Ki asher r’isem es Mitzrayim
hayom lo sosifu lirosam od ad olam (14:13)
Vayar Yisroel es Mitzrayim meis al s’fas ha’yam (14:30)
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.
Uv’nei Yisroel halchu bayabasha b’soch hayam v’hamayim lahem chomah miy’minam
The Medrash teaches (Yalkut Shimoni 234) that when the Jewish people were
crossing the Red Sea, the prosecuting angel argued that it was inappropriate for
Hashem to perform miracles on their behalf since they had worshipped idolatry in
Egypt. This argument is difficult to understand. If their idolatrous practices
represented a reason that Hashem shouldn’t perform miracles on their behalf, why
did he wait until this point to make this argument instead of pressing his claim
during the entire year that Hashem was performing the ten plagues on their
The Meshech Chochmah answers by pointing out a curious apparent contradiction.
With regard to commandments which are violated through actions, such as idolatry
and forbidden relationships, the Torah prescribes an appropriate punishment,
such as death, lashes, and kares (spiritual excision), for each transgression.
On the other hand, no such punishment is given in conjunction with mitzvos that
are transgressed through corrupt character traits, such as forbidden gossip or
hating another Jew.
However, this dichotomy applies only to sins committed by an individual.
Regarding communal sins, the rule is reversed. The Yerushalmi teaches (Peah 1:1)
that the generation of Dovid HaMelech was righteous, yet they still fell in
battle because they spread rumors about one another. The generation of Achav was
full of wicked idolaters, yet they emerged successful and unscathed from their
battles because they didn’t gossip about one another. He explains that if the
nation is corrupt in idolatry or adultery, Hashem still dwells among them in the
midst of their spiritual impurity, but if they are stricken with bad character
traits, He metaphorically abandons them to return to the Heavens.
Because of the communal severity of interpersonal sins, the first Temple was
destroyed for the cardinal sins of murder, idolatry, and forbidden
relationships, yet it was rebuilt relatively quickly. The second Temple was
destroyed for the sin of gossip and baseless hatred, and has yet to be rebuilt
(Yoma 9b). Similarly, Hashem forgave the Jewish people for the sin of
idolatrously worshipping the golden calf, but He didn’t forgive them for the sin
of the spies, which involved negative speech and a lack of gratitude, and
decreed that they would die in the wilderness as a result.
With this introduction, the Meshech Chochmah explains that in Egypt, the Jewish
people were steeped in the 49th level of spiritual impurity and worshipped
idolatry just like the Egyptians. Nevertheless, they had one saving grace, in
that they dwelled peacefully and didn’t gossip about one another (Vayikra Rabbah
32:5). As a result, Hashem forgave their other communal sins and miraculously
performed the plagues to bring about their salvation, and the prosecuting angel
had no grounds for his argument.
However, when they were trapped at the Red Sea by the pursuing Egyptians, the
Medrash (Yalkut Shimoni 233) teaches that they divided into four groups who
fought about the appropriate strategy. Only at this time, when the Jewish nation
lacked unity, was the prosecuting angel able to argue that they should be judged
for their individual sins, such as idolatry, and Hashem should not perform
further miracles on their behalf. In these difficult times for our nation, let
us strengthen ourselves in our pursuit of unity and love for our fellow Jews,
and in that merit, Hashem should perform miracles for us just as He did for our
ancestors in Egypt.
Zeh Keili v’anveihu Elokei avi v’arom’menhu (15:2)
Rashi writes that the clarity of the Divine revelation at the Red Sea was so
great that even the lowest maidservants reached tremendous levels in seeing
Hashem, levels which even many of the greatest prophets never merited reaching.
Why does Rashi specifically refer to the maidservants, and where is it at all
hinted to that the maidservants reached such levels?
The Vilna Gaon notes that the Mishnah in Bikkurim (1:4) rules that a convert
must bring bikkurim (first-fruits) to the Beis HaMikdash, but he does not read
the verses (Devorim 26:5-10) that other Jews do when bringing them. These verses
refer to the enslavement of "avoseinu" – our ancestors – something which isn’t
true of the convert’s forbearers.
Our verse may be split in two, with the first half referring to “my G-d” and the
second half discussing “the G-d of my father.” Why does the Torah split the
praises in two, and what is the significance of the switch from “my G-d” to “the
G-d of my father?”
The Vilna Gaon explains that the Jewish people said the latter praise and were
therefore able to refer to the G-d of their ancestors, as per the opinion of the
Mishnah in Bikkurim. The first phrase, which emphasizes the personal G-d of the
speaker, must therefore have been said by the maidservants who were unable to
refer to their forefathers. The praise said by the maidservants uses the
expression "zeh Keili" (this is my G-d). The word "zeh" connotes a physical
presence that one is able to point to. Rashi therefore concluded that the
maidservants saw Hashem so clearly that they were able to point to Him, a level
which even many of the prophets didn’t reach.
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.
Answers to the weekly Points to Ponder are now available!
To receive the full version with answers email the author at
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 the Jews able to fulfill the mitzvah of giving tzedakah in the
wilderness when there were no poor and needy Jews, as all of them received food
and drink on a daily basis? (Rabbeinu Bechaye 16:21, Chiddushei HaRim, Ayeles
3) The Gemora in Yoma (75a) teaches that with the exception of 5 tastes, the
Manna tasted like whatever one wanted it to taste like. Did the person eating it
need to state the taste that he desired, or was it sufficient merely to think
it? (Shemos Rabbah 25:3, Moshav Z’keinim Bamidbar 11:8)
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