teaches that it was even greater than Avrohom’s proclamation (Bereishis 18:27) “V’anochi afar v’eifer” – I am but dust and ash. In what way did the statement of Moshe and Aharon demonstrate greater humility than that of Avrohom? (Peninei Kedem)
4) Did babies eat Manna, or did they nurse from their mothers? (Shu”t Chasam Sofer Yoreh Deah 294 and Choshen Mishpat 12, Dagan Shomayim 7)
© 2009 by Oizer Alport. Permission is granted to reproduce and distribute as long as credit is given. To receive weekly via email or to send comments or suggestions, write to firstname.lastname@example.org
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