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Parshas Beshalach - Vol.
7, Issue 16
Compiled by Oizer Alport
Vaya’minu b’Hashem uv’Moshe avdo (14:31)
After witnessing the death of their Egyptian pursuers, the Torah testifies that the Jewish people believed in Hashem and His servant Moshe. After a year of witnessing constant miracles during the 10 plagues, how can it be that the Jews never came to believe in Hashem until this time?
The Darkei Mussar answers that there are two types of belief. One is predicated on intellectual proofs, and one is based on sensory knowledge. The Alter of Kelm explains the difference between them with a parable about a person who has never tasted bread.
If somebody explains to him its texture, taste, and filling qualities, he will accept the information intellectually, for he has no evidence to the contrary. If a second person comes and refutes the assertions of the first, the man may be tempted to believe the latter claims. On the other hand, somebody who has himself tasted bread even once and knows first-hand of its ability to satiate won’t be swayed by all of the “rational” arguments in the world that bread doesn’t satisfy.
Similarly, the faith of a person whose belief in Hashem is based on intellectual derivations may be called into question if he is challenged with powerful counter-arguments. Until they reached the Sea of Reeds, the Jews certainly believed in Hashem intellectually, but it was there that they reached the higher level of faith based on sensory knowledge. Rashi (15:2) writes that the clarity of the revelation there was so great that even the lowest maidservants reached tremendous levels in seeing and experiencing Hashem. This resulted in a completely unshakeable faith that they reached only at that time.
Rashi (15:20) notes that the Jewish women in Egypt were on a high level of trust in Hashem even before the revelation at the Sea of Reeds. Convinced that they would merit further miracles in the future, they brought along musical instruments to play while singing praises to Hashem.
More recently, there was a tremendous drought in Israel which threatened that year’s entire harvest. This would mean financial ruin for the farmers as well as possible starvation for those left with nothing to eat. Communal fast days and prayers passed unsuccessfully.
With little choice, the Rabbinic leaders ordered everybody to go to the Kosel (Western Wall) to pour out their hearts and plead for Divine mercy. After reciting several chapters of Tehillim and other appropriate prayers, the clear sky suddenly grew dark and full of ominous clouds, which shortly gave way to a full-fledged torrential downpour. Those present were so overjoyed by the answering of their prayers that they didn’t even care that they were getting soaked to the bone, all except for one elderly, wheelchair-bound Chassidic Rebbe who remained completely dry … because he brought an umbrella!
Life will surely send us many challenges in the areas of health, finances, and family. Although the tests that we receive are beyond our control, we can learn from our ancestors in Egypt that the choice to persevere through the trials and live each day with happiness and confidence is fully in our hands.
Vayavo Amalek vayilachem im Yisroel b'Refidim (17:8)
The Kli Yakar explains that in relating that Amalek attacked the Jewish people in Refidim, the Torah is hinting to the spiritual cause of their ability to have any physical power over the Jews. As long as the Jewish nation is in a state of internal peace and unity, Amalek has no capacity to harm them. Refidim contains within it the letters which form the root of the word "pirud" – separation – alluding to the fact that when the Jews camped there, they were stricken by strife and discord (Rashi 19:2).
The Chiddushei HaRim suggests that this is also hinted to by the Torah’s emphasis in Parshas Ki Seitzei (Devorim 25:17) that we remember what Amalek did "lecha" – to (the singular) you, as they hold no sway over a united Jewish nation. Rashi writes that Amalek struck at those who had been expelled by the Clouds of Glory from the Jewish camp as a result of their sins. Those individuals didn’t enjoy the merit of being part of the community, and they were therefore susceptible to Amalek’s attacks.
Haman, who was descended from Amalek, learned this lesson from his ancestors. The S’fas Emes notes that Haman described to Achashverosh (Esther 3:8) his desire to eradicate an "am mefuzar u'meforad." Literally, he described the Jews as a people who are scattered and dispersed around the world, but this may also be understood as a nation of people are who separated from one another and lacking in unity.
The Shelah HaKadosh writes that Esther recognized the true source of Haman’s power and immediately began efforts to unify the nation, instructing Mordechai (Esther 4:16), "Go gather together all of the Jews" – not just physically but also symbolically. Not surprisingly, it was this national togetherness which prevailed, as is memorialized in the song Shoshanas Yaakov: "tzahala v'asmeicha birosam yachad techeiles Mordechai" – the Jewish nation was cheerful and glad when they saw together that Mordechai was robed in royal blue. The lesson of Amalek should inspire us to feel new levels of togetherness with our fellow Jews in these difficult times for our people in which we live.
