Rabbi Ozer Alport has recently
If you don't see this week's issue by the end of the week, check http://parshapotpourri.blogspot.com which may be more up-to-date
Back to This Week's Parsha | Previous Issues
Parshas Beshalach - Vol. 10, Issue 16
Compiled by Oizer Alport
Rashi notes that when the Jewish people arrived at Mount Sinai, they encamped k'ish echad b'lev echad - like one person with one heart in a beautiful demonstration of national achdus (unity). The Ohr HaChaim HaKadosh adds that this was a necessary prerequisite for receiving the Torah. However, it is difficult to understand what makes this so unique, as Rashi himself writes in Parshas Beshalach that the Egyptians pursued the Jews to the Red Sea with a similar display of harmony - b'lev echad k'ish echad.
Rav Yitzchok Hutner explains that there is a fundamental difference between the achdus of the Jews and that of other nations, which is subtly hinted to by Rashi. The Jewish people are intrinsically connected as part of one large entity, whereas the members of other nations are fundamentally disassociated and out for their own personal interests. Only when their individual desires coincide do they team up in pursuit of a common goal, but not because of any deep bond. As soon as their goals inevitably diverge, they will go their separate ways.
A close reading of Rashi reveals that while he used the same expression to describe the Jews at Mount Sinai and the Egyptians at the Red Sea, he carefully reversed the order to make this very point. The Egyptians didn't have any true unity. For a brief moment, they were united with one heart (b'lev echad) in a common desire to recapture their fleeing slaves, and they therefore pursued them as one (k'ish echad). The Jewish people, on the other hand, are intrinsically bound together as one person (k'ish echad), and one person automatically has only one heart (b'lev echad).
After witnessing the drowning of their Egyptian pursuers in the Yam Suf (Sea of Reeds), the Jewish people were moved to praise Hashem and express their gratitude to Him through song. However, in introducing the words of the song, the Torah records, "Then Moshe and the Children of Israel will sing this song to Hashem," which seems to be grammatically inaccurate. When discussing a song was already sung, why is the verb written in the future tense? The Gemora in Sanhedrin (91b) explains that this grammatical anomaly alludes to the concept of techiyas ha'meisim (the Resurrection of the Dead) and the song of praise that will be sung in the future at that time. While this is a fascinating idea, it still begs the question: Why did Hashem specifically hint to the future resurrection here as opposed to any other place in the Torah?
At the end of World War II, the Belzer Rebbe, Rav Aharon Rokeach, worked tirelessly to gather his Chassidim in order to inspire them and give them the strength to rebuild. On their first Shabbos together, he quickly realized that as Holocaust survivors who had endured indescribable suffering and had lost virtually everything they had, they were in no mood to sing zemiros (Shabbos songs). The Rebbe decided to address his broken Chassidim and raised the question of why the Torah specifically alludes to techiyas ha'meisim in conjunction with the song that was sung celebrating the splitting of the Yam Suf?
The Belzer Rebbe explained that as lofty and climactic a moment as Shiras HaYam (Song of the Sea) may have appeared to the naked eye, for those who were actually living through it, it was bittersweet. While they were certainly grateful and appreciative for their miraculous salvation from the hands of their sadistic Egyptian oppressors, the majority of the Jewish people were not there to experience it, as Rashi writes (13:18) that four-fifths of the nation died during the plague of darkness and did not merit the redemption. If 80% of the Jewish people died in such a short period of time, it is safe to assume that virtually everybody who did merit being saved had relatives who were not as fortunate. As such, as great as their personal feelings of joy and relief may have been, they were tempered by the recognition that they were unable to share them with their loved ones who had recently passed away.
The Rebbe posited that when Moshe came to the Jewish people and suggested that they all sing a song of praise to Hashem, they responded in disbelief, "How can you expect us to be capable of singing? Four-fifths of Klal Yisroel is missing!" When Moshe heard that, he told them that the Torah's discussion of the very song he wanted them to sing hints to the future resurrection, at which time they will be reunited with all of their deceased friends and relatives. This awareness consoled the people and cheered them up so that they were able to sing with joyous hearts, a thought which also comforted the grieving Belzer Chassidim and enabled them to open up and sing Shabbos zemiros with their Rebbe.
More recently, there was a widow whose only son died fighting for the Israeli army during the 1982 war in Lebanon. The loss of all she had left in this world rendered her inconsolable. She refused to go to any family celebrations, explaining that she could never again experience joy and happiness. Some time later, she went to a relative's funeral in the Sanhedria cemetery in Jerusalem. After the burial, she stopped at the grave of the great Rav Aryeh Levin, who was also buried there, to pray.
The aggrieved mother noticed the following written on his tombstone: "Every person who comes to pray at my grave should verbally declare, 'I believe with complete faith that the Resurrection of the Dead will take place when it is Hashem's will that this occur.'" When the woman contemplated these words, the message penetrated to her core and allowed her to emotionally accept that there would come a time when she would get her son back. Rav Aryeh's posthumous message enabled her to return to normal life, buoyed by her hope and confidence in the future resurrection.
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.
To receive the full version with answers email the author at email@example.com.
Parsha Points to Ponder (and sources which discuss them):
1) 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)
2) 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)
3) 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)
Shema Yisrael Torah Network