Vayomer ki yad al keis K-ah milchama l’Hashem b’Amalek midor dor (17:16)
After Amalek attacked the Jewish people in Refidim, Hashem swore that He would fight a battle against them in every generation until they are ultimately defeated and completely obliterated. However, in relating that He will place His hand upon His throne to take this oath, Rashi notes that the Torah writes the word “kisei” – throne – without the letter “aleph.” Similarly, Hashem refers to Himself using a shortened version of His Name, using the name “Yud-Hei” without the letters “Vov-hei” which comprise the end of His name.
The Avnei Shoham brilliantly uses Rashi’s comment to shed new light on words that we say every day in our prayers. According to Rashi, the three letters which are lacking from Hashem’s Name and throne are “Aleph,” “Vov,” and “Hei,” which can be rearranged to spell the word “Hu.” In other words, our verse teaches that Hashem has declared a war against Amalek in every generation. When this is finally won, the letters in the word “Hu” will be returned to their rightful places, at which time His name and throne will be restored to their complete glory and His kingship will be permanently established.
In the morning prayers, after the recitation of Shema, we say a paragraph which begins “Emes v’yatziv.” In this paragraph, we proclaim “L’dor vador hu kayam u’shemo kayam v’chiso nachon u’malchuso v’emunaso la’ad kayames.” This can be interpreted as a declaration that “L’dor vador” – after the war against Amalek which is waged in each generation is successfully completed – then “Hu kayam” – the letters in the word “Hu,” which have been lacking, will be returned to their rightful places. After these letters are restored, we will see that “Shemo kayam v’chiso nachon” – Hashem’s name and throne are established and lasting, and “Malchuso v’emunaso la’ad kayames” – His kingdom and faithfulness will be permanent and endure forever!
Our Sages teach that the Anshei K’nesses HaGedolah – Men of the Great Assembly – wrote the text of our prayers with Divine assistance. Unfortunately, because we are accustomed to say the words so frequently, we often fail to grasp the tremendous layers of meaning that they placed into each word and phrase. The recognition of the beautiful meaning latent in a phrase that many people say almost by rote should inspire us to seek out the hidden layers waiting to be uncovered in other areas of our daily prayers.
Answers to the weekly Points to Ponder are now available!
Parsha Points to Ponder (and sources which discuss them):
1) On the way out of Egypt, Hashem chose not to lead the Jewish people by way of the nearby land of the Philistines because He feared that when they would see a war there, they would get scared and return to Egypt (13:17). As Rashi writes (13:18) that the Jews left Egypt armed with weapons, why would they be afraid to witness wars which they clearly knew they may encounter and for which they had already taken steps to prepare? (Ayeles HaShachar)
2) In the blessing said in the morning following Krias Shema, we say, "And You split the Sea of Reeds, and You drowned the wicked sinners, and You brought across Your dear ones, and the water covered their oppressors, and not a single one of them remained." Why is it written in a manner which seems far from chronologically accurate? (Siddur Rokeach, Moshav Z’keinim, Taam V’Daas)
3) The Daas Z’keinim writes (15:1) that the Song at the Sea begins "Az Yashir" – and they sang – because the numerical value of the word "Az" is eight, which hints to the fact that the Sea of Reeds split in the merit of the mitzvah of circumcision, which is performed on the eighth day of a boy’s life. Why did it split specifically in the merit of this mitzvah? (Zahav Sh’va)
4) Rashi writes (17:16) that "Yud-Hei" is considered an incomplete name of Hashem’s, as it is missing the final two letters (Vov-Hei) until Amalek is completely obliterated. The Gemora in Sotah (17a) states that if a husband and wife are meritorious, the Divine Presence will dwell between them. Rashi there explains that the Hebrew word for man (Ish) contains the letter "yud" from Hashem’s name and the word for woman (Isha) contains the letter "hei" from Hashem’s name. Why does Rashi seem to imply that even in the best-case scenario, a righteous and loving couple will only merit the dwelling in their home of an incomplete name of Hashem? (Darash Moshe)
